Snapshots of Spain

Choose one, or all, of these top spots for your Spanish break! Spain is a country bursting at the seams with sites and marvels to see. From magnificent buildings to historic museums we outline the attractions that should be at the top of your sightseeing list.

Santiago de Compostela Cathedral

A feat of architectural splendour the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela is simply stunning. Built upon the tomb of Saint James, the patron saint of Spain, after the tomb was discovered in 819 AD, this iconic landmark became the last stop on the pilgrims’ journey. Known as the Way of St. James or Camino de Santiago, medieval pilgrims walked for months to arrive and lay their hands on the pillar inside the doorway, a practice still performed today. Parts of the cathedral date to 1060 and it is one of the finest Romanesque churches in Spain with its Baroque façade adding to its grandeur.

Museums of Madrid

Few cities can rival the sheer volume and quality of Madrid’s art scene, with iconic Spanish painters such as Picasso, Velázquez and Dalí, The Prado Museum, the Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Reina Sofia National Museum form the famous Art Triangle in Madrid and are located just a few metres from each other. Begin at the Museo del Prado, Madrid’s best-known attraction and premier art gallery home to more than 7000 paintings. For 20th-century art continue on to the Reina Sofia Museum and be amazed by the star attraction – Picasso’s “Guernica”. Conclude by exploring the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum’s eclectic collection ranging from medieval to modern.

Alhambra

Described as a ‘pearl set in emeralds’ by Moorish poets, the astounding UNESCO listed Alhambra, meaning ‘the red one’ in Arabic, is a beautiful testament to Moorish culture and design. Located strategically overlooking the whole of Granada the initial Alcazar fortress has expanded out over the centuries to be a complex of breath-taking and intricate buildings The Nasrid palaces are the jewels of the Alhambra. Built for royalty they possess incredibly ornate stucco walls, beautiful tiling and wooden ceilings engraved with Arabic inscriptions and symbolic patterns. One of the most magnificent Islamic buildings in all of Europe, a visit here is not optional.

La Sagrada Familia

If you’re after truly impressive architecture then look no further than La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. World-renowned architect Antoni Gaudi designed this extravagant church, which is still under construction after more than 100 years. Gaudi was famous for his dislike of straight lines, preferring to take influence from nature. Following his untimely death in 1926 the construction of the church was taken up by architect Francesco de Paula Villar, who seized the opportunity to express his religious and baroque characteristics. The elaborate and unique design has made La Sagrada Familia the most visited monument in all of Spain.


We have many Spain itineraries on offer, featuring these incredible sites and more. Or tailor make your itinerary to visit all of these amazing places!

Treasures of Latin America

Curious about Latin American culture? We explain how you can experience this extraordinary region like a local.

Whether it’s the rhythms of salsa and tango, the thought of succulent Argentine steaks or the chance to learn more about indigenous peoples and traditions that first springs to mind when thinking of Latin American culture, few will deny that the idea of discovering it for yourself holds a certain allure. At once exotic yet familiar, the modern trends and long-held traditions of this region always rank among the highlights of travelling here. Discover the laid-back, fun-loving spirit of the people, the fantastic flavours of local cuisines and the rhythms of Latin American music.

A traveller’s introduction to Latin America culture

Being a vast region, Latin America of course has much variety  when it comes to culture; different countries have different traditions and each offers its own unique attractions and experiences. Today, we will be taking a broad view of the wider elements of the culture, then focusing on how you can experience these in individual countries.

Shaping your experience almost as much as the attractions you visit and the activities you try, the people you encounter along your travels always represent the local culture. While we can only speak in general terms here, Latin Americans tend to be laid-back and fun-loving, with a passion for music, food and parties – something that makes this a really vibrant, enjoyable region to visit. The fantastic flavours of the various cuisines is also a staple of any cultural discovery is the cuisine, and in Latin America there is a real variety of culinary experiences to be had. When exploring big cities such as Santiago or Buenos Aires, you’ll notice a distinctly Spanish influence that harks back to colonial times – but if you get the chance to head a little off the beaten track and visit some indigenous cultures, you will have a completely different gastronomic experience. Among the more unusual, particularly to European tastes, is guinea pig, which you may come across in Peru.

For most of us, Latin American culture is synonymous with the lively rhythms of salsa and the sass of the tango, alongside many other musical styles. The fact that music springs so readily to mind when thinking of this culture is indicative of just how central it is and, as we’ll explain below, losing yourself in the rhythm is one of the best ways to have an authentic cultural experience during your travels.

In the 16th century, the Spanish and Portuguese colonised Latin America – and this has had one of the biggest influences on its culture. Stroll through the streets of places like Santiago today and you’ll be struck by the Spanish colonial architecture and the prevalence of Spanish-style cuisine – but perhaps what’s more fascinating still is the contrast provided by the presence of indigenous cultures such as the Mapuche people. This contrast can be seen not only in Santiago but across different parts of Chile and through wider Latin America.

Ways to delve deeper into Latin American culture

Sightseeing is a cornerstone of any culturally focused holiday, but arranging to take part in activities is a simple way to make sure you really experience the culture, rather than simply observe it. While the best things to do will, of course, vary depending on the country (or countries) you intend to visit, here are some of our favourite ways to delve deeper into Latin American culture.

Mixing with local people is always a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the culture – so it’s best not to leave this element of your holiday to chance meetings. Instead, take advantage of tours that give you the opportunity to meet people. For example, it’s possible to take a tour of a coffee plantation and meet the farmer, or to visit a village and watch the locals making tortillas – this way, you can add a human element to your cultural discoveries.

A similar option is to visit an estancia in Argentina or Chile. These traditional ranches were established by the first settlers, and are where gauchos farm cattle and breed horses. As well as simply seeing the gauchos at work, you could taste the fruits of their labour at a delicious barbecue later in the day.

And indeed, tasting the food is always an important step on the road to cultural discovery. In Argentina, the absolute highlight is the steak, though its delicious empanadas (which are similar to Cornish pasties and can also be readily found in neighbouring Chile) are also something of a must-try.

In Mexico, forego the restaurants in favour of street food, as this country is renowned for its street food culture – particularly dishes such as tacos and burritos. Venture off the beaten track to discover indigenous cultures and you may come across more unusual fare; in Peru, for example, it is possible to try guinea pig – something that may appeal to the more adventurous traveller!

With music being at the heart of Latin American culture, taking a dance class is a fantastic (and extremely fun) way to get in touch with your Latin American side. In Buenos Aires, you can take part in a tango class, allowing you to try for yourself some of the culture’s most distinctive dancefloor moves.


Discover Latin America with us – talk to us today about our ready-made packages or let us tailor-make an itinerary specific to your needs.

Exploring Sri Lanka

“You must try the pepper crab. It’s the best in the whole country. I must warn you to go easy with the sambal though, it’s pretty fiery.”

In the stylish restaurant, music, conversation and chinking glasses create a soundtrack of conviviality, as waiters slip between crowded wooden tables, bearing platters of fresh crabs the size of small helicopters. This is Ministry of Crab, an extremely popular new restaurant in the heart of one of today’s most exciting Asian cities. Not South Korea’s Seoul, not China’s Chengdu, not even Tokyo, with its ever-evolving appeal. No, the city currently attracting the attention of foodies, fashionistas and – most importantly – investors, is Colombo in Sri Lanka.

Until recently, Colombo had a reputation for traffic and chaos at best; a city that tourists sped through on the way from the airport to the beaches in the south-west, or east to Kandy and the Cultural Triangle beyond. It seemed there was little reason to stay in Sri Lanka’s tense, run-down capital. But these days Colombo is in the grip of a profound renaissance, as a wealth of restaurants, artisan shops, galleries and festivals – not to mention luxurious 5-star hotels and characterful boutique properties – spring up across the city.

Ministry of Crab is a good example. The chic seafood restaurant, launched in 2011 by Sri Lankan cricketing legends Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, is set inside the iconic Dutch Hospital, a magnificent landmark property in Colombo’s Fort financial district. Dating back to 1681, the Dutch Hospital was originally built as a treatment centre for staff serving under the Dutch East India Company, but during recent years had fallen into disrepair and was taken over by the military.

There is a wider sense of life returning to Colombo, and another factor contributing to the city’s new-found vitality is the regeneration of public spaces. Colombo’s abandoned public parks have been reclaimed and landscaped: now convivial communal areas, many feature a network of new walking and cycling trails, that have proven extremely popular. Colombo resident Kalpana Wijesinghe is full of praise for the new green public spaces:

“Independence Square, for example, used to be a place that everyone knew about but no one had reason to visit. Since it was pedestrianised though, suddenly it’s become the place we all go: Muslims, Tamils, Singhalese, foreign visitors … everyone meets there to walk and talk. Gyms in the area have lost business because we’re all outside walking.”

For all Sri Lanka’s modernising though, leave the city and you will quickly discover a country that is the very picture of a lush tropical paradise, filled with natural wonders and a history stretching back more than 2000 years.

Travelling through Sri Lanka is like turning the pages of a richly illustrated history book. Its landscape is filled with images and sites that tell the story of the country’s ancient origins (early Muslim scholars taught that Adam and Eve were offered sanctuary here after being expelled from the Garden of Eden) through to the modern day. A four-hour drive east takes you up into the Hill Country to the sacred city of Kandy.

Valleys of glinting stork-staked rice paddies morph into hillsides richly dressed with fruit plantations of fig, banana (92 different varieties), papaya, coconut, mango and pineapple (each carefully checked, as cobras love to stick their fangs into the sweet juicy flesh). The landscape exudes a kind of primordial fecundity: deep, dense, verdant, vibrant, you can almost hear the plants straining against the soil in their impatience to grow. These crops are at the heart of Sri Lanka’s economy: as you rise ever higher, fruit trees give way to cashew, almond, cinnamon and nutmeg, before the highest altitudes open out into Sri Lanka’s famed tea plantations. It’s a truly glorious drive, and that’s before you’ve even reached Kandy, with its spectacular Temple of the Sacred Tooth (where Lord Buddha’s tooth is said to reside within seven golden caskets) and the library with its precious collection of books owned by Marco Polo. All this lies along a brand new road, which follows the original built by the colonising British when they forced the Dutch out in 1815.

Galle was first colonised by the Portuguese in the early 1500s. It was the Dutch East India Company who, in 1640, forced out the Portuguese, and upgraded the fortifications to walls of solid granite complete with three, canon-proof bastions (the Sun, Moon and Star). This sturdy 450-year-old bulwark was to save Galle’s historic world heritage-listed heart, when the tsunami crashed ashore in 2004, killing thousands and destroying much of the city beyond the walls.

Nearly a decade on and Galle has made an extraordinary recovery, to the extent that as you walk along the pretty lanes of historic white-washed buildings, you’d be hard pressed to know its more recent history (a visit to the sensitively curated Maritime Archaeological Museum, which opened in 2011, will give you the necessary insight). Galle is a wonderfully friendly and vibrant place: elegant mansions, historic churches, quirky coffee shops and gorgeous boutiques lead down to a beautiful sandy beach where local families gather to play cricket and splash around in the surf.
Galle is often dubbed the Goa of Sri Lanka.

In fact, many describe Sri Lanka as India-lite, a country that shares much of the history, culture and natural attractions of India without the vast distances or sensory assault. But visit Sri Lanka and you’ll quickly discover a country with a unique and wonderful identity of its own: one drawing upon its history as wholeheartedly as it embraces its future.

Natural Wonders of the Galapagos Islands

A group of islands on the equator 965km off the coast of South America, famed for its incredible wildlife and unreal landscapes, the Galápagos Islands is nothing like you’ve ever seen!

The first landing was early on our first morning. It turned out to be a keep-fit field trip, as we clambered 388 steps to the top of Bartolome island for a view over Santiago’s sprawling lava fields. That afternoon, on a walk around Santiago’s Playa Espumilla, we were introduced to some of the 13 species of finches that live in the Galápagos. Fascinatingly they have evolved with different beaks, depending whether they feed on fruit, seeds or insects.

The finches spark great excitement as some credit them as being the main inspiration for Charles Darwin’s theories on evolution, developed after his visit to the Galápagos in 1835 and laid out in his book The Origin of Species. I have to confess to being more a fan of the humble lava lizards. There are seven species in the Galápagos, and they communicate via a sequence of ‘push-ups’, which are different on each island. It means lizards from, say, Bartolome, can’t ‘talk’ to lizards from Fernandina.

The next morning, we took a cruise around a small bay off the island of Isabela. This was one of the highlights of the cruise for me – a first glimpse of a Galápagos penguin, sea turtles and the flightless cormorants and marine iguanas that are endemic to the islands, as well as numerous pelicans. It was so magical I could have stayed for hours.

In San Cristobal, we saw our first giant tortoises and learnt about the programme that helped save them from extinction. It was a great morning out, but my tortoise highlight came the next day in Santa Cruz, where we headed up to the highlands to watch them in the wild.

My final wonderful memory was watching cheeky pelicans and sea lions trying to pinch the goodies in Santa Cruz’s fish market. In the Galápagos, nature packs a personality you will never forget.

Island Hopping in Croatia

Croatia is growing in popularity as a summer tourist destination with its beautiful beaches, picturesque towns and stunning inland forests. Despite the growing number of people visiting every summer, there are still a number of islands that have not been overrun by tourism and hold their rustic charm. With Tempo Cruise Croatia we offer a number of wonderful itineraries that will take you to some of the most celebrated or the little known islands of the coastline. We offer special interest cruises for island hopping in Croatia or for something extra special, enjoy a Tempo Signature Range cruise.

But what are the different islands of Croatia? Here are our favourites.

Hvar

Probably Croatia’s most popular island, Hvar has long been the poster child for the idyllic island escape on the Adriatic. With a high flying crowd coming in annually on luxury yachts, Hvar Town is all glitz and glamour, with exclusive restaurants, bars and clubs where the party never stops. For those wanting something different from hedonistic pleasures, beyond Hvar Town you will find peaceful beaches & coves, inland villages full of old world charm and a coastline that retains a secluded fishing village atmosphere.

Korcula

Settled in ancient times by the Greeks, Korcula is famous for its crisp white wine and dense dark forests inland. The island has a large population spread through quiet hamlets and fishing villages. Often dubbed ‘Little Dubrovnik’ for its medieval walls and beautiful architecture and cathedral, Korcula is a good place for a rest with lots to explore and a good balance of festive atmosphere in the summer and a laid-back vibe. Locals claim that Marco Polo was born here (Venetians dispute this) and the gallery makes fascinating sightseeing,  while a good day trip is to Proizd, an islet perfect for sunbathing. Lay your towel down on the sloping slabs of grey rock that glide into the turquoise sea to catch some rays and if you stay into the evening, you’ll see Proizd’s rock turning soft gold, as the sun slowly descends.

Pag

Pag is an island of rocky topography covered in green fields, lush valleys, olive groves and vineyards. With the longest coastline of any Croatian island, there are many beautiful bays, coves, capes and beaches to explore. Zrce Beach is the most popular on the island and for independent travellers, there are many campsites along the coast and nestled in small bays.

Vis

Vis is a foodie heaven with unspoiled natural beauty to boot. With the richest fisheries on the Adriatic it’s no surprise that the fish is delicious and fresh, while the lobster is famous. Rustic restaurants serve old school roasts and traditional stews, while every bakery has a variation of the traditional anchovy pastry, the perfect snack for those on the go. Add to this the incredible natural surrounds, the highlight of which is the Blue Cave of Bisevo and the beautiful coastline and you have a veritable holiday paradise.

Murter

For the festival lovers amongst us, Murter is the place to spend your summer. Since The Garden opened in 2012, many festivals are held annually at this location including, The Garden Festival, Love International, Electric Elephant and Soundwave. The island has still managed to maintain its laidback air despite the summer long festivities and there are plenty of quiet ports to enjoy the gorgeous nature, with olive groves inland.

Silba

For a completely opposite experience, try the slow paced Silba. With no cars or large commercial hotels, and even no bicycles mid-July to August, the island is full of country lanes and untamed beaches.

Brac

An easy ferry ride from Split, Brac is full of rolling hills, isolated bays, crystal waters, pine & fig trees and olive groves. Vidara Gora Mountain is the highest on the islands and is a wonderful hike, while kite surfing, windsurfing and diving are popular pursuits. Zlatni Rat beach is famous but there are many other less populated pebble beaches and coves to explore. Make sure to sample some of the locally produced olive oil as it is richer than on other Croatian islands and is delicious drizzled on local bread.

Cres

Home of the deepest freshwater lake in Eastern Europe, Cres is also one of the largest islands on the Adriatic Sea. Inland is hilly, while the coast is dotted with pebbly beaches and bays making the island ideal for watersports, scuba diving and hiking. The northern hills are populated by thick oak forests while majestic cliffs edge the coast and crumbling hill top towns add a sense of romance to the landscape. There is also a large population of griffon vultures on the island and with their impressive wingspan, seeing them cut a silhouette in the sky only adds to the whimsical feel of this island.

Mljet

Mljet Island off Dubrovnik is often visited as a day trip and while it makes a wonderful day, the island has a lot to offer those who stay for longer. Dominated by two large salt lakes, Mljet is verdant green with forests and there is an expansive variety of sealife off the island’s coastline. Village homestays in relaxed towns, bike riding through the forests and kayaking along the shores are highlights, while there are many nature walks to experience and wildlife to spot. The Benedictine Monastery on an island in the middle of Malo Jezero salt lake is picturesque and the lake has many family friendly swimming spots. Myth claims that Odysseus spent seven years here with the nymph Calypso – after one visit, you’ll be able to see why.

Krk

Krk is the easiest island to get to as it is connected to the mainland via a bridge (but this takes away the fun of island hopping!). Known as the Golden Island, the north is sunburned and arid while the southern coast is punctuated by gentle bays. Inland are rocky hills and fertile fields (try the local wine) while there is a large range of accommodation from camping to superior hotels given its popularity among local tourists. Enjoy scuba diving, jet skiing, water skiing and paragliding here.

Rab

Notable for its golden sand beaches rather than the usual pebbles, Rab stretches 22kms long into the Adriatic. With more than 300 freshwater springs snaking the island, it is very green and has an abundance of wildlife and wide array of botanical life. Komrcar Park is home to many of these plants and also a 100 year old agave tree. The island has a calm and rustic vibe and is very family friendly, while the more secluded uncommercialised northern shores have naturist friendly beaches. The most famous of these is Sahara bay but there are many beautiful surrounding coves for those who want to keep their kit on. Inland is mountainous and good for walking, while towns are a patchwork of terracotta roofs, church towers and friendly locals.


We hope this list has helped you narrow down your island hopping wishlist. Join us on one of our Croatia Cruises or we can even help you create your very own itinerary to incorporate your favourite islands.