Category: Mediterranean

EuropeInspirationMediterranean

What if Westeros was Europe?

If you’re a Game of Thrones (GoT) fan, there’s a good chance you have dedicated a fair amount of time to comparing the fictional continent of Westeros to modern day Europe.

George R.R Martin based Westeros on ancient Europe so it’s tempting to start drawing comparisons around things like Hadrian’s Wall and The Wall, and the English Channel and The Narrow Sea (or is that the Strait of Gibraltar, George?).

We have popped on our thinking capes and researched what we believe each of the Seven Kingdoms (and outlying lands) equate to. Read on and have your mind blown.

1. The North is Scotland

The Northmen in Game of Thrones are most likely based on the Picts, a group who largely banded together to fight off the Romans or, in the case of GoT, the Southerners.

2. North of the Wall is Greenland

While this makes no sense geographically, it makes sense historically. The Vikings arrived in Greenland at the end of the 10th century. They were led by Erik Thorvaldsson, known as Erik the Red because of his red hair.

3. Norway is the Iron Islands

It’s a bit of a giveaway that the Iron Islanders behave very much like vikings: pillaging and destroying villages. They are master seamen and women, and the fact that one of the main captains in the books is a woman is also reflective of Viking society where gender equality was the norm.

4. London is Kings Landing

It’s not too much of a stretch to gather that King’s Landing – home of the Iron Throne – is based on London. Many of the events in the book are inspired by the Rose Wars. The houses mirror Lancaster (Lannister), York (Stark), Plantagenet (Baratheon) and Henry VI was Aerys Targaryen. Of course the city of Dubrovnik in Croatia has been the setting for the capital city of King’s Landing since the beginning of the show.

5. Spain is Dorne

The sunny mediterranean landscape featuring olive groves and palm trees is a hint. Also in the show the nobles of House Martell reside in the Alzacar in Seville which is the oldest palace still in use in Europe.

6. The Riverlands are Germany

Constantly being raided and ransacked, Germany has been bathed in blood for eons, eventually being split between the Prussians and the Bavarians.

7. The Vale is Switzerland

We’re not really sure why. It’s pretty, hilly and chilly?

8. The Reach is France

The Tyrells were a stylish, open-minded bunch. They also came up with a bloodless way to get rid of a certain prince, resulting in less dry-cleaning for everyone. A very French solution to a rather ugly problem.

9. The Stormlands is Wales

The weather is bad and people tend to avoid going there. While we’re not saying that Wales is unpopular, the weather can be a little tricky.

10. England is the Westerlands

Home of the Lannisters, Westerlands is a shrunken down England with a terrifyingly ruthless family at its head. While the modern day Windsors aren’t exactly scary, some of their ancestors loved a good beheading.

If you’d love to visit some of the filming locations featured in Game of Thrones check out Gate 1 Travel’s escorted Europe tours here.

Mediterranean

Turkey: The Crossroads of Europe and Asia

Hoşgeldiniz and welcome to the Mediterranean country that is not only home to the city that straddles Europe and Asia but also has a history more diverse than any Asian or European country. Turkey, or officially the Republic of Turkey, has a comprehensive history of culture, religion, trade and commerce, making it a fascinating country to visit. On your tour, you will explore a 1,000 year old cathedral turned into a museum, a 4,000 year old city and central location for a very bloody battle, a bazaar where bargaining is an art form and many more unforgettable experiences. Join us on our journey through the country in the centre of the world as we take you exploring through Turkey!

Istanbul, the City that Straddles Two Continents

Istanbul, formerly Constantinople and Byzantium, is the largest city by population as well as the centre of the country’s economy. Due to its location along the Silk Road, the city is on the strategic path from Europe to the Middle East and contains the only route between the Black and Mediterranean Seas. Since its founding in 660 B.C., Istanbul has been one of the most coveted cities in the world. Ancient sailors would journey at sea for days through the Bosphorus Strait but today tourists can easily cross from Asia to Europe on the Marmaray metro line. Can you imagine having breakfast in Europe and then sitting at a café later in the day in Asia? While in Istanbul, view the Blue Mosque with its six minarets and over 21,000 blue Iznik tiles and Hagia Sophia, a 1,000 year old building. Visit what was once considered the greatest church in Christendom and is now a museum. This Byzantine cathedral has a huge dome and was created in the 6th century.

Konya, Ankara; Cultural Hubs in the East

The intriguing thing about Turkey is the amount of culture and history you can find in each one of its cities no matter on what side of the country. Konya is a city that is renowned for its architecture but is also the home of the famous Whirling Dervishes. You will also find the incredible Mausoleum of Mevlana, a historic mausoleum and home to the dervish museum. Ankara is the capital of the country and the second largest in population after Istanbul. In Ankara, you will view the Mausoleum of Kemal Ataturk, founder and first president of the Turkish Republic and the Anatolian Civilizations Museum, which features Anatolian artefacts dating back to the Paleolithic Age.

Çanakkale, Kuşadası, Izmir and Antalya; Historic Wonders of the West

Enjoy the western part of the country where we find some of the most important biblical, historical and archaeological sites in the entire world. Çanakkale is your gateway to the 4,000 year old city of Troy. Here you will find the city made famous by the Trojan War which was documented in the Illiad by Homer. Visit the port city of Izmir, historically known as “Smyrna”, home to countless archaeological sites and a history dating back over 3,500 years. Kuşadası is just down the coast and believed to be the birthplace of Homer. It has become a hub for cruise ships, marketplaces and restaurants. Relax with a nice cup of Turkish tea or try some traditional Turkish food while spending time in this coastal city. Antalya was founded by King Attalos of Pergamum as “Heaven on Earth” and has become a resort destination in Turkey. It is now popular for shopping, beaches, nightlife and history, a true heaven on earth for visitors.

From Izmir or Kuşadası, you will have a perfect gateway to Ephesus, Turkey. This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the most important in the Bible and is filled with important sites and places of pilgrimage. Visit the House of the Virgin Mary, where it is believed the mother of Jesus was taken by Saint John and lived the remainder of her life. The Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, is a temple built by the ancient Greeks to worship the goddess. The Basilica of St. John sits here and was built over the believed burial site of one of Jesus’ apostles, John. This holy landmark was built in the 6th century and is a popular pilgrimage spot for Christians. The largest historic building here is the Library of Celsus, an ancient Roman building that was completed in 114-117 A.D. This building was built to store thousands of scrolls and also served as the burial site for Celsus, a citizen who became a senator and benefactor of Ephesus.

Cappadocia and Its Whimsical Rock Formations

The otherworldly area of Cappadocia is a true highlight in this Middle Eastern country. This UNESCO World Heritage sight is a rocky wonderland filled with fairy chimneys, homes carved into mountains and rock-face churches. This magical place is located in a semi-arid climate near several volcanic peaks. Cappadocia is actually the name for the region and it is compromised of smaller towns including Güvercinlik, Uçhisar, Paşabağı, Devrent Valley, and more. Be sure to tour the Open Air Museum in Göreme Valley, a display of ruins of houses and dwellings carved into the surrounding volcanic rock. Also visit the underground cities, take a stroll through Monks Valley and perhaps enjoy a Whirling Dervish performance.

Hot-Air Ballooning

The hot-air balloon ride in Cappadocia is one of the most popular of its kind in the world, if not the number one experience. The ride takes you high above the sights of this area to see the mesmerising carvings, dwellings and geological formations from high above the earth. One of the most exciting things about the balloon ride is the pictures you will get and the view of all the other hot-air balloons you will see floating through the sky with you. Charge up your phone and camera batteries and bring your binoculars for this unforgettable experience above Cappadocia. Some call Cappadocia the most magical place in the world.

Whirling Dervishes

The Whirling Dervishes are a true highlight of the country of Turkey. The term describes a dance called the “Sema” which is performed to express emotion and achieve the love of Allah. This religious dance is Islamic in origin and is thought to have originated in Turkey. Konya is the home of the practice but it is also performed in other parts of the country like Istanbul and Cappodocia. All of the dress and dance has meaning with the white skirt symbolizing the shroud of the ego and the open arms raised towards the sky that are ready to receive God’s acceptance. Sit back and observe the passion and discipline found in this beautiful dance.

Photo courtesy of @Yasenia & Rafael

Bazaars of Turkey

Whether it is spice, clothing, crafts, souvenirs or household items, Turkey’s many incredible bazaars have you covered. One of the most visited bazaars includes the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul that sees 400,000 people daily. This bazaar is the city’s oldest covered market and has a history dating back to the 15th century. Here you will find textiles, gems, home decor, apparel and even restaurants and cafés. Bargaining is an art here so be sure to have your game face on. The Spice Bazaar is also located in Istanbul and has a storied history including two fires in 1691 and 1940, both of which the market survived. Spices, herbs, jewelry and gift shops can all be found at this famous stop. Kemeralti Bazaar is located in Izmir and is the largest open-air bazaar in the country. Purchase crafts, jewelry and choose from a huge array of fresh spices and herbs. The Kuşadası Bazaar is located in the coastal town of Kuşadası and is the second largest bazaar in Turkey. The Kuşadası Bazaar is actually compromised of two smaller markets called the Grand Bazaar and Orient Bazaar. Find anything in this area from designer knock-offs, Turkish textiles, jewellery and more. If you love to shop or need a gift for a friend or family member back home, you must venture to the bazaars of Turkey and see the colours and excitement of these thriving shops. Some suggested items to buy include the Turkish glass lamps with their colourful mosaics, Turkish black tea which is offered as a sign of welcome or a delicious box of Turkish delights, a desert sure to thrill any sweet tooth.

See “More of the World for Less” with Gate 1 Travel on a tour to beautiful Turkey and learn about the culture, history and people of this ancient country. Gate 1 offers you an experience at a value that cannot be matched. We will take you around Turkey in style and comfort as you explore the cities and sights mentioned and so much more.

Explore the land where the east and the west converge by joining Gate 1 Travel in Turkey

Book any Gate 1 Travel Turkey Escorted tour by the 31st of May, 2019 and save $250 per person when you quote the promo code FDTKY250A at the time of booking. Click here for more info.

**Please note: Sightseeing varies per itinerary

AfricaMediterraneanNews

10 Unmissable Egyptian Experiences

Tour like an Egyptian! Here are 10 extraordinary things you can only do in the land of the Pharoahs.

1.Exotic breakfast foods

Say goodbye to boring cereal and hello to foul medame, one of the most delicious breakfast foods on earth. Made from cooked broad beans, this traditional dish is usually served alongside boiled eggs, fresh pita bread, falafel, a side salad of tomatoes and cucumbers, and a feta-like cheese called mish. The beauty of this meal is that it’s low-GI and packed with nutrients so it will give you loads of energy for the day ahead.

2. Bellydancing

Egypt is home to Raqs Sharqi, otherwise known as traditional Arabic folk dancing. While many people are familiar with the glitzier performance style popular in restaurants in Cairo, there is also a strong culture of what’s called a baladi; a group dance that is central to Arabic celebrations such as weddings.

3. Swimming, snorkelling and diving

The warm waters of the Mediterranean and the Red Sea are home to teeming marine life, making them among the top scuba diving sites in the world. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a diver – there’s plenty to see with a snorkel. The Red Sea is renowned for its high salt concentration (approximately 35 per cent saltier than most seas) which makes it extremely easy to float. Many people claim the mineral content in the water is good for rheumatism and arthritis – bonus!

4. Cruise the Nile

The Nile is the longest river in the world, with the northernmost section flowing through Egypt and into the Mediterranean. Cruise through the fertile delta of the Nile Valley and witness the birthplace of Egyptian civilisation. The rich alluvial soils and plentiful water in this area allowed people to grow crops and settle in one place, signalling a critical shift from a nomadic lifestyle to an agricultural society.

5. Temples

Egypt has a temple for everything. In true Indiana Jones fashion, you can tiptoe through some seriously ancient architecture. Make sure you head to the temple complex of Karnak, the Temple of Edfu – devoted to Horus, the falcon-headed god of war – and the Greco-Roman Temple of Kom Ombo.

6. Haggle at the markets

Head to a market and test out your haggling skills. In amongst souvenirs, the real gems are jalabeyas, traditional dress-like garments worn by both men and women. The women’s versions come in a range of colours with embroidery and beading. Stock up on comfy leather slippers, woven Bedouin blankets, boxes inlaid with geometric patterns and silver jewellery.

7. Visit the Pyramids of Giza

The last remaining wonder of the ancient world, the three pyramids at Giza were built by three Pharaohs approximately 4500 years ago. Scientists still can’t be sure how they built them (and alien conspiracists think that there was intergalactic intervention) but one thing you can be sure of is that they are big. The largest pyramid is147 metres high and is made from 2.3 million stone blocks, each weighing between 2.5 and 15 tonnes.

8. Visit the Valley of the Kings, Luxor

Home to the tomb of Tutankhamun, this archaeological site contains 63 known tombs and chambers. While many of the treasures were looted in the 18th Century, the hieroglyphics depicting Egyptian funeral rites remain.

9. Check out the Egyptian Museum, Cairo

You’ve seen the temples and tombs; now get a good look at the items that were found in them. Enjoyed an air-conditioned stroll past some serious antiques including gold jewellery, eating bowls, mummies, toys and Tutankhamun’s treasures.

10. Visit White Desert National Park
If you prefer your monuments nature-made, White Desert National Park’s chalk columns and quartz and fossil-littered valleys are sure to inspire awe. Home to the famous Crystal Mountain – a monolith made from quartz – this desert is unlike any other with its ghostly chalk outcrops.

Want a tour that captures all of the above and more? Check out Gate 1 Travel’s new 12 Day Classic Egypt with 7 Day Nile Cruise here. Also you can save $100 per person on your booking when you quote promo code EGYPT2019 by the 31st of March, 2019.

Mediterranean

Black Sea Treasures of an Ottoman Past

When you journey along Turkey’s Black Sea coast, you are tracing the routes of ancient traders. The Silk Road wound its way through this scenic region, linking the West and the East. Merchants stopped along the way to exchange goods such as spices, amber, leather and metal trinkets forged in fire. Some passed through on camel or horseback with their sights set on long treks over vast lands. Others headed to Black Sea shores to embark northbound ships to Crimea, Russia, and beyond. Today, this history-rich area reveals numerous secrets of its past, while boasting extreme natural beauty.

Our small group can explore this intoxicating region on an intimate scale. Our base is the small city of Safranbolu, named after the coveted saffron spice that is grown here still. Its Old Town, also known as Çarşi, is a treasure trove of remarkably preserved, red-roofed Ottoman-period houses. Their authenticity has earned the city its prestigious status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Browsing the timber-framed facades here and strolling its cobbled streets transports you back to an enchanting time. For an up-close look at daily life, we stop at the Kaymakamlar Museum House. The former home of a lieutenant-colonel, it is a showcase of typical Safranbolu living adorned with pretty ceiling decoration.

You’ll get a sample of Safranbolu’s days as a stop on the Silk Road during a visit to its thriving bazaar. Ironsmiths, shoemakers, weavers, carpet makers, wood carvers, and countless other vendors have set up shop here for centuries. To help both ancient and modern visitors find their way, many streets are named for the merchants that line them. The indoor Cinci Han Caravanserai, too, is steeped in the city’s market history. Today, this imposing structure is a hotel boasting vaulted ceilings and a fine courtyard. But it was originally built as a stopover where travelling merchants showed off their goods and rested from long journeys.

We witness another facet of local life during a visit to a Yörük Village, a living museum of residential structures originally inhabited by the nomadic Yörük people. This fascinating collection of houses, many of them quite grand, stand two or three stories tall. Upper floors were used as living quarters while the lower floors feature the kitchen, storage, stables, and the hayat, an open area where domestic tasks were performed.

Nearby, the region’s natural beauty is on display at the Incekaya Aqueduct. The canyon’s latest attraction is not for faint-hearted, a glass Crystal Terrace fans out over a cliff face some 260 feet above the canyon floor. A considerably older structure, the magnificent Incekaya Aqueduct, also seems to defy gravity as it spans the equally beautiful Tokatli Canyon. Built in the 1790s at the command of the grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire, this towering bridge once supplied water to Safranbolu.

Turkey’s Black Sea region is a feast for the senses, a fascinating corner steeped in Ottoman culture, tradition, and history. We hope you will join us during our Turkish Odyssey adventure so you can experience it for yourself! Plus, book by 31 January 2019 to save $300 per person on our published prices. Enter or quote promo code: CNDSCV300A at the time of booking.

 

Mediterranean

Cruise the Magnificent Turkish Riviera

Spectacularly scenic with deep blue waters ringed by jagged mountains, the coastal city of Fethiye is one of Turkey’s true gems. During its 12th-century heyday, when it was known as Makri, it was a producer of perfumes and a major commercial centre with an active port of cargo ships coming and going. Even farther back, the ancient city of Telmessos was here. Suffice to say, Fethiye’s monuments to its rich past span the ages. Echoes of its history are present in the city’s scenic marina and in the aromatic bazaars overflowing with lokum (Turkish delight), dates, and spices.

But it’s Fethiye’s coastal splendour that keeps visitors coming back. Little wonder: Sailors, fishermen, and traders have been basking in in its intense beauty for millennia.

In our Discovery Tours small group, we explore these spectacular shores to full advantage on a traditional wooden Turkish yacht, or gület, privately chartered just for us! Our full-day cruise on this beautiful sailing vessel sets out into the Gulf of Fethiye, sailing among an archipelago of 12 breathtaking islands.

All you need to do is settle in, relax, and drink in the splendid vistas from the uncrowded deck. Because our gület is small, we can duck into small coves lined with sandy beaches and dive into the warm waters for a swim or a snorkel, as we may do off of Yassicalar (Flat Island) or in Akvaryum Koyu (Aquarium Bay). We drop anchor at Tersane Adasi (Shipyard Island) to explore some fascinating ancient ruins and indulge in the mud baths of Kizilada (Red Island). Plus, you’ll savour a delicious lunch of local delicacies as you explore. It’s the most relaxed and unhurried way to take in one of the world’s most picturesque coastlines.

For your comfort and convenience, all snorkelling equipment and towels are provided by the crew and you can choose a deck seat in a sun-lounger or enjoy the shade under a canopy.

Join us for a coastal adventure unlike any other! We invite you to explore the stunning Turkish Riviera during our 13 Day Turkish Odyssey adventure!

MediterraneanNews

Israel’s Astonishing Natural Beauty

When you think of Israel, a vast treasure trove of historic and religious sights undoubtedly comes to mind. But this small country is home to some of the world’s most stunning natural beauty, the likes of which you won’t see anywhere else.

Here, quiet villages are tucked away in fertile valleys. Mountains rise from plains and rocky cliffs soar to the heavens. Starkly beautiful deserts are dotted with Bedouin tents. And serene lakes stretch out like small seas. Throughout Discovery Tours’ Israel, Ancient & Modern Culture trip, you can witness this magnificence firsthand.

The Road to Galilee

The rocky terrain of Galilee seems to stretch into eternity. Dappled in wide swathes of green and soaring to summits of up to 3,800 feet, it’s a breathtaking canvas adorned with streams and flower-laden fields. The climate of this fertile region supports a large variety of flora and wildlife. The Hula Valley Nature Reserve especially thrives with life, including many birds that stop here to rest from their migration between Africa and cooler climates to the north. In one of nature’s most spectacular displays, tens of thousands of cranes pass through here as they make their way from Finland to Ethiopia every winter.

In the west of Galilee on the Mediterranean Coast, white chalk cliffs spill into the sea. Over millennia, the crashing surf has carved a network of spectacular grottoes dimly lit by the sparkle of azure waters. These Rosh HaNikra caves, Hebrew for “head of the grottoes,” are a mysterious and magical place, a maze of subterranean passageways untouched by humankind for ages until divers began exploring them. Today, a cable car lowers you to the grotto entrance, and it is well worth a visit.

From sea level to mountaintop, Mount Bental rises in the eastern region of the Golan Heights. In Arabic, it is sometimes known as the “Mountain of Lust,” so it might not surprise you that it was once an active volcano. Now dormant—as are the other peaks of this mountain chain—it provides incredible views of the Golan Heights and the surrounding region. The volcanic soils have made this a fertile pocket of Israel. Farming communities, kibbutzim, and wineries dot the landscape, and Discovery Tours visits one of them—the delightfully welcoming Golan Heights Winery—to sample some of the local vintages.

The tranquil Sea of Galilee is the focal point of this beautiful region. Contrary to its name, it is a freshwater lake fed by underground springs and by the Jordan River from the north. Aside from its beauty, it has a lot to boast about. It is Israel’s largest and the world’s lowest freshwater lake. What’s more, it is the site of several miracles of Jesus. He is said to have walked on these fabled waters, and to have transformed five loaves and fishes into a feast for thousands here on these shores.

A Sea Full of Salt and a Massive Mesa

Unlike the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea is very much full of salt. So much salt, in fact, that it is impossible to sink in its waters. This is the lowest point of land on earth—1,315 feet below sea. This fascinating body of water is more than nine times as salty as the ocean, creating an environment that cannot support animals, hence its name.

But it is a geographic curiosity for a host of other reasons. With the Jordan River its only significant source of water and with no outlet, tiny springs have formed underneath its shore, resulting in pools and quicksand pits. Further, with so much salt and relatively little water, intriguingly shaped salt deposits form on the shores as water evaporates, from thick multi-layered blankets to tiny pearl-like pebbles, all of them sculpted over millennia. If you’re not completely smitten with the geology of the Dead Sea, then its buoyancy is sure to put a smile on your face. Merely step in, lie back, and relax to enjoy nature’s only flotation device.

Nearby, a giant rocky plateau rises from the Judean Desert. This is Masada, and its magnificent setting helped to shape history. So commanding are the views from atop this mesa—some of its cliffs are 1,300 feet high—Herod the Great built his fortress here just a few decades before Christ. Who can blame him? The vistas of the Dead Sea and the Negev Desert are spectacular. But not everything was serene and beautiful in Herod’s day. When the Roman Empire attacked at the end of the first Jewish-Roman War, 960 Jewish rebels are said to have thrown themselves off the cliffs rather than surrender to Rome.

We invite you to surrender to the natural beauty and irresistible allure of Israel.

Find out more about our Israel trips here 

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9 of the Best New Tours for 2019

Are you working on your travel wish list for 2019? Dreaming of sleeping in a riad in Morocco or knocking back a schnapps in the Swiss alps? Learning Salsa in Colombia or surprising your friends by heading off to Uzbekistan?

So where to go and what to do?

Check out our new tours visiting hot destinations:

1. Italy and Croatia

Quote lines from Gladiator at The Colosseum in Rome, taste local wines in Tuscany, Florence, Venice and Pisa, and head off Croatia to bask in the azure beauty of the Adriatic sea.

Did you know that Marco Polo was born on the Croatian island of Korcula? Visit his birthplace, explore ‘King’s Landing’ aka Dubrovnik just in time for the last season of Game of Thrones, and take in the natural beauty of the famed blue cascades in Krka National Park.

More info about the 17 Day Italy & Croatia with 7 Day Adriatic Cruise here.

Split_Croatia

2. Costa Rica

Do you know the way to San Jose? Not to be confused with San Jose in Northern California that The Carpenters sang out, San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica and is a perfectly preserved Spanish Colonial town.

From this starting point, head out to an artisan village to learn about local art and craft, visit a dormant conical volcano, knock back some Costa Rican coffee on a plantation tour and put your head in the clouds at Monteverde Clouds Forest.

More info about the 14 Day Kaleidoscope of Costa Rica here.

Costa Rica

3. Colombia

Apart from having some of the most beautiful people and pumping salsa clubs in the world, Colombia is also one of South America’s undiscovered treasures.

Eat an empanada while you wander around Cartagena’s Colonial District, marvel at pre-Columbian gold at the Gold Museum, and view Fernando Botero’s famous paintings and sculptures.

More info about the 8 Day Affordable Colombia here.

4. Morocco

Enjoy a home-cooked meal in Fez, make like Bogey and Bacall in Casablanca, and wander through Chefchaouen, Morocca’s famous Blue City.

Connect with your nomadic spirit when you traverse the desert along an old caravan route, and marvel at the acrobats, performers, and snake charmers in Marrakesh’s Djemaa el Fna Square.

More info about the 18 Day Absolute Morocco here.

Sahara, Morocco

5. Switzerland and the Rhine River Cruise

The vantage point from a river or canal gives you a totally different aspect on a country. Glide under 14th Century medieval bridges in Lucerne, pass castles and cobbled streets straight out of fairytales, and enjoy a tipple in a quaint wine tavern in Rüdesheim. See the tiny storybook Principality of Liechtenstein from the bow of your ship and hop off for a close-up look at Marc Chagall’s stained glass window in the Fraumunster Church in Zurich.

More info about the 17 Day Classic Switzerland with Rhine River Cruise here.

6. Southern Italy, Puglia and Campania

Get off the beaten track by heading for the heel of the boot. This is the lesser known part of Italy is the birthplace of pizza and the home of Pompeii. Enjoy long farmhouse lunches, stroll through UNESCO Heritage-listed cobblestone streets and visit medieval ruins. Round out your trip with a visit to the Amalfi coastline for a look at one of the world’s most loved views.

More info about the 11 Day Southern Italy, Puglia & Campania here.

7. Central Europe

There is nowhere hotter than Central Europe for small group touring. With a burgeoning cafe culture and bohemian art scene, the Czech Republic is the place to hang out. On the flipside, take in Slovakia’s perfectly preserved town centres, castles and convents for a glimpse back in time at 13th century life.

More info about the Heart of Central Europe Discovery small group tour here.

prague-night

8. Uzbekistan

Did you know that the oldest copy of the Koran in the world is held in Tashkent’s Muyi Muborak Madrasa? Visit this historic marvel before you head off down the Silk Road to explore the cultural treasures of this little known corner of the world. Learn how to make a traditional Pilav when you share dinner with a local family, relax in a yurt camp in the desert and take your credit card on an adventure at the ancient Siab Market.

More info about the Uzbekistan Discovery small group tour here.

9. Turkey

Wander through the back streets of Istanbul tasting regional specialities like stretchy icecream made from orchid roots, look up in awe at the dome of the Blue Mosque, and master the art of shopping in the Grand Bazaar. For a change of pace, spend a day cruising around Fethiye’s 12 Islands, explore an ancient underground city at Kaymakli and explore traditional Turkish Ottoman houses in Safranbolu on the coast of the Black Sea.

More info about Turkish Odyssey small group tour here.

And the best thing? People who book any of the above 2019 tours by 2nd December and quote the promo code CNNEW2019A to receive a $300 discount per person.

AfricaMediterranean

The Perks of Work: Alluring Morocco

It’s not just the Sahara that is turning Morocco into one of the hottest travel destinations of 2018. Old world medinas, stunning geometric architecture, oasis landscapes and lively souks are just some of the delights you’ll encounter when exploring energetic Morocco.

We caught up with Fern from the Gate 1 Travel team, who recently enjoyed the 15 Day Morrocan Allure small group tour and got the inside scoop on her trip!

Q: What were you looking forward to doing the most in Morocco?

A: The thing I was looking forward to the most about visiting Morocco was camping in the Sahara and it completely lived up to my expectations. The camel ride at sunset along the sand dunes was so peaceful, it felt like we were on another planet. It was really fun wearing the traditional Berber Tagelmust (also great for keeping the sand out) and joining in on the evening entertainment when we got back to camp.

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Q: What was the highlight of the trip?

A: It’s really hard to pick one highlight as this trip just kept surprising me. There was something everyday that made me think each day was better than the last. If I had to pick though I would say it would be exploring the city of Fez and staying in the riad there. The medina of Fez is a beautiful labyrinth of sights and smells that maintains an ancient charm. It makes you feel like you’ve travelled to another time! They have a saying in Morocco that ‘you should never judge a house by its door’ and I think this perfectly encapsulates the surprising nature of Fez. Even the plainest of doors can lead to the most beautiful interior. Discovering these hidden gems made Fez one of the most interesting locations to explore.

Q: What did you like about travelling in a smaller group?

A: What I really liked about travelling in a smaller group was the ease of moving from one site to another. The time saved waiting for everyone to get on and off the bus could be spent exploring and allowed us to fit more into our itinerary. Another plus of travelling in a small group was being able to stay in boutique style accommodation that was unique to Morocco. On the tour we stayed in a riad, a kasbah, a ksar and a berber camp which gave us a unique insight into different styles of Moroccan housing.

Q: What was the Tour Manager like?

A: Khalid was amazing! He was considerate, knowledgeable and made sure everyone on the tour was enjoying themselves. One day I was feeling a little unwell and couldn’t eat lunch so he made sure I had some fruit to take away with me. He really looked after everyone and made us smile with his jokes and cries of ‘make it happen’ whenever we stopped at a restroom.

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Q: What was your favourite meal or what food did you have that you felt was very authentic?

A: My favourite meal of the trip was the chicken tagine we had during our home hosted dinner in Fez. I definitely have a soft spot for chicken and olives! It was great to experience a traditional Moroccan dinner and get to know the family that hosted us. Being able to meet locals and ask questions about their daily life is one of my favourite parts of travelling so it was great to be able to have this experience on the tour.

chicken tagine

Q: What tips do you have for first-time travellers to Morocco?

A: Be prepared for an assault on your senses! Morocco is colourful, loud and full of smells – some good (incense) and some bad (tanneries). Embrace the madness and you will fall in love with this country that is full of surprises. Also save some money for souk shopping, leather is incredibly cheap!

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If you’re thinking of joining a tour in Morocco you can browse our website for a whole range of options to suit your preferred travel style and budget.

If you book a spot on the 15 Day Moroccan Allure Tour by the 30th of October you can save $300 per person when you quote promo code FBMOR300A at the time of booking. Call 1300 653 618 if you have any questions and we look forward to welcoming you to Morocco soon!

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Seeing More of Israel…For Less

Gate 1 Travel knows Israel like no other travel company. Thanks to our longstanding and enduring relationships throughout the country, we can offer an unmatched experience that provides endless insight into its natural and cultural treasures, all at the best value you’ll find anywhere. There are as many reasons to visit Israel with Gate 1 Travel as there are historic and religious sites in this incredible nation.

Inspiration knows no bounds in Israel. Its culture, religion and history converge into a nation unlike any other. We invite you to join us in this land that we know so well.

Jerusalem: The Soul of Israel
Perhaps no other city in the world boasts such a dense concentration of religious sites as Jerusalem. Many call this city the soul of Israel, and it’s easy to understand why. Powerful emblems of faith appear on every corner of the Old City, as you’ll see in the Stations of the Cross that line the Via Dolorosa, or Way of Sorrows. Jesus is said to have walked this road while bearing His cross. This pilgrimage route – and our own walk – ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the site of His crucifixion. It’s a particularly moving visit – especially if you also pay homage at the place of His birth, Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, and at the Church of the Annunciation in the city of His youth, Nazareth.

In the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount – crowned by the gilded Dome of the Rock – is said to shelter the Talmudic source of life, the site from where God gathered dust to create man. In Islamic faith, it is the location of Mohammed’s ascent to heaven. More than this, it is a symbol of unity, as Gabriel brought Mohammed here to pray with Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. The Western (or Wailing) Wall borders the temple – a pilgrimage site where the devout worship and insert prayerful slips of paper in the crannies between the mortar and rock. It is impossible to not be moved by the power of this place. We’ll examine it all as closely as religious law allows, then step outside the Old City for a breathtaking bird’s eye view from atop Mt. Zion – site of the ancient City of David.

Jerusalem’s new city is no less inspiring, as you might choose to discover for yourself. At the Israel Museum, art and archaeology from the country’s millennia of history are on display, none more remarkable than the fourth and fifth-century Dead Sea Scrolls, housed under an impressive white dome. From inspiring to sobering, you may also visit Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

During your stay, you can join our excursion to test the Dead Sea’s buoyancy; its waters are 34% saline! Farther south, the towering massif of Masada tells the dramatic story of 960 Jewish rebels who, in AD 73, committed suicide rather than surrender to the Roman Empire.

Tiberias: Gateway to the Jordan River Valley: The “Garden of God”
The River Jordan played a crucial part in Christian theology, the scene of miracles, battles, and baptisms. Most notably, John baptized Jesus in its waters at a site that we’ll visit. Today, the valley’s fertile history is on rich display and you can unravel it all, and so much more, during an enriching stay in Tiberias, hugging the Sea of Galilee’s shores. Nearby Beit She’an, a city dating to the 15th-century BC, invites you to stroll through 5,000 years of history.

Thousands of years of Canaanite, Egyptian, Roman, Arab, Byzantine, and Ottoman history blanket the shores of the Sea of Galilee. There will be ample time to explore Tiberias on your own – perhaps sampling one of its soothing thermal springs. But we suspect you’ll want to set out to discover more of Israel’s wide variety of sites. In Upper Galilee, a mystical Kabbalah artists’ colony welcomes you, and in the Golan Heights, you may sample special vintages at a kosher winery. Perhaps, too, you will visit the remarkably historic port city of Acre, or Akko, where echoes of knights and crusaders whisper in Ottoman-era medieval streets and explore the ancient ruins of Capernaum and the fabled spot where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, the Mount of Beatitudes.

Haifa & Tel Aviv: “Israel’s Riviera”
The Mediterranean Sea does not spring to everyone’s mind when they think of Israel. But some of the country’s most beautiful places grace its sun-kissed coast. The splendid terraced Baha’i Gardens offer magnificent views of Haifa. Mt. Carmel was the spot of Elijah’s sacrifice by fire by which he miraculously ended a drought. And in Caesarea, seat of Pontius Pilate and of impressive Roman and Crusader ruins, Herod the Great built a city to rival Rome. With the blue waters of the Mediterranean as their backdrop, these historic sites are all the more magnificent.

If Jerusalem is Israel’s soul, Tel Aviv is its beating heart. This young and vibrant city on the sea never sleeps and offers a fun and fascinating glimpse into the country’s modern lifestyle. Whether you prefer an hour on the beach or an afternoon shopping at the Dizengoff Center, Tel Aviv never disappoints. By contrast, in the city’s southern districts, Jaffa or Joppa is a wellspring of biblical and rabbinical history.

VENTURE BEYOND THE ESSENTIAL
Our Essential Israel and Affordable Israel programmes offer Gate 1’s best value. But of course, there’s more to this magnificent country, from the stark beauty of its deserts and rich kibbutz culture to the staggering sites of its neighbour, Jordan. On these inspiring journeys, too, Gate 1’s value can’t be matched.

Take the Road to the Red Sea
In the south of Israel, the Negev stretches to the Red Sea. The desert makes for a mesmerizing drive through arid plains, but it’s not all barren land. At Kibbutz Sde Boker, the first prime minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, retired and passed away. We’ll stop to pay respects at his grave. Farther south, the small town of Mitzpe Ramon sits on the northern ridge of the Ramon Crater. This once-forgotten enclave, built as a camp for the workers who laid the road to the Red Sea, is coming into its own as an eco-tourist destination.

The sea resort town of Eilat is a geographic crossroads; Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia are all visible from this northern tip of the Red Sea. Our days here are unregimented, with lots of time to swim or snorkel. And there’s plenty more to explore: join optional tours to the magnificent ancient city of Petra or to the Timna Valley, home to incredible rock formations carved by desert wind and the once-active copper mines known as King Solomon’s Mines.

While You’re Here, Marvel at Jordan’s Wonders
Throughout our Israel trips, Jordan is always right across the border. So it only makes sense to select an itinerary that also explores this welcoming and remarkable country. Its gleaming capital Amman, called the “White City” for the stone used to build its houses, is rich in culture and tradition. Outside Amman, Jerash – the “Pompeii of the East” – provides incredible insight into the lives of the Romans in one of their more remote outposts. And on the summit of Mt. Nebo, you’ll not only have views of the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea; you’ll also see the reputed burial site of Moses. But perhaps Jordan’s most magnificent gem is Petra, the red sandstone city carved into rocky cliff faces.

Unravel Israel’s Mysteries with Gate 1 Travel
No matter how you choose to visit Israel with Gate 1, you’ll discover that this small country holds countless surprises. We offer numerous comprehensive tours packed with sightseeing. One thing is certain: whether this is your first visit or your fifth, we’ll show it all to you at a price that beats any other tour operator. Join us!

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5 Best Places to Escape This Winter

June, July and August are happening, and that means months of enduring the winter chills. Or does it? Things are heating up at that time of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, which make it an ideal time to follow the sun, but it’s also when the number of visitors flocking to tourist sites increases as much as the temperature. Crowds, heat and lines are all synonymous with summer vacations, so we decided to compile a list of destinations that will get you to places with less crowds during the peak months, while still shaking off the winter blues.

It is time to get off the beaten path, try somewhere new and enjoy an adventure. Join us on our hot list to see where you should be visiting this winter!

Canada
5. Alberta, Canada
This province in Western Canada has a lot to offer; a warm, summer temperature, about 23 degrees celsius average, that won’t leave you sweating and an array of National Parks, landmarks and beautiful views of nature that you cannot see anywhere else. Edmonton is the capital of Alberta and it is a perfect city to explore. Museums, the famous Farmer’s Market in Old Strathcona and many hip and delicious restaurants to sample all await you in Edmonton. Some cannot-miss adventures in Alberta include Jasper National Park, known for its abundant wildlife, Athabasca Falls, Lake Louise, a glacier-fed lake and one of the most photographed spots in all of Canada, Banff National Park and Cave & Basin National Historic Site, great for exploring the naturally-occurring, warm mineral springs that can be found inside the cave, and outside in an emerald colored basin. Get in touch with mother nature during her favourite season in Alberta, Canada.


4. Brazil & Argentina
If you are not specifically looking to escape winter, then South America is perfect for you. They share our same winter season in Brazil and Argentina and while the average temperature of July in Buenos Aires is a brisk 15 degrees celsius, it’s the ideal time to avoid the crowds! The temperatures might not wow you, but the sites will get you on the next flight to South America. Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls, a beautiful collection of waterfalls that has viewing sides in both Argentina and Brazil. Rio de Janeiro, the home of the famous “Christ the Redeemer” statue and a picturesque beach, Sugar Loaf Mountain, Corcovado Mountain, which gives you a 360 view of the city of Rio, and so much more await you in this area of the earth. It’s time to brush up on your Spanish, put on your tango shoes and see the beauty that is South America: Brazil & Argentina.


3. Kenya & Tanzania
Welcome to another area that has its winter at the same time as Australia; Kenya & Tanzania. The average temperatures in July in Kenya & Tanzania are in the mid-20s and this is the coldest that they get all year! Luckily the ideal travelling temperature is not the only reason to visit, it is also the start of the dry season which makes for the best viewing for wildlife while on safari. June and July are also the best months for seeing the wildebeest migration through the Serengeti. Some of the great sites and adventures that await you on your journey include Karen Blixen Museum, the farmhouse of the prominent author of “Out of Africa”, Giraffe Centre, Elephant Orphanage, Samburu National Park, a park home to unique wildlife and a haven for birds, Serengeti National Park, Masai Mara National Reserve, a park renowned for its spectacular game viewing, Ngorongoro Conservation area and many more adventures! There’s no better time to take your safari then in the winter and in Kenya & Tanzania.


2. Turkey
Turkey is where you can really escape winter and it is the perfect place to avoid the crowds that you may find in the popular destinations around the world. The average temperature in Istanbul in July is in the 20s-30s so it is on par with most European countries during this time but it has just as many great sites and things to see as European cities! The great thing about Turkey and why you should visit, is its location, between Asia, Africa and Europe, and the fact that it is not a huge travel mecca… yet. Turkey also has a background that dates back to ancient times so there is a lot of history, architecture and culture to explore. While in Turkey make sure to visit Istanbul, the city that straddles two continents and home to an amazing spice market, Anzac Cemetery, Canakkale, Troy, a 4,000 year old city and real-life setting for The Iliad, Pergamum, Asklepion, Izmir, Pamukkale, Antalya, Cappadocia, home to rock-cut temples and tons of hot air balloons, Ankara and all of their history! Get away from the crowds and see an authentic country embedded with ancient sites and cities.


1. Iceland
Sounds whacky recommending a country with “ice” in its name to escape winter, but not only is Iceland now a hugely popular travel destination, but July has the warmest temperature that this northern country gets. The average temperature in July is around 10 degrees celsius in Reykjavik. Okay, not exactly balmy, but all you have to do is put on an extra jumper when you’re outside and it’s so much more exciting than shivering at home! Going to Iceland in its summer really gives you a completely different outlook than visiting in the winter. It is a time of year that daylight is at its longest and can last about 20 hours a day from mid-May to Mid-August. This means you have extra daylight and warm temperatures allowing you to explore everything Iceland has to offer; from an inventive restaurant scene in Reykjavik, to the geographical wonders of Gullfoss Waterfall. Other things to see in Iceland include Blue Lagoon, a unique natural pool of mineral rich geothermal water located in the middle of a lava field, South Shore, Skaftafell National Park, see Europe’s largest ice cap and the peaks of Skaftafell, Thingvellir National Park, Snaefellsjökull Glacier, a splendid strato-volcano at the very end of the peninsula, Stykkisholmur and so much nature and beauty! It’s time to get out your finest fleece, wool socks and, of course, some sunglasses for the daylight! Take a trip to this striking country for a cool summer vacation you will not forget.