One of the more common reasons our customers give for saving and investing is to afford a special holiday; something out of the ordinary, maybe far away or close to home. With that in mind, we asked the travel experts at Skyscanner for some inspiration for memorable things to do and see around the world beyond the standard package holiday.
Award-winning Catalan cuisine in Barcelona
“Barcelona: like a jewel in the sun”, as Freddie Mercury once said. Everybody you know has been there, and they won’t stop going on about it! But, have they been to Barcelona’s best restaurant? Well maybe they have, but you should still go if you haven’t.
Moments at the Mandarin Oriental, on Passeig de Gracia, is an award-winning eatery which specialises in traditional Catalan cuisine. The director, Chef Carme Ruscalleda, is one of Spain’s most renowned chefs. She aims to provide healthy, tasty and well-prepared cuisine, and she does it in a Catalan style. It’s fancy and expensive, but I mean, you’re on holiday, so why not?
They serve lunch and evening meals. The lunch tasting menu (117 euros) is reasonably priced for a Michelin star establishment and gives you a little taste of a number of their famous dishes – you’ll want more of everything. Book well in advance for your visit as it’s very popular with the great and good of Barça.
Gaelic sport at Croke Park in Dublin
Whether you’re a sport lover or not, you’ll appreciate the atmosphere and historical significance of Dublin’s Croke Park.
The historic home of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), is the third largest stadium in Europe after Barcelona’s Nou Camp and Wembley Stadium in London. Hosting the top Gaelic sporting events it’s a must for visitors to soak up the passionate (and mostly friendly) atmosphere of a traditional Irish hurling event.
The new Croke Park, with a massive capacity of 82,300, was opened in 2005 and celebrated 125 years of Gaelic athletics at the site in 2009. The stadium is comfortable and friendly to all comers – they welcomed the Queen recently in what was a hugely historic moment.
If its history you’re after a visit to the GAA Museum before the game is a must, it will also give you a grounding in hurling and Gaelic football. The GAA is closely entwined with Ireland’s struggle for independence, and the museum will give you a taste of the dramatic and sometimes bloody history of Croke Park and Gaelic sports.
Tickets for games cost around 30-40 euros each and a stadium tour is about 12 euros.
Khao Yai National Park near Bangkok
Regarded as one of the world’s most dramatic and awe-inspiring parks, Khao Yai covers around 1,300 sq miles. So if you’re up for some spectacular trekking and breath-taking wildlife spotting it’s definitely worth getting away from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok for.
The park can be reached easily from Bangkok, by bus, train or car. The easiest way is to rent a car, so you can cruise around the park at your leisure (the park is pretty big). The nearest train station or major bus stop is about 16 miles away in Pak Chong. Sawngthaew buses can take you the rest of the way.
Recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Site, Khao Yai is a must for animal lovers and hiking enthusiasts. The entrance fee will set you back 400 baht for and adult (about £8). They offer night-time wildlife tours, where you might happen upon wild elephants, muntjacs, macaques and porcupines among others. A herd of about 200 Asian elephants lives there – it’s the only place in Thailand where you’re likely to see wild elephants.
A day probably isn’t enough time to soak it all in, so there’s a few really nice little lodge/cabin rentals in the area… if you’re not up for camping out in the park that is. If you are going to camp you can bring your own tent or rent one at the camping ground. Guided treks can be arranged, which is a good idea if you want to make sure you get the best views of the waterfalls and monsoon forests. But you can just wander around on your own, bring a sweater if you’re heading for the higher ground though, as it can get chilly at night.
For all your in-park booking needs visit the friendly, mostly English-speaking, visitor centre.
Dolphin spotting in Faro
The Algarve is famous for its amazing seafood, beaches and sky-blue seas. While you’re not eating the fruits of the sea how about spotting some of the beautiful creatures in their natural habitat? I know it’s hard to tear yourself away from that sun-lounger, but Portugal is probably the best place in Europe for Dolphin spotting and marine life tours.
There’s something about dolphins that brings joy. Their intelligence and caring nature touches a lot of people deeply. The experience of seeing them close up, can be a very intense one, and is well worth going out of your way to feel for yourself. With dolphins, sea birds and sea turtles in abundance you’ll get some great pictures.
There’s a few tour operators that offer marine life tours, try to stick to the eco-friendly ones. Dolphins are wild animals and shouldn’t be harassed by boats too much, Formosamar offers a boat trip for 45 euros per person where you’ll be accompanied by an experienced guide.
Helicopter tours in New York
People in Manhattan say: “Don’t forget to look up, or you’ll miss it.” It can be pretty easy to focus on what’s in front of you and miss the high-rise world that towers above you. But what about looking down on New York City?
Helicopter tours of the city offer a great way to see a whole lot of the NY skyline from a different perspective.
If you’re afraid of heights, then maybe you should just get a coffee and a bagel somewhere… actually, if you’re afraid of heights, New York City is maybe not the place for you. Just walking down the street staring up at the buildings will give you vertigo!
You’ll take in all of the Big Apple’s most iconic landmarks: the famous Hudson River, the Empire State Building, the Rockefeller Centre and get a good look at Lady Liberty herself, as you soar past her epic statue.
Prices are around the $150 – $200 mark and most tours leave from Lower Manhattan so head down there to the helipads (they’re around the Battery Park area.) There’s loads of leaflets in every tourist spot for helicopter tours, so it’s worth shopping around to see which one suits you best. Book well in advance for the best time slot.