April 15, 2019
There’s even more to celebrate during Discover National Parks fortnight this year (6-21 April), as 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the UK’s National Parks. Find inspiration in the great outdoors, at home and abroad, with these holiday ideas from Travel PR:
England’s largest national park, the Lake District is also home to its highest mountain (Scafell Pike) and deepest lake (Wastwater) and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2017. It’s the setting for this seven-night tour during which steam railway enthusiasts can enjoy visits to miniature railways, traction engines and standard gauge locomotives, as well as a cruise of Lake Windermere on the National Trust Steam Gondola, and the Threlkeld Quarry & Mining Museum Steam Gala. Departing 26 July, Lake District Steam Extravaganza costs from £1,150 pp (two sharing), including B&B, three lunches, one evening meal, excursions & tour leader. Call AITO* member Ffestiniog Travel on 01766 512 400 (www.ffestiniogtravel.com).
The Yorkshire Dales National Park covers 841 square miles, offering spectacular waterfalls, ancient woodland and some of the UK’s finest limestone scenery. A new viewpoint will open at Malham Cove this spring (5 Apr – 5 Aug), allowing visitors to catch a glimpse of the peregrine falcon, the world’s fastest animal. Stay at five-star Yorebridge House and enjoy spectacular views of the Dales from the 3-AA Rosette restaurant, located in the elegant Orangery, and luxurious bedrooms, some of which feature private outdoor hot tubs. An overnight stay is priced from £220 per room total/ £110 pp (two sharing), including full English breakfast. Call Pride of Britain Hotels on 0800 089 3929 (www.prideofbritainhotels.com).
The UK’s biggest national park – Cairngorms – is trialling the ‘Raptor Tracker’, a new satellite tag for tracking birds of prey, to better understand the behaviour of golden eagles and prevent wildlife crime. Spot these creatures and more on a wildlife-themed day trip with your own experienced private guide then, when the sun goes down, visit a baited hide with a maximum of 12 others, where pine marten, badger, red deer and other wild animals are frequently spotted. This trip costs from £410 pp (two sharing), including three nights’ B&B, a ‘highlights of Cairngorms wildlife’ day trip with private guide and a wildlife hide evening experience. Call AITO* member McKinlay Kidd on 0141 260 9260 (www.mckinlaykidd.com).
The Brecon Beacons National Park is an enchanting place to visit: a rugged area of South Wales dominated by misty mountains and deep wooded valleys, scattered with attractive market towns and villages. Black Mountains Yurt (sleeps six) offers spacious, open-plan accommodation with a wood-burner, which can be used as an additional cooking source. The sleeping area is great fun for families with a double bed, another raised double bed, a hammock and a sofa bed. The property also comprises a separate shepherd’s hut, and mountain bike hire can be arranged for delivery to the door. A week’s stay costs from £110 pp (£657 total) with holidaycottages.co.uk (01237 459888; www.holidaycottages.co.uk).
Exmoor National Park offers some of the most varied territory for walkers, and their canine companions, in Britain. Covering 267 square miles of moorland, woodland, valleys and farmland, it’s home to wild red deer, rare butterflies and bats, amongst many other creatures. In the picturesque harbour village of Combe Martin (which has a beautiful family-friendly beach), on the north-west edge of the park, Girt Farm (sleeps ten) has vaulted ceilings, a games room, and one of its king-size bedrooms has a free-standing roll-top bath and a balcony. A week’s stay costs from £126 pp (£1,256 total) with Canine Cottages (01237 459821; www.caninecottages.co.uk). One dog is welcome (£20 supplement).
Home to 450 miles of walking paths, Dartmoor National Park’s deep river valleys and wild open moorlands (the largest in southern England) are perfect for hiking, cycling, canoeing and horse-riding. Base yourself at Bovey Castle, a five-AA Red Star hotel set in 275 acres with a new deer park, an 18-hole golf course, tennis courts and a relaxing Elan spa. The flagship restaurant, the Great Western, holds 3 AA Rosettes and is overseen by talented Head Chef Mark Budd, who uses produce from Dartmoor’s local larder on his seasonal menus. Stay overnight from £219 per room/ £110 pp (two sharing), including breakfast and use of the Elan Spa. Call Bovey Castle on 01647 445 007 (www.boveycastle.com).
Amongst the golden hills and luscious valleys of north-eastern Portugal are charming villages where rural communities continue to live a lifestyle that’s centuries old. Enjoy the little-known Peneda-Gerês National Park, taking in distinctive granite espigueiro buildings, wild uplands and ancient paved footpaths on one of Europe’s most scenic Roman roads. Each evening’s reward is a dish of delicious local cuisine, such as bacalhau (dried & salted cod). The seven-night route costs from £705 pp (two sharing), including B&B, six picnic lunches, luggage transfers, full Walkers’ Pack and local telephone support. Flights extra. Call AITO* member On Foot Holidays on 01722 322 652 (www.onfootholidays.co.uk).
Zagori National Park is a haven of mountains, canyons and ancient stone villages. Wake up to the sound of birdsong before a day of spectacular views and rocky routes as you hike through dramatic scenery, before resting your head in the heart of Zagori at Dias Guesthouse each evening. Between the villages of Mikro Papingo and the larger Megalo Papingo, you’ll find the magical ovires, natural rock pools created by water from the Rogovos tributary, which are varying shades of beautiful blues. Take a dip if you’re feeling brave, as the water is usually cold. A seven-night B&B stay costs from £891 pp (two sharing), including return flights (Gatwick) and car hire. Call AITO* member Sunvil on 020 8758 4758 (www.sunvil.co.uk).
Renowned for its wetlands, migratory birds, pine forests and shifting coastal dunes, southern Spain’s Doñana National Park is must-see spot for wildlife and natural world enthusiasts visiting the Andalucia region. It’s easily reached from Hacienda de San Rafael, a small luxurious hotel set amid sunflower and cotton fields in the heart of the countryside, yet just 25 miles from Jerez and Seville. A three-night stay costs from £836 pp (two sharing), including BA flights (Gatwick) to Seville, car hire, B&B and the services of the Kirker Concierge, who can arrange a privately guided excursion to Doñana National Park if preferred (additional cost). Call AITO* member Kirker on 020 7593 2283 (www.kirkerholidays.com).
Take in the verdant forests, pretty coves and impressive mountain scenery of Turkey’s Dilek-Büyük Menderes Delta National Park on this eight-day gulet cruise. Led by expert guide Dr. Olivier Henry, guests will visit popular and lesser-known historic sites such as the monumental ruins of Ephesus and the Temple of Zeus at Euromos, with opportunities to swim in the beautiful waters surrounding the national park. Departing 7 September, Cruising to Ephesus costs from £2,395 pp (two sharing), including full-board accommodation, crew services, entrance fees, tips on land, excursions and transfers. Flights extra. Call AITO* member Peter Sommer Travels on 01600 888 220 (www.petersommer.com).
The under-the-radar Grazalema and Sierra de las Nieves national parks, in sun-soaked southern Spain, offer endless wild space, filled with lakes, flower meadows, forests and caves, against a rugged mountain backdrop, ideal for hiking, picnicking and cycling. In between adventures, visit pretty little rural villages and sit outside cafes for Pedro Ximénez sherry and jamón ibérico (Iberian ham) refreshment breaks. Stay at the charming La Masia Antigua, a 10-minute drive from Ronda. This luxurious seven-bedroomed villa (sleeps 12) boasts crisp white décor, 14 acres of grounds with stunning views, a courtyard garden and a heated pool. A week’s stay costs from £429 pp (£5,150 total). Flights extra. Call CV Villas on 0207 261 5404 (www.cvvillas.com).
The Vanoise National Park in the French Alps resort of La Plagne was established to protect the various species of wildlife that call this Tarentaise haven home. With a third of France’s ibex population, marmots, chamois and ample birdlife, including golden eagles and bearded vultures, there is much to interest those keen to explore. Take an alpine hike through rolling landscapes and charming mountain villages from Champagny en Vanoise, using the network of free trails suitable for all ages and abilities, from fun circuits for families, to rugged routes for experienced hikers. Stay at Laisonnay Refuge from 25€ pp. Return flights (London-Geneva) from £75 pp with EasyJet. Call La Plagne on +33 (0)4 79 09 79 79 (www.la-plagne.com).
Explore two of Croatia’s national parks and the stunning Dalmatian Coast, while staying in the picturesque town of Skradin. Adventurous families will enjoy cycling through Krka National Park, rafting along the Cetina River, canoeing down the Zrmanja River and hiking the towering canyons in Paklenica National Park, as well as bathing in the Skradinski Buk waterfalls. Croatia – Coast and National Parks Activity Week is priced from £965 per adult, age 13+/ £875 per child, age 8-12 (based on two to four sharing), including flights (London), transfers, seven nights’ half board, one lunch & local guides. Activities extra. Departs 25 May – 19 October. Call AITO* member Activities Abroad on 01670 789 991 (www.activitiesabroad.com).
Home to the one-horned rhino, elephants, buffalo and outstanding birdlife, Kaziranga National Park was among the highlights of The Duke & Duchess of Cambridge’s 2016 visit to India. Emulate the royal couple with two wildlife jeep safaris in the park during this tour that also features a cruise along the Brahmaputra River plus city sightseeing in Kolkata, a visit to Majuli Island and much more. Assam & Brahmaputra costs from £2,495 pp (two sharing), including flights (Heathrow), transfers, a seven-night full-board cruise, three nights’ five-star B&B (one in Delhi, two in Kolkata), one dinner, excursions, cruise director and local guides & reps. Departs 30 Oct. 2019 & 18 Mar. 2020. Call Jules Verne on 020 3553 3722 (www.vjv.com).
Gonarezhou, Zimbabwe’s second largest national park, is diverse, full of vast, unspoilt wilderness and a superb example of conservation success in Africa. Take a drive and appreciate the park’s huge variety of landscapes and wildlife – from elephant to buffalo, leopard to wild dog and plenty of birdlife – hike 3k to the beautiful Chivilila Falls or spend a day birdwatching. The Chilo Gorge Safari costs from £2,990 pp (two sharing), including five nights’ full board, all game activities (walks, drives and boating trips), all transfers from Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare (note these are not daily) and a copy of the Bradt Zimbabwe guide. International flights extra. Call AITO* member Expert Africa on 020 3405 6666 (www.expertafrica.com).
Few Pantanal tours venture into the national park itself, but this new 10-day trip includes an expedition cruise into the heart of this unique mosaic of wetlands, dry tropical forest and towering surrounding mountains. Go in search of Giant River Otters, Brazilian Tapir and Green-cheeked Parakeet, and hop on to smaller boats to look for the elusive Jaguar. The Pantanal Wildlife Cruise costs from £5,895 pp (two sharing), including flights (Heathrow), accommodation (six nights on an exclusively chartered houseboat, one night in a lodge on Brazil’s Transpantaneira Road), all meals and expert guiding. Departs 11 Oct. 2019 & 28 Aug. 2020. Call AITO* member Naturetrek on 01962 733051 (www.naturetrek.co.uk).
From dense jungles to dramatic glaciers, experience the best of Argentina’s varied landscapes, visiting three of its beautiful national parks over 16 nights. After exploring the capital of Buenos Aires, head to the Tierra del Fuego National Park, known for its striking landscapes, hike through the serene Los Glaciares National Park, home to the world-famous Perito Moreno Glacier, and witness the astounding Iguazu Falls, the world’s largest waterfall system located in Iguazu National Park. Classic Argentina costs from £6,750 pp (two sharing), including BA flights (Heathrow), private transfers, B&B, internal flights and excursions. Call AITO* member Sunvil on 080 8758 4774 (www.sunvil.co.uk).
The wild and remote Bale Mountains National Park is home to some of the country’s rarest and most interesting wildlife. Go in search of the elusive Ethiopian wolf, endangered black-maned lions, tiny Bale monkeys, and the infamous honey badger on this nine-day tour which includes a four-day trek in the mountains. There’s also a safari in Awash National Park, as well as a city tour in the bustling capital Addis Ababa. The trip costs from £1,800 pp (two sharing), including eight nights’ B&B, some meals, transfers, excursions & local guide. Flights extra. Call TravelLocal on 0117 325 7898 (www.travellocal.com).
Head into the jungles of Botum Sakor, one of Cambodia’s most pristine wildernesses, to explore abandoned poaching and logging trails alongside a Wildlife Alliance Ranger. Learn about their work to protect species including gibbons and macaques and stay at the eco-friendly Cardamom Tented Camp. This adventure also includes a Banteay Chhmar rural homestay, learning how to rice farm, time in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh and Koh Rong’s beaches. The trip is from £2,365 pp (two adults and two children under 12), including 14 nights’ B&B, transfers, seven lunches, six dinners & excursions. International flights extra. Call AITO* member InsideAsia Tours on 0117 244 3380 (www.insideasiatours.com).
*AITO is The Specialist Travel Association: more than 120 specialist travel companies providing an unrivalled collection of holiday ideas that cover every corner of the world. Consumers booking with AITO can be assured of high-quality holidays and excellent personal service. Visit www.aito.com for further information.
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