Summer 2015 – plan ahead!

Help banish the winter blues and book up your summer holiday now. Here, Ozel Rowland brings us some of the best places to stay this summer…

Costa Adeje © Javier Lastras

Dream Hotel Gran Tacanda, Costa Adeje, Tenerife

Why not treat yourself this summer and indulge in the five-star comforts of the Dream Hotel Gran Tacanda? Located in the popular resort Costa Adeje in Tenerife, Spain this hotel boasts no less than four salt-water pools, three bars and three excellent restaurants – unsurprisingly, this hotel is a top choice for couples and families alike. There’s also a spa and gym to keep you in shape and suitably pampered, and parents looking to snatch some romantic time alone can take advantage of the free childcare and babysitting services for children over the age of three. There are also a variety of fun leisure and cultural programmes on offer for those wanting to head out for a day’s sight seeing.

Guests wanting to catch some rays outside the hotel grounds are in luck as Gran Tacanda is ideally situated right next to Playa del Duque beach. It’s also close to a range of shops and mini markets, including Fañabe and Plaza del Duque shopping centres – ideal if you fancy a spot of retail therapy.

August is the best time to visit Costa Adeje as temperatures reach an impressive 29˚C, while June and July enjoy temperatures of around 24˚C.

The hotel is offering 20% off the final price if you book your 2015 summer holiday now.

Riad le Clos des Arts, Marrakech, Morocco

Voted top three in TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice Awards 2015 for best small hotel and best service in Marrakech, Riad le Cles des Arts takes its roots as an artistic guesthouse seriously and as a result is a firm favourite with guests for its authentic Moroccan décor and ambience. The rooms are adorned with traditional Moroccan styling – think warm terracotta tints and bright ceramic mosaic tiles. Each room comes with a lavish four-poster bed, a plush sofa and beautiful Kilim rug, too.

Temperatures in Marrakech, Morocco can hit highs of 38˚C in July, with a milder average of 29˚C during the other summer months. Handily, the hotel’s roof boasts a lovely pool, so you’ll never be too far away from a reviving, cooling dip.  The hotel also offers additional activities such as artisanal workshops and cookery classes, the latter being ideal if you want to learn how to rustle up an authentic tagine.

The hotel is located in the heart of the Medina, which is just a five-minute walk to the main square, Jemaa el Fna. Nearby are the Museum of Moroccan Arts (Dar si Siad) and the grand Bahia Palace – both are perfect for a cultural interlude into this magnificent city.

Prices vary from about £86 to £135 per night during peak season. This includes traditional Moroccan  mint tea and pastries upon arrival, along with a daily Moroccan breakfast and free Wifi.

Piazza Pretoria, Palermo © Dimitry B.

B&B Mondello Resort, Sicily, Italy

Situated in the peaceful suburbs of Palermo in Sicily, Italy this luxury B&B is the ideal choice for couples seeking refuge in a homely yet modern and stylish setting. With only five rooms, this resort offers an intimate atmosphere along with a gorgeous garden and pool area.

Weather averages in summer tend to reach 26˚C-27˚C, with August hitting around 29˚C, so why not sit back and lounge in the shade of the B&B’s Sicilian pines before taking a much-needed dip in the pool.

Hosts, Robert and Roberta, provide an attentive yet unobtrusive service with a breakfast buffet available every morning in the B&B’s spacious terrace. The rooms meanwhile boast a simple, minimalist interior and come fully equipped with all the expected amenities, while the bathrooms, complete with luxury fittings, are designed to provide a calming haven – perfect for soothing tired limbs after a day out exploring.

If you’re looking for sand and sea as well as sun, the pretty, powdery shoreline of Mondello beach is less than a mile away from the B&B. The bus station is also within walking distance, making Mondello Resort a great launching pad for exploring Palermo. There’s also a free bike service for guests wanting to get around on two wheels.

Prices are around £839 for a double room shared by two adults in August. Visit their website for full details on rates.

Aphrodite’s Rock, the legendary birthplace of Venus, or Aphrodite © Stav

Apollonia Holiday Apartments, Paphos, Cyprus

Paphos’s top-rated, family-run Apollonia apartments offer all the comforts of your own home while providing an ideal base for discovering this beautiful Cypriot city.

Paphos, Cyprus enjoys highs of 30˚C in August and thanks to its coastal location, a cooling breeze takes things down a notch come the evening.

Aside from an impressive pool and peaceful sun lounging area outside complete with a bar and an outside gym, the complex offers a number of different apartments to suit individual requirements, with studios or one and two bedroom apartments available. All are fully-equipped and decked with a simple yet comfortable interior, there’s a daily cleaning service, too.

Apollonia is located in the main tourist district of Kato Paphos, which is home to a variety of top attractions including the ancient ruins of Acropolis and Odeon. Meanwhile, the seafront, along with plenty of local shops, restaurants and bars are within walking distance from the apartments.

Receive a 22% discount if you book your summer holiday now.

Villa Maya, Cancun, Mexico

The Mexican city of Cancun is a world-renowned choice for holidaymakers, well loved for its fascinating Mayan history, large stretches of pearl-white beaches and thriving social scene.

Average summer temperatures reach 28˚C in Cancun, Mexico so you won’t be short of sunshine and opportunities to spend plenty of time outside relaxing and exploring.

When it comes to a great place to stay, Villa Maya is a top rental accommodation, serving as a ‘flexi-house’ perfect for families or group holiday bookings. Inside, you’ll find five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a living room, dining area and an outside terrace. The villa is located in a quiet residential area, away from the main tourist zone, so expect peace and quiet. It’s also close to a good range of shops, including a Walmart, as well as buzzing local cafes and restaurants.

Transfers to and from the airport, as well a free tour by the owners, can be organised in advance. Summer prices start from £879 per week.

Fall in love with Paphos

The city of Paphos, located on the west side of Cyprus, is a perfect holiday destination for everyone – whether you’re looking for a relaxing holiday, a memorable adventure or simply a break away rich with history and culture – and plenty of sunshine. Sophie Brannon explores

Paphos in Cyprus is believed to be the birthplace of the Greek Goddess of love and beauty ‘Aphrodite’, and this small harbour has grown into a highly attractive holiday destination. Never failing to give visitors something to do – there’s with endless possibilities during the day and in the evening to keep you entertained.

Aphrodite’s Rock, the legendary birthplace of Venus, or Aphrodite © Stav

Be a culture vulture…

Being one of UNESCO’s world culture heritage sites, Paphos has no shortage of history and culture to delve into. A highlight is two nature trails, the Aphrodite and Adonis trail, which take around 3-4 hours to complete and take in the historic Baths of Aphrodite (one of Paphos’ most historic sites), as well as various other archaeological sites such as the Agia Solomonis Catacombs – the final resting place of seven local Machabee Brothers who were buried in this tomb around 2,200 years ago and of course the Tomb of the Kings. The Tomb of the Kings dates back to 4th century BC and although no actual kings were buried here, many of Paphos’ important people’s remains are contained within this tomb. In addition to this there is also the Paphos Fort dating back to the 13th century and is located at the end of the harbour. It is now venue for the Paphos Aphrodite Festival – an annual opera is held here in the summer.

You can wander around freely with just a small admission price (if any) and enjoy all of these historical spectacles, and you will not be wondering why Paphos is one of the best chosen cultural heritage sites in the world.

Other things to do…

If culture and heritage doesn’t quite take your fancy, and going to the beach isn’t your idea of fun there are plenty of other things to do in Paphos.

Ride in Cyprus is rated highly by previous visitors, especially those looking for a bit of adventure on their holiday. The horseback riding stables overlook Paphos forest where you can ride beautiful horses across the varied countryside in and around Paphos. Choose from sunset rides in the summer and longer treks in the spring and autumn.

There’s also Elea Golf Course – an 18-hole course suitable for beginner and experienced golfers. The award-winning food on offer is an added reason to go, choose from breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Make a day of it…


Cyprus is known for its year round sunshine. Paphos benefits from the Mediterranean climate of long hot summers and short mild winters. Check out our 14-day forecast, annual averages and next month’s averages.

Hit the beach…

With a total of 27 beaches (with 12 of these having been given the blue flag award, which acts as a guarantee to tourists that the blue flag beaches is one of the best in the world), Paphos is perfect for swimming, diving or snorkelling all year round. Find out more about blue flag beaches here.

These beaches range in size and surfaces, with some beaches such as the Baths of Aphrodite beach being a pebble beach, Latchi beach is long and sandy and between Lara and Cape Arnaoutis there are lots of small rocky and sandy beaches. One of the beaches near Paphos International Airport is unspoilt and protected as there have been many sightings of turtle nests.

Coral Bay beach, one of the beaches open to the public, is known for its wide range of water sports, suitable for anyone, from the extreme adrenaline seekers, to those who simply want a quiet fishing trip.

These water sports include: parasailing, jet-skiing, banana boat, fly fish, crazy shark, pedal boats, boat trips and many others. For more information visit Coral Bay and Coral Beach water sports and diving school’s official website.

Dining out…

Almost every cuisine is catered for in Paphos including a wide range of options for vegetarians and vegans. But one of the best ways to experience all types of Cypriot food would be to take on a Meze. This selection of local dishes compromises of delicious dips like tzatziki, humus and taramasalata (trust me, the dips you can buy in your local supermarkets give poor justification to the explosions of flavour that you’ll get when you try one of these authentic dips prepared for you in its homeland). A Meze also includes varieties of vegetables, meat dishes like souvlakia (Cypriot kebab), loukanika (spicy sausage), different meat stews like stifado (beef), afelia (pork) and kleftiko (lamb). National favourites such as calamari, vine leaves and halloumi (speciality grilled cheese) are always worth a taste.

Watch out though: a Meze can include around 30 dishes and they will keep on coming until you beg the chef to stop! A typical Meze will cost around €15 – €20 depending on the restaurant.

The local beer in Paphos is Keo, and can cost from around €2.50. It is a light straw colour with a thick head, and has been compared to a pilsner in taste.

The local wines include Agios Onoufrios (dry red) which has been widely regarded as value for money and Vasilikon (dry white) which has a fruity aroma of peach and apricot. Both can be bought from local stores for around €5 a bottle.

For night owls…

If you’re looking to head out after a day of lying by the pool, going to the beach or exploring the city and all of its wonders, Paphos’ Bar Street is the place to be. Known by the locals as ‘Agiou Antoniou’, the strip is not unlike something you may find in Ayia Napa or Zante – just simply smaller and quieter.

The strip doesn’t usually get busy until around 8/9pm but when it does, you’ll embrace the atmosphere with open arms. There are lots of bars and clubs on the strip that will suit everyone’s taste including:

Flairs – a dance club and bar popular with a young crowd – who like to drink…

Boogies – a karaoke bar which offers a fun night out with cheap drinks and is one of the few bars that stays open until 4am on week nights.

Splash – a slightly different style of club as it has a swimming pool right in the centre. Splash often holds pool and foam parties. Check out their Facebook page if you fancy a drink n’ dip.

Linekers Bar – The only club on the strip that offers weekly boat parties called Booze Cruises. They also hold some of the biggest party’s at the end of the season with 2014’s closing party including artists Romeo, Lisa Maffia, Cameo and Ironik. Check out their Facebook page for more info.

There are also many bars, cafes, clubs and pubs to be discovered across the sea front and city centre including ‘Different’, ‘Namaste Live Music Bar’, ‘Lighthouse Beach Bar’, ‘The Rose Pub’ and ‘Dodici’ club.

Lay your head…

There always comes a time when a budget holiday comes in handy and Paphos can cater for just that. With hotels and apartment complexes such as Damon hotel apartments, Crystallo apartments, Nereus hotel and Roman Boutique Hotel, all of your needs can be catered for at the price you can afford. Ranging from room only to all inclusive, you will never be left without a bed when visiting Paphos. Click here for traveller’s reviews.

A holiday that will be determined to give you the ancient Cypriot tradition of genuine hospitality. Anything you want and need can be found in Paphos without having to spend more than you can afford. Hotels and complexes such as Kefalos Beach Tourist Village and Basilica Holiday Resort will be there to give you the holiday experience you have been looking for.

Go on, you know you want to. Paphos is ideal for a splurge holiday with its 5* resorts, top beaches and almost the whole of Paphos being named as one of UNESCO’s world culture heritage sites. With accommodation such as Constantinou Bros Asimina Suites Hotel, Annabelle Hotel and InterContinental Aphrodite Hills Resort Hotel with their luxurious rooms and stunning facilities, your splurge in Cyprus is not one you’re likely to forget.

Couple tie the knot in Cyprus in the UK’s first crowd-sourced wedding

In a UK first, a loved-up couple from Derby have tied the knot in a dream, crowd-sourced wedding ceremony in Cyprus after capturing the hearts of the online community.

Natalie Bilston and Kriss Aixill, who received thousands of votes, likes, and comments along their social media journey, were chosen by Thomson’s Facebook community to hand over some of their biggest wedding planning decisions for their special day.

Over a 10 week period, Thomson’s Facebook community decided that Natalie would wear a dress with a sweetheart neckline and her bridesmaids would be in a one shoulder style. They also selected a driving experience for the stag do, and a boat trip for the hen party. The final elements of the wedding were the coral colour scheme and a beach theme, with John Legend’s ‘All of Me’ chosen for the first dance.

All of this became a reality as Kriss and Natalie’s intimate wedding took place at the Thomson Platinum Athena Beach Hotel in Paphos, Cyprus. The happy couple, surrounded by their closest friends and family, enjoyed a beach-side ceremony, sunset cocktail reception and steak and seafood wedding breakfast, followed by traditional Greek dancing.

Bride and groom Natalie and Kriss, who met in Canada on an army exercise, got engaged after a hot, dusty and emotional tour of Iraq. During their stint in the army they didn’t have the time to get married, and since leaving they hadn’t been able to afford to, despite trying to save up. Following their wedding ceremony Natalie said:

“The wedding was an absolute dream come true. Being from Cornwall originally, I’d always dreamed of getting married by a beach and the setting yesterday couldn’t have been more perfect. The crowd-sourced elements were exactly what we’d have chosen ourselves and yesterday was the perfect end to an exciting couple of months. It’s definitely something we’ll treasure forever.”

Kriss said of their wedding: “We’re so grateful to Thomson and to the Facebook community for all they’ve contributed to what was truly the best day of our lives.”

Jeremy Ellis, Marketing and Digital Director for Thomson and First Choice said: “With the average cost of a UK wedding around £20,000 compared to £8,000 for a ceremony overseas, it is no surprise that one in five weddings now takes place abroad. We are thrilled to have been able to offer our planning expertise in Cyprus, as well as the input of our Facebook community, to make Kriss and Natalie’s wedding dream a reality.

“Crowd-sourcing a wedding was a first for the UK, a first for Thomson and a first for the holiday industry. In the digital age we live in, and with the growing use of digital and social media channels as a source of wedding inspiration, we thought it would be great to invite the Facebook community to make some of the biggest wedding decisions – resulting in a fantastic destination wedding, for a fantastic couple.”

Check out Kriss and Natalie’s wedding planning journey on the Thomson blog:

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