Monthly Archives: January 2017

Great island for every traveler

Long the domain of savvy sailors and fly-in millionaires, the spectacular Grenadines also offer plenty for the independent traveler – you don’t need your own boat to fully explore the magnificent archipelago. Spanning the nations of St Vincent & the Grenadines and Grenada, the island chain offers a wide variety of authentic Caribbean experiences where nature is never far from the spotlight.

The most visited of the Grenadines and rightly so, beautiful Bequia is the quintessential slow-paced Caribbean island that really does have it all. Visitors can swim, dive or hike through dazzling natural beauty by day and then soak up the tropical atmosphere in the evening, sipping cocktails or tucking into a gourmet meal on a panoramic terrace.

Among its many draw cards are Princess Margaret Beach and Lower Bay, two wonderful stretches of sand backed by lush greenery, just a short hike from the capital Port Elizabeth.

As the second largest island in the chain, Bequia offers plenty of attractions for nature lovers. There are good drift dives along the leeward side of the north of the island while the remote hilly north of the island affords ample opportunity for exploration; climb some of the imposing forested peaks for fine views of St Vincent and other Grenadine islands.

Getting there: Visiting Bequia is a breeze thanks to its efficient regular fast ferry service linking it with Kingstown on St Vincent Island. SVG Air has flights from the airport on the south of the island to Kingstown, Barbados and St Lucia.

 

Mustique

Best for: Kicking it with rock stars

Mysterious Mustique, home to rock stars and the uber wealthy, is the island that fomented the image of the Grenadines as playground for the rich and famous.

The private island has some of the priciest accommodations in the region – if you have the bank balance, you can crash at the Balinese themed villa built by David Bowie. But you don’t need to be rolling in it to visit – day trips on yachts from Bequia allow visitors to get a taste of Mustique’s manicured lawns and pure tropical perfection. Visitors can lie about on pristine beaches and take a drink at iconic Basil’s Baroverlooking the main harbor – you never know who might be at the next table.

Getting there: There are no public ferry services to Mustique. Travelers can visit on a day sailing cruise from Bequia; a recommended boat is the elegant Caribbean schooner Friendship Rose. Visitors with accommodation can find regular flights from Barbados, Kingstown, Grenada and Saint Lucia with Mustique Airways.

 

Tobago Cays

Best for: Snorkeling

Uninhabited and protected as a marine park, the gorgeous Tobago Caysare the highlight of any trip to the Grenadines. Surrounded by an impressive barrier reef, they offer some of the best snorkeling in all of the Caribbean with warm, shallow waters filled with hard corals that are alive with marine life, including a thriving population of marine turtles.

The beauty of the cays is no secret among travelers, but they rarely feel overrun thanks to their remote location and lack of development. A day trip here is a thoroughly relaxing experience with bouts of snorkeling, swimming and lazing on the sands interrupted only by freshly caught seafood meals.

Getting There: There is no public transportation to the Tobago Cays, but it’s possible to charter a small boat for a day trip from any one of the populated Grenadine islands; Mayreau is the cheapest departure point, followed by Union Island. To see the cays in style, book a sailing tour from Union Island on the pirate ship Scaramouche.

September for relaxation

Looking to kick back this September? You’re in luck. The European continent beckons with turtle watching trips in Cyprus, mellow days on the Mediterranean isle of Corsica and a gut-busting break in Puglia, Italy. Meanwhile, down in the southern hemisphere, Australia’s Whitsunday Islands hold their own with the promise of crystal clear waters, serene scuba diving and pristine sand as far as the eye can see.

Beautiful landscapes, balmy days and a bounty of foodie fare await those who need a relaxing break. Here are our top chill-out spots for September.

 

Head to north Cyprus for sun, sand, turtles and time travel

Visiting the northern half of divided Cyprus is a bit like holidaying in the 1970s. It might lack a certain slickness, but there’s also a pleasing lack of development. Some of the Med’s most unspoilt sands are here, especially along the wild Karpaz Peninsula, where you’re more likely to see donkeys and turtles than other people. Indeed, turtles visit North Cyprus regularly, and from June to late September, the Society for the Protection of Turtles runs guided, eco-sensitive night tours to view them from its base at Alagadi Beach, just east of Kyrenia’s harbour.

September is a fine time to visit: the crowds have gone but weather and waters are warm. It’s ideal for hiking between ruined Crusader castles in the Kyrenia range or strolling the well-preserved ancient city of Salamis. Don’t miss Lefkoşa, the world’s only divided capital. Amble the minaret-speared streets before passing a checkpoint for a weird wander into the bullet-scarred no man’s land that separates Turkish north and Greek south.

  • Trip plan: Spend a week mixing beaches, ruins, castles and traditional villages.
  • Need to know: Fly to Ercan Airport (North Cyprus) via mainland Turkey.
  • Other months: Apr-May & Sep-Oct – warm, quieter; Jun-Aug – hottest, busy; Nov-Mar – cool, wettest.

 

Enjoy a trulli tasty break in Puglia, Italy – without the crowds

Down at heel? Yes and no. Largely agricultural Puglia, the stiletto of the Italian boot, is one of the country’s least wealthy regions; traditional Pugliese cuisine is even known as cucina povera (poor kitchen). However, it’s also a richly satisfying destination – the ‘poor’ food is delicious, and historic little towns, baroque piazzas, olive groves and sandy shores are abundant.

In September, Puglia is the place to lose the crowds, still enjoy warm sunshine and indulge in both autumnal bounty and year-round local specialities, such as Burrata cheese, orecchiette pasta, seafood, endless breads (the Salento region alone has over 100 types). Hunker down in a converted masserie (fortified farmhouse) or, better, one of Puglia’s trulli– mysterious conical limestone dwellings that pepper the peaceful countryside. Explore from your atmospheric base.

  • Trip plan: Allow one to two weeks, taking in the baroque beauty of Lecce (‘Florence of the south’), 13th-century Castel del Monte, the Grotte di Castellana cave network, the unspoilt beaches and forests of the Gargano promontory, the white city of Ostuni and the 400-odd trulli of Alberobello, a Unesco World Heritage Site.
  • Need to know: Bari and Brindisi both have international airports.
  • Other months: Nov-Apr – cool/cold, wettest; May & Sep-Oct – warm, quieter; Jun-Aug – hottest, busiest.