Bears Ears Might Finally Have a Much-Needed Visitors Center

Bears Ears Might Finally Have a Much-Needed Visitors Center

Bears Ears Might Finally Have a Much-Needed Visitors Center

Bears Ears National Monument has become a focal point in the debate over public lands under the Trump administration. Protected by executive order in the last months of Obama’s presidency, it became a representative example for both sides of the debate: for those who would see federal protections of land dismantled for the sake of development, the sweeping protection of more than 1.35 million acres of public land looks like governmental overreach. For those who broadly support public land protections, the protection of Bears Ears—with its spiritual and historical sites, world-class climbing, and fragile environment—was long overdue, and is an example of public lands done (mostly) right. Bears Ears might finally have a much needed visitors center.

One such group, Friends of Cedar Mesa, a nonprofit based in Bluff, Utah, that advocates for public lands in the area, fought alongside Native American tribes, archaeologists, activists, and conservation organizations for the protection of Bears Ears for years. Now, they’re faced with the task of ensuring it remains protected—and, while they’re at it, maintaining good stewardship of the monument. At the moment, stewardship comes in the form of a visitors center. The monument lacks any sort of educational community space, and, in the current political climate, there’s no chance the government will be funding one anytime soon.

Bears Ears Might Finally Have a Much-Needed Visitors Center

The desert ecosystem in Bears Ears is fragile, and even experienced outdoors people might not know best practices—from how best to dispose of human waste in the desert to the right kind of climbing chalk to use. Perhaps most importantly, Bears Ears is rich with archaeologically significant sites and artifacts, something visitors may not know how to navigate without damaging—whether intentionally or unwittingly. Visits to Bears Ears have increased exponentially in recent years, while resources to preempt damage in the form of education or to restore damaged areas have remained the same.

“It doesn’t even really matter what you think about the monument, how big it should be or anything. If we care about this place, we need visitors to be educated and visit responsibly. And visitation is skyrocketing, with no more government resources to deal with the problem. It’s up to ‘we the people’ to step up our game,” says Josh Ewing, the executive director of Friends of Cedar Mesa. “This is not going to be some fancy Park Service facility. The vision is for it to be a grassroots effort, driven by our local community and powered by volunteers. It’ll be a bit eccentric…but hopefully more down-to-earth and fun than your standard visitor center. We are hopeful a future administration will invest in a permanent and official visitor center for the monument, but we think that’s at least five to ten years away from happening.”

Friends of Cedar Mesa have identified a shuttered bar in downtown Bluff, Utah, as the site for the future visitors center. In the 1960s and ’70s, it primarily served uranium miners and oil field workers. Its transformation into an educational community resource for protected lands is fitting, as the town and surrounding area have shifted from a primarily resource-extraction economy into one that draws heavily on the surrounding lands for recreation and tourism.

“The place has good bones and a nice large open room that’s perfect for exhibits and visitor information. The old bar is the perfect ‘counter’ for having conversations over. It’s right on the main highway (191) through Bluff, which is the proud ‘Gateway to Bears Ears,’” Ewing says. “The primary goal is to provide as many visitors as possible with a friendly experience where we can answer their questions and help them recreate responsibly while on their trip. The dream of what our…center will offer may be different from reality, which will be largely dictated by how much funding we can raise.”

Ewing laid out the ideal scenario: There would be an exhibit developed by Native American partners explaining “why this area is sacred to the native tribes and why it’s imperative for visitors to use utmost care when recreating on these ancestral lands,” an exhibit explaining how to visit with respect and preserve archaeological resources, resources to help people plan their trip, wifi, a picnic area, a retail space, office space for Friends of Cedar Mesa, and temporary offices for the Bears Ears Tribal Commission team. The price tag? Over the next three years, Friends of Cedar Mesa expects to invest $840,000 in renovating and prepping the center.

Friends of Cedar Mesa already have the property under contract, but they need to raise $300,000 before the end of the year to secure the property. They’re raising money in conjunction with creative agency Duct Tape Then Beer, which started an online fundraiser last week (it’s already raised $40,000 of its $100,000 goal), and other outdoor brands including The North Face, Chaco, Osprey, Outdoor Research, Arc’teryx, Peak Design, IDeology, Black Diamond, KEEN, Seattle, Austin, & Minneapolis Bouldering Project, Conservation Alliance, MSR, and Therm-A-Rest have committed to helping.

The plan at the moment is to open the center as soon as possible, running it bare-bones and remodeling and adding exhibits and amenities as money comes in through donations and fundraising efforts. Friends of Cedar Mesa hopes to start providing visitor information by this spring—the busiest tourist season. Though the center will be run by the nonprofit, they’ve been in touch with the Bureau of Land Management and are collaborating with them to determine the best information to share with visitors.

“There are three kinds of people in this world: people who don’t pay attention or sit on the sidelines for whatever reason, people who complain, and people who take action. From where I stand, this project is a chance for people to get off the sidelines, not just complain about the way things are headed, and do something positive and proactive,” Ewing says.

Photo by Jeremiah Watt, courtesy of Duct Tape Then Beer. Ears Might Finally Have a Much-Needed Visitors Center

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France ski resort named world’s best for 2017; Switzerland, US, Canada among big winners

France ski resort named world’s best for 2017; Switzerland, US, Canada among big winners

Looks like fun!

Image: Val Thorens via AFP Relaxnews

Winners of the 2017 World Ski Awards were announced at a gala event held at the Austrian ski resort Kitzbuehel over the weekend, which gathered industry leaders from some of the world’s most premier ski destinations.

At an altitude of 2,300 meters, Val Thorens not only boasts the title of Europe’s highest ski resort, but it has also bagged rights to calling itself the world’s best ski resort of 2017, according to a tally of votes cast by ski professionals and consumers. The win coincided with the resort’s season opening on Nov. 18.

“With its ever-present pioneering spirit, breathtaking natural environment, remarkable amount of sunshine and exceptional snow conditions, it is both unique and cosmopolitan, boasting a lively, sociable and welcoming atmosphere,” judges said of the 2017 winner.

For the 2017/2018 ski season, the resort is opening a new five-star Montana-inspired luxury chalet next month; new rooftop igloo pods and Finnish hot tubs; a €1.2 million ($1.4 million) off-piste chalet above Lac du Lou that can sleep 31 people; and ice-driving in vintage cars.

Place in the snow

Image: Val Thorens via AFP Relaxnews

In advance of the PyeongChang Olympic Games in February, the resort will also open the Ski Cross and Snowboard Cross World Cup with two champion ambassadors, Jean Frédéric Chapuis and Chloé Trespeuch.

Other big winners of the night include Switzerland’s W Verbier, which took the title of world’s best ski hotel 2017 and Chalet Les Anges in Zermatt, which was named the world’s best ski chalet.

For country winners, The Lake Louise Ski Resort was named Canada’s best ski resort; Deer Valley Resort the best ski resort in the US; and LAAX the best ski resort for Switzerland.

Nice room at the resort

Image: Val Thorens via AFP Relaxnews

Here are the big winners:

World’s Best Ski Resort 2017: Val Thorens (France)World’s Best Freestyle Resort 2017: LAAXWorld’s Best Ski Hotel 2017: W Verbier (Switzerland)World’s Best New Ski Hotel 2017: Fahrenheit Seven Val ThorensWorld’s Best Green Ski Hotel 2017: rocksresortWorld’s Best Ski Boutique Hotel 2017: The Vale Niseko (Japan)World’s Best Ski Chalet 2017: Chalet Les Anges, Zermatt (Switzerland)World’s Best New Ski Chalet 2017: AlpacaWorld’s Best Ski Resort Company 2017: Bergbahn AG KitzbühelWorld’s Best Indoor Ski Resort 2017: Ski Dubai (United Arab Emirates)World’s Best Ski Tour Operator 2017: SunwebWorld’s Best Ski Travel Agent 2017: Leo TrippiWorld’s Best Heli-Ski Operator 2017: Bella Coola Heli Sports (Canada)World’s Best Ski Transfer Operator 2017: Ski-LiftsJB


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  1.  “American Plan resorts among last of vanishing breed”Associated Press. June 28, 2007. Archived from the originalon 2007-10-12. Retrieved 2007-06-29.
  2. Jump up^ Garrett Nagle (1999). Tourism, Leisure and Recreation. Nelson Thornes. ISBN 0-17-444705-1.
  3. Jump up^ “2015 State of the Industry”. Developments. Retrieved July 1, 2015.
  4. Jump up^ Perkins-Vadez, Dolen (2010). Wench. Amistad. ASIN B004NE8RZ4.
  5. Jump up^ O’Neal Parker, Lonnae. “A tender spot in master-slave relations”Washington Post. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
  6. Jump up^ “Old Wilberforce University Campus at Tawawa Springs”The Historical Marker Database. Retrieved May 28, 2015.

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15 tips on how to survive a ski season in France’s top resorts

France’s top ski resorts

As skiers and snowboarders in the UK prepare for their first trip of the winter in France’s top resorts, many seasonaires are already heading out to resorts around the world to practice their bed making, toilet cleaning and customer service skills.

This season, the popular seasonaire outfitters Planks – which originated in the snow sports mecca of Val d’Isère – is expanding its clothing empire to cover four other resorts, La Plagne, Tignes, Méribel and Morzine. All these destinations are popular with holidaymakers and with the British youth who head to the mountains to work for the winter.

Doing a ski season can be a daunting experience, especially if it’s your first. So to mark the company’s expansion and help newbie seasonaires fit straight into life in the mountains, Planks has chosen a local legend from each town to share their secrets on how to best survive the season there.

France’s top ski resorts

Tignes top tips 1. Improve your technique

“Making the most of a season means upping your level of riding,” says Joe Harkess, a ski instructor who runs The Development Centre ski school. “You’ll meet loads of experienced riders doing a season, so don’t be intimidated and ask them their thoughts. Good riders want to pass on knowledge, as that’s how they got better themselves.”

2. Know the coolest hangouts

“For food there’s really only one place you need to know about, Tignes Cuisine. A great hangout for a late lunch after an epic shred and where some of the raddest riders in town hangout.”

3. Find the hidden secret

“The bar that you will not have heard of, but absolutely need to try, is the Boulele on the rue de Rosset. Don’t go in a big crowd, just creep in, head to the back and soak up the French mountain town vibes. This is where you’ll find the pisteurs letting off steam and those guys are the real legends in any resort.”

'France’s top ski resorts'

Morzine is one of five resorts where Planks has opened a shop Credit: Matthieu Vitre Morzine top tips 4. Beat the crowds

“In the busy season, head to Ardent gondola to beat the queues at Super Morzine or Prodains,” says Bobby T, a seasoned pro at living in the mountains after spending much of his life there, competing for the British team in his youth and now as a coach.

France’s top ski resorts

5. Save ££

“If you’re feeling the pinch, learn how to cook. It’s the best way to impress those chalet girls, saves the pennies and they’re already in your gaff ready for ‘dessert’.”

6. Don’t be fooled

“On a pow day some of the best secret stashes aren’t that secret. ‘Mario Land’, an area of the Mount Vallon gondola, is a great day out and really easy to get to.”

La Plagne top tips 7. Get the balance right

“Don’t get into that typical seasonaire habit of drinking every night,” warns Charlie Bulbrook, owner of award-winning chalet company Alpoholics, which he opened six years ago after travelling the world and living in ski resorts around the globe. “There are three things involved in a season – skiing, working and partying – and you can only do two of them well.”

8. Avoid drinking game disasters

“Don’t play legendary bar game ‘Shut The Box’ in Bar La Mine, in the centre of Plagne 1800. Whether you like it or not, it will turn into a shotfest and it will be your last memory of the night.”

9. Learn something

“Do get yourself a lesson or two from a local instructor at the start of the season, even if you are an experienced rider. At the very least you’ll be shown some rad new spots to ride.”

Méribel top tips

10. Eat right

“Head to Mountain Burger in Mottaret for loads of beef and bread,” says Omar Baldaccioni, an expert in the Trois Vallées after living in Méribel for 14 years, now manager of the popular après haunt the Ronnie. “It serves arguably the best burger you’ll eat on a budget, and afterwards you can stop in at The Cows for a beer.”

11. Listen up

“There’s no shortage of live music on our doorstep in Meribel. La Taverne, Jacks, Evolution, The Den, O’Sullivans, Le Pub, Scotts, LDV and La Tsaretta all host nights that showcase the musical talents on offer in resort.”

12. Party with the best

“For the best après spot, head to The Rond Point, known more affectionately as the Ronnie. I know I’m biased, but we all love the place and Méribel is lucky to have it.”

France’s top ski resorts

'France’s top ski resorts'

Don’t over do it on the après Credit: ©Valérie Poret Val d’Isère top tips

13. Put your best foot forward

“A good set of boots is essential on a season to keep you out on the mountain all day long,” says Biggie the dog, the friendly in-store dog who resides at Planks’ flagship ship in Val d’Isère, and his owner Jim. “If you’re having issues, head to Surefoot – those guys know how to keep your paws comfy.”

14. Find romance

“The best way to impress the ladies is to take them for a late-night ski tour up the mountain. But always be prepared and make sure you shred safely.”

15. Meet people

“Don’t be afraid to make lots of new friends. The mountains are always more fun with the wolf pack.”

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France’s Val Thorens voted Europe’s top ski resort

France’s Val Thorens voted Europe’s top ski resort

Val Thorens was named Europe’s best ski resort 2018 in an online poll that garnered 119,228 votes over 10 days in November. ― AFP picVal Thorens was named Europe’s best ski resort 2018 in an online poll that garnered 119,228 votes over 10 days in November. ― AFP picPARIS, Nov 28 ― France’s Val Thorens ski resort has topped another “best of” ranking, this time taking the title of best ski resort in Europe.

Just a week after being named the world’s best ski resort 2017 at the World Ski Awards held at the Kitzbuehel resort in Austria, Val Thorens was named Europe’s best ski resort 2018 in an online poll that garnered 119,228 votes over 10 days in November.

The annual online competition is organized by the Brussels-based group European Best Destinations, which works to promote culture and tourism in Europe.

Set in the French Alps, Val Thorens is the highest ski resort in Europe, at an altitude of 2,300m. Along with topping the list altogether, it was also voted best for families, and best for guaranteed snow.

A breakdown of voter stats reveals that the resort is particularly popular among Russian and British skiers.

French Resort

“The ski resort has been standing out for years thanks to high quality infrastructure and teams,” editors write.

“Val Thorens offers everyone the unique, unforgettable, perfect experience. The station never stops improving and invests large budgets every year.”

Of the 119,228 votes, 67 per cent came from Europe, and 33 per cent from outside the continent. The competition attracted voters from 92 countries.

The results also show a clear bias for French ski resorts, as seven of the top 10 winners hail from France.

Overall, Val Thorens received 20,472 of the votes. Next up, separated by a margin of about 2,200 votes, is Alpe d’Huez, France (the top pick among Canadian skiers and riders) and Livigno, Italy (the top-ranked destination for voters from the US, the Czech Republic and Italy).

Meanwhile, Austria’s Kitzbuehel was voted Europe’s most beautiful ski resort; Courchevel in France the most luxurious; and Bankso in Bulgaria the most affordable.

Here are the top ski resorts in European Best Destinations list for 2018:

1. Val Thorens, France2. Alpe d’Huez, France3. Livigno, Italy4. Mongenèvre, France5. Avoriaz, France6. Saalbach Hinterglemm, Austria7. La Plagne, France8. Valloire, France9. Crans Montana, Switzerland10. Les Contamines-Montjoie, France ― AFP-Relaxnews

Virtuoso Names Best of the Best in Hotels

Virtuoso Names Best of the Best in Hotels

Photo: © Andaz Mayakoba Resort Riviera Maya

Best Hotel Of The Year

International luxury travel network Virtuoso announced the winners of its annual Best of the Best Hotel awards celebrating the year’s top 11 hotels and hoteliers.

To determine the award-winning hotels, Virtuoso received input from its 800-plus travel agency partners and more than 16,000 professional travel advisors on everything from dining experiences to wellness programs.

“This year’s Best of the Best winners are truly renowned properties. They constantly redefine modern luxury by proactively reimagining the guest experience and inspiring others within our own industry to think bigger. In that sense, they mirror Virtuoso’s own philosophy regarding innovation and we proudly recognize these great partners,” said Albert Herrera, senior vice president of global product partnerships, Virtuoso.

Named Virtuoso’s Hotel of the Year, the Palazzo Seneca in Norcia, Italy, is not only renowned for being an all-around lovely hotel, but the owners are known for being community-oriented and regularly giving back to those less fortunate.

Six Senses Douro Valley in Lamego, Portugal, was named Best Achievement in Design for the charm and beauty of the country manor, set among rolling hills and vineyards.

“There’s a prevailing sense of quiet, calm and relaxation as soon as you enter,” said Linda Zelisko of Travel Expert, a Virtuoso Agency.

Best Dining Experience went to La Terrazza – Hotel Eden Rome for its innovative dishes; and Best Bar goes to Bar Hemingway – Ritz Paris for its authentic, old-time feel.

The Ritz-Carlton Naples in Florida was named Best Family Program for its immersive education experiences including guided visits to museums, bird sanctuaries and local artisans.

Best Wellness Program goes to Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Ariz., for its world-class spa and overall focus on physical, emotional, spiritual and medical wellness.

Special awards include Best Virtuoso Experience, which went to Andaz Mayakoba Resort Riviera Maya in Playa Del Carmen; and Best Virtuoso Newcomer, which went to Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown.

Areli Guzman of Viajes Terranova, a Virtuoso Agency, described Andaz Mayakoba, “From the moment you arrive in the Sanctuary Lounge and make a wish by throwing a little stone in the cenote, you know you are in a special place. Everything in the hotel is an experience so that makes it unique.”

Virtuoso recognized Cavallo Point – The Lodge at Golden Gate in Sausalito, Calif., as the best for Sustainable Tourism Leadership, and Hotelier of the Year went to Susanne Hatje of Mandarin Oriental, New York.

Cuba: No resorts needed

Cuba: No resorts needed

When you think about Cuba, you probably first picture resorts where the mojitos are always flowing. Although this is the side of Cuba that’s commonly seen, there is so much more to this Caribbean paradise than its sandy shores and sun-tanning opportunities.

Now more than ever is an exciting time in Cuba’s history, where changes to the tourism industry are happening and travelling off the beaten path is getting easier. Here are a few reasons why you don’t need a resort on your next trip to Cuba.

G Adventures homestay host Maira Hernandez.

G Adventures homestay host Maira Hernandez.

The People

When you’re shut in at a resort, you don’t get as much of an opportunity to meet the people of Cuba, who are really what make the country so special. Interacting with locals provides a great deal of opportunity to understand the country’s history firsthand. Homestays, or casas particulars, provide an incredible way to connect with the people of Cuba. You’ll likely interact with families, eat home-cooked meals from residents who have come up with creative ways to stretch their rations, and hear a bit more about the country’s divisive political history.

Viñales' city centre.

Viñales’ city centre.

The Sights

While there’s always a time and a place for planting your butt on a beach chair, if that’s the only thing you end up doing in Cuba, you’ll be majorly missing out. Starting with Havana (or Habana, as it’s known locally), which is trapped in time, complete with its classic cars and the colonial architecture. The city itself is buzzing, since the private enterprise that was restricted in previous years has started to sprout up after Raoul Castro allowed for it in 2008, and entrepreneurial Cubans finding ways to better their lives through business. Plaza Vieja, in the old town, is a bustling square with cafes and bars and a lively evening scene, and there are no shortages of things to do in the capital.

If you head West Viñales — one of my favourite spots on the island — is home to famous limestone pincushion hills, with fertile fields as far as you can see. It’s a good base if you want some relaxation, beautiful views, and opportunities to visit nearby tobacco farmers and cigar factories. It holds UNESCO World Heritage site status, and offers a number of adventurous opportunities, from rock climbing, horseback riding, and, of course, hiking.

Travelling towards the centre of the island, Trinidad has the cobbliest cobble stone streets I’ve ever walked on — but you might find watching your step difficult to do among the city’s colourful buildings. If you love history, Santa Clara is a must-see to visit some of the sites of the revolution; its streets are haunted by stories of Che, Castro and the others. Santa Clara was one of the least “touristy” spots I visited while in Cuba.

A trumpet player in downtown Havana.

A trumpet player in downtown Havana.


Cubans know how to celebrate what they have. You can’t help but tap your feet as you’re walking down the street and a band is playing — the music is infectious. You’ll see many small tots dancing along, moving their hips much better than this 20-something Canadian could ever dream to do. If moving your hips isn’t your thing, perhaps the best tobacco in the world is? Pinar del Rio is the pinnacle of tobacco country, and you can check out how Cuban cigars are hand rolled to perfection (Cohibas are a favourite). A salary average of $12-25 USD per month doesn’t stop Cubans from embracing a few rum drinks, or a cigar smoked long and quietly at the end of a long day’s work.

A Lesson in Patience

It’s important to note that Cuba might be different than most places you’ve visited. The level of maintenance and service in city buildings can vary, and the communist mentality is likely a big change from what you’ve experienced back home, too. But there are few places in the world — if any at all — that are quite like Cuba. As long as you remember to keep your expectations in check, you are sure to have an incredible, life-changing trip to this cultural gem.

Getting there

Curious about Cuba? Consider one of our immersive tours there. No resorts needed!

Hidden gems to visit in Italy

hidden gems to visit in Italy

There are hidden gems to visit in Italy. Italy is a country renowned for its incredible history, its delicious food and its status within the art and fashion industry. When holidaymakers think of Italy, more often than not they conjure up images of Rome’s historical sites, the canals and gondoliers of Venice, the leaning tower of Pisa or Florence’s Duomo and Medieval architecture. Perhaps they may even think of the rolling hills and scenery of Tuscany. However, if you’re looking for a less well-known destination and are trying to escape the hordes of tourists on your next holiday to Italy, then it’s definitely worth considering one of these lesser known gems:

Spello, Umbria

Whilst the Umbrian region borders Tuscany, many of its towns and cities are less well known than its more popular neighbour, perhaps as they don’t boast the arguably more spectacular architecture and sights of cities such as Florence, Siena or even Pisa. And yet the region is just as beautiful and its hilltop towns and villages are just as worthy of a visit. The most popular towns in Umbria include Assisi, Orvieto and Todi. However, Spello has just as much to offer but, for some reason, has escaped the crowds of tourists traipsing up its cobbled streets. If you can, then definitely visit during the Infiorata in May and June or in the Summer months when the residents ensure that its narrow streets are filled with an explosion of colour from the many floral displays that the locals take pride in.

What a sight!

Lake Maggiore

The Italian Lakes is an incredibly popular region of Italy, famed as it is for its stunning scenery. Its mountains act as the backdrop to its beautiful clear lake waters. However, those looking for a quieter travel experience in this part of Italy should visit the less well known Lake Maggiore. Just as beautiful as its neighbour Lake Como to the East and Lake Garda to the West, it is far less busy. Stresa is the most bustling of its lakeside towns but, even here, holidaymakers will find it less crowded than the equivalent towns on the other lakes and yet there is just as much to offer, particularly if you have a love of the outdoors and are looking for a holiday filled with sightseeing, walking, cycling, swimming and an array of other watersports.

Breath taking view!

Matera, Basilicata

Twenty years ago, Matera would never have featured on the tourist map of Italy. Now, thanks to the arrival of some superb restaurants and hotels, it’s found its way on to the tourist map however it’s still relatively undiscovered and unexplored. It’s a fascinating destination thanks to its network of cave dwelling districts known as sassi. Once called a ‘national disgrace’ due to the depth of the poverty and misery witnessed, and then abandoned for years, these caves are now filled with life, home to hip hotels, high class restaurants and bars. But be warned! The town is already fast growing in popularity, partly as a result of it coming to prominence following the filming of Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of Christ’ in 2004. It’s not going to take long for this town to become a tourist trap so try and visit sooner rather than later, particularly as it will be 2019’s European Capital of Culture.

Picture this!

Le Marche

Le Marche is an incredibly beautiful region that has, for some reason, never managed to successfully tap into the mass tourist trade. Yet it is precisely this that makes it such a great place to visit. It truly is an unspoilt region of Italy. With its stunning natural beauty, it gives holidaymakers a taste of the ‘real’ Italy, unspoilt by mass tourism. Its natural parks are ideal walking territory submersed in incredible beauty, whilst towns not to be missed include Urbino, Ascoli Piceno, Pesaro, Fermo and Macerata. With some great beach resorts on the Eastern coast, it also offers visitors the chance to have some fun beside the seaside without having to fight for your space on the sand.

Just imagine!

Val d’Orcia, Tuscany

Whilst Tuscany is one of the busiest regions in Italy, attracting millions of tourists a year, it is still possible to find a hidden gem even here. The smaller Southern Tuscan towns and villages in the Val d’Orcia tend to be far less visited and it’s still remarkably easy to escape the tourist crowds here. Bagno Vignoni, Sovana and Capalbio should be on your list of towns to visit but even driving through the much quieter countryside here will be incredibly rewarding.

Take a chance to view this!

The Langhe, Piedmont

Many tourists only venture into the Piedmonte region when they are donning a pair of skis however the region has so much to offer throughout the other months of the year. Few realise that this was actually the birthplace of the Slow Food movement and it is still home to some of Italy’s finest cheeses, wines and truffles. In fact, so beautiful and important is the region that in 2014, Langhe became a UNESCO World Heritage site. Worthy of visiting are the towns of Bra, Alba (famous for its white truffles), Barolo and Serrelunga. The Alpi Marritime National Park to the South of the region has absolutely unparalleled mountain scenery and yet visitors are few and far between. It truly is a region that allows holidaymakers to escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

I never saw this until now!

Bologna, Emilia Romagna

The capital of the Emilia Romagna region, Bologna is also Europe’s oldest university town. Food is a big deal here, home as the region is to parma ham, balsamic vinegar and parmesan (but where isn’t food a big deal in Italy!) and with the opening of Eataly World FICO, the world’s largest agri-food park, it is bound to start attracting more culinary attention internationally over the next few years. The historic food markets in the centre of the city are amongst the best in Italy and contrast with the sleek 21 st century experience of Eataly World offering a very different experience for tourists but there is no reason why the two can’t compliment each other.

Just a passing view!


Whilst thousands of tourists flock to Venice each year, nearby Verona has just as much to offer (albeit without the canals) and is far less busy. Whilst, of course, holidaymakers will always flock to Romeo and Juliet’s balcony, you would be surprised how few visitors combine a visit to Venice with a visit to its smaller, less busy neighbour.

Should have took this site with me!


Puglia is very much the up and coming region of Italy however it’s still very much a place to be explored and discovered. Yet again, it’s a region renowned for its wonderful cuisine – cucina povera – but as well as this it boasts a stunning coastline and exhuberant architecture. Stretching from the foothills of the Appenines in the North of the region to the rolling hills and plains of the Valle d’Itria and all the way down to Santa Maria di Leuca at its Southernmost tip, it’s also incredibly varied region. Its most famous town – Alberobello – is packed with tourists during daylight hours but even here, once the sun has gone down, you’ll have the place much more to yourself.

Nothing left to chance here.


Bordering Puglia but even less well known is Calabria. Situated in the toe of Italy’s boot, it is an area just waiting to be discovered. Its coastline arguably boasts even more beaches than its neighbour to the North. Its location does mean it gets pretty hot across the peak holiday months of July and August but it’s an ideal destination to visit in the Spring or during September and October when temperatures will still typically sit in the high twenties. Countless olive groves, hilltop villages , historical ruins and stunning beaches typify the region. Don’t be caught out by the food here though! The spice will rival the level of spice in a dish you may more typically find in India, thanks to the red peperoncino!

Just being particular for now.

Jo Mackay is Director of Bookings For You.

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Buenaventura Grand Hotel & Great Moments All Inclusive,The Best Bang for Your Buck, All Inclusives in Mexico

Buenaventura Grand Hotel & Great Moments All Inclusive

No matter where you fall on the love-’em-or-hate-’em spectrum, we can all agree that all-inclusive resorts make sticking to a travel budget a breeze. With that in mind, we found the all-inclusive hotels in Mexico — from Cabo to Cancun — that offer the most value for the cost. Keep in mind that prices are based on average rates for a standard room, as of November 2017.  Best Bang Mexico Buck.

The Best Bang for Your Buck, All Inclusives in Mexico

Looking for the most affordable beachfront resort near Land’s End? This is it. Solmar Resort is the oldest and most budget-friendly hotel in the Solmar Hotels & Resorts group, and it has a decent list of amenities: two pools, an alfresco restaurant with ocean views and a sushi bar (all-inclusive guests have access to several additional restaurants at nearby sister properties), beachfront spa cabanas, and free valet parking in a secure garage. And despite Solmar’s all-inclusive status, it tends to be quieter than the all-inclusive properties right in the heart of Cabo San Lucas. The 100 rooms are dated, but spacious and clean, and all have kitchenettes, flat-screen satellite TVs, and private ocean-facing balconies. Unfortunately, Wi-Fi in the common areas is only available via paid daily plans and the ocean here is rough and unswimmable, though the latter is a common Cabo problem. From $114/night.

The Best Bang for Your Buck, All Inclusives in Mexico

The 470-room Gran Caribe is one of the best all-inclusive values in the Cancun Hotel Zone, and its attractive prices draw a fair number of partiers, especially during spring break and other peak times. But families like the Gran Caribe for its competitive rates as well — not to mention its kids’ club, teens’ club, and water park. The result is a slightly strange scene that’s part boozing twenty-somethings playing tequila volleyball and part little kids splashing in the main pool and watching magic shows. The hotel certainly has its downsides: The draw here isn’t the food, though the variety at the five restaurants (plus free room service) is pretty decent. Expect some wear throughout. Wi-Fi isn’t included in some of the room rates, and non-motorized water sports are only available off-site at Aqua World (a five-minute bus ride). But given the fair rates, these won’t be deal breakers for many. From $197/night.

The Best Bang for Your Buck, All Inclusives in Mexico

A 251-room all-inclusive resort popular with families, El Cozumeleno is a beachfront property 10 minutes from the downtown area of Cozumel, Mexico’s largest inhabited island and a snorkeling lovers’ paradise. Guests come here for the value and for the numerous features offered in the all-inclusive package. Everything here is mid-range, from the sparse and somewhat dated decor in the rooms, to the food, to the services — but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as guests know what to expect. The pools are the highlight here (one has a popular swim-up bar), but golf is also draw due to the resort’s location across the street from the island’s only golf course (guests get discounted rates). El Cozumelano freebies include aquarobics classes, Wi-Fi, parking, and non-motorized water sports. From $127/night.

The Best Bang for Your Buck, All Inclusives in Mexico

Royal Solaris Los Cabos is a friendly and affordable all-inclusive resort for families, with three outdoor pools (one adult-only), daily activities, and evening entertainment. All guests at Royal Solaris are on an all-inclusive package that gives them access to food and drink outlets (four of each) around the resort. A large breakfast buffet is served in a covered open-air space by the beach. The 400 rooms have traditional furnishings, mini-fridges stocked with free beer and water, and balconies — though some are tiny. A great kids’ club for ages four and up is available for free, and it includes a pool with a series of waterslides, giant animals, and fountains. The hotel is steps from a great beach with rows of loungers and palapas, though shady spots often get snagged early and riptides often make the water too dangerous for swimming. From $153/night.

The Best Bang for Your Buck, All Inclusives in Mexico

When the 183-room, family-oriented Samba Vallarta was constructed, the north end of Nuevo Vallarta was still fairly remote. Since then, a number of large-scale resorts have sprung up nearby, making Samba Vallarta feel refreshingly small-scale compared to its mega-resort neighbors. The grounds and gardens are well-kept, and the pool, with its linked sections for adults, kids, and toddlers, is perfectly scaled for the number of guests. The kids’ playground by the beach is simple and functional, and the beach itself (usually uncrowded) has palapas for shade and free non-motorized water sports, including kayaks, boogie boards, sailboards, and Hobie cats. Wi-Fi is also free throughout. From $139/night.

The Best Bang for Your Buck, All Inclusives in Mexico

Riu offers three all-inclusive classes in Nuevo Vallarta, and the 700-room Jalisco is the economy option (Vallarta is the mid-range one and Palace Pacifico the upscale) — but you wouldn’t guess that upon entry. The entry and lobby are grand, and the grounds are immaculate, with two huge pools, beautiful gardens, and an expansive beachfront with bar. The rooms, however, are small, lackluster, and short on amenities — not even Wi-Fi. All-inclusive guests have full access to plenty of restaurants (five), plus 24-hour room service and three fun bars (including a swim-up pool bar) and even a nightclub. The property is far removed from the hustle and bustle of downtown Puerto Vallarta, but it remains an excellent option for a beautiful all-inclusive beach getaway. From $160/night.

The Best Bang for Your Buck, All Inclusives in Mexico

Set in the gated Playacar community, this all-inclusive has glitz and glamour of a Las Vegas casino hotel combined with hacienda-style architecture and massive gardens. Among its best assets are its nearly private beach, enormous pool with swim-up bar, and impressive all-inclusive plan covering six restaurants and 24-hour room service. There haven’t been any major renovations in recent years, but almost everything was impeccable during our visit. Floors gleamed, exteriors and interiors were well-maintained, the rooms didn’t have the musty smell that can often accompany places in tropical destinations with high humidity levels, and the staff were bustling about and helping everyone in sight. The 400 rooms aren’t perfect and lack full ocean views, but all have free Wi-Fi. There’s a dizzying array of activities throughout the day and night, like water sports (including free scuba diving lessons in the pool, and free catamarans) and evening entertainment (usually a live band and then a show with dancing). From $266/night.

The Best Bang for Your Buck, All Inclusives in Mexico

The 879-room mid-range Oasis Cancun is party central, with something happening all the time and everywhere for guests who are young, sociable, and loud. (The crowd generally does not respect personal space or quiet hours, and prospective visitors should be aware that the noise is truly round the clock.) There are 10 on-site restaurants and snack bars and 11 bars, including three swim-up venues, illustrating this resort’s focus: the booze is more important than fine food. The resort designates “Official Party Staff” members to keep the shindig going, and vodka is dispensed via soda guns. Hotel staff has a difficult time keeping up with the trail of discarded plastic Solo cups. Hammocks are strung around the grounds — which include an expansive white-sand beach with free kayaks, boogie boards, and sailboats — where guests can pass out in the sun if a quiet moment can be snatched. Amenities in the rooms are limited compared to other area hotels, with old-school tube TVs, no mini-fridges, and free bottled water strictly limited to two bottles per day, even if there are four guests in the room. From $190/night.

The Best Bang for Your Buck, All Inclusives in Mexico

The upscale, 345-room Velas Vallarta is one of the most popular all-inclusive resorts in the region, thanks in part to its big (though slightly worn) rooms with kitchenettes — many with great views — and three pools, including an oceanfront pool with a swim-up bar, and a lazy river. The gardens and grounds are charming (there’s even a roaming family of peacocks), the recreational options are excellent, and the restaurants have good quality food, especially for an all-inclusive. Wi-Fi is free, though some report that the signal can be weak from the rooms. From $283/night.

The Best Bang for Your Buck, All Inclusives in Mexico

With a prime location on the beach with views over Banderas Bay, the 234-room Buenaventura has some features that set it apart, though it’s largely a predictable all-inclusive with a hectic, lively vibe. It’s jam-packed with daily activities and features for the whole family, including the beach and pools, a kids’ club and teen club, and a spa and gym. Of course, this is to say nothing of the endless supply of food and booze available in the hotel’s four restaurants, three bars, and round-the-clock room service. From$154/night.

The Best Bang for Your Buck, All Inclusives in Mexico

Krystal Grand Los Cabos is a contemporary and family-friendly resort located directly on The Corridor, the popular tourist road that runs between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. Though the ocean is too rough for swimming, Krystal’s beachfront setup includes lounge chairs and Balinese beds. The hotel has a massive pool terrace and kids’ club, and, after renovations throughout 2017, a fitness center and spa. Renovated rooms are contemporary with purposeful minimalism throughout: open spaces, clean lines, and neutral colors. All-inclusive rates include dining at all on-premise restaurants, two bars, and minibars in the rooms. From $155/night.

The Best Bang for Your Buck, All Inclusives in Mexico

The mid-range, 151-room Ocean Spa Hotel is a good choice for undemanding travelers in want of a good value. The well maintained grounds are dotted with palm trees and feature a nice pool, kids’ pool, and a small stretch of beach with free water sports including windsurfing, kite surfing, and kayaking. The property’s need for an update is apparent inside, with generic, common areas and lackluster rooms. All rooms have private balconies and a smattering of standard amenities (including free Wi-Fi), but they lack mini-fridges, their bathrooms are small, and past guests have complained of maintenance issues with the air-conditioning and plumbing. Food here gets mixed reviews, but guests can choose between a buffet restaurant and three a la carte eateries, plus there are several bars. There’s no fitness center, but there are free fitness classes like yoga and Pilates, plus tennis courts on-site. From $146/night.

The Best Bang for Your Buck, All Inclusives in Mexico

Locals and North American travelers of all ages can be found at this authentic — albeit aging — beachfront resort. The 152-room Posada Real is one of the lowest-priced options in San Jose del Cabo, with an all-inclusive package that offers decent food, basic liquors, nightly live music, and a few free activities, like aqua aerobics and mini-golf. Simple rooms have balconies (all with partial ocean views), mini-fridges, beach towels, and free Wi-Fi, but bathrooms could stand some updates. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served in the Cactus Restaurant, while beachside Wahoo Taco Bar provides snacks during the day. Free parking and Wi-Fi are provided. From $86/night.

image via Mexico’s Resorts

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Dusit signs to manage new hotel in Thailand’s popular beach resort destination Hua Hin

Thailand’s Resort In Dusit

Thailand’s popular beach resort destination.Dusit International has signed a hotel management agreement with Enrich Paranimmitr Company Limited. A subsidiary of Bangkok-based Enrich Group, to operate the dusit Hua Hin Hotel and Residences in the heart of the beach. One of Thailand’s  main resort destinations is Petchkasem Road. Thailand’s popular beach resort Hua Hin, Dusit International.

Designed to cater to families and leisure travellers seeking a fun-filled escape. The resort property is conveniently located close to Hua Hin’s largest shopping, dining and movie theatre complex. BluPort, the hip and stylish Cicada Night Market, and the Vana Nava Waterpark, boasts of some of the fastest and longest waterslides in Thailand.

Slated to open in  2020, the new resort property will comprise the upscale dusit hotel with 154 keys, a dusit branded condominium with 364 fully-furnished residential units, and retail and office spaces. Facilities will include an all-day dining restaurant, fitness centre, swimming pool, a kids’ club, a rooftop bar, and 300 sq m of banqueting space. In keeping with the dusit brand, the property will boast a modern design with bright and colourful décor.

The Residences will operate separately to the hotel and will offer its own swimming pool and fitness centre.

Located only three hours’ drive from Bangkok, Hua Hin serves as a popular beachside getaway for Bangkokians and is renowned for its seafood restaurants, lively markets, cultural sights, world-class golf courses, kitesurfing, and family-friendly activities. With royal links going back to the early 1920s, the city also has two regal summer residences that visitors can explore.

Thailand resort

Thailand’s Resorts In Dusit

“Hua Hin is one of Thailand’s most popular resort seaside destinations, attracting over five million visitors per year, but it still retains a charming, relaxed atmosphere which makes it perfectly suited to families and leisure travellers seeking relaxation and fun activities by the beach,” said Mr Lim Boon Kwee, Chief Operating Officer, Dusit International (Above left). “With its stylish design, comfortable rooms, upscale facilities, and Dusit’s resort’s distinctive brand of gracious hospitality, dusit Hua Hin will be perfectly positioned to cater to visitors’ needs. We look forward to working with Enrich Paranimmitr Company Limited to make the property a resounding success.”

Ms Suphicha Promsentana, Business Office Director of Enrich Group (Above middle), said, “After completing several high-end housing projects in Bangkok we wanted to expand our portfolio beyond residential into hospitality and services. As for our move to develop a hotel; we just had to find the right partner who shared our vision for excellence. We are delighted Dusit International is that partner. The company’s rich hospitality experience speaks for itself, and we are confident that, in Dusit International’s capable hands, the hotel will live up to Dusit’s promise to exceed expectations. Always.”

With 28 properties currently in operation across four brands in eight countries, Dusit International is in a significant growth phase which will see the number of Dusit resort properties exceed 70 within the next four-to-five years across key markets worldwide. Alongside dusit, other brands in Dusit International’s portfolio include Dusit Thani, Dusit Devarana, and DusitPrincess.

dusitD2 Hua Hin Hotel and Residences will be the second Dusit branded property in Hua Hin. Dusit International also owns and operates the Dusit Thani Hua Hin, a luxury resort which celebrates its 27th anniversary this year.

image via williamfloydmarketing

image via Thailand Resorts

Cruise Tourism in Jamaica expands to Port Antonio

Cruise Tourism in Jamaica expands to Port Antonio

KINGSTON, Jamaica – With several calls scheduled, including three next month, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett yesterday said that recent and continued efforts to get cruise ships into Port Antonio are bearing fruit.  Cruise Tourism in Jamaica is worth it.

He was speaking yesterday at an official plaque exchange event on the MS Insignia Cruise Ship at the Ken Wright Pier in the Noel Flynn Marina, Port Antonio, Portland.

The ship, with approximately 650 passengers, arrived at around 7 a.m. and departed at 6 p.m. Despite persistent rainfall, many passengers disembarked and went on organised tours around Portland and or walked the streets of Port Antonio. Tourism in Jamaica is great.

Minister Bartlett, in the company of the Mayor of Port Antonio, Councillor Paul Thompson, tourism officials and stakeholders pointed out that, “The boutique-like, rustic, off the beaten path eco-tourism friendly nature of Portland gives it a unique advantage. Tourism in Jamaica is great.

We are tightening coordination with the Tourism Ministry’s JAMVAC, TPDCo, TEF, JTB, the newly formed Destination Assurance Council and of course the Port Authority of Jamaica, the Parish Council and other stakeholder interests to better accentuate the look and feel of the Portland and drive more tourist traffic. Some work is already being done but we have a lot more to do.”

Ship Captain, Maroje Brajcic thanked Bartlett and stakeholders for their hospitality and said that Port Antonio is one of the most beautiful places in the world and further noted that the ship is to call again in the town next month. Tourism in Jamaica is great.

Edmund Bartlett with MS Insignia Ship Captain Maroje Brajcic in Port Antonio Jamaica.Cruise Tourism in Jamaica.

Hon. Edmund Bartlett with MS Insignia Ship Captain Maroje Brajcic

Senior Advisor and Strategist, Delano Seiveright noted that the ship’s call is in line with a lot of work culminating at the largest cruise industry gathering, the Seatrade Global Cruise convention in Fort Lauderdale in March of this year.

“Minister Bartlett, Ian Dear and other officials were busy pushing Port Antonio with the most Senior Executives of Cruise lines around the globe and highlighted its unique position as lush, uncrowded and rustic option for smaller vessels.

Included in calls next month is the primarily German speaking Europa ship, which for many years was awarded best cruise ship in the world by the Berlitz Cruise Guide,” he said.

Following a multi-million US dollar transformation, the MS Insignia, has a capacity of 660 passengers and 397 crew and boasts teak, custom stone and tile work, and lounges, suites and staterooms with luxurious, neo-classical furnishings.

It also includes four unique, open-seating restaurants, a world-class fitness centre and spa, eight lounges and bars and a casino. A special amenity consistent throughout is its Queen-size Prestige Tranquility Bed with 1,000-thread-count linens.

MS Insignia heads to Port Antonio, Jamaica. Cruise Tourism in Jamaica.

MS Insignia

The MS Insignia is part of the Miami, Florida headquartered Oceania Cruises with a fleet consisting of elegant mid-sized ships with distinctive itineraries that call on marquee, boutique and off the beaten path ports.

Although branded as a hidden gem, Port Antonio took its place as an attractive tourist destination early in the game. Hotels started going up after the Jamaica Hotels Law was passed in 1890 with one of the most famous being Titchfield, which became a Port Antonio landmark.


image via Jamaica’s Resorts

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image via Cruise in Jamaica