9 Interesting Facts About La Sagrada Familia Cathedral

There is no other house of worship on Earth quite like Barcelona’s towering Sagrada Familia Cathedral, Antoni Gaudi’s masterwork. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has raised the eyebrows of art critics and inspired millions of visitors. Here are some fascinating facts about it that may surprise you.

  1. They’ve been building it for 136 years. Its current completion date? 2026, the centenary of Gaudi’s death.
  2. When asked why the building was taking so long Gaudi replied, “My client isn’t in a hurry”.
  3. By the end of his life, when Gaudi worked on nothing else, he was dressing in rags instead of buying new clothes, so that all his income could go towards the project which was being funded entirely by donations.
  4. At the Paris Exhibition of 1910, crowds formed long lines to view the plaster model of the building in progress which included stone cherubim wind-propelled wings that would ring bells.
  5. The interior pillars start square at the base, then become octagonal, then circular before transforming into tree-like limbs interlaced at ceiling height. This design emphasises natures elevation over the handiwork of man.
  6. The existing completed towers each bear words that together spell out a Latin prayer.
  7. The cathedral has its critics and its fans: George Orwell called it hideous and Pablo Picasso said it was a monstrosity. Salvador Dali disagreed and declared it “as sensual as a woman’s skin”.
  8. Anarchists in the Spanish Civil War didn’t dare destroy the beloved building so they destroyed all the renderings and models to make it impossible to finish.
  9. A computer whiz in the 1980s took scraps of the remaining plans, handwritten notes by Gaudi and photos of the existing construction to solve the puzzle of what the rest was intended to look like, speeding up its completion.

Experience Gaudi’s masterpiece for yourself on an escorted tour of Spain!



Romania’s Remarkable Storybook Castle

In the 1870s, when King Carol I of Romania travelled outside Sinaia and saw the rolling and rugged hills of the magnificent Carpathian Mountains, he knew this was the place to build his castle. His Majesty certainly had a good eye for settings; his remarkable home is nestled quietly on a gentle slope, yet it also strikes a commanding pose, seeming to lord over the sweeping cradle in which it is swaddled.

With its Neo-Renaissance and Gothic Revival beauty, Romania’s Peleş Castle is often compared to Germany’s famous Schloss Neuschwanstein, the fairytale wonder that inspired Cinderella’s Castle in Walt Disney World. The first thing you notice are its fanciful towers, one conical, another a sloping hexagon and another triangular. Wood frames outline windows, balconies, and sculpted flourishes. Timber changes color from one wing to the next and it’s all topped with a curvilinear roof. Amid this stunning asymmetry, the eye really isn’t really sure where to look. Yet somehow, it is grand and playful and perfect.

The diverse styles of Peleş Castle were surely influenced by its builders. Queen Elisabeth of the Romanians wrote of the many nationalities who contributed their craftsmanship: “… you could see hundreds of national costumes and [hear] fourteen languages in which they spoke, sang, cursed and quarreled ….” The castle was inaugurated in 1883, though construction continued through 1914.

Within its 34,000 square feet, more than 170 rooms and 30 bathrooms are graced with sculpted wood and stained-glass windows, many adorned with a theme from a different historical period. Lavish furnishings bring luster to the residence and some of the finest art and historical collections in Eastern and Central Europe are here: statuary, paintings, arms and armor, tapestries, and more. This is inarguably one of the world’s finest national monuments.

Today, Peleş Castle hosts a museum, but is also used for some functions organised by the Royal Family. Rooms open for viewing include the Imperial Suite, created in Austrian Baroque style for Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I and featuring a pristinely preserved 500-year-old Cordoban tooled leather wall cover. In the Grand Armory, 1,600 of the museum’s 4,000 pieces of weaponry are on display, including some used in Romania’s War of Independence. The Theatre is adorned in lavish Louis XIV style and boasts a mural signed by Gustav Klimt. In the Florentine Room, Italian Renaissance is the theme, accented with Michelangelo touches. The Moorish Salon exudes the decorative feel of North Africa and Spain and even has a marble fountain. And in the Turkish Parlour, izmir rugs, copperware, and silk-brocade wall coverings evoke a vibrant bazaar.

Peleş Castle is a true treasure from Romania’s past. We hope you will see it for yourself during our new Classic Romania itinerary!



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.



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.


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!


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!

Asia & PacificRegions

The Perks of Work: Essential Vietnam

If you’ve called our Gate 1 Australia reservations team there’s a good chance that you’ve spoken with the lovely Lynne. She has travelled all over the world, but this was her first trip to Vietnam, so we kept Lynne off the phone for long enough to ask her all about her recent Essential Vietnam tour.

Q: The big question first, what was your highlight of the tour?
A: Most definately our day cruise in Halong Bay, a UNESCO heritage site and declared recently as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

It was the perfect day and the beautiful emerald water surrounded by the limestone karsts was just amazing and the number of boats on the water was mind-boggling. We docked in one of the many coves and after a lot of stair climbing we accessed one of the many beautiful caves in the bay, absolutely stunning, and refreshing to get out of the heat!!

Lynne was lucky to see Halong Bay skies this blue!

Q: Did you discover anything about Vietnam that you didn’t know before your visit?
A: I learned so much about the communism takeover of Vietnam from our guides. Hearing from the locals about the Fall of Saigon in 1975 and the sad plight of those people attempting to escape Vietnam.

I was also facinated by the French influence in Vietnam, which is reflected in the architecture throughout Vietnam and the cultural diversity of the country.

Q: What was Tour Manager like?
A: Tran our Tour Manager was fantastic!!

He was very knowledgable, very organised and very entertaining with great one-liners – “Take a picture…take a picture…take a picture” in quick succession!

Always kept us well-informed with great commentary and history lessons whilst on the coach and during local city tours. He was great at unifying the group, even extending an invitation to join him for lunch and dinner outside his tour duties.

Q: What tips would you have for first-time travellers to Vietnam?
A: Have your camera on the ready for the many amazing sights you will see and be wary when crossing the streets as the scooter drivers there are crazy!

Q: What type of travellers would enjoy this trip?
A: Those who like to go off on their own…and explore. There is a lot of free time on this tour if you do not avail the Optional tours offered by Gate 1 Travel.

Alternatively you can take all the Optional Tours which will include local commentary of the areas your are visiting, coach transfers and some included meals ie: Mekong River was a Day trip which included coach transfer / boat trip / tour of local area / and lunch which was included in the tour price. Great value, really worthwhile to see more of Vietnam and very enjoyable.

You can find out more about 7 Day Essential Vietnam and our other Vietnam journeys by clicking here.

Latin America

Patagonia: Love, Feuds, Fossils & Treasures

With more options now to reach Chile and Argentina from Australia, Patagonia is within reach more than ever before. But if you’ve been worried that the world has run out of wild, unspoiled places, don’t fear, Patagonia is still as magnificent. Here, massive walls of granite huddle around emerald-green valleys. Crystalline waterfalls cascade into babbling brooks and rivers. Glaciers crawl into turquoise lakes, sculpting landscapes in their path.

It’s easy to forget that a rich history has unfolded in places of such beauty, that such a stunning backdrop has been a breathtaking stage to discovery and drama. In the spirit of insight that only Gate 1 Travel’s tours can provide, we’re delighted to share some of it with you here.

There Be Giants

Ferdinand Magellan first brought this splendid part of the world to Europe’s attention when he landed on its shores in 1520. No doubt the magnificent beauty of the land was breathtaking to him and his crew. But you might imagine that its towering rock massifs and labyrinthine waterways were a bit intimidating.

It’s believed that one of Magellan’s first human encounters was with the Tehuelches. Members of this indigenous tribe were much taller than the Europeans of Magellan’s day, and they wore oversized leather moccasins that left larger-than-life footprints on beaches and in marshes. Legend tells us that when the Spanish explorers first saw these footprints, they thought they had landed in a land of giants. They noted in their journals that they had discovered the land of patagón, or “big foot.” The name stuck, and even maps of the New World drawn up after those first voyages depicted this largely uncharted area as regio gigantum, or “region of the giants.”

Later expeditions proved that the indigenous people of this newfound land were not literal giants, though at 6-foot-6, they did tower over Europeans. Still, everything here is gargantuan and dwarfs any human, no matter their shoe size. Vast plains stretch to forever. Monolithic rock faces reach to the heavens. Glaciers advance and recede over landscapes like icy sloths. And serpentine waterways wind their way through it all, coursing past fertile shores and feeding forests of exotic lenga and coihue trees and ferns. It must have seemed a lost world to those first explorers, far removed from anything they had ever witnessed. And so it is for today’s travellers, too.

Darwin Explores and Europe Expands

Though known mostly for his Galapagos Islands exploration and subsequent theories of evolution, Charles Darwin spent his early days collecting and cataloguing rocks and local species in Patagonia. His colleague Robert Fitzroy — a scientist and vice admiral of the Royal Navy — had invited him in 1831 to accompany a voyage on the HMS Beagle to chart South America’s coast. During their time in Patagonia, the young Darwin not only gathered substantial insect and marine samples; he also became fascinated by fossils and explored inland with local gauchos to pursue his curiosities further.

While Darwin was busily collecting samples, Mapuche nomads (a collection of indigenous tribes) were migrating into Patagonia from the north. They settled throughout the region to raise cattle or — with Europeans gaining more control and more land — to steal cattle from settlers. As the decades unfolded, conflicts erupted, with concerns from Argentina that the Mapuche would ally themselves with Chile, which seemed more sympathetic to tribal causes. At one point, Argentina even dug a huge trench and erected watchtowers — a barricade known as the Zanja de Alsina — to deflect cattle raids on Buenos Aires.

By 1870, Chile had established its authority in the western half of Patagonia by founding the city of Punta Arenas. As for Argentina, tensions with the Mapuche rose to the point where they marched into the eastern regions and called them their own, a conflict known as the Conquest of the Desert. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 20th century that a firm Patagonian border was agreed to between Chile and Argentina; by then, the British had formed some Welsh settlements in search of gold. The Crown stepped in to mediate any remaining dispute.

Priceless Natural Treasures Preserved

The 20th century ushered in the modern development of Patagonia — though, truth be told, it remains one of the least developed parts of the world, thanks to both local and international preservation efforts. The Argentinean outpost town of El Calafate, once a place for wool traders to simply hang their hats for a few days, was officially founded in 1927 to bring attention to settlement opportunities in the region. To be sure, it must have been very tempting to live in such a pristine place, with Lago Argentino, the country’s largest freshwater lake, right outside your door.

Little did the locals know that just ten years later, in 1937, the Perito Moreno Glacier would attract international interest among the pre-war leisure set. As the crowds grew in number, it became clear that this unspoiled region was at risk, and so the Perito Moreno National Park was established. Its massive glacier spills into Lago Argentino and is a remarkable sight to behold: a glistening three miles wide and up to 240 feet tall, almost as high as a football field is long. It is the largest ice cap outside Antarctica and Greenland and is actually growing year to year.

Just across the border in Chile, the rock-wall massifs of Torres del Paine National Park reach to the sky like so many fingers. The world was introduced to these spectacularly jagged mountains by British travel writer Lady Florence Dixie, who in 1880 described three particular granite towers as “Cleopatra’s Needles.” She and her party could well have been the first foreign tourists to visit. You can be sure that many more followed, including curious scientists, geologists and adventurers. Since 1978, the park’s 700 square miles have been protected as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

Cleopatra’s Needles and the park’s countless other granite pillars form massive rings around the great Patagonian Steppe. Many have compared the visual effect of these natural walls to that of a mighty cathedral. One thing is certain: their transporting beauty is made more transcendent by the park’s azure lakes, emerald forests, thundering waterfalls, and ice-blue glaciers.

A History as Grand as its Setting

History, indeed, does whisper within this spectacular setting. We invite you to peel back its layers on a Gate 1 Travel journey into the remarkable region.

Learn more about our South American Glaciers, Forests & Lakes small group tour or explore Chile & Argentina with Patagonia’s Glaciers.


South Africa: Epic Beauty, Warm Cultures

The Rainbow Nation‘ only begins to describe the diverse splendours of South Africa. Staggering vistas, magnificent wildlife, a thriving viniculture, grand echoes of the colonial era, fascinating history and a beautiful and inspiring mix of people who speak eleven languages.

South Africa is also one of the most popular Gate 1 destinations with Australian travellers. If you’re looking for a travel experience that fills your senses and checks off every box on your list of travel must-haves, South Africa could be for you too!

Johannesburg, City of Gold

Johannesburg was founded as a gold mining town. Today it stands as the capital city of South Africa’s wealthiest province of Gauteng, which translates as ‘Place of Gold‘. But the city’s mining history has long, dark chapters – the darkest of which was the establishment of Soweto (South-Western Townships) as a township apart from its parent city of Jo-burg. The intent of the ruling white minority was to segregate native African mine workers into a ghetto of ramshackle huts.

It’s not surprising that two of the nation’s most outspoken anti-apartheid advocates lived in Soweto: Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Their former homes – Mandela’s also serving as a museum that traces his life’s history – are a highlight of any visit to Soweto. But there’s another thing that stands out in this township: Today, it is a diverse and active multi-class community. The city’s – and country’s – past is memorialised at the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum. Named for the 13-year old boy shot by police during a peaceful protest in 1976, it is a powerful museum that chronicles the country’s struggle to abolish apartheid and in particular the 1976 uprising and events surrounding the protests.

Sweeping, Spellbinding Beauty of the Northeast

It’s not only South Africa’s history that’s rich and stirring. Many vistas along the breathtaking Panorama Route evoke Eden itself. The 16-mile-long Blyde River Canyon, for instance, cuts through a lush landscape of towering monoliths skirted in green. By some accounts, it is one of the largest canyons on earth thanks to the dizzying heights of its red sandstone walls. The meeting of the Blyde River and the Treur River forms Bourke’s Luck Potholes, a series of dramatic waterfalls, plunge pools and cylindrical rock formations that have been sculpted over millennia. But perhaps the most dramatic vista, as its name implies, is God’s Window. This magnificent view, best seen on clear days, stretches forever, tracing the Drakensberg escarpment’s sheer cliffs that spill into the low veld.

While the Panorama Route reveals some of South Africa’s breathtaking landscapes, Kruger National Park is the country’s haven for an astounding array of wildlife. Kruger boasts some of the most spectacular game viewing on the planet and our Gate 1 guides always keep their eyes peeled for ‘The Big Five‘ – buffalo, rhino, elephant, lion and leopard.

Kruger, though it is South Africa’s most famous, is not the country’s only wildlife game reserve. In the northeastern reaches of the country, the Mabula Game Reserve immerses you in the quintessential Africa, with sightings of magnificent wildlife at close range. Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, a hilly reserve in northern KwaZulu Natal near South Africa’s east coast, also hosts a vast diversity of flora and fauna, and with its conservation efforts it can lay claim to the largest population of white rhino in the world. In the same province and closer to the Indian Ocean’s shores, the nearby St. Lucia Estuary harbours Nile crocodiles, hippos, sea turtles and even sharks, as Gate 1 travellers see firsthand on a safari cruise.

St Lucia Esturary

St Lucia Estuary ~ photo thanks to @nmbob1

Cultural Riches of the East

South Africa is the kind of country that keeps on giving. Even away from the safari circuit, it has wonders in store. In Port Elizabeth, perched on the Indian Ocean at one of the nation’s most southeasterly tips, take in the ambiance of ‘The Friendly City‘. The legacy of Britain lives large here: in the City Hall, in the old stone Fort Frederick and in the cricket grounds in St. George’s Park. Of course, South Africa’s culture lives larger: The city’s ‘Route 67‘ is a series of 67 public artworks, one for each year Nelson Mandela committed himself to winning his nation’s freedom.

Port Elizabeth is also renowned as the start of the Garden Route, a 300 km scenic drive that traces the coast all the way to Cape Town. One of the route’s highlights, Tsitsikamma National Park, traverses a stunning gorge. The seaside town of Knysna is a gateway to the scenic beauty of the Featherbed Nature Reserve. Accessible only by ferry, it is a stunning landscape of green and blue waters washing up on coffee-coloured sands and soaring emerald hills. Few experiences rival a walk through this paradise. More splendid vistas and memorable detours lead to Oudtshoorn. Known as the ‘Ostrich Capital of the World‘, it hosts the world’s largest population of the flightless bird, and there are ample opportunities to learn more about the town’s feathered friend.

Big Discoveries, Tiny Country

It’s easy to overlook Africa’s tiniest independent country, eSwatini, just 190 kms north to south and approximately 130 kms east to west. Formerly known as Swaziland, until King Mswati III made the change in April this year to avoid what he described as ongoing confusion with Switzerland, this modest country makes for a fascinating visit. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about eSwatini, ‘Land of the Swazis‘, is that it has such a wide variety of landscapes, from rainforests to mountains and savannas to canyons. But its culture is equally remarkable, with a centuries-old tradition of crafts that is honoured in today’s candle workshops and glassblowing studios.

Cape Town’s Cultural and Natural Treasures

Cape Town and its surrounding region may well showcase South Africa’s diverse culture and rugged beauty best. To be sure, the city itself with its splendid baroque City Hall, impressive Cathedral of St. George, and the cheery multi-hued houses of Bo-Kaap, is a delight to explore. Its star-shaped Castle of Good Hope is the world’s best-preserved example of a Dutch East India Company fort, originally built in 1666. But Cape Town’s natural surroundings take the breath away. The most ubiquitous natural wonder is Table Mountain, hovering over the city like a god. From its summit, views of the sterling city stretch to Table Bay, home to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent much of his time in prison. Another gem rests at the foot of Table Mountain, equal parts natural and manmade: the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. More than 7,000 indigenous species thrive here representing many different regions, from savanna to shrub-land fynbos.

The Cape Peninsula, which extends south into the Atlantic from Cape Town, offers dramatic seascapes and rugged coasts. Steep mountains spill into secluded coves and onto crescent, rock-lined beaches. The environment that’s evolved here – where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet, surf crashes into head-rock and wind whips at vegetation – has created a unique ecosystem worth preserving. The Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve does just that. Its 17,300 acres provide an undisturbed home for a rich diversity of flora and for more than 250 bird species. As for marine life, Boulders Beach is a cushy habitat for the African penguin, thanks to the calm waters of the sheltered cove.

Calmer waters don’t only host penguins here. They also support fishing villages like the town of Hout Bay. This charming enclave was originally founded by the Dutch for its timber rather than its fish. Another small town known as Simon’s Town enjoys a quiet spot on False Bay, earning it a place as the home of the South African Navy.

Chobe National Park Sunset ~ photo thanks to @davelaura

Add More of Africa for a Sweeping Adventure!

Southern Africa is overflowing with natural and cultural wonders. And when you travel this far, you’ll want to make the most of your airfare and reach beyond South Africa. To that end, we invite you to add Botswana and Zimbabwe to your adventure. They’re a short flight away from Johannesburg, but offer a magnificent beauty you won’t find anywhere else. In Botswana, marvel at the secluded splendour and astonishing wildlife of Chobe National Park, home to the densest concentration of elephants in Africa. At the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe witness one of nature’s most awe-inspiring spectacles, Victoria Falls. Here, thundering cataracts that send untold millions of gallons of water into a precipitous gorge.

Or venture with us to Namibia, home to some of the most starkly beautiful landscapes on the planet, not to mention abundant marine life. A catamaran cruise takes you out into the lagoon and the wetlands to mingle with flamingos, dolphins, and more while a 4×4 safari brings you into the towering dunes that face the coast. And in the Namib Desert, you’ll witness surreal landscapes, spectacular sunsets and incredible wildlife that has adapted to the harsh environment. A highlight here are the enormous dunes that look tall as mountains. The German-flavoured city of Windhoek puts you back in touch with civilisation.

Experience South Africa with Gate 1 Travel!

Join Gate 1 Travel in South Africa and experience firsthand its unrivalled natural beauty, warm and welcoming culture, and fantastic wildlife. And here’s another reason to travel here with Gate 1: the value of our tours to South Africa cannot be matched by other companies.

There is no better time to experience the Rainbow Nation for yourself. We hope you’ll join us!

Asia & PacificRegions

The Perks of Work: India’s Golden Triangle

India is colourful, chaotic and extremely charismatic. It’s a heady blend of life at its most vivacious, yet the thought of venturing to this very foreign land can come with mixed emotions for some travellers – everything from trepidation and excitment, to fear and fascination.

For Gate 1’s own David Bird, India has been high on his wish list for years, so we quizzed him about his recent 8 Day Golden Triangle of India and from the sounds of it, his first trip to India won’t be his last!

Q: What were you looking forward to doing most in India?
A: Visiting the Taj Mahal and Amber Fort were on the top of my list. Probably like many other travellers, I was excited to see in real life these iconic sights that I’ve watched in documentaries and learned about at school.

Q: Did India live up to expectations?
A: India exceeded my expectations. Beautiful scenery, delicious food and warm, friendly people. It wasn’t anywhere near as intimidating as I thought it might be and I was travelling solo, so it was even more fun to be enjoying it all with the new friends in our group.

Q: What was the highlight of the trip?
A: Taj Mahal was a highlight by far. The Taj was even more spectacular in real life and was not over crowded, with plenty of space and time to walk around the site and gardens and take some amazing photos. One thing I noticied is it’s the little things, like planning our visit at the best time of day, that make Gate 1 stand out from the crowd.

Q: What was your tour manager like?
A: Our tour manager, Bhanu, was fantastic. He was very informative and nothing was too much trouble for him. Bhanu offered plenty of opportunities for the group to ask questions and informed the group of Indian culture and history while on the coach journeys between cities. Everyone commented on how wonderful Bhanu was and one of the couples even booked another Gate 1 trip while they were on the tour, because they loved the experience so much!

Q: What type of travellers would enjoy the Golden Triangle tour?
A: Travellers of all ages with a sense of adventure would really enjoy this trip. The tour offered the perfect mix of included sightseeing and free time to explore on your own. The hotels were all of a high standard with all the creature comforts and close to shopping and restaurants. I think that the way you are looked after by Gate 1 takes the hassle out of travelling in India. You get to learn more about the local culture and history, but at the same time enjoy the comfort of modern coaches and relaxing in great hotels. I can’t wait to go back to India and explore some more, maybe in the south or combine it with Nepal.

Q: Before we let you go, you know there’s one question everyone asks, did you get sick on the trip?
A: You’re right, it’s often the first thing friends ask when they find out you’ve been to India. The answer: No. We all enjoyed trying the local food but I don’t think any of us got sick. Maybe we can thank Bhanu for pointing us in the right direction for food stalls or it was just good fortune, but I wouldn’t let worrying about your stomach put you off going to India!

If you’re thinking of tours in India you can browse our website for a whole range of options to suit your preferred travel style and budget. Call 1300 653 618 if you have any questions and we look forward to welcoming you to India soon!

G1 Photo FridayLatin AmericaRegions

The Magic of Tikal, Guatemala

The Mayan people left a huge mark on parts of Central America through their culture, food and society. Tikal, Guatemala is one of the greatest Mayan ruin sites in all of Central America and is now a great source of pride and a national symbol to the people of Guatemala.

Tikal is thought to have flourished around 200 – 850 A.D. and was abandoned thereafter. This enchanting complex houses such sites as Tikal Temple I, or the Temple of the Grand Jaguar, Tikal Temple IV and Mundo Perdido Pyramid.CZfZ56YWwAQnOfc

This week’s #g1photofriday was uploaded by user @ericsatisky using the hashtag #gate1travel. Be sure to tag your photos on social media with #gate1travel or #g1photofriday to be featured. Check out Gate 1 Travel’s Guatemala trips here!

Paella cooking class in Barcelona

The Best Recipe for Spain’s Most Famous Dish

One of the joys of travel is coming home with a greater appreciation of other cultures, their traditions and their food – and where better to throw yourself into the gastronomic delights of a region than in Spain!

Gate 1 Travel’s Discovery small group tour, 14 Day France & Spain: History, Culture & Wine, offers an intoxicating blend of these two delicious countries and in Barcelona you get to enjoy a truly memory foodie exeperience – you get to take part in a step-by-step paella cooking class to prepare a meal in a relaxed and enjoyable environment. Then for lunch, savour your own creation!

This photo by Tom Regner was his Gate 1 group in action and in his words “It was so much fun!”

Paella cooking class in Barcelona

This internationally-renowned Spanish dish could also be considered an equality trail blazer in the kitchen, because traditionally it was prepared by men. The male of the household would often cook up this dish on a Sunday to give his wife a day off from cooking!

If you can’t wait until you get to Spain for an authentic cooking class, then here’s a traditional receipe that you might want to try this weekend and imagine yourself eating it in Barcelona, or Valencia, where it originated.

Paella a la Maestre – from Australia’s favourite adopted Spaniard, Miguel Maestre:
​Serves 3-4

500g marinara mix (mussels, fish, calamari, prawns, scallops)
Splash of extra virgin olive oil
500ml chicken stock
220g Bomba rice (short grain Spanish rice)
50g fresh or frozen peas
1 lemon, cut into wedges, to serve
½ bunch chives, garnish
Aioli and Sangria, to serve

For the sofrito:
2 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
6 piquillo peppers
4 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
½ bunch parsley
1 bunch chives
25ml extra virgin olive oil
1 pinch saffron threads
1 tbsp smoked paprika

To make the sofrito, place all the sofrito ingredients in a food processor and process until chunky. If you don’t have a food processor, roughly chop the tomatoes and piquillo peppers and finely chop the garlic, parsley and chives then combine with other sofrito ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Place a 30-centimetre-wide frying pan or paella pan over a high heat. Add the marinara mix with a splash of extra virgin olive oil and cook for one minute. Add sofrito and cook for a further three minutes. Add chicken stock and bring to the boil. Stir in rice and bring to a simmer on medium to low heat for 15 minutes until stock has absorbed.

Add peas and cook for a further two minutes to achieve “soccarrada” (crust on the bottom of the pan).

Season to taste with salt and garnish with chives. Squeeze over lemon juice just before serving. Serve with aioli and sangria, the Spanish way. Ole!


Why River Cruising is Still Top of Travel Wish Lists

Imagine you’re a first-time traveller to Europe and want a hassle-free introduction to regional highlights. Or maybe you’ve been to Europe before but love the idea of seemlessly moving from one fabulous destination to another, without spending precious holiday hours on trains, planes or autobahns. Those reasons, and many more, are why river cruising is still such a popular way to explore Europe!

Gate 1 Travel’s 2018 European river cruise season is almost fully booked, but the good news is 2019 is on sale now and you can take advantage of unbeatable early booking prices – plus with Gate 1 there are no big up front payments, just the regular deposit of $300 per person locks in your savings.

Just like our land tours, our luxurious cruises on the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers offer the high standard that you’d expect from Gate 1, but without the hefty price tags that other cruise companies demand. Now is the time to start planning your 2019 river cruise to have your choice of cabins at fantastic early bird rates!

Gate 1 Travel’s Exclusive River Ships
In 2019 we are expanding our fleet to include five magnificent river cruisers. The Monarch Empress, Monarch Countess and Monarch Governess will sail amidst the stunning canvas of colours along Holland’s waterways in Spring 2019.

After the height of the tulip season, the Monarch Empress, Monarch Princess and Monarch Duchess will introduce travellers to the romantic waters of the Danube, sailing between Vilshofen and Budapest.

The Monarch Countess will explore the lilting waters of Germany’s Rhine River between Basel and Amsterdam and you can board the Monarch Empress, Monarch Governess or Monarch Duchess on our most popular 14-night sailings along the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers between Amsterdam and Budapest.

Monarch Empress bar

Monarch Empress – with plenty of space to socialise

Deluxe MS Monarch Empress
The deluxe 5 star Monarch Empress, which debuted in April 2016, is the first European river ship built and operated by Gate 1. On the Monarch Empress, you’ll enjoy some of the most spacious and comfortable accommodations on Europe’s rivers, no matter which cabin category you’re sailing in. Cabins range in size from 140 to 210 square feet and feature soothing blue and white interiors, cherry wood accents and top-of-the-line furnishings. Eighty percent of the cabins also offer French balconies, providing private views of the stunning riverbanks. Other state-of-the-art amenities include a sundeck lounge, a generously sized library, a dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows and a lift to whisk passengers between decks. What’s more, we fully control the quality of your experience. The MS Monarch Empress is staffed by Gate 1, with Tour Managers, waitstaff, chefs, housekeepers and more all committed to ensuring you have the most memorable experience on Europe’s waterways.

Monarch Princess – cabins on all our ships offer the choice of twin or double bed configuration

MS Monarch Princess
Built in 2009, this sleek and modern first class river ship offers all the creature comforts of a floating hotel. Monarch Princess has a maximum capacity of 138 passengers, with 67 outside cabins and 2 suites of 172 – 258 square feet. On the sun deck you’ll be able to watch the world go by as you soak in the jacuzzi or relax on the lounges. From your cabin, the charming villages and rolling hills of Europe come to you when you open your floor-to-ceiling windows, available in all cabins on the Royal and Sapphire Decks. Each cabin is equipped with flat screen TV, direct dial telephone, built-in safe, individual climate control and hairdryer.

Monarch Duchess, Monarch Countess and Monarch Governess – all have a stunning sun deck to enjoy the best views

MS Monarch Countess, MS Monarch Governess and MS Monarch Duchess
In 2019, the MS Monarch Countess, MS Monarch Governess and MS Monarch Duchess join Gate 1’s fleet of exclusively-chartered first class river cruise vessels. Built in 2010, with a maximum capacity of 136 passengers, these almost identical sister ships feature 64 spacious outside cabins and 4 suites (172-258 sq ft) each fully air-conditioned with private bathroom facilities, hairdryer, safe, telephone, mini-fridge and flat screen TV.

Gate 1’s new ships all have spacious cabins – with French balconies in Cabins A, B, C and D

In 2019, choose from cruising the romantic Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers, or from March to May enjoy a Tulip Time cruise around Holland and Belgium. Click here to see the full list of 2019 river cruise packages in Europe!