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As the count down to the New Year approaches, so does the party-planning pressure. Most major cities throw vast, crowded spectacles for the occasion, but if you’re not so keen on ringing in the New Year elbow-to-elbow with thousands of strangers, consider planning something a little offbeat this year… Read more
Here we are in September, and though certain parts of Europe tend to cool down faster than others (Vienna is already in the low 60s, while Sicily is keeping things at a balmy 75 degrees) summer season has for the most part come and gone. But don’t let that end your fun – or derail a possible vacation. Between now and Thanksgiving, there’s a special window of opportunity for savvy travelers known as shoulder season.
Flights aren’t necessarily cheaper compared to the rest of the year, and yes, temperatures can fluctuate quite a bit (you may luck out weather-wise, but it’s never guaranteed), there is one sure benefit to traveling at this time of year: fewer tourists.
This in-between season offers a calmer, less hectic way to enjoy Europe’s traditionally touristy destinations like Rome and the Greek islands. With the dip in foot traffic comes shorter lines, greater flexibility in organizing tours, and easier access to in-demand restaurants and hotels – in short, a better vacation. Here, we offer suggestions for the activities you’ll want to add to your itineraries for a visit to Europe in the next month or two. Read more
Found under the Eminönü district of Istanbul, the Basilica Cistern is a 6th century underground chamber that features 336 marble columns, vaulted ceilings, and arched doorways, all made without a mold – incredible when you consider that it was built in 532CE. This is the place where 80,000 cubic meters of water were stored for use in the nearby Great Palace and surrounding buildings. After part of the cistern was destroyed and covered by dense construction during the Byzantine and Ottoman periods, it was rediscovered in 1545. Since then, the location has been restored to its original condition – even though the Great Palace no longer stands. Read more
Eurostar recently tested service between London and Aix-en-Provence. Later this year, the TGV will begin running a direct service between Paris and Barcelona, and, starting in 2016, a new Deutsche Bahn route through the Channel Tunnel will link London to Amsterdam, Cologne, and Frankfurt. Ditching Europe’s budget airlines in favor of its railways is beginning to look more attractive. Not only is rail travel throughout Europe often as quick as, if not quicker than flying, it also has the bonus of spectacular scenery along the way.
Our favorite European rail journeys are not necessarily the fastest, but they are some of the most memorable.
The Bergen Line: Bergen to Oslo, Norway
Traveling along the 231-mile-long highest mainline railway line in Northern Europe offers you a front row seat for some of Norway’s most spectacular landscapes; think dramatic fjords, lush forests, and crystalline waterfalls. If you have the time, take the branch line that runs from Myrdal to Flåm, a village at the inner end of Aurlansfjord, an arm of Sognefjord, Norway’s biggest fjord. This 12-mile route takes around one hour and climbs more than 2,838 feet making it the steepest standard-gauge railway in Europe. Read more
From its dreamy Mediterranean coastline to Istanbul’s thrilling cuisine and nightlife, Turkey basks in the spotlight as one of the hottest travel destinations for 2013. But in recent days, images of the political protests in Istanbul – and volatile clashes with riot police – have been splashed across the international press. As a result, hotel booking engines are reporting a sharp decrease in searches for Turkey. Could this spell a golden opportunity to visit – with major discounts? Or is it unsafe? Read more
Looking to expand your travel horizons this summer or fall? We’ve got the deals for you. From Bonaire to Bali to Bulgaria, travel outside the usual domestic or Caribbean destinations and head somewhere truly special this season – and still save in the process. Read more
With this edition of our Monday Deal Alert, we’ve compiled some of the best airfare currently in the market, from West Coast escapes to journeys to Eastern Europe. Rates start from as little as $69, so whether you’re looking for a quick weekend getaway or a long vacation, we’ve got plenty of ways for you to fly away this fall.
Virgin America’s current fall sale features amazing one-way rates between West Coast cities, like $69 between San Francisco and Las Vegas, $89 between Los Angeles and Portland, and $109 between Seattle and San Francisco. The sale doesn’t only apply to West Coasters, though: you can also fly one-way to Los Angeles from Chicago, Dallas, and Philadelphia for $139, or from Orlando, New York City, or Boston for $159. Just book your getaway fast – this sale ends at midnight tonight. Read more
If a Mediterranean, Adriatic, or Baltic cruise is on your 2012 travel wish list, check out the $1,776 July 4th sale fares now being offered by Windstar Cruises (must be booked by July 6). Windstar, which operates three tall-masted luxury ships – 312-passenger Wind Surf and 148-passenger Wind Star (shown at left in Greece) and Wind Spirit – has lowered fares on 20 European voyages sailing from mid-July to mid-November (with some fall voyages priced as low as $1,476 and December Caribbean voyages priced from $976).
I have cruised around Europe extensively and have sailed on both Wind Star and Wind Surf. If, like me, you prefer smaller ships to the behemoths, you’ll enjoy the intimate ambiance, wonderful service, superb cuisine, and easy camaraderie that these ships offer. Here are few of my recommendations for itineraries among those on sale until July 6:
Plan your summer escape to Istanbul and stay in an elegant, 5-star hotel located in the heart of the city. Relish the Turkish hospitality by staying at the new Marti Istanbul Hotel for just $190 a night – a savings of over 35 percent with their introductory package to commemorate the July 2012 grand opening. This luxurious property provides all the glamor the Turkish city has to offer, with major historic sites, ancient bazaars, and cultural attractions all within reach.
Plus, you’ll receive a complimentary signature cocktail – the Marti Martini – and either a half-day private walking tour of the cosmopolitan Beyoğlu district or an Istanbul Museum Pass Card, which is good for 72 hours. All rooms feature safe deposit boxes, Wi-Fi, in-room dining, minibar selection, and turndown service. The hotel’s Quad Restaurant & Bar provides a gorgeous atrium space, where guests can enjoy a sumptuous breakfast, along with all-day-dining and lounge-style seating beneath. An impressive spa is located on the top floor of the hotel, where guests can treat themselves to massage therapies, facial treatments, sauna and steam rooms, and authentic Turkish bath rituals.
These low rates are available for stays through August 31, 2012. To book, visit the Marti Istanbul website.
There’s nothing like 3,500-year-old frescoes and 1,000-year-old cathedrals to put 50 years of life or 30 years of marriage into perspective – both are a mere heartbeat in the history of humanity. If you’re the kind of traveler who lives your life forever looking forward, but are entranced by the past, you may want to consider a cruise with Voyages to Antiquity. This two-year-old company offers a variety of 14- to 33-day itineraries in the Mediterranean, Adriatic, and Aegean (through late October) and Asia (November to March and featuring nine new itineraries). What differentiates VTA from other cruise lines is its laser-like focus on ancient cultures explored via extended voyages with lyrical names like “The Light of Greece” and “Those Who Seek Paradise.”
Yesterday, United Airlines announced plans for direct flights between Newark and Istanbul, subject to government approval. The new direct service is to start July 1, 2012 from Newark’s Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Istanbul’s Atatürk International Airport (IST). Istanbul to Newark flights will begin July 2 and a flight will run daily in each direction.
United, which claims service to more destinations worldwide than any other airline, will be joining the limited number of airlines currently offering direct flights between NYC and Istanbul. This includes Delta and Turkish Airlines, which both offer daily flights already. The addition of United will provide increased access to one of Europe’s most diverse countries and a city pulling personality from three ancient cultures and two continents. The new route is also likely to add to great flight deals, so keep an eye out!
On my recent travels to Istanbul last month, I made sure to investigate two of the most buzzworthy luxury hotel happenings, each offering a Smart Luxury experience all its own: One, reflective of the storied Istanbul of yore, and the other, a modernized mecca for travelers in search of the cutting edge. The 119-year-old landmark Pera Palace Hotel emerged fresh from a $32 million restoration last fall, oozing with all of the elegance and grandeur of its late 19th-century heyday – it’s the go-to lodging for nostalgia buffs looking to be in the heart of it all. Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the coin, travelers with a flair for cutting-edge contemporary in a secluded ‘hood can look to Swissôtel Living – the newest arm of luxury mainstay Swissôtel the Bosphorus, conceived by renowned designer Khuan Chew (of Burj Al Arab in Dubai fame); it debuted to guests in late spring. Read on for the firsthand reviews.
When Labor Day passes, those of us with school-age kids observe a moment of silence to mourn the end of family vacationing until the winter holidays roll around. For those of us who don’t yet have or no longer have children in school, the passing of Labor Day means the time for a family vacation is now.
“Fall’s most reliable and notable trend is the drop in prices post Labor Day,” says Genevieve Shaw Brown, editorial director at Travelocity. “It’s a more affordable time for a family to take a vacation than the summer months.” For families and other bargain-hunting travelers, it’s a shoulder season “when prices are lower, crowds are fewer, and the weather is still agreeable,” she says.
Fly non-stop to Istanbul October through March and save hundreds with this round-trip air deal starting at just $505, including tax. Spend Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s in Turkey, for an unforgettable Eastern vacation. Warm up with Turkish coffee while completing your holiday shopping in bazaars, relax in the famous Turkish baths, or soak in thousands of years of history in museums and mosques.
THE VALUE: Non-stop flights from Chicago to Istanbul typically cost over $1,000, so this deal saves over $500 on normal non-stop fares.
THE CATCH: These flights will get snapped up fast, so book now for the widest selection of dates. Lowest prices were found for weekday travel.
THE DETAILS: Click here to book your flight online with our Travel Search price comparison tool.
Travel as a vehicle for spiritual transformation is hardly a new notion – seekers have practiced the act of pilgrimage for as long as they’ve looked up to the skies and attempted communion with a higher power. Even in today’s short-attention-span society, setting out to honor the divine or ponder the mysterious is a time-honored tradition that refuses to wane with the changing tides of our technologically driven lives. This list of 10 sacred places (and the accompanying slideshow) showcases points of perceived power and peace around the globe, where the physical appears to meld seamlessly with the metaphysical whether due to awe-inspiring natural settings, reported ties to great gods or holy humans, or long-standing consecration as sites of worship and ritual.
Our list isn’t meant to be comprehensive. Sacred places mean many things to different people – zipping along an open highway, sailing a calm sea, or even hibernating inside on a cold winter’s morning can all bring about their own sort of peace. Where do you go to retreat from the world?
Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights, hotels, packages, and more travel deals.
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