Today we examine Gela in Bulgaria a real alternative Holiday Destination far from the maddening crowds!
INSTEAD OF CRETE…..TRY GELA, BULGARIA
If you want somewhere more remote than the Greek Islands but still crave that raw, natural beauty and an injection of early civilisation, head to neighbouring Bulgaria. In Gela, an alpine hamlet deep in the Rhodope Mountains, discover the home of Orpheus, visit ancient monasteries, cities and prehistoric caves.
WHAT TO DO IN GELA?…..
In summer, families can hike mountain trails, go horse riding, explore caves, climb the peaks or bike through the forests; whilst in the winter, there’s skiing at Pamporovo, where dozens of kilometres of downhill and cross-country tracks attract serious skiers and snowboarders.
Bulgarian mainstays are moussaka, cold cucumber and yoghurt soup, and delicious fried courgette.
ACCOMMODATION IN GELA…..
Relish the easy, rural decadence at Villa Gella, an alpine villa encircled by firs and staggering mountain scenery. Perfect for family groups, the villa has six double bedrooms, each with en suite bathroom and fireplace.
It is self-sufficient, with the chef’s making butter, cheese and yoghurt from its cows milk, collecting honey from its bees, and producing wines from its vineyard. There is an indoor pool and steam room, and on-site sports including tennis, basketball and boules. Baby monitors, games and a special kids’ tea are available on request.
HOW TO GET TO GELA IN BULGARIA…..
British Airways and Bulgarian Air fly from Heathrow to Sofia, several times a week. A range of airlines fly in to Sofia from many parts of Europe, with connections from around the world.
It’s a three-hour drive to Villa Gella from Sofia.
Hopefully this article has whet the appetite of the non beach lovers and those of you who love holidaying in the mountains. Gela is a very special resort that really is Away from the Crowds! If you would like more information or a quote on Holidays to Gela please feel free to contact me
If you would like to read of other alternative resorts in this series please check out the links below;
Now that you have hopefully read my first article about winter sports in Alberta
, allow me to offer you a couple of sample itineraries that will whet your appetite for travelling to this part of Canada.
Please remember that these are simply sample itineraries, and can be amended and changed to suit your needs. But take these as a framework from which I am happy to work with you, to reach your exact needs.
Recommended Itinerary No 1:
This winter, allow me to set your sights on a Canadian Rockies ski holiday in pristine, protected Banff National Park
‘s iconic ski resorts are a haven for powder hounds the world over, offering some of the best skiing and boarding on the planet and an après ski scene that has a life of its own. Banff and Lake Louise are both top ten TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice 2013 destinations. Venture beyond the slopes for plenty more awesome Alberta winter adventures.
The view of the Canadian Rockies from the plane approaching Calgary will have you eager to make a beeline for the slopes. Of course, I know you can’t wait to experience the excitement in store at Banff National Park! But let me tell you that you can get a head start on the adrenaline rush right on the edge of the city at Canada Olympic Park. It’s a great opportunity to try an Olympic sport, like zooming down a course at up to 75 mi/h in a professionally piloted bob-sleigh. If that doesn’t deserve a Blue Peter badge, I don’t know what does? (for my reader’s outside the UK, I suggest you Google the children’s television series, Blue Peter).
Banff is nestled in the heart of Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can choose to stay on-mountain at Sunshine Village Ski and Snowboard Resort, or in Banff’s full service luxury resorts, small boutique hotels and rustic mountain lodges. Sunshine Village is one of three resorts within a one-hour drive of each other. The others are Mount Norquay, 10 minutes from Banff, and The Lake Louise Ski Resort. One convenient tri-area lift ticket for all three resorts offers almost 8,000 acres of skiable terrain. How about three days with their own professional instructor, one day each at all three resorts, with the SkiBig3 Club Ski Program. New at Sunshine Village for spring 2014 weekends is the Yoga and Ski Retreat. Mix the vacation up even more with an exhilarating Discover Banff Tours ice walk, snow tubing at Mt. Norquay
and the brand new heritage snow shoeing tour at Sunshine Village.
A variety of accommodation choices are available in and around spectacular Lake Louise, including The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and Baker Creek Chalets. Complimentary bus service to The Lake Louise Ski Resort is available from area hotels. You could also choose a ski-in only, back country experience and stay at Skoki Lodge, chosen by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for a personal retreat in 2011.
Why not arrange the trip to coincide with a winter event, such as Torchlight Dinner and Ski with après drinks, appetizers and live music in a majestic setting. Ice Magic Festival runs over two weekends in January and features an international ice carving competition. The festival is part of Snow Days, a month-long celebration in Banff National Park. A private Brewster Adventures sleigh ride from the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
, or a glide across the frozen lake on ice skates are special ways to take in the gorgeous surroundings.
Canmore is all about mountain lifestyle and active adventure, perfectly located along the route back to Calgary. I wholeheartedly recommend dog sledding at Mad Dogs & Englishmen Expeditions – skijöring is also available here – or Snowy Owl Dog Sled Tours, and a tour of the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary. Should you not be getting enough skiing, Canmore is a really short drive to Nakiska Mountain Resort in Kananaskis.
A final night in Calgary is an opportunity for you to shop downtown on historic Stephen Avenue and The CORE to find contemporary local and international designers or browse the funky boutiques in Kensington and haute couture in the 17th Ave Retail & Entertainment District. Calgary is one of Canada’s hot new culinary destinations, where top chefs’ creative concepts are grounded in local traditions and fresh Alberta ingredients. After dinner, you can explore a new museum exhibit, browse the galleries, find a jazz club or spend the evening at the theatre, symphony or ballet.
Distance driven is 231 miles
Recommended Itinerary No 2:
Please allow me to invite you to discover the beauty of Alberta in the wintertime. Jasper National Park
is an unspoiled, snowy winter wonderland, and the wide open night skies of the north are transformed by surreal northern lights. Marmot Basin
ski resort and the authentic mountain town of Jasper are sure to impress ski and snowboard enthusiasts, while Alberta’s north offers unique winter adventures that will give you plenty to brag about. Round this out with lots of time to explore the capital city of Edmonton
and you have the perfect winter holiday you are are looking for.
Edmonton is Alberta’s capital city and your clients’ hub for this Jasper/Fort McMurray
holiday. Be sure to schedule some time for exploring Edmonton’s eclectic dining scene followed by a theatre performance.
An Air Canada flight from Edmonton takes your clients to Fort McMurray, gateway to Alberta’s north, and a fabulous opportunity to see the northern lights with their own eyes. Plan a two-day Aurora Borealis Quick Escape beginning from Fort McMurray. Guests discover what makes the night sky blaze with colour and hear the old legends and lore that surround this mesmerizing display. Winter is a great time to go fishing in Alberta’s northern regions – ice fishing, that is! From Edmonton, Reel Adventures offers fully inclusive ice fishing packages in the Athabasca region. The fish are especially keen to bite in the winter and anglers from novice to expert can expect to take home quite the fish story!
After their spectacular outdoor adventures in the north, your clients may be ready for an indoor interlude. It’s time for the famed West Edmonton Mall. More than eight hundred shops, one hundred eateries, luxury accommodation, cinemas, a water park, ice skating rink and themed attractions make it the largest indoor shopping and entertainment complex in North America. Be sure to check for winter festivals happening in Edmonton – Canada’s festival city – such as the Ice On Whyte ice carving festival, which runs Jan 24-Feb 2 in 2014.
You may choose to self drive from Edmonton to Jasper in the heart of Jasper National Park, or may prefer to take in the scenery as passengers. i suggest travelling by train with Via Rail or by Sundog Tours shuttle bus (I can book both). Marmot Basin resort awaits you, whether as a ski or a snowboard enthusiast.
Boasting Canada’s highest base elevation, Marmot offers terrain to suit all levels and superb airy powder. This ski season begins year-long celebrations to mark Marmot’s 50th anniversary, alongside several notable anniversaries within the town of Jasper itself. The night sky is a major area attraction – Jasper is the world’s second largest dark sky preserve. On a clear night, the backbone of the Milky Way appears to rise directly out of the centre of the Athabasca Glacier. Jasper Adventure Centre and Sundog Tours offer a variety of winter tours, including canyon ice walks, dog sledding and wildlife discovery.
A final night in Edmonton gives you a chance to attend an art gallery exhibit, such as Angakkuq: Between Two Worlds. This display of spiritual and mythological figures in Inuit and Inuvialuit art runs from Oct 26 2013 – Feb 16 2014 at the Art Gallery of Alberta. I can highly recommend a night of luxury at the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald where you can reflect on your Alberta winter holiday over a regionally inspired gourmet meal.
Distance driven: 451 miles
These sample winter sports itineraries in Alberta, as well any of your own, may be booked through World of Transport Travel, so why not contact me
to see how I can be of assistance to you?
Recommendations For Winter Sports Opportunities In Alberta, Canada
Who Travels to Alberta for Winter Sports?…
Alberta is a compelling sell for winter sports fans old and new with great opportunities for skiers of all abilities. Many resorts offer a mixed selection of runs from each lift so it is ideal for those in a group of differing abilities to ski together. It also has lots to offer off-piste so we encourage those with non-skiers in their group to give it a try.
While skiers head to the slopes, non-skiers can take in the fabulous winter scenery, try snow shoeing hikes, dog sledding adventures, sleigh rides, ice skating and ice walks. They’ll love the shops, café’s and spa opportunities in town too and, of course, the historic Banff Upper Hot Springs
should be a must for all.
What’s in Alberta for Winter Sports fans?…
First of all I need to big up the snow – Alberta has a fabulous reputation for the quality of its powder snow and the reliability of its winter conditions. Add to that the diversity of its resorts and activities beyond the slopes and it can it is perfect for those of all abilities and tastes. Wide open trails and encouraging, English speaking instructors standby to welcome beginners while established adrenaline junkies junkies will be inspired by the heli-skiing offered across the province by Canadian Mountain Holidays heli-skiing, cat-skiing and exciting back-country ski trails.
Where Is Alberta?…
Skiing the Rockies is an iconic choice packed with kudos and variety. The province has over sixty five ski hills.
Resorts to Consider and Travel Tips for Alberta:
This is a rare opportunity to ski a UNESCO World Heritage site at the following resorts:
• Mt Norquay
– just 10 minutes from Banff with a focus on families
• The Lake Louise Ski Resort – an iconic choice with a unique layout which allows those of varying abilities to ski together
• Sunshine Village – offers ski-in, ski-out accommodation right on the mountainside and the excitement of Delirium Dive, one of the Top 10 off-piste destinations in the world.
Jasper National Park
– an internationally-recognized destination with the friendly town of Jasper at its heart and major ski resort.
• Marmot Basin
– with its relaxed and friendly atmosphere, Marmot has a great choice of trails and large snow-filled bowls which are perfect for powder skiers and snowboarders.
For those of you looking for somewhere less well known, I recommend:
• Castle Mountain – two and a half hours drive from Calgary with two mountains, spectacular views and lots of off-piste skiing opportunities.
Kananaskis – offers cross-country skiing from the Canmore Nordic Centre
, Alpine skiing at Nakiska Ski Resort, dog sledding in the Spray Valley, snow shoeing tours and winter caving opportunities.
We recommend this to those who want cat-skiing where you board giant snow-terrain vehicles to access steeper gradients and much more terrain.
When is the best time for Winter Sports in Alberta?…
Alberta has one of the longest ski seasons in North America with resorts open November to April, and often into May for some resorts.
Well, I find clients that used to European ski resorts will find the warm welcome and genuine friendliness of the resort staff and the lack of queues a refreshing change.
Smiling faces and helpful lift attendants abound and volunteers work as local guides to man the slopes and offer help and advice among the pistes.
For beginners and intermediates the quality of the instructors and guides, the relaxed atmosphere and wide choice of suitable slopes are also a big plus. Learning here is fun and rewarding. For the advanced skier, expert guides will happily show visitors around their own favourite slopes and off-piste trails.
Is It Affordable?…
Well, this is the ultimate question, so let me explain a bit more.
Many of you may initially think a long-haul ski holiday is out of your price range, but if we tackle this head on, I have to say that the Canadian slopes have become increasingly competitive.
Euro-zone destinations are no longer a cheap option when you add in the costs of après-ski and dining out, so I must highlight the fact that the value of the Canadian dollar is good (yes, it has been better, a few years ago, but it is still good now) and here’s one to watch for, suppliers now include many added-value offers on passes, lessons and equipment which can really make a difference.
Alberta does not charge any sales tax which also helps keep in-resort costs down.
How To Get to Alberta?…
Travelling from the UK to Calgary, and specifically Heathrow, you have daily nonstop services, year-round, with both Air Canada and British Airways. Air Transat offer charter flights out of Gatwick, Manchester & Glasgow. Indirect flights with American Airlines, Delta Airlines and United Airlines, mean that many regional cities are connected to Calgary than every before. If you live elsewhere, there are many possible ways of getting there.
One Last Thing…
I’m passionate about Canada, both as a country and about the people. Canadian hospitality is second-to-none and unlike some countries, there is no sense of falseness about things. Accommodation comes in different guises, in terms of budget, and you can go from one extreme to another. Why not take a look at my blog on Fairmont Hotels in the Alberta area
, to show you the top end of the spectrum.
If this article has tickled your fancy and you wish to know more, then please contact World of Transport Travel and allow me to arrange your perfect holiday. Whether you live in the UK, or reside overseas, I am here to be of assistance, and will gladly work with you to arrange the right connections from your point of departure, to your point of arrival.
I can also arrange car hire, tours and excursions, and just about anything else you can think of. Why not combine a winter sport’s holiday with a week on a Hawaiian island? Sounds crazy, well not really. As you are in Alberta, you are closer to these paradisaical islands than you think (about six and a half hours flying time should do it). Air Canada would be my first thought, but equally we can offer WestJet and all other carriers that fly to the islands.
As for destination combinations, let your imagination run wild. Let me know your preferred itinerary and I’ll arrange a quotation, whether it be for Economy or Business class travel (a few carriers do offer a Premium Economy cabin, if you would like a quotation).
I look forward to working with you to book your ideal winter sports holiday in Alberta.
Skiing and Snowboarding Holidays in Mayrhofen
Mayrhofen (633m) is a vibrant young popular ski and snowboarding resort located about and hour from Innsbruck in the Austrian Tyrol. Renowned for its Tyrolean hospitality this party resort offers something for everyone and even a non skier will find plenty to occupy them during the day including a large leisure pool, wellness facilities, tobogganing and ice skating, to name but a few.
At night the apres ski is a big draw with a large selection of bars, clubs and restaurants including the Ice Bar located at the Hotel Strass next to the Penken godala station as well as a good selection of other bars and late night clubs to party the night away.
“The Slopes Wont Know What Hit Them” Snowbombing is a popular week long festival held every year in Mayrhofen featuring world class DJ’s and Bands in a unique alpine location, you can check out the Snowbombing website for this years dates and events and join in with the fun!!!
As for the basics the local area is covered by a ski pass known as Ski- & Gletscherwelt Zillertal 3000, which covers in excess of 245 kilometers of well maintained pistes from 630m up to an altitude of 3250m on the Hintertux Glazier and includes 65 lift systems. Great skiing and boarding for all levels from beginner to advanced with more than enough challenging runs for everyone.
Mayrhofen is a great resort for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities which makes it the ideal resort if you are thinking of planning a group visit.
Skiing and Snowboarding in Mayrhofen
There are three main area’s for skiing and snowboarding accessible from Mayrhofen and all covered by the area’s super ski pass, which at the time of writing cost €254.00 for a 7 day pass.
Hintertux Glazier (3250m) Offers some of the best glazier skiing anywhere in the world, all year round. With over 59km of well kept runs catering for all levels from beginner to advanced, it is the only place in Austria offering 365 days of skiing!
Ahorn (2000m) Reached by the Ahornbahn cable car. The ski area of the Ahorn is particularly suited to the beginner or intermediate the later and advanced skiers may well be tempted to try the downhill run all the way back down to Mayrhofen (snow conditions permitting). The White Lounge with its outside Ice Bar is a great place to chill after a day on the piste and also offers accommodation if you fancy a night in an igloo hotel!
Penken (2500m) Home of the infamous Harakiri a challenging black run and the steepest maintained pieste in Austria. The Penken ski area is reached by a gondola lift located next to the Hotel Strass. Apart from Harakiri and some other challenging black runs the Penken also offers a great selection of well maintained piste for the intermediate.
How to get to Mayrhofen
A number of UK tour operators offer package holidays to Mayrhofen including Crystal Ski, Inghams and Neilson, if you are prepared to travel during the early or late ski season bargains are often available, so please give us the opportunity to quote the best deals for you on any package holidays to Mayrhofen.
Flights are available from many UK airports to Innsbrook via Easyjet and also to Munich from London Heathrow and Gatwick via British Airways, Lufthansa and Easyjet.
If you prefer to drive from the UK, World of Transport Travel can provide great rates on Channel Crossings as well as over night accommodation on the way should you decide to break your journey.
If you’re considering a ski holiday in Europe and looking for a great value ski resort then Mayrhofen is well worth considering, especially if you are looking at options for a group holiday of mixed ability. World of Transport Travel can help you find the best deals on holidays in Mayrhofen or just flights or accommodation in the resort.
Thinking of taking to the ski slopes this winter?
Skiing and snowboarding are popular activities and fun for all ages, my neighbour is in his late 70’s and still enjoys his annual trip to the Alps for a week’s skiing. So if you are thinking of taking up the sport for the first time you may find this article has a few useful tips. We are intending to review various ski resorts in future posts but hopefully you will get some valuable information from reading this to help you in choosing the best ski resort for yourself in the meantime.
Choosing a Ski Resort
Probably the most important factor regardless of what level you’re at is choosing the right resort and the best time to go. For the beginner we would suggest for your first ski holiday you look at resorts closest to you, in terms of travelling distance, rather than a long haul destination. You may also want to consider a resort with plenty of other activities on hand just in case skiing, ends up not being your forte.
In my experience the slopes on the better resorts in Europe tend to face South or Westerly direction giving them more sun when it’s out that is. Northerly slopes that get very little sun are more prone to ice and along with Easterly slopes exposed to colder winds.
Altitude is another important factor with low lying resorts snow can often not be relied upon especially early and late in the season but the slopes are generally more suited to beginners. As opposed to higher resorts where the snow can be more relied upon but the skiing is can be more limited for beginners, usually more challenging.
The skiing areas of a resort or piste are graded according to difficulty with Blue being best suited to beginners, Red for intermediates and Black for the experienced skiers. Ideally when you are starting out you what a resort with plenty of Blue runs and a selection of Red and maybe the odd Black for you to experience at you progress.
- Some resorts offer free nursery lifts which are a real cost saving!
- Check the cost of Ski School fees and Lift Passes as they do vary!
- Look for a resort with the skiing on your doorstep, ideally straight from/to your hotel
Best time to go skiing
We have covered choosing a resort but when is the best time to go? The ski season in the Northern hemisphere starts from the end of December and usually carries on until late March or early April depending on the snow conditions each year. The peak time is typically late January to the end of February, early March.
My personal favourite time to go skiing is in March especially if the year has seen some good snow fall, as the weather particularly in the Alps and the Dolomites tends to be starting too warm up and you can usually get some nice sunny days.
If you’re on a tight budget you may be tempted by the cheaper prices offered at the start and end of a season but you should always take into account the snow conditions when you book and or the likelihood of there being any good snow in the resort when you arrive. This can be a problem especially towards the end of the season in low lying resorts or South facing slopes as the snow begins to melt or early before the snow has arrived.
Tip: Try to avoid the school half term holiday in February as many European countries have the same week and the slopes are very busy!
Essential clothing and equipment
The right clothing is essential for your safety and enjoyment of any winter sport and you will need to purchase or borrow at least the following:
- Ski Jacket
- Salopettes (waterproof trousers)
- Ski/thermal socks several pairs of various thicknesses
- Suitable hat and Ski helmet (compulsory in some resorts for younger skiers)
- Waterproof/ thermal gloves.
- Thermal underclothes and or plenty of layers of clothing to wear under your jacket and trousers
- Suitable waterproof shoes or boots for walking and in the evenings etc
- Goggles and Sunglasses
- Sun cream and lip protector (yes you can get burnt!)
It’s not really necessary to buy your own skies and boots especially when you are first starting out as these can all be hired in the resort.
Note: Ski Insurance with sufficient cover in the event of an accident is also essential
We hope this guide has given you some useful information on choosing the best resort and the best time to go skiing in Europe or the Northern hemisphere, for our readers in the South please adjust the seasons etc. accordingly.
For more information on skiing holidays and the latest special offers please contact World of Transport Travel who will be happy to assist in planning a ski trip with you. Additionally if you are considering getting a group of friends or family together we can help you find the best deals and discounts available.
Links: Ski Mayrhofen