Sent by Kate Kightley
Based in Beaconsfield
Looking for help with your business travel? Find out how I can help here
Hello and welcome to my website, I’m thrilled to have you here!
I am a personal Travel Counsellor based in Beaconsfield. I’m lucky to be based in the beautiful Buckinghamshire countryside but still within easy reach of London and the South coast. I live here with my partner, Percy our Border Terrier and Mr Kitty our cat (don't ask).
I have always been passionate about travel so I feel very lucky to have been able to turn my passion into a career. I have been in the travel industry now for 8+ years specialising in creating incredible tailor-made itineraries for my clients. Whether you are looking for a quick city break in Europe, a luxury safari in South Africa, a romantic honeymoon in the Maldives, an action packed overland trip across Asia, an exotic beach holiday or a twelve month round the world adventure I can create the perfect bespoke escape for you using my own travel expertise and extensive destination knowledge. I am a certified Australia and New Zealand specialist, an expert in overland travel in Asia and I have attended a travel academy in South Africa.
My love of travel became a passion when I first took a gap year and travelled via Asia to both Australia and New Zealand. After this I had well and truly caught the travel bug and have now been lucky enough to experience over 50 countries and counting – everywhere from Israel to the Cook Islands. I’m often asked which destination has been my favourite but it’s too hard to choose so here are my top 5 stand out moments so far:
The first glimpse of Petra in Jordan, paragliding over Rio de Janeiro, snorkelling with tropical fish on coral reefs in the Maldives, hiking on the Fox Glacier in New Zealand, and witnessing the Northern Lights in Iceland.
Here at Travel Counsellors we are famous for our personal service and the care we show for our clients and their trips which is one of the many reasons why I love running my own travel business alongside this organisation - we also offer the best financial protection in the industry.
Throughout the planning and booking process I will be your personal travel expert on hand to guide you and ensure everything is taken care of in the lead up to your trip and whilst you are away. As I am running my own personal business from home I am flexible and can work around you - whether you’d like to chat about your plans over the phone or meet for a coffee I’m here to ensure your entire experience is second to none.
I am completely independent so my advice and recommendations come without compromise and I am always honest about what I think will work best for my clients. I pride myself on my personal and friendly service and I believe now more than ever trust is paramount to booking any type of travel. Every client will also have access to our My TC app which stores all your quotes, details of each booked trip and easy access to documentation, travel itineraries and travel updates on the move.
I would love to make your dream trip a reality so please reach out to me by phone or email and let's start chatting about your plans – I can’t wait to hear from you!
As your personal Travel Counsellor I'll manage all of your honeymoon or overseas wedding preparations for you from start to finish.
From golden sands to medieval cities, discover all the UK has to offer this summer with a Staycation.
I absolutely live and breathe travel and I love to write about my experiences! Please take a look through my posts - you might find your own holiday inspiration.
13 October 2022
I LOVE helping my clients plan their honeymoon and this particular honeymoon stands out as one of my absolute favourites to plan!! Josh & Lowri came to me in January this year with some initial ideas about where they might want to go and what their ideal honeymoon would look like. After researching a few different destinations in Asia and Africa and sending some sample itineraries it was a particularly special Tanzania & Zanzibar itinerary which caught their eye and the honeymoon countdown began! In September they kicked off their adventure with an 8 day tour through Tanzania including Big 5 spotting on game drives through the Serengeti, an unforgettable hot air balloon ride over the National Park, safari drives across the floor of the jaw dropping Ngorogoro Crater, chance to spend time with the local Maasai community and a guided cycling adventure near Lake Victoria. After all the excitement of this action packed tour the honeymooners opted to spend their final days relaxing underneath palm trees on the shores of Zanzibar. I caught up with Josh & Lowri on their return and they said: 'Everything was pretty much perfect. All our flights left on time and airport transfers were waiting for us when we landed. The Intrepid tour was fantastic – we had a great group of people, an excellent guide, driver and cook! The hotels in Nairobi and Kissi really made the effort for us too, giving us the honeymoon suite (with rose petals on the bed!). The safari was wonderful: we saw all of the Big 5 except for a leopard, plus lots of other animals. The three highlights were seeing a pride of lions – alpha male, females, cubs and all – walk right past our vehicle, then seeing an ostrich mating dance (which seemed to work!) in the Ngorongoro Crater, and of course the hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti! We had some really humbling encounters with locals in the towns either side of the safari also. And the food! Wow. Unforgettable trip, and so glad we did it. Zanzibar was also brilliant. The Zanzibari Hotel suited us perfectly – the love shack was super cute and faced the ocean. There weren't many other guests so it felt quite exclusive. When the tide was out we could walk along the beach down to the restaurants for cocktails and dinner. We probably overindulged on the amazing seafood but who doesn't on their honeymoon, right!? We did two days of diving/snorkelling which was fab, plus a day trip down to Stonetown where we learned more about the history and culture of the island, and visited 'Prison Island' which is now a sanctuary for giant land tortoises.' There's no better feeling than catching up with my clients on their return, seeing their amazing photos and hearing all about the unforgettable memories they have created together. Tanzania was already high on my ever changing travel list but hearing all about Josh & Lowri's trip has definitely bumped it right to the top again! If you'd like to hear more about Tanzania & Zanzibar for your own trip I'd love to chat to you!
17 November 2020
Holiday stopovers are one of my all time favourite things about a longhaul holiday... Why? Because you're basically getting two holidays in one. There's no worse feeling than packing your suitcase ready to come home and wondering how the time flew by so quick. So what if you weren't coming straight home, but instead you had a few days in another amazing destination to look forward to! Most people don't even realise this is a possibility let alone know how to book stopover flights which is another great reason to get in touch with an expert like me who can help you choose the best stopovers for your route. Here's a quick guide to the most common stopovers you may have been missing out on. Middle East Stopovers If you're travelling east or south to Asia, Oceania or Africa then the likelihood of flying with Emirates, Qatar or Etihad is pretty high. These airlines all transit through either Dubai, Doha or Abu Dhabi which are all amazing destinations in their own right and well worth a visit. I've experienced a stopover in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Both city centres are super close to the airport too which make it even more ideal. These destinations are ideal for a stopover as two or three nights in each is perfect to take in all the main highlights and tick another destination off your bucket list. Don't miss a trip to the desert from any of these destinations. If you stop in Abu Dhabi be sure to take a trip to Qa?r Al-Wa?an (the white palace) - there is a city sightseeing bus in Abu Dhabi which takes you here as well as all the other main sights, ideal if you don't have long but want to see everything. Dubai has loads on offer but the marina at night and the Burj Khalifa are both pretty special and shouldn't be missed. Asia Stopovers If you're travelling within Asia or further afield to Australia or New Zealand then your most common stopovers (if not in the middle east) are likely to be Hong Kong, Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. This would mean you are travelling with either Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines or Malaysian Airlines. Again three incredible destinations, all suitable for a quick three night stop either on the way or on the way back from your actual destination. I've been lucky enough to visit all three and there's bags to do and see in each location. Expect incredible food, trendy rooftop bars, jaw-dropping architecture and bags of culture whichever stop you choose. Don't miss Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, The Peak in Hong Kong and KLCC Park in Kuala Lumpur. European Stopovers European stopovers are common if you're travelling to the US, South America, Africa and some parts of Asia. My top three stopover locations are Paris, Amsterdam and Lisbon if you're flying with either Air France, KLM or TAP Portgual. These three destinations are popular with UK tourists for weekend breaks anyway but if you haven't yet got round to visiting and your flight happens to stop here along the way then why not take the time to explore a new place before or after your holiday. Again all ideal for two to three nights and all offer cheap transport links into the city centre. In Paris be sure not to miss the Eiffel Tower in the evening, it's a beautiful place to sit and enjoy a late evening coffee. Amsterdam - I'm often asked if the Anne Frank museum was worth the queue (we queued for over two hours) and yes it absolutely is so if you have the time be sure to factor this into your stay. Lisbon be sure to check out the iconic Elevador de Bica, a super steep tram journey with plenty of Instagram worthy photo opportunities. North America Stopovers If you're heading to South America, New Zealand, the South Pacific islands, Canada or the US you might find yourself flying with one of the US national carriers, Air New Zealand or Air Canada. These airlines all offer wonderful stopover opportunities including my top three favourite options - Los Angeles, Miami and Toronto. These are all destinations you could quite easily head to for your actual holiday however they're also great cities to explore in three or four nights. They all offer great transport links from the airport to the city centre giving you plenty of options no matter your budget. In LA, Santa Monica is a great area to base yourself in if you want to be close to the beach and the airport. It's also a great base to explore Venice Beach, Beverley Hills and Hollywood. If you're a keen hiker head to Griffith Park and hike up to the Hollywood sign for spectacular views over Los Angeles. Miami is another perfect location for a stopover, especially if you're planning an adventure holiday as this will give you a few extra days at the start or end to relax on the beach before you head home. Spend some time relaxing on Miami Beach before exploring the Art Deco district where the pastel painted buildings offer great spots for a bite to eat. Toronto offers everything you need for a city break style stopover with delicious food, outstanding museums and galleries, wonderous beaches and a buzzing nightlife. For the best beaches head to Toronto Island where everything takes on a slower pace, you will also be delighted by the views back over the city. If you have a day to spare head out to Niagara Falls to tick another spectacular sight off the bucket list. Stopovers often add very little cost to your holiday and can sometimes even make your flights cheaper so it's an option well worth checking out! If you'd like to make the most of your next holiday and explore possible stopover destinations get in touch and I'd be happy to help you with a bespoke itinerary.
22 October 2020
The most common question a travel agent will ever be asked is 'why should I book with you rather than online?'. In the days of Covid19 it's more important than ever to be informed when it comes to who to trust with your hard earned money. Here are my most frequently asked questions as a Travel Counsellor to give you more of an insight into what I do and how I can help you with your future holiday plans. Why should I book with you rather than through a website? I am the owner of my own travel business so there's nothing I care more about than you and your holiday. You will only ever deal with me and I am at your disposal from the moment you get in touch to enquire until the moment you walk through your front door on return from your holiday. I am passionate about travel and have travelled a lot myself so not only can I put together an incredible bespoke itinerary for you but I can also include personal recommendations based on my own travel experiences which I know you will love. I am available on the phone, in person, via email and on various social media channels so there's lots of different ways you can get in touch with me depending on your preferences. I always a im to be available for you no matter what the time of day but should this not be possible there is a 24 hour support service you can contact. All holidays booked through me have 100% financial protection through Travel Counsellors unique trust scheme. What type of holidays can I book through you? In a nutshell, anything! I can help you arrange everything from a UK staycation to a once in a lifetime round the world adventure spanning every continent, and anything that falls in-between. I offer flights, hotels, cruises, package holidays, group tours, tailor made independent tours, sailing trips, car hire, campervan hire, villas, cottages, day trips, insurance, and much more. All the holidays I arrange are completely bespoke to you so you can be assured that all of your needs will be met and you're going to have an amazing time. I can also book the likes of Jet2 Holidays, Easyjet Holidays and many more - the bonus being you'll only ever deal with me rather than someone from a call centre so should something go wrong I will be the one to sort it out for you. Will it be more expensive to book through you? As a regular traveller myself I know how important it is to ensure you always get the best deal. I will always try my absolute best to ensure everything I offer to you is competitively priced. I can't always guarantee I will be the cheapest but I can guarantee that I will take all of the hassle out of your booking and I will always put you and your holiday first. So whilst you may find a slightly cheaper deal online, you won't find better value for money than the service I can offer you. If I book with you will I be financially protected? As a Travel Counsellor any booking you make with me has 100% financial protection which means should anything happen to any of the companies which operate your trip, you won't lose out. The financial protection we offer is completely unique and independent meaning whatever happens your money is safe with us. Our scheme financially protects every aspect of your trip whether you've booked your whole holiday with me or just your airport parking. For extra peace of mind I am proud to say Travel Counsellors were also voted no.1 on a survey completed by Money Saving Expert based on travel refunds given during the pandemic. For more information on this please feel free to reach out to me directly.
03 November 2020
Brazil has always been high on my list of countries to explore so I always imagined going there for a few weeks to pack in everything from the Amazon to Iguassu Falls. So, when I found some incredibly reasonable flights to head to Rio for my partners birthday back in August 2019, I came to realise that Rio was actually the perfect destination for a city / beach break. It might seem like a long way to go for 5 nights but the flight times were perfect, allowing us to make the absolute most of the time we had. Our trip was the ultimate mix of exploring and relaxation and I would highly recommend Rio both as an add on to a South America trip or as a standalone city / beach break. We travelled out from London on a direct flight with British Airways which got us to Rio in the early evening. Our hotel was right on Copacabana beach so there was a huge selection of bars and restaurants right on our doorstep. On our first evening we found a beautiful restaurant right on the beach and enjoyed a delicious meal and cocktails with a view, the perfect start to our mini break. Waking up on our first morning we really got to appreciate the views of Copacabana Beach from our room. There was no time for us to hang around this morning though as we had thrown ourselves right in at the deep end and booked a tandem hang-gliding experience over Rio. After a quick breakfast we were collected from the hotel and whisked up to the top of Tijuca National Park which is at an altitude of 517m. The view from the top was incredible but the beach we were going to land on seemed forever away, so the nerves really started to kick in. No backing out though, so before we knew it we were strapped to our guide and running off the edge of the take off ramp. It really was an amazing experience! I soon forgot how far from the ground I was and started to really appreciate the views over Ipanema, Copacabana, Sugar Loaf Mountain, Corcovado and the city of Niteroi on the other side of the Guanabara Bay. I would highly recommend this to anyone looking to do something a bit different. The views were truly stunning and being able to land right on the beach directly in front of a beach bar was the perfect way to top off the experience and celebrate with a cold lager. Day two was much more relaxed with a full morning spent between our hotel pool and Copacabana beach. There are lots of vendors on the beach offering up the most incredible grilled halloumi and cold beers so there was no danger of us going hungry or thirsty. This meant we could just sit back and watch the world go by all morning - I don't think there's a better spot in the world for people watching than Copacabana beach. In the afternoon we decided to hire electric scooters and zip down the promenade to the adjacent beach neighbourhood of Ipanema. Ipanema beach is a slightly quieter and more up-market version of Copacabana beach with lots of cocktail bars, fancy restaurants and boutique shops to keep you entertained. After dipping in and out of the cute boutique shops for the afternoon we chose a traditional Brazilian barbeque restaurant for our evening meal which was delicious, and then caught an Uber back to our hotel. On day three we had booked ourselves an action packed tour of Rio which included Tijuca National Park for some amazing panoramic views over the city, the famous Christ the Redeemer statue, Santa Teresa which is a traditional old neighbourhood in Rio and still home to much of it’s original architecture, Escadaria Selaron (the colourful Lapa steps), before being dropped off at Sugarloaf Mountain just in time to get to the top before sunset. Rio is huge with lots on offer so the tour was the perfect way to see all the main highlights in one day. The stops were long enough to appreciate your surroundings and take plenty of pictures and we didn’t feel like we were being rushed from place to place. Ending the day at the top of Sugarloaf was a particular highlight as the sunset was incredible and it was amazing to see the city light up at night. There were also plenty of food and drink options once at the top so it was the perfect place to spend the evening. On day four we decided to walk from our hotel to Botafogo. We wanted to see the football stadium which was en route as well as visit the beach, although it’s not the best beach in Rio it does boast amazing views of Sugarloaf Mountain. We also discovered there were plenty of shopping opportunities on the way which was ideal for picking up souvenirs and countless pairs of Haviana flip flops! The walk wasn’t as pleasant as we expected as most of it was along a highway which we couldn’t seem to get away from. We also had to cross the highway or locate the subway crossing to access the beach which was a bit of a pain and although there were plenty of street signs the directions were confusing. In the evening we really wanted to experience a traditional Samba bar with live music and dancing. We were recommended Rio Scenarium which was a huge multilevel bar offering food, drinks, live music and dancing. We arrived early and we quickly made friends with one of the waiters who offered to move us to one of the front row tables, these tables are usually reserved for locals and bookings made well in advance so we felt very lucky. We had a great night, the music was incredible and it was the perfect mix of tourists and locals giving it a really authentic feel. We even had a go at Samba dancing ourselves assisted by some lovely locals! It wasn’t a cheap night and we definitely had more caipirinhas than we should have but it was definitely one of my favourite experiences in Rio. Our final day was departure day but because our flight wasn’t until later in the evening we still had almost a full day to enjoy. We spent the day on Copacabana beach enjoying our last few hours in beautiful Rio with the sun on our faces, the songs of the beach vendors in our ears and the taste of kiosk caipirinhas on our lips. I was so glad we’d made the decision to travel to Rio, it was well worth the longer flight and we had the most amazing 5 days here. Although we do feel like we’ve seen the best of Rio and we didn’t miss out on anything we would still come back again for another visit if we got the chance. If Rio is high on your must visit list feel free to get in touch and I'd be happy to tell you more about my experience and help you arrange your own bespoke itinerary for Brazil.
21 October 2020
Bali – a spiritual paradise, home to enchanting temples, looming volcanoes, exotic landscapes and stunning beaches. I had been desperate to visit Bali for a while - pictures of beautiful private pool villas, exotic beaches and rice terrace swings on Instagram had lured me in. Now all I needed was someone to go with, so I decided to ask my Mum. We hadn’t been on holiday just the two of us for ages but with the long flights and the lack of notice I wasn’t sure she’d agree but I was wrong, and she jumped at the chance. A few weeks later and we were off! I had planned us a luxurious itinerary which on closer inspection looked more like a honeymoon than a Mum and Daughter trip but who’s judging. Our first stop was a gorgeous resort in Nusa Dua made up of 29 modern pavilion style villas all with their own private pool and lush garden space. After a long flight we were collected via private transfer complete with car snacks, cold water and a refreshing towel - it was exactly what we needed. Commence 3 days of pure bliss - we had our own personal butler right at the end of the phone, so we didn’t want for anything. We need not have left the villa if we didn’t want to as our breakfast was ordered over the phone and delivered directly to the villa each morning as was lunch and dinner if we’d wanted. We did choose to leave the comfort of our villa on one of our evenings to eat at a local restaurant, we were dropped off by the resort and then returned by the restaurant owner – everything felt very exclusive. The resort had a lovely bar and restaurant to while away the evenings and there was always some kind of entertainment, think classy live music here rather than an animation team. The resort also had a communal pool with lush day beds, but our own private pools were so lovely we didn’t actually ever see anyone use it. We treated ourselves on the final day to an incredible treatment at the resort spa and I’d go as far as to say it was the best massage I’d ever had. We decided to hire a driver for the rest of our trip as we needed to get between two other resorts, and we also wanted to see some of the island, so this seemed like the best option. He picked us up from Nusa Dua after our blissful 3 nights and took us to our next stop – Ubud. En route he took us to a quaint little tea plantation where we were given a tour and then invited to sample lots of different flavours of tea. The tea was delicious and needless to say, we both left with a few different variations of tea to take home. In Ubud we also opted for villa style accommodation which offered us peace and quiet and another private pool. Our second villa was much more traditional with a large indoor and outdoor space and again with our own personal butler. The resort also had a communal pool, a spa and complimentary yoga classes each morning. There’s lots to do in Ubud so we didn’t spend as much time in the villa as we did in Nusa Dua. Our resort was just off the main street in Ubud so we had a wide range of bars and restaurants to choose from as well as a whole host of gorgeous little gift shops. Ubud is the centre of spirituality in Bali so expect incredibly relaxed vibes here. Ubud is also home to the world-famous sacred monkey forest, a sanctuary for long tailed macaque monkeys complete with temples and forestry. It was only a short walk from our resort but it’s not for the faint-hearted, so I had to use my powers of persuasion to convince my Mum to go with me. The forest is home to hundreds of monkeys and they’re not afraid to get up close and personal with you. I learnt this the hard way whilst taking a selfie with a monkey I believed to be at a relatively safe distance. Within seconds the monkey was sat on my head which granted, made for a great photo but I soon realised I had no idea how to get it off and I certainly didn’t want to shove it off for fear of it biting me. This wasn’t the last we’d see of the monkeys either, we were told on arrival in the resort not to leave any food outside our room due to its proximity to monkey forest and whilst we didn’t exactly break this rule we did leave our dessert plates out one evening. The next morning we were treated to a 6am wakeup call by a family of monkeys wreaking absolute havoc outside. They smashed plates, emptied sugar sachets, opened cupboards and tipped over plant pots – very entertaining to watch but they left the place in a mess. When our butler brought us our breakfast the next morning, he barely batted an eyelid and just said ‘monkeys’ so we figured it must be fairly common practice here. Our next stop after Ubud was Seminyak, a beach resort on the west coast of Bali. Our driver collected us early in the morning so we could spend the day sightseeing before being dropped off at our next resort. We had a fantastic day visiting stunning rice terraces, and soaking up the culture at Tirta Empul, a Hindu water temple famous for its holy spring water and Tanah Lot, a temple positioned on a rock formation and only accessible when the tide is out. We arrived at our final resort just in time for dinner and being centrally located in Seminyak we had plenty of choice. We opted for a regular resort hotel for our final stop as we knew we would spend most of our time out and about. The resort was right on the beach and surrounded by beautiful beachfront restaurants and bars. We spent our last few days lazing around the pool or on the beach in the mornings before heading out for lunch and a spot of shopping. In the evenings we were spoilt for choice with bars and restaurants so we sampled as many as we could in our 4 days here. We enjoyed stunning sunsets from the bars of Double Six Beach complete with local beer and cocktails. My favourite spot in Seminyak had to be Potato Head Beach Club which we saved for our final evening. Its very exclusive with its own private beach setting and pool area, an extensive list of cocktails and delicious food. If you are looking for affordable luxury, and never-ending adventure mixed with blissful relaxation then Bali is perfect. Great for honeymooners (like me and my Mum), families, couples and friends it has something to suit every adventure and every budget. If you would like to plan your own bespoke itinerary in Bali, please get in touch. I would love to share my own personal experiences and knowledge with you and help create your perfect holiday.
22 October 2020
This was part 2 of my three-week epic cross-country adventure in Canada and I was going it alone. I had met up with family in Toronto and I was meeting a friend when I got to Vancouver but for this mid-section I had 4 days to explore Banff National Park as a solo traveller. I decided the best way for me to do this would be to hire a car, so I flew into Calgary and picked up my ride directly from the airport. Let the adventure commence! As I was travelling alone I decided on this occasion I would stay in a hostel so I would at least be surrounded by other travellers in the evenings for a bit of company. As it turned out I was so exhausted that I was usually in bed before 9pm sleeping off my days adventures so it didn’t matter either way. I arrived in Banff National Park just before dark, the journey was relatively straight forward and other than a queue to pay the park fee, it didn’t take me much time at all. The minute you enter the National Park you are taken aback by the landscape and I almost wished I wasn’t driving so I could spend more time gawping out of the window. After a quick drive through Banff town to take in my surroundings I headed to my hostel for a bite to eat and an early night. I got up super early and jumped in the car, straight to Tim Hortons to fuel myself for the day ahead, which apparently would become a bit of a habit as the days went on. First on the hit list today was Johnston Canyon, following the well paved walkway through lush forest to the Lower Falls and then on to the Upper Falls. The Upper Falls trail took me around an hour and was slightly steeper once I passed the Lower Falls. The walk itself was beautiful though with lots of viewpoints along the way and then two main viewpoints at the end of the walk looking over the dramatic falls cascading into the deep pool below. In the afternoon I decided to take a ride on the Lake Louise Gondola which whisks you up 2088m to the top where you have a spectacular view of the surrounding mountain ranges. The ascent is the perfect opportunity to try and spot grizzly bears hanging out in the forest below. Once at the top I took a stroll along the panoramic viewing platform where the views just kept getting better and better. Aside from the incredible views there are also restaurants, a Wildlife Interpretation Centre, and daily guided walks. I got there in the late afternoon so I had already missed the walks for that day and it’s too dangerous to hike on your own because of the bears so I didn’t end up doing any of the hiking trails at the top. I still spent a good hour or so at the top admiring the views with a lovely coffee. In the evening I wandered around the town of Banff and sampled the local delicacy that is Poutine (basically chips, cheese and gravy but way better) before weaving through the various different gift shops. It’s a lovely little town with lots of shopping opportunities and plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from in the evening. Day two had me up even earlier as I wanted to visit Lake Louise and Moraine Lake and knew I needed to beat the rush for the car park as they fill up early. Moraine Lake is typically harder to get to as they shut the road that leads in to the car park as soon as the car park is full, then there’s no option to wait anywhere, you just have to keep driving past and hope you hit the turn off just as there’s an opening. I opted for Lake Louise first as there were a couple of hikes I wanted to do here. I got here just after 7am and managed to get a spot in the car park which is right on the edge of the lake. When you arrive your eyes are drawn first to the beautiful lake and then to the incredible chateau style hotel which sits right on the edge – I promised myself next time I’d definitely treat myself to a stay here. I opted to take the Lake Agnes Tea House hike which is a popular route and I needed to make sure there were always people around as it’s too risky to hike alone with grizzly bears roaming free in this area. It’s just over 7km to get to the tea house and the views are insane. You spend the majority of the hike overlooking Lake Louise as you creep up the side of the mountain, then around halfway up you hit mirror lake which is a beautiful spot to have a rest and a bite to eat (if you’ve brought snacks with you). The end of the trail brings you out at Lake Agnes which blew me away, I couldn’t fathom how this stunning lake was so high up in the mountains! There’s a quaint little tea house right on the edge of the lake which serves hot drinks and light bites but it was super busy so prepare to wait a while for a table here. I left here and did a drive by of the road leading to Moraine Lake but it was closed so I headed up the Icefields Parkway to check out the stunning scenery on this stretch of road. I must have stopped so often that I may as well have walked it because there were just too many photo opportunities. Peyto Lake was a particular highlight on this stretch of road and one that I found almost by accident as I hadn’t read up about it at that point. Heading back towards Banff I decided to do another drive by at Moraine Lake but it was still closed – I really wanted to go here so I pulled into a nearby motel car park and waited for a little while before trying one last time. After around half an hour had passed I decided to give it one more go, by this point it wasn’t too far away from being dark so this was my last shot for the day and it was open – yay! Once you’re in you can see why this is such a popular spot, apart from being possibly the most Instagrammable spot in the whole of Canada it is absolutely stunning. I sat for a while at the top of a huge pile of rocks just staring at the lake, it’s hard to believe how blue it actually is. After taking plenty of selfies and having my picture taken on the famous Instagram log that sticks out into the lake it was time to head back to the hostel and call it a day. After ticking off all my absolute must sees I spent the last couple of days exploring Banff town, Bow Falls, more of the Icefield Parkway and driving to as many lookouts as I could find. Banff National Park is a truly magical place and I can honestly say that it is exactly how you see it in pictures - I had never seen bluer lakes or more beautiful scenery than I did on this leg of my Canada trip. If you want to include Banff National Park in your Canada itinerary please get in touch and I’d love to help you make it happen.
14 October 2020
Thailand - home to exotic islands, white sand beaches, fascinating culture, delicious street food, spectacular landscapes and incredible wildlife. Thailand has it all and can guarantee the holiday of a lifetime whether you are looking for pure luxury or travelling on a shoestring as a carefree backpacker. I have had the pleasure of visiting Thailand both as a backpacker when I was young and carefree and more recently as someone seeking that little bit of luxury. Each time I visit I always make sure I hop between different locations during my holiday, there is so much to see it would be a shame to stay just in one place. I have travelled as far North as Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, and as far South as the beautiful islands of Koh Yao Yai and Krabi. My all-time favourite trip to Thailand was an island-hopping adventure which visited the unspoilt island of Koh Yao Yai, the laid back coast of Krabi, the majestic elephants of Khao Sok National Park, before ending in buzzing Phuket for some beach time, delicious food, fancy cocktails and retail therapy. I love talking about this trip with friends and family and have since sent many clients off on the same adventure. Here is a little taste of my experience. First stop is the serene island of Koh Yao Yai. Arriving at the luxury eco-resort by speedboat I was blown away by its beauty, the resort itself blends beautifully into the cliff face and rests in its own private and secluded bay. The rooms and villas are littered up the cliff face with breath-taking views out to the ocean and islands beyond. Once checked in we were whisked up the hill to our room in one of the many resort shuttles. We opted for a sea view room and our view out to the ocean was incredible! The infinity pool at the top of the resort was the perfect place for us to watch the sun go down with an exotic cocktail or a local beer. We were spoilt with things to do during the day, everything from yoga classes to paddleboard hire as well as a whole host of day trips the resort has available. Apart from a few resorts the island itself is relatively untouched by tourism, so it was a real glimpse at local living and everyone we met was very welcoming. Although it's a beautiful island there isn't a huge amount to see so if I went back, I probably wouldn't choose to leave the resort. Our next stop - Krabi! Krabi is a laid-back beach destination home to a multitude of different resorts all offering something slightly different. We stayed at a resort on Tup Kaek beach which is much quieter than some of the other resorts but has a beautiful atmosphere and is great for swimming and relaxing. Our room was right on the beach with gorgeous views and our own private sun loungers. We were only 5-10 minutes by taxi to Ao-Nang which has some amazing bars and restaurants as well as lots of shopping options. We chose to do a day trip from Krabi as they were better value for money here than from Koh Yao Yai. We enjoyed a day trip over to Koh Phi Phi island and Maya Bay which was made famous by the movie 'The Beach', it was an action-packed day visiting lots of stunning locations. We also visited Krabi Town market on one of the evenings which is the perfect place to fill your suitcase with souvenirs and fill your bellies with yummy Thai street food. We also stopped for lunch at the highly recommend May and Mark's restaurant in Krabi Town for some amazing local food. Our next stop was the personal highlight of my trip, we were heading off into the jungle-y depths of Khao Sok National Park for a stay at Elephant Hills. We opted for the Jungle Lake Safari package which meant one night in the luxury tented jungle camp and another night in an over-water lake cabin. After being collected from Krabi and whisked into the jungle to check-in we went to visit the elephants, they were clearly very happy and well looked after. We spent a few hours watching them playing and helping the staff to bathe the elephants and then feed them. It was an incredible experience and so nice to be up close to these majestic animals whilst also safe in the knowledge that this was a truly ethical experience. Once we got back, we had free time to use the pool and relax. In the evening we were treated to some local entertainment and a cooking class along with a delicious meal. On day two it was time to head over to the lake cabins, each cabin had direct water access from the balcony and its own kayak which we could use whenever we wanted. We were taken on a kayak safari to spot monkeys with a local guide in the morning and a jungle walk for more wildlife spotting and some cave exploring to finish off the day. In the evening we were spoilt with another amazing meal and a free evening to chat to the other guests. All in all, it was a once in a lifetime experience and I loved every minute. On our final morning we were transported to our fourth and final stop – Phuket! Phuket, known for its buzzing nightlife and countless activities attracts thousands of tourists from all over the world every single day. There are a few different beach resorts in Phuket so there is something to suit every style of holiday. We stayed in Patong which is the most famous beach resort and known for being the biggest, loudest, busiest and most fun. I am well-travelled but even I was overwhelmed at first, so I am glad our hotel was out of the way and not right in the centre of the action. It was a great spot for our final few days though as we had literally hundreds of restaurants and bars to choose from and there were plenty of opportunities to pick up some final souvenirs before our journey home. It was also a great base for a couple more day trips and there are lots of water sports and activities available on the beach too. Next time I would probably opt for the quieter beach resort of Karon, located just a bit further down the coast still with a great choice of restaurants and bars but much quieter beaches. What Thailand does well is ensure it offers something for everyone. Even in the busier destinations you will always find a couple of quieter beach resorts along the coast which are better suited for families, honeymooners and those who enjoy a bit of peace. Thailand also boasts a range of accommodation to suit every budget right from backpacker hostels to super-luxury resorts. If you’d love to experience all that Thailand has to offer, please get in touch as I’d love to create a bespoke itinerary tailored just for you.
16 October 2020
I had always had my eye on the Maldives and found myself constantly dreaming of never-ending white sand beaches and turquoise waters. At the time I was single and not exactly rolling in money, and I thought the Maldives was just for honeymooners, couples and families who could afford to splash out on luxury accommodation. That was until G Adventures launched their Maldives Sailing trip. This was a game-changer for me and the perfect opportunity for me to at last live out my dream. I got myself booked on as soon as I could. On arrival in Male airport I was greeted by my tour guide and introduced to the other members of the group who had already arrived. After waiting for around an hour for the rest of the group to land we were ready to go and we couldn’t have been more excited. Male airport is pretty small and right on the coast so to get to our boat all we needed to do was cross the road to the port and take a quick speedboat ride to where our lovely ship was moored. Home for the next eight days was a traditional Dhoni boat which looks like a fishing boat. There were eight people in our tour group and a crew of four. Our rooms were simple, each with a small bathroom attached, but for the amount of time we would be spending in our cabins it was perfect for what we needed. If you’re travelling alone like I was you’re automatically paired with another solo traveller on the trip to share a room, unless of course you opt to pay the additional ‘own room’ supplement to secure your own private cabin. Meeting new people was all part of the experience for me, so I was happy to share. After a quick lunch prepared for us by our incredible on-board chef, we set sail. We were in paradise from the word go. The boat had a sundeck at the very top which was the perfect spot to take in the surroundings whenever we were on the move. There was also a seating area on the main deck at the front and back of the boat if you preferred a bit of shade. Eight days of pure bliss lay ahead and with no phone signal and no contact with the outside world (unless there was an emergency of course). It was just me, my fellow tour friends, spectacular surroundings and a stack of holiday reads. This was the stuff dreams were made of. Over the next week we visited countless deserted islands where the sand was so white and the sea was so turquoise it was hard to believe we weren’t dreaming. We lounged on stunning beaches so out of reach that they were exclusive to just us. We snorkelled daily with turtles, eagle rays, octopus and the entire cast of Finding Nemo. We were surprised on one evening with an absolute feast on an un-inhabited island, where the crew built us a huge dining table out of sand, and we all filled our bellies whilst watching a stunning sunset. We lazed the afternoons away on the sun deck reading books and sharing travel stories. We visited local people on islands not usually open to tourism and got a glimpse into how life in paradise really looks. We were welcomed into the local community by the children who showed us some of their favourite songs and dance routines. We enjoyed three delicious meals a day as well as morning and afternoon post-snorkel snacks, cooked and prepared for us by our amazing chef who treated us to both local and international cuisine. By the end of the eight days I had never felt so relaxed and refreshed. It truly was an amazing experience and one I will treasure and talk about forever. We might not have been sleeping in luxury but the surroundings are luxury enough all by themselves so it really didn’t matter. The privacy of the tour and the out of reach locations we visited made it all feel incredibly exclusive without the price tag of a luxury resort.
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