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10 wonderful ideas for a last minute Easter holiday. Our family holiday including a short trek in the Atlas Mountains, boutique riad in Marrakech and luxury camp in the Agafay Desert is one of them. "Swap chocolate for sweet, sticky pastries and the traditional roast for tagine on this eight-day independent Moroccan adventure. ... The independent trip is aimed at families, though is described as a holiday for 'parents and children' rather than a children's holiday, and the minimum age is eight. However, kids who tire on the mountain walks can always hitch a ride on one of the donkeys.".
Our very own Anna Colclough on the expert panel. "Anna is director of tourdust.com, a tour operator specialising in independent and adventurous family travel. She and her husband and co-director, Ben, travel regularly with their three girls, aged seven, five and three, most recently to a camping pod in the Peak District.
Make it an October half-term to remember with a camping trip in the Sahara. Adventure specialist Tourdust has a Wild Desert Holiday in Morocco aimed at intrepid families. After a brief visit to Marrakech you journey south, swap your car for camels and head out into the dunes to camp.wMarrakech you journey south, swap your car for camels and head out into the dunes to camp. From £496pp, based on a 10-day private trip for four, exluding flights (tourdust.com). EasyJet, Thomson and Ryanair fly to Marrakech from several UK airports.
"Travellers should certainly ask themselves whether the tour operator they are considering has deep first-hand knowledge of their destination and local suppliers," says Ben Colclough, director at Tourdust (020 3291 2907; tourdust.com), another company whose majour input is authentic local knowledge. Tourdust offers holidays in Morocco, Ethiopia, Croatia and Kenya.
It may not immeadiately ring any bells, but the Tabernas in Almeria is considered to be Europe's only real desert and has provided the backdrop for many famous films, including Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and Lawrence of Arabia. Who can forget Omar Sharif emerging from the wobbly desert heat haze? Tourdust offers a six-day walking tour, with picnic lunches and the chance to tour the so-called "mini Hollywood" film set. The Tourdust (020-3291 2907, tourdust.com) trip starts at Lanjaron and costs from £501pp for six days includins tour guide, six nights' accomodation, as well as airport transfers (to and from Malaga, Granada or Almeria).
Exploring a series of atmospheric mountain villages – staying in basic guesthouses, or gîtes – is easy from the town of Imlil, about 90 minutes from Marrakech. While it's possible to do easy day treks from here, many people will want to tackle 4,167m Jebel Toubkal, north Africa's highest peak. This can be done in a day – either independently or with a guide from the village – or as part of the Toubkal Circuit, offered by Tourdust, among others. It costs from £392, takes six days (five nights) and includes Lake Ifni, at an altitude of 2,312m, and three passes over 3,000m, staying in campsites and traditional Berber villages. • tourdust.com/products/1046-6-day-toubkal-circuit
A very beautiful site showcasing a Tourdust-operated multi-day trip up Mount Kilimanjaro, telling the story as you scroll. Tourdust founder Ben Colclough tells us, "We’d done a couple of traditional blogs before for travelogue content such as this, but felt the format didn’t always do the content justice. The objective here was to develop web content that can at the same time be fundamentally useful and a rich visual experience enticing enough to create a desire to travel." From a consumer point of view, the first iteration of this project was certainly a success.
ExpTravel and technology companies parking the concerns of tight margins for a day spent experimenting with technology usually don’t regret it. Adventure travel specialist Tourdust cut its developers loose to see what they could do in terms of presenting a multi-day trek on Mount Kilimanjaro online. The result is this climbmtkilimanjaro microsite which tells the story in a simple but evocative way – big on imagery, tight on descriptions. Tourdust boss Ben Colclough, “It’s challenging to get the right content to rank online nowadays and the days of producing something which just looks good are gone, it has to be of use. We have experimented before with microsites for mainly SEO purposes and using standard blog templates but we felt more could be done.”
Morocco: once the go-to country for boho escapism, now a firm family favourite. This trip takes in two days' guided trekking with mules in the Atlas Mountains, including a night spent at a village gite (tired children can ride a mule), two days in Marrakech getting your fill of snake-charmers, food stalls and all the bustle of the souks, while staying at a lovely riad such as Dar Vedra, then three days in a family-run small surf camp in Imessouane, who provide dedicated lessons for children over five. The price – £415pp excluding flights – is based on a family of four staying full-board except for two nights' B&B in Marrakech, and includes two surf lessons (for over-fives) a day. • Book through Tourdust (020-3291 2907, tourdust.com)
If you fancy stretching your legs in a slightly more exotic location, how about the Atlas Mountains? Spring and Autumn are the best times to climb Mount Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa, and Tourdust.com has numerous options, from a short hike in the Atlas as part of a day trip to a six-day trek around the mountain. Between those two extremes is a three-day/two-night tour, avoiding the busier main route by taking walkers through the Azzaden Valley and over dramatic passes, culminating in a calf-busting climb to Toubkal's 4,167m summit on the final day. After a 2,500m walk back down to the village of Imlil, you're dropped off in Marrakech at 5pm – in time for a much deserved slap-up meal.
If you're looking for a holiday with a difference, Tourdust can take you off the beaten track. From island hopping in Croatia to a five day trek to Mount Kenya, this online travel agent offers a taste of adventure at surprisingly low prices. You can search by activity and / or country, with countries including safaris, rafting and cycling. Tourdust's spacious layout provides plenty of room for photos, maps and detailed descriptions of each destination, as well as traveller reviews and a helpful (and refresingly honest) 'Is it for me?' summary. Best of all, you can book your holiday online with very little fuss, or save it to a 'shortlist' to return to later.
A couple of hours from Stockholm is a lake, a forest, and 12 primitive huts. They used to be used by charcoal-makers – now they're holiday homes for nature lovers. From your forest base you can go on a beaver or moose safari or track wolves, plus there is free use of a rowing boat to explore the lake. •Tourdust (020-3291 2907, tourdust.com) has three nights' B&B and a beaver safari from £220pp. Transport is not included: take a train from Stockholm to Köping and a bus to Skinnskatteberg
Extremely shy, wolves aren't easy to spot in the wild, so the bare branches in winter make it the best time to try – from a safe distance. Try tracking the animals, as well as lynx, in Romania's Carpathian mountains with Tour Dust. Led by an expert guide, you'll hike through the wilderness with your route depending on the wildlife, before spending afternoons warming up with some plum brandy, a sledge ride or sightseeing. Prices start at £1,210 including half-board accommodation and five days with a professional tracker.
Tourdust nominated in two categories, Best B2C travel blog and Best Tickets / Attractions / Excursions Website
Tour Dust (www.tourdust.com) A handpicked collection of adventure holidays, nature and wildlife tours and cultural trips in a variety of exotic locations. One week’s rainforest experience in Costa Rica costs about £780.
HOMESTAY IN VIETNAM: Travel north of Hanoi to Ba Be Lake. A number of Vietnam's ethnic minorities live a simple life along the shore. Prices are from £75 for three days, which includes transport, meals and accommodation. See tourdust.com or call 0203 291 2907.
Hossegor Swap surf boards in the morning for chopping boards in the afternoon on this two-skilled course on the Atlantic coast. Wine workshop also available. Six nights from £450pp, inc wetsuit and board hire; tourdust.com
Spend a week in the Aegean sea, paddling a kayak around the rugged island of Milos, known as the "island of colours" for the varying tones of its volcanic rock. Based at a guesthouse with whitewashed walls, pine furniture and tiled floors, guests will join Rod Fledtman, a qualified British Canoe Union kayaking coach, on six expeditions around the island's coastline. As you hug the shore, you'll visit places such as Tria Pigadia, a secluded beach with a natural spring, paddle into one of the island's largest caves and perhaps cross to Little Arcadia, a few kilometres offshore. • Eight nights for £485pp (20% off all summer) based on two sharing, including continental breakfast and packed lunch, through Tourdust (020-3291 2907).
The best places to search for travel ideas: Cunning use of search engine optimisation (or "SEO") has ensured that the first page or two of search results will continue to be dominated by the big travel players, but there are easy ways to dig deeper. Activity company Tourdust (www.tourdust.com), Tourabout (www.tourabout.com), and World Reviewer (www.worldreviewer.com) are just some among growing number of websites designed to help you search a little differently for holiday inspiration.
#1: Horse riding, Tuscany, Italy: Families can explore the Tuscan countryside on horseback on a new holiday available through web-based Tour Dust. Suitable for all riding abilities, the week-long trip includes four half-day rides along gentle forest trails, taking in the medieval hamlet of Castelfalfi, the castle at Tonda and the natural springs of Bagni di Mommialla. Accommodation is on a farm near Montaione with swimming pool, tennis courts and mountain bike hire. • 020 3291 2907. A week costs from €950 for adults, €850 for under-16s, including accommodation, all meals, horse riding and transfers from Castelfiorentino. Easyjet flies from Gatwick, Luton and Bristol to Pisa from £52 rtn. It's a 40-minute train ride from the airport to Castelfiorentino.
If you're a cynic of any kind," the website warns, "then no, this isn't for you." Negativity has no place on this spiritual enlightenment break in a farmhouse in the Brecon Beacons national park. The retreat aims to teach some of the original pagan witchcraft skills. You'll learn how to read runes, make a wand and a protective "witch-bottle", dress a sacred altar, and your tarot cards will be read. £130pp per day, food and accommodation inc. 020-7193 0850, tourdust.com.
Arranges cultural, adventure, nature and wildlife tours and holidays in exotic locations. One week's rainforest experience in Costa Rica costs about £780.
Best for Booking Excursions: If you want to plan your activities abroad rather than pay a tour company to do it for you, a growing number of sites will sell you everything from a bike tour of Amsterdam to a helicopter flight over New York. They tend to work out cheaper than booking on arrival, plus they use reliable operators (no dodgy harbour trips in leaky boats). For cities, bes of the bunch is Isango.com, with a a friendly website and vast range of activities; for adventure tours, try Tourdust.com
Launched in January 2009 by the Colclough husband and wife team, Tourdust is a place for travellers to find offbeat destinations and activities. The company’s appeal is in its relative simplicity but obvious potential for growth. It is the latest recipient of a Travolution Travel Pioneers award.
Tourdust is a growing directory of holidays across the world, all operated by small, local companies or individuals. The trips always go through a discerning filter - founder Ben Colclough - before making it on to the site. A recently added Barcelona cookery day is hosted by local food expert Alicia Juanpere Artigas, who takes guests shopping for local produce at the famous Boqueria market before whipping the ingredients into a three-course lunch to be washed down with local wines.
So many good tips on http://tourdust.com. Nice pic layout too. A great resource.
Ben and Anna Colclough, both 30, Tourdust www.tourdust.com Husband and wife team Ben and Anna founded Tourdust to support small, local travel businesses in the UK and abroad. Through its website, it helps independent travellers find authentic travel experiences, tours and accommodation with a local flavour. It also allows small businesses providing these experiences to access a worldwide market, providing back end tools they need to convert inquiries into Paypal bookings. Tourdust lets travellers find out about locally provided experiences, rather than mass tourism options, which means spending goes directly into supporting local economies.
Leaplocal.org: A basic but brilliant idea, this stylishly designed but easy-to-use site is designed to put travellers in touch with the best local guides in the destination they're heading to, thereby also helping local communities benefit from tourism. At the moment it's not a genuinely comprehensive point of information - the vast majority of guides listed so far are in South America, where the project started - but it has oodles of potential once the site becomes better known in other regions. Like that? Try www.tourdust.com
Like all walking trails, the Great Glen Way, which follows the Caledonian Canal as it traverses Scotland coast to coast, sounds lovely in principle. Problem is, it runs for 76 miles, a bit of a slog even for the most determined of trampers. But a new six-day holiday comes with a get-off-the-trail-free card, in the form of a fully-catered barge with en-suite cabins that follows you along the route. And if you fancy a day off, simply wave regally as you glide past the rest of the group huffing on-shore.• Walks depart 4 and 11 April and 5 September, from £545pp. See tourdust.com/products/401.
British couple John and Kathryn Boyes' Pyrenean retreat is surrounded by walking routes. The "cabin suite" adjoins a larger house with a pool, but the separate wooden cabin is the more remote option, where a wood-burning stove comes into its own in winter months. • tourdust.com/PyreneanRetreat, from €45pp pn.