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Enjoying a fabulous Mediterranean climate and a beautiful coastline all just 2 1/2 hours flying time from the UK, Croatia is an ideal holiday destination for families. Dubrovnik, in the south of Croatia has played an important role throughout the region's history. Once a strategically important port dominating trade between the Mediterranean and the Balkans, the city was prosperous. It came to fame for different reasons in the 1990's when it was under siege during the country's fight for independence. Twenty years later, it has once again achieved the prosperity and elegance of its glory days thanks to its popularity as a tourist destination. Many visitors arrive on cruise ships, visiting just for the day. However, with many airlines (including Easy Jet, British Airways, Monarch, Jet2 & FlyBe to name a few) offering competitive prices on direct flights from the UK, many families are choosing to visit the region for a longer stay.
It goes without saying that a visit to Dubrovnik is a must on any itinerary to the region. The old part of the city is small and easily navigable on foot. A walk on the city walls is a must and children will love the views (and the ice cream stops along the way!) In the heart of the old town, are a couple of old monasteries that are interesting to visit as well as an interesting photographic exhibition of the siege of Dubrovnik. It is not too culture heavy, however, which will be music to children's ears. The old town lends itself particularly well to ambling along the streets and taking in the atmosphere. There are numerous restaurants serving up Mediterranean cuisine which you can enjoy whilst watching the world go by.
Away from Dubrovnik, there is some beautiful countryside, with the mountains to the East and the coast to the West. The Elaphiti Islands, an archipelago north west of Dubrovnik, are beautiful and ideal of exploring on foot or by kayak. Families particularly enjoy the car-free island of Lopud, which is also home to one of the few natural sandy beaches in the region. There is a small port with a handful of restaurants and a fort at the top of the island which is a lovely hike, especially close to sunset. Nearby Kolocep offers some fabulous walking trails and one of the best fish restaurants in the region. The final and furthest island, Sipan, is quieter than its neighbours and has a particularly interesting coastline, with a couple of caves that can be explored by kayak.
We have two holidays in Croatia that are suitable for families. Our Family Sea Kayaking Holiday is based on the island of Lopud for a full week, with daily kayaking and boat activities and plenty of time to relax and play on the beach. The coastline is stunning, perfect for exploring by kayak, but the seas are gentle and the guides very experienced, so it is a perfect place for beginners and children to learn. The accommodation is in basic apartments, owned by local families. All are in walking distance of the port.
This year, we have introduced a new family holiday, the Dubrovnik & Islands Explorer, which sees families staying in Dubrovnik, Sipan and Lopud. The itinerary is a blend of independent exploring and guided activities, including kayaking, cycling and a speedboat ride. As with our Kayaking holiday, accommodation in is locally-owned apartments, although upgraded accommodation is available.
The Dubrovnik region and Elaphite islands enjoy a typically Mediterranean climate with hot, sunny summers and mild winters. Rainfall is low but cannot be ruled out any time of the year. To be able to enjoy the sea we recommend May to September. May, June and September benefit from perfect temperatures, lower crowds and lower prices, whilst July and August is hottest and busiest.
Located in central Turkey, Cappadocia is typified by its bizarre, semi-lunar landscape with the unique 'fairy chimney' rock formations. Caused by the wind and rain erosion of ancient volcanic lava, there is nowhere in the world quite like this. The tall chimneys stand proud in the valleys and are a living geography lesson. The pliable rock that causes this phenomena has also played a large part in the history of the area. Many early Christians inhabited the area and built churches and monasteries directly out of the rock. Many of the chapels and churches are adorned with beautiful frescoes and each tells a personal tale of devotion. As the Romans (and other invading forces throughout the centuries) the Christians went, quite literally, underground, constructing and burrowing subterranean systems in order to hide from their persecutors. Whether you are of a religious nature or not, you can't help but be in awe of nature's beauty and mankind's ability to adapt to the landscape.
The caves and malleable rocks weren't just used as hiding places. They were used over the centuries as dwellings for families and their animals. For a time, pigeons played an important role in rural life here, first farmed for their meat and subsequently for their excrement, which was used as fertiliser. Large cave villages were inhabited until the 1950's when the government ordered the re-housing of residents to more contemporary housing after fears about erosion and concerns about falling rocks.
It is still possible to visit the deserted villages, the larger ones have become museums, but there are many more that can be visited on foot. Likewise, in nearly every valley you will discover hidden rock churches and pigeon lofts, abandoned to nature but still very much forming an important part of the landscape.
The majority of people visiting Cappadocia do so in guided groups, travelling by bus. Don't let the popularity of Cappadocia put you off, but aim to discover it on foot. Most of the groups stay close to their bus and don't venture very far. By going out on a trek, you will have a chance to explore lesser visited valleys and get a sense for both historical and contemporary life in Cappadocia.
Read on for more information about preparing for your holiday to Turkey. Information about getting there, entry requirements, money and vaccinations should answer many of questions. If you have any other queries about travel to Morocco, then please don't hesitate to contact us .Before your trip, we strongly recommend that you check the latest travel advice to your destination. For visitors to Turkey from the UK, we suggest the foreign ofice website.
Turkey is relatively easy and good value to reach from the UK. Below is information about direct flights from the UK. If you require any help with flight booking, please get in touch.
There are two airports at Istanbul: Ataturk and Sabiha. Ataturk is closer to the city and more convenient.
British Airways has daily flights to Ataturk from LHR
Turkish Airlines has directflights to Ataturk from LGW, LHR, MAN, BHX, EDI
EasyJet has direct flights to Sabiha from LTN
Pegasus Airlines has direct flights to Sabiha from STN
Cappadocia is serviced by two airports: Kayseri (ASR) and Nevsehir (NAV) Neither of these airports has direct flights from the UK, so you will need to fly via Istanbul and then catch a connecting flight with Pegasus, Atlas Jet & Turkish airlines have. Remember to check which Istanbul airport you are flying in and out of.
Izmir airport (ADB) is not serviced direct from the UK, you will need to fly via Istanbul and then catch a connecting flight. Turkish, Pegasus & Atlas Jet all offer these. During the tourist season (April - October) there are direct flights between Izmir and Kayseri in Cappadocia from Pegasus and Atlas Jet.
For Dalyan holidays, you will need to fly to Dalaman airport (DLM) There are direct flights from most UK airports in the summer season flying with Easyjet, Fly Thomas Cook, Thomson and Jet2.
British nationals require a visa to enter Turkey. The easiest way to get this is online before you depart: https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/ You will need to provide passport information, flight details and payment of £10 per person. You will need to print out your visa and take it with you. Alternatively, you can still purchase your visa on arrival at the airport. You will need to do this before you proceed through passport control. The cost is £10 per person. This is payable by cash only - make sure you have this in notes. Please check with the FCO website (for UK citizens, or relevant consulate for other nationalities) before you depart to ensure that this advice has not changed. (https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice)
It is imperative that you have personal travel insurance in place. The insurance should include travel delays, loss of baggage and money, medical expenses, personal accident and any cancellation costs.
If you need to make a claim for illness, injury or loss, then please inform your insurance company, the local police and ourselves as soon as possible and follow your insurers instructions.
We ask all clients to provide us with their insurance details and an emergency contact number before they travel. Please ensure that you have done this.
We recommend that you take a travel first aid kit with you and that you visit your local travel clinic at least 8 weeks prior to departure. For UK residents, the NHS Fit for travel website (http://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/) is an excellent resource. The following is an excerpt from their advice (last updated January 2013, please check for latest advice): “Confirm primary courses and boosters are up to date as recommended for life in Britain - including for example, vaccines required for occupational risk of exposure, lifestyle risks and underlying medical conditions.
Courses or boosters usually advised: hepatitis A. Other vaccines to consider: tetanus; typhoid; hepatitis B; rabies.”
It is possible to buy sanitary items locally, however you may find it more convenient to bring all sanitary essentials with you. Toilet facilities are usually Western style facilities in hotels and restaurants, most of them come equipped with disposal units. If you are participating in wild camping, you will need to dispose of any items once you return to hotel accommodation. Please prepare for this accordingly. We recommend travelling with small disposable bags (eg nappy sacks) and hand sanitiser.
Western food is readily available in Turkey and the local offerings are delicious and rarely spicy. There are a few basic things you can do to reduce the likelihood of an upset stomach:
• Practice good hygiene; wash your hand thoroughly after bathroom visits and before eating. We suggest taking anti-bacterial hand wash with you.
• Tap water in Turkey is not potable; we suggest using mineral water to brush your teeth.
• Avoid eating anything uncooked that may have been washed in tap water (e.g. salad items such as lettuce). Opt for fruit and vegetables that you can skin (eg bananas)
• If you are eating freshly prepared meat or fish, check to see that it has been cooked thoroughly first.
The national currency of Turkey is the Turkish Lira, although you may well find that in tourist areas prices are also advertised in Euros. Debit & credit cards are accepted in most places and can be easily used for paying entrance to museums and cafes. It is also worth taking some spare Euros and storing them separately. There are cash machines in large towns and at the main airports.
One of the most important archaeological sites in the world, Ephesus was originally built as an ancient Greek city before it was taken over by the Romans, who made it their Asian capital. The vast site (of which less than 20% has been unearthed) is one of Turkey's biggest attractions and is also a Unesco World Heritage Site. For anyone with even a passing interest in Ancient history, then it is an absolute must-see. Originally a bustling port town (the sea has since receded), Ephesus was a hub for traders and politicians. Your visit takes you through the different parts of the city, from the government quarters, through the mains street (the Champs Elysee of its time), passing the residential quarters. Despite the fact that it was built over 2,000 years ago, the sophistication of some aspects of life is astounding. Public toilets with a plumbing system (the Romans placed high importance on personal hygiene), and even an underground passage from the library to the brothel so that wives would not suspect their studious husbands. Not to be missed along the way are the Terraced Houses, for which you need to pay an additional entrance fee. This is well worth the money. Not only does it give youan insight into the intricate and laborious work that the archaeologists face trying to piece together the ancient puzzles, but you also see for yourself the ruined houses, complete with water pipes creating ancient central heating systems. At the end of your visit, you will pass the enormous amphi-theatre which played host to plays and gladiatorial fights. This vast structure just goes to prove the sheer might and discipline of the ancient Romans.
Where East meets West; two continents converging at the might Bosporus river. Istanbul is an absolute must for culture vultures and lovers of the classics, Istanbul is an easy and fascinating city to explore. We recommend you base yourself in Sultanhamet for your stay. It may be a bit touristy, but with all of the major sights in easy walking distance, it is a practical choice. And whilst tourist bars and restaurants aren't on the top of everyone's list, who can resist a roof top terrace with stunning views. Sitting and watching the sun set against a back drop of an ancient and modern skyline, whilst listening to the call to prayer wafting over the rooftops, you can't possibly fail to be seduced. Please read on for more information about the top sights to see:
One of Istanbul's most iconic buildings, the Blue Mosque sits proudly over-looking the Bosphorus. It's beautiful minaret and blue tiled roof gives it a majestic appearance. Inside, the vast spaces and high dome are impressive and, as it is still used as a mosque, it has a very spiritual air, despite the hoards of tourists. The mosque is still used for prayers, and so closes five times a day. Check with your hotel before you set out. Men should wear trousers to visit and ladies should cover their heads and shoulders. There is talk of the authorities providing smocks for tourists to wear over their clothes, to ensure that dress codes are adhered to.
Just down the road from the Blue Mosque is its older sibling, the Aya Sofia. Built by the Romans in 537, this magnificent building was originally a basilica, converted to a mosque in the 1400's. The Blue Mosque was built with the intention of out doing its rival in the 1600's but the Aya Sofia remains a magnificent building in its own right. Decommissioned as a place of worship by Attaturk, it is now a museum displaying an intriguing fusion of Islam and Christianity. The ancient frescoes and vast size of the building make it a must-see. Audio guides are available at the entrance for those wanting to go into more detail during their visit.
Laid out as an Imperial Palace, the Topkapi Palace has a series of courtyard each leading to another more intimate and exclusive courtyard. Visitors in imperial Turkey were allowed in according to their status and importance. The harem is a must-see, but be warned, you will need to buy an extra ticket once inside. Entering into this warren where the eunuch, concubines and wives lived and jostled for position, you can only imagine what an intense and competitive life the women lived there had. Each vying for more power and influence, desperate to bear the sultan a son. As with all imperial palaces, this was built to impress and there are many ostentatious displays of wealth. Intricate carvings, beautiful tiles and vast tulip gardens and a beautiful pagoda where the Sultan held court. The palace is a popular visitor attraction and will be heaving with tourists. Beware the sulky teenagers and Japanese groups (the latter are much better at waiting their turn in the queues.) You can get a guide or an audio-guide at the gate, but a decent guide book should also provide you with enough to get a good understanding of what it is all about. If you can face the queues, the treasury is worth a look for impressive displays of opulence and some good views of the Istanbul. Also of interest are the Sacred Safekeeping Rooms where you can see relics such as Moses' staff, Abraham's saucepan and Joseph's turban, as well as several other artefacts.
The Topkapi Palace has to be one of the highlight of Istanbul and you will need about 3 hours to visit. Visitors in spring will be particularly lucky as the gardens in the 3rd and 4th courtyards are planted with hyancinths and tulips. There are cafes and toilets inside the complex. The palace is closed on Tuesdays.
An eerie yet beautiful sight, the cisterns were built in 532 as an underground Byzantine water storage system. Over time, the cistern was forgotten about, but can now be visited. Large pillars prop up the ceilings and you can see carp swimming in the water below. Walking past the massive solid columns, you will see signs to the Medusa. Follow these and you will be rewarded with the sight of two large Medusa head supporting two columns. This incredible beauty was said to be able to turn people into stone if they looked directly into her eyes. Her purpose here is said to warn off evil spirits. The Cisterns offer a cool respite to the heat of the city and are well worth a visit.
A visit to the vast covered market makes for an interesting excursion. Reached easily on foot from Sultanahmet, or a short trip on the tram, the market is a bustling hub full of locals and tourists alike.
There are stalls selling everything from jewellery to carpets, football shirts, souvenirs, bags and, of course, carpets. Vendors will try their hardest to attract your attention but this is generally done in good humour. The price of goods is not marked, so if you want to do some shopping, work out beforehand how much you are willing to pay, go in low and then work your way to a mutually agreeable price. Remember, you don't have to buy anything, you are free to walk away from a negotiation at any time. The most important thing to do is to enjoy the experience and emerge with your good humour in tact!