Category Archives: Sightseeing

A Guide to Island-Hopping in Greece

Whether you are looking to party all night in Mykonos, watch the sunset in Santorini, discover ancient archaeological sites in Crete or swim in the turquoise waters off Naxos, there is a Greek island for you.  

Greece has many islands and islets. With up to 6,000 scattered in the Aegean and Ionian seas to explore, the only question is where to start!  

Naoussa Port, Paros island, Greece

Getting There 

Travelling around the Greek Islands is easy! There’s two common ways in which you can island-hop, and this is either by flying domestically or taking a ferry. 

Taking a ferry is the most popular form of transport but don’t mistake these for a cruise, as they only have basic facilities. Ferries don’t usually have baggage assistance so if you’re needing this service, we recommend packing light.  

The next way to travel around and of course the faster way is flying. Flying is especially recommended during the months Oct – Apr when the weather is more unpredictable. If you’re opting to travel, you should still expect to take a ferry as some islands are too small to have an airport.  

If you’re opting for the Ferry route, below is our quick guide to the ferry type, frequency and duration:  

This Information is to be used as a guide only and is subject to change. All information is based on the proposed 2020 Summer schedule which typically runs April–October.

The Islands 

Believe it or not, the Greek Islands are split into 6 groups.  

The first and most popular, the Cycladic Islands. This group of islands is considered the birthplace of Apollo and home to many archaeological ruins. It showcases a variety of iconic spots you see all over Instagram and is renowned to be the home of epic parties, the traditional white and blue architecture, hiking trails and plenty of sandy beaches.  

In the Cycladic Islands is where you’ll find: 

Santorini – The island with the famous blue church domes overlooking the caldera. Perfect for couples who are opting for that romantic holiday. 

Mykonos – Popularly known as the summer party central island and iconic windmill structures overlooking the Mykonos town. 

Naxos – Only four hours away from Athens and the largest of the Cyclades island group, Naxos is the place to be for greenery and mountainous views. With high mountains and breath-taking valleys, it’s an island that should be on everyone’s travel wish list.  

Traditional street on Naxos, Greece

Ionian Islands is another group which boasts the most stunning mountain ranges, white powdery beaches, deep waters and lush landscapes. Whether you’re after food, vibrant culture, crystal clear beaches and adventure, Ionian Islands is the place to escape to.  

Some iconic islands from this group are:  

Kefalonia – Surrounded by sandy turquoise coves and rugged lush mountains, the island’s cliffs are made up of limestone, remote stretches of sandy beach and bays that are only accessible by foot. It really is one of the most underrated Greek islands that should be a point of interest for every avid traveller.  

Zakynthos – Known for being the site of the popular shipwreck cove framed by high cliffs, this island is a top pick for keen adventurers. If you are a beach lover, then Zakynthos will stun you for its beautiful iconic turquoise waters. To get the stunning cove, take a bus to Zakynthos town and catch a boat to Navagio.  

Corfu – Looking for an underrated, Instagrammable and unique destination? Look no further than Corfu. This island is known for its legendary stories and Greek mythology so if famous Greek myths are of interest to you, Corfu is the perfect spot to visit. 

Dodecanese Islands are known for being surrounded by Medieval castles, Byzantine churches, picture perfect beaches and ancient sites.  

Rhodes – The largest island in the Dodecanese, the city of Rhodes embodies the historic past of Greece which is still displayed all throughout the city. Through the golden beaches, castles and baroque style architecture, this UNESCO World Heritage site is perfect for those who are looking for the perfect balance of relaxing and action-packed holiday.  

Kos – Sightseeing, water sports, restaurants, ancient sites, thermal springs and more, Kos is the ultimate all-rounder island destination!  

These are just 3 and the most popular groups of islands and as you can already tell, there really is an island that can suit anyone!  

Zakynthos Island, Navagio Beach, Greece

Best Time To Go 

 Greece’s Mediterranean climate means the islands are generally sunny throughout most of the year. Luckily, even if it’s a bit chilly, instead of relaxing by the sandy beaches you can go hiking or explore the ruins.  

In terms of months to go, you can never go wrong with a hot Summer holiday from July – September. However, keep in mind that this is the most popular season with prices much higher than other months and larger crowds. August being the most expensive month but also the best time for partying. 

To avoid the large crowds and still take advantage of the sun, the best months to visit would be late September – early October.  

Regardless of the time of the year, Greece is still the perfect destination with so much to do for families, couples or if you’re travelling alone.  

Looking to book your island-hopping vacation with Tempo Holidays? Check out our top picks here 

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!

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.

 

 

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.

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!