The Elaphite islands, a cluster of islands north of Dubrovnik, Croatia, offer a delightful opportunity to sample the more leisurely pace of Croatian life, away from the crowds. Easily accessible by ferry, they make a great day trip or multi-night stay.
Kolocep, the closest of the three to Dubrovbik, is ideal if you enjoy hiking. The island has many well-marked walking and hiking trails direct from the port which take you to rocky bays and fantastic cliff-top views. The paths going inland take you past olive, fig, almond & cherry trees, which lend a welcome shade from the hot sun. Closer to the sea, pine tress dominate, with the sounds of chirping cicadas filling the air The island is great for families, with plenty of child-friendly cafes and a small playground by the port.
Lopud is ideal if you are travelling with a family, as the island is entirely car-free and has one of the only sandy beaches in the region. The harbour side of the island, where the ferry drops you off, is the 'busy' side, with cafes and restaurants dotting the sea front and overlooking the small beach. The better beach is on the other side of the island - about a 15 minute walk. The walk takes you away from the main village and up past crumbling houses and meadows filled with wild flowers. Children will love looking out for geckos basking in the sun as they go. If you want to get a fantastic view of the island, then you can head up to the ruins of an old fort at the top of the hill on the Lopud. It takes about 1/2 an hour, but the views are well worth it.
Sipan, the largest of the three islands, is sleepier than the others, with crumbling summer houses and laid-back fishing ports. There are two fishing villages on the island, Sipanska Luka or Sudurad and the two are connected by bus. Fewer tourists make it here, preferring to stop off at Lupod or Kolocep instead, making it a quieter option. Whilst there are no sandy beaches on the island, there are some lovely bays to stop for swimming, as well as some excellent coastal paths to explore. The rocky coastline is particularly to those who enjoy snorkelling and kayaking.
All three islands have their fair share of day-trippers, but once they have returned to Dubrovnik in the late afternoon, they become quieter and more relaxing for their local inhabitants and longer-stay guests. You can explore the islands on day trips from Dubrovnik by ferry, or if you fancy a more laid back way of travelling, you can spend a week kayaking between them. We recommend travelling to the Elaphiti Islands in May, June or September when there are fewer tourists around.
It is a sad fact there's little that hasn't already been said when it comes to travel. There are thousands of independent bloggers writing fascinating, unique and authoritative content. To coincide with the launch of our new collection of treks, safaris and holidays in Kenya, we have pulled together an overview of some of the best writing on Kenya, all from independent travel bloggers. So sit back, pour yourself a cup of tea and enjoy...
Richard is without doubt an authority on travel in Kenya having authored the Rough Guide to Kenya. If you are planning a trip to Kenya then this is a must read blog, with loads of tips on events and insightful analysis of topical tourist issues such as the reported crash in Masai Mara wildlife numbers
The Kenyan Coast can be a bit of a mixed bag. Whilst there are some stunning sensitively designed beach lodges around Lamu, the area around Mombasa and Diani Beach is notorious for over development and hassle from beach boys. Lara writes here with brutal honesty on her experience at Diani Beach.
Planning a safari for the first time can be a daunting task and the first time you see the prices can be a bit of an eye opener. Mark provides some great tips on doing it independently.
Lake Nakuru is one of my favourite parks in Kenya, easy to get to and easily digested. it has a wealth of wildlife in a stunning setting. Keith captures the splendor of the park with some great images.
Chances are you are going to be spending a day or two in Nairobi if you are coming to Kenya. If so then you would be hard pressed to beat this exhaustive collection of things to do in Nairobi. Mark's site, Migrationology is a wealth of information on Kenya, if you enjoy this also try his excellent piece on Kenyan food
Proving that good writing doesn't age this post from 1996 about an encounter with an angry elephant in Samburu is still fresh today. Samburu and nearby Meru parks are about as close to Lion King country as you are going to get.
The Masai Mara is undoubtedly the highlight of any trip to Kenya, especially if you are lucky enough to get there during the migration. Meggan and Beau recorded their travels on the World Effect and a combination of stunning photography and fresh writing make this one of our favourite travel blogs. This is a fantastic series of pictures.
Altitude acclimatisation needs to be taken seriously, especially if you are flying into altitude (that's above 2,400m or above) from a location at sea level. Your body needs time to adjust to the lower levels of oxygen in the air and needs to produce more red blood cells. This is particularly a problem in Peru as many travellers fly directly into Cusco from Lima, which is a jump of 1,800m.
Not everyone is affected by altitude, although most people will feel some differences for the first day or so. There is no knowing before you travel how you may be affected as it has no correlation with fitness. That said, if you have suffered before, you can expect to be more prone than others. Symptoms of mild altitude sickness include some or all of the following: headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, lack of appetite, dizziness and fatigue. It is important to remember that these affects are simply due to your body adjusting and whilst you may be feeling unwell, you are not actually ill. The best cure is to lie low on your first day of arrival, avoid alcohol and to drink lots of water (and, or) coca tea, a local homeopathic remedy. If you rest and resist the urge to go out walking, then within 24 hours you should start to feel much better. On your second day at altitude, you should start to feel your body adjusting to the altitude and should be able to attempt some gentle activity. By day 3, you will be in much better shape. We recommend at least 2 - 3 days acclimatising before you commence a trek. As well as the above, local remedies, there are also some over the counter prescription remedies to combat altitude sickness. Diamox can be prescribed and should be taken one day prior to arriving at altitude. However, this medication is not without its side effects (nausea and frequent need to urinate) which may end up more of a hindrance than the altitude sickness itself.
The altitude shouldn’t preclude you from visiting with children. We have sent families to Peru with children as young as 3, so there is no need to avoid it. In fact, we often find that children bounce back from altitude quicker than their parents! The same rules apply to children as to adults; rest, relax and keep your fluids up. We do recommend packing some familiar snacks from home for a bit of home comfort energy boost.
If you are out trekking, you are bound to feel the symptoms of altitude sickness again when climbing above Cusco's altitude to one of the high passes. Your headaches and nausea may well return and you will find yourself out of breath regularly, needing to make plenty of rest stops. This happens to everyone, including guides and porters and is nothing to worry about. Once you descend, your symptoms will ease off. The important thing to remember is to listen to your body and take the hiking at a slow and comfortable pace, it is not a race to get to the finish. And remember, your guides are extremely experienced and know the difference from mild and severe altitude sickness. Do remember to make sure that your travel insurance covers you for trekking at altitude. Many policies include altitudes of up to 3,000m as a standard, but you may need to pay a premium above this height.
For our tailor-made customers to Peru, we include a free emergency assistance program which allows for up to two doctor’s visits to your hotel and medical assistance. This is not a substitute for your regular travel insurance, but does ensure that if you are struggling with the altitude, we can get you some medical advice.
Tipping in the tourist industry in Peru is customary and expected. At the end of any tour, drive or meal, your guide or waiter will be most forthright in asking for their gratuity. Whether you like this direct approach or not, tips are relied upon to top up incomes and you need to budget for them. In hotels & larger towns, you can tip in either Soles or USD, but if it is the latter, please ensure that the bills are not crumpled. When tipping in rural locations, or on treks, Soles are more appropriate. Here is a guide to the amounts you can expect to pay.
You don't normally tip for a regular taxi ride. Make sure that you agree a fare upfront, the driver will have factored a tip into the fare already! For private drivers, a tip of $5 - $7 per passenger, day would be about right.
If you are eating at a moderate / lower end restaurant, then it is fine to round up the bill; most Peruvians wouldn't tip in this type of establishment. In higher end eateries, a tip of 10% is a good amount.
Tips for tour or nature guides do depend on the level of service you have received. $10 per person would be the amount you would tip for excellent service.
Tipping makes up for an important part of the porters income and whilst we try to ensure that the guides and porters used on your trek receive a good, fair wage, they still appreciate (and expect) a tip. There will be a tipping ceremony on the penultimate evening of your trek. This is the point when you will have a chance to thank your porters, cooks and guides. It is worth ensuring that you have sufficient soles with you for your tipping, in small enough denominations. Guideline amounts are as follows:
Porters: 60 - 80 Soles per porter from the group
Cooks: 80 - 100 soles from the group
Guides: 160 - 200 soles from the group
Please bear in mind that, depending on your group size, there will be 1 or 2 guides, 1 or 2 cooks and 10 - 20 porters. Porters don't just carry your baggage, but also all of the camping equipment, food and dining equipment. At your pre-trek briefing, you can ask how many porters are trekking with you. If you have any other questions about tipping the trekking team, please ask your guide.
Whilst most travellers head straight from Marrakech and out into the mountains for treks, there are several good reasons to sit back and relax in of the lovely riads in and around the Atlas Mountains. After the hectic rush of Marrakech, there are plenty of fantastic lodges to unwind and take in the fresh mountain air and incredible scenery. Most stay in Imlil, which is easy to get to and the perfect base for trekking expeditions. There are plenty of options in the mountains, but these are our favourites.
Imlil is a Berber village located in the High Atlas Mountains, about an hour from Marrakech. A beautiful village to visit in its own right, most of the visitors who come here are heading off for a trek in the mountains, or to Climb Toubkal, North Africa's highest mountain. At an altitude of 1740m, the village offers a welcome respite from the heat of the city in the summer. Dotted with walnut, apple and cherry trees and encircled by high peaks, it is an incredibly picturesque place, perfect for a couple of days soaking up the sun and views.
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The legendary Kasbah Du Toubkal, a stunning traditional building set in the heart of Imlil, fully deserves its reputation. Occupying a prominent spot in the Imlil Valley with majestic views of towering snow-capped peaks, traditional village homes and glistening far-off waterfalls. The roof terrace is simply divine and the traditional Berber salon easily the cosiest space in the Atlas Mountains when winter sets in (think country mansion library in Morocco). Some hotels have a je ne sais quoi and the Kasbah has it in reams. What this does mean alas, is that it is fully justified in charging high end prices for cosy but modest rooms.
Located in the village of Imlil in the Atlas Mountains, this riad looks directly at North Africa's highest mountain, Mount Toubkal. With beautiful rooms and sophisticated decor, this is the perfect to kick back and relax after some heavy trekking in the mountains. Riad Dar Imlil is situated just on the outskirts of the village by a small river, leaving you about a 5 minute walk to get into the village itself. Set over three floors, there is a spacious roof terrace with breath taking views and several lounge areas, complete with wood burners for cool evenings. There are ten rooms in total, meaning that it retains the quiet and laid back atmosphere that some of the larger hotels in the region can lack.
Le Village Du Toubkal is a new property in Imlil. There are 4 large bedrooms (soon to be six) and a large terrace, all with great views. The spa and hammam is very well done and rooms are furnished to a high standard. Although it is hard to find specific fault, as with many new properties, it does lack character and as such wouldn’t be our first choice in Imlil. Due to the size of the rooms (several of which could fit a double and 3 singles), it would be a good choice for families.
Douar Samra is an utterly charming modern and earthy take on the traditional Berber guest-house situated in a wonderful position overlooking the Imlil Valley. Comfortable cosy atmospheric rooms with small private terraces are set amidst beautiful gardens. There are large vegetable gardens, well-kept ducks and a donkey. The staff are lovely and clearly have a great affection for the place. The tree house is not quite a home run - a touch of Switzerland imported into Morocco that is not hugely in keeping with the remainder of what is a very traditional building, but a fun touch nevertheless. This is a place to relax and enjoy a good book in unpretentious surroundings. There are several terraces on roof-tops and in the garden, all with cracking views. Perhaps not surprisingly this degree of je ne c’est quoi comes at a price, the room rates are above average for the size of room, but taking the ambience, gardens and service into account, this is a fantastic choice for a mountain retreat and a fraction of the cost of the nearby Kasbah Du Toubkal which has some similar qualities at a more refined and substantially more expensive level.
If you are on a budget you can't go far wrong with Dar Adrar. This is the kind of place that independent travellers dream of. Great rates, superb food, a lovely ambience with plenty of space to relax on the rooftop, free wifi and reasonable rooms. What more can you ask for? Dar Adrar is situated almost adjacent to the Kasbah Du Toubkal.
Ouirgane is a small Berber village in the High Atlas Mountains, at about 1000m above sea level. A quiet village, located at the side of a recently dammed reservoir, it is said to be the preferred destination of the Royal Family when they choose to holiday in the mountains, and it is easy to see why. The winters are mild and the summers relatively cool and there is a constant tranquility. The red earth is criss-crossed by mule tracks and eucalyptus trees and juniper bushes line the dusty roads. The area benefits from several properties with pools (unlike the Imlil area).
Set against a backdrop of the High Atlas Mountains, Chez Momo offers rustic chic accommodation set in lovely gardens around a pool, the perfect respite after a long trek. Chez Momo was built in 2008, a replacement for the original inn, which was flooded when the government built a reservoir lake. Undeterred, the owners have built a sympathetic building, overlooking the reservoir and the mountains beyond. The accommodation is set in large gardens and laid out in terraces, with the swimming pool in the centre. The main house contains the reception, bar and restaurant, the individual rooms are laid out to the back of the property amongst rose gardens. This is a very tranquil place, with views of the mountains from the terrace. It is the perfect place to come to escape the hustle and bustle of Marrakech, or, even better, to reward yourself after a long trek in the Atlas Mountains. The swimming pool (unheated) will be especially welcoming after a long trek in the summer. Families with children are welcome here. This is not the most luxurious option in the area, but we love it because it offers a rustic chic feel - comfort, but not at the expense of authenticity.
Dar Tassa occupies a wonderful spot deep in the Ouirgane Valley and very much tucked away from the world. The views are simply stunning and the lovely terrace takes full advantage. In winter the lounge area is a cosy space great for lounging with a book. The Dar is well situated for some lovely day walks, and puts on a cooking class that some travel all the way from Marrakech for. The draw-back of Dar tassa is that the rooms are fairly middle of the road, twins with shared facilities are a little Spartan, and the suites, although spacious have little wow factor. This is a simple unpretentious retreat deep in the mountains, a cracking base for day walks, or just to retreat from the world for a while without breaking the bank balance.
There are several 'treat' hotels between Marrakech and the high Atlas. Easily reached, and at a lower altitude, they make a perfect spring/autumn sun destination. If you aren't keen on trekking and just want somewhere peaceful with a pool, then these places are perfect.
Kasbah Bab Ourika must have the finest setting of any hotel in Morocco. The Ourika Valley, whilst more densely populated and less suited to trekkers than the Imlil Valley, is incredibly picturesque, a broad valley with a stunning glistening river surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Everything about this place is just so, from the pristine vegetable beds to the elegant dining area and lovely pool set within the gardens, every angle is carefully crafted to take advantage of the stupendous view. There are more rooms than is ideal (over 20), but with so many separate spaces to enjoy it never feels that big. Of course, this degree of quality doesn’t come cheap.
Domaine Malika is a gorgeous 7 bed boutique guesthouse in the Ouirgane Valley in the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains. The stylish pool and gardens have stunning views over the mountains, a perfect small chic hotel to unwind after a trek.
Kasbah Angour is a slightly larger property than our usual preference (with 25 rooms) set within absolutely wonderful expansive flower & lawn gardens with great views of the High Atlas Mountains. The pool is impressive and the food we experienced was superb, with carefully arranged flavours and a degree of finesse. Bedrooms are large, relatively modern spaces, furnished simply, but to a very high quality, these are rooms you would happily retreat to in the heat of mid-day. The terrace dining area is lovely, the drawback is that the main dining room and lounge / bar areas do betray the scale of the operation a little. Set within the foothills of the Atlas Mountains and easily reached from Marrakech, this is a great choice to unwind at the beginning of a holiday in Morocco.
We have a deep knowledge of the Atlas Mountains so get in touch for advice and tailor-made travel arrangements including the Atlas Mountains.
Ben, Tourdust Morocco Expert
Email your enquiry to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0203 291 2907.
We are open Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm.