The sun-blessed Portuguese island of Madeira lies approximately 400km north of Tenerife, smack in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. With year round warm weather, an incredibly scenic coastline and a wealth of cultural festivals you might be tempted to extend your stay on this island a little longer.

A trip to Madeira will bring some unforgettable holiday experiences and allows you to explore the nearby golden island of Porto Santo. Saga Travel organise getaways to these two islands and are ready when you are, so let's take a look at what you can expect upon arrival.

Compact But Diverse

Yes, Madeira may only be 800 square kilometres but it packs an incredible amount of sightseeing options into this relatively small space. The island's coastline is dotted with fishing villages, sandy beaches and scenic little bays where you can relax in the sun no matter which season you choose to visit in. The coast is also the place to take relaxing boat trips, enjoy some wreck and reef diving or simply take in those spectacular sunsets. Madeira isn't just famous for its fortified wine -- the island is awash with so many exotic and colourful flowers that it has rightfully earned the nickname "The Floating Garden".

Fortaleza do Pico

An Island of Festivals

If there's one thing that Madeira loves it's a good festival and visitors have plenty to choose from throughout the year. The island is home to at least 45 annual festivals including the famous Madeira Wine Festival in the capital city of Funchal and the 48 hour Dancing Folklore Festival in the town of Santana.

If you're visiting during July then don't miss the three day Jazz extravaganza in Santa Catarina Park where you can enjoy the music while taking in the mountain backdrop and Funchal Bay views. The Atlantic Festival music and fireworks contest, which takes place every Saturday throughout June, is also well worth visiting the island for.

Il Gallo d'Oro

Sightseeing Options

You might not want to tear yourself away from the beach but making the effort will allow you to get more out of your visit. Slip on those sturdy walking shoes and head out into the interior mountain and lake areas to view dazzling rivers, waterfalls and rocks pools. A cable car ride from Santana to Rocha do Navio will provide you with some spectacular views before you reach a charming rocky beach. The amazing rock formations around the east of the island can be viewed from the deck of a yacht or head north and take a guided tour around the famous Sao Vicente Caves.

The Sister Island

Approximately 15 minutes by plane or two hours by ferry from Madeira lies Porto Santo, named the "Golden Island" due to the nine kilometres of soft golden sand in the south. This is a beautiful Portuguese island that stretches for only 42 square kilometres and exudes a tranquil atmosphere making it a highly desirable destination. If you're a golf lover then the recently added Porto Santo golf course that stretches across the island and offers magnificent scenery is worth the trip alone.

This is an island that will provide a feast for the senses and could easily become your favourite island getaway.

  Credits David Stanley // Rota das Estrelas used under the Creative Commons license.

Published in Portugal

India is not easy to define, because this vast land is as diverse geographically and demographically as it gets and there are rituals and the traditions that vary virtually from village to village. You will be surprised to know that are over a hundred major languages in addition to nearly two-thousand other minor languages in the country. So even if you are a linguist, you need to be a magician to be able to master all these languages.

The geographical difference among its different parts is also pretty apparent, as on one side you have the magnificent Himalaya, while on the other side it is surrounded by oceans and seas. Then there are deserts and alpine forests that are scattered across the country giving the traveler a terrible choice to decide what to include and what to leave out when he visits this wonderland. For the uninitiated, India is also the land of spirituality, with yoga being its most import to the western world. Let’s check out some major destinations:

Mizoram One of the sisters of the seven sister states, Mizoram with its rolling hills, meandering valleys, gurgling rivers and sparkling lakes is no less than a paradise for the nature lover. The state is dotted with no less than 21 mountain ranges of varying heights which are home to a wide range of animals and plants. The dress worn by the local population is also strikingly different from other parts of the country, and so is their food and culture. Even in this day and age they lead a lifestyle that is symbiotic, which is why you will find pristine greenery everywhere.

Nohkalikai Falls, Cherrapunji Waterfalls with their unfettered flow tends to free us of our man-made rules and urges us to be wild and be ourselves. When you visit Nohkalikai Falls, which is located near Cherrapunji, the wettest place in the world, you will understand what I am talking about. The falls is one of the tallest in the country and you will be left awestruck by the force with which the water cascades down the high cliffs. Nohkalikai Falls in the Khasi language translates to "Jump of KaLikai," and has a popular legend associated to it. It is believed that a local woman by the name of Kai after being struck by a family tragedy took her life by jumping off the cliff next to the falls.

Nubra Valley, Ladakh One of the most amazing valleys in India, Nubra lies to the northeast of Ladakh valley. The high altitude and the unique weather of the region are the cause of rare precipitation and scare vegetation seen here. But despite being a cold desert, the villages are irrigated and one will find heat, barley, peas, and mustard besides a good number of fruits and nuts, including blood apples.The unsurpassed beauty of the region and availability of a number of adventure sports are a few of the many reasons why visitors keep trickling into the valley.

StokKangri, Ladakh For the adventure fanatics who love mountains, StokKangri is just tailor made for you. With an elevation of 6,153m (20,182ft) it is the highest mountain in the Stok Range and is a prime attraction among the visitors who trickle in from across the world, not only to enjoy adventure sports, but just to take in the majestic view of the snow-draped mountains; however, if you come around late July and August, the summit peak may not be covered with snow, but the rest of the year it is.

The Tea Gardens of Munnar This hill station-cum-town is perched 1,600 metres above sea level and is famous for its rolling tea gardens which look incredibly beautiful; visitors should take a stroll through the tea gardens and feel the ambiance of the place. Believe you me; the moments will stay with for a long, long time. The flora and fauna of the region is thriving and you will get many subjects of interest to keep yourself busy!

Key Monastery This Tibetan Buddhist monastery is a prime example of Indian plurality and the celebration of the human spirit. Perched atop a hill at an altitude of 4,166 metres (13,668 ft) above sea level, the gompa is close to the famous Spiti River. Being the largest monastery in the Spiti Valley, it is an important center for religious training of the Lamas. The origin of the monastery dates back to circa 1008-1064 CE, when Dromtönis said to have founded it.

Andamans If you love water and water sports, Andaman’s should make your bucket list. This group of islands is positioned at the meeting point of the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea and is famous among travels across all ages. The vegetation is mainly dominated by tropical trees, with rainforest canopy being a common occurrence, and is composed of mixed flora. Among the popular animals, the saltwater crocodile takes the cake.

See More       India Unexplored: 24 Incredible Offbeat Destinations   India Travel Guides

Published in India

Don't all of us have a place that we have always wanted to visit, that thing we always wanted to do, that little dream? Why wait for tomorrow to fulfill those wishes? There is a universe full of beauty around us, waiting to be seen. Here are some of the most beautiful places in the world that you just can't miss in this lifetime.

1. Greece

Greece

Greece is a beautiful place, a mix of ancient beauty both tamed and untamed with a past full of mystery, mythology and magic. With a vivid culture, breathtaking views and magnificent history, this is one holiday you will never forget.

2. Rome, Italy

Rome, Italy

Travel to a different world in this city which takes you into a bygone era. A spectacle of grand architecture with a glorious history offset by piazzas, mouthwatering food and cool gelato, Rome provides an idyllic quaint charm unmatched by any other.

3. Alhambra, Spain

Alhambra, Spain

Described by poets as "a pearl set in emeralds," this fortress, originally built in the 9th century is a truly exquisite gem of Islamic architecture. Visit this palace that has witnessed centuries pass by to hear the walls whisper tales of eras past.

4. Forbidden City, Beijing, China

The Forbidden City, Beijing, China

Feel the thrill of walking the halls once open only to the Kings favored men. See the history and the tales of ancient China come alive before your eyes. Sinning has never been more tempting.

5. Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar

Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar

The holiest Buddhist pagoda, this ancient shrine embodies beauty, serenity and joy. Visit it to experience the divine connection and to appreciate an exquisite piece of architecture and beauty.

6. Egypt

Egypt

The Egyptian pyramids are architectural marvels that need no introduction. Egypt however is home to several other exquisite monuments of days past. Let the fantastic tales of Egyptian mythology mesmerize you as you pay a visit to the country where men were once gods.

7. Palace of Versailles, France

Palace of Versailles, France

The ultimate word in luxury and excess, the Palace of Versailles is a fantasy palace brought to life. With its unparalleled grandeur and incredible architecture, this will definitely be the most impressive palace you will ever see.

8. Great wall of China

Great Wall of China

An unbelievable feat of architecture, this wall is like no other you have ever seen. Winding its way over the globe, and visible from the moon, gazing at the wall at twilight is an experience you will never forget.

9. Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey

Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey

Those who love retail therapy will find this ancient market a dream come true. One of the largest and oldest markets in the world, this marketplace is a beautiful monument all on its own. Soak in the atmosphere, and come back with an unforgettable experience and lighter wallets.

10. Marrakech, Morocco

Marrakech, Morocco

An old imperial city of Morocco called The Red City, Marrakesh oozes a character and charm unlike any other. Brimming with palaces, monuments, museums and souks, you will be hard pressed to decide on an itinerary for your visit.

11. Grand Canyon, Arizona, United States

Grand Canyon, Arizona, United States Of America

A natural formation, the Grand Canyon is wild, untamed and breathtakingly beautiful. An awe-inspiring and spiritual experience, this is something that will stay with you forever.

12. Stonehenge, United Kingdom

Stonehenge

Britain's greatest prehistoric icon, Stonehenge projects an aura of intrigue, power and endurance. The awe-inspiring mysterious ring of stones dated approximately 5000 years ago still continues to mesmerize visitors with their spartan beauty amidst their lush surroundings.

13. Venice, Italy

Alley in Venice, Italy

A city that breathes lives and personifies romance, Venice is a must in every traveler’s wish list. From dreamy gondola rides along the Grand Canal to checking out artistic masterpieces & charming palatial palazzos along with sampling authentic venetian cuisine & aperitivios, there is never a dull moment in this city.

14. Machu Picchu, Peru

Early morning at Machu Picchu, Peru

Peru's most-visited site, Machu Picchu is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Dating to the mid-1400s, this lost city of the Incas is an architectural marvel. Perched on a high plateau, deep in the Amazonian jungle, this is a perfect destination for a long hike.

15. Prague, Czech Republic

Prague, Czech Republic

This Czechoslovakian jewel attracts tourists in droves with its bohemian allure and fairytale atmosphere. Tired of sitting around beaches, doing nothing? Welcome on board. You can have the time of your life exploring old castles, museums, and strolling around charming, quaint streets, seeing the local Attractions. Refresh yourself with a scrumptious repast at a classic Czech tavern, and visit the famous pubs to party like never before.

16. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Burj Dubai, United Arab Emirates

You just can't end this list without including Dubai, the ultimate luxury destination. Embodying opulence, magnificence and eccentricity, Dubai is a man made miracle that is a visual feast. Pamper yourself at some of the most lavish resorts in the world, indulge in tax free mega shopping, embark on grand desert safaris< and experience the rich Arabic culture and cuisine.

Where else would you add to this list?

Share your comments below!

Published in Travel Tips

The many attractions of Switzerland make it an excellent destination for a European adventure. From the majestic beauty of mountain landscapes to the cultural attractions of some historic cities, there is much for visitors to enjoy on a trip to this landlocked country. Aside from the usual Swiss highlights, there are plenty of other things to see and do and the following are some to consider.

Enter a Ski Marathon

Switzerland has long been a popular destination for winter sports and there are plenty of resorts offering catered ski chalet holidays. This type of vacation provides access to the slopes and the opportunity to take in some impressive alpine scenery of snow covered peaks and valleys. While many holidaymakers enjoy racing down a prepared or off-piste slope, others prefer cross-country skiing and for these the Engadin Skimarathon is something to consider. This annual cross-country race is open to anyone over the age of 16, with up to 13,000 competitors taking part each year. The full distance covers some 42km although there is also a half-marathon that runs to 21km. For the adventurous that want to take part, it can be an incredible Swiss experience and one they will certainly remember.

Take a Toboggan Ride

A less energetic way for all the family to enjoy some winter scenery is on offer at La Tzoumaz resort in the Alps. It has one of the longest toboggan runs in Switzerland, which stretches out to around 10km in length. Access to the top of the run at Savoleyres is by cable car and from there it is an 820m drop all the way back down to the resort. This allows riders to build up some speed as they slide to make it an exhilarating experience for children and adults.

Stay in Jail

Lucerne is a popular destination in Switzerland and the Jailhotel in the city offers a unique way to stay there. The historic building was originally constructed in the mid 1800s and served as a prison for many years before being converted to a hotel in the 1990s. It retains many of the original features and visitors can get a feel for what prison life was really like as they spend the night on bunk-beds in a barred cell. There are also larger Governor and Library rooms on offer and as it is a budget hotel, it has some of the most affordable prices for accommodation in Lucerne.

Walk Through History

The Ballenberg Open-Air Museum is situated on Lake Brienz and offers the chance to stroll through some Swiss history. Around one hundred traditional buildings from across Switzerland have been brought to the museum and reconstructed in all their glory. This includes homes, schools, farm buildings, and other architectural gems. The museum also provides demonstrations of traditional Swiss crafts and food making, as well as having a farmyard display of over 200 animals and garden areas growing local plants, herbs, and flowers.

Switzerland is a beautiful country, with scenery and attractions that ensure anyone will have an enjoyable time on a trip. Those that choose it for a vacation should consider trying some of the activities shown above. They offer a more unusual experience, but are certainly worth the effort for a truly fun Swiss adventure.

Published in Switzerland

No worries mate

This morning I looked out of the window. It was mostly grey, but on the bright side....it didn't rain. Yeah, just another day in the fall. Falls here in the Netherlands are mostly like that. You are lucky when it doesn't rain and really, really lucky when you see some sunshine. But the weather doesn't get me down, or at least i'm trying, but this make me also realise that I was really lucky in New Zealand.

Even in the winter I got lots of sun. On the westcoast it was raining, buy hey...when doesn't it not rain on the westcoast, right? But it's not only the sun that made me have a fantastic time. It's also the amazing people i've met during my 9 month stay in New Zealand, but what are now the most awesome things about New Zealand:

Relaxed lifestyle: That's not only the best thing in New Zealand, but the best thing when you travel. The only thing is what you think about is what are you going to do today and where are you going to sleep tonight. That's most awesome feeling in the world and that's why I love travelling so much. No worries about money or things that you have to do. Just living your life and enjoy :-)

The charm of the traffic: Ok New Zealand isn't most biggest country and certaintly doesn't have the biggest roads, but that doesn't matter. It makes people more nice, they are taking an effort. It's normal for trucks to stop along the road to pass you by. Everyone actually stops when you want to cross a road. Yeah, I know! Unbelievable, right?

Lake Wanaka Panorama

The stunning scenery: I travelled quit a bit in Asia (8 months) and in Australia (4 months) and off course Europe, where I'm from, but there's nothing like the scenery in New Zealand. It's the most amazing scenery I've ever seen. Lakes, Mountains, Forrest and you gotta love all the desserted beaches. Can also be quit anoying, though. You have to stop like every 10 minutes, because of the change of landscape and the amazing view, but it's all worth it.

Pub and cafe culture: New Zealand has just like Australia a big pub and cafe culture. A good barista isn't hard to find. So do you have a business meeting or just meeting a friend. The barrista is bet place to go and on friday everyone heads to the pub. Have one of the most amazing wines of New Zealand or one of the different beers New Zealand has to offer. Always a good way socialize with your colleagues or your best mates! :-D

Hndertwasser public toilet exterior

Toilets everywhere: Oke, so if the last 4 reasons didn't convince you. This one definetly will. You probably know the feeling, you're in the middle of nowhere and have to pee. No worries, even at the most desserted places there's a toilet and always super clean and free of charge. One time I was doing one of the great walks, the Abel Tasman track. I found myself on a totally desserted beach. Just me and the birds. I almost felt like Robinson Crusoe totally on a desserted island. There was literally nothing there except a toilet hidden in the bush. What more do you want, right? ;-)

Published in New Zealand

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