Sent by Claire Gleeson
Based in Kildare
Hi, I'm Linda, your personal travel agent, based in Kildare.
I specialise in tailor-made holidays and honeymoons. With 25 years’ experience in the Travel Industry, I have first-hand knowledge of the destinations that I sell. I have also completed specialist training, so you can rest assured that I am an expert in what I do. I absolutely love to travel and I hope that I can share my enthusiasm and excitement with you.
I get to know my clients first and foremost, so that we can work together to plan your perfect trip down to the last detail. I take care of everything, so that you can truly relax and create memories that will last a lifetime; whether that is a family adventure to Lapland, a bucket list trip to South Africa, the Serengeti or Japan, or a toes-in-the-sand getaway to completely unwind and relax.
I have travelled extensively, visiting many once-in-a-lifetime destinations like the Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, Zanzibar, Sri Lanka, Bahamas, Barbados, Antigua, St. Lucia, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, Bali, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Japan etc. The list goes on!! I worked in Sydney for a number of years, tailor-making itineraries for my clients to travel around Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. I got married on the beach in Bora Bora, French Polynesia. We drove through the Canadian Rockies last year with our children and this year we will be going on our first cruise holiday.
At Travel Counsellors, we pride ourselves on our award winning customer service, plus we are available 24/7 in case of emergencies. Travel Counsellors are licensed and bonded here in Ireland with the Irish Aviation Authority, licence No TA 621, so your money is completely safe.
I offer a friendly, professional service, at a time convenient to you. So if you are thinking of your next holiday, please get in touch as I’d love to help you plan your perfect trip. I am available for face-to-face meetings as well as communicating over the phone or a video call if you prefer. You will also find me on Instagram and Facebook.
I look forward to hearing from you soon!
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.
19 July 2023
If you love food and wine, stunning scenery, wildlife and adventure, South Africa is most definitely for you. There is plenty to suit all ages and interests. With only a 1–2-hour time difference, jetlag is not a problem. It is convenient to get to with excellent airfares available with many airlines and it is excellent value for money. Where you visit in South Africa will depend on how long you have for your trip, the time of year that you travel and your own personal interests. The most popular option for first time visitors would be a self-drive itinerary from Cape Town to the Cape Winelands, continuing along the garden route to Port Elizabeth and finishing with a safari to see the Big 5. There are also private game reserves close to Cape Town if you are short on time, as well as fantastic game viewing at Kruger National Park where you can cover more ground and see a greater variety of landscapes. Victoria Falls can also be accessed by a short 2-hour flight from Johannesburg or 3-hour flight from Cape Town. South Africa has always been very popular with couples, however I travelled with my 2 friends and it was a wonderful once-in-a-lifetime holiday, with lots of fun and great memories. The roads are very good and with driving on the same side as Ireland, it was so easy. (If you are not interested in driving, I can also arrange transfers or a scheduled tour for you instead.) Being in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons are the opposite of Europe. We travelled in May and experienced very pleasant temperatures with plenty of sunshine, although we did feel the cold in the mornings and evenings whilst on safari. In Cape Town, we stayed at the bustling V&A Waterfront area, which has lots of restaurants, bars, shops and the Two Oceans Aquarium. It is also the gateway to Robben Island (tours need to be booked in advance). If you are travelling at a time of year with warmer temperatures, you could consider staying in the lovely seaside suburb of Camps Bay. We took the hop-on hop-off bus and the cable car up Table Mountain. Check the weather beforehand to ensure you get the best view, as Table Mountain can be covered by cloud (known locally as the tablecloth). There are plenty of art galleries and museums. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is a lovely way to spend an afternoon and The Old Biscuit Mill offers a Saturday market and food stall. You can also visit the penguins at Boulders Beach, which is a 45 min drive away. Franschhoek is situated in the heart of the Cape Winelands, just 45 minutes from Cape Town. This area is home to a large number of vineyards and is known as South Africa’s gourmet capital. The Wine Tram is a great way to explore the area. You can also prebook a half day or full day wine tasting tour. Our first stop on the garden route was Knysna. The drive from Franschhoek takes approx. 5 hours, so we set off after breakfast and arrived in time for lunch. In Knysna, we stayed at a property on the water’s edge with fabulous views of the lagoon. We visited the town. You can also hike in the surrounding nature reserves or take a boat cruise. Our next stop on the garden route was Plettenberg Bay, a short 45 min drive from Knysna. We stayed in the forested Crags area with stunning views. We visited Monkey land and the Elephant Sanctuary, where we got to brush the elephants and walk with them. We stopped off for lunch at a local vineyard. Plettenberg Bay is known for its pristine coastlines and beaches. We did a boat trip on our last day & seen seals & dolphins. If you’re lucky enough you could also see whales. Tsitsikamma National Park is located between Plettenberg Bay and Port Elizabeth. Here you can take a waterfall zipline tour, quad bike tour, or go abseiling. The most popular short walk is the 2km Storms River Trail which leads to the Storms River suspension bridge. We visited Addo Elephant Park and continued to our private game reserve, situated on the Eastern Cape. Our suites were luxurious and very spacious. The food and wine was exceptional, as was the warm friendly service. The wildlife we seen on our game drives here included: white rhino, zebra, giraffe, buffalo, elephant, lion and warthog. My friend also had an unexpected guest visit her outdoor shower one evening – a very cheeky monkey! We also stayed at a private game reserve for a number of nights in the Timbavati area of Kruger, with incredible game viewing. We had a ranger and tracker on our game drives. In the evening dinner was served in the open air boma. There we met the rest of the guests and chatted about the excitement of the day. After our morning game drive, we spent time relaxing in the pool overlooking the river. After lunch our orders were taken for sundowners and we departed on our afternoon game drive, stopping off in the bush for a cold glass of wine. The wildlife we happened to see in Kruger National Park included: Lion, leopard, buffalo, wildebeest, warthog, elephant, crocodile, hippo, a number of different antelope, as well as kingfishers & eagles. Safaris in South Africa usually include 2 game drives per day plus all meals & beverages. The average stay would be 3 nights, but you can of course stay longer, depending on budget. Safaris on the Eastern Cape are malaria-free, whereas during the wet summer months at Kruger National Park antimalarials and deet spray are recommended. National Park entrance fees are paid locally at Kruger National Park. If an African safari has always been on your wish list, please give me a call.
18 July 2023
Tahiti and Bora Bora are words that evoke images of water villas over crystal clear lagoons, abundant marine life, soaring volcanic peaks, lush tropical landscapes and Polynesian culture with tattooed warriors and traditional dances. I can only describe this destination as heaven on earth, as it was described when it was first discovered. It is a place of beauty and tranquillity that you will not find elsewhere. Having travelled throughout the Indian Ocean and Caribbean, French Polynesia appealed to me as offering something more. As it turns out, it offers a lot more. It is quite a journey to get there but let me tell you that it is absolutely worth it. We stopped in San Francisco and Yosemite National Park, before flying via Los Angeles to the main island of Tahiti. We were met on arrival by the sound of the ukelele and a flower lei was placed around our necks whilst we witnessed a Polynesian dance performance. We had landed in paradise! Our first stop was the island of Moorea, known for its pineapple, mango, and papaya, which we reached by catamaran. Sitting up on the top deck gave us a fabulous view of our surroundings and the excitement grew even further. We spent a number of nights in a beach villa just steps away from the shore and took a 4-wheel drive tour to Belvedere lookout with stunning views of Cooks Bay and Opunohu Bay. We visited the historic Marae Titiroa & as we travelled back to our hotel, the road winding around these bays was picture perfect, with freshly caught colourful local fish for sale on the roadside. There are hikes, ziplines, sunset cruises & plenty of watersports activities including surfing. We flew to Bora Bora, where the peaks of Mount Otemanu and Mount Pahia are visible through the clouds, the only remnants of an ancient extinct volcano. Bora Bora is surrounded by a lagoon, reef and motus (tiny islands). The perfect place to say, ‘I do.’ I was lucky to have a window seat on this flight and did not budge from the view. Our traditional Polynesian villa had a private garden with a pool and gazebo. The morning of our wedding, we walked barefoot to the beach where we were taken by outrigger canoe to our ceremony site, greeted by the Master of Ceremonies, with local musicians beating drums and beautiful dancers. Our adventures in Bora Bora also included a lagoon boat tour, swimming with black tip reef sharks, rays, and lemon sharks, stopping at a tiny deserted motu for a BBQ lunch. We visited the mainland of Bora Bora one evening and dined at Bloody Marys. It is also possible to rent a jet ski or glass bottom canoe, take a helicopter flight, cycle on the main island and to hike the Valley of the Kings trail. After Bora Bora, we travelled to the tiny island of Taha’a for our Honeymoon. Taha'a is known for producing Tahitian pearls & the most fragrant vanilla on earth. Our expansive villa was again Polynesian in style, had its own pool and gazebo, and it was right on the beach where we had our own hammocks. We witnessed a fire dance on the beach, snorkelled amongst colourful fish in the coral garden with the silhouette of Bora Bora in the distance, ate the most fabulous food and totally relaxed. We stopped off in Los Angeles and New York on our way home for some sightseeing. But I really didn’t want this trip to ever end!
12 September 2023
We flew Transavia from Dublin to Paris Orly. Having been to Paris CDG airport a number of times, I was pleasantly surprised by Orly. It is not as big and is much easier to navigate. We didn’t have far to walk and there weren’t any big queues. Vueling also fly from Dublin to Paris Orly. CDG is a much larger airport and offers more flights (both Aer Lingus and Air France fly daily from Dublin). A lot of people choose to fly on the first flight from Dublin to arrive as early as possible and to return home on an evening flight, again making the most of their time at Disneyland Paris. I prebooked private airport transfers, which was a great call. Instead of having to travel to a shuttle bus timetable and wait for lots of other passengers to board and then be dropped off at numerous hotels, we had a driver waiting for us on arrival that took us straight to our hotel. This was much more convenient and was much quicker. If flying to Paris CDG, there is a direct train to Disneyland Paris (but be careful as there are also regular trains that take much longer.) If arriving by train, you will then need to walk or to take the complimentary area shuttle to your chosen hotel. We spent 3 nights at the 4-star Dream Castle Hotel, a partner hotel to Disneyland Paris. This means that our Disneyland Paris theme park tickets were included, as well as complimentary area shuttle bus. Breakfast was also included each morning. There are different offers throughout the year, but at the time of booking this 4-star hotel with breakfast was the same price as a 2-star Disney hotel with no breakfast included. I chose the higher standard of accommodation and the best value, which worked for us. Of course, if there is not much in the price difference, or if the budget permits, you may opt for a Disney hotel to be able to walk to the parks. Another perk of staying at a Disney hotel is that you get an extra hour in the theme parks before they open to other guests. Disney characters meet guests at most of the Disney hotels. Dream Castle is an elegant French style hotel with lovely gardens and excellent facilities including a pool, a children’s indoor play area and an arcade. Our room was very spacious and was a really good standard, with fabulous built in bunk beds for the children. We had lunch in the hotel, before going to the theme parks. The food was lovely. How to plan your trip to Disneyland Paris… Once you have chosen your dates and confirmed your booking (with your flights, airport transfers, accommodation and theme park passes), I would recommend that you plan a little further. It will be worth it in the long run. Download the Disneyland Paris app to research the rides that your children might like and that would be suitable for their age/height. Save your favourites so that you can refer back to them quickly. The app will also show live queue times and you can even order food from some outlets and pick it up when it is ready, saving time queueing. There is a lot to see and do between the 2 parks (Disneyland Paris and Disney Studios) as well as the shows and parades!! Little legs get tired and kids get cranky, so try not to pack too much in. I would recommend having 2-3 priorities each day, seeing where they are located on the map and what may be nearby that you could easily tie in. Disneyland Paris is busy year-round! However, during weekends and school holidays it is much busier. Whilst it may be quieter (and less expensive) to visit in January, the weather will not be as good, the parks will be open for a shorter duration each day and not all rides may operate. We chose to visit in October, as my daughter absolutely loves Halloween and dressing up. We travelled mid-October to avoid the school holidays (Halloween season runs from 1st October at Disneyland Paris). The parks were decorated in a festive Halloween theme and it was really magical. 2022 was the 30th Anniversary of Disneyland Paris and there were nightly drone and firework shows, which was spectacular. We found that Friday was perfectly fine and the queues were manageable, however Saturday was crazy from lunchtime onwards. We waited over an hour for 1 ride which then lasted approx. 4 minutes! We took the train to see Paris and the Eiffel Tower on Sunday, as this was a dream for my 6-year-old (I created a Paris scavenger hunt and they had great fun ticking things off their list as the day went on). We visited the Disney parks again on Monday, which was so much quieter. If you want to avoid crowds as much as possible, I recommend avoiding weekends completely and staying midweek. My children were 5 and 6 when we visited. They are very different to each other, with one that absolutely loves roller coasters and the other nearly being allergic to them. They both loved the Frozen musical and Mickey and the Musician as well as the Animation Academy. They loved Ratatouille and went on this a couple of times. Spider Man Web Adventures was a big hit with all of us. My youngest is a big Toy Story fan and she loved Buzz Lightyear laser blast plus Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop. The eldest declared that her favourite was Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain! The facepainting is amazing at Disneyland Paris and worth splashing out on as a treat. Like Ireland, the weather is quite changeable. We had a lot of rain one day and the next it was sunny. We were definitely glad that we brought raincoats, spare runners (as they got soaked!) plus lots of snacks and refillable water bottles. There is a shop at the train station where you can pick up more snacks if needed. We didn’t prebook any restaurants or dining with characters, however if we do return, I would book Chez Remy which is at the end of the Ratatouille ride. Overall, like most in-demand holidays, I would recommend booking as early as possible and then paying off the cost when it suits. At Travel Counsellors, our MyTC portal is very convenient for seeing your quote/booking details, contacting me and making secure payments at any time. If you would like to make your dream of visiting Disneyland Paris a reality, give me a call anytime.
19 July 2023
Canada was on my list for many years, but with young children it seemed out of reach. However post-covid, I thought you only live once! Having travelled to Portugal, Spain, and Greece as a family, I decided (really hoped!) that the girls were now old enough (5 and 6) for more of an adventure. Of course, I was a little apprehensive of how they would fare on a long-haul flight, but I was more than willing to take the chance. It would be worth it, wouldn’t it?! I looked at a number of possible itineraries, researching the must-see areas and activities, what would be suitable for children, the weather, the driving distances etc. I planned it down to a T, then showed my husband. He flat out refused to agree to such a trip at first, but I answered all of his questions and concerns and wasn’t taking no for an answer. And as you can see, we did it and I would recommend anyone to do the same. We flew on my daughter’s 5th birthday from Dublin to Calgary, where we picked up our hire car and drove to Banff in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, ready to explore. The roads are fantastic, and it is very easy to drive. Banff National Park is home to glacier mountains, bright blue lakes, forests, waterfalls, and wildlife. It is the most visited National Park in Canada for good reason. I woke early on our first morning, stood out on our veranda and gazed in awe at the mountain scenery in front of me (enjoying the peace and quiet before the rest of the gang woke up). Our hotel was situated at Tunnel Mountain, a 5-minute drive to Banff town centre. This mountain town is very pretty and walkable, with playgrounds, gardens, museums, plenty of shops and restaurants. It ticked all the boxes. After a very hearty breakfast at our hotel (French toast, pancakes, breakfast tacos, Canadian back bacon benny), we drove to Banff Gondola. I had prebooked our entrance for 9.30am along with lunch at the Sky Bistro. This gave us plenty of time to walk around and appreciate the amazing views. After lunch, we drove to nearby Lake Minnewanka for a family cruise. With tales of lake monsters, history and geology, everyone was kept interested. The next day we did a Hoodoo float tour on the Bow River (it was so peaceful that the kids fell asleep!) and then relaxed at Banff upper hot springs. There are horse and carriage rides available from downtown Banff, horse and pony rides at nearby stables, plus the option to book a Cowboy cookout BBQ tour travelling by horseback or wagon. After 3 nights, it was time for us to travel further North to Jasper National Park. We travelled along the Icefields Parkway, one of the most beautiful drives in the world. We prebooked the Colombia Icefield Adventure for lunchtime, giving us plenty of time for our big Canadian breakfast and to stop off along the way. The tour included the icefields explorer on Athabasca Glacier where we walked and threw snowballs on the glacier, plus admission to the Skywalk, a suspended glass platform above the Sunwapta valley. We stopped at Athabasca falls to stretch our legs, before arriving to our accommodation in downtown Jasper. Jasper is much smaller than Banff, but again had lots of places to dine, to shop for souvenirs and the all-important playground. Jasper is known as a dark sky area and for its wildlife, as well as lakes, hot springs and many hiking opportunities. We enjoyed the swimming pool at our accommodation and had booked an evening Wildlife Discovery Tour, which picked us up at our accommodation at 5:30pm. It is 3 ½ hours long. So again, I was a little apprehensive as I might have been pushing it with bedtime (feeling sorry for the other passengers on the coach should things kick off), but it went without a hitch, and it was a fantastic experience. We were well used to amazing scenery by now, but not long into the tour we seen bears! Lots of them, as well as eagles, moose and elk. The following day we went kayaking on Emerald Lake with 1 adult and 1 child per kayak. There was great competition, rewarded afterwards with smores by the fire on the edge of the lake. After lunch we drove to the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge for the Jasper Planetarium and Telescope tour. The kids were amazed. We then had 1 final night in Canada, which we spent at Lake Louise to break up the journey back to Calgary. We played crazy golf at our hotel and had a bite to eat before visiting the lake that evening, which was perfect timing and not too busy. Lake Louise itself is stunning, with turquoise glacier fed waters, mountains and hiking trails. The walk around the edge of the lake is a definite highlight of our time in Canada. There were little pikas which the children followed and tried to catch! Then it was a quick drive over to nearby Moraine Lake, which again is an absolute must-see. We walked around the shoreline. This is a rockier area and less touristy than Lake Louise. The water is so clear, it is like a mirror. After celebrating Canada Day in Lake Louise with face painting, games and bouncy castles, our last stop was an evening in Calgary before our flight home. We visited Telus Spark Science Centre, watched the latest kids’ movie at Cineplex Odeon and had a bite to eat. There is plenty more to do in Calgary including Calgary Zoo, Calgary Sky Tower, shopping, hockey, basketball and a little further afield is the Royal Tyrrell Museum Drumheller and Dinosaur Provincial Park, for any dinosaur crazy kids. NOTE: You will need to purchase a National Park family pass, either online or on arrival. We bought ours at a pop-up booth at Lake Minnewanka, however you can also purchase them at the Banff Visitor Centre. We talk about our Canada adventure to this day, so if it is on your list, please let me know.
09 September 2023
Konnichiwa Japan is one of the most fascinating countries in the world. The land of the rising sun mixes ancient history and traditions with the newest technology. It is a place where people hold the past and the future in equal esteem. You can learn to craft origami and visit modern art installations; visit a peaceful shrine or Japanese garden and have dinner at a crazy robot restaurant; experience a traditional tea ceremony with a Geisha and sing to your hearts content at a karaoke bar. Smart toilets with numerous functions are the norm. You will find vending machines on streets even in the tiniest villages that sell hot and cold drinks, ice cream, hot ramen dishes, eggs and even disposable cameras, tights and umbrellas. Japanese culture is very different and this is why we love it so much. The people are very polite, orderly, mannerly and friendly. It is very safe and very clean. Japan is home to the largest city on the planet, a vast metropolitan area of 37 million people. Public transport may seem daunting at first but it is so convenient and easy to use. We chose to visit Japan in Spring, during the famous Sakura (cherry blossom) season. It is so eagerly awaited that it is tracked by the meteorological office, with a dedicated forecast on the national news. Hanami is the traditional custom of cherry blossom viewing. As soon as the flowers open on the trees, family and friends gather beneath them for picnics in parks across the country. As a rule of thumb, the best time to visit Japan is late spring or early autumn as the temperatures are mild with little rainfall. On our 2-week trip, we visited Kyoto & Arashiyama with its bamboo forest, Hiroshima and Miyajima Island, Takayama and Lake Kawaguchiko, stopping off enroute to visit Matsumoto Castle, finishing in Tokyo. If you are short on time, you could concentrate on Kyoto and Tokyo, taking a bullet train between the 2. I am a seasoned traveller and I am glad that I had prebooked a tailor-made package. I had researched everything about Japan and had bought a guidebook to take with me, but I was glad to have our itinerary pre-organised and to be met on arrival at the airport. We stayed in fantastic accommodation, a traditional machiya townhouse in Kyoto, hotels with futons and tatami mats for beds plus private onsens and modern spacious hotels. We had a private walking tour with a local in Kyoto and also in Tokyo. I found this great, as we not only got to learn more about the area and local life in Japan, we visited some of the main sights with our guide, but we also used public transport as part of these tours and were confident to then travel around the cities ourselves over the following days. In Kyoto we visited Nijo Castle, Kyoto Imperial Palace, Kinkaku-ji (golden pavilion), Ryoan-ji temple and zen garden, Kiyomizu Dera (temple with fantastic views and traditional streets), the traditional Geisha area of Gion, Pontocho with its local restaurants and nightlife, plus Kyoto samurai school. We also visited Arashiyama with its scenic train, river boat, bamboo forest and temples. In Hiroshima we visited the peace memorial park and museum, atomic bomb dome and also took the boat to Miyajima Island with its free roaming deer, Itsukushima Jinga (red Grand Torii Gate in the sea) and the cable car to the top of Mount Misen. In Takayama, a beautifully preserved old mountain town in the Japanese alps, we stayed in a traditional onsen ryokan and visited Takayama Jinja museum, the local market and Hida folk village with its thatched farmhouses. My husband tried the famous Hida beef, a wagyu beef from Japanese black cattle, which are given individualised care and even massages! We stopped off for a couple of hours to visit Matsumoto Castle, also known as Crow Castle due to its black exterior. It is one of the grandest castles in Japan, built in the 16th century with a moat. It is a 15-minute walk from Matsumoto train station. Next stop was Lake Kawaguchiko and Fuji-San. It is a hot-spring resort town with views of Mount Fuji. We enjoyed a kaiseki meal (multi course Japanese dinner with an emphasis on seasonal ingredients), took the hop-on hop-off bus to explore the area and a speedboat on the lake. Our final stop was the bustling city of Tokyo. There is so much to see and do here. We visited Shibuya crossing, the Tokyo sky tree, Senso-ji temple, Ueno Park with its cherry blossoms, a sumo stable, Tsukiji fish market, miraikan museum with its robots and giant moving Gundam. We also visited the Neon area of Shinjuku with its giant Godzilla statue peering over the buildings, the infamous robot restaurant and Golden Gai with its narrow alleys and bars. Whilst the people in Japan are very polite, this does not apply on the subway at rush hour! Very entertaining. Shinjuku currently holds the Guinness World Record for busiest train station. There are 12 train lines, 36 platforms and over 200 exits. If you are looking to visit somewhere very different and Japan is on your bucket list, please do not hesitate to get in touch. NOTE: For a tailor-made itinerary with tours included, you do need to book as far ahead as possible! There is huge demand for this destination and tour companies book up months in advance. However, if booking close to departure, don't fret, I can also help with booking just the essentials - flights, transfers and accommodation. I am always available to offer advice on what to see and do.
12 September 2023
With beautiful scenery, natural wonders, fascinating archaeological sites, warm friendly people, delicious food and guaranteed sunshine, Jordan is a wonderful country to explore. March to May is the best time to travel to Jordan, as well as September to November. The temperatures are pleasant and diving conditions at the Gulf of Aqaba are at their best. During the summer it can get unbearably hot and during the winter nights can be very cold. It is a very safe destination, however because its highlights are spread throughout the country, you’ll need to hire a driver or book a tour. We had a week to spend in Jordan, but there is so much to see, that we couldn’t fit everything in within that time. This included Jerash unfortunately, an ancient city north of Amman. Our must-see areas included the Dead Sea, Petra and Wadi Rum. We didn’t want to rush and we knew that there would be a lot of travelling, so we ensured that we spent a reasonable amount of time at these areas, whilst stopping off at numerous points on our journey. We spent a couple of nights at the 5 star modern Kempinski Ishtar Dead Sea, where we relaxed, sunbathed and 1 of us floated in the Dead Sea whilst the other sat on a rock with their legs floating! I am still laughing at this!! This is the lowest point on earth at 400 metres below sea level. The seas high salinity means you float effortlessly. When you get out, cover your body in Dead Sea mud for its detoxifying and therapeutic effects. It is rich in magnesium, calcium, potassium and iron. Huge tubs are provided on the shore and there are showers to wash off. You can also use Dead Sea salt as a scrub. It is quite a sight seeing people walk around covered head to toe in mud! The swimming pools at the Kempinski are amazing, especially at sunrise and sunset. You could easily cut your stay here down to just 1 night and in hindsight it may be best to leave this part to the end of your itinerary, as it is one of the best hotels that we have ever stayed in. Save the best until last! The Dead Sea is on the border between Jordan and Israel, as is the River Jordan. We also visited the ancient town of Madaba and Mount Nebo, before arriving at the beautiful 5-star Petra Marriott Hotel, our home for the next couple of nights. This hotel is traditional in style and is in a great location. A cold towel and refreshing drink were very welcome. We had prebooked ‘Petra by Night’, which was the absolute highlight of our trip to Jordan. It is one of the most breathtaking ways to experience this UNESCO World Heritage Site. After checking-in at the visitors centre, you walk through the candlelit Siq (gorge) until you reach The Treasury, where you take your seat behind 1500 candles and listen to stories and music, with the stars glistening above. Petra was the capital city of the Nabataeans from roughly 300 BC to 100 AD, when the Romans took charge. Several earthquakes destroyed much of the city and Petra was abandoned. For centuries Petra was left untouched, until it was discovered by a Swiss explorer in 1812. The Treasury is the most famous site, a tomb for the Nabataean King Aretas III, carved out of the sandstone mountains. But there is so much more to see! The next day we had an early morning wake up call, to make the most of our time here, as the area is huge and involves a lot of walking. You can also take a camel or donkey ride. If you wish to visit the Monastery, you will need to hike 800 steps. Make sure you wear a hat, comfortable walking shoes and bring plenty of water. After the Treasury, you will come to a wide-open area with tombs and houses built into the mountains. You will pass the Royal Tombs of Nabataean royalty, the colonnaded street built by the Romans and The Great Temple. You will then have the option to hike to the Monastery, which I would highly recommend. There is a small restaurant to grab a coffee or juice and a bite to eat and to rest your legs with views of the Monastery, before making your way back down. Our next stop was the Wadi Rum desert, which is like a scene out of Star Wars. Many movies were filmed in this area. It has incredible desert scenery, red martian sand, rock arches, Bedouin camps, wild camels and desert flowers. We travelled by 4WD to the camp, approx. 2 hours from Petra. We enjoyed an evening with other guests, dining on authentic Jordanian ‘Zarb, a BBQ cooked in an underground oven. We also had twin beds and an ensuite bathroom with shower in our tent. I took a sunrise camel ride the following morning and had tea with my small group of early-risers and our Bedouin guide. My travel companion slept soundly! Our next stop was Aqaba on the Red Sea, approx. 1 hour from Wadi Rum. Aqaba is a bustling tourist resort with plenty of restaurants, shops, souks and nightlife. It is the gateway to some of the best snorkelling and diving sites in the Red Sea. Its gorgeous coral reefs are teeming with wildlife. TIP: If you want to escape the crowds, plan your diving trip around the South Red Sea. The reefs are in pristine condition and at sites like Marsa Alam, Elphinstone Reef and Abu Dadaab you’ll see sharks, turtles, and an abundance of colourful marine life. There are also dolphin boat tours, sunset cruises and glass bottom boat trips from Aqaba. Mamluk Castle, also known as Aqaba Fort dates, back to the 1500s. There are plenty of hotels to choose from in this area. Souk by the Sea is an evening street market held every Friday with local handmade crafts and goods produced by the local community. My recommendation would be the 5-star modern Kempinski Hotel Aqaba Red Sea. It is a beautiful hotel on the beach in a peaceful location, whilst still being close enough to the centre. The drive from Aqaba back to Amman takes approx. 5-6 hours. It is also possible to fly from Aqaba to Amman. If Jordan sounds like somewhere that you may be interested in visiting, give me a call and I can help you to book the perfect trip.