With fast ferries connecting Sicily to Malta in as little as 2 hours, this sunkissed Mediterranean island is an easy trip from Italy.
Malta offers a wide selection of activities to fill your days. The historic cities of Valletta and Mdina are perfect for culture enthusiasts while sandy beaches and crystal clear waters offer expansive snorkeling, diving, and swimming opportunities – not forgetting the lagoons of Comino island.
But for those looking to get off the beaten track, here are 6 hidden gems of Malta.
Situated in the heart of the island of Gozo, the Old Prison sits within the Citadelle De Victoria complex and dates back to over 500 years. Etchings and graffiti in the walls glean insight into the inmates who were imprisoned here – namely the more disobedient knights of St John. You may visit the grounds as a side trip while exploring the Fran Castello Folklore Museum, the Natural Science Museum, and the cathedral.
Ghajn Tuffieha Bay
Malta’s main island is blessed with beautiful beaches that urge you to soak up the 300+ days of sunshine lavished upon the island. Escape the crowds at Ghajn Tuffieha Bay which features red sand and minimal amenities limited to sun loungers and a simple bar. Only a short drive south of the popular Golden Bay, this protected beach is only accessible via a descent of 100 steps. Extend your visit by hiking the Clay Cliffs, and, even better – catching the sunset from the trail.
Beijing will host the XXIV Olympic Winter Games in February 2022. This is a particularly special occasion as China’s capital city previously hosted the XXIX Olympic Summer Games in 2008, making them one of the few to host the Games twice.
Beijing benefits from fewer crowds during its winter months which results in the major landmarks being significantly quieter. Plus, the excellent food and winter activities on offer – besides the Games – ensure that spirits remain high. Here are the 5 top experiences in Beijing during winter.
Step into history at Forbidden City
Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Forbidden City was constructed during the early 15th century under the Yongle Emperor, Zhu Di. For 500 years, it served as the political and ritual epicenter of China as well as the residence of the emperors. Surrounded by a moat, the inner complex features some of the best-preserved buildings, ceremonial halls, and shrines in China. Previously off-limits to the majority of subjects and members of the royal families, the Forbidden City captivates year-round and February is ideal for exploring the Palace Museum.
Sharpen your skills with a cooking class
The diverse cuisine available in the Chinese capital is the antidote to the cool climate. Local Beijing dishes are available alongside classic Sichuan and Cantonese specialties, with Peking duck, jiaozi (dumplings), xiaolongbao (steamed buns), and Chinese hot pot guaranteed to keep you warm. Once you’ve found your favorite plate, discover how to make it for yourself in a cookery class at the Beijing Cooking School or The Hutong.
With its sky-piercing mountains, outstanding architecture, and musical legacy, Austria is one of Central Europe’s most evocative countries. What is less known about the nation is that it has a centuries-old heritage of fine wine production.
Beyond Vienna, Austria is heaving with mountain resort towns, fairytale castles, and spectacular natural scenery. With four distinct seasons, the landscape changes drastically throughout the year. As this is a European destination that you can visit at any time of year, here is what you can expect from visiting Austria in either winter or summer.
Visiting Austria in Winter
Austria in winter summons to mind scenes of the Alps blanketed in snow and bustling yuletide markets.
Snow falls on the mountains and higher altitude areas from early December and remains until late March, with the ski season opening in January. The ski resorts of Austria are some of the most exclusive in Europe, with challenging conditions best suited to experienced skiers and boarders.
After two years of lockdowns, closed borders, grounded flights, and cancellations, the travel industry has experienced more than its fair share of turbulence.
Now that vaccines are readily available we anticipate that – finally – 2022 will see us inch closer to resuming international travel but in a new way. Although the future of travel feels promising, we must prepare for regulations to stay in place for some time.
Whether you are hoping to book your first overseas vacation or visit loved ones that live further afield, it’s time to ensure that you are caught up on the current state of travel.
State of Travel
The travel industry has fought tirelessly to remain in business over these years with hotels, airlines, and tour operators doing all they can to support clients. While at first, the pandemic caught businesses off guard, tourism providers are now in a position to share comprehensive guidelines relating to pandemic travel.
However, as new variants of the coronavirus and surges remain unpredictable, you should continue to exercise caution and familiarize yourself with the booking terms.
Consult my advice on how to travel post-pandemic.
Although some of Italy's more commonly-known islands often take the spotlight, many secret islands are worth exploring. So whether you prefer a remote getaway or an easier-to-get-to spot, keep reading to discover some of the best-hidden gems when it comes to Italy's islands.
Off the coast of Sicily lies one of the most remote Egadi Islands, Marettimo offers an escape from busy-traffic and overly-populated areas. Not only does it contain protected waters perfect for snorkeling and diving, but it is also nearby some of the most beautiful walking trails. In addition, the island is nearly car-less, so you can feel like a local.
Another traffic-free spot when you need to leave the crowded city life behind is Panarea. Frequented by celebrities such as Bill Gates and Beyonce, this island is east of the Aeolian Islands and is a hot place for taking yacht rides or renting traditional wooden boats. This small island is a gem for fabulous beaches, historical attractions, and breathtaking natural vistas.
Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful celebration over the holidays and enjoyed ringing in 2022.
This time of year is steeped in cultural and family traditions. New Year’s Eve celebrations around the world bring together eating and drinking customs alongside rituals that are believed to bring good luck for the months ahead. Here is a round-up of some of the most fascinating practices from all over the globe.
Dating back to the time of the Vikings, the Scottish new year celebration, Hogmanay, is considered one of the most passionate and nowhere it is quite as spectacular as Edinburgh. With origins dating back to the Vikings, Hogmanay is celebrated with a torchlit procession followed by a firework display then ceilidh and live music in Princes Street Gardens. And of course, the Scots claim credit for Auld Lang Syne. Originally written by the national poet, Robert Burns, the song is now sung worldwide.
It is customary to eat lentils (lentilhas) and pomegranates (romãs) on Réveillon, the Brazilian New Year. Lentils bring good luck while pomegranates are associated with attracting wealth. Brazilians will often head to their favorite coastal city to celebrate on the beach and pay their respects to the sea goddess, Lemanjá.
How to say Happy New Year in Portuguese: Feliz Ano Novo!
As the clock strikes midnight, Spanish residents eat 12 grapes in swift succession with the belief being that this will inspire good luck for each of the coming months.
How to say Happy New Year in Spanish: ¡Feliz Año Nuevo!
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy holiday season from my family to yours.
In Ireland, an old tradition of leaving a lit candle in the window after sunset represents Mary and Joseph's welcoming light.
In Croatia, the tradition of the Advent wreath is strong. The candle wreath represents hope, peace, joy, and love.
In Chile, the nativity scene is an important tradition. The traditional Christmas cake is ‘Pan de Pascua', which is similar to Panettone.
In Belgium, children believe that 'Sinterklass' brings presents on December 5th and 6th. The children leave their shoes in front of the fireplace with a biscuit or small gift for Sinterklass. The visit of Sinterklass is separate from Christmas since Christmas is a more religious festival.
In Australia, Christmas is celebrated when it is the summer season in Australia, so many children are on holiday during this time. Australians decorate their houses with 'Christmas Bush', a native tree with small green leaves and flowers. In December, the flowers turn a deep red color, which is perfect for decorating at Christmas time.
The pandemic has transformed how we work, socialize, and travel. As we approach the two-year mark of the outbreak, we are slowly but surely seeing a gradual return to a new normal. While governments continue to offer vaccinations and boosters we can finally look forward to a safe resume to travel. This is my advice on how to approach trip planning and visiting loved ones further afield or abroad.
Flexibility is key
For the foreseeable future, booking a trip – particularly overseas – will remain unpredictable. My number one advice to all clients who plan to take a vacation in 2022 is to allow their travel plans to remain as flexible as possible. When booking a trip, ensure that you are covered in case of unforeseen circumstances or cancellation due to the coronavirus. Only book with reputable airlines, hotels, and tour services and pay close attention to their pandemic policy.
Even if at the time of booking a pre-departure or return COVID-19 test is not required, be prepared for this to change without much notice.
Keep on top of the latest figures and stay alert to the possibility of further coronavirus variants being confirmed. If a new variant is discovered close to your travel dates, while this will likely impact your departure preparation, it does not necessarily mean that you will need to cancel your trip.
Once the festivities of the holidays quieten down, January can feel like a somber time of year with inclement weather and a few months to wait before the first signs of spring begin to show. Escaping to a sunny destination is the perfect answer if you want to avoid the January blues.
While the landscape of travel is still not quite back to normal, there are still opportunities for those seeking a last-minute luxury getaway this winter. Here are 6 destinations to add to your radar for this January.
Dutch Caribbean Islands
Aruba, Curaçao, and Bonaire are tropical havens with beautiful beaches, incredible food, and boutique resorts. Weather is mild and pleasant in the Caribbean during this part of the year while the risk of hurricanes is low. At present, it is possible to visit the Dutch Caribbean islands subject to pre and post-arrival testing but quarantine is not required.
Perfect for wildlife fans, the South American country is the setting of the Galápagos Islands, home to over 2,000 species of endemic wildlife ranging from iguanas, seals, and birdlife. Back on dry land, the small yet diverse Ecuador is blessed with historic cities and regions bestowed with waterfalls and volcanic scenery. December through April is the best time to visit Ecuador and vaccinated travelers are exempt from testing.
As 2021 draws to a close, it’s time to plan ahead and start compiling your wishlist for where to travel in the new year. Get inspired with my guide to the best places to travel in 2022.
Somewhat overshadowed by its neighbors, Portugal is slowly but surely capturing the attention of travelers hungry for a different perspective of Southern Europe. The culture of Portugal blends festivals, folk music, and rustic villages with an artistic spirit. My insider tip is to anchor your itinerary around the country’s premier wine region, the Douro Valley, which fuses together the best of Portugal. You can always extend your trip to Portugal with a visit to the subtropical island of Madeira, a mere 90-minute flight from Lisbon.
Best time to travel: Anytime.
Particularly for West Coast residents, Hawaii is one of our most easily accessible vacation destinations. When choosing your island it can be easy to default to the volcanic Big Island or the buzzing resort of Waikiki. However, if you’re contemplating traveling to Hawaii next year, consider getting off the beaten track. Connect with local fables on Lanai or tackle the Road to Hana (Hana Highway) on Maui, which also happens to be the most luxurious island within the archipelago.
Best time to travel: March to October.
What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? As next week brings the Thanksgiving holiday, we reflect on what we are thankful for this year. It has been another year in a pandemic, but there are still many things to be thankful for. Here are the five things I am thankful for this year.
1. I am thankful for spending time with my father. Some of you may know that my father has an aggressive form of Parkinson’s disease, which has been very challenging for him and my stepmother to deal with, but they are navigating their way through. I have been doing my best to spend time with them each week to have as many laughs as possible and create memories that we will cherish forever.
2. I am thankful to be enjoying my girls growing up. My oldest will be going off to college next fall, and it is incredible to be going through the college visiting and application process. I am very fortunate that Montana is a driven, dedicated student who knows what she wants to do when she goes off to college (nursing is her passion). Then my youngest daughter Sierra is now a freshman and doing amazing in school. She has found a love of running and did great in the first cross country season and is now looking forward to winter track. I feel fortunate that the pandemic slowed my business down to a point where I spent quality time with my girls and realized that this is a blessing to be present and do things together before they grow up and create their own amazing futures.
Antarctica is the final frontier in travel and the ultimate bucket list destination for many intrepid explorers. Despite its remote setting, traveling to the South Pole is a possibility that might be easier than you think. Here are 7 things to know before you travel to Antarctica.
1. The best way to visit our southernmost continent is as part of a live-aboard cruise. Expedition vessels typically depart from and conclude at Ushuaia, Argentina. You will need to factor in your flight to the relevant meeting point on top of your cruise package. Alternatively, you can fly from Punta Arenas, Chile, to King George Island and start your exploration from there.
2. Polar routes navigate you through dramatic stretches of open water before you are invited to disembark and explore the scenery, nature, and communities of the polar region. South Georgia is the location of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s grave as well as remarkable flora that blooms during the summer months. Both South Georgia and the Falkland Islands beam a spotlight on the biological diversity, with an abundance of penguins, albatross, seals, and birdlife. The South Shetland Island comprises a cluster of research stations and museums as well as the volcanic Deception Island and Penguin Island, a hit with fans of the waddling birds!
3. Antarctic cruises include a crossing of the Drake Passage, rumored to be the roughest stretch of sea on the planet. This is due to the convergence of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern Seas. While you might want to keep a seasickness remedy to hand, modern expedition vessels are equipped with stabilizing technology to keep the queasiness at bay.
With its beguiling ancient ruins, mysterious customs, and exotic souks and bazaars, few countries can contend with Egypt. When vacationing in the land of the pharaohs, hopping aboard a cruise of the Nile is the most practical and luxurious way to encounter the history of the region and create lasting memories.
Flowing northwards through 11 North African countries before meeting the Mediterranean Sea, the Nile provides irrigation water, food, and transport. A cruise will introduce you to Egypt’s past while gleaning insight into contemporary society. This is what you can look forward to on your trip.
Treasures of the Nile River
A typical Nile cruise itinerary will take you from Cairo in the north as far as Luxor, some 400 miles (644 km) south of the Egyptian capital. During the trip, you will visit the iconic valleys, pyramids, and temples of Egypt.
The Giza Plateau at the site of the old capital of Memphis is where you’ll clap eyes upon the Great Sphinx of Giza and the three Pyramids of Giza. The oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the pyramids were constructed between 2589 and 2504 BC. In a further testament to the Egyptians unique beliefs in the afterlife, you will roam the Valley of the Kings where pharaohs were laid to rest and the Valley of the Queens, the burial grounds of the wives.
Weave your way through the 28 columns that form the Great Colonnade Hall of the Luxor Temple, once the largest and most significant religious center in ancient Egypt. Another highlight of Luxor is the chance to learn about the historic art of papyrus making in the city’s museums. Traveling the Nile River as part of a cruise will include the expertise of a guide who specializes in Egyptology to make sense of the legendary landmarks.
Copenhagen is one of the absolute most amiable cities in the world. It's full of vibrancy wherever you go. While it is possible to see a lot that the capital city offers in just a day or so, you won't want the time you have to spend there to be so fleeting. Once you get wrapped up in the city's charm, history, and culture, you may never want to leave. So to make sure you take in all that you can during your visit, here is a list of the top experiences you shouldn't miss out on.
1. Tivoli Gardens. This exciting theme park is fun for all ages.
2. Nyhavn. Don't miss the chance to see the bright and colorful 17th-century homes along the waterfront.
3. Nationalmuseet. Get lost in Copenhagen's National Museum viewing all of the artifacts.
4. The Little Mermaid Statue. This statue was created in 1913 by sculptor Edvard Eriksen as a tribute to Hans Christian Andersen.
5. Strøget. Explore this .69 mile shopping area designated to pedestrians.
6. Rent a Bike. Riding bicycles is a common form of transportation for locals and tourists getting around the city.
7. Christiansborg Palace. The gold details and meticulous architecture of this palace will leave you awe-struck.
8. Christiania. This historic region is full of art, culture, friendly locals, music venues, and organic shops.
Extraordinary trips for exceptional travelers, where the details make all the difference
Darby’s Destinations LLC an independent agent for Nexion, LLC, a California registered seller of travel (2071045-50); located at 6225 N. State Hwy 161, Suite 450, Irving TX 75038. Telephone 800-949-6410. While our clients have had great experiences with the travel suppliers featured on this website, Darby’s Destinations is not an employee, agent, or representative of these suppliers and therefore cannot make any promises regarding the service clients will receive with a particular supplier. Clients are responsible for reviewing the services offered by the supplier, along with any terms, conditions, and exclusions, before booking a trip.