Visit Switzerland’s World Heritage Sites

Switzerland is the home of a dozen exceptional sites of cultural importance. From Neolithic stilt-houses to the modern architectural works of Le Corbusier, 12 sites around the country have been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.

So what are they and how can you visit them?

Bern Old City

The capital of Switzerland is also home to a wonderfully preserved medieval old city. Founded in 1191, Bern has a rich history as a significant trade town and this is evidenced in the 6km of limestone buildings, medieval arcades, Renaissance fountains and the unique towers that dominate the old town. The impressive Cathedral (Münster) is in late Gothic style architecture and was originally built in 1421 – although the 100m high spire was not completed until 1893. Nearby stand the impressive Clock Tower, Zytglogge and the Armoury-turned-Prison Tower, Käfigturm.

Experience Bern yourself during short break on our Taste of Bern itinerary, including a walking tour of the Old Town and a Bern transport card. Bern is also a stop on a number of our train tours (Deluxe Switzerland & Swiss Museum Trail), coach tours (Swiss Splendour Tour & Swiss Grand Alpine Tour) and our self drive Grand Tour of Switzerland.

Lavaux Wine Region

The terraced vineyards of Lavaux stretch for 30km along the shore of Lake Geneva and are an example of centuries of agriculture in Switzerland. Over 800ha, the steep hills provide spectacular views over the lake and surrounding country below – not to mention producing healthy vines surrounded by 11th century stone walls. After a morning of sampling the local wine, look no further than a ‘pintes’ or mini restaurant for your lunch, set amongst the quaint old villages.

Enjoy a tour of the UNESCO listed Lavaux region on our Wine Experience excursion. Learn about how the grapes go from ground into the bottles and sample three of the regions unique blends, accompanied by gourmet regional treats. For those wanting the full Swiss gastronomic experience, our Swiss Food Trail Rail Journey encompasses the Lavaux wineries and beyond.

Benedictine Monastery of St Johann

The Monastery of St Johann has Charlemagne to thank for its existence and grandeur, although its upkeep has been thanks to the tireless work of the Benedictine nuns for centuries. Even today the building is a working monastery – do not be surprised when a nun turns up as your tour guide. The Monastery is home to the largest and best preserved figurative mural from the 8th century as well as many intricately decorated apses. It is also home to the region’s oldest castle tower, built in 960, which houses an exhibition of 1,200 years of monastic and architectural history.

The Monastery is located somewhat off the beaten path in Val Müstair. Although we don’t have any ready-made itineraries to take in this site, we can tailor-make a special trip just for you.

St Gallen Abbey

The library and monastery of St Gallen are truly beautiful sights to behold. A booklover’s dream, the library or Seelenapotheke (healing place of the soul) holds 170,000 books, a 2,700 year old Egyptian mummy and 2,100 wonderfully preserved manuscripts, many of which are on display in cabinets and on the walls. Another highlight of the district are the 16th to 18th century burgher houses with splendid, brightly painted windows.

Visit St Gallen and its incredible Abbey Library on our Grand Tour of Switzerland self-drive or talk to us about creating your own tailored itinerary. This site is definitely worth the hour drive from Zurich, whether you are a book devotee or not.

Castles of Bellinzona

The three castles of Bellinzona and the old Roman fortress walls dominate Bellinzona, in the shadows of St Gotthard’s Pass. Once a strong line of Roman defence in 590, all that remains from this time is a ruined wall. The three castles, with their complex fortification systems and imposing towers, are from the Middle Ages and were put in place to control the transit of people through St Gotthard’s Pass. Castelgrande, Castello Montebello and Castello Sasso Corbaro were all built around the 13th centuries and are the best examples of medieval castles in Switzerland.

Bellinzona is the capital of Ticino, which you visit on the Grand Tour of Switzerland self-drive. At only 40 minutes by car or 30 minutes by train from Lugano, a visit to Bellinzona is an easy day trip.

Jungfrau – Aletsch Swiss Alps

At 23km. Aletsch is the longest glacier in the Alps and the whole area from Jungfrau to Aletsch is recognised by UNESCO for its staggering natural beauty. The glacier can be trekked across for the truly adventurous or try a little hiking in the Alestch forest, home of some of the oldest stone pines in Switzerland. Down below, the valleys are their very own microclimate, with lush greenery that is largely unspoilt by tourism. From June to September, you can partake in the World Heritage Experience Afternoon and in July to September there are extra guided tours of the area.

Take the precarious train ride up to the ‘Top of Europe’ on Jungfrau; look out to the Aletsch Glacier; and wander through the spectacular ice tunnel through the mountain on an excursion or our Grand Train Tour and Tops of Switzerland Tour.

Monte San Giorgio

The pyramid shaped Monte San Giorgio jutting out over Lake Lugano at just under 1,100m above sea level was once the location of a 100m deep ocean basin. Just like the pyramids of Egypt, today it provides a veritable treasure trove of history – not of an ancient culture, but of land animals and marine life living 240 million years ago. Since the 19th century, over 80 species of fish have been identified from the fossils discovered here and 30 marine and land reptiles. This include the huge deposits of marine saurians bones – some up to 6m in length!

Today, the woods of Monte San Giorgio are a great place for a little hiking as a day trip out of Lugano, where some of our tours leave from. Just keep your eyes peeled for some prehistoric history!

Rhaetian Railway Albula / Bernina

Stretching 122km from Thusis to Tirano, the Rhaetian Railway line is a true marvel of Swiss engineering. Opened in 1889, the route crosses 196 bridges, goes through 55 tunnel and 20 towns. With incredible man-made structures, viaducts, helical tunnels and hairpin turns, rail buffs will be in heaven while everyone else will be absorbed by the rugged landscapes of valleys and mountains that make this route the most picturesque mountain rail journey in the world.

Experience this unforgettable journey yourself as you crest the Bernina Pass on the Bernina Express. Or make this one journey of many incredible Swiss rail experiences on the Grand Train Tour.

La Chaux de Fonds & Le Locle

These two mountain towns are the watchmaking centres of Switzerland that have been built around this industry. Destroyed by fire, the neighbouring towns were reconstructed with a mixture of public and private funds with the goal of mono-industrial manufacturing. The resulting town plan maximised light and enabled ease of movement between towns.

Still working today, if you’d like to drop in to buy yourself a timepiece, there are twice hourly train services from Zurich. Although not home of lakes or medieval buildings, the prosperity of these two towns in the 18th to the 20th centuries created a huge amount of growth and so fans of modern architecture such as Art Nouveau  and the early modernism of Le Corbusier (more on him below) will enjoy wandering the streets.

Prehistoric Pile Dwellings

Pile dwellings, or stilt house dwellings can be found all over central Europe on the edges of lakes, rivers and wetlands. Some date as far back as 7,000 years ago and of the 111 sites listed, 56 of them can be found in Switzerland in the Alps. These dwellings have given us invaluable insight into life in the Neolithic and Bronze Age in Alpine Europe.

With 56 sites around Switzerland, many of the local councils have created small museums if you’d like to find out more (beware of the irregular opening hours).

Architectural Work of Le Corbusier

The most recent addition to the World Heritage list in Switzerland, the architectural work of Le Corbusier has been recognised by UNESCO for the influence it had on modern architecture the world over. Comprising of 17 sites, this transnational series is over seven countries, namely India, Japan, Argentina, Germany, Brussels and Switzerland. Two of these sites are in Switzerland: Villa ‘Le Lac’ in Corseux on the shore of Lake Geneva and the Clarté building in Geneva. Le Corbusier’s works are a testimonial to modern architecture and showed a clear departure from looks of the past. While he was completing his studies for these later works, Le Corbusier designed a number of buildings in La Chaux De Fonds.

Geneva is a stop on many of our itineraries. Explore these significant buildings in the architectural world on our Taste of Geneva package or let us tailor-make a trip to suit your taste.

Tectonic Arena Sardona

Another one of the natural sites listed as World Heritage, the Tectonic Arena of Sardona is home to the Glarus Overthrust – a strange phenomenon where an older rock strata, about 250 million years old, has edged its way over rock 150 million years its junior. This is a result of the European and African Continents colliding. Even for those of us who don’t have a keen interest in geology, the result is dramatically beautiful as the jagged Glarus Alps are glaciated and 3,000m above, with narrow river valleys below.

Although visible for kilometres around, Glarus Alps are not that frequented. To organise your own exploration, contact us today to tailor-make your experience.

 

 

Navigating the Wild Atlantic Way

From tranquil sandy beaches to dramatic craggy mountains, Ireland has a smorgasbord of breathtaking landscapes for you to feast your eyes on.

With Tempo Holidays offering a number of varied itineraries it is easy to see Ireland at your own pace or in a small group. And the best way to see the varied scenery that this island has to offer is along the famed Wild Atlantic Way along the magnificent Atlantic Coast.

Your passport to discover wild Ireland

This 2,500km stretch is so famous that before you begin your Irish adventure you can pick yourself up a personal Wild Atlantic Way passport. The passport can be obtained at select post offices or tourist offices and will serve as a fabulous memento of your time on the world’s longest coastal touring route. At 188 points of interest along the rugged coastline you are able to obtain a stamp in your passport (often at local tourism offices) and upon completion you will be entitled to the ‘Wild Atlantic Way Certificate’ and be entered on the register. The passport also serves as a great way of getting to know the locals – a quick chat as you collect your stamps could turn into a dinner at a favourite local restaurant or tips for a great secluded beach spot.

Our Wild Atlantic Way self drive package spans eleven days (shorter options are also available) forming a loop from Dublin. The drive encompasses some of the nation’s most quintessentially Irish sights. Highlights along the route include the 15 metre surf of Donegal coast; the picturesque fishing town of Newport; and the highest accessible sea cliffs in Europe of the Slieve League, providing incredible views to the crashing Atlantic below.

Delicious food & breathtaking views

Further south, the beautiful Connemara region is characterised by contrasts and colours, mountains, lakes, and so much fresh produce. A great stop along the way is at Kylemore Abbey and the nearby Connemara Smokehouse in Clifden to try the delectable home-smoked salmon, while a pint in a traditional pub in Dingle is a must. With beautiful mountains, medieval ruins and pristine beaches, the Iveragh Peninsula is well worth exploring on foot. From here look out with wonder to the UNESCO World Heritage Skelligs. These two sandstone rocks jutting out of the ocean have been a sacred place of pilgrimage for 1,300 years.

While in County Kerry, admire a marine landscape with a visit to the wreck of The Sunbeam, a schooner that wrecked in 1903 but astonishingly did not wash up to shore until 2014. This is just one of many shipwrecks dotted along the coast of the Wild Atlantic Way, where the land and sea collide.

Curling slightly inland, the dramatic Healy Pass through the mountains and back down to the sea at Glengarriff is unforgettable, and a ferry to the unique subtropical microclimate on Garinish Island is worth the side trip. The final leg of the drive takes in the Rock of Cashel, the ancient seat of Irish Kings, before arriving once more in Dublin.


Contact your Tempo Holidays agent for further details. Your Irish adventure awaits!

History and Scenery in the Lakes District

Northern England is the home to dramatic landscapes, deep lakes, Roman ruins, the Beatles and many famous train lines. And what better way to see everything it has to offer than on one of our new rail itineraries encompassing the beautiful Lakes District and beyond?

In such a spectacular part of the world, no other form of travel provides you with quite the same opportunity to feast your eyes on the sights before you. Each flexible itinerary incorporates one of the famous train journeys of the UK: from the astounding beauty of the Cambrian Coast Line with its misty cloud formations over the sea and the abundance of wildlife; to the Trans-Pennine Express, through the dramatic green mountain range, known for its magnificent views.

Long before rail travel was possible, the North of England was a hive of Roman activity. Here in 120 CE, Emperor Hadrian feared the ‘savages’ of the North and to preserve his empire ordered the construction of a wall, spanning the width of the land. If this sounds a bit like the popular contemporary TV series, Game of Thrones, remember that life can sometimes be stranger than fiction. Today, abundant ruins of this engineering feat remain and the wild men ‘Beyond the Wall’ are England’s Scottish neighbours.

On our Magical Lakes & Liverpool itinerary, travellers are based out of Preston with five days of exploration before them. It is a short rail journey to the City of Lakes, Carlisle, the once centre of Roman power by the Wall. In the shadows of the stone World Heritage ruins, the English/Scottish border lies.

On our Discover Lakes, Liverpool & Leeds itinerary, explore Chester with the most intact Roman Cavalry Fort in Britain. As one wanders through the well preserved ruins, it’s not hard to imagine you can hear the jovial laughter from the officers quarters or the clang of sword against sword from the practice yard; smell the faint aroma of sweat and the horses outside overlaid with sweet perfumes from the bath house; or even see a glimpse of a rough-hewn tunic forever swishing around the corner in front of you.

For more contemporary history, Liverpool is the home of the Beatles and a significant trade port since the 1700s. Shaking away the shackles of an insalubrious past, Liverpool is a significant cosmopolitan city with many hip cafes, bars and restaurants, as well as High Street shopping and small boutiques.

The train out to Windermere from either Manchester or Preston is a picturesque journey, taking travellers into the heart of the Lakes District and the largest lake in England. Travellers can enjoy a cruise on the lake or visit some of the most quaint lakeside villages, popular tourist destinations since the train line opened in the 1800s.

Our new Tempo Superbreaks give travellers the chance to soak up regional Britain at their leisure and see scenery inaccessible by car, while indulging in the nostalgia inherent on any railway journey.

Exploring the Yorkshire Dales

 

Yorkshire is known for its sweeping, dramatic landscapes and the Dales are a prime example of this. Lush green valleys and many a babbling brook that converges into a rushing river, history bequeaths every dale with a rich story of early occupation by Danes, Norseman and Romans. Interestingly, dale comes from dael the old English word meaning valley, derived from Nordic language.

Due to the high rainfall of the area, the land looks perpetually dressed in verdant greenery, punctuated in the spring to summer with a smattering of wildflowers in purples, yellows and whites. In the spring, scents of wild garlic fills the air as you wander, while seeing delicate wild orchids bravely opening themselves to the sun’s rays is not at all uncommon. And while you certainly don’t go to the Dales expecting temperate weather, the long summer days are perfect for a hilltop hike where you can’t help but feel as though it is just you and the wildflowers – even as down below the roads are busy with your fellow tourists.

In winter, the snow cloaks the fields with unblemished and pristine consistency. Small towns can be found dotted around and throughout the National Park – towns with strong heritage as medieval trade ports or strategic strongholds in long ago skirmishes.

Charming Skipton

The market town of Skipton is a great place from which to explore the Dales, and also holds a few attractions itself. This charming town, 2014’s best town to live, is home to the most complete and best preserved medieval castle in England that is open to the public. A castle was first built on this site in 1090 by Robert de Romille, a Norman Baron, but the timber ramparts did little to stop the invading Scots. This was quickly replaced with a stone fortress that was then fortified and considerably extended in the 12th century when King Edward II granted the lands to the Clifford family.

Visitors can explore the Banqueting Hall, the Kitchen, the Bedchamber and Privy and even climb from the depths of the Dungeon to the top storey of the Watch Tower.

Skipton rose to prominence as a market town with a strong trade in woollen goods and sheep as it was well connected to Leeds and Liverpool by a canal. Today, it’s lovely to walk around the original market to pick yourself up something special and then find a quiet spot by the canal to watch the boats chug past.

Wander your way over hill and dale

Often known as the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales, Grassington National Park Centre near Skipton is the starting point of many scenic trails, varying in difficulty and length for people of all fitness and experience levels. Other scenic walks in the Dales include the lovely Malham village walk down to the cove on famous limestone pavement or the enchanting Asygarth waterfalls further north. Anywhere you go in this area though, you are bound to be struck by the beautiful scenes, whether it is a well frequented viewing spot or somewhere you simply stumble upon.

Grassington is also home to a two week summer arts and culture festival that showcases great music and art in the beautiful Dales setting. Skipton’s premier festival is the Skipton Sheep Festival on the first Sunday in July where the heritage of the Dales and the market town are on show with demonstrations, stalls, entertainment and classic Yorkshire fare on offer.


Incorporate an exploration of the Yorkshire Dales into one of our Tempo Superbreaks. Our Northern Coast & Country Package out of York can be extended to further explore the county of Yorkshire or visit the Dales from Skipton on our Discover Yorkshire itinerary.

Pirates, flowers & the seaside in Britain’s Southwest

Relive the rail travel of old in regional England! Rail networks have been essential to the survival of the nation for the past centuries and are a wonderful way to see the beauty of England’s rural heart. Our new four to six day Tempo Superbreaks throughout regional Britain are an easy way for travellers to explore, full steam ahead.

Picture this: a young man falls in love as he finishes his apprenticeship to a band of jovial pirates in his 21st year. However, he discovers his birthday is actually on the 29th of February and so he only has a birthday every leap year. Duty-bound, he must remain with the pirates until his 21st birthday at the grand old age of 84. His love, faithfully and tragically, agrees to wait for him.

Sound familiar? This is the classic Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera, The Pirates of Penzance that debuted in 1879 to grand success. And it is set, as the name suggests in Penzance, a lovely seaside town on the South West coast of England. Penzance is set on Mount’s Bay, a body of water dominated by the splendour the medieval tidal island abbey of St Michael’s Mount.

In a sheltered position close to the sea and just 10 miles from Land’s End, Penzance enjoys the most temperate climate of the UK – expect to see some sunshine! Home of pirates, smugglers, beautiful churches, Victorian markets and UNESCO Heritage Listed Roman baths, our Discover Southwest England itinerary based out of Exeter is the perfect way to see this quaint part of the world.

Travellers begin with the Tarka line to Barnstaple, Britain’s most scenic train journey through lush green fields and imposing pine forests with sandy beached coastal views. In Barnstaple, visitors will experience the trade of a time immemorial in the Victorian Market Hall with its high vaulted glass and timber ceiling supported by iron columns. A stroll around the this once trade town allows you to recreate in your mind’s eye the bustle of a trade town, while the port still shows signs of its 17th century origin.

This new package also incorporates one of the original great lines of the UK, the Great Western Railway founded in 1833, taking travellers to Penzance. This has a turbulent history of both public and private ownership but since 2015 has been restored to its former glory, taking in deliciously scenic views along the route.

Last but not least is the gorgeous limestone Bath. Bath is set in the rolling countryside of southwest England, known for its hot springs and stunning architecture. It is home to rows upon rows of Georgian style buildings and the Roman Bath Museum is a must-see, containing the original mineral springs that have proved so healing throughout the ages. If you feel so inclined, you can even have a dip! Next stop at Bath Abbey, a truly magnificent building with its fan-vaulting, tower and large stained-glass windows.


Enjoy flexible itineraries, comfortable accommodation and scenic views on one of our new Tempo Superbreak itineraries to explore the Southwest and beyond. Contact one of our agents to book,

The Charming Cotswolds

Hark back to the romantic era of train travel in stylish comfort to explore regional Britain. Bustling London is exciting, modern and cosmopolitan but there is so much more beyond into the very heart of England. Explore its rural core, based out of regional cities, with our new Tempo Superbreaks – a new range of rail packages to take advantage of the UK’s extensive rail network.

Our Cotswolds and West Country Itinerary combines the very best of modern UK with the rustic England of old.

Charming in any season, the Cotswolds are a haven of rolling golden hills, the wolds, punctuated by copses of trees and wildflowers, alongside ancient manor houses with beautifully manicured gardens. The towns were largely developed during the fabric trade boom from the 14th to 16th century and still retain their old school charm, somehow missing the Industrial Revolution and providing a slice of rural English life of old. With countless teahouses, thatched roofed cottages and exquisitely carved limestone handicrafts, a visit to the Cotswolds captures the heart and soul of England.

Over four nights with accommodation in Bristol, travellers can make the most of the rail network, visiting local cities and picture-book towns, rolling through the gorgeous farmland, woodland and meadows of wildflowers. Experience Cheltenham as it goes through a New York Times labelled ‘cultural renaissance’; admire the beauty of Worcester Cathedral or indulge in a little high street shopping; and, admire the original Roman bathhouse of Bath, with turquoise waters that still retain their healing properties.

Glimpsing honey-hued houses and rolling limestone hills framed by a train window somehow seems more romantic and idyllic, the Cotswolds at their very best. Train travel is not just a means of transportation but an experience in itself – and a flexible experience at that. With Tempo Holidays now offering a number of regional train travel Superbreaks, it is easy for us to tailor-make itineraries that incorporate a number of regional hotspots to make a more complete Britain itinerary.

Top 11 Greek Islands

We asked Tempo Holiday’s Greece specialists Nick Good & Katie Rodopoulos to share their pick of Top 10 Greek Islands.

“It’s impossible to choose!” they said, and gave us 11. The result is a detailed guide to some all-time favourites and some lesser known beauties that should feature in every Greek Island-hopping holiday.

 

#1 Santorini

Boasting stark, multicoloured cliffs and incredible sunsets, Santorini is undoubtedly the most spectacular of the Greek Islands. The remnants of an ancient volcano, Santorini’s immense caldera is home to a fantastic selection of cliff-top hotels that offer amazing views over the crater to the shining blue water below. The eastern side of the island is flatter but no less beautiful, with volcanic beaches and glorious vistas of the Aegean Sea. The wine is known for its unique taste due to the volcanic soil the grapes are grown in. Take a wine tour to the underground caves, wine storage and enjoy some local food along the way.

OUR TIP: Walks around the island include lots of steps so may not always be ideal for small children.

#2 Mykonos

Once an exclusive haven for the jet set, Mykonos can now be enjoyed by everybody. Blissful beaches, old windmills and whitewashed buildings with blue trim typify this ruggedly beautiful island. The cobblestone streets of Mykonos Town are crammed with shops and bars, and its reputation as the glamour island with a party-hard reputation is evident everywhere, especially in summer. Its also the jumping off point for the archaeological island of Delos – one of the most important in Greece and teeming with history.

OUR TIP: Mykonos can be extremely busy, especially when the cruise ships are in port. Book tours early to avoid disappointment.

Visit Mykonos and Santorini on one of our most popular island hopping packages. This package takes you to our top two islands with the opportunity to explore Athens before and after your island adventure.

#3 Crete

Crete is Greece’s largest and most diverse island. Explore and discover its treasures – rugged mountains, endless beaches with turquoise seas, exciting cities, picturesque towns and tranquil villages, stunning countryside, fantastic gastronomy and vibrant entertainment. The island is best explored by car, giving you the freedom to discover its quaint fishing ports, Venetian-style towns and Minoan archaeological sites. Be sure to visit Knossos Palace, capital of the Minoan empire. The local arts and crafts are also a highlight, you’ll find artisans on every corner of the charming villages.

OUR TIP: Try the local cuisine: cheeses, olive oils, liqueurs, dakos (like bruschetta), and fried snails!

Take yourself on an independent tour around the best of Charming Crete. A self-drive holiday is perfect for those wanting to take their time. Heraklion, Chania, Agia Galini and Sitia are just some of the sites you will see along the way!

#4 Naxos

The Cyclades’ biggest and the greenest island with impressively high mountains, lush green gorges, stunning seascapes and villages perched high on mountain tops where traditional dress is still worn. Naxos is also an island of beautiful old churches, monasteries and Venetian castles where you can admire a unique blend of Cycladic and Medieval architecture! Mt Zeus is the central focus point and a visit to the interior will uncover traditional villages such as Halki and Apiranthos where you can visit ceramics workshop, or the citrus distillery.

OUR TIP: Take a walking trail between villages for an indepth insight into the traditions and culture.

#5 Milos

Lying halfway between Athens & Crete, the island’s volcanic origins have produced surreal rock formations and beaches of extraordinary beauty, leading to its nickname ‘the island of colours’. A visit to some of Milos smaller villages is an absolute must. Hiking, hot springs and rock exploration are also must-dos. The famous Venus de Milos was discovered in a niche in the ancient city ruins of Milos in 1820 by a farmer. The iconic statue with no arms is now displayed in the Louvre in Paris.

OUR TIP: Milos is perfect for beach exploring, there are 75 to be enjoyed! Make sure you spend time finding your perfect spot.

#6 Paros

Paros is watched over by a single mountain, its gentle slopes dotted with vineyards and fruit trees. Parikia is the island’s capital, a gorgeous Cycladic township of winding cobbled streets lined with whitewashed houses. Situated on the north coast is Naoussa, a picturesque fishing village with typical Greek taverns and outstanding views. If you’re looking for a quieter, slower pace, Paros is Mykonos but without the crowds, hype and price tag!

OUR TIP: Make some time for Antiparos, only 10 mins from Paros, it feels like a proper secluded getaway, with a couple of really good beaches.

#7 Rhodes

This popular holiday island has beautiful white sands that fringe the dazzling waters of the Aegean. The medieval arches, ramparts and cobbled streets of Rhodes’ Old Town are a legacy of the Knights of St John and have earned the town a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The entire island has a rich collection of historical sites and monuments that represent Greek history and are well worth visiting. Climb the 116m rock wall to the beautifully preserved Acropolis of Lindos.

OUR TIP: Rhodes is a great option for families. Many resorts and hotels are equipped for little travellers.

Spend nine days discovering stunning Kos, Symi & Rhodes. An excellent contrast for those wanting to explore the well-known and little-known pockets of Greece. Relax in spectacular Symi away from the crowds, then discover what makes Rhodes so popular. Combined with Kos’ endless surprises and ancient treasures, this package covers it all.

#8 Lefkada

Hugely popular with kite surfers and wind surfers due to favourable winds, Lefkada is also ringed by stunning blue water and beaches ideal for sailing and diving. The only island linked to mainland Greece by road, there are also intriguing archaeological sites and a traditional island way of life to explore. The island is now attached to the mainland by a bridge, however it used to be accessed by an isthmus until the Corinthians breached it with a canal.

OUR TIP: An island of contrasts, the west coast is wild and untamed, and the east coast has been more fully developed.

On our Corfu, Lefkada & Kefalonia package, hop amongst Greece’s most picturesque spots. See the country from east to west – from Corfu, fly to Kefalonia and then ferry to Lefkada, where you’ll find yourself on some of the most stunning beaches on offer.

#9 Sifnos

Sifnos is a beautiful and dreamlike island located in the western part of the Cyclades. It is a typical example of a Cycladic Island, with traditional architecture, calm beaches, seaside taverns and low hills. The most popular beaches are located on the southern side of Sifnos and have crystal clear water and soft sand. The picturesque village of Kastro is lined with narrow paved streets, stone houses and great sea views. The island also offers a unique culinary heritage and is known for producing excellent chefs, including the creators of the first Greek internationally-distributed cookbook.

OUR TIP: An excellent choice for independent travellers, there are well-organised bus links on the island and a plethora of walking trails to explore.

Visit Sifnos, Milos & Folegandros over nine days on our island hopping itinerary away from the crowds. Beginning and ending in Athens, you will be whisked away by ferry to see the archipelago’s most stunning and best kept secrets.

#10 Symi

A perfectly painted traditional village scene is what first greets visitors while approaching Symi. Beautiful houses rise on all sides to create an unforgettable vista. The island is surrounded by blue coves and beaches, with water so clear that boats appear as if they’re floating on air. Ideal for those that want a quiet getaway in a distinct corner of Greece. Be sure to visit Horio and Pedi, the islands smaller towns. The rest of the island is mostly deserted, so a visit to Symi makes for a perfect day trip from one of the nearby islands.

OUR TIP: Don’t miss a trip to the southern-most tip and the statuesque monastery Panormitis.

#11 Amorgos

Step off the well worn path and visit an island ideal for soft adventure lovers and those who enjoy unspoilt villages and open countryside. With ancient footpaths leading through steep rocky terrain, azure waters fantastic for diving, gorgeous caves, scenic bays and a long cultural history, Amorgos is that island that offers something for everyone. Discover the extraordinary Monastery of Hozoviotissa, built into a cliff face, and take yourself on an exploration of the fascinating landscape.

OUR TIP: Visit Agia Anna, the location of scenes from Luc Besson’s cult classic ‘The Big Blue’ and perfect for a secluded swim away from the crowds.


This article first appeared in Cox and King’s Issue One of Compass Magazine – see here for more great ideas and to download your own copy!

Tempo Holidays offers many ready-made island hopping packages around the Greek Islands – or we can tailor-make the perfect holiday for you to these highly recommended islands.

Ireland: Top Five Castles to Stay In

Isn’t it every romantic’s dream to stay in a castle? In Ireland, with its rolling green pastures, dramatic coastal cliffs and enchanting forests these whimsical dreams can come true. Tempo Holidays offers independent and group touring options throughout Ireland, and castle accommodation is happily included in your next adventure.

Combining history, luxury and beautiful architecture, experience the wonder Ireland with your very own castle retreat. Each castle hotel has its own charms, so which is right for you? Here, we take you through our top 5 picks for the best castle for your fairy-tale.

Ashford Castle

The gorgeous Ashford Castle is the epitome of grandeur, perfect for luxury relaxation with accommodating staff to wait on you hand and foot. As soon as you pull through the gates, the imposing five star castle hotel will impress, surrounded by extensive grounds on the shores of Lough Corrib. The original castle was built in the 13th century, while the current building is Victorian in appearance from the famous Guinness family’s expansion of the wings. In April 2015 the Castle was reopened to guests after two years and $75 million-worth of renovations and was named the Number 1 Resort or Inn in Great Britain and Ireland in 2016.

With 350 acres of ancient woodlands, there are many activities to experience a slice of aristocratic life – why not try clay shooting, archery, falconry, horse riding, tennis, golf or a lazy traditional boat trip with some fishing in the Irish sun? For more modern pursuits, there is zip-lining and tree-climbing, cycling and kayaking, luxury chartered lake cruising. Better yet, round out your luxurious stay with a treatment at the Ashford Castle Spa.

Dromoland Castle

Be transported back in time under glistening antique chandeliers in this five star castle. With impressive service and striking furniture, the gothic revival style Dromoland Castle will leave you in awe. The ancestral homes of the O’Briens, the Earls of Thomond, their lineage goes back 1000 years to the only High King of Ireland Brian Boru. Immerse yourself in historic prestige with grand staircases, ornate fireplaces and sumptuous brocade or visit the restaurant that serves delectable food in a grand setting. Delicious cocktails are served in the Library bar – why not kick back and relax, you are on holidays after all! You can also enjoy falconry, archery, boating, clay pigeon shooting, tennis, walking and mountain biking and an 18-hole championship golf course.

Abbeyglen Castle

A four star castle hotel, this is a relaxed more intimate castle experience with only nine suites and a fantastic base to explore magnificent Connemara. With a warm welcome and open fires you will instantly feel at home and it is only a short stroll down to the quaint village of Clifden, with many lively pubs and unique shops. The castle was built in 1832 and boasts magnificent views of Clifden Bay, nestled amongst the Twelve Bens Mountain range. The Twelve Bens present some wonderful walking opportunities while the nearby Kylemore Abbey and Connemara National Park are well worth a visit. There is also a nearby golf course as well as the inhouse Wellness and Relaxation Centre to while away your worries in a spa.

Ballyseede Castle

Be swept up in a ghoul’s tale with your stay at Ballyseede Castle! Because no castle is complete without a ghost, this 16th century castle is home to the ghosts of residents past who tread the basement halls every March 24th. Never fear, the ghost Hilda is generally thought of fondly.

Ballyseede Castle has a long and dramatic history. The seat of the Fitzgerald’s, the Earl of Desmond, who refused to swear fealty to the Crown and were involved in the Geraldine Wars over three centuries. With the bloody end of the last Earl, the Crown granted the land to Robert Blennerhasset in 1584 with the rent being a single red rose to be presented every Midsummer’s Eve. The land stayed with the family until 1966 and is today transformed into a luxury four star hotel.

The two magnificent drawing rooms, the Residents Lounge and the Pembroke Room, are decorated with ornamental foliage plaster in the cornices dominated by marble fireplaces and are ideal to relax with afternoon tea. The front lawn is adorned with ancient oaks while the Library bar holds a unique carved oak chimney piece with a mantle cating back to 1627. The numerous suites are all well-appointed and tastefully decorated with comfortable facilities and beautiful bathrooms.

Clontarf Castle

Enjoy the luxurious castle experience and see cosmopolitan Dublin at the same time! Clontarf Castle has been many things in its life – a bar, a cabaret lounge, a manor house frequented by the composer Handel and inspiration for the great artist Turner. There has been a castle on this site since the Middle Ages although the current four star hotel is in a 19th century building. Clontarf Castle offers you everything you could want from a castle experience with luxuriously furnished rooms and delicious cuisine while being very close to Dublin and the sea. The concierge is happy to help you plan your day trips into Dublin, the ancient Viking city that featured in Lonely Planet’s 2016 Cities to Visit.


We have many great accommodation on offer in Ireland and beyond – check out our unique accommodation page for more or give us a call to help plan your very own fairytale!

Exploring the Legend of King Arthur

With the release of Guy Ritchie’s film King Arthur: Legend of the Sword in mid May, there is no better way to be swept up in the fantasy than to explore regional United Kingdom and the locations where the myth was born.

King Arthur was the boy who pulled the sword from the stone and became the stuff of legends, with his knights of the round table and his kingdom of Camelot. The story goes that King Arthur and his knights thwarted a Saxon invasion of modern day Wales in the early sixth century although there appears no timely mention of him. Whether he was a real king or not, his story took on magical elements in its recounting in the 12th century in “History of the Kings of Britain” by Geoffrey of Monmouth, with his magical sword Excalibur, his trusted adviser Merlin and Queen Guinevere and the legend has been growing and developing ever since.

But where in the UK are these legendary locations?

Tintagel Castle, Cornwall

The number one place for any King Arthur fans, Tintagel Castle is a history soaked outpost, half on the mainland and half on a headland on the Cornish Sea. The site was first linked to King Arthur by Geoffrey of Monmouth and said to be where he was conceived. These legends of the great warrior king have been speculated as being what prompted Richard, the Earl of Cornwall, to first build a castle on these grounds in 1230.

Before the advent of Arthur this was a significant site, particularly in the Dark Ages. From AD 450 until about AD 650 the headland, or almost island, was a significant strategic position in the competitive trading across the Mediterranean. It is believed to have been the secular stronghold of the Dark Age rulers of Dumnonia (Devon and Cornwall) at this time.

Whether you believe in the legends or not, this significant site in British history provides a fascinating day trip and you can’t help but feel a sense of wonder at the remaining ruins – whether that wonder is born from mystery alone or something a little more supernatural. Visit Cornwall on our Discover Southwest England Superbreak itinerary, based out of Exeter.

Cumbria

The two words ’round’ and ‘table’ will be forever associated with King Arthur and his knights. As with all stories that surround Arthur, there are a few places that claim to be the locations of this important meeting place – one of them is a neolithic round earthwork henge in Cumbria.  This monument dates back to BC 2000-1000 and is thought to have been the location that Arthur used for jousting contests.

Visit Cumbria on our Magical Lakes & Liverpool Itinerary based out of Preston or our Discover Northern England based out of Newcastle.

Hampshire

A more classic understanding of the Arthur’s round table – as a table where Arthur and his knights would confer – is on display in the Great Hall of Winchester in Hampshire. The table of legends was said to seat 150 knights and although impressive at 1,179kg and a diameter of 6m, the Round Table of Hampshire has space for only 24 knights. Nevertheless, this table is indeed ancient – it is thought to have been built by Edward I in 1290 to celebrate the betrothal of one of his daughters.  It was Henry VII who repurposed the table as Arthur’s, having his name and those of his 24 of knights painted around the edge of the table. From around 1348 to 1873, this table hung on the eastern wall of Winchester – since 1873, it has been on the west.

Chester

In more recent years, scholars have speculated that the round table was in fact a Roman Amphitheatre, used by Arthur as a forum. The amphitheatre of Chester would have had room for at least 1,000 knights who could have been arranged in complex hierarchical systems. Supporting this theory is Chester’s close proximity to several famous battle sites of Arthurian legends.

Regardless of whether Chester holds THE Round Table it is a charming city that is drenched in history dating back to Roman times, while also being home to a number of cosmopolitan cafes, shops and bars.

Stay in Chester on our Chester, Shrewsbury & North Wales Superbreak or visit for the day on our Discover Lakes, Liverpool & Leeds package based out of Manchester.

Snowdonia National Park

Snowdonia National Park is not only home to some incredible natural sites but is also significant in Arthurian Legends. Arthur’s magical sword, Excalibur, was said to have been given to him by the Lady of the Lake and upon his death, Lancelot returned this sword to the lake. There are at least three different lakes that claim to contain Excalibur – but luckily for you, they are all in the heart of the breathtaking Snowdonia National Park. The lakes of Llydaw, Dinas and Ogwen are all reasonably close together and beautiful natural spots to stop a while and dream of legends.

If something a little more challenging than a lakeside stroll piques your interest, how about climbing the summit of Mt Snowdon? The  rocks that mark the summit are said to have been put their by Arthur, after he killed a fearsome giant. The story goes that Rhitta the giant killed warriors and collected their beards to weave himself a magnificent cape. When he tried to steal Arthur’s beard, he was slain and Arthur buried him under those boulders.

See the stunning Snowdonia National Park on our Chester, Shrewsbury & North Wales itinerary based out of Chester.

Caerleon

There are a couple of locations that could have been the famous Camelot, the stronghold of Arthur and his court. Geoffrey of Monmouth claimed it was at Caerleon, where the remains of a Roman fortress stand today. Today, Caerleon is home to the National Roman Legion Museum, including Britain’s most complete amphitheatre and the only Roman Legionary barracks open to the public in Europe.  Even if it actually isn’t the site of Camelot, it is still an extremely interesting day trip.

Cadbury Castle

The most popular site believed to have been Camelot is in the hills of Somerset where archaeologists have found that hill fort  of Cadbury Castle was once a major stronghold in the 6th century. What’s more, this fort was held by a warrior chief by the name of Arthur, referred to as Camelot and it underwent many improvements in re-fortification under his rule.

The fort was built sometime during the Iron Age and was occupied until 1016 with the death of Ethelred the Unready. Legend says that Arthur and his knights did not die but rather rest below the surface in caves, ready to rise one day to the aid of Britain and once again drive out the invaders.


Whether the legends of Arthur are true or not, all of these locations hold a special element of mystical intrigue and are sure not to disappoint.

Let us incorporate these sites into a Superbreak package for you – or let’s build your perfect itinerary together from scratch!