Friday, January 8, 2010

Skiing in South Africa and Morocco

Ever skied in South Africa? And Morocco? Here is a guide to places you never thought of: South Africa, Japan, Argentina and Morocco.

Argentina. The Argentine Andes have several notable ski resorts, with snow from June to October. The landscape is breathtaking thanks to the altitude. Bariloche is considered one of the best ski resorts in South America, but also Valle de Las Lenas, Ushuaia, San Martin de los Andes, La Angostura, Chubut, Copahue Park and Mendoza meet the highest expectations. The Penitentes ski resort, with its 2.580 metres above the sea level, offers 28 slopes spread over 300 hectares. It is near the Aconcagua, part of the Seven Summits (the highest mountains of each of the seven continents) and the highest peak outside Asia.

South Africa. Snow comes first in the Southern Hemisphere. You will be able to enjoy the white cover of Tiffindell ski resort already by the end of May. It was first established to give South Africans the opportunity to ski near their homes. Today the resort has grown substantially, challenging even the most expert skiers. And while the lack of snow is becoming a concern worldwide, Tiffindell has nothing to worry about: last year it saw over 7 metres of snow!

Morocco. For those of you who consider Marrakech a getaway from the cold, looking for winter sun, here are some news: you can have both! The Oukaimeden ski resort is about 40 miles from Marrakech and ninety minutes from the beach. It is part of the High Atlas Mountains which are usually covered with snow in January and February. It is cheap and uncrowded: the ski pass costs 10 Euros, and being largely unknown, you won't have to wait in line at the chairlift.

Japan. Every day, from December to April, trains leave from Tokyo to Mount Fuji, Japan's highest mountain and a symbol of the country. Hakuba resort in Nagano is also very famous for being the host of the 1998 Winter Olympics. But many probably don't know that there are over 600 ski resorts in Japan, the largest number considering the size of the country. The northern island of Hokkaido is the perfect destination for those in search of spectacular deep powder and off-piste runs. Moreover, Japanese hotels in the ski resorts are modern and often located near natural hot springs. Exactly what you need after a long day on the slopes.

Spain is blessed by the sun, and at the same time, criss-crossed by mountain ranges in the north, in the middle, and to the surprise of some, also in the south. The Sierra Nevada is one of Spain's most renowned ski destinations, with over 65 km of ski slopes. It is a major attraction due to its proximity to the sea and to the Alhambra, the best preserved palace of the Arab world. Famous for being the chosen resort of the Spanish royal family, Baqueira-Beret is also beautiful and sunny and has a good snow record. Some pistes have been recently modernised, and offer a wide range of uncrowded blues and reds for intermediate skiers.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Berlin 2009: No More Bricks in the Wall

Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, no city in Europe has seen more development and change than Berlin. Divided for more than 40 years by the wall, this year the city celebrates the 20th anniversary of its fall. For those who've yet to see Berlin, now is the best time to pay a visit. The city is surprisingly affordable and full of magic, thanks to HolidayCheck's tips. What are you waiting for?

History and culture

Escape tunnels have become one of the most popular attractions for locals and international tourists alike. After World War II, hundreds of captives from East Germany took advantage of the soft soil beneath Berlin to tunnel their way under the wall. Some of the tunnels were like small tubes, barely big enough to crawl through, while others were tall enough to stand up in. It's estimated that about 300 people managed to escape through the tunnels.

More history can be found at the Museum Haus (Wall museum) at Checkpoint Charlie (Friedrichstrasse 43–45), which displays a permanent exhibition on the history of the Berlin Wall and on the international fight for human rights. The exhibit includes many objects used by fugitives in their escape. This well-known crossing point in the Berlin Wall between East and West Germany became a symbol of the war and a gateway to freedom for East Germans.

The Old Stasi Headquarters are also worth a visit, which chronicles how the secret police of the GFR conducted surveillance on its citizens. Most of the guides are former prisoners, arrested while the Communist Party was still in power, so you can be sure to receive insider information.

The East Side Gallery is an international memorial for freedom. It is a 1.3 km long section of the Berlin Wall located along Mühlenstrasse, and consists of approximately 100 paintings by artists from all over the world. It was painted in 1990 on the eastern side of the wall. Even though it's not the original wall, small authentic remains are still preserved in a church on Bernauer Strasse.

Eat and Drink

One cannot truly experience Berlin without sampling some of its famous fast foods. Look for Imbiss (snack) kiosks throughout the city selling Bouletten or the ever-popular Currywurst. Berliners love this spicy combination of fried sausage covered in curry powder and ketchup.

Be sure not to miss Konnopke , which has been serving its legendary bites since 1930. They can be found under the Eberswalder Strasse subway station arches, and are renowned for their tasty Currywurst. What’s so special about the sauce they serve? It’s a secret! Preparations begin at 6 a.m, so if you’re stumbling around Berlin in the early hours and looking for something special to satisfy your hunger, head to Konnopke.

Finally, rest!

To experience a perfect mix of luxury and tradition, sleep at the Hotel Adli . Our users simply love this 5-star hotel located right in the very heart of Berlin, by the Brandenburg Gate. It opened for the first time in 1907, hosting political leaders and celebrities for years. In 1945, a devastating fire almost entirely destroyed the magnificent building. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the people in the reunified city of Berlin refused to be without their legendary hotel, and few years later the New Adlon reopened.

Different in every aspect is the Ku’Damm101. Located in the district of Charlottenburg on the western end of Kurfürstendamm (also known as Ku’Damm) this hotel features modern luxury, harmonic colours, high-quality materials and high-tech communication. Last but not least, breakfast is served seven stories high, above Berlin's rooftops.

Monday, October 26, 2009

5 Top Honeymoon Destinations

When your big day is over, and you've spent the entire day showing off your smile to the cameras, you just can't wait to leave for that dream holiday. Here is a list of 5 top honeymoon destinations.

Seychelles, into the Wild
In the Seychelles you'll find the largest natural park in the world, with over 115 isles to choose from. Lagoons, peaks, coral reefs, lush vegetation contribute to making this destination unique. Some islands boast ingranite digenous wildlife and at sea, the turtles and wide variety of tropical fish provide excellent snorkelling and diving opportunities. North Island offers real romance seekers the most secluded beach in Seychelles, Honeymoon Beach, with waters that change to different shades of blue depending on the time of day. Need we say more?

Discovering Mauritius
This tropical island, located off the coast of the African continent in the southwest Indian Ocean, features an incredible ethnical variety: the Creole 'rainbow society' blends African, Asian and European cultures. An interesting and important aspect of this diversity can be also found in the delicious and multicultural Mauritian cuisine. Apart from the breathtaking white, sandy beaches, honeymooners looking to combine a South African safari with a beach destination will find the perfect spot for diving and hiking among exotic plants and animals.

Maldives, pure relaxation
Just take a peek out of your plane's window and you'll know you're landing in paradise. Below you a pattern of atolls stretching one after the other and massive, brilliant blue lagoons. After a long day lying on the beach, you may choose to pamper your body and senses in one of the many wellness centres. The Maldives are also known to be one of the best sites in the world for diving, so if there are any energies left, try a new and astounding experience: night snorkelling.

Barbados, more than you expect
The Caribbean is famous for its beaches, but Barbados has much more to offer, it's one of the liveliest islands in the Caribbean. If you choose a Barbados honeymoon it is bound to be anything but dull. Those wishing to explore the island can visit the capital city of Bridgetown for shopping and sightseeing or take a tour to discover how the traditional Barbados rum is made and then have a cocktail by the beach while enjoying a stunning caribbean sunset.

Fiji Islands, the real Garden of Eden
Exclusive, heavenly, intact, the Fiji Islands feature miles and miles of pure white beaches, azure lagoons and untouched reefs, as well as rainforests and mountains bursting with rare bird and animal species. But what makes this place of rare beauty so special and unique are the Fijian people and their wonderful culture. As soon as you will land, you will no longer be a visitor, but a welcomed friend. No wonder that it's one of the favourite wedding reception sites.

Thursday, October 15, 2009



If you're looking for the experience of a lifetime, this type of cruise is what you need. An Antarctic cruise is entirely different from any other cruise. You won't be shopping or eating in luxury restaurants. Instead, you'll be taken ashore on an inflatable boat to walk among penguins, check out seal colonies or take a dip in the thermal waters of Deception Island, one of the only places in the world where vessels can sail directly into the centre of a restless volcano (The South Shetland - lying about 60 miles north of the Antarctic Peninsula). There are also stunning iceberg formations, vistas of glaciated mountains and whales to watch from the ship.
Antarctic visits are mainly concentrated at ice-free coastal zones over the Antarctic summer, the five-month period from November to March. Each month has its own attractions. November is early summer, and the birds are courting and mating. December and January feature hatching penguins and baby chicks, along with warmer temperatures and up to 20 hours of daylight each day. February is late summer, but the whale sightings are more frequent and the chicks are beginning are fledging. There is also less ice in the late summer, and the ships are not as booked up as earlier in the season. One important tip: try to book your cruise on a small ship, or you might have a tough time getting off for your excursions: the IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) allows no more than 100 persons ashore at a time.


For travellers in search of rugged natural beauty, breathtaking mountain peaks, fjords that stretch nearly forever, cosmopolitan cities, indigenous historic peoples and cultures, and vast tropical rainforests, South America is a cruise revelation.
This huge continent covers thousands of miles and extends from the equatorial tropics to the sub-Antarctic. It is, of course, too big to sample on a single cruise. There are two primary routes - and not only do they rarely connect but they also are incredibly different. Around-the-horn cruises typically sail between Buenos Aires and Valparaiso, and feature lots of fjords, the wild beauty of Patagonia and Cape Horn - the southernmost point on the continent; and the Amazon cruises, getting in close contact with dense rainforsets, indigenous tribes and abundant wildlife.

The beauty of a cruise - as opposed to a land tour - of South America is that the region is simply too vast to explore comfortably and many area are unaccessible by road. Ships go where very few hotels exist - and even folks who like a little edge in their travel may feel relieved to re-board their ship after a long adventurous day paddling canoes up a tiny Amazonian tributary or hiking out to a peninsula to observe penguins!

100 years after the sinking of the Titanic, a twin cruise will mark the Titanic's original cruise.
The ship, carrying the exact number of passengers as 100 years earlier – 1,309 people -, will sail from Southampton on 8th April 2012 and will follow the RMS Titanic's original itinerary, passing by Cherbourg on the French coast before calling into the Irish port of Cobh. From here the ship will sail across the Atlantic, arriving at the Titanic site on April 14th/15th exactly 100 years on from this tragic voyage, where a memorial service will be held to pay tribute to the brave passengers and crew who perished on that fateful night. The voyage will then continue to Halifax, Nova Scotia, the final resting place of many who were on board, before sailing on to New York, the Titanic's ultimate planned destination.
The food served will match the sumptuous menus on the original voyage; the entertainment will include music and dancing in the Georgian style.

Never been on a cruise before, curious but always been too suspicious to find out? Cruises don't have to mean endless days at sea. Mini cruises are becoming more and more popular with time-famished holidaymakers. They're also a great way to get a foretaste of what a cruise is all about, so perfect for first-time cruisers. Mini cruises generally last four to five days and include all the usual on-board entertainment and sometimes much more, but you get more for your money than you would with a land-based holiday as you usually visit two to three destinations in one trip. To mention only two options, go can go classic, choosing a cruise which will take you to Malta, Italy (Naples, Rome and Florence) and then France (Cannes) before returning to Barcelona. Or, discover the Baltics under a completely different perspective, sailing through Estonia and Russia, and back to Stockholm.

You're probably not the only first-time cruiser, check travellers' reviews and find out...

For those lucky travellers having a lot of time, a round-the-world cruise is the ultimate in cruising. Usually lasting anywhere from four weeks to three months, these cruises take in just about every type of destination you can think of. A typical trip, starting in the UK might take you across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and USA, through the Panama Canal to a few ports in South America before cruising on to some South Pacific islands, including Hawaii, then on to the New Zealand and Australia. Asia comes next, followed by Africa or the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean. Of course, you can do this in the opposite direction or join a cruise for just a section.
A world cruise is a hassle-free way to experience plenty of different cultures without having to deal with airports and check-ins, lost luggage or arranging your own transport. Just have to think up a smart way of packing.

If you're fascinated by celebrity chefs and think you will never be so lucky to get a table at one of their posh food palaces, here's a tip: celebrity chefs are increasingly teaming up with cruise lines to create at-sea eateries. And while being exclusive, these onboard restaurants are a terrific way to enjoy the star chef experience at a relatively reasonable cost. Well, once you've paid for the cruise, of course.
In addition to providing cruise lines with a little extra glamour the presence of illustrious and critically acclaimed chefs does wonders for the calibre of the nosh on board. Another big plus is that you'll find them on the less expensive lines as well, not only on luxury ships.
The essential added value is that cover charge is very reasonable compared to the land-based experience and reservations aren't limited to VIPs – you'll just have to book in advance.

If you had an interesting sea experience, you may share it in this forum!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Honeymoon disasters!

The ultimate example of a honeymoon gone haywire is probably the one in the film The Heartbreak Kid (1972), but the young will probably be more acquainted with the remake starring Ben Stiller. But in real life, such disaster honeymoons are not rare, as the following stories testify . . .

Like a fish out of water
A young couple was staying at a hotel with a large swimming pool. They decided to go for a swim, and the bride tried on the new bikini she had recently purchased. As she swam and splashed around in the pool, she soon discovered that her bikini was too large, and it kept coming off. But being the only ones in the pool, she and her husband laughed and playfully retrieved the bikini from the pool's bottom.
That same evening they dressed for dinner and headed to their hotel's elegant restaurant, where they were seated next to a huge aquarium. Strangely, the aquarium was devoid of any aquatic life.
When the bride asked their waiter why the aquarium had no fish in it, he smiled broadly and said, "That's not an aquarium...that's the swimming pool!"

The Illegal Tree
A couple got married in December and set off for their honeymoon in Colorado. While driving through a snowstorm their car's exhaust fell off, forcing the groom to get out in the blizzard and attempt to fix it. They continued to drive through a pine forest and felt inspired to stop and cut down their first Christmas tree as newlyweds. They stopped and the groom went to cut a tree. He was walking back with the tree, when suddenly a buffalo ran out of the forest and started chasing him. He threw the tree on the car and started the car as fast as he could. The couple laughed about the incident until, about 100 feet down the road, they spotted a sign that read, "Do not cut the trees. Punishable by a $1,000 fine." They quickly got rid of the tree and continued, only to hear a screeching noise as the brakes failed. By the time their brakes were fixed, they'd given up on their hopes for a honeymoon, and headed back home to Iowa.

This can't be a good sign
Another couple had to stay in an airport hotel the night before leaving for their honeymoon. The bride was half asleep when someone knocked on the door. Her husband went to answer the door and came back quickly to rouse her. She looked up and a cop was there, standing at the foot of their bed. He asked if they knew there was a dead man outside their window (their room was on the ground floor). The newlyweds looked out the window and indeed, there was a body on the ground! The whole night they saw coroners and crime scene photographers. They both thought „this can't be a good sign". They got no sleep that night and left the next morning with the poor guy still there on the ground. When they got got back they found out that he had had a heart attack... God rest his soul.

Water sick!
One couple stayed at an expensive resort near Cancun, Mexico that offered tons of activities and a honeymoon suite package. However, they both got horribly sick shortly after arriving. The bride woke up with such bad stomach aches that she had to remain in the foetal position the entire day. They felt terrible the whole trip and could hardly wait to get home and go to the doctor. While waiting for the bus to the airport they sat down at the bar. That's when the noticed the bar staff washing the glasses out with tap water and no soap - the same water they'd been told not to drink. The realized that every glass and dish they'd used was probably contaminated. When the couple got back to the States, they had to go on medication and were still sick for another week.

The importance of knowing foreign languages
One couple was honeymooning in Spain, enjoying a picnic lunch in a crowded park, when they were mugged by two men with a knife. They stole their money, camera, watches, and wedding rings. When the couple went to the police, her husband tried with his best Spanish to explain that they had been robbed. The groom later realised he'd mixed up his verbs and told the police they had robbed someone by mistake! Needless to say, the police weren't very sympathetic. To make things worse, their hotel in the next city refused to believe they were married because they had passports with different names and no wedding rings, so they were put in a room with twin beds. The final straw was when the Spanish airline placed the bride – who was scared of flying - and the groom in different rows.

Try before you trust
A couple living in Arizona was getting married and the groom said he would sort out the honeymoon if the bride would have organized the wedding, promising to amaze her. She was truly amazed when he confessed that their honeymoon would have consisted in a cross-country trip in a van. They would have visited relatives in Florida, loaded some antique furniture at her parents house in New York, and finally visit New Orleans.
After the reception the couple was ready for the adventure, which began with the groom and other friends h stuffing the bride and her cumbersome dress into the van, completely staining it (the dress) with grease.
On their way (it was July), the AC broke and they got a flat tyre, TWICE!
Once in Florida, they were obliged to sleep on separate couches, because the relatives wouldn't let them book a hotel. Next stop: New Orleans, where everything went wrong bacause the groom actually forgot to organise anything! Two days later they were on their way back to Arizona.
The couple broke up after 3 years!

No one can forsee how a honeymoon will turn out. Even if you've organized it in every single detail, bad luck is always round the corner. The overall lesson for a honeymoon disaster is, stay positive and stick it out together. Many people say that they laugh about these things, looking back. Most important, avoid viewing your disastrous honeymoon as a bad omen for your marriage. Beginnings don't always show how it will turn out!

Check out these perfect
hotels, or share your disaster holiday with us!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Six Great Wine Destinations

Fond of wine, and not only because you like getting tipsy? Then why not consider visiting one of the following major european cities for your next city break?

Here is a list of events which are well worth the trip!!! Enjoy!

EXPOVINAZürich (Switzerland) from 29.10.09 to 12.11.09

This is Switzerland's largest wine show! On board 12 boats anchored near Bürkliplatz, visitors can choose between 4,000 wines from 22 countries and 5 continents. In addition, 6 speciality restaurants offer diners a diverse range of culinary delights.

More information (only in German, unfortunately) on

Looking for the best Zürich hotel deals?

VINITALY Verona (Italy) from 08.04.2010 to 12.04.2010

This five-day event is a true opportunity to find marvelous wines, and not just the biggest names. Producers, traders, restaurateurs and humble wine lovers - from Italy and beyond will be flocking to Verona for this event. The fair is divided into buildings, each representing an Italian region, and has a growing section of international wines too. Be sure to organize yourself: the map will surely help!

Tired after a day wandering around stands and drinking? Verona hotel deals

SALON VINS ET TERROIRS - Paris (France) twice a year, from 06.11.09 to 08.11.09 and in April

Every year around 250 independent wine makers gather to showcase their wines to the public. Tickets cost €5.50 making the event both affordable and popular.

Best hotel offers in Paris!

FENAVIN Ciudad Real (Spain) in May (dates not available yet)

This is undoubtedly the largest wine fair in Spain, and a point if reference for learning more about the wide selection of Spanish wines. The most unique feature of Fenavin is the Wine Gallery, where representative wines from the different exhibitors are lined up to simplify the visitor's tasting. Each wine comes with an informative index card containing the name of winery, brand name, estimated price in euro, viticultural notes, varietal components, awards and ratings and other pertinent info such as their location inside the fair, which makes it easier to select and buy them in a second moment.

In need of a siesta? Look for Ciudad Real hotel deals

LONDON INTERNATIONAL WINE AND SPIRITS FAIR – London (UK) from 18.05.2010 to 20.05.2010

An incredible opportunity to taste over 20,000 wines, take part in seminars and tutored tastings, and why not, buy some bottles!

Be sure not to miss this event, because one of the world’s most important annual wine and spirits trade events will celebrate its 30th birthday in May 2010.


After a long day of wine tasting, rest in the perfect London hotel

VINO FAIR - Ljubljana (Slovenia) from 08.02.2010 to 11.02.2010

This fair has a long tradition, the first of its kind being held in 1811. In 1955, the fair won the approval of the OIV (Office International de la Vigne et du Vin - the International Office for Grapevine and Wine), and the VINO fair has adhered strictly to its high standards ever since. This makes the annual Ljubljana Wine Fair one of only six European wine exhibitions certified by the OIV, with medals and diplomas awarded being officially recognized in all European countries.

More info on

Check out the best hotel offers in Ljubjana, user-tested and approved

Friday, September 25, 2009

"Ludicrous Lawsuits – when your holiday ends in the courts"

Courts often have the dubious pleasure of sorting out bizarre claims from holidaymakers. Complaints about there being too many natives on the beach, that the waves were too high or even tales of bed bugs which cause psychosis seem to find their way almost daily to the courts. HolidayCheck brings the hammer down on the strangest cases of all.

A storm in a teacup?

Certainly creative, a German gentleman took umbrage at the windy conditions confronting him while on holiday in the Seychelles. Clearly an avid swimmer, his disappointment in not being able to utilise the sea as he'd imagined meant he ended up taking his sorry tale to the courts, seeking damages for the waves being too high. His claim was overturned.

File this under 'Possibly Slightly Overreacting'

In 2003, the Library Hotel in New York got a nasty surprise when they found themselves being sued by the Online Computer Library Centre. The charge? Why, using the Dewey Decimal System as an innovative way to number the rooms in this book-themed hotel. As it turned out, the Dewey Decimal System is a trademarked brand! Luckily the opponents were able to settle their differences, allowing the hotel to continue using the system.

...and yet, there were always plenty of sun loungers.

In 2008, David Barnish sued Thomson for breach of contract after he discovered his hotel was overrun with Germans! The rather provocative headlines fuelled a battle of the stereotypes between the tabloids in England and the Bild newspaper in Germany over which country's citizens are really the worst tourists. Disappointingly for the sensationalists, the claims were actually quite reasonable and the judge ruled in favour of Barnish, stating that customers staying at a hotel featured in an English-language brochure and having paid for additional services should reasonably expect to be served in their own language.

Once bitten...

A New York man sued a hotel in New Haven over a case of serious bed bug bites! Although the stay lasted only one night and was, in fact, two years ago, Luis George claims that he still suffers severe emotional distress and insomnia from the pesky critters. Those must have been some seriously scary mites.

A pooltry excuse

As incredible as these cases may seem, none of them can really top the case of the Polish mother who claimed that her daughter became pregnant on holiday in Egypt – courtesy of the swimming pool! Despite the chlorine content of the water and the question of how sperm got there in the first place (do we really want to know?), the mother claims her daughter didn't have any contact with boys. We'll see how this one goes.