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We’re funny (usually), controversial (sometimes) and insightful (always!). Our travel experts share their experiences below in hopes of hearing back from YOU. So read, comment and enjoy!

Exploring Philadelphia

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Philadelphia

Whether you are in the mood for food, culture, sports or history, the City of Brotherly Love has it all. Better known as Philadelphia, the large American city, which lies beneath the shadows of New York and Boston, is filled with fascinating events and activities.

 
1. If you are looking to experience the food in Philadelphia, then look no further than the Philadelphia South Street Walking Tour. Located in South Philly, the tour takes you through one of the cities unique and diverse neighborhoods. Starting at a Jewish deli and ending at a popular "cheese steak" shop, the tour includes food markets, street art, historic buildings and more. 
 
2. Need some romance in the City of Brotherly Love? Then take your sweetheart on the romantic Spirit of Philadelphia. A 3-hour cruise that offers a live show, buffet dinner, and a spectacular view of the Philadelphia skyline. With the option of lunch or dinner, spend the rest of your day visiting the Penn’s Landing area. 
 
3. Interested in sports? Philadelphia is one of the most unique sporting cities in America. With wild fans that are passionate about ice hockey, football, basketball and baseball, take the opportunity to go to a game. Make sure you arrive early enough for the parking lot tailgate! Food like hot dogs, sausages and hamburgers are very popular, and inside the event Chickie's & Pete's is a favoured Philadelphia restaurant. 
 
4. Looking for a little bit of education while on your trip, or do you just love history? Either way Philadelphia is one of America’s most historic cities and there is no better way to see it than through the Colonial City Walking Tour. From the Betsy Ross house to Independence Hall, the tour takes you back in time to where the city of Philadelphia began. 
 
5. Lastly, if history, food, or sports is not for you, give the King of Prussia Mall a try. Philadelphia is home to one of America’s largest shopping malls, located just outside the city, the King of Prussia Mall has over 400 stores to delight your shopping interest. Made up of a Court side and a Plaza side, the mall is easy to navigate and has a little bit of something for everyone. 

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Things to do in Jamaica: Music and Good Vibes.

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Jamaica
Jamaica is known as the home of reggae, Bob Marley and jerk chicken. But there is more to Jamaica that meets the eye. The Jamaica Ocho Rios Jazz Festival celebrates music at its finest and is a definite can’t-miss for music lovers. It occurs during June, giving you a taste of summer in the Caribbean. Quick tip: bring a lot of sunscreen and mosquito repellent!

If you really want to cool down, you can always kayak in the White River Valley! This will give you a nice dunking in fresh water, a thrilling ride through rapids, and you will even get to see a riverside dwelling reminiscent of early inhabitants of Jamaica!  If river kayaking is not your thing, you can try the White River Valley Tubing – a more relaxing way to experience this river. It’s slower paced, giving you more time to appreciate the beauty of Jamaica and take pictures. Another great way to cool down is to take a Jeep Safari to Dunns River Falls. You will get to see a bit of Jamaica as the zebra-striped jeep takes you to some breathtaking sights. And, finally, the famous Dunns River Falls, where you can climb the 600-foot cascades!

Ocho Rios, despite its name, is not all about rivers. If you’re in the mood for something a little less conventional, you can always try Jamaican Dog Sledding. Yes, I know, dog sledding is usually done over snow and Jamaica never has snow. But why should that stop you? You will learn about the adventurous individual who decided to start the whole movement, meet the dogs, and harness them in preparation of your own ride! This is a great and rather unusual way to see Jamaica, and something to brag about to your friends.

If you cannot make it in June for the Jazz festival, or if Jazz just doesn’t tickle you the right way, you can always come down for the Reggae Sumfest in July. Eat some great food and soak in some of those ‘irie vibes’ as you listen to the music. To authenticate the experience even more, you can take the Bob Marley tour. Get the full history of the creator of Reggae and all the places he visited, lived, and is buried.

If you’re all ‘reggae-d out’ by the end of the Sumfest, there are many other things you can do in Montego Bay, like, let’s say, a zip-lining tour. This thrilling tour takes place in the canopy of Jamaica’s forests and will give you a fantastic bird’s eye’s view of the Jamaican rainforest- literally! And if you’d rather keep your feet on the ground, you can always try the ATV Safari in Sandy Bay. Sandy Bay is known as one of the most idyllic parts of this small island and you will get to experience and see some of Jamaica’s rich history while zooming along.

Jamaica is full of rich culture, fantastic music, beautiful sights and friendly people, and is a must-visit for everyone who wants a Caribbean holiday. Yeah mon!

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Paris: Family Edition

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Traveling with your entire family can create some of the best memories, but it can also come with the stress of pleasing all family members.  Lucky for you, we’ve compiled a list of activities in Paris that are perfect for families, so you know it’ll be a good Parisian time for everybody.

Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris

Being just 20 miles outside of Paris and easily accessible by any form of transportation, nothing says “family” more than Disneyland.  Not only is this the only Disney theme park in all of Europe, but this park comes with more than enough perks to please the whole family.
Your first reason to breathe a sigh of relief?  Since Disney has everything you could want in two adjacent and easily accessible parks, that means you don’t have to struggle to get the whole family to multiple places in one day.  Second, FastPasses are a great option to skip the queues so the kids don’t get restless.  Finally, it’s guaranteed fun for the whole family, whether you’re five or fifty, you can’t deny that you’re never too old for the magic of Disney.

Aquarium de Paris (CinéAqua)

Another good family option, the Aquarium de Paris is located in the heart of Paris, right across from the Eiffel Tower.  Located underground, the aquarium is newly renovated so  now there’s more than ever for your family to do.

With 40 tanks filled with thousands of different seawater species, children and adults will both find themselves in awe of the beautiful aqua-life, or even a little scared in the shark tunnel. CinéAqua Learning is always an opportunity, but the kids will actually be eager this time as there are both documentaries and animated cartoons teaching viewers about this completely different world.  Of course being interactive is almost a necessity for family fun, and with touch pools, feeding sessions, and lots of live entertainment, the Aquarium de Paris is the perfect way for your family to experience Paris’ more unique version of museums.

Asterix Park

Let’s face it, amusement parks are inescapable if you’re looking for good, old fashioned family fun.  Kids are running from ride to ride, and parents play the carnival games so their children can win the giant stuffed animal.  A huge park with rides, candy, games, and entertainment is the perfect day. Asterix Park If Disneyland Paris is too mainstream for you, try Paris’ very own Asterix Park.  Completely unique to Paris, this park offers 5 different ancient worlds to discover, from the Gauls to the Roman Empire, there won’t be a shortage of activities for anybody in the family.  If you’re not a huge fan of roller coasters, fear not because there’s also tons of live shows and interactive games for some friendly competition!

Luxembourg Gardens

If you want a truly Parisian experience with the whole family, Luxembourg Gardens is the perfect place to spend the day.  With tons of statues, flower gardens, and fountains, Luxembourg is commonly seen as a romantic place.
Luxembourg Gardens Yet there is a vintagecarousel, puppet shows, ponies, and a lake for model sail boats, so kids will be just as entertained as adults will be relaxed.  In addition, there’s free musical performances!  So if you’re looking for that specifically French experience, what matches it more than Parisian gardens with the family?

Museum of Magic

I guarantee you that this is the type of museum the kids can get on board with.  This low-key, underground museum has a quirky vibe and doesn’t need tons of prestigious paintings or sculptures to hold your attention.

Museum of Magic

Instead, both parents and kids will be intrigued by the 30 minute magic show, optical illusions, and hands-on interactive games that play with your mind. There’s also a dedication to the history of magic and how it has progressed, but don’t think they’re about to give away all their secrets!  I should mention that both the show and the rest of the museum are in french, but don’t worry if you aren’t fluent, magic knows no language and the pure enchantment and mysteriousness that lies in this museum is well worth the visit.

So enjoy your next family vacation to the fullest!

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Singapore’s Creatures and Cultures

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Singapore – an exceptional blend of eastern and western culture, Singapore offers once in a life-time experiences in a safe and family-friendly environment. Whether going on a night safari or viewing the city from 165m up, on the Singapore Flyer, travellers can experience jaw-dropping sights.

Who can refuse the chance to sip Chinese medicinal herbs before watching the night lights give the colourful city a new life after dusk?

Try one of these exciting tours to experience the real Singapore:

FunVee Night Safari Shuttle Tour - For a once in a life-time experience explore the jungle under the glow of the moon. This all-inclusive tour takes you on a tram ride through habitats of some of the most elusive creatures of the night.  As the world’s first night safari, participants will have a tale for home none of their friends can top! continue reading

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Congratulations to Sarah Stocks!

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Congratulations to Sarah Stocks, winner of the isango! Perfect Holiday Contest.

Sarah entertained, surprised and inspired us all with her creative description of paradise, entitled ‘Tropical Rainforest? Or is it?’.

Having received the most public votes throughout the month-long competition, she is now entitled to £500 worth if isango! products.

Way to go, Sarah!

Here is her (scandalous!) entry:

Tropical Rainforest? Or is it?’

He looks right into my eyes with his soulful browns, rippling muscles, dressed only in a small loin cloth. “I want to take you to a secret place high in the rainforest” he says “we can make a hammock from the vines.” His voice is so sultry, so sexy. But no, I can’t. Yes, it sounds like paradise, but I am here with my new husband on honeymoon, and he is waiting for me. “I’m so sorry I need to go.” He looks sad for a moment then says “okay, but please let me walk with you to keep you company.” We stroll in the scorching heat, passing all sorts of wild and crazy animals. We walk for miles and eventually reach my partner standing beside a huge castle. My tall, dark stranger turns to me and whispers in my ear, “maybe tomorrow you will return? Balou was looking forward to meeting you and we really need a hand to stitch that hammock.” I replied, “we’ll see, Tarzan – I still haven’t seen Tigger yet, so that’s tomorrow’s goal.” I turn to my husband with freshly dripping ice cream in his hands and think to myself, “I love Disneyland…”

Ooh la la, Sarah! Great work. We hope that your holiday fantasy comes true!

Tours:
Enchanted Rainforest Dinner

Daintree Rainforest Tour

Disneyland Adventure

Disneyworld Adventure

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PERFECT HOLIDAY CONTEST FINALISTS

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Thanks to those who participated in the 2008 isango! ‘Perfect Holiday’ Contest! We were overwhelmed with enthusiastic responses and sincerely apologize for the delay in posting the finalists. But we’ve finally done it! Hooray! The top 5 entries have been selected, and it’s time to VOTE!

FYI: though we could only select 5 finalists, we truly enjoyed reviewing your (100!) entries. We admire your imaginative efforts; thus, the majority of this blog is dedicated to the bulk of entries that did not make it through to the shortlist. We have explained why certain types of entries were not selected and have included some relevant travel tips to assist you in actualizing your dream getaways!

If this sounds boring to you ( – it’s not, actually!), you can skip straight to the action, and:

CLICK HERE to VOTE for one of the TOP FIVE ENTRIES

…as selected by our team of travel writers and product specialists. Go ahead, do it! But remember, you can vote once, and once only!

SOME TRENDS AND TIPS:

(By the way, we’ve listed the finalists at the bottom of this blog in hopes that you will actually read the rest of what we have to say!)

…right, so we learned a great deal about your travel desires and needs from reading your entries—namely that most of you are in need of a good, long holiday! There were also some recurring themes:

1. “It’s not where you are, it’s who you are with…”
A large number you would prefer to spend your precious time away from the office on a romantic getaway with your significant other. Your descriptions of destinations were often very imaginative, but also quite vague, as you focused on the experience that you would have with the love of your life—just the two of you—isolated in paradise. These entries were fantastic (and heartwarming) but were also, unfortunately, more difficult to judge as sometimes we were not sure where, exactly, you aimed to go on your holiday! We suggest visiting the Romantic Retreats section of the isango! website to transform your, ahem, ‘daydreams’ (wink!) into reality.

2. Family First.
A large percentage of you have young children and thus face difficulties with planning to please multiple parties. For you, the ‘perfect holiday’ is one that is free of logistical nightmares: your entries thus tended to be long lists of things that you wanted to avoid (long queues, large crowds, flight delays), rather than of things you actually wanted to do. Though we can do nothing about rubbish airlines (except to complain right alongside you) we can help you to avoid ‘on the ground’ family feuds by encouraging you to plan a detailed itinerary prior to departing. Start with our list of Family Tours under the Activities section of our website, which can be narrowed down, for example, to theme parks and self drive tours.

Others of you focused on the needs of your parents and grandparents, wishing to fulfill their dreams by taking them to parts of the world that they have always wanted to see. We suggest starting with our Seniors category and narrowing your options down by country, or city, from there. (You can also always contact one of our friendly customer service reps if you have any questions!)

3. Some of you are, well, CRAZY…
Really, wow. You submitted some fantastically wild travel ‘plots’ (- you know who you are!). Check out some of our quirkier blogs for more unconventional ideas and inspiration.

Now, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for!

THE FINALISTS:

1. Hanlie Burger, ‘Shipwrecks, Sand Dunes and Desert Elephants’.

2. Louise Brown, ‘Northern Solitude’

3. Sarah Berl, ‘Spelunk!!’

4. Marian Redmond, ‘Campania Felix’, and

5. Sarah Stocks, ‘Tropical Rainforest? Or is it?’

A huge CONGRATS to Hanlie, Louise, Sarah, Marian and Sarah—and all of our participants—for dreaming up such fabulous ‘perfect holidays’! We cannot thank you enough.

Please vote here, and to pass this email along to all of your family and friends!

You can also check out more blog coverage of the contest here.

Thanks again for participating!

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Transform Your Dream Holiday into Reality…

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It’s FAMILY TIME!

We’ve gotten some fantastic Perfect Holiday contest entries so far—do keep ‘em coming!

And, after further perusing your travel whims and fantasies, I’ve discovered that many of you dream not simply about secluded, romantic getaways as discussed in a previous blog: you want to get your entire families on board. What a task…

I know it seems difficult to fathom actually leading your family on an Arctic fishing trip…or guiding them through a bustling north African market. So many things to worry about: the cost, transportation logistics, and accommodation… your daughter’s current vegetarian phase…your son’s incredibly fair skin…your mother’s bouts with vertigo…

But have you ever actually tried to translate one of your visions of paradise into a real-life family holiday? Why not give it a try? Just cast all of the logistical details aside for a moment, and focus on the actual on-the-ground experiences that you desire: you can do this by first compiling a concrete, feasible list of tours and activities.

To assist you in this process, I have pasted some descriptive and imaginative Perfect Holiday contest entries below, responding with some suggestions.

1. Debbie’s Arctic Adventure:

“I’d take the family to Iceland for the most exhilarating holiday ever. We’d go whale watching in Husavik where humpbacks, minke, orcas, sperm whales white-nosed dolphins and harbour porpoises leap in the waters of the North Atlantic. We could go snowmobiling on the Solheimajokull glacier. We’d visit spouting geysers, bubbling mud baths and bizarre rock formations and bubbling lava flows in the Golden Circle. I want to tee off at 3am in the Arctic Open where amateurs and professional golfers compete through the night under a spectacular orange night sky. My kids could swim in the sea at the geothermally heated beach at Nautholsvik Bay, and I could ease my bad back in the pure, mineral-rich geothermal waters of the blue lagoon, a bright blue pool in the middle of a lava field which is world renowned for it’s healing properties. On September 20th is the Summer Solstice, the apex of a month of 24 hour daylight when the country celebrates the magic of the midnight sun. (Of course they also experience an equivalent month of darkness so everyone makes the most of the spectacle and parties through the night.)”

Debbie, thanks so much for that insightful description of Iceland! There are plenty of structured, guided tours of these places that you could sign up for to keep your family happy and busy—most of them from Reykjavik. I suggest checking out the following:

1. The Golden Circle Tour

2. Excursion to Snæfellsjökull National Park (Snæfellsjökull Glacier).

3. Blue Lagoon Experience, Reykjavik.

Good luck, Debbie!

2. Karen’s Paradise:

“My perfect holiday is landing in a place where the views and the heat take your breath away from the moment you arrive. I stay in a place where the walls are white, the floors terracotta and the flowers, red. I throw cases on the bed, take out all I need and head out to the pool. I smooth sunscreen on my son and watch, smiling, while he plays and explores and squeals excitedly over the lizards he finds. I lie with my eyes closed behind my sunglasses, sipping a chilled cocktail while the sun makes my skin tingle. My little boy calls from the pool, so I get up, walk to the edge, take a breath and dive into ice cold, ice blue water that in that second makes me feel more exhilarated than I have ever felt before. Later, we visit hot, exotic, noisy markets and walk round, holding hands, buying fabulous things we’ve never seen before. We visit a restaurant and eat delicious, local seafood with velvety wines from a table that faces the ocean as the sun sets. Beautiful people in traditional dress play music and dance while night draws in on the first day of our holiday…”

Well, Karen, this could be a number of places! A few destinations come to mind…have you ever considered visiting the Strait of Gibraltar? You could stay on the Costa del Sol in southern Spain to get your dose of sun, sand and relaxation… and take an excursion to Tangier, Morocco for the ultimate, colourful and cultural experience.

Some organised tours that your son might enjoy:

Kayaking Excursion in Nerja (Costa del Sol, Spain)

5-Day Morocco Sightseeing Tour from Costa Del Sol (from Spain to Morocco)

Strait of Gibraltar and Tangier Sightseeing Tour (Daytrip from Spain to Morocco)

Thanks again, Debbie and Karen!

May your holiday wishes come true!

Happy planning!

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Wimbledon – my freebie 2 hour taster

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I’ve lived in London now for 10 years. I’ve been a tennis fan for over 20. I’ve never been to Wimbledon. Go figure! The excuses to date have ranged from ‘tickets are too hard to get hold of’ or ‘I can’t afford the time of work’ to ‘I hate crowds’ (when I’m at my most curmudgeonly). And if I’m totally honest, my interest in tennis peaks and dives with the attractiveness of the top 5 male seeds…. (The Agassi and Pat Rafter years saw my tennis interest become a mild obsession. I digress…)

So finally, after all these years, I get an email from a friend at 4pm on a rainy Wimbledon afternoon, with the faint prospect of tickets to the late afternoon Murray quarter final. I’m all about the spontaneity (and the ‘free-ness’ of free tickets of course), so I jumped at the prospect, tied up my loose inbox ends and ran up and down tube escalators and train platforms to get to Wimbledon station from Oxford Circus in a record 32 minutes.

It wasn’t until my friend and I were sat on the shuttle to the ground that she revealed her failure to get anything resembling a ticket – but by which case I thought ‘what the hell’ and started window gazing for my first sight of Centre Court. To my surprise, at 7pm on quarter final Wednesday of Wimbledon, gate staff aren’t as attentive as they can be, and it’s fairly easy to slip into the Wimbledon ground unnoticed and free of charge. Bonus! Next stop the bar. Next stop, the famed ‘Murray Mound’ or ‘Henman Hill’ of yore. Huge screen, 1000s of people, not an inch of grass to be seen.

We perched ourselves on the concrete right at the front, next to the over-officious ‘No stopping! Move back!’ stewards and settled in for the final 2 sets of the match. I would have said the atmosphere was electric amongst the passionate masses but that would be a lie. Murray lost in 3 straight sets and the Murray Mound masses were fairly quiet, a bit despondent and at one point, much more interested in the ejection of 2 fairly harmless drunks by an unnecessary 8 policemen. I wasn’t disheartened, I thoroughly enjoyed my free 2 hours at Wimbledon (and I don’t really like Murray anyway – he’s anti English). I cheered the 3 points or so he won with everyone else, groaned at the dubious line calls and just soaked up the sights and sounds of something I’d only ever seen on TV: the pleasant sounding ball-thwacks, player grunts and polite applause, the well-behaved, well-dressed spectators, strawberries and Pimms.

We wondered around the different sections, picked up a free (normally £9) souvenir programme off the floor, got a glance at John McEnroe punditing from a roof top above us, and even wondered into Court 1 (ticketless, again) to watch the final points of the other quarter final. Wimbledon’s got atmosphere. You can’t deny it. Even just wandering around outside of the courts you can soak it up, and it’s all so very civilised and English.

The sun had returned and on leaving at 8.30pm, we looked back to see the ground framed by the most gorgeous pink sunset. As I weaved my way past the polite, orderly taxi and shuttle bus queues, my taster experience felt all too brief and I resolved to return. Next year: tickets (paid for), a day or two off work even and fingers crossed for some better looking top seeds.

Wimbledon Murrays Mound

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The Peacock Parade…

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Peacock Ruffled Feathers

It wasn’t until I started writing blogs that I realized just how fascinated I am with wildlife; indeed, I spend more time staring at lizards, bugs and squirrels than I do learning about important monuments and historical landmarks. 

If you’ve already read the birdwatching blog, you know just how fascinating Bowerbird courtship behavior can be (check that blog out here  here if you haven’t!). Yet sometimes animal behavior is inexplicable—it was just last week that I experienced my most surprising, amusing bird encounter of the year: I was strolling through the Fountain of Youth Park

 …when I was almost attacked by a Peacock.

While I don’t have photographic evidence of the bird’s sweeping dive towards my forehead, I did, after coming to terms with the insanity of the situation, manage to photograph his beautiful feathers from afar:

 

Peacock Feathers Fountain of Youth

The Peacock Parade…yes, indeed…it’s on display, every day, at the Fountain of Youth Park in St. Augustine, Florida

You should go there and check out these beauties for yourselves:

Beautiful White Peacock St Augustine

 

Peacock Open Feathers

But be sure to watch your heads!

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Mallorca: fun for the family, room for adventure!

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The largest of Spain’s Balearic Islands, Mallorca has been a popular destination for sun-seeking British and German families for over a half century. And for good reason; this stunning slice of Mediterranean heaven has just about everything. From its mountainous landscapes and vast stretches of white sandy coastline to its charming beachside villages, kid-friendly theme parks and historical architectural landmarks, Mallorca boasts some of the most wide-ranging sights and activities for travellers of all ages. Beyond the island’s broad range of package tours and family resorts, there is still much room for uncharted adventure. It remains one of the most convenient, accessible and diverse seaside destinations in Europe.

Many seasonal travelers have already discovered the quaint ambiance of Cala D’Or, a pristine, white-washed sand castle village and convenient hub for some of the island’s most family-oriented excursions. After a few days of beaming sun, sand and relaxation at one of several beaches, your family can easily seek a bit of shade by heading a few kilometres north to the famous Caves of Drach. Descend into the cavernous passages filled with jutting, natural limestone formations until you encounter a well-orchestrated presentation of glimmering lights and classical music—a truly enchanting sight, set against one of the largest underground lakes in the world. Captivating moments like these will make your family’s travel experience truly unforgettable.

Most visitors are immediately drawn to the vibrant, historical European city of Palma, with its diverse shopping options, quaint alleyways and internationally reputable array of restaurants and evening entertainment. Climb the famous 12th century Bellver Castle for stunning views of the city from 137 metres above; delight in the vibrant street performances in Plaza Mayor, and take a cool afternoon swim at the city’s accessible public beach. And the fun doesn’t end at dusk! Be sure to take full advantage of Palma’s family-friendly nightlife; just 10 kilometres beyond the bustling city centre amidst the gorgeous Mallorcan countryside is the famous 17th century Son Amar estate, now home of the most dazzling entertainment show on the island. You will be immediately swept up in an entrancing, laser-lit extravaganza of song, dance, music and comedy.

For the more independent, adventure-seeking traveller, Mallorca’s beautiful and varied terrain can be easily navigated by car. You could begin your journey with a delicious ensaimada from Pons Bakery in the authentic southernmost village of Colonia San Jordí. Meander up the southeast coast and stop for a stroll on one of the island’s many hidden cove beaches—perhaps Cala Llombards or Cala Santanyí. Veer west through the agricultural estates and hillside villages, and breathe in the fresh, countryside air until you reach the island’s central market town of Inca, home of a range of handcrafted leather merchandise and the perfect place to grab a souvenir for mum.

Continue north until you reach perhaps the most picturesque and beautiful part of the island—the Tramontana mountains. The tiered villages of Valldemossa and Soller boast quaint cafés and marvelous views of both the countryside and the sea. Confident drivers can brave the steep, winding mountain roads, which, linking the tiny towns together, allow for the most fantastic of views, including, if you are lucky, the perfect Mediterranean sunset.

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