Top 5 Instagram photos of the Week

Our Instagram feed is a great window on what’s happening out on the road. This week we’ve had a superb selection of photos from our followers. Take a look below, follow us on Instagram as @expatexplore and be sure to tag your photos with #expatexplore too!

 The Coliseum

When in Rome.. #clanmceurope #expatexplore

A photo posted by Emma Mac (@emmielee89) on

There’s nothing quite like the city of Rome, with so many ancient attractions and sights to see. Here’s a great shot of the Coliseum, just one of the many highlights of any visit to Rome.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Great shots of the famous leaning tower, definitely one of the most famous attractions in Italy.  

Swiss countryside

✨The lake I fell in love with✨ A photo posted by khalid ahamed (@khalidboy) on

Any drive through the Alps is a real showstopper, with quaint homesteads lining the shores of cobalt-blue lakes, the soaring peaks of the Alps looming in the background. Great shot!

Let it snow!

The cold never bothered me anyway.. #expatexplore #clanmceurope

A photo posted by Emma Mac (@emmielee89) on

One’s things’s certain, winter is definitely on it’s way! Up at Jungfrau, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see snow.  It’s a winter wonderland!

On the way to Montenegro

#expatexplore heading towards #Montenegro #beautifulday #timthetourleader #bowtieTim A photo posted by Timothy Alexander Sayer (@timsayergmailcom) on

Tim is one of our tour leaders, and he’s well worth following if you’re into great travel photos from Europe. We love this one – great job Tim!

Follow us on Instagram for great photos from Europe, and check out our home page for details on Europe tours!

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Video of the Week: Paris in Motion

One of our favourite and most frequently visited cities is featured today in our Video of the Week – it’s Paris in Motion!

Paris in Motion (Part 5) from Mayeul Akpovi on Vimeo.

Whether you’re a seasoned traveller with a passport filled with stamps or a newbie stepping outside of your comfort zone for the very first time, Paris is enchanting. The sheer volume of attractions here means that it’s impossible to see everything – and honestly it’s best not to try. Of course there are the major landmarks – everyone should see the Eiffel Tower up close at some point – but you’ll quickly tire yourself if you try to cram too much into each day. Instead, take time to really savour each museum, each monument, each historical building, each cafe. Paris has personality in spades, and to rush through it is to miss the nuances of the city.

This video is the last in a series of five videos; click the links above to see more of this incredible city. Although each one offers only a glimpse of the city, we challenge you not to be tempted to book yourself a trip right away! Whatever the season, Paris is one of the world’s most famous destinations for very good reason.

Visit Paris with us – take a look our range of Europe Coach Tours for further details.

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Top places to travel in 2015

It’s about the right time to start planning next year’s travels; here are a few of the places we’re looking forward to spending time most! Get some inspiration below, or check out the new tours we have planned.

St Petersburg

Peterhof, St Petersburg

Peterhof, St Petersburg

Russia’s imperial capital seldom fails to amaze. An entirely different experience to traveling in the capital Moscow, St Petersburg owes its western-looking tendencies to its founder, Peter the Great. Having employed a succession of Europe’s most famous architects, the city is home to cathedrals and palaces and other imperial monuments which are sure to keep sightseers busy. And throughout Russia’s turbulent history, the city has retained its status as Russia’s first great, modern city. Often referred to as The Venice of the North, St Petersburg boasts elegant canals and over 300 bridges, with mansions, plazas and palaces all lending the city a strikingly European feel.

Along with its architecture, St Petersburg is unrivalled when it comes to art and culture. The Hermitage alone is considered to have the largest art collection in the world; but there is also the Russian Museum, ballet and opera, along with contemporary art museums. Visit St Petersburg on our Northern Explorer Tour!

Greece

Santorini, Greece

Santorini, Greece

Endless coastlines, delicious cuisine, more ancient ruins than it’s possible to count and a bevy of incredibly beautiful islands: there aren’t many countries that can show off quite as much variety! Those with an interest in ancient myths and legends will be more than satisfied, as will beach-goers and those looking for the party atmosphere on Greece’s many surrounding islands. Greece is irresistible to anyone who enjoys the great outdoors too, making any tour of Greece an instant hit! Visit Greece on our Best of Greece tour!

France – ALL of France

Chateau de Chenonceau, France

Chateau de Chenonceau, France

There’s a good reason why France has been the most-visited country in the world. Culture, cuisine, scenery and romance all combine in the most compelling way in France. Whether you’re exploring the boulevards of Paris, exploring the city’s many museums and art galleries, visiting the culinary heartland of the country in Burgundy, living the jet-set life on the French Riviera, soaking up Old-World charm in Avignon or Lourdes, or paying tribute to the efforts of the Allied forces on the beaches of Normandy, France delivers time and again. Millions of annual visitors can’t be wrong! Visit France on our new Highlights of France tour.

Stockholm

Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

Sweden’s capital – like many Scandinavian cities – is blessed with amazing natural scenery, and is widely considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful major cities. Built on an archipelago made up of some 24 000 rocky islands, there are endless opportunities for photos on any walk around town. Its old town, Gamla Stan, holds its own as a charming maze of cobble-stone streets and tall, narrow buildings coloured in hues of orange, red and vanilla. Visit the palace, visit art galleries, admire sleek designs and enjoy the hospitality and friendliness of the locals – travelling in Stockholm really is a pleasure! Visit Stockholm on our Northern Explorer Tour!

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria

Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria

The castle is almost immediately recognisable in some way to anyone who has seen images of Disneyland – and with good reason. This castle was actually the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle in Disneyland. Soaring turrets and the surrounding mountainous landscape make this one of the world’s most famous castles. Built by Ludwig II of Bavaria in the 19th Century, the castle has also featured in several films. Visit the castle and explore the interior on our ‘Taste of Eastern Europe’ Tour!

Helsinki

Scenic summer evening view of the Old Town pier with sailing yachts and ships in Helsinki, Finland

Scenic summer evening view of the Old Town pier with sailing yachts and ships in Helsinki, Finland

It’s no surprise why Helsinki has frequently topped the list in surveys of the world’s most liveable cities. Like most Scandinavian cities, it’s clean and tastefully-designed; it’s cool without being self-conscious. Enjoy the style of the Art Nouveau buildings, relax in its spacious and stylish cafes and quirky restaurants, and (of course) visit numerous museums and galleries. It won’t take long for you to fall for Helsinki! See it on our Northern Explorer Tour.

The Scottish Highlands

Glencoe, Scotland

Glencoe, Scotland

Having recently held the gaze of the world as it tussled with the option of independence, Scotland is back on the radar as a country with an identity all its own – even if it isn’t completely independent. The highlands are a favourite with many travellers – rugged, soaring mountain peaks and picturesque valleys are popular with outdoor enthusiasts. Many of them have historical significance too, from a time when political disputes were settled on the battlefield rather than the voting station. There’s an enduring fascination with this part of Scotland, where medieval castles overlook cold, deep lochs, where craggy mountains soar – and where some of the world’s best whisky distilleries produce liquid gold. Visit Scotland on our Best of UK & Ireland Tour!

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Top 5 Instagram Photos of the Week

One thing that should be a mainstay of any traveller’s kit is their camera. Over on Instagram, tour leaders and passengers alike are sharing their experiences, and we’re loving the results! Why not share yours, and use the #expatexplore hashtag to make sure we see it! Here are a few of the best posts from the week just past…. 

Tour leader Gayle, featured in this week's #TourLeaderTuesday post.

Tour leader Gayle, featured in this week’s #TourLeaderTuesday post.

First up is our own post (which admittedly is a bit of a pat on our own back), but it’s our #TourLeaderTuesday pic of our tour leader Gayle! “#Regram from yesterday’s #TourLeaderTuesday: it’s our tour leader Gayle! She’s been with us since March 2013 and has quite a list of countries under her belt, incl. Egypt, Singapore, Europe, Canada, the USA, Australia, Israel, Cyprus, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan! #expatexplore #travel”

Great photos from the top of Jungfrau by @aimeemaryann.

Great photos from the top of Jungfrau by @aimeemaryann.

Next up, check out these great photos from @aimeemaryann! “Words and pictures can not express how beautiful switzerland is! #topofeurope #jungfraujoch #switzerland #besttourguideever #gayle #expatexplore #expattour

Tour leader Benny with passengers just before (or after?) their big jump!

Tour leader Benny with passengers just before (or after?) their big jump!

Prague is a pretty amazing city, but when you throw skydiving into the mix, things get even more amazing!! Thanks for the great photo @kelseachandley. “Ahh! Had the most amazing day today. Explored Prague for the 2nd time then finished it off skydiving with the gang! #dontwannaleave #skydiving #prague #expatexplore @ebonymcewan”

#Swans on the #Vltava #Prague #Czech #expatexplore

#Swans on the #Vltava #Prague #Czech #expatexplore

Now for some more Prague action, this time from our very own tour leader Tim! He’s pretty darn handy with a camera – perhaps evidenced by the fact that we’re featuring TWO of his photos! Catch Tim over on Instagram as @timsayergmailcom. “#Swans on the #Vltava #Prague #Czech #expatexplore

#flowerphotochallenge #expatexplore#Vienna

#flowerphotochallenge #expatexplore#Vienna. Photo by @timsayergmailcom

If you’re on Instagram, why not follow our adventures! You’ll find us as @expatexplore. Be sure to tag your photos with the hashtag #expatexplore, and keep those pics coming! (And for those of you who fancy joining us on one of our epic tours, head over to expatexplore.com!

 

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5 reasons to travel to the UK and Ireland

England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales – four incredible countries, each with a wealth of fascinating attractions. The UK and Ireland are hugely popular destination for travellers from all over the world. But what are some of the treats in store for travellers? Wonder no longer – let’s break it down!

  1. The history
York Minster, York

York Minster, York

The UK and Ireland are both hot-spots for history-buffs. Thanks to the spread of culture in centuries past, this is where much of the western world took its cues, in everything from language to architecture. The cities of the UK and Ireland offer a charming mix of historical buildings and modern design. Marvel at the spires of York Minster, the largest gothic cathedral in northern Europe. Stroll through the cobbled streets of Edinburgh and gaze up at the majestic Edinburgh Castle. Punt along the canals of Cambridge (one of the world’s most famous university towns). And in Ireland, see Bunratty Castle, which dates back to the 1400s, and kiss the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle! Of course, no trip to Ireland is complete without seeing some of the landmarks associated with its turbulent history. For a taste of musical history, stroll the streets of Liverpool, home of The Beatles. When you’re done, rest your legs in one of the many historic pubs – there’s certainly no shortage of those in the UK and Ireland!

  1. The culture
Traditional Irish Band

Traditional Irish Band

Along with the cathedrals and castles, there are also many museums to explore, and a range of exquisitely-curated art galleries. You’ll find some of the most respected artists and performers in the world coming to the UK, so be sure to check local publications ahead of time to see who might be there when you visit! The live music scene in the UK and Ireland is also a big part of the culture, with local music venues hosting everything from traditional folk singers to modern rock bands and DJs. There’s also a huge respect and patronage for the world of dance, with many respected dance companies touring in the UK and Ireland throughout the year.

  1. The scenery
The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

The rolling green hills of England and Wales, the highlands of Scotland, and the wild charm of Ireland’s western coast – this region is famous for its countryside scenery. It’s not hard to imagine legions of iron-clad knights riding around in olden times, and it’s not just us that think so – Northern Ireland was used extensively in the popular Game of Thrones series, and countless other films make use of the UK and Ireland’s beautiful scenery too. The Cliffs of Moher (above) are one of the most famous attractions in all of Ireland – and it’s not hard to see why!

  1. The food

When one thinks of the cuisine of the British Isles, one normally thinks of comfort food. Fish and chips, bangers and mash, black pudding, haggis, Irish stew – all these (and many more) are traditional favourites, and are usually washed down with a pint of beer. There’s probably no better way to while away a rainy afternoon than setting up in a comfortable old pub and enjoying some of the traditional cuisine. But modern British cuisine has come a long way from these fairly basic starting points, with influences from around the world now informing many of the choices you’ll find on your local menu. Look around in each city, and along with the traditional favourites, you’ll find brilliant Indian, Turkish, Vietnamese, Chinese, West African, Caribbean and modern European restaurants – the British Isles are a great place to sample foods from all over the world.

  1. Sport

The British Isles are famous throughout the world for the sports that are played there. After all, this is the home of the Premier League! England is also the birthplace of rugby (named after the town of Rugby), and the seeing that the Rugby World Cup is being held here in 2015, there’s no better time to visit if you’re a fan of the game. Cricket is also a quintessentially English sport, with many famous stadiums in England. Golf had its start in Scotland, and is now one of the world’s most popular sports. And let’s not forget Hurling, a game with ancient Gaelic and Irish origins, which is a bit of a mix between field hockey, baseball and lacrosse – and is believed to be the world’s oldest field game. Interested? Watch a video here.

Fancy a tour to the UK or to Ireland? Take a look at our tours of both, and prepare for an unforgettable adventure! Take a look at our Great Britain video below:

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Festivals of Europe: the Boppard Wine Festival

The Rhine Valley is known for its wines, and there’s no better time to visit than during the Boppard Wine Festival, taking this plave from 3-5 October 2014!

The Rhine Valley

The Rhine Valley

With its unique climate and traditional methods of production, the Rhine Valley region is well known amongst wine lovers for its unique style of wines. The last 10 years have also proved especially good for wine producers, who have enjoyed some of the best vintages in living memory. The warm climate of the region boosts the growth of the vines and also helps to bring an early harvest, which should be happening around the time of the festival – definitely cause for celebration!

Boppard from a nearby look-out point

Boppard from a nearby look-out point

Boppard winegrowers are delighted to welcome locals and visitors join in the celebration, making this particular festival one of the year’s highlights. Enjoy the festivities in the market square, visit various wine stands and take part in wine-tasting, enjoy local music and entertainment, and catch the fireworks displays on the Saturday evening. The best place to see them is undoubtedly from one of the many boats taking part, but failing that, a good spot on the promenade will do just as well.

Wine-tasting in Boppard

Wine-tasting in Boppard

If you’re not in Boppard during the festival, don’t worry! Expat Explore offers a free wine-tasting in Boppard, including an in-depth introduction to wines of the region from local experts.

For more information on festivals in Boppard, click here.

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Video of the Week: Roger Federer & Lindsay Vonn at Jungfraujoch

Tennis champion Roger Federer and American World Cup alpine ski racer Lindsey Vonn recently went up to Jungfraujoch to take part in an interesting challenge….

If you’ve been on a tour with Expat Explore, you might find yourself saying “Hey, I’ve been there!” Switzerland’s Jungfraujoch not only offers incredible views of the surrounding countryside, but delicious chocolate as well – which you can taste at the highest Lindt store in the world.

Switzerland is known both for its pristine landscapes and its world-famous chocolate, both of which you enjoy to your heart’s content at Jungraujoch.

The journey to the top is a memorable one, with incredible scenery passing you by as the train climbs ever higher into the clouds. Spot picture-perfect Swiss towns and villages nestled in the valleys, and look out for little mountain waterfalls cascading down the mountainside too. Officially the highest train station in Europe, Jungfrau boasts year-round snow – and year-round fun!

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Top 10 Highlights of Italy

Without doubt one of the world’s most sought-after destinations, Italy remains a favourite with travellers. The combination of exquisite cuisine and unbelievable sightseeing makes ‘The Beautiful Country’ a must-see – and let’s not forget the artistic and historical wonders on offer!

  1. Rome
The Trevi Fountain, Rome

The Trevi Fountain, Rome

One of the most famous cities in the world – and a must-see for anyone travelling to Italy, Rome offers an unparalleled view into the ancient world and the inner workings of the empire that once called this city its capital. Along with astounding archaeological treasures, Rome is a cosmopolitan city with style and flair. Like most of Italy, you will never be far from good food, but you’ll also be able to enjoy it a truly unique setting, where ancient meets modern.

  1. Tuscany
The hills of Tuscany

The hills of Tuscany

The hills of Tuscany have drawn visitors since time immemorial, and even if all it had to offer was beautiful scenery and incredible food and wine, that would be enough! Simply prepared and locally sourced, it goes without saying that you’ll eat well in Tuscany. But this is also a region known for its artistic heritage – particularly in the region’s capital, Florence.

  1. Florence

Here in Tuscany’s capital is one of the epicentres of Europe’s Renaissance. An artistic treasure, Florence is home to some of the western world’s most famous masterpieces. It’s also the ideal place to go shopping, with almost every major fashion house in the world represented on Florence’s cobble-stone streets. Look out for grand churches and chapels, visit incredible galleries, sample delicious cuisine… this really is a highlight of Italy for a reason!

  1. Pompeii
Pompeii

Pompeii

Destroyed in 79AD by a cataclysmic volcanic eruption, Pompeii was an ancient Roman town. Buried under 4-6 metres of pumice and ash, the town was rediscovered in 1599, and an extensive excavation has revealed very well-preserved relics that have given modern historians and archaeologists even deeper insight into the everyday lives of the ancient Romans. Literally frozen in time, you’ll see exquisitely-preserved Roman homes, forums, amphitheatres, brothels and more – it’s almost like stepping back in time! It’s been a major tourist attraction for over 250 years now, and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  1. Sorrento

The perfect base from which to explore the surrounding area, Sorrento is a resort town with style. The nearby Amalfi Coast, Pompeii and the nearby isle of Capri make this the ideal stop-over for travellers. Enjoy the food, soak up the sun and look forward to your next move!

6. Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre

Translating as ‘Five Villages’, the Cinque Terre region is one of Italy’s most beautiful areas! Clinging to the cliff-side and overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean, the five villages are linked by trains and by hiking trails – cars are forbidden from entering the region. This means it’s also one of the most unspoilt regions of Italy, with cobble-stone streets, quaint cliff-side orchards and vineyards along with incredible views all combining to make it an unforgettable stop on your tour of Italy. The coastline, the five villages and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  1. Venice
The Rialto Bridge, Venice

The Rialto Bridge, Venice

Surely one of the world’s most inspiring cities, Venice is known for its palaces, the famous Grand Canal, artists, the Rialto Bridge, singing gondoliers, exquisite food, and for having more artistic masterpieces per square kilometre than any other city on earth! Venice had admirers all year round, and once you’ve seen it you’ll understand why it’s a firm favourite for travellers from all corners of the world.

  1. The Italian Lake District
The Italian Lake District

The Italian Lake District

Known for its reputation as one of the favourite haunts of Hollywood A-listers like George Clooney, the Italian Lakes are simply breathtaking. Truthfully, they were popular long before Hollywood took an interest in them – the Lakes were a favoured getaway destination for the Romans too! Take in the view of the mountains reflected in the waters of the lakes, marvel at the picture-perfect architecture and enjoy local Italian cuisine. Does life get any better?

  1. Verona

“…In fair Verona where we lay our scene…” Yes indeed, this is the same Verona immortalised in Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo & Juliet. You can even see the balcony where Romeo is said to have wooed his lover. Historically, this city is no stranger to feuds, drama and romance. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city boasts ruins and monuments from every age – ensuring that you’ll be gazing at far more than just Romeo and Juliet’s fabled balcony.

  1. Pisa
The leaning tower of Pisa, Italy

The leaning tower of Pisa, Italy

Ah yes, that famous leaning tower. Surely nothing says ‘I’m travelling!’ like a selfie in front of the leaning tower of Pisa!? Instantly recognisable, this famous tower has been standing for centuries – and with that distinctive lean corrected somewhat (for safety’s sake) it’s destined to stand for a few more! See this incredible landmark on your tour of Italy.

What are you most looking forward to on your tour of Italy? Let us know if the comments below!

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Video of the Week – In Turkey 2014

Turkey is one of our favourite destinations, and when you see our Video of the Week you’ll understand why! Culturally and geographically diverse, Turkey has so much to offer that it’s almost overwhelming. But enough talk – you’ll see what we mean once you hit the play button below…

In Turkey – 2014 from Vincent Urban on Vimeo.

From the bustling bazaars of Istanbul to the Aegean coast, from the otherworldly landscapes of Cappadocia to the ancient Roman ruins of Ephesus, Turkey is a land of fascinating spectacles and cultural delights.

A land rich in historical treasures, you’ll find relics from every age, from Roman temples to Ottoman relics. But it’s not just the history that will fascinate you – modern Istanbul is home to a thriving art, design and architecture movement. Plus, the dramatic natural beauty of this diverse country will astound even the most seasoned travellers.

Visit Turkey and see some of these incredible sights for yourself!

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The 5 best things about Europe at Christmas time

Although summer in Europe is in full swing, some of you will already have started thinking about your Christmas plans. And with good reason! Christmas is one of the best times to visit Europe! Read about it below, and enter our Christmas and New Year Competition on Facebook now for a chance to win a Xmas & New Year tour!

  1. Snow!
Catching the train to Jungfrau - unforgettable!

Catching the train to Jungfrau – unforgettable!

Depending on where in Europe you are exactly, you have a pretty good chance of seeing some snow – particularly if you’re headed anywhere near the Alps! Switzerland is breathtakingly beautiful at the best of times, but a snowy landscape at Christmas-time is sure to set hearts aglow, even those of the most scrooge-like curmudgeons. Have snow-fight, make a snow-man, or just sit back and enjoy the incredible beauty of it all.

  1. Mulled wine / vin chaud / gluhwein OR hot chocolate
Beat the winter chills - and treat yourself - with European winter cuisine

Beat the winter chills – and treat yourself – with European winter cuisine

Whether you’re in France, Germany, or anywhere else in Europe for Christmas for that matter; spiced, hot wine is one of those indispensable winter companions. Nothing takes the chill off quite like a steamy mug of mulled wine! Actually, hot chocolate isn’t a bad idea either – definitely something to try when you’re in Belgium!

  1. Markets and festivals
A Christmas market in Switzerland.

A Christmas market in Switzerland.

Many cities in Europe host Christmas festivals and markets. Whether you’re after something special for a loved one’s Christmas stocking, or you’re just eager to soak up that festive spirit, don’t miss markets in places like Paris, Bruges, Interlaken, Vienna, Prague, Amsterdam and more!

  1. Winter food
Swiss fondue - a classic Alpine recipe!

Swiss fondue – a classic Alpine recipe!

Depending on the region, there are a range of rich winter delicacies to indulge in. From fondue or raclette in alpine France and Switzerland, waffles in Belgium and venison and roasted chestnuts in other parts of Europe, there’s usually something yummy on the go in every city you visit!

  1. Indoor activities

When the weather turns chilly, many places in Europe offer more indoor activities. Europe’s many museums, art galleries, palaces and cathedrals are ideal to visit in the winter when the options for what to do outdoors are limited. Look out for festive concerts and events!

What’s your favourite thing about travelling in Europe at Christmas time? Tell us in the comments below!

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