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Wowcher’s Guide To Sicily


Serene Sicily is often thought of as the smaller sister to Italy, but the oft overlooked Mediterranean island is in fact overflowing with culture, history and charm of its own. Check out our highlights below and see if you can be tempted to visit the home of Mount Etna, stunning caves and the world’s greatest view…

Taormina
A fascinating historical town based on the east coast of the island, quaint Taormina boasts a lazy pace of life from autumn to spring and a buzzing city centre come the popular tourist season. Within the city walls are plenty of unmissable attractions ranging from the spectacular Duomo cathedral to the ancient Greek theatre. Surprisingly well-preserved and superbly situated, the theatre site overlooks the coast and offers views for miles around. With efforts in place to regenerate the ruins, you can even catch a show on occasion and let your imagination run wild with thoughts of ancient actors and times long gone. When the historian in you is satisfied, take a dizzying cable car down to the picturesque coast…

With Mount Etna in the background,  Taormina's ancient Greek theatre  makes for a must-see site.

With Mount Etna in the background, Taormina’s ancient Greek theatre makes for a must-see site.

Mount Etna
A towering reminder of past eruptions, Mount Etna stands close to the city of Catania. Not only is the volcano extremely impressive to drive by, it provides tours, hiking and walking opportunities too. Those who set off to explore will get to grips with geography and learn plenty about lava tunnels and flow, eruptive fractures and much more from the on-hand tour guides and geologists. Many companies offer helmets and head torches, giving travellers a chance to explore the nooks and crannies of the volcano itself. It might not be your average beach day or shopping excursion, but we think exploring Etna is a pretty fascinating way to spend a day…

We definitely recommend heading to Castelmola, frequently described as the best view in the world.

We definitely recommend heading to Castelmola, frequently described as the best view in the world.

Castelmola
Frequently described as the best view in the world, the hectic journey to the mountain village of Castelmola was certainly a worthwhile one. The small civilisation is reachable only by a three-mile winding road set into the hillside, punctuated with blind corners, sharp bends and on-coming traffic. However, once you’ve reached your destination, the views of the coast and sea seem to stretch out for miles until the coast of mainland Italy emerges on the horizon. A further reason to visit Castelmola is the sweet, heady almond wine produced in the town. With the views rolling out around you and a glass of the delicious tipple in hand, you’ll think you’ve travelled right to heaven itself!

With homemade pizzas more often than not enormous and baked in authentic brick ovens in front of you, it would be easy to dine on them alone if the menus weren’t packed with other delicacies such as locally-sourced seafood.

With pizzas more often than not enormous and baked in brick ovens in front of you, it would be easy to dine on them alone if the menus weren’t packed with other delicacies.

Dining
While travelling to major tourist sites is a key part of any holiday, experiencing the local cuisine is just as important when seeking out the true flavour of Sicily. With homemade pizzas more often than not enormous and baked in authentic brick ovens in front of you, it would be easy to dine on them alone if the menus weren’t packed with other delicacies such as locally-sourced seafood. We’d recommend tucking into flavoursome swordfish seasoned with fresh Sicilian lemon – a bonus if you’re dining with a sea view! A staple lunch dish also not to be missed was arancini: a hot, battered ball of risotto, cheese and vegetables. Healthy, perhaps not, but tasty? Extremely!

The warm Mediterranean Sea and stretching beaches characterise Sicily, so why not get up close and personal with a boat trip?

The warm Mediterranean Sea and stretching beaches characterise Sicily, so why not get up close and personal with a boat trip?

Take a boat trip
The warm Mediterranean Sea and stretching beaches characterise Sicily, so why not get up close and personal with a boat trip? We recommend embarking from the holiday town of Giardini Naxos in the east of the Sicily where the surrounding beaches, caves and snorkelling hotspots are easily accessible by boat, and plenty of locals are keen to take travellers on afternoon trips. Then, after admiring the volcanic rock cliff face and eerie caves, don your snorkelling equipment, jump in the crystal clear waters and surround yourself with colourful fish who’ll show no fear as they swim up and around you.

Please note – all deals featured may not be live.

Czech Yourself, Don’t Wreck Yourself!


Historical capital of the Holy Roman Empire and Bohemia, Prague is a cobblestoned library of surrealist beauty and gothic splendour. Wherever you walk, you’ll be spied upon by stone gods and gargoyles, playful puppets and prophets, immortalised authors and angels. Behind the peeling walls of the old Communist facade lies a culture that’s rich in old and new art forms, Moravian music and Bavarian beer, the beautiful and the downright bizarre. This is why we love Prague. Czech it!

Gods and Gargoyles
Whereas in Paris you need to keep a firm eye on the ground in case you step in something, we recommend you look up at the skies in Prague. Medieval warrens and saints, puppets and prophets, Kafka and queens are just some of the statuesque figures you may see looming above. Thirty Baroque sculptures alone line the sides of the iconic Charles Bridge, one of which depicts the testicles of a lusty saint after he’s been castrated by a dog. Sexy stuff. We recommend visiting at dawn to enjoy the glorious sunrise, and maybe even treating yourself to a hot dog for breakfast. Mmm…

clock

When the Prague Astronomical Clock strikes the hour, bells ring, wooden saints pop out from trap doors, cocks crow and trumpeters trump – well worth a visit!

The Prague Astronomical Clock
Ticking since 1490, this is the third oldest clock in the world and almost as impressive as that calculator wristwatch you had at school. It may not be able to give you the square root of 243, but it can give you a masterclass in medieval morality, as well as show you the phases of the moon and Babylonian time (useful stuff). When the clock strikes the hour, bells ring, wooden saints pop out from trap doors, cocks crow and trumpeters trump. It’s the most clock-related fun you’ll have since Hammer Time.

Dead People
One of the most eerie cemeteries you will ever visit, the Old Jewish Cemetery is a tiny patch of tree-shaded ground that contains over 10,000 bodies all stacked on top of one another. The ancient sandstone and marble headstones are crammed in like bodies on a rush-hour tube, and they remain a stark reminder of the lack of space accorded to the ghetto in the 15th century.

Prague is known for it’s nightlife, and we recommend checking out the industrial suburb of Zirkov. With more than 300 bars in 2 square miles, it’s almost certainly the densest concentration of bars in Europe.

Nightlife
There’s nothing more interesting than learning the local dance moves when vising a new city. Housed in a 1950s nuclear bunker, Bunkr Parukářka is an underground club that’s buried deep in a hillside. DJs play avant-garde electro-pop mixed with industrial music, so you’re sure to see some interesting shapes being thrown around – but don’t worry, there are a couple of ventilation towers to avert the risk of meltdown. If you’re more of a bar person, we recommend the industrial suburb of Zirkov. With more than 300 bars in 2 square miles, it’s almost certainly the densest concentration of bars in Europe!

Petřín Hill
Arguably not as funny as Benny Hill but certainly more beautiful and more manageable in large doses, Petřín offers a stunning view of the Czech Republic’s capital. Pretend you’re a giant next to the miniature Eiffel Tower, feed the squirrels in the landscaped gardens or admire your devilish good looks in the mirror maze.

The view from the Petřín observational tower on Petřín hill

The view from the Petřín observational tower on Petřín hill.

Beer and Boar
We may have Joanna Lumley and Stephen Fry, but the Czech Republic’s national treasure is its beer. You may be familiar with Kozel and Pilsen, but what you won’t be familiar with is paying less than a pound for a pint of Kozel and Pilsen. Everything tastes a lot better when it’s cheaper! For the strongest brew in the Czech Republic, visit U Medvidku Beer Hall and get yourself a pint of X-Beer 33 – don’t go crazy though, it’s 11.8%!

The pub grub is equally cheap and tasty. Traditional goulash dishes served with wild boar and dumplings are often less than the price of a Snickers Duo, and they’re a lot more palate-pleasing. They are quite heavy though, so we recommend some light exercise post-feast…

There you have it – a short guide to one of the prettiest places on the planet, and we didn’t even mention the tourist hotspots like Wenceslas Square and Prague Castle. There is so much to do in Prague, you’ll almost certainly want more time to see it all, no matter how long you end up staying. It’s a cobblestoned cultural paradise and the perfect destination for a Christmas treat! And with affordable deals like this one, you can rest assured your Czech won’t bounce. ZING!

Please note – deals featured may not be live. 

Wowcher’s Bite of Tokyo


The most densely populated city in the world, Tokyo is a fascinating mix of modern fads and old-fashioned tradition. The crowded cityscape swarms with both ornate shrines and slick skyscrapers, while entertainment ranges from gentle geishas to kitsch karaoke. Tokyo can be an intimidatingly tricky city to navigate, but a great – and appetising – way to tackle it is to sample its vast dining options. Whether you’re sinking your teeth into sashimi or sipping a steaming bowl of miso soup, you’ll soon see why the metropolis is so unique.

Chopsticks Challenge
Many a gaijin (foreigner) visiting Tokyo may not be accustomed to eating with two sticks of bamboo, which can be a dangerous territory for the slippery fingered. Probably the most famous cuisine to arise from Japan, sushi is traditionally finger food (think of it as a breadless sandwich) but is commonly eaten with chopsticks. Tokyoites can enjoy sushi in a number of settings, from takeaway bento boxes to eat-in kaiten-zushi restaurants, where dishes are whizzed around a conveyer belt for as long as they can be resisted. Those after a more upmarket sushi dining experience can head to Kyubey , where fresh ingredients and impeccable service make the restaurant one of the most popular in the Ginza district. Whether you master chopsticks or not, remember it is regarded as highly impolite to leave a grain of rice on your plate.

Delicious Fish
Not for the squeamish, faint-hearted or vegetarian, the Tsukiji fish market is the world’s largest seafood market. Freshly-caught fish from the tiniest of sardines to the hugest of tunas are meticulously weighed, cut, packed and sold, with live auctions kicking off at 5:30am and lulling by 9am. If you’re an early riser (or find yourself at the market in a confused state of jetlag), head down to catch the spectacle before indulging in a sushi breakfast from the market shops. Fish doesn’t get fresher than this!


Eating Eggs
Legend has it that eating kuro-tamago, a black egg from Owakudani (the Great Boiling Valley, just under an hour from Tokyo) will prolong your life by seven years. The eggs are bubbled in the stifling valley’s hot springs until they reach boiling point and turn black. If you don’t sample this local specialty, you should at least take the aerial gondola up the mountainside to see the volcanic action up close. Sulphur may fill your nostrils and steam might burn your face as it’s breathed upwards from the bubbling pools, but the views across the valley are unforgettable.

tokyoblog4
Tea Ceremonies
If you’ve tried a kuro-tamago in an attempt to delay death and would like to cleanse your palate of any lingering taste, then the best way to do so is to visit a traditional Japanese teahouse. Homely tea shops provide welcome relief from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, but if you’re after more than just a cuppa, it’s worth taking a day trip to Kyoto on the bullet train. The ancient capital of Japan, Kyoto is a sublime paradise of gardens, secret temples and vivid shrines, where geishas are spotted shuffling under cherry blossom trees. Join a tea ceremony in a townhouse such as Nishijin Tondaya to experience the traditional ritual for yourself. You’ll be left feeling cleansed, revitalised and truly Zen.

To try Tokyo for yourself, check out our seven-night tour on Wow Go!

Please note – deals featured may not be live. 

Wowcher’s Top 5: Christmas Markets in Europe

FRANKFURTXMASOnce your parents have stopped giving you stockings and slipping surprise chocolate coins in your lunchbox, the once blindingly bright lights of Christmas can seem decidedly dim. That’s why this year we’re swapping stale figgy pudding and even staler cracker jokes for a little continental magic, courtesy of Europe’s best Christmas markets.  Read more

Wowcher’s Guide To Reykjavik

Get a raincoat ready and visit Seljalandsfoss Waterfall, where eager hikers can stand behind glacier ice plunging from a whopping 200 feet!

Iceland’s Reykjavík is a city that can bewitch even the most discerning travellers with its awe-inspiring natural wonders, unapologetic nightlife and bite for all things extraordinary. Let it seduce you this winter…

Blue Lagoon
Enveloped by lava fields off the Reykjanes peninsula, the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa is one of the most revered spots in Iceland. Soak up on silken pools pitted against turquoise terrain, before falling head over heels with a nourishing massage enjoyed on-site. Feeling indulgent? Hire the Exclusive Lounge for full spa access complete with treatment and lunch at Blue Lagoon’s LAVA restaurant: prices from only 117 Euros.

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Viva Las Vegas – Wowcher’s Guide to Sin City


Before you can say ‘Vegas Baby’ in your most polished American accent, we bet you’ve conjured up images of the Bellagio fountains, Paris’ Eiffel Tower and Luxor’s giant pyramid that make up Vegas’ main Strip. You know, the other “city that never sleeps”, where the norm is to gamble all day and drink all night, where what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. But not today because we’ve put together a weird and wonderful guide to Sin City. We dare you to go without it… Read more

Wowcher’s KathmanDOs and KathmanDON’Ts

Nestled between the snowy peaks of the Himalaya and the fertile forests of the Indian plains, Nepal is a land of monkeys and monks, Stupas and steeds, and plenty of dos and don’ts…

DO
Sit on the terraced platforms of Durbar Square. Despite being engulfed by various gift shops and part-time tour guides, Durbar Square is still the heart of the old town and one of Kathmandu’s most spectacular architectural sites. Made up of three squares, this World Heritage site is a great place to sit and soak up the atmosphere like the kings of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Take at least a few days away from the city smog to visit Pokhara, the ‘jewel of the Himalaya’. Set amongst the bewitching backdrop of snowy peaks, Pokhara Valley is blessed with stunning panoramic views, serene lakes and dense forests of bamboo, rhododendrons and oak. Take advantage of our trekking deals to make sure you don’t miss anything!

Pokhara Valley is blessed with stunning panoramic views, serene lakes and dense forests of bamboo, rhododendrons and oak.

Pokhara Valley is blessed with stunning panoramic views, serene lakes and dense forests of bamboo, rhododendrons and oak.

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Wowcher’s Guide To: Cancun


Once a small fishing town, today Cancun is a worldwide phenomenon in its own right. Somewhere beyond mega-hotels and Spring Break lies palm-lined promenades, tranquil sunsets and an idyllic city with an inimitable sense of sophistication. If you’ve outgrown cavernous nightclubs and wet T-shirt contests, enjoy our guide to the hidden side of Cancun just waiting to be discovered…

Fine Dining
The best of 21st-century Mexico, Cancun offers everything one could want in a vacation – shopping, sports, spas, beaches and of course, world-class cuisine. Exquisite food isn’t an exception here, it’s to be expected. Seafood is a speciality, so try out some of the very best at Pescaditos, a relaxed restaurant serving up fish tacos and grilled shrimp aplenty. Located in the downtown bullring, La Guadalupana is the go-to for traditional Mexican food – linger over a leisurely lunch accompanied by icy cervezas and an assortment of unforgettable appetizers.

Home to the planet’s second largest barrier reef, Cancun is an ideal place to try your hand at scuba diving and snorkelling alike.

Home to the planet’s second largest barrier reef, Cancun is an ideal place to try your hand at scuba diving and snorkelling alike.

Under The Sea
Home to the planet’s second largest barrier reef, Cancun is an ideal place to try your hand at scuba diving and snorkelling alike. Arrecifes Chitales situated a stone’s throw from Punta Cancun is a shallow reef (35ft deep) that lies close to the shore. With a constant current running from the south-east almost year-round, it makes a perfect choice for both beginner and experienced divers. Just remember to pack an underwater camera – you won’t regret it! Read more

Wowcher’s Hidden Venice (And Beyond)

Traditional Venice today can be a nightmare to navigate – especially during summer’s warm months, where tourists flock in their droves to take selfies in St Mark’s Square against the backdrop of gothic architecture that is the Basilica of San Marco and Doge’s Palace. However, there’s more to Venice than meets the eye, and here at Wowcher, we know exactly where you should head if you’re after a true (tourist-free) flavour of Venetian Italy…

Before you go exploring, first get your head around how Venice is divided. Think of it in the same way as you would think of New York, Paris and even London, which all have their structured street patterns – except Venice is a kind of archipelago, made up of lots of tiny islands that are divided by canals with hundreds of bridges (or dead ends). The one thing you won’t see in this city is a car! Read more

Wowcher’s Guide To: Cruises

We do a lot of cruise deals here at Wowcher, so to gain an insight into these so-called floating hotels, we asked our expert Hannah for her tips on what to really expect on-board…

If your idea of cruising equals a fear of being trapped on a boat with your Gran and all her mates, think again. While the older generations love to sail the seas, there are also plenty of young people who have cottoned on to this value-for-money, 24-hour food and drink culture too. And why wouldn’t you?

Today, everyone’s after a bargain. Primark’s always rammed, you can never find a table in Maccy D’s and don’t get me started on the bartering found at car boot sales (you want my Abercrombie hoody for 10p? I don’t think so). So when you come across a holiday deal that says it’s only a few hundred pounds for a week’s accommodation, all your meals, activities (if you choose to take part), nightlife and lots of picture-perfect places to see in one go, you’re thinking where’s the catch, right?

Forget the horror stories, it’s time to dispel a few myths about cruises… Read more