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My Personal Honeymoon Photographer

When my wife to be and I were planning our wedding and honeymoon, one thing struck us as rather sad. Although we would have hundreds of professional photographs from which to choose when putting our wedding album together, all we would have to remember our honeymoon by would be the snaps that we took ourselves.

 

This didn’t seem right to us but as there was no way we could possibly afford to hire a professional photographer in the UK and fly them to Los Angeles with us, there seemed to be very little that we could do about it. Luckily, this was not quite true, as we were to discover to our delight.

Honeymoon-Photographer-Maui-Hawaii_0015

 

On Location Professionals

Now, perhaps we were a little naive and some of you who are reading this post will already have wondered why we didn’t just look up the contact details for a local travel photography professional and get in touch with them before we departed for our honeymoon.

 

Well, to be honest, we did think about this but the rates we saw quoted online were way beyond our means and we didn’t want to waste anybody’s time discussing details for photo shoots that we simply couldn’t afford.

 

The answer to our problem was an online network of photographers based in popular travel destinations across the globe, all of who charged the same affordable rates for their services. This was exactly what we had been looking for and as far as we were concerned, making an arrangement with a professional photographer from such an organisation had the following advantages:

 

  • UK Contact – Because the organisation was based in the United Kingdom, there was no need for us to make any international phone calls or wait for answers to our emails from somebody who was in a completely different time zone and who would invariably be asleep when we were awake and vice versa. All our questions were answered promptly and we knew that in the event we had any urgent queries, we could call a UK number and discuss our problem at length, without spending a fortune in the process.

 

  • Competitive Prices – The people we dealt with understood that we were not super rich: we simply wanted some decent pictures to remember our honeymoon by. With this in mind, they put together a photo shoot package with a price tag that was well within our means.

 

  • Simple Arrangement – Having agreed on a package and price, we discussed where to meet our honeymoon photographer and chose a place that was recommended to us as a great location for dramatic shots.  We were given a mobile phone number to call when we arrived in LA, just to make sure that everything was going according to plan.

 

The combination of simple arrangements, competitive prices, and the peace of mind that came from knowing all the details were confirmed before we set off for our honeymoon made for a very pleasant and hassle-free experience as far as we were concerned.

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Reine

Northern lights holiday guide

Iceland

Iceland offers some of the most wallet-friendly options for northern lights trips (apart from less-reliable Scotland). Short breaks to Reykjavik, the world’s most northerly capital, can be good value. Thomson has a new three-night trip, with a northern lights tour and a Golden Circle excursion taking in some of the island’s most spectacular sights, from geysers to waterfalls, for the bargain price of £374pp B&B, including flights, departing 28 February. Because the lights are brightest in the remotest corners of the most expensive countries in Europe, aurora spotting rarely comes so cheap.

Glacier hiking near Reykjavik, Iceland

An exhilarating off-road super-Jeep aurora hunt, crossing a magical frozen landscape and glacial rivers, is included on a new three-night Reykjavik & the Northern Lights break with Taber Holidays, with options of glacier hiking and snowmobile safaris, too, from £830pp including flights.

Photographers can learn how to capture the phenomenon on camera while staying at a new “travelling hotel” based at Jökulsárlón glacier, with Tatra Photography. Guests are driven to the best locations by Super-Jeep and given tuition. A four-day full-board trip with flights and tuition costs from £1,395 – departures in January and March.

Wildlife fans can combine a trip to see killer whales with aurora hunting with Wildlife Worldwide. Its five-day Orcas and Northern Lights break, staying in Grundarfjordur, costs from £1,148pp, with flights and full-board.

Norway

the converted oil tank at Skrova island

Bathing in Arctic waters (in a flotation suit, of course), watching the northern lights from a remote lighthouse or mountain top and spotting local fauna on a wildlife safari by boat are available on a new trip with Sunvil Discovery, which combines the beautiful island of Senja and the city of Tromsø, with its historic wooden buildings. The six-day trip costs from £1,616pp, including flights and most meals. Or stay in the city and go whale-watching with a marine biologist on a new three-night itinerary with Simply Sweden from £950pp, including flights.

Norway’s Lofoten archipelago is particularly spellbinding in winter, and direct charter flights to Evenes in northern Norway make a short break with Inntravel quite doable. Guests stay in a traditional fisherman’s cottage on an island close to the Lofotens’ capital, Svolvaer, and explore the coast and wildlife by boat (spotting sea eagles, whales and porpoises) and snowshoe, then hunt for the aurora borealis by night. A four-night trip costs £1,185pp, with half-board, flights and car hire.

Reine, Lofoten

Reine, a town near the tip of the Lofoten archipelago, 80 miles west of Svolvaer

For independent northern lights hunters, a quirky and surprisingly cosy converted oil tank on Skrova island, off Svolvaer, is available through cabinly.co.uk (sleeps seven, €1,470 a week). Inside it’s a modern retreat over three floors, with a new mirrored annex reflecting the snowy surrounds and a hammock on the roof for sky-watching.

Or join the Aurora Addicts, a family of six – the aptly named Aurora, aged 12; Oceanna, 10; Lyrica, 5; and Caspian, 3; and their parents, Chris and Becki – to chase the lights along the north coast in Sortland. The company offers a variety of trips, which range from three- to seven-night stays. The three-night Green Eye Tour, the cheapest package, starts at £720.79 half-board or £623.03 self-catering, excluding flights.
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A husky safari, visit to a reindeer farm and trip on a spacecraft simulator at the Andoya Space Centre are on the itinerary with the Aurora Zone’s four-night trip – from £1,615, with meals and flights.

Inghams also has new trips to northern Norway, including the Narvik Polar Express Adventure, with a ride on the Polar Express train, husky sledding and a trip to the Polar Wildlife Park. Three nights cost £799pp, including flights and excursions.

Norwegian cruise operator Hurtigruten is introducing new expedition-style voyages in January, with additional hikes and daily lectures on subjects from flora and fauna to polar history and climate offered on some ships. New excursions being offered on all ships include a “mountain hike with husky” in Kirkenes (£80) to a reindeer sleighing trip with overnight stay in a Sami tent near Tromsø (£308). The company’s seven-day Classic Voyage North trip costs £689pp, full-board, excluding flights.

Sweden

The northern lights seen from Jukkasjarvi

The original Icehotel in the village of Jukkasjärvi, 200km north of the Arctic Circle in Swedish Lapland, is 26 this year but has plenty of new experiences to offer. There will be artworks in the Art Suites (including a lifesize ice elephant and flying sheep), and a new three-hour traditional Swedish sauna and ice plunge, in a restored 18th-century sauna, followed by a dip in a frozen river.

A Winter Survival Introduction covers nature navigation, flint fire-making, and a “clean eating” Arctic feast, with smoked reindeer consommé and cloudberry soup on the menu. Discover the World’s Arctic Living break includes all these experiences, plus cross-country skiing and options from a horseback northern lights tour to husky sledging – though it costs £1,533pp for three nights’ B&B, including flights.

The Treehotel

One of the cabins at the Treehotel near the Aurora Safari Camp

The Luleå archipelago is a beautiful place for a northern lights adventure, with the Aurora Safari Camp offering luxury traditional lavvu tents with log-burners and Arctic sleeping bags to keep you warm. Explore by fatbike (mountain bikes with over-sized tyres), try ice go-karting or board a hovercraft around the frozen islands.

Nearby is the Treehotel, with its incredible treehouse accommodation, including a Mirror Cube suspended above the ground, and horse-drawn sledge rides, Segway tours, treehouse saunas and photography lessons on offer. Discover the World features both options, with three nights in the archipelago, including a night at the Treehotel, from £1,289pp, with flights and most meals.

Boffins wanting to learn more about the science behind the lights should head to the first ever Aurora Festival (15-17 January, prices tbc) in Bjorkliden, northern Sweden, which will hold expert talks, experiments to recreate the phenomenon indoors, evening trips searching for the real deal and photography classes.

Off the Map Travel is running a three-day trip to the festival for £899pp, including full-board in four-star accommodation and activities but not flights. Other new experiences the company is offering in Bjorkliden this year include staying overnight in ice-fishing huts on a remote frozen lake.

Finland

Aurora Dome at Lake Torassieppi, Finland

Glamping doesn’t get any cooler than in the new Aurora Dome. The igloo-shaped tents, on the shores of Lake Torassieppi in Finnish Lapland, have one transparent wall facing north for prime sky-gazing. They come with a wood-burning stove, a double bed and space for two extra singles (toilets are 50 metres away, if you’re wondering).

The tents are close to Torassieppi Winter Village, which was originally a reindeer farm but opened last year as a small snow and ice hotel and restaurant. This can be added to itineraries to Torassieppi, Harriniva or Jeris with Aurora Zone (from £115pppn). A seven-night Lakeside Auroras trip to Torassieppi with sleigh ride, ice fishing, snowshoe hike and husky safari costs £1,490pp, including dome supplement.

Another fun new place to stay, from Magnetic North Travel is an Aurora Cabin on skis, which can be towed by snowmobile to the best spot to see the lights on Lake Inari. The 3,000 sq km frozen lake, way up in the Arctic Circle, is a long way from any light pollution, so conditions are ideal for snuggling up and watching the sky through the glass roof, or keeping warm outdoors in a mobile hot tub and sauna. A three-night trip costs £845pp, including flights, two nights in Hotel Kultahovi in Inari village, one night in a cabin and most meals.

North America

Northern lights near Fairbanks, Alaska

For long-haul aurora hunting, the Yukon in north-west Canada is among the best bets. Roughly the size of France, the territory is 80% wilderness, with little light pollution. The Northern Lights Resort and Spa near the city of Whitehorse has a new seven-day Best of Yukon’s Aurora trip, including five guided light hunts with photography tuition and a dog-sledding trip, plus optional activities from ice fishing to snowmobiling. It costs from £980pp, with accommodation and most meals but not flights.

Another favourite is Alaska. On Intrepid’s new eight-day Alaska Northern Lights trip from Anchorage to Fairbanks, guests get to snowshoe through Denali national park to look for moose, wolves and bears (with an optional flight over Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in North America), walk among reindeer in Fairbanks and unwind in natural thermal waters at the Chena hot springs. The hunt’s on for after-dark sky action, too, with snowcat tours into the wild. The trip costs £1,831pp, including most meals and activities, but not flights (this price includes a 10% discount for bookings made by 15 December to travel in 2016).

Or just stay at home …

Husky racing in the Cairngorms national park, Scotland

Scotland is obviously the best place in the country for aurora gazing – the further north, the better. Good spots are Shetland (598 miles north of London but just 400 miles south of the Arctic Circle), the Caithness coast and the Orkneys – and January is usually the best month to take a chance. With a heated campervan you can go lights chasing whenever activity is predicted. Aurora Watch UK offers free text-message alerts. There are even huskies on show at the annual Aviemore Sled Dog Rally in January. With depots in Glasgow and Edinburgh, Bunk Campers has vans with between two and six berths, which can be taken on ferries. Four days’ hire from £145.


Ayia Napa Nissi Beach

Breaks In Ayia Napa, Cyprus

Ayia Napa has been a paradise for partygoers for years, so if you haven’t been there yet, it might be time to consider a trip soon! The clubs are far from the only attraction here – Ayia Napa’s incredible beaches, with their fine white sand and clear blue waters have drawn many visitors over the years. Relax on Nissi Beach and top up your tan with the beautiful people, or head to Cape Greco for a possible sighting of the mythical Ayia Napa Sea Monster.

 

See

Ayia Napa Monastery – Visit this historic monastery for a tranquil respite from hung over clubbers and sunburnt beach bodies. Ayia Napa Monastery sits in the centre of town, on the site of an illuminated icon discovered by a hunter. The sycamore tree by the gate is thought to be over 600 years old, and the cool fountain in the courtyard was built nearly 500 years ago.

Ayia-Napa-monastery

Stay

Napa Mermaid Hotel – Forget the cheap fittings and crowded public areas of other resorts on Ayia Napa – the Napa Mermaid Hotel offers guests a chance to relax in quietly elegant surroundings. The rooms are decorated in neutral, luxurious furnishings, and look out over the sea. The facilities include both an outdoor pool and a heated indoor pool, as well as a gym, tennis court and spa. Room rates start from £60.

Napa Mermaid Hotel

Eat

Clarabel Restaurant – This family-run restaurant offers an array of Mediterranean and Cypriot dishes on its menu. Enjoy a variety of mezes, or enjoy the flambé dishes, cooked on a portable flambé trolley right in front of your table!

Clarabel Restaurant


Lanzarote

Lanzarote travel guide

An insider’s guide to Lanzarote, featuring the island’s best hotels, restaurants, bars, shops, attractions and things to do, including how to travel there and around. By Annie Bennett, Telegraph Travel’s Lanzarote expert. Click on the tabs below for the best places to stay, eat, drink and shop, including the best things to do and what to do on a short break.

This may surprise you, but Lanzarote in the Canary Islands is turning into a rather upmarket destination. Don’t expect anything glitzy or flashy though; this quiet revolution is all about staying in chic, eco-friendly places and spending your days cycling, walking, surfing or sampling the local wines.

All over the island, you see the influence of the visionary artist, architect and environmentalist César Manrique, who saved Lanzarote from the ravages of rampant development. His extraordinary creations accentuate the unique geology of the island and are now its main tourist attractions. You could easily spend a few days visiting the places he designed, particularly as quite a few also house stylish bars and restaurants.

While there are excellent family hotels in Playa Blanca, Puerto del Carmen and Costa Teguise, away from the resorts there is also a wide range of low-key places to stay. You can choose from boutique hotels, apartments and bungalows built in the traditional style, village houses or even luxury yurts.

When to go

You can go to the Canaries at any time of year and have good weather more or less guaranteed. Sure, it gets windy sometimes and storms aren’t totally unknown, but most of the time it is sunny with an average temperature of 22C. Even when the islands are at their hottest, in July and August, the temperature is usually only in the mid-twenties centigrade. Whenever you go, it is nearly always warm enough to swim and sunbathe.

Where to go

Alternate lying on the beach with visits to the extraordinary sights created in the volcanic landscape by local artist and environmentalist César Manrique. Don’t miss a tour of the Timanfaya national park either. Take the boat over to the island of La Graciosa off the northern tip for a blissful day swimming in crystal clear water. Visit some of the vineyards in La Geria and hire bikes to test your stamina on some of the excellent cycling routes around the island.


Lokrum Lagoon

Just back from… Croatia

Tell us more…

I caught the overnight ferry from Ancona (Italy) to Split, and spent just shy of a week exploring a tiny fraction of the coast of Croatia, with a jaunt inland to visit the famous Plitvice Lakes.

 

In a nutshell…

Green, coastal hills dotted with terracotta roofs, shops and cafes sitting amongst roman ruins, and medieval walled cities jutting out into the sea. Croatia is a visual feast, and I spent the week perpetually slack-jawed.

 

Defining moment?

Given that my desire to visit Croatia was originally driven by a friend’s blurry photo of the Plitvice Lakes National Park, the first glimpse of turquoise water was pretty thrilling. It’s an incredibly beautiful, lush and singular spot that seems to relax you right down to your bones, even with every man and his (literal, golden retriever) dogs, jostling past you. Be careful on those little bamboo walkways though, the breathtaking sights can sometimes divert your attention from where your feet ought to be going, and falling into the pristine waters of a chemically fragile ecosystem is frowned upon.

 

Plitvice-Lakes-National-Park

Good grub? I lived almost exclusively on green apple sladoled (a gelati-like icecream) and spinach bureks (a snail-shaped pastry) during my time in Croatia, both of which I highly recommend, though perhaps in moderation if you have that kind of self-restraint.

 

You’d be a muppet to miss…

The city walls walk in Dubrovnik. Go at the end of the day when the crowds are beginning to thin out and the fading sunlight makes the views across the Old Town look even more picturesque than usual. Taking the cable car up to Mount Srđ, and having a bevvie at the restaurant while absorbing the view, is also a must.

 

Memorable activity?

My lovely hotelier in Split warned me that the bell tower at the Diocletian’s Palace (built by the Roman emperor Diocletian in 305 AD) was not a good idea if you’re at all squeamish about heights. It was only when I paused, suffused with barely-restrained panic, halfway up the rusty, squeaking metal stairway that seemed to be suspended only by a couple of bolts and good intentions, I realised I probably shouldn’t have ignored that advice outright. Still, the 360 degree view of Split from the top was pretty charming.

 

Bizarre encounter?

There are stray cats about almost everywhere in Croatia, but even I was surprised to find one underground, in the maze of cellars underneath the remains of Diocletian’s Palace. The cat, in turn, seemed completely unperturbed by my presence.

 

Quintessential experience?

Going for a swim in the warm waters of the Adriatic, just off Lokrum Island (a ten minute boat ride from the Dubrovnik Old Town). The semi-naked scramble over the jagged rocks before you get into the water is what really makes it feel like you’ve earned it.


Koh Phi Phi Don

Best Islands to Explore in Thailand

Thailand is full of stunning islands to visit and as a first time traveler, it can be a little overwhelming to choose which one to go, without doing a little research on what each island has to offer, and what fits better with the purpose of your travels.

Koh Phi Phi Don

Definitely one of Thailand’s most popular islands to visit, Koh Phi Phi quite literally looks like paradise. There are no cars on the island, and everyone walks around barefooted. The atmosphere may be relaxed during the day if you arrive in the morning, as many visitors may be nursing sore heads from partying at the beach the night before.

Don’t let the calm crystal waters of Phi Phi  in the day deceive you, the island transforms overnight, and the restaurants and local bars come alive. If you make your way down to the beach you’ll find yourself surrounded by bars and clubs, and fire dancers performing incredible shows along the strip. Slinky Bar is where the beach parties start and end, with good music, dancing, games like fire skipping, limbo and everyone joins the fun.

During the day, take a boat tour to Maya Bay where The Beach movie (that one with Leo Di Caprio) was filmed! It is located only a few minutes away by boat, and its the perfect place to relax.

 



magalufparty

Magaluf: Still the Party Capital of the Mediterranean

People have been flocking to Magaluf for years and the first time I went there was long ago now. However, when I compare it to the other party destinations I’ve visited over the years, which include Playa de las Americas, Playa d’en Bossa, Ayia Napa and Malia, I still rate it as the best place to go, for the young, and the young at heart, in search of a good time.

It’s not just the great venues, it’s the events that are organised there every week of the year too.

 

The Best Magaluf Events for First Timers

If you’ve never been before, I can assure you that it’s everything you’ve been told and more. To make the most of your first time in Magaluf, I’d suggest snagging a few tickets for some of the fun events held there – before you leave for your holiday – in addition to visiting all the major clubs and bars you’ve no doubt already heard so much about.

1. Pub & Club Crawl – One of the best ways for newbies to get to know the biggest venues in town is to book themselves on a pub & club crawl, complete with free bars and outrageous guides to ensure you have the time of your life.

2. Beach Party – The beach parties held on the night of the full moon every month have to be one of the best Magaluf events going. If you’re used to a more sedate type of nightlife than Magaluf has to offer, you should probably take it easy on your first full moon party. With buckets of strong liquor (literally), huge crowds and the nearby sea, you don’t want to go too mad unless you’re used to walking on the wild side of life.

3. Boat Party – The all-day booze cruises have been a staple of the Magaluf party scene for many years and are as popular today as when they were first thought up by some maniac with a crate load of alcohol and a boat to spare. Whatever else you do on your holiday, make sure you try one of these cruises.

 

Booking in advance might not sound very spontaneous but the state I get in on holiday, I find it useful to make a few arrangements before I hop on a plane. On the other hand, if you really like to take life as it comes, I’m sure you’ll be able to pick up most of the tickets you want once you arrive.