Posts Tagged ‘Youth Travel’

40 things to do before you’re 40 - Number 22!

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

22. Watch a show on Broadway

Mamma Mia! If you’re in Chicago you’re in the wrong city and if you’re surrounded by Jersey Boys you’re in the wrong borough. Guys and Dolls, get yourself to New York and come to the Cabaret!

As if there isn’t enough to do in New York already, it’s also home to one of the most electrifying entertainment centres in the world – the theatres of Broadway. Broadway is actually a 24km long street running through the entirety of Manhattan and The Bronx, but the name is almost universally associated with the theatre district - encompassing 40 theatres, only four of which are actually located on the street of Broadway.

The 1940s ushered in the golden era of the Broadway musical when Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein combined their skills to create dozens of smash shows. With Rodgers composing the music and Hammerstein writing the lyrics, they created shows such as Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music. West Side Story followed not long after, and musicals quickly became big business in the Big Apple.

As the famous line from Cabaret goes: “Money makes the world go round”, but that’s not to say that any musical showing on Broadway is guaranteed to rake in the big bucks. It’s a cutthroat industry, and during the past 50 years, 75% of Broadway musicals have failed to make a return.

Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, another famous musical writing team, combined to create Jesus Christ Superstar in 1970, one of the first examples of a rock opera. Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera opened on Broadway in 1988 and you can still see it today, over ten and a half thousand performances later!

Current hot tickets on Broadway include Kinky Boots, Wicked, the Book of Mormon, and Avenue Q, but with 40 theatres and fierce competition between shows, it’s a safe bet that you’ll have a memorable evening whatever you see. That’s showbiz, kids!

Topdeck Top Tip: You can bag a discount between 25 to 50% on Broadway tickets by lining up for same-day tickets at the two TKTS kiosks in Manhattan. One is in Times Square at 47th Street and Broadway, and the other is in the Financial District at the corner of Front and John Streets. The most popular shows are unlikely to be available, but tickets may be released several times a day, so it’s still possible to grab great seats by stopping by at 6 or 7pm when queues are shortest.

40 things to do before you’re 40 - Number 19!

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

19. Run with the Bulls

Traditional shouts of “Viva San Fermin!” ring out from the city hall balcony followed by a rocket blast, signalling that the incredible nine-day street party known as the festival of San Fermin has officially begun. For the next nine days, there’s nowhere better in the world to be than the small Spanish city of Pamplona!

The festival of San Fermin is best known for the ‘encierro’ – ‘the running of the bulls’. Historically this began as a way to herd from Pamplona’s livestock enclosure to its bullfighting ring. The animals would run as children and adults directed them with shouts and sticks. The practice may date back as far as the 13th century, and people are thought to have joined the herd sometime in the 1800s.

Nowadays, thousands of participants from around the world make the half-mile dash through Pamplona’s narrow streets chased by charging bulls. Every morning at 8am, hordes of daredevils gather in the city centre, most dressed in the traditional all-white outfits with red neckerchiefs. They sing a traditional homage to St. Fermin asking him to guide them through the run. Two small rockets are fired, six bulls are released and the chase is on! Thousands more watch from safe nooks and balconies along the route, and spectators can also follow the events on national TV.

The running of the bulls is an incredible spectacle which comes with obvious dangers. Since officials began keeping records in 1910, 15 people have died in the run, and countless others have been injured. Ernest Hemingway wrote that the most exhilarating feeling a man could experience was being shot at and missed. That is the joy of running with the bulls, and it’s an acquired taste!

Where’s the best place to watch the bull run?

Anywhere around the start (Cuesta de San Domingo) and end (close to the bullring) of the running. To secure a good spot you have to occupy it two or three hours before the run starts. Alternatively, you can buy a ticket for a city centre balcony through your Topdeck Trip Leader.

I’m going to run! Any tips?

  • Don’t run on your first day in Pamplona - watch the first time to get an idea of what to expect, and walk through the course.
  • If you go down, stay down. Cover your face and lie low. You might get a few bruises but it is safer than trying to get up. Onlookers will tap you on the shoulder with a rolled-up newspaper when it is safe to move.
  • Take the corners tight as the bulls are going to go wide.
  • Don’t drink before the event, and be hangover-free.
  • Your biggest fear should not be of the bulls but of other people falling in front of you and tripping you up!

If being chased by horned beasts through the streets doesn’t sound like your cup of tea then no worries! You’ll find there’s so much more to the festival of San Fermin - music, dance, paella, sangria, fireworks, and processions around every corner. The famous Spanish ‘lust for life’ can be almost breathed in the air.

40 things to do before you’re 40 - Number 12

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

12. Go clubbing until dawn in Europe

Everybody enjoys a good night out… but once in a while, a night comes along that’s so epic that you just don’t want it to end – you want to hit the clubs and dance until the sun comes up!

When that you get that feeling, Europe’s the place to be. From Parisian wine bars to Hungarian dive bars, from London’s super pubs to Berlin’s superclubs, this continent is full of amazing nightspots.

Whether you’re an occasional clubber or a serious partygoer, you’ll love the variety of local nightlife on offer. Here are five of our favourite all-night party spots in Europe:

Barcelona – the cool Catalan capital is rightly renowned for its clubbing scene. If you’re after free entry and the latest chart heavyweights, head to Port Olimpic – a buzzing stretch of bars and clubs along the harbour front. If you’re a serious clubber and don’t mind a cover charge, superclubs like Opium, Razzmatazz and La Terazza are well worth a visit too.

Mykonos – this gorgeous Greek island boasts some of the finest dance clubs in Europe. On Paradise Beach alone there are TWO of DJ magazine’s Top 100 Clubs for 2013. Elegant Cavo Paradiso (#13) is perched on a rocky outcrop and has hosted the likes of Tiesto and Sebastian Ingrosso, while its lower neighbour Paradise Club (#33) can boast Avicii, Carl Cox and Bob Sinclar on its CV.

Amsterdam – with a reputation as one of Europe’s party capitals, Amsterdam doesn’t disappoint. Leidseplein is a buzzing nightlife hub with something for everyone; catch a live band in the Watering Hole, dance to chart hits in brilliantly OTT bars, or maybe even go to a gig in legendary venues Paradiso or Melkweg.

Prague – any city which can boast a five story nightclub is not shy about its party credentials. Situated near the stunning Charles Bridge, many a Topdeck traveller has wandered into Karlovy lázn? in the dark only to wander out again as the sun’s rays are coming up! But by no means is this the only spot – Prague is a goldmine of cool underground bars and quirky clubs.

Ibiza – the mecca of dance music, this hedonistic Spanish island has been top of the global clubbing tree for many years. Ibiza superclubs Space and Pacha occupy the #2 and #3 spots in DJ mag’s Top 100 Clubs, while Amnesia and Privilege also make the top 20. The clubs may be pricy, but they attract a who’s who of international DJs each summer (Skrillex, Tiesto, Chase & Status, Armin van Buuren), while indie artists (Bloc Party, Kasabian, Tinie Tempah, Azealia Banks) are also getting a look-in with Ibiza Rocks growing bigger by the year.

So next time you’re in Europe, why not hit the clubs and enjoy a night out to remember? After all, you get to sleep every night… surely you can afford to take a night off?!

Topdeck Top Tip: Don’t head out too early! Many clubs in Europe don’t even get going until midnight, so pace yourself if you want to see the sunrise.

Sebastian Ingrosso at Cavo Paradiso, Mykonos in 2012 (skip to 0.50 for the drop):

Closing night 2012 at Space Ibiza:

One for dance lovers – DJ mag’s Top 100 Clubs list:

American Firsts

Monday, March 25th, 2013

March 31st, 2013 – remember the date.

It’s the date of Topdeck’s first trip in North America!

We couldn’t be more excited about sharing North America with a host of lucky Topdeck passengers over the coming months, and we’re especially thrilled for the passengers on our inaugural trip.

We’re delighted to be taking the USA and Canada by storm in the year of our 40th birthday, and at Topdeck HQ we’ve been getting a little misty-eyed thinking about how Topdeck has grown from a mere youngster in 1973 to the industry-leading youth travel company it is today.

It also got us thinking about the USA, which is a relative teenager in global terms. Like with any growing child, it’s always good to keep track of the important milestones in life… so here we present some of the key ‘firsts’ in the formative years of America!

America’s first date…

America’s first proper date was July 4th 1776. No romantic meals and drive-in movies – simply the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  Smooth.

America’s first party…

Was the Federalist Party in the early 1790s. It was a party of strong fiscal policies, nationalistic ideals… and all-night raves with everyone drinking out of red plastic cups before jumping in the pool in their underwear.

America’s first driving lesson…

Took place in 1884, shortly after the opening of America’s first golf course in West Virginia. The first informal lesson in driving off the tee was given by the talented Archibald B. Dogleg to his companion, Hubert J. Bunker.

America’s first Kiss…

Came in 1973, when four friends from New York formed a band, painted their faces black and white and put on elaborate hard rock stage shows. It was as if someone had fired a Love Gun – together America and Kiss had some Crazy, Crazy Nights.

America’s first Topdeck trip…

Will take place on March 31st, 2013. Passengers on this 7 day California Calling trip will see the best of the USA’s West Coast; they’ll gaze over the Grand Canyon, walk across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, enjoy an included Party Bus in Las Vegas, stay in Yosemite National Park and much more.

Now that’s what we call a first to remember!

If you want to join Topdeck and explore the wonders of North America, check out our superb range of trips here:

5 North American ‘must see’ locations.

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

What runs through your mind when you think of travelling North America? The Californian beaches, Niagara Falls, the infamous ‘Sin City’ Las Vegas, or perhaps the enormous Grand Canyon? Here’s a quick look at a handful of recommended places to go when visiting.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Viva Las Vegas! If you’ve seen the movie ‘The Hangover’ then you’ll have an understanding of why it’s commonly referred to as ‘Sin City’, however you don’t need to end up with a tiger in the bathroom to feel like you’ve experienced the real Las Vegas. The city is full of entertainment and attractions that run up and down the strip. There are countless casinos, amazing restaurants, enormous shopping malls and incredible nightclubs all at the tip of your fingers. If visiting Las Vegas with Topdeck, you’ll even get to go on an exclusive Party Bus tour of the strip! This is definitely a city worth seeing at least once.

Grand Canyon, Arizona

To help understand why the Grand Canyon is so unique, here are a few ‘fun facts’: It is listed as a Natural Wonder of the World, it took approximately 3-6 million years to form, the rock at the very bottom of the canyon is around 2 billion years old, it’s shape has developed over millions of years by a single river which slowly erodes the rock walls, and there are still 5 American Indian tribes that call the Canyon home. It’s fair to say that it’s a pretty amazing place! Take one of our North American trips that visit the Grand Canyon and cap off your experience with an unforgettable golden sunrise with your Topdeck companions.

Canadian Rockies

Absolutely picturesque. The Canadian Rockies present beautiful snow-capped mountains, glaciers, stunning blue lakes, lush alpine forests and incredible wildlife. Activities are in abundance in the Rockies as there is something that will please the more reserved travellers as well as the adventurous. Our Canadian Rockies trip will allow you to see some of the best spots and provide the opportunities for your adventurous side to let loose! You can go White Water Rafting in the Kicking Horse River, canoe in the Bow River or take a nice relaxing visit to the Banff Mountain Hot Springs.


Whether it be natural landscape or man made cities, there is so much to see and do in California. Home to the Yosemite National Park, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Death Valley National Park, HOLLYWOOD and the ever so famous beaches and coastline, California is a must-see on your travel bucket list.  You can live the Californian dream on many of our trips that visit the American East Coast State. We know you want to run along the beach Bay Watch style!

New York

Home to one of the world’s most popular cities, one of the most popular attractions in North America as well as numerous landmarks, New York is also on our list of must visits. A trip to New York City, the City that never sleeps, is enough to quickly fill up your itinerary with things to see and do, including the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and Central Park. New York was also the first State in the United States to establish a State Park, Niagara Falls, which now attracts around 8 millions visitors each year. Take a trip with Topdeck to Niagara Falls and you will have the opportunity to get up close and personal on the ‘Maid of the Mist’ boat tour, gaining an insight into the incredible power that the Falls’ possess.

Travel Musings: Goodbye, My Dear Friends

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

A dear travel companion left me at the weekend.

After 5 years of being practically inseparable, a Friday night party in West London proved to be our undoing.

Together we’d seen the wonders of Europe, the great pyramids of Egypt, trekked across America and explored the cities and outback of Australia.

Not only that, but you supported me through my day to day life in New Zealand, at work or play, rain or shine, and continued to do so in London.

Flip-flops, thongs, sandals, Havaianas, whatever others call them to me you were simply ‘my jandals’ and you were the most true and loyal friend.

Our last outing: Italy 2012

Some travellers may prefer sneakers or Birkenstocks, but for me nothing can beat a good pair of rubber jandals. With the cool breeze and warm sun on your feet, no other footwear screams ‘holiday’ quite like them.

You can get them wet or dirty, they have fantastic grip, and there’s no need to worry about that rather uncomfortable sensation of getting sand or stones in your shoes.

I find them the perfect piece for all destinations from beach to the bar and everywhere in-between. The only time they might cause you trouble is when the temperatures drop and things get a little chilly (under no circumstances may socks be worn underneath).

Our last outing was in early August 2012, when we spent a steamy five days in Italy visiting Lucca and Cinque Terre.

You carried me along ancient cobbled streets, up seemingly endless steps and around stunning cliff-side trails through scorching 30-something°C temperatures and never once let me down.

Thanks to the endless sunshine I’ve been left with a special reminder of our time together in the form of a set of tan lines.

I’ll always remember the good times.

Goodbye baby blue friends, we had a great ride. For my next pair I’m thinking navy.

My Jandals & Me: Through the Years

Sydney 2007

Dubrovnik 2008

Athens, Greece 2008

Theatre at Epidaurus, Greece 2008

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico, USA 2010

Galveston, Texas, USA 2010

Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA 2010

MOMA, New York City, USA 2010

Canada 2010

Niagara Falls 2010

Stone Circle, Avebury, UK 2011

Burano, Venice, Italy 2011

Brighton, UK 2011

Kom Ombo, Egypt 2011

Temple of Horus, Egypt 2011

Step Pyramid, Saqqara, Egypt 2011

Old Trafford, Manchester, UK 2012

Egypt: Beyond Expectations Part 3 - Abu Simbel

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

From riding camels and drinking tea with the locals in a Nubian village, Kara now uncovers the secrets of ancient Egypt with Topdeck Travel.


Our day began well before sunrise.

I won’t tell you how early for fear of scaring you off, but with strict visiting hours in place at Abu Simbel we had no choice but to stumble with heavy eyes onto the bus.

Great Temple of Ramesse II, Abu Simbel. Photo/K.Segedin

Great Temple of Ramesse II, Abu Simbel. Photo/K.Segedin

As soon as my bum hit my seat I was fast asleep. When I awoke we had arrived at our meeting point where dozens of coaches met to pick up their armed guards before joining the convoy to Abu Simbel near the Nubian boarder with Sudan.

After tucking into our packed breakfast boxes there was time for a little more beauty sleep before we arrived at our destination.

Abu Simbel is home to two of the most well-known ancient temples in Egypt. Built by Ramesses II to show the strength of his kingdom to the Nubian people, they are a must-see for any visitor to the country.

Walking down a curved path around the side of a steep hill, the Great Temple of Ramesse II gradually came into view.

Breathtaking is an expression used a lot in describing travel hotspots, but there really is no better word for it.

Four 20m high statues of the pharaoh decorate the outside of the temple towering over the flocks of people below.

Temple to Nefertari, Abu Simbel. Photo/K.Segedin

Temple to Nefertari, Abu Simbel. Photo/K.Segedin

A short walk from the main temple is the smaller temple dedicated to the goddess Hathor and Ramesses II’s chief consort, Nefertari. Surrounding the entrance are six 10m high statues of the king and his queen.

You’re free to wander through the inside of the two temples (no photos though!) where you could easily spend hours taking in all the ornate wall paintings and carvings.

It was early morning and already the temperature was climbing well into the 20s. Thankfully a refreshing cool breeze blew in off the Aswan Dam.

The still blue waters of the dam are a reminder that today the temples are actually 65m above their original location.

In the 1960s, 50 countries worked tirelessly to dismantle then rebuild Abu Simbel piece by piece to make way for the new dam.

I don’t know how long we spent taking photos, but by the end of the visit we each had hundreds of pictures on our cameras.

After heading back to the boat we took a tour of the nearby Kom Ombo temple.

Detailed carvings at Kom Ombo temple. Photo/K.Segedin

Detailed carvings at Kom Ombo temple. Photo/K.Segedin

Right on the banks of the Nile, Kom Ombo is unique in terms of Egyptian temples because it’s essential two separate ones stuck together. The southern half is dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek, god of fertility and creator of the world while the northern part to the falcon god Haroeris.

One wall that grabbed my attention was covered pictures and hieroglyphs describing ancient Egyptian medical practices including some rather detailed ones depicting childbirth in the ancient world – ouch!

By mid-afternoon we were back relaxing onboard and sailing up the Nile towards Edfu and Luxor – this is the life!

Brightly colour original paint still covers the temple at Kom Ombo. Photo/K.Segedin

Brightly colour original paint still covers the temple at Kom Ombo. Photo/K.Segedin

After watching the sunset from the comforts of the ship deck, we settled in for a dip in the hot pool – perfect with the cool night breeze blowing from the Nile – and a couple of drinks with our group and Trip Leader.

This really is the best way to see Egypt!

Visit Egypt on one of Topdeck’s many trips including Budget and Nile Cruising options. Kara travelled on the 8 day Nile Discovery.

Kenya & Tanzania:The Last Frontier of Travel

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Lifelong traveller (and Topdeck’s head designer) Bec shares her experiences of her African journey with Topdeck.


For me and many others on my trip, Africa is the last frontier in terms of travel.

My partner Brad and I have been through Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, South and North America, so other than Antarctica we only had the wilds of Africa to cross-off.

We arrived on in Nairobi on Friday, but as the trip didn’t start until Sunday we had some time to kill.

With no plans and no idea what to do we contacted our Trip Leader Masivu for advice and he made some excellent suggestions.

Fancy a Giraffe Kiss? Photo/R.McCaig

Fancy a Giraffe Kiss? Photo/R.McCaig

First up we paid a visit to the Giraffe Centre followed by a trip to the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. The giraffes at the centre are so beautiful and gentle. You get to feed them with these giant pellets. If you’re feeling keen, hold one between your teeth to receive your very own giraffe kiss!

The best way to get around is by taxi and we had a great driver for our time in the city. He was really fun and gave us heaps of facts and information about Nairobi.

After meeting our group and Trip Leader on Saturday evening we were up bright and early the next morning for our road trip to the Maasai Mara.

Our group of 15 was split into two mini vans for the 4-5 hour drive. Distance-wise the Mara isn’t too far away, but thanks to rough road conditions the drive is rather slow.

With the stunning scenery of the Great Rift Valley all around and new trip mates to meet we were kept busy.


That afternoon we pulled up at our home for the next two nights, a permanent campsite just outside the Maasai Mara.

Lion in the Maasai Mara. Photo/R.McCaig

Lion in the Maasai Mara. Photo/R.McCaig

With no fences around the site it’s not uncommon for animals to wander around the tents at night.

The tents at this site were more like canvas houses – they even had their own indoor toilets!

After dinner around the campfire we went out for a night drive of the Mara.

Elephants, giraffe, impalas - I couldn’t keep track of all the animals we saw! The best thing we encountered was a leopard sleeping in a tree right by the road.

Sunset in the Mara was simply awe-inspiring. It was everything you ever imaged from the Lion King and more.

Leaving Kenya behind, we made our way to a brand new destination – Tanzania and Serengeti National Park.

The experience of waking up in the vast open landscape of the Serengeti with no fences, just beautiful scenery is amazing.

While eating dinner at our campsite one night an elephant wandered in for a quick drink from our water tank. We went up to say ‘hi’, but he was a little shy.


A short drive from the Maasai Mara we visited a traditional Maasai village.

Ben & the Maasai Warriors. Photos/R.McCaig

Ben & the Maasai Warriors. Photos/R.McCaig

We watched a performance of the traditional Adumu (jumping) dance and had a go ourselves.

The villagers showed us inside their homes and we were able to buy jewellery made by the Maasai women.

While the Maasai live in conditions far removed from us Westerners, they place a high value on education and as a result nearly all the people in the village speak English.

Being able to speak to the locals isn’t something you often get to do so it really gave us an important insight into how they live and their culture.

The Maasai were as interested in us as we were in them. The women I spoke to wanted to know how many children we all had and they were rather surprised to find out none of the girls in our group were mothers. They were also interested in the lives of western women and how we all worked.


Leaving the vast savannah behind, we spent the last two nights of our trip in a resort on the palm-fringed beaches of Kendwa Beach, Zanzibar.

Beach-side Bliss in Zanzibar. Photo/R.McCaig

Beach-side Bliss in Zanzibar. Photo/R.McCaig

It was the perfect way to finish our trip. Relaxed and chilled out, we spent our time snorkelling, swimming and sipping drinks at the bar.

For our final night together we took a sunset cruise. After spending 13 days together our whole group were really close so saying goodbye was hard.

It’s difficult to sum up just how incredible my time on safari was. Would I go back? In a heartbeat – there is still so much of Africa to explore!


  • A South African adaptor to charge your gadgets on the truck.
  • Wet wipes – at times you’ll get rather grubby!
  • Plastic poncho – for those unexpected downpours.
  • Binoculars – so you don’t miss out on the best wildlife spotting.
  • A good camera – for lasting memories (also great for bragging).

Bec travelled on Topdeck’s 13 Day Kenya & Tanzania Adventure. For more images and inspiration check out Bec’s photo blog.

England & Wales: Great British Escapes

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rules the waves! 2012 is the unofficial year of all things British.

Thanks to the London Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee all eyes are firmly on the United Kingdom.  It’s enough to have you waving your Union Flag and cheering for Old Blighty in no time.

With that in mind there’s never been a better time to visit. If you’re already in London and have a bit of time to spare why not get out and explore with a bunch of great day trips to choose from.

For a traditional break you can’t get more British than a trip to the seaside or the country!

Chill out on Brighton Beach. Photo/K.Segedin

Chill out on Brighton Beach. Photo/K.Segedin

Brighton is one of the country’s most popular beachside resorts. Visit the Royal Pavilion, lounge on the beach and take in the fresh salty air or stroll along the pier complete with funfair rides, games and attractions. Grab some lunch at one of the many restaurants or keep it simple with some authentic British fish and chips.

Rolling hills, lush green fields and river valleys make the Cotswolds one of the most beautiful areas in England and the perfect slice of English country life.  Explore the great outdoors and finish with a pint in a cosy village pub.

Beautiful cottages in the Cotwolds

Beautiful cottages in the Cotwolds

Also within easy reach of London is the historic city of Cambridge, home to the world renowned English university. Visit the Tower of Saint Mary the Great and Trinity College Library and walk along the River Cam.

Relaxing punt on the River Cam, Cambridge. Photo/K.Segedin

Relaxing punt on the River Cam, Cambridge. Photo/K.Segedin

But the best way to soak up the atmosphere is to hire a punt and explore the river yourself – just be careful not to fall in!

Another impressive university town (and Cambridge’s historic rival) is the city of Oxford. Explore the many colleges and view the historic architecture of the city centre that makes Oxford so unique.

Just over an hour north from Oxford lies Stratford-upon-Avon, home to arguably the most famous writer in world - William Shakespeare. A popular tourist destination, you can visit the cottage that once belonged to Shakespeare’s wife, an excellent example of early English architecture, and gain an insight into how life was lived in Shakespearean times.

Shakespeare's birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon

Shakespeare's birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon

Pop back a little earlier in English history and we find ourselves in Hampton Court Palace, the impressive country retreat of King Henry VIII, father of Shakespeare’s contemporary ruler, Elizabeth I. Only twenty miles from London, the palace is home to magnificent buildings and gardens.

Sticking to the royal theme, a short drive away is Windsor, the weekend home of England’s Royal Family, and the impressive Windsor Castle.

Originally built after the invasion of William the Conqueror, Windsor Castle is the longest-occupied palace in Europe and is still used by the Royal family today.

Going back even further in history, the World Heritage sites of Stonehenge and Bath are “must see” for anyone visiting the UK (check out Topdeck’s blog on Bath & Stonehenge for more about these breathtaking sites!).

Want to travel to another country for the day without the need for a visa or passport? Well, why not check out Wales! In the capital of Cardiff take in amazing views from the city’s Castle walls or visit the nearby Millennium stadium.

Caerphilly Castle, Wales

Caerphilly Castle, Wales

Just North of Cardiff lays the impressive medieval Caerphilly Castle. Built between 1268 and 1271, it is the second largest castle in the United Kingdom and is famous for its extensive water defences.

Phew! If that isn’t enough to inspire you to explore the UK I don’t know what is! With so much to see the hardest part will be deciding where to visit first!

Check out Topdeck’s extended UK & Ireland trips, Short Breaks and Daytrips to squeeze all you can out of your time in Britain.

Egypt: Beyond Expectations Part 2 - Aswan & Nubia

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

After two crazy days in Cairo, Kara’s Egyptian adventure with Topdeck Travel heads south to the city of Aswan.


I’m not going to lie. Our overnight journey by coach from Cairo to Aswan was a little rough.

Thanks to the reclining chairs and my neck pillow I managed to get a few hours of shut eye, but I would compare it trying to sleep on an aeroplane – you either can or you can’t.

We were woken up around 7am and rubbing our tired eyes we were greeted by a lush green landscape so far removed from the dusty city of Cairo.

The whole group looked a little jaded, but salvation came in the form of delicious, fresh, homemade falafels and pitas our Trip Leader Rafik arranged for our breakfast – I have never eaten a better, or more appreciated, falafel in my life!

Feeling much more refreshed, we were back on the coach making our way to our home for the next three nights – our 5 star cruise boat.

I really didn’t know what to expect.

Five star is one thing, but in Egypt it could mean something different all together – how wrong was I!

Relaxing poolside on our Nile Cruise

Relaxing poolside on our Nile Cruise

Our boat was modern, clean and comfortable complete with a deck-top pool and bar. Flopping down on the bed I knew I would sleep like a log that night.

After a few hours of relaxing and exploring the boat, those of us who signed up for the optional trip to Philae Temple headed out for our excursion.

It was hard to leave the oh-so comfy cabin after such an early morning, but it was definitely worth it.

We were greeted by our guide for the day, a jolly, enthusiastic chap by the name of Nubi. On the boat ride over to the island, Nubi gave us a concise and lively history of the site.

The island temple of Philae was built to the goddess Isis by the ruling Greeks as a way of winning over the Egyptian people.

Detailed carvings cover Philae Temple

Detailed carvings cover Philae Temple

In the 1960s, the temple was moved piece by piece from its original location to Agilkia Island to avoid rising waters after the construction of Aswan Dam.

Beautifully intact, its island location only makes the temple more appealing.

After our first taste of an ancient temple we meet up with the rest of our group for a felucca ride past the Elephantine and Kitchener Islands.

Now came one of the activities I was most wary of and excited about at the same time – the camel ride.

I’d heard varied reports of how scary, smelly and fast the camels were and I can say none of them were true. Okay, they may have been right about the smelly part.

Camel convoy ready to go

Camel convoy ready to go

After learning the correct position for camel take-off (they stand up in the most seemingly unnatural way) it was an easy-going trot over sand and through villages.

We finished our ride in a Nubian Village where we visited the local school and learned about the Nubian language and culture before enjoying tea at the home of a Nubian family.

Inside a Nubian home

Inside a Nubian home

Nubians are the original inhabitants of a country called Nubia that is now divided between southern Egypt and northern Sudan

After the construction of the Aswan Dams the Nubian people were resettled on the western bank of the Nile and on Elephantine Island.

It was early evening when we finally made our way back to the cruise boat for a rather large dinner followed by drinks on deck.

There was no late night for us as day four would bring the earliest morning I’ve ever seen as we joined the convoy for Abu Simbel, but more on that next time!

Sunset on the River Nile

Sunset on the River Nile

Visit Egypt on one of Topdeck’s many trips including Budget and Nile Cruising options. Kara travelled on the 8 day Nile Discovery.