Travel deals: 29 July 2012

TOURWATCH: Bend to pray at Kumbha Mela 2013

Surfers flex their pecs in Port Macquarie, while saints and holy men, seers and the devout bend to pray in India.

TASMANIA
Nature lovers can also be comfort lovers, especially when
we’re talking winter in Tasmania. Admire the glory of the Freycinet peninsula,
home to the perfect crescent of Wineglass Bay, from the tub. The eco-friendly
Freycinet Lodge has just refurbished its 10 premier suites, complete with new
bathrooms (and TV) earning them a 4.5-star rating. Snap up a winter special
until August 31, normally $300 a night, rooms start from $170 a night.  1800 420 155,
freycinetlodge.com.au

NEW SOUTH WALES

The Australian Surf Festival kicks off 11-26 August in
Port Macquarie, where up to 400 surfers are expected to flex the pecs as they
fight for 25 Aussie titles. There’ll also be movies, music and art exhibits
around a surf theme. Stay three nights in a 2-bedroom riverside spa cottage in
the Sundowner Tourist Park and get a free platter of local produce, a $50
voucher to blow at the Port City Bowling Club and midday checkout. Costs from
$441 for three nights, from August 1-31. 1300 303 155, portmacquarieinfo.com.au

AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL
TERRITORY

The Fireside Festival runs throughout August, with
100-mile dinners, wine and degustation dinners in 25 venues across Canberra. Stay
two nights in a King Bed superior room at the Crowne Plaza Canberra and save 20
per cent, book until August 17 and stay until September 30. Costs from $336 a
room for two nights, including breakfast. 1300 888 180, zuji.com.au

Spicers Balfour Hotel, Brisbane.
QUEENSLAND

Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art has pulled off yet
another major coup, currently showing masterpieces from Madrid’s Prado in its
galleries, so it’s time to head north. You’ll turn heads when you let drop
you’re staying in one of the town’s hippest little hotels, the nine-room Spicers
Balfour Hotel. Set 3km from the CBD in funky New Farm, book 14 days ahead and save
$60 a night. Includes breakfast, canapés in the rooftop bar and wi-fi. Costs
from $299 a room. 1300 597 540, spicersgroup.com.au.

VICTORIA

Pull on your walking boots for a spring trek along
Victoria’s south-west coast and save $110 when you book the Great South West
Walk (22-25 Sept) and Great Ocean Walk (27-30 Sept).  Carrying just your day pack, the guided walk
follows well-maintained trails and includes a night in Cape Otway lighthouse
and lunch with the 12 Apostles as a backdrop. Both trips depart from Melbourne
and groups are limited to 14 people. Costs $2190 a person. (03) 9877 9540,
parktrek.com.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA & NORTHERN TERRITORY
Katherine Gorge

See the best of the west, from Perth to Darwin, over 18
days, visiting some of the world’s greatest beauty spots: Ningaloo Reef, the
windswept limestone formations of the Pinnacles and the gorgeous gorges of the
Territory. There’s a touch of luxe, too, at Cable Beach Club Resort in Broome,
and El Questro Wilderness Park. Save $650 on coach tours departing September 6
and 29 and October 18. Costs $6345 a person. 1300 805 493, travelmarvel.com.au.

FIJI
Zipping in from the remote islands and need a pad to hole
up for the night? Or want to get to grips with the street markets of Nadi, the
Novotel Nadi and Mercure Nadi are knocking 20 percent off their room rates for
two-night stays. Includes free airport transfers, on stays until January 31.
Costs from $87 a night (Novotel) and $70 a night (Mercure). 1300 656565, accorhotels.com

FRANCE
Wander the medieval cobbled streets of the rue du
Faubourg St-Antoine on the Right Bank, for a slice of Parisian life. Stay four
nights, pay three at the three-star Le Patio St Antoine when you book and
travel before August 31. Includes breakfast daily, costs $321 a person, twin
share. 1300 747 400, creativeholidays.com.

CUBA
It’s a country with one of the coolest soundtracks… aaah,
Cuba, you’re hip to the eyeballs. This tour covers the length of the country,
from Havana in the west to the old pirate haven of Baracoa in the far east,
with stops for the Che Guevara museum, Trinidad’s beaches and some sultry salsa
in Santiago de Cuba. Book by August 27 to for September 1 departure and
save $456 a person. Costs $1369 a person, 15 days. 1300 018 8701, intrepidtravel.com
.

South Luangwa game drive, Zambia

ZAMBIA
There are just seven safari tents at Sanctuary Puku
Ridge, which treat lightly on the earth of the South Luangwa National Park.
Watch the sun rise from your bed, and animals gathering at the waterhole near
your tent. Stay three nights and save more than $1700 a couple, including all
meals, drinks, game viewing and flights from Lusaka. Costs $2120 a person, twin
share, until October 31. 1300 195 873, benchinternational.com.au

ALASKA & CANADA
The fish are
seriously big on Alaska’s Kenai peninsula, as are the bears. It’s Alaska’s wild
playground. Discover it in 5-star style, o a 28-day journey from Canada up to
the Arctic Circle, including seven nights cruising the Alaskan coastline,
slipping between the icebergs of Glacier Bay National Park. Couples booking before
October 19 will get one free return flight to Canada. Costs from $16,010 a
person, twin share, which includes flights for the second person travelling.  1300 723 642, scenictours.com.au. 

TOURWATCH
Saints and holy men, seers and the devout: watch the
swirl of humanity as India bends to pray at Kumbha Mela, one of the world’s
largest pilgrimages. In January and February 2013, up to 60 million people will
gather in Allahabad, in the Uttar Pradesh, at the confluence of point
Hinduism’s three holiest rivers – the Ganges, the Yamuna and the ethereal Saraswati.
Devotees stretch 15km along the riverbanks on auspicious bathing days to
cleanse themselves of sin. This eight-day tour starts in Delhi and warms to the
religious theme with a visit to the holy city of Varanasi, south of Delhi,
before continuing to Allahabad, where you’ll stay in a tented camp in the heart
of the action. Costs from US$809 (A$780) a person. Unique Tourism, (02) 921
6590.

Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald newspaper

The sacred cows of travel: user pays (and pays)

Sacred cows (Photo: Belle Jackson)

*Warning: this post contains mild ranting and mentions children*

It seems our fair country is in the midst of a
tussle between ideologies of socialism and capitalism, once again.

The government sells off more energy sources to foreign
countries, and we pay for exactly what we use (oh, and how we pays). Yet at the
same time, it’s setting up the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which has
its principles in the idea that society looks after all its members – as one
commentator said recently, some members of our society want to have a shower
more than twice a week…

Back in travel, with the increase of Tiger Airways and the
arrival of Scoot, and the growing tightness of Jetstar, we’re becoming accustomed to paying for
everything from seat allocations to food. And while infants once flew free,
we’re now being charged for the luxury of those babies sitting on our laps in
the low-cost carriers. I forecast this will extend to the financially
strapped so-called full-service airlines before too long. Don’t tell me it’s
not on their financial planners’ whiteboards.

So it should come as no surprise to me that hotel rooms are also
charging for cots. Now, Jnr Jackson and I have knocked up a few miles already,
even though she’s still under the magical 24-month milestone, when she gets to
start paying at least 25 percent for her airline seat. We’ve messed up some of
the best hotel rooms in Fiji, Indonesia and Australia. Even so, I’m obviously
still a novice at learning what the hotels and carriers can dream up to charge
us.
I suspect this learning curve will continue, and the direction is skyward.

TRAVEL DEALS: 22 July 2012

Hong Kong kids do masterclass

Everyone loves a bargain, even if the transport to your resort is a luxury speedboat. It’s the Maldives, of course. Or why not swim with whales in the Kingdom of Tonga? As you do… it’s all here in this week’s travel deals.
NORTHERN TERRITORY
With the MacDonnell Ranges as your
hotel’s backdrop, there’s no mistaking you’re in the Territory. The Alice in the Territory hotel is close to
the airport and 2km from town, with a complementary shuttle bus to Todd Mall.
There are also free in-house movies and a kid-pleasing pool, where we white
southerners can show off our office tans. Normally $165, costs from $110 a
night until August 31, 1800 002
333, quickbeds.com

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

August means
Arts in across the state, with the massive South Australia Living Arts (SALA)
visual arts festival running from August 3-26. Oaks Embassy, in downtown
Adelaide, is throwing in free breakfast when you stay two nights or more.
Normally $194 a night, a one-bedroom apartment, which includes use of the pool,
gym, sauna and spa, costs $139 a night until August 31, two-night minimum stay,
 1300 721
514, oakshotelsresorts.com

Victoria’s Yarra Valley

VICTORIA

With frosty nights and sparkling days, the Yarra Valley
glistens in winter, and its chief drawcards – cellar doors, art galleries and
country walks – are perfect cold-weather activities. Overlooking Healesville, hip
little hideaway Mt Rael’s winter special knocks $100 off two-night midweek stays
(Sun-Thurs) until August 31. Normally from $175 a night, costs from $250 for
two nights, (03) 5962 1977, www.mtrael.com.au

WESTERN
AUSTRALIA
Cape Lodge, Margaret River

Dripping with awards, including best boutique hotel in
Australia, the five-star Cape Lodge has the best neighbours: Margaret River, Voyager
Estate (with its new wine room) and the whale-filled Indian Ocean. Surrounded
by vineyards, it has just 22 fabulous rooms, a stand-out restaurant and top
cellar doors nearby, but bless, you can still do a twilight kangaroo safari. Normally
from $475 a night, book before August 26 and pay from $349 a night on midweek
stays, 1300 130 485, travel.com.au

Peppers Ruffles Lodge
QUEENSLAND
The Gold Coast hinterland is laid at your feet when you stay at
Peppers Ruffles Lodge & Spa, which is set on the hills overlooking this
magnificent stretch of Australia’s coastline. Peaceful and lush, the new one
and two bedroom owners’ villas’ midweek special includes gourmet breakfast, a
fruit basket and nightly turn-down service with chocolates and port. Normally
from $750 a night, costs $1318 for two midweek nights until end September, 1300
987 600, peppers.com.au

NSW

Learn the art of directing
a perfect plume of wine (aka: spitting) on a weekend away in Mudgee. Trelawney
Farm is throwing in six bottles of Logan’s wine for guests staying the weekend in
the 1880s farmhouse. Set 4km out of Mudgee on 25 acres, each room in the Coach
House and Barn End Cottage has its own style, and is
kitted out with home theatre, open fireplaces and linen. Costs $2500 for two-night
weekend for up to 10 guests. Or stay three, pay two nights on midweek stays
(Sun-Thurs) before December 15, costs $1600 for three nights, 0423 330 833, www.trelawneyfarm.com

THAILAND

The new Centra Coconut Beach Resort Samui is set on Thong
Tanote Beach, a quiet corner on happening Koh Samui. Comprising 53 rooms and
villas, the resort is celebrating with opening specials. A superior pool view
room costs from $58 a room a night, including breakfast, until October 31, +662
101 1234, centarahotelsresorts.com

HONG KONG

Let the kids conquer Hong Kong with a family summer
getaway at the SkyCity Marriott Hotel, on Lantau island, near Hong Kong
Disneyland and the Giant Buddha. Kids can do a junior masterchef or master
housekeeper class (help with the housework!), and the hotel is adding $60 of
dining credits, 10 percent off spa treatments and 6pm checkout. Costs from $250
a room (2 adults, 1 child), 1800 251 259, hongkongskycitymarriott.com 

BALI

Anantara Seminyak Bali is celebrating a Three Day Weekend
Getaway from August 16-19 with a poolside breakfast, side-by-side hour massage
or perhaps a chocolate facial for the kids, and a dance party at the resort’s
SOS Supper Club, one of the most happening hotspots on the island. Those with
kids will get a half-day free babysitting and daily ice cream. Save $180 (and
get a whole lot of extras) costs from $ 1,239++ a room for three nights, +62 361
737 773, anantara.com

USA
If
you’re up for the great American roadtrip, kick off with Contiki from LA on the
Southern Adventure, and cross the country from California to Louisiana. The
13-day tour ticks off the Grand Canyon and Vegas, baby, and shows how they do
barbies in Texas and cruise in New Orleans. Book 6 months in advance, save $105, costs
$2034, book 12 months in advance, save $209, costs $1930 a person, contiki.com.au
MALDIVES
Synonymous with luxury, the
tiny islands of the Maldives have got it all: white sand beaches, tropical
palms, baby blue lagoons. Stay seven nights at the Taj Exotica Resort &
Spa, and pay for six. Fifteen minutes by luxury speedboat from Mali airport,
the hotel is located on its own private island, naturally. The deal is also laden
with extras, including a romantic beach dinner, a la carte breakfast, a sunset
cruise and 15 percent of spa treatments. Travel until November 30, book by 15
November, costs from US$5223 (A$5097) for seven nights. (02) 9957 4511,
maryrossitravel.com

TOURWATCH
Snorkelling with whales, Tonga
Snorkelling with humpback whales not on your bucket list?
Perhaps it’s because you thought you never could. The Kingdom of Tonga is a
favourite hang for the massive mammals between July and mid-October. Like many
humans, they are lured by the warm waters for romance, using it as a stopover for
love on their migration from Antarctica. Stay one night at the Scenic Hotel
Tonga, in Nuku’alofa, six nights in the Puataukanave Hotel, Vava’u, and have
two day’s whale watching with the chance of getting up close and personal. The
tour also includes four dives over two days including all diving gear, return
airport transfers and a guide. For travel between August 14-21 and September
4-11, costs $2003 a person, twin share, 1800 044 066, travel-associates.com.au
Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald newspaper

TRAVEL DEALS 15 JULY 2012

TV chef Luke Nguyen on the road.

Got a secret crush on TV chef Luke Nguyen? Get up close and personal for a week in Yunnan; just read on…

VICTORIA
Halls Gap is the jumping off point for Victoria’s
Grampians National Park, with its renowned hiking and rock art galleries.
Staying in town, visit the meerkats and pandas at the local zoo. Families can
bunker down in Parkgate Resort, whose family rooms include a double bed and
bunks, kitchenette and bathroom. Facilities include tennis courts, pools and a
games room. Costs from $80 a night, minimum two nights, until September 21,
travel.com.au.

NORTHERN TERRITORY
Alice Springs is famous for the nearby MacDonnell Ranges,
but the town is also boasts some great indigenous art galleries and the next
Henley-On-Todd Regatta, a boat race down the (usually) dry riverbed, is on
Saturday August 18. Stay four nights, pay for three in a superior room at
happening Lasseters Hotel Casino, which, as the name suggests, boasts an international
standard casino. Book and travel before March 31. Costs from $510 a person for
four nights, twin share, 132 757, harveyworld.com.au

WESTERN AUSTRALIA
If Hugh and ‘Our Nic’ got your heart a-flutter as they
galloped across the remote Australian outback, you can relive the dream by
climbing in the saddle at the East Kimberley homestead that  was a shooting location for Australia. Stay two nights in a
guesthouse room at Home Valley Station and get brekky included as well as free
activities such as a nightly star talk, horsemanship shows, on-site local
artists and 4WD and bushwalking tracks. Valid till August 31, the mid-season
muster deal costs from $240 a person for two nights, 1300 134 044, www.hvstation.com.au 

NSW

Tower Lodge, Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia

Crackling
fires, beautiful food and a strapping red: is there any better way to embrace
winter? The Hunter Valley’s premium address, the sublime Tower Lodge, is
offering a mid-week getaway for two that includes dinner at the Valley’s
gastronomic mainstay, Robert’s, a bottle of the estate’s wine, breakfast,
pre-dinner drinks, afternoon tea and an upgrade to a fireside deluxe room on
stays on Sunday, Monday or Thursday nights. Normally $660 for the room only,
now costs $629 a room, (02) 4998 7022, towerlodge.com.au

QUEENSLAND
Honeymoons are an excuse to lash out on pure, indulgent
fabulousness. One of the Whitsundays’ most glamorous addresses, qalia on
Hamilton Island, welcomes newly-weds by throwing in a free night on seven-night
stays in a Leeward Pavilion. They’ll also include a bottle of champagne, sunset
cruise on its 45-foot cruiser, a poolside dinner, breakfast, golf buggy,
chauffeur services around the island as well as use of their catamarans, paddle
skis and other water sports equipment. You can even be dropped off on a
deserted beach if your heart desires. For stays on selected dates until March
31, costs $5010 a couple for seven nights, 1800 044 066, travel-associates.com.au

PORTUGAL

Design hounds will have an eye on Portuguese designer
Nini Andrade Silva’s streamlined interiors in Fontana Park hotel,in Lisb on’s
heartland. Summer specials see the 139-room’s rates as low as E69/$84 a night,
room only, or E94 including breakfast, 0011 800 3746 8357, designhotels.com

VIETNAM

VIETNAM: InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula

Fans of architect Bill Bensley will already know where
Vietnam’s Son Tra peninsula is. His latest design, the new InterContinental
Danang Sun Peninsula, has opening specials including a buffet breakfast, wi-fi,
10 percent off in selected hotel restaurants and a shuttle bus into Danang City
and Hoi An’s old town. The hotel also hosts Vietnam’s first three-star Michelin
chef at its feature restaurant, La Maison 1888. Costs from US$220/A$215 a night
until January 1, 2013, +84 (0) 511 393 8888, intercontinental.com

FIJI

Skim the warm waters of Fiji in a helicopter or seaplane
to your luxe pad at the adults-only Tokoriki Island Resort, at the tip of the
beautiful Mamanuca islands. The 34-bure hotel is offering free transfers from
Nadi by air or sea for couples staying seven nights or more in a deluxe beach
bure or sunset pool villa, saving up to FJ$961.For travel between December 1 to
March 31 2013. Costs from $4131 a couple for seven nights, (07) 5524 5222, tokoriki.com

FIJI: Tokoriki Island Resort

UNITED STATES 
Hollywood, Santa Monica, Vegas, San Diago and LA: it’s
the best of the American west with the Golden West Contrasts tour. Explore old
mines, new shopping and Disneyland is an added extra. The eight-day costs from
$1975. Book any Trafalgar 2013 America and Canada tour before August 31 and fly
return to LA with Qantas from $1499 including all taxes.  Flight and tour package costs from $3474, 1300 663 043, trafalgar.com

CHINA
Harbour a secret crush on TV chef Luke Nguyen? Spend a
week cheek-to-cheek with him as you eat your way through the south-western Chinese
province of Yunnan. Luke explored the region while filming his TV series Luke
Nguyen’s Greater Mekong.
Book the
11-day Yunnan Adventure before October 31 and your companion flies free. There
are four departures from March to October next year, and Luke will escort the
March 11 departure for six days. Costs from $4395 a person, 1300 229
804, aptouring.com.au

TOURWATCH

Go back to where Christmas all began, in Bethlehem, in a
20-day tour through the Holy Lands of Turkey, Israel and Jordan. Midnight High
Mass is celebrated on Christmas Eve in St Catherine’s Church, opposite the
Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, a highlight of this tour through the
cradle of civilisation. The route includes sparkling Istanbul and the Turkish
city of Konya, renowned for its whirling dervishes and allegedly the first town
to emerge from the Flood, the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem, and at
its feet, the Garden of Gethsemane. The journey culminates in New Year’s Eve in
the ancient city of Petra, in peaceful Jordan. 
The tour departs December 15, and costs from $19,940 a person, twin
share which includes return airfares from mainland capitals, accommodation, all
meals, transport and guides, 1800 083 141, farhorizons.com.au

Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald newspaper 

TRAVEL DEALS 8 July 2012

Varanasi, Indina

Meet the living goddess in Kathmandu or walk God’s own country on the Great Ocean Walk in this week’s best international and domestic travel deals:

NSW

Ski Thredbo and Perisher without the crush of commuters.
Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa is on the border of Kosciuszko National Park,
and 15 minutes from both skifields, with a free shuttle to Thredbo’s ski tube
daily. The resort is throwing in $100 credit to spend in its restaurants, 10
percent off ski hire, hot brekky, and use of all resort facilities. Costs from
$266 a person for two nights’ accommodation based on four sharing a two-bed
lakeview apartment. Stay before September 30, 1800 020 524,
lakecrackenback.com.au
 
QUEENSLAND
North of Cairns and south of Cape Tribulation, with the
Daintree within cooee, Port Douglas has some pretty impressive neighbours. Take
a 4WD out for a bash, cruise the mangroves on a paddle boat or walk the
rainforests. Lazy options include hitting the spa or cranking up the barbie on
the rooftop terrace of Peppers Beach Club.  Stay four nights, pay for three in a spa suite
at the Mediterranean-style resort. For travel until September 12, costs from
$331 a night, minimum four nights, 1300 987 600, peppers.com.au
SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Crank up
the action on Kangaroo Island with a Winter Family Pack for four people, which
includes a private two-hour quad tour for four people, from six years and up,
and one sandboard and one toboggan ride down KI’s sand dunes, Little Sahara.
They’ll even wax your bottom to make you slide faster. The bottom of your
board, that is. Save $103 until August 31, costs $559, (08) 8559 4296, kioutdooraction.com.au
WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Stay at one of the most glamorous addresses in the state,
Empire Retreat and Spa, in Margaret River. With just 10 suites around a rustic
farmhouse and its famed day spa  and get a
gourmet hamper on arrival and $450 worth of spa treatments, as well as 15
percent off the nightly rate. Minimum stay two nights, book seven nights in
advance, until July 31. Costs from $1070 for two nights in a deluxe balcony
suite, 1300 896 627, mrandmrssmith.com

VICTORIA

Loving being single? Celebrate your freedom with
Bothfeet, which has waived the single supplement on its four-day self-guided Great
Ocean Walk. The deal includes three nights in the four-star bothfeet sustainable
eco-retreat at Johanna Beach, all meals by the in-house chef, transfers, track
notes and a satellite tracking beacon. Those canny creatures at bothfeet have
also included a foot spa in the deal.  Book before July 31, costs $1325 a person,
1300 767 416, bothfeet.com.au


TASMANIA
Described as one of the world’s last true wildernesses
and boasting the purest air on earth, the Tarkine region contains the world’s
largest untouched rainforest. It is a highlight on the seven-day The Unknown
Wilderness through Tassie’s beautiful nature sites. Save $190 when you book
seven-day journey six months in advance, for travel between September 1 2012 –
August 31 2012. Costs from $3560 a person, twin share, 1800 467 747,
inspiringjourneys.com.au

USA
Bibliophilists staying in the Big Apple make for the four
boutique hotels of the Library Hotel Collection; #1 on Trip Advisor, The
Casablanca near Times Square, The Library Hotel on Madison Ave, the romantic
Manhattan Hotel Elysée, and the Art Moderne Hotel Giraffe on Park Avenue South.
The hotels are including breakfast, tea, coffee and snacks during the day,
daily wine and cheese reception, wi-fi and passes to the nearby New York Sports
Club, together worth $220 a night. Book by 31 July, get a box of Belgian
chocolates, a bottle of red and a novel. From $237 a night, +1 212 201 1155,
libraryhotelcollection.com
MALAYSIA
Reserve your slice of paradise on a private tropical
island off the Malaysian coast. Book a stay in a new Signature Villas Retreat
in the Pangkor Laut Resort and all meals, free spa treatments and a guided walk
through the two-million-year-old rainforests and Emerald Bay with the hotel’s
resident naturalist. For online bookings only until July 31, travel until
December 19. Save 44 percent, normally $994, now costs from $533 a room, a
night, 0011 800 9899 9999, ytlhotels.com

ENGLAND
This four-day tour does a genteel trot through the
rolling countryside of the Cotswolds, 
before stopping in Bath, Stonehenge and popping in to see Windsor’s most
famous inhabitants. There’s old English ale to be drunk and late November and
December tours visit local Christmas markets. Book before July 31 and travel
before March 31 to score a 7.5 percent discount. Earlybird fares cost from
$1198 a person, twin share, 1300 100 410, backroadstouring.com.au
SOUTHERN AFRICA
Watch the savannah plains pass your window on a 15-night
train journey on the Shongololo Express, from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls,
through South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana. Book
by July 31 for 2013 earlybird discounts as well as two nights’ accommodation
before or after the journey, airport transfers, wine and off-rail activities.
The Southern Cross route departs six dates in 2013. Ivory class costs from
$4099, saving $1667 a person, 0402 251036, discoverytravel.com.au
NEPAL & INDIA
The Kumari is the living Goddess, and her home is the
centre Kathmandu, in mystical Nepal. Pop in and say hi to the goddess on this
14-day tour of India and Nepal, visiting revered temples, stupas and shrines,
and maybe fly over Mt Everest, if your heart desires. Further south, play
chicken in Delhi’s traffic and pay homage to love at the Taj Mahal. Save up to
$551 a person on a Classical India with Nepal premium tour, departing 14
December.  Now costs $5099 a person, twin
share, 1300 237 886, insightvacations.com

TOURWATCH
Hamilton Island is one of the Whitsundays’ most beloved
islands, yet 70 percent of it is national park. Whether you’re staying in the
super-luxe qualia or in the wallet-friendly Palm Bungalows, its new audio tours
will take you for a walk through the island’s history and botany, revealing
private beaches and top sunset-watching possies. Available in five languages, the
guides are a collaboration between a heritage writer and botanist, charting
Captain Cook’s journey through the Great Barrier Reef and chasing the island’s
beautiful blue butterflies. Download for free through Apple iTunes or stream
the Village Trail tour at www.hamiltonisland.com.au/activities/audio-tours
and m.hamiltonisland.com.au. You can even hire a pre-loaded tour on an iPod at
the Resort Centre or the Reef View Hotel.
Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald newspaper

TRAVEL DEALS 1 July 2012

Nashville to New Orleans

QUEENSLAND
Noosa’s restaurant scene just keeps getting bigger, so
it’s convenient that the Outrigger Little Hastings Street Resort & Spa is
set up on a hill overlooking the town, letting you stretch your legs and work
off those calorific meals. Stay three nights and get a free buffet breakfast
each morning (if you’re still hungry). Normally from $299 a night, costs from
$159 a night until December 31, quickbeds.com/escape
 NSW
The 18th
Biennale of Sydney, a celebration of contemporary arts, is full-steam until
September 16, with performances across the city including Cockatoo Island, the Museum
of Contemporary Art and  the Art Gallery of NSW. Every event, from
performances to film screenings and artist talks is free. BLUE Sydney, on Woolloomooloo’s
wharves, is giving the fourth night on the house when you stay three nights or
more until July 31, so you can stay longer to celebrate the three-month
festival. Costs from $900 for four nights, (02) 9331 9000, tajhotels.com


VICTORIA
The Olsen, Melbourne

Immerse yourself in the landscape art of painter John
Olsen, in a five-star suite at South Yarra’s The Olsen hotel. Suites include a kitchenette and the hotel’s
glass-bottom pool hangs over Chapel St for a bit of light exhibitionism. Book
two nights and get $100 credit to spend at its Spoonbill Restaurant or hire a
scooter or smart car to gad about town. The Ultimate Indulgence package applies
to stays until August 31. Costs $209 a night, 1800 278 468, artserieshotels.com.au

NORTHERN TERRITORY
Warm up in the Red Centre
with the Ayers Rock Resort Family Escape package. Save 30 percent, or $342,
staying in a four-star one-bedroom apartment at Emu Walk Apartments from July
1-November 30.  The deal includes free
kids’ activities in school holidays, free Indigenous guest activities, and kids
under 12 stay and eat breaky free. Also includes airport transfers and Ayres
Rock Resort shuttle bus service. Costs from $798 per person for three nights,
1300 134 004, ayersrockresort.com.au/family-holiday/
SOUTH AUSTRALIA
“A zoo without fences” is how the locals describe Kangaroo Island.
Happily, most of the animals are herbivores, and the rest are just too small to
tackle us humans. Bring on the cable knits and cute hats when you brave the
wilds of Kangaroo Island’s spectacular beaches with a cosy coastal getaway.
Kangaroo Island Seafront’s new three-star garden villas beside the ferry
terminal at Penneshaw are offering four nights for the price of three until
August 31. Costs from $1350 for four nights, 138 833, sunloverholidays.com.au
WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Gun your 4WD down one of Australia’s most iconic outback
routes, the Gibb River Road in the Kimberley, on a 13-day exploration of deep
gorges, wide rivers and ancient cultures. The 4WD Kimberley Complete journey
starts and ends in Broome, and includes stays in luxurious tented camps,
wilderness lodges and outback stations and a helicopter flight over the
magnificent Mitchell Falls. Save $1000 a couple on August departures when
booked by July 14. Costs $12,990 a couple,  1300 336 932, aptouring.com.au
INTERNATIONAL
ABU DHABI
Tonight’s dinner will be served at a Bedu (bedouin) camp
amidst the sand dunes, with camel rides and a relaxing shisha (tobacco water
pipe) for afters. Stay four nights at the five-star Intercontinental Abu Dhabi and
pay for three, with breakfast, airport transfers, dinner in the dunes and entry
to the Ferrari theme park, with the world’s fastest rollercoaster, as you’d
expect. Book and travel by September 8. Costs $525 a person for three nights, 1300
747 400, creativeholidays.com
MALAYSIA
Book your slice of paradise on a private tropical island
off the Malaysian coast. Stay in a new Signature Villas Retreat in the Pangkor
Laut Resort and get a free spa treatment and a guided walk through the
two-million-year-old rainforests and Emerald Bay with the hotel’s resident
naturalist. Book online only until July 31, travel until December 19. Normally
$994, now costs from $533 a room, a night, 0011 800 9899 9999, ytlhotels.com
CHILE &
ARGENTINA
Shimmy your way through sultry Buenos Aires and shoot the
rapids in adventure-loving Pucon, across the border in Chile, in a 13-day
exploration of these two beautiful countries. The small-group tour also pulls
in at chic Bariloche, a delight for both powder hounds and summer hikers.  Book by July 22 for August 1 departure to
save 25 percent. Was $1450, now $1087 a person, 1300 018
871, intrepidtravel.com
Nashville to New Orleans

USA

If your soul resonates to the twang of a slide guitar, if
Graceland is your heartland, or your jazz hands just can’t stay still, head from
Nashville to New Orleans on a 10-day tour of the American South. Highlights
including making a recording at the RCA Studio B and visiting plantations and
antebellum mansions. Save 10 percent on bookings made 12 months in advance. Costs
from $2,359 a person, 1300 230 234, globus.com.au
SPAIN
Visit what could be the world’s most beautiful bullring,
in Ronda, as part of this 10-day journey through the best of Spain, from the
promenades of Barcelona to the fantastical architecture of Granada’s the
Alhambra. Book by July 31 and travel by December 20 to get a free night’s
accommodation at the beginning or end of your trip. Costs from $11,285 per
person, twin share, 1300 851 800, abercrombiekent.com.au
 TOURWATCH TURKEY
Get your hands dirty on an archaeological exploration of
the ancient caves and villages of Turkey’s UNESCO-listed Cappadocia region. Led
by archaeologist Dr Nota Karamaouna, the six-day journey is based in the
village of Üçhisar. “Walking through the Ihlara Valley is a truly heavenly
journey,” says Dr Karamaouna, who is working on her PhD on the region’s
Byzantine churches. “On the slopes of this 150m deep canyon, amongst the
abundance of fruit trees, are cave chapels and monasteries which always brings
to my mind the first Christian hermits and monks who began their religious
lives in the region over a thousand years ago.” Departs September 3 and
includes five nights at the Kale Konak cave hotel, most meals and balloon
expedition. Costs from $2145 a person twin share, +44 1600 888 220, petersommer.com
Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald newspaper

Taking it easy: Bali or bust?

Warm sun, icy cocktails, hot Petitenget restaurant, fabulous fashion stores that I’ve cruised, but not shopped. 
Head down, I’m writing Bali. The island of the Gods is so close, just 5.5 hours from Melbourne, and I soooooooooo want to go back. But then I think:
there are so many other places to be going at this moment. Should you just go with
what you know and love, or head somewhere different?  
Egypt is, of course, massively on sale, but with many waiting to see how the new Muslim Brotherhood president beds in, it’s a waiting game. Vietnam is on fire and Cambodia is going crazy while the South Pacific’s Cook Islands are getting a run at the moment. The inbox is full of Asian deals, and the US, particularly Hawai’i, is going crazy, with more and more Aussies flocking to its gentle shores. 
If you could snap your fingers now, where would you be? Shaking it at Burning Man? Standing in the middle of the Atacama Desert? Chasing wildflowers in the French Alps or chewing bagels in summery New York City. (Notice the ‘warm’ theme creeping through here?)

PS: If you boggled at the idea of 5.5 hours being ‘close’, then you’re obviously not Australian. Or maybe Russian. Russians understand what it is to be far away.