Want To Sleep Under The Stars? Head to Switzerland This Summer!

Null Stern Hotel

Null Stern Hotel

From The Bare Essentials to Luxury Glamping

Switzerland has plenty to offer keen campers – it just depends how up close and personal with nature you want to get!

A holiday is the perfect chance to reconnect with nature. Things like hiking through some national parks, swimming in the sea or even just looking up at the stars. With light pollution a big problem in our larger towns and cities, many of us long to be able to look up at the sky and see it in all its glory. Well, if you head to Switzerland this summer, that’s exactly what you can do!

An Unusual Hotel Concept

The bed aside, the hotel rooms that you’ve stayed in probably have a few other things in common. A toilet, a wardrobe, walls, perhaps a fully stocked minibar. At the Null Stern Hotel in Safiental though, there are none of those familiar comforts, just a bed, side tables and lamps. There are some other luxuries involved though – your very own butler will welcome you with a drink and a breakfast basket. After that, you’re on your own in the great outdoors!

With just two bedside lamps, there will be very little light pollution. As a result, you will be able to see many more stars than you usually would. So why not take a telescope with you? You’ll be able to look at constellations and planets in incredible detail – and with a camera attached you can capture some stunning images too. There’s no doubt that you’ll be truly at one with nature here, but it’s probably an option just for the very brave. Still, it would make for an incredible story to tell everyone on your return!

World-Renowned Campsites

If sleeping with nothing between you and the great outdoors is a step too far, don’t worry. Switzerland offers travellers plenty of other opportunities to sleep under the stars. There are a number of great campsites in the country for you to pitch a tent or park a caravan in. The Huttenburg, Jungfrau and St. Cassian campsites are firm favourites with tourists and locals alike, and are home to waterfalls, mountains and of course, clear, starry skies.

A Touch Of Luxury

If you prefer more of a five-star camping experience, head to the Whitepod camp site in the Alps. These luxury pods are fitted with full service bathrooms and wood burning stoves – perfect for those who want the best of both worlds when they camp. The location is incredible, with mountains as far as the eye can see. While travelling to the Alps in summer may mean you don’t get as much snow, it’s much cheaper and you can still spend your evenings under the stars.

Don’t forget Your Travel Cover!

Make sure that you complete your camping trip with some travel insurance. Our European insurance cover will protect you for the entirety of your trip, wherever you set up camp. Knowing that you’re covered against the cost of medical treatment and loss of property means that you can just concentrate on having a great time and making the most of the awe-inspiring natural landscapes in Switzerland.

A Trip To Switzerland Is A Must

There’s no doubt that the Null Stern hotel concept is an original one, and for the very brave it’d make for a fantastic experience. However, most of us prefer to have a roof over our heads. Luckily, Switzerland is home to some fantastic hotels as well as campsites, so you can choose exactly how close to nature you want to stay. Whether you’re camping, glamping or setting up base in a luxury hotel room, you’ll never be far away from some star-gazing opportunities.

Journey to India for the Janmashtami Festival

KrishnaCelebrate Krishna’s Birthday In The Heart Of India

As much a huge birthday party as a religious festival, Janmashtami offers a unique opportunity to explore Hindu culture in an atmosphere likened to Christmas and New Year all rolled into one.

If the bustle of Delhi and the majesty of the Taj Mahal are a little too mainstream for your visit to India, then why not join one of the biggest birthday celebrations in the world? Janmashtami celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna, possibly the most popular of the Hindu deities. Devotees celebrate his compassion, warmth and mischievousness in a festival that is unlike any other.

When and Where to Go?

Janmashtami is celebrated in the lunar month of Bhadrapad. The exact dates varies each year, but falls in late August or early September. The festival is celebrated throughout India and the Hindu world, but with the most fervour and enthusiasm in Uttar Pradesh, Krishna’s birthplace. Direct international flights are few and far between, but the major Indian airlines, including Air India and Jet Airways fly regular services to Lucknow and Varasani from the main hubs of Mumbai and Delhi. For the more adventurous, western cities can be reached by road or rail from Delhi with relative ease.

Crime rates are low, but as with travel to any major event, exercise caution in crowded places, keep personal possessions safe and take out appropriate family travel insurance.

The spiritual centre of Janmashtami is the village of Mathura, in the western part of the state. This is celebrated as the birthplace of Lord Krishna and is visited by thousands of pilgrims every year.

Those wishing to enjoy the Janmashtami experience without the difficulty of finding somewhere to stay could consider combining the festival experience with a cultural visit to Varasani, India’s oldest city. Situated to the South East of the state, Varasani combines the bustle of the galis (ancient market places in a network of narrow alleys) the mystique of the Ganges, one of the most famous and evocative rivers in the world, and the spiritual wonders of literally hundreds of temples dedicated to Hindu deities.

Who Was Krishna?

Krishna is described alternatively as a son of Vishnu or as the incarnation of the Supreme God himself. However he is defined, what is certain is that he is among the most revered deities in Hinduism.

Famed for his playful, flirtatious and mischievous personality, it is little wonder that devotees celebrate his birthday with such a festive atmosphere of fun and happiness.

While areas of Krishna’s later life feature strongly in India’s sacred texts, it is the youthful, flute-playing and fun-loving Krishna who is celebrated during the festival of Janmashtami.

Celebrations

The Janmashtami festival really can be likened to the Christmas festivities in the Western world. Devotees chant hymns and read psalms from the sacred texts, and those who are fit and healthy fast all day.

But after the serious business, the party can begin. In southern states, kites fill the sky; in northern regions, young men stand on each other’s shoulders to form human pyramids and try to reach a suspended earthenware pot in the tradition of Dahi Handi, commemorating the legend of the child Krishna stealing butter; in temples everywhere floors are decorated with tiny footprints to give the impression that the baby Krishna has really paid a visit.

Visitors Welcome?

Indian culture is famed for the warm welcome offered to visitors, and this is especially true during festivals.  Non-Hindus are welcomed to the celebrations as much as devotees. No special knowledge is needed, just a sense of enthusiasm and a willingness to join in and enjoy the fun. After all, it is what Krishna would have wanted.

Visit Brooklyn For Atlantic Antic This September

Atlantic Antic – A Celebration Of Heritage And Cultures In The Heart Of NYC

Atlantic Avenue, BrooklynIf you’re planning on visiting New York this September, then don’t miss the annual Atlantic Antic; NYC’s oldest, largest and most popular street festival.

New York City has a long history of diverse cultures, it has been the first point of arrival for many immigrant groups over the years and has developed into a mixing pot of many nationalities. The wonderful mix of different cultures has made it one of the most fascinating, vibrant and cosmopolitan cities in the world.

To celebrate the heritage, economic development and culture of one of New York’s most famous areas, an annual street festival is run every September in the heart of Brooklyn. Here’s a look at how the festival began and why it’s grown to symbolise the true spirit of community.

AALDC

The concept of the Atlantic Antic street festival was devised in the 1970s by the Atlantic Avenue Local Development Corporation. The AALDC is a non-profit organisation committed to the ‘economic development, cultural enrichment and historic preservation’ of the Atlantic Avenue area, that stretches 1.5 miles from Fourth Avenue to the Brooklyn waterfront.

The AALDC was formed by community activists and local vendors to preserve the special and unique character of the area that has been developed from a rich history of diverse cultures. One of the main concerns of the committee is architectural heritage: preserving the historical integrity and aesthetic appeal of the area.

In the 1970s the development committee sought ways to promote Brooklyn and encourage visitors to enjoy what historic Atlantic Avenue had to offer. The first Atlantic Antic street festival was held in 1974.

Today the AALDC is not just about historic preservation and economic development. The committee also works within the community developing crime prevention initiatives and programmes, youth community scholarship programmes and providing local youth with opportunities while helping to support low income families.

The Atlantic Antic street festival is more than just a local fair; in these troubled times it’s a perfect and wonderful example of people from all backgrounds and cultures living and celebrating together in peace and harmony. The festival is a celebration of this spirit and ethos, which is more significant now than ever.

The Festival

This year, the 42nd annual Atlantic Antic festival will be held on Sunday 25 September. Every year the festival attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors, not just from NYC but from around the world. Musicians, arts, crafts, food and drinks stalls line the streets. Visitors can enjoy live music and outdoor performances while admiring the beautiful and historic buildings that are home to fine cuisine restaurants, family businesses, antique shops, art galleries and boutiques.

The festival is great fun for all the family. An entire block is dedicated to children with games, activities, fun foods and prizes.

Atlantic Antic is a tribute to the four surrounding neighbourhoods, uniting people of all ages and cultures where they can come together and celebrate the spirit of NYC in the heart of Brooklyn.

Visiting America

September is one of the best times of the year to visit New York. You’re guaranteed beautiful blue skies and pleasant temperatures after the summer heat and before the harsh winter begins.

Travel insurance is essential if you’re travelling to America as medical treatment can end up costing hundreds of thousands of pounds if you’re not covered!

For more information on United States of America travel insurance, contact Avanti today.

Is Jersey The Best European Holiday Destination in 2016?

JerseyDiscover The Charms Of The Channel Islands

From beaches to castles, wildlife to festivals – Jersey has something for everyone.

Often overlooked in favour of its continental cousins, more and more people are now waking up to the charms of Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands.

At just nine miles by five miles, what this diminutive island lacks in size it certainly makes up for in personality. Combining both French and English influences, Jersey has plenty to offer visitors to its golden shores.

Sunshine

Sitting just 14 miles off the coast of France, Jersey is the most southerly of the Channel Islands. As a result, the island boasts an enviable climate with warm summers and mild winters – and, with its high sunshine records, Jersey is the closest you can get to a Mediterranean climate without leaving the British Isles. July and August have the best weather, but temperatures stay relatively mild all year-round, so there’s never a bad time to visit.

Beautiful beaches

As an island, Jersey is blessed with miles of golden coastline surrounded by the crystal clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean. From large sandy expanses to small sheltered coves and even a town beach, Jersey has a beach for everyone. The south-facing St Brelade’s Bay is the island’s busiest, and arguably most beautiful beach, it is very popular with families due to its safe bathing and sheltered spot. St Ouens (also known as Five Mile Beach) is great for surfers, and if you want to escape the crowds head to Greve du Lecq on the north coast which is frequented more by locals rather than tourists.

Historical sites

Jersey has a colourful past and rich cultural heritage, and, as you might expect, is home to some fantastic historical sites. Step back in time to World War II at the Jersey War Tunnels, a former underground military hospital, or organise a guided visit to some of the German bunkers that dot the coastline. Another must-visit is Elizabeth Castle which is built on an islet just off St Aubin’s Bay, which defended the island for hundreds of years. Visitors can climb the original battlements and watch live demonstrations which really help to bring the past to life.

Back to nature

With its unspoilt coastline and beautiful countryside, Jersey is a paradise for nature lovers. It’s no accident that Jersey is known as the Floral Island – its mild climate make it the perfect place for plants and flowers to flourish, and the island is home to shaded woodland, semi-tropical plants, verdant flowers, including orchids and roses, and even vineyards. Visitors to the island can expect to see red squirrels scampering through the countryside, and for those looking for more exotic wildlife, Durrell Wildlife Park is home to a wide range of birds, reptiles and mammals, and is a great day out for adults and children alike.

Festivals

If you can, try to time your visit to coincide with one of Jersey’s many events and festivals. From March to May, a series of special events take place across the island to mark the Channel Islands Heritage Festival, and, in mid-August, visitors can experience the island’s famous Battle of the Flowers. With parades of flower-covered floats across two days, including a magical illuminated Moonlight Parade and an impressive fireworks display this festival is undoubtedly a highlight of the event calendar. And winter visitors needn’t miss out on the festival fun – La Fête dé Noué is Jersey’s Christmas festival and comprises parades, festive films and traditional Christmas markets.

If we’ve whetted your appetite for a trip to Jersey there are plenty of deals to be had – and the best thing is, it can be easily reached by plane or by ferry. Don’t forget to take out European insurance cover before you go to ensure your holiday is covered for all eventualities.

The National Geographic Photographer Winners 2016

Stunning Shots From Around The Globe

Get the perfect shot on your next holiday with inspiration from this year’s National Geographic Photographer winners.

With plenty of new and exotic sights and experiences, holidays can offer you the perfect opportunity to unleash your inner photographer. If you’re looking for some photographic inspiration for your next trip, check out the winners and runners up of this year’s National Geographic Photographer competition. The grand prize for the chosen overall winner, Anthony Lau, is a seven-day Polar Bear Photo Safari for two at Churchill Wild–Seal River Heritage Lodge, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World.

Winter Horseman – Anthony Lau

Winter Horseman

Grand Prize Winner. Photo and caption by Anthony Lau / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. The Winter in Inner Mongolia is very unforgiving. At a freezing temperature of minus twenty and lower with constant breeze of snow from all direction, it was pretty hard to convince myself to get out of the car and take photos. Not until I saw Inner Mongolia horsemen showing off their skills in commanding the steed from a distance, I quickly grab my telephoto lens and capture the moment when one of the horseman charged out from morning mist .

The words ‘Inner Mongolia’ tend to conjure up visions of vast landscapes, nomadic tribes and thundering horses – and this dramatic photograph shows that our perceptions of this mysterious country have a ring of truth to them. Straying from the tourist path to the ‘real’ Inner Mongolia can take some effort, but those who make the journey will find themselves rewarded with fantastic natural scenery, including vast grasslands and shimmering sand dunes.

Rooftop Dreams, Varanasi – Yasmin Mund

Rooftop Dreams, Varanasi

People Second Place. Photo and caption by Yasmin Mund / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. I arrived at my guest house in Varanasi at 5:30am, I instinctively climbed the 7 sets of stairs to the rooftop (which happened to be the highest in the vicinity) to see the sunrise over the famous Ganges River. As the sun was rising I looked over the right hand side of the balcony and my jaw dropped with disbelief. Below were families – mothers, fathers, children, brothers, sister and dogs all sleeping on the top of their houses. It was mid summer in Varanasi and sleeping sans AC was difficult.

Varanasi is a city where you should expect the unexpected and this shot perfectly sums up that ethos. Chaotic, colourful and crowded, Varanasi is not for the faint-hearted, but if you give this city a chance, you might just fall under its spell. Regarded as one of Hinduism’s seven holy cities, it is also one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities and is home to ancient architecture which can be best appreciated from a boat ride along the river.

Wherever You Go I Will Follow – Hiroki Inoue

Wherever you go, I will follow you!!

Nature First Place Photo and caption by Hiroki Inoue / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. Romance is in the air. It was the time of day immediately following sunset. I heard a voice. “Wherever you go, I will follow you” the voice says.

If you’re looking for great photo opportunities, Japan is the perfect location. It is a country of contrasts, with plenty to offer keen photographers, from the bustling metropolis of Tokyo, to the famous cherry blossom trees and rugged mountain landscapes. Hokkaido, where this photo was captured, is the northernmost of Japan’s main islands and is home to wildlife, volcanoes, hot springs and ski resorts.

Double Trapping – Massimiliano Bencivenni

Double trapping

Nature Second Place. Photo and caption by Massimiliano Bencivenni / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. Picture taken in the Brazilian Pantanal… when I downloaded the CF did not want to believe it …. The nature knows we always give magnificent events but sometimes extraordinary

There’s far more to Brazil than Rio, carnivals and the Olympic Games. As this photograph by Massimiliano Bencivenni shows, Brazil is also a haven for exotic wildlife. Nature-lovers can take a cruise through the Amazon rainforest (home to more than a third of the world’s animal species), or head to the Pantanal – a huge wetland area which is famous for its diversity of flora and fauna, which is where this particular photo was taken.

Ben Youssef – Takashi Nakagawa

Ben Youssef

Cities First Place. Photo and caption by Takashi Nakagawa / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. Even though there were a lot of people in Ben Youssef, still here was more quiet and relaxing compare to the street outside in Marrakesh. I was waiting for the perfect timing to photograph for long time.

With its bustling souks, snake charmers and piles of colourful spices, a holiday in Marrakech offers exotic sights and sounds around every corner. It’s an exhilarating city, but when the all-out assault on your senses gets a little too much, there are some peaceful areas you can escape to. One of these is Ben Youssef, North Africa’s largest madrasa, the tranquillity of which is perfectly captured in this stunning photo by Takashi Nakagawa.

Silenced – Wing Ka H.

Silenced

Cities Second Place. Photo and caption by Wing Ka H. / National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest. This photo was taken on my last trip to GuangZhou, China. This place is a school dormitories of South China Normal University. When I was hanging around, most of them were taking a break. After the lunch time, they need to go back to study. The dormitories were smelly and messy.

This eye-catching photograph captures the school dormitories of South China Normal University in Guangdong. Located on the south coast of China, Guangdong is a culturally diverse and cosmopolitan city. It’s a popular destination for international visitors and, with famous tourist sites such as the Five Ram Statue in Yuexiu Park, Pearl River and White Cloud Mountain, it offers plenty of great photo opportunities.

When it comes to capturing a great shot, the world is your oyster. Whether you’re looking to photograph people, places or wildlife, travelling is a great way to broaden your horizons and open yourself, and your camera lens, up to new experiences.

Before heading off on a photographic holiday, make sure you take out worldwide insurance to protect your equipment against loss, damage or theft. Then, once you’re covered, the only thing you need to worry about is getting that perfect shot!