The best hotel in the WORLD: Take a tour of the Indian palace


What does it take to be voted the world’s best hotel?

India’s historic Umaid Bhawan Palace has been voted the best hotel in the world by Tripadvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Awards 2016.

Out of 743 reviews, the hotel scores 768 ‘excellent.’

Set high above the desert city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan, the sandstone palace is a favourite with celebrities.

It even hosted Liz Hurley’s wedding to Arun Nayar

Guests are treated to dancers performing to live music, flower garlands and champagne upon their arrival.

The majority of guests even get their own personal butler who can cater to their every need.

Whether that be what they want for breakfast, to organising a soothing milk bath and even setting up an idyllic picnic for them.

Food is a huge part of the hotel’s hospitality, with staff ensuring they’ll cook anything and everything you desire to eat.

You’ll also be treated to an overflow of champagne.

Guests get a glass of bubbly at breakfast and in the evening during a tour of the palace and grounds.

The palace was built in 1928 for the Maharaja of Jodhpur Umaid Singh and continues to be home to the royal family. Now the family only use 10 per cent of the building for their quarters, with 80 per cent used as the 64-room hotel

Would you like to stay here?

Teen who climbed Great Pyramid of Giza is ‘BANNED’ from Egypt for LIFE


Teen who climbed Great Pyramid of Giza is ‘BANNED’ from Egypt for LIFE

The Egyptian authorities reportedly issued the 18-year old with a stern warning, saying to stay aw

ay from the country or risked being banned for life.

Egypt’s Ministry of State for Antiquities allegedly confirmed the teenager has been banned from re-entering the country

But whilst a ban from the country may seem like a tough punishment, it’s actually quite mild compared to what he could have faced.

Climbing the 4,500 year old pyramid is a crime punishable by jail and the teenager could have faced up to three years behind bars.

The rules against climbing are in place to protect against excessive wear and tear

Despite the danger, Andrej decided to head to the top of the Pyramid and scaled the 146-metre structure in just eight-minutes.

Andrej managed to capture the stunning views after his climb before he was eventually caught by police and called in for questioning once back on the ground. The teenage traveller explained: “It took me about eight minutes to get to the top of the pyramid and I listened to music on the way up.

“After a few minutes climbing, I started to attract a bit of attention and some of the security shouted to me to come down in Arabic.”

He continued: ” I had asked locals what they thought of my attempt and they warned me that it was illegal to climb the pyramids, although I thought it would be fine, what with Egypt’s dependence on tourists.”

Andrej added: “When I got back down, the police were quick to take me to the station and question me. They also had a look at my camera to see what I had been up to. At first, they wanted to take me to the German embassy, but after a while I was released without anything further happening.”

Do you think Andrej’s punishment is fair?

EXCLUSIVE: ‘I quit my high-flying city job to travel the world… and HATED it’


MAGS MacKean gave up her job as a journalist in London to find adventure travelling. But all she found were the same problems following her

THE STRESS of city living can often make you want to pack it all in, jump on a plane and find your true self in a sunnier climate.

But after Mags MacKean quit her jump as a journalist and decided to pursue her love of hiking and climbing around the world, she found herself just as stressed out and unhappy.

In 2005, Mags took voluntary redundancy from her job as a broadcast journalist for the BBC. Unfulfilled telling other people’s stories, she yearned to travel to find adventure for herself.

Having already taken short breaks from her job to navigate her way across the Pyrenees, scale mountains in Nepal and climb Aconcagua in Argentina, Mags believed she was ready to pack it all in for good and set off.

Speaking exclusively to, Mags revealed: “I was ready to start a new adventure. I wanted to scale mountains and pursue my love of climbing and hiking.”

She flew out in April that year and soon found herself in New Zealand, scaling the alps. After being flown into Mount Cook National Park alongside her friend Gavin, the pair lived in a wooden hut, rising with the sun and going on long walks and hikes.

But Mags faced true terror when her friend Gavin suggested leaving the park on foot rather than by helicopter – which is recommended by safety professionals. The pair set off on a gruelling 22-hour journey.

Despite her love of climbing, the journalist was left terrified when she was forced to ice climb down hundreds of feet with no safety equipment. Slowly making her way down, Mags suffered temporary paralysis and vertigo.

She said: “I was petrified. Part of climbing and travelling is facing fear but this was something else.

“I realised that despite quitting my stressful job, I’d found even more stress and anxiety on my travels. I told myself if I ever got down from this ice wall alive, I’d never put myself through this level of danger again.”

Making it down safely, Mags put the terrifying ordeal behind her, returning to the UK shortly after following eight-months of travelling.

But after hearing from various friends about healing retreats in the Amazonia rainforest, Mags caught the travelling bug once again and flew out for a two-week and then six-month stint. In 2008, she flew out to the Amazonian rainforest to live, training in the medicinal plants and their healing properties.

But after spending the best part of a year in the extreme living conditions, Mags found herself unfulfilled and stressed once again.

She said: “I realised that living in a community day by day is where some of the greatest adventures can be had. I knew it was time to return to the UK and find some structure.”

Mags sold her flat in London and decided to move to Bristol in 2009, not knowing a soul there. Now 44, the journalist says she’s thrilled with her happy and comfortable lifestyle. She regularly holds workshops for people who yearn for change, showing them how they can channel this restlessness without ditching everything and flying across the world.

She revealed: “What I’ve discovered is that ordinary life is adventure.

“Taking my dog Rex for walks around Bristol, seeing the world through his eyes. My flourishing relationships with neighbours and friends. True adventure can be had on your doorstep.”

Top 10 things to do in Cape Verde

Cape Verde remains untouched, we look at the top ten things to do while on the islands

1)Go island hopping. Nearby Boa Vista has beautiful white-sand beaches, while Sao Vicente is home to musicians and writers.

2) Experience the beautiful marine life by going diving.

3) Take a quad-biking tour of Sal, to experience its rugged natural landscape.

4) Get active with a spot of wind and kite surfing – or, if you’re feeling lazy, relax on Kite Beach and watch the experts.

5) Try a spa day with a difference. Sal’s mineralrich Pedra Lume salt lake is the perfect place to rejuvenate sun-parched skin.

6) Visit Turtle SOS. Sponsor a turtle, and you can release it into the wild.

7) Book a whale-watching excursion between May and September.

8) Barter for fresh fish on the pier at Santa Maria.

9) Chill out with a good book on one of Sal’s gorgeous beaches.

10) Watch the sun set with a chilled cocktail in hand.

Fancy renting your own PRIVATE ISLAND for just £113?

DID you know Airbnb don’t just offer apartments and houses..

If you can’t face fighting with fellow tourists over the sun loungers or battling for a spot of sand of the beach, why not try a holiday spot that’s a little more secluded?

Aside from spacious apartments and lavish houses, rental property site Airbnb also offer private islands for you to rent.

And whilst you may think that sort of holiday is only affordable for the A listers, some of the luxury spots are available for as little as £113 a night.For a more bargain getaway, why not hire a cottage on a private island in Ottawa, Canada?

It sleeps six guests and is just £113 per night.

Guests can try canoeing, kayaking, sailing, boating in the surrounding waters.

Or if you fancy something a little more lavish, why not push the boat out with this private island in Vanuatu in the South Pacific Ocean?

Lap up the sunshine on the sand or try your hand at scuba diving and deep sea fishing.

The managers and staff on the island are on hand to help with your every need, including massages.

And they will prepare three tasty meals a day.

Would YOU like to stay on any of these islands?

Spirit of India Run’ by Pat Farmer

Pat Farmer will run over 4600 kms in 60 days starting from Kanyakumari and finishing in Kashmir

The Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India along with state tourism departments of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, and union territory of Chandigarh are supporting ‘Spirit of India Run’ by Pat Farmer, a marathon runner from Australia. Pat Farmer will run over 4600 kms in 60 days starting from Kanyakumari and finishing in Kashmir. He has initiated his run on January 26, 2016 celebrating India’s Republic Day and Australia Day.

Farmer is a multiple world record holder for endurance running and has run from the North Pole to the South Pole, and across Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, the Middle East and North America. He has served eight years as a member of Australia’s parliament, with three years as parliamentary secretary for education, science and training. He has raised millions of dollars for worthy causes during his 20 year running career.

Farmer will run on an average 70-80 kms daily through the atates of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir and cover a distance of 4600 kms. Farmer’s ‘Spirit of India Run’ is aimed at cementing relations between India and Australia; encourage tourism and personal relationships with a view to create awareness of India as a ‘Must Experience’ destination for travellers from Australia; and support causes and charity, which in the current endeavour, is to raise funds for education of girl child.

‘Spirit of India Run’ is also being supported by Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), Federation of Hotels & Restaurants Association of India (FHRAI), Hotel Association of India, India Heritage Hotels Association, etc. The IATO is providing a set of two experienced and knowledgeable drivers in each state to ensure smooth flow of movement of the vehicles accompanying Farmer.

Farmer is running from Kanyakumari to Srinagar. He commenced the run on January 26, 2016 and would finish the run at Srinagar on March 30, 2016. ‘Spirit of India Run’ commenced in front of Gandhi Madapam, Kanyakumari and was flagged off by the district collector of Kanyakumari.

Farmer will be entering Goa at Margao on February 8. Goa Tourism will be assisting and coordinating all his arrangements while he is in Goa. To fecilitate Farmer, India Tourism, Mumbai along with Goa Tourism will organise an ‘Incredible India Evening’ at Margao on February 8, which will be attended by the members of the media, travel industry, hotel industry, government officials, school students and sports enthusiasts. Farmer will be leaving Goa for his onward journey into Maharashtra on the February 9.

As he enters Maharashtra, India Tourism, Mumbai along with Maharashtra Tourism will welcome him at Banda – border of Maharashtra. State government officials and tourism officials along with sports enthusiasts from Sindhudurg district will also be present. Farmer will be in Maharashtra for 11 days, covering Velagar, Malvan, Mithgavane, Ratnagiri, Valneshwar, Dapoli, Lonere, Pen, Shirsad and Kasa, and will be in Mumbai on February 17.

Further, Gujarat Tourism will take over the arrangements for Farmer at Bhilad, the Gujarat entry point. He will be in Gujarat from February 21-27, covering Vapi, Navsari, Ankleshwar, Por, Chaklasi, Ahmedabad and Himmatnagar. Farmer will further proceed to Rishabhdev where Rajasthan Tourism will take over the arrangements of the ‘Spirit of India Run’ along with the India Tourism, Jaipur

Top 10 facts about the Netherlands

THE date of April 30 has great significance in the history of the Dutch monarchy

. Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, who reigned from 1948-80, was born on April 30, 1909. She abdicated on her 71st birthday, April 30, 1980…

  1. Her daughter Beatrix then became Queen and she too abdicated on April 30, when her son Willem-Alexander became King in 2013.

  1. Strictly speaking ‘Holland’ consists of only two of the 12 provinces of the Netherlands: North and South Holland.

  1. The weight of fish landed in the Netherlands in a year is equal to that of 54 billion pound coins.

  1. Everyone in the Netherlands was sentenced to death by the Spanish Inquisition in 1568.

  1. The hole in the centre of a CD was the size of the smallest coin in Europe, a Dutch 10 cent, abolished when the Netherlands joined the euro.

  1. The height of the average Dutchman increased by more than 3cm from the start of the 1980s, to above 180cm in 2000.

  1. The height of the average Dutchman seems now to have peaked at 183.9cm (6ft 0.4in).

  1. A report in 2013 listed the Netherlands as the world’s ninth happiest country. The UK came 16th.

  1. The Netherlands has 16.77 million people and 18 million bicycles.

Kos: Having it all on a Greek island paradise

The island resort of Lakitira conjures up magic for children and adult alike, says Charlotte Civil.

Daydreaming of my week on Kos I’d imagined relaxing on a sun-drenched beach and getting stuck into a novel.

So, sitting on a bike in the searing heat pedalling along the yellow brick road –this one, a narrow tiled path, leading not to Oz but to a 14th century castle – wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.

I was on a 13-mile tour around the rugged, wilderness-like terrain just outside the harbour town of Kardamena that eventually leads to the ruins of the medieval fortress of Antimachia.

The tour was one of many offered at Mark Warner’s Lakitira resort on the southern coast of Kos where my husband David and I and our two children Katy, eight, and William, five, were spending the week.

We had skied with child-friendly Mark Warner before and been encouraged by other Mark Warner aficionados to try one of their summer resorts (there are four in Greece), so we swapped whooshing down the snow-covered mountains for tennis, watersports and other sunshine activities.

Lakitira is set in four glorious landscaped acres that are flanked by beaches with bamboo-thatched parasols peppering the soft sand.

Granitecoloured rocks form piers that reach out into the sea which is so clear it’s easy to spot shoals of fish darting about.Mark Warner’s tennis facilities are regarded as the best on the island boasting 11 all-weather courts.

The expansive watersports hub offers plenty of activities, too, and you can borrow a kayak or sailboat, windsurf, or take a series of lessons with the experts.

Katy and William joined the Kids’ Clubs, which we can’t recommend highly enough, and throughout the week they were happily ensconced in a varied programme of indoor and outdoor games led by dedicated staff, the Nintendo DS didn’t even get a look in.

This provided the perfect excuse for David and I to resist the sunloungers on the oh-so-delectable beach and try the many activities including the bike tour.

One morning, bleary eyed, I joined the sunrise pilates session at 7am in the private cabana.

From my pose on the teak decking and against a backdrop of birdsong, through the trees I caught a glance of the waves lapping the shore.

Later, while David tried his luck at windsurfing, I joined a gaggle of women at the Aqua Zumba class that was taken by effervescent rep Claire, before a mother-daughter kayak adventure with Katy.One afternoon during a stroll along the beach we spotted sailboats entering the water.

It was Katy and her Kids’ Club pals setting off on their first sailing lesson.

William’s group, meanwhile, were scouring the beach on a pirate-themed treasure hunt, gold coins replaced with pearl-like shells which I later discovered stashed in our room in a huge pile.

Lakitira offers guests various types of accommodation.

You can opt for contemporary rooms in the main hotel building where we were, or choose the villa-style apartments dotted around the pretty gardens, evoking a whitewashed Mediterranean village feel.

Dark wood, marine blue furnishings and tiled floor complemented the cool, white interior of our spacious air-conditioned room.

A nice touch was the Greek-themed sketches on the walls featuring The Agora of Athens and fishing boats in Cyprus.

Each evening we sat out on the wraparound balcony to watch the sun setting over the beach, its dying rays casting shadows over the golden sand and the last bathers of the day.

Champagne cocktails in the Star Bar became a pre-dinner evening ritual.

We sank into comfortable, cream sofas in the huge canopied area with potted palms and rattan furniture, while the children sipped chilled lemonade and chatted with their new-found friends.

Of the several restaurants, our favourite was The Terrace, which looked out on to the pool and the perfectly manicured grounds.

The scrumptious food included traditional Mediterranean dishes such as tabbouleh, stuffed vine leaves and salads with feta cheese followed by fresh fish and the sweetest desserts including Turkish delight.

A fruity, local red wine from Kos proved the perfect accompaniment.

Another night as Katy and Will enjoyed a movie, we had a romantic meal at Plateia, the resort’s Greek taverna tucked down one of the cobbled paths in a pretty courtyard setting.

By candlelight we tucked into mezedes (small plates of grilled meat and fish) as a local musician gently strummed a bouzouki: if only all nights were like this.

Later in the week we saddled up again for a leisurely ride along the coastal road to Kardamena for a spot of shopping.

Renowned for its lively nightlife, bars and colourful tavernas line the seafront where, by day, you can also spot fishermen casting lines into the water.

Wandering in the maze of narrow streets, this small town is a lovely place to explore with quaint shops selling leather, lace, porcelain and jewellery.

I couldn’t resist the pretty wicker baskets bulging with soaps and lotions made from local olive oil and traditional sweets such as baklava sold on every corner.

Loaded down I then happily cycled back to our holiday paradise: the yellow brick road was worth following as it had a magical treat worth waiting for at either end.

Top spiritual destinations in India

A spiritual journey can inspire travellers to make themselves more aware about self and gain knowledge and wisdom

India is knitted with spiritual ethos. A spiritual journey can inspire travellers to make themselves more aware about self and gain knowledge and wisdom. Some of the destinations for travellers to experience the feeling of freedom and emancipation are:

Hemis Monastry, Ladakh

Hemis Monastery is the largest and richest Buddhist monastery in the Ladakh region. It features a collection of ancient statues, sacred thangkas, and other artefacts. During the tourist season, it is often recommended to participate in the Hemis Spiritual Retreat run by the monks.

Basilica of Bom Jesus, Goa

Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is one among the most famous churches in India. Located in the beach city of Panjim, the church is around 300 years old. The church is said to hold the remains of St Francis Xavier and the body is opened for public display at a particular time of the year. During this period, thousands of believers come to this church, which includes even foreign tourists.

Moinuddin Chisti, Ajmer

The place occupies a prominent place among the spiritual healers of the world. The Dargah is named after a Muslim scholar who is considered to be the saint of Allah. People believe that tying a thread in Dargah can make their wishes come true.


The birthplace of yoga, Rishikesh is a popular place to meditate and relax. Situated on the banks of the river Ganga, surrounded by hills on three sides and close to Haridwar in Uttarakhand, Rishikesh is known to lure those seeking knowledge and peace with its numerous ashrams and yoga institutes.