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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!

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.

Uganda mountain gorillas

Breathless in Bwindi: Meeting the Last of the Great Apes

Deep in the dense jungles that skirt Uganda’s western Rift Valley, you follow the footsteps of your primate-specialist guides. All is quiet in this lush primeval world, the last remaining habitat of the mountain gorilla.

There are only about 350 mountain gorillas left in this vast expanse of misty protected land. But you have faith that your long hike will pay off, because you are in the hands of experts who intimately know the behaviour and routines of these gentle beasts. You have been reminded, too, that the families you are seeking have become more used to human presence. Far from intruding on their territory, you are merely paying them a visit. So you persist, silently and meditatively losing yourself to the rhythm of your boots falling on the forest floor.

Then, a rustle in the bush, a soft crackling. Your guide raises his hand for you to stop and be still. Through the thicket of ferns and vines and past a cluster of trees, you see her dark form. You catch glimpses of thick black hair rising and falling as she reaches into the foliage for a snack. She pays you no mind as she sits on her haunches. There must be others around, you think to yourself, just as you hear more rustling farther up the slope. But your eyes dart back as she tugs at a branch, revealing the leather-like patina of her face: deep, sunken eyes, protruding snout, rounded jaw around pencil-thin lips. As she plucks at the leaves, she looks straight into your eyes.

It has been said that when you look at a mountain gorilla, you are in essence looking at yourself. No matter how you feel about the idea that humans are descendants of the great apes, there is no denying the mirror that they hold up to us. That is largely why the threat to their very existence (poaching has decreased their total numbers to just 700) is so alarming. And why Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, works vigilantly to protect those that remain.

Make no mistake: though the realm of the mountain gorillas may not be impenetrable, it does present the visitor with some challenging terrain. You might walk for just an hour before spotting a family, or you might trek for several hours. It all puts a fine point on what a privilege it is to be in their presence…and on their turf.

But what a trek it is! This is thick African jungle, a tropical rainforest unlike any other. As you walk, you may encounter any of the 120 mammal species from bushbuck to forest elephants, as well as 23 endemic species of birds or vervet and colobus monkeys cavorting in canopy overhead. Even chimpanzees have been spotted here, though you are more likely to see them in Kibale National Park, which your itinerary also visits.

Join Gate 1 Travel’s new 10 Day Uganda Wildlife Exploration, a Discovery Tours small group adventure, for your chance to have a once-in-a-lifetime close encounter with the magnificent mountain gorillas of Bwindi. Extend your incredible African experience to take in the famed Samburu and Masai Mara National Reserves on 19 Day Kenya & Uganda Wildlife Exploration.


Turin: One of Italy’s Secret Gems

Equally elegant and hip, the Piedmont capital of Turin is one of Italy’s most surprising cities. Fanciful tree-lined avenues lead to art deco cafes and Renaissance, baroque, rococo, and neoclassical facades. Splendid art galleries and opera houses serve as the cherished repositories of northern Italian culture. And public squares, neatly tended gardens, stately castles and grand palaces that were built between the 16th and 18th centuries recall Turin’s heyday as the glittering capital of the House of Savoy. Gate 1 Travel’s new Discovery Tour, Cinque Terre, Parma, Bologna & Lakes, unveils its many treasures.

Turin was built on the prosperity of the House of Savoy, the longest ruling dynasty in all of Europe (1003 to 1946). The scope of their territory ebbed and flowed over the course of their reign, comprising lands that today straddle the borders of Italy, France and Switzerland and at various points stretching to Sicily, Sardinia, Spain, and other parts of Italy. During much of that time, their power was concentrated here, in Turin, and their legacy endures.

A glimpse at the Royal Palace of Turin, built in the 1500s under the Savoys, gives you an idea of how much power the dynasty wielded. This magnificent baroque building on the Piazza Castello is a splendid showcase of tapestries, historic weaponry and stunning Chinese and Japanese vases. Most notably, the famous Shroud of Turin – the linen cloth believed to bear the image of Jesus – is housed in the palace’s Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. This historic treasure was in the Savoys’ possession from 1453 to 1946.

But Turin holds more – many more – royal remnants, and they have jointly been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site as the “Residences of the Royal House of Savoy.” You will see another, the Palazzo Madama, adjacent to the Royal Palace. This grand structure with its ornate façade was the seat of the first Senate of the Italian Kingdom.

Turin’s many piazzas evoke the spirit of those found in Rome – they are at once grand and gracious and utterly designed for Italian citizens. Piazza San Carlo, the most popular, has been called the “Italian Living Room” for the many events that are staged here, including segments from the 2006 Winter Olympics, when the city hosted the Games. Nearby, Piazza Carol Alberto is another point of pride for the Torinesi: it hosts the prestigious National Library, the former apartment of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, and an imposing equestrian statue of King of Sardinia, Carlo Alberto of Savoy.

Today, Turin is known to many Italians as the “Cradle of Italian Liberty” as it was the birthplace of many who contributed to Italian unification. It is also celebrated as the home of car manufacturer Fiat and since 1964 has been home to the internationally-renowned choc-hazelnut spread, Nutella.

Uncover Italy’s remarkable city of surprises with our new Cinque Terre, Parma, Bologna & Lakes small group tour!


Top 10 Things to Discover in Belgium, Netherlands & Luxembourg

Welcome to the region of Northwestern Europe known as Benelux, named for the union of three neighbouring countries; Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg. This area of world is known for its landscapes, Dutch culture, medieval towns and, of course, tulips in the spring!

The area’s prime languages are Dutch in the Netherlands and French in Brussels-Flower_Carpet-ContrastBelgium and Luxembourg. In Benelux you will find famous towns and cities that have a local culture dating back centuries. History buffs, travel junkies and thrill seekers alike will love this part of Europe thanks to its diversity in culture, foods and activities. We have compiled the can’t miss cities, towns and foods of Benelux for your next trip to the area!

10. Grand Place, Brussels
We will get to the city where the Grand Place is located later in the list, but we wanted to highlight one of the spots that you cannot miss while travelling to Brussels, Belgium. The Grand Place or Grote Markt is the picturesque, ornately decorated central square in Brussels. The square is made up of guildhalls, the Town Hall, and the King House that contains the Museum of the City of Brussels. This square is truly unforgettable and will be one of your favourite spots to photograph on your trip. We suggest going at night, in addition to daylight, to see it all lit up and with people strolling around the square.

9. Bruges
Bruges is a fairy-tale town in Belgium that borders the North Sea. Bruges is a must visit with beautiful canals, medieval architecture and meandering streets. Things to do while in normal (1)the city include the Markt, or town centre, the Belfry of Bruges, which provides you with an excellent view of the city, and chocolate shops! You will find some of the world’s best chocolate in this town, so it’s the place to indulge and stock up! This town is very walk-able and is excellent for a stroll at nighttime after dinner. You will see all these beautiful medieval buildings lit up while the safe cobbled streets of Bruges line your way.

8. Vollendam – Cheese and Clogs
Vollendam is a small town just outside of Amsterdam that has great things for tourists and taste buds alike! This fishing village is your gateway to many of the things that you think of when you hear the word “Dutch”. Cheese, windmills, bonnets and clogs can all be bought here and you may even see some locals that still wear this attire everyday. If you are a cheese lover, this is the perfect place to sample some of the countries most famous cheeses and even try something different.

7. Chocolates
Chocolates are something the entire world enjoys and there is no better place to buy some then in the Benelux region. The best places to buy chocolate on your trip are in Brussels and Bruges. In Brussels you will find four delicious shops right in its main square, the Grand Place, on its north side. Godiva, Neuhaus, Galler and Leonidas can all be found here. If you aren’t sure what to buy here, purchase a six-piece 100-gram mix of these delicious delights to get your taste buds going. Bruges also has an array of places to buy tasty Chocolates; Dumon, The Chocolate Line, BbyB and Confiserie de Clerck, to name a few.

6. Bastogne – Battle of the Bulge
Welcome to one of the most important battlefields of WWII; Bastogne, Belgium, where the Battle of the Bulge took place. This battle is where U.S. forces fought against retreating Germans and was the bloodiest fought by the U.S. in all of WWII. In Bastogne you will find the War Museum which covers WWII in its entirety and the somber resting place of hundreds of thousands of soldiers from both the Allied and German sides. Make sure to view the Mardasson Memorial, a memorial honouring the American soldiers wounded or killed during this battle.

5. Anne Frank House
The Anne Frank House is located in a city further down on our list, but it is worth its own spot because of its historical importance and message. The museum is in the actual house that the Franks lived in while their family was Classical Amsterdam viewforced to go into hiding from the Nazis. The home still has the bookcase through which the annex where they hid is located. Throughout the house are excerpts from Anne’s diary, information about the war and the details of the persecution the Jewish people went through leading up to and during World War II. The museum is a harrowing experience to say the least but it is so well-done that every tourist and local should make the visit.

4. Luxembourg
Welcome to the “Grand Duchy” of Luxembourg, meaning that the territory is ruled by a grand duke or duchess, the last of its kind in the entire world! This country is one of the smallest in the world but don’t let the size fool you, it is the richest country in all of Europe. Stop in this tiny little country and visit the U.S. Military Cemetery from WWII and pay your respects to those who died for our country in the bloodiest war ever fought.

3. French Fries
French Fries are always a good idea and people from Belgium will let you know that they are in fact a Belgian dish! Some of the best french fries you will find will be in Brussels. This city is known for this delicious fare and it is the perfect excuse to make a meal out of this snack. Some of the best places to find fries in Belgium include Fritland, Frit Flagey, Maison Antoine, Friterie du Miroir and many others. Have your fries with the perfect sauce and a cold Belgian beer and you will be in culinary heaven.

2. Brussels
Brussels is a primarily French-speaking city loaded with history, architecture, art and culture. While here it is very important to enjoy some local delights that you may already know that you enjoy; chocolates, french fries, waffles, beers and mussels. While in Brussels, make sure to visit some of the famous landmarks and sites including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Grand Place, Manneken Pis Statue, the Atomium and Mini-Europe. Discover one of the most underrated cities in the world and enjoy all Brussels has to offer.

1. Amsterdam
Amsterdam is one of the most exciting cities in the world. It has everything; culture, food, beer, shopping, art, friendly people and even picturesque canals around the city. The city has great transportation and you can travel freely around the city using buses, Amsterdam Holland_1111_dt_5651561trams and metros. Some of the best things to do in Amsterdam include a canal cruise, Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum, Red Light District and the Flower Market. One of the best parts of travel is food, so while in Amsterdam you must try street waffles, bitterballen, beer, raw herring, Dutch licorice and Indonesian Rijstaffel, which is an array of small Indonesian dishes that were first invented to let colonials sample traditional dishes. Most importantly, have a great time in one of our favourite cities in the world!


The Perks of Work: Travel in Iceland

Iceland is a travel destination that has grown in popularity over the last few years, and for good reason. Adventure, natural beauty and local culture make it the perfect new destination to explore!

Candice, from our Gate 1 Travel Marketing team, discovered Iceland in January and after this Q&A highlighting her experience, you’ll probably feel like the rest of us in the office and be ready to pack your bags and see this captivating country for yourself!

Q: Why did you choose the Iceland trip and what had you heard about these places that made you decide to visit?
A: Seeing the Northern Lights and swimming in the Blue Lagoon were on my Bucket List, and Iceland is a place where I could potentially do both, so this trip was perfect.

Blue LagoonQ: Iceland is becoming one of the most popular international travel destinations, how was that reflected in your trip?
A: There were tour buses and tourists in most of the spots we visited, but it did not feel crowded at all. The bars, restaurants and city streets were not crowded either. The airport is very small so it felt a little full because of its size and the amount of people that want to visit the country! Other than the airport, it was very easy to get around.

Q: What were some of the highlights of your trip?
I wanted to be sure to go swimming in the Blue Lagoon while it was still dark out. It was amazing to see the mist and steam coming off of the water, then to watch the Gulfoss Falls2progression as the sun rose. I also wanted to get an in-water massage while snow was falling on my face. I then drank champagne immediately after in the lagoon, which was definitely a highlight! Gullfoss Falls were so beautiful and incredible to see as well.

Q: What was your favourite location on the trip?
I would have to say the Blue Lagoon because it was a lot of fun and gorgeous setting at the same time. I also enjoyed roaming around the streets of Reykjavik, which are very walk-able, and peeking into the shops. I loved wandering around the neighbourhoods to see how the Icelandic locals live and move around their city.

Q: Did you enjoy the food and try any dishes that you felt were very authentic?
I loved my last meal in Iceland at Sægreifinn. It was very picturesque and I loved that it was right by the Seaborrn2water. It also has a cozy, fisherman’s feel inside and their lobster soup was delicious. I also enjoyed the caramelized popcorn and avocado fries at Sætasvínið, a delicious hot dog with onions two-ways from Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur and the Fisherman’s Stew at Icelandic Street Food.

Q: How was the shopping and did you visit anywhere specifically great for shopping?
I didn’t do much shopping at all. I did purchase a lava rock necklace to put my essential oils in. I purchased birch, volcanic ash, glacier ice soap, and dried fish treats to bring home as a souvenir. Also, Icelandic beer!

Icelandic Street FoodQ: What travel tips would you give to someone preparing to go on this trip? 
Save up – the food and beverages are expensive in Iceland because most things are imported. Also, make sure to pack layers, as you can experience all four seasons on some days, especially if going in the winter and going on excursions. Try and visit a natural geothermal pool, such as the Secret Lagoon, so you can experience both a smaller more private pool in addition to the Blue Lagoon. Book excursions, but don’t be disappointed if they are cancelled. The weather in Iceland during the winter is very finicky and weather conditions may affect what you’re able to do while you’re there, but if you go with the flow it’s still a fantastic experience at that time of year.

ChurchQ: How did you prepare for this trip?
I packed warm clothing (wool socks, fleece undershirts and leggings, hand and feet warmers, etc.). I also set proper expectations regarding spending money while in Iceland, and was ready to have a good time!

Q: Would you go back to Iceland and would you recommend this trip to family/friends?

Q: What did you feel was the overall theme of your trip?
Winter – Snow, ice, wind, sleet and clouds. But it made everything so beautiful and authentically Icelandic!


Gate 1’s New River Cruise Ships for 2019

The 2018 European river cruise season is just about to set sail, but if you’re hoping to find a spare cabin it will be slim pickings. We’ve had unprecedented demand for our river cruises this year, thanks to us offering the high standard that you’d expect from Gate 1, but without the hefty price tags that other cruise companies demand. So the take-away from this: now is the time to start planning your 2019 river cruise to have your choice of cabins and take advantage of 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!


Northern Italy: Where Rich Gastronomies Flavour Everyday Life

If you think Tuscany has the last word on Italian cuisine, think again. The nation’s less-visited regions to the north – Lombardy, Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna – boast their own bounty of mouthwatering, fresh-from-the-earth specialties. Journey with us on our new Cinque Terre, Parma, Bologna & Lakes small-group tour and you can sample them to your heart’s – and your appetite’s – content.

Lake Maggiore straddles Italy’s Lombardy and Piedmont provinces. Ringed by alpine vistas, the country’s second largest lake enjoys a mild climate that is ideal for Mediterranean gardens that yield abundant crops. This comes as no surprise when you learn that many of Europe’s standard agricultural policies were formulated in 1958 in Stresa, the charming town situated on the lakeshore and your home for two nights.

Throughout your stay, one of the region’s most significant sources of food is spread out before your very eyes: Lake Maggiore itself. People have been living off its bounty for generations, and nowhere is this more pronounced than on Isola dei Pescatori, or Fisherman’s Island, the tiny island that is named after the vocation of its inhabitants. Here, the lake still provides and the fishermen still head out each day and deliver their catch to local restaurants. And restaurants still serve some of the freshest fish you will likely taste. It is a joy not only to sample simple yet special dishes for lunch here, but to witness a culture that seems to have been lost to the passage of time.

A bit farther west, the expansive farmlands and vineyards of Piedmont gently roll toward Switzerland to the north and France to the west. It took the rest of the world a while to catch up with this agrarian-focused region: it has been living the “slow food” movement for decades. This is the land of rice, vineyards and cattle. Water-soaked rice fields here might make you think you’ve stepped into an Asian nation but make no mistake, this is the stuff of risotto, Italy’s creamy and heavenly dish. The area’s farms also produce some of the finest cuts of beef, perfect for the boiled-meat dishes, bollito misto and vitello tonato.

Piedmont is also renowned as one of Italy greatest wine-growing regions, with more than half of its vineyard registered with a DOC designation. The legendary Nebbiolo grape is native to Piedmont and is said to be named for that which makes it so unique: Nebbia means “fog” in English and during harvest season a thick mist settles over the Langhe region where the grapes are grown. Famously, the Nebbiolo grape produces the revered Barolo wine. Cherasco, La Morra, Barbaresco, and Neive are also made here – each coming from an eponymous town.

In your small group, you have the chance to linger in local cellars to learn how some coveted wines are made. But none will be so impressive as one of the “cathedral cellars” of Canelli, birthplace of Italy’s famed sparkling wine, Asti. These cellars were designed to hold millions of fermenting bottles and are so central to the local culture that they are being considered for UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

Nearby in the region of Emilia-Romagna, one of Italy’s richest gastronomies flavours everyday life. Pasta dishes take centre stage here and roll off the tongue as easily as they slide down the gullet: tortellini, lasagna, tagliatelle, garganelli, strozzapreti. In Modena and Reggio Emilia, the world’s finest balsamic vinegar is made to the strictest procedures bound by law. The beloved specialty is made from grape must and the most exquisite bottles are aged for 25 years or more. There is no more succulent way to enjoy it than with two other specialties of the area: Parmesan cheese from Parma and prosciutto from a local farm, which you will have the chance to do.

The centre of Emilia-Romagna’s food scene is Bologna, the region’s capital. One visit and you will know one thing for certain: The Bolognesi people know how to eat. Aside from its vibrant arts and music scene – the city was the European Capital of Culture in 2000 and was named a UNESCO City of Music in 2006 – its citizens enormously benefit from their city’s location in the fertile Po River Valley. Bolognese sauce was invented here and the custard-like torta di riso is a favourite way to end any meal. You can browse the fresh ingredients of one of Europe’s most celebrated cuisines at the Quadrilatero, Bologna’s oldest food market. Traditional shops abound here. As you explore you will be regaled with stories from the market’s rich history and culture and sample a delicious array of specialties. Among them, savour small plates known as cicchetti, the Venetian answer to Spanish tapas.

Of course, one cannot wrap up a foodie tour of northern Italy without sipping its famous sparkling wine, prosecco. Though this lovely wine originated in its namesake village outside Trieste on the Slovenian border, it is enjoyed throughout northern Italy, either on its own or as part of a spritz cocktail. We’ll be sure you raise a glass of it as we toast the culinary treasures you’ve enjoyed during our new 11 Day Cinque Terre, Parma, Bologna & Lakes tour!

For more tasty travel inspiration, please browse our full selection of Italy tours!

Great Wall of China
Asia & PacificRegions

China: From Monumental Sites to Pandas & Astounding Cities

When it comes to sheer size, China tips the scales. Just think of it: in all the world, it boasts the longest man-made structure, the greatest concentration of skyscrapers, the largest hydroelectric dam, the vastest public square. To say nothing of a palace complex of 9,000 rooms!

China is one of the most captivating and compelling places on Earth. Gate 1 Travel helps you get to the heart of its history, its traditions and its people – and, yes, its epic architectural achievements.

You’ll stroll the quiet lanes of Beijing’s ancient hutong neighbourhoods. Walk Shanghai’s historic Bund, with colonial edifices to one side and the futuristic skyline of the Pudong on the other. Sail the magnificent Yangtze River through its three famously scenic gorges. Gaze in awe at the forest of skyscrapers that is Hong Kong. And so much more. All with Gate 1’s expert guides who know the nation they call home like no one else.

Dazzling Megacities

To gain an understanding of how China’s past, present and future are interwoven, a good place to begin – or three good places – would be its dominant cities: Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, each of which has its own character and story to tell.

Beijing is monumental, literally. The city is home to 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, among them some of the world’s greatest treasures. The Forbidden City is no longer forbidden to anyone: after 500 years of turning guests away from the world’s largest palace complex, China now invites all to see the wonders of the stunning 178-acre complex encircled by two miles of fortified wall. Over time, 24 emperors lived in these 90 palaces, composed of 980 buildings and almost 9,000 rooms. As if that weren’t enough to boggle the mind, it rests on the largest public square in the world, Tiananmen, a massive acreage that salutes the grandiosity of China’s past and present.

The little sibling to that royal complex is the Summer Palace, built for the hottest months when the Forbidden City complex felt too stifling. A small pond and reservoir were joined, widened and dredged, yielding a sparkling 540-acre lake big enough for royal navy vessels to run drills upon. The dredged soil from the lake was used to make the adjacent Longevity Hill, a 200-foot slope crowned with palaces, pavilions, temples and gardens. To this day, it remains, as intended, one of Beijing’s loveliest locales, a brilliant collaboration of man, nature and time.

Just a short drive outside the city, the Great Wall undulates over sloping hills like a serpent. It is the longest man-made structure in the world and, though claims that it can be seen from space are debatable, its imposing ramparts will surely impress you as much as the ancient marauders it was intended to keep out.

Whereas Beijing calls to mind the glories of the past, Shanghai is decidedly a snapshot of the future. While the city is certainly known for its gems that date back to previous eras – such as the verdant Yuyuan Garden from the Ming Dynasty and the elegant colonial architecture of the Bund – it is Shanghai’s jaw-dropping new skyline that may leave you speechless.

Viewed across the Huangpu River, the Pudong neighbourhood boasts a dizzying array of striking, colourful towers. Shanghai Tower, the biggest of the lot, is the second tallest skyscraper on earth. But height is only one way that this metropolis dazzles: The Orient Pearl looks like a stacking toy of ever-smaller glass beads, while the sinuous Financial Centre is a modernist masterwork; even the low-slung Ocean Aquarium impresses passers-by with its flamboyant shark-fin wings.

Hong Kong knows a thing or two about showing off its skyline too: more buildings scrape the sky here than in any other city on earth, with more than 270 rising 500 feet or more. Within those glittering towers are some of the world’s most highly acclaimed restaurants, 64 of which have Michelin stars, and bespoke tailors fitting the fashionistas of Asia and beyond. But it is not all city here. Hong Kong means ‘fragrant harbour’, a reminder that nature – not metropolitan life – still holds the upper hand. More than 70% of Hong Kong is comprised of islands, mountains, parks and caves. No matter where you are in the city proper, you’re just a tram ride away from a daylong hike in a green parkland with ocean views.

Inland Treasures and a Spellbinding River

Xian was the final stop on the Silk Road and China’s capital for 12 dynasties, including the Ming era, which gave the city its still-standing fortified walls. But the single most powerful draw for visitors is its immobilised army of 8,000 Terra Cotta soldiers and horses. Crafted by hand, this vast military consort attended the final resting place of the first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. Arrayed in neat rows, these enigmatic soldiers remained underground from the 3rd century until their excavation in 1974. Remarkably, each one was carved with a distinct expression, hairstyle, armour and footwear. They have captured the global imagination, eclipsing the fame of the ruler they were meant to honour.

The stars of Chengdu are less numerous but perhaps even more beloved. The 80 pandas at the Giant Panda Research Centre have become envoys for China, a source of pride as well as concern as the worldwide population of wild pandas has fallen to under 2,000. While visitors also absorb the fascinating architecture of Qin Dynasty-era Jinli Street and marvel at the 213-foot stone Buddha in nearby Leshan, it is these endangered ambassadors of the mountains which have become the face not only of Chengdu, but of China.

The nation’s life blood is the Yangtze River, the world’s third-longest river. Navigating the east-flowing ribbon of water on a river cruise is the only way to truly experience the legendary, dramatic scenery that unfolds around its banks. As you sail through the three mesmerising gorges of Xiling, Wu and Qutang, watched over by the fabled Twelve Peaks and fantastic rock formations towering above, you’ll wind past tiny villages, soaring cliffs, verdant groves and terraced hillsides. It is hard not to fall under the timeless spell of the slow-moving current and the ethereal, embracing landscapes that guide it.

The Yangtze, though a beloved symbol of China, was often prone to massive flooding. Through the ages, thousands lost their lives and their villages to a seasonal deluge. Today, the waters are tamed by the gargantuan Three Gorges Dam project, a fascinating highlight of cruising this incredible river.

Resting easy in China

No one does China like Gate 1. Our knowledgeable guides use their longtime contacts to open doors to you that other travellers miss and introduce you to China’s most remarkable resource: its people. We’ve handpicked the best local accommodations for your journey to ensure your comfort. And our Yangtze River cruise unfolds aboard a five-star cruise ship purpose-built for the river, boasting roomy cabins and impeccable service. Best of all, we take care of all the details every step of the way, so you can leave the logistics to us and spend your time uncovering the compelling mysteries of this enigmatic nation.

Follow this link to our exciting China Tours. Or call to find out more, 1300 653 618!

Asia & PacificRegions

Not an Average Day in India

Gate 1 receives a lot of helpful and positive feedback from our travellers, but this one from Lynne H. on a recent 13 Day Classic India with Ranthambore really stopped us in our tracks!

“I’ve had a wonderful time with Gate 1 in India. Everything went smoothly and we had an excellent guide (Raj) and a truly spectacular bus driver who seemed to negotiate spaces that were a hair’s breadth much of the time. Also we had our man who passed out cold water, helped us on and off buses and cleaned the bus inside and out every night.

I’ve experienced so much that’s a contrast – beauty and filth, colour and drabness, splendour and dreadful poverty. I’ve stayed in good hotels, seen so many monuments, learned a lot of history and eaten gorgeous Indian food.

I’m sharing with you the best photo I took in Ranthambore National Park. No luck with seeing a tiger that morning so we headed back as our three hours was up. Suddenly the driver said there was a tiger headed towards us near the gate we were about to go through. He threw the vehicle into reverse and we, and another vehicle in front that had been leaving also, backed up like crazy.

Tiger in Ranthambore National Park India

The tiger was unperturbed and padded along on her big velvet paws, taking her time – and couldn’t care less about us. Then other vehicles from the area somehow got to know, and as we turned to follow her several vehicles arrived and it was like a car rally over a dirt road. So exciting!

Thank you for organising this for me. This is my first trip with Gate 1. I will certainly recommend your company and I look forward to my next trip with you to Switzerland in June.”

Gate 1 Travel guide Jutta Hinterer

Gate 1’s International Women in Europe

As we celebrate International Women’s Day in 2018, we remind ourselves of the need to push harder than ever for progress on gender equality. Gate 1 is proud to be an equal opportunity employer and pays homage to the incredible contribution of all our female staff around the world who are valued members of our community.

If you have had the good fortune of joining one of our groups, then you’ll know that our Tour Managers are the real heros and among our impressive team are many remarkable women. They are on call 24/7 and go out of their way to make sure that you have a hassle-free holiday.

Our Tour Managers are also a wealth of local knowledge, so we sat down with two of our much-loved European Tour Managers and got some great travel tips.

Jutta Hinterer: when she isn’t travelling the world, she’s looking after travellers on Gate 1’s European River Cruises.

Q: What’s your favourite season to travel in Germany and Austria?

A: The weather has become unpredictable now and you can have nice summers but hot springs or autumn with three seasons in a day, but the up side of this is there are no better or worse seasons any more. I would rather come in the spring, when the weather might not be perfect but the places you want to visit are not too jam packed yet and you don’t have to encounter temperatures over 30°C, which can be hot for walking tours. Or, if you like colder periods, why not come in early December, when all the Christmas markets are open and give the cities and villages a special flair?

Q: What do you love most about being a Gate 1 Tour Manager?

A: I love the attitude of Gate 1 guests. Even if they are not experienced travellers, they are always open for something new and embrace the challenges of being in a new environment – they might not speak the language or not know their way around, but they are not deterred. It is fun to guide Gate 1 guests as they are curious and eager to get to know places, yet not shy to go out of their comfort zones.

Q: Do you have any tips for someone who’s planning to come to Vienna?

A: Don’t be afraid to use public transportation. It is inexpensive and brings you to all areas of town – Why not take the Bus 38A to Kahlenberg or Leopoldsberg which gives you a great view on the city. Then you can stop in one of the Heurigen, the typical Viennese wine places and enjoy a glass of the local wine and some great food, in some of the places also music accompaniment (the Viennese usually go to the ones without, they are more authentic and less touristy!).

Q: Austria has fantastic local cuisine, what’s the most popular dish?

A: Too many! There’s the famous Wiener Schnitzel which was originally veal but pork is more common nowadays. Then some of the better known include Tafelspitz (boiled beef – one of the favourite dishes of Emperor Francis Joseph), Palatschinken (the Austrian version of pancakes) or Kaiserschmarrn with Zwetschkenröster (cut-up and sugared pancakes with raisins and plum sauce). You should also try breaded fried chicken salad (Backhendlsalat), Überbackene Schinkenfleckerl (backed ham pasta), Stuffed Peppers (Gefüllte Paprika) or Buchteln mit Vanillesauce (warm yeast dumplings with custard). They definitely taste much better than their English translations sound!

Mercedes Medici: her passion for her home country of Italy is infectious and you’ll be inspired to explore beyond the regular tourist sites.

Q: Is there a best time of the year to visit Italy?

A: I love Italy in spring time, it’s a great season here. The temperature is just perfect, not too hot. Yes, we might have some rainy days, but not usually storms. The days are getting longer and milder, so one can make the most of a touring day and then also enjoy a romantic sunset or a stroll after dinner. The travelling day on the bus becomes a feast for the eye, as the countryside is green and blooming. So it’s really La Dolce Vita!

Q: What is the best part of your job?

A: Being a Gate 1 Tour Manager puts me in the best position to be a proud ambassador for my country. Our travellers come from everywhere, so I love showing off the best of Italy. Gate 1 has established long-lasting, friendly relationships with local hotels and suppliers, which is so important and benefits our travellers. We have access to the best professional local guides in each city. We don’t wait in line, because every time it’s possible to book we get priority entrances to museums and other venues. And we all love to pamper our travellers.

Q: 2018 has been declared the Year of Italian Food. Can you narrow it down to a favourite dish?

A: The choice is really hard, as we are proud and fanatic about all the different local specialities. But when in Rome, do as the Romans do and you must try Spaghetti Carbonara. It’s pasta with a creamy, yummy seasoning made of crispy bacon, eggs and a lot of black pepper, topped with freshly-grated Parmesan cheese. You might have eaten it at home, but I can assure you it will never taste the same after trying it here. Buon Appetito!

Thinking of travelling to Europe? On our website you’ll find an incredible selection of tours, river cruises and independent packages that will help you to see more of Europe for less!