Discover the Istanbul contemporary art scene!

So many reasons exist to book Istanbul city breaks, from the intriguing ancient architecture and the spirituality of the city's people to the thriving bars and clubs and... well, those alluring belly dancers also don't hurt. But if there's one thing that you'll soon realise on your own visit to the city, it's that Istanbul is a feast of contradictions, where the historic and modern and the east and west sit cheek by jowl.

Istanbul is, for example, one of the leading lights of the global 21st century contemporary art scene, and there are certainly some intriguing venues to be found here. If you don't want to restrict your artistic appreciation on your next city break here to the fusty paintings of the distant past, then you may decide to head to the city's most prominent contemporary art gallery in a large former warehouse on the shores of the Bosphorus - Istanbul Modern.

This particular art gallery is widely credited with inspiring the emergence of so many smaller spaces nearby, and it's the perfect place to discover the history of Turkish art, alongside international shows of increasing renown. The gallery's restaurant may be its biggest attraction of all, though, given the astounding view of the old city that it offers across the water.

But of course, modern art fans on Istanbul city breaks have plenty of other options. Step inside Galeri ManĂ¢, for instance, and you could be forgiven for thinking that you'd been teleported to Brooklyn, given the exposed red brick walls of what used to be a wheat mill. The gallery is the brainchild of highly regarded Turkish-American curator Suzanne Egeran, with its inaugural show showcasing the idea-led art of the likes of Robin Rhode and Sol LeWitt.

We could go on and on, listing some of Istanbul's best-known contemporary art venues. They include Galeri Nev, which combines the very latest Turkish art with volumes of art history and catalogues, while another fine place to periodically see the historic and the modern in close company is the Pera Museum. Orientalist paintings, old weights and Ottoman tiles may make up the principal collection, but the institution has also been known to serve up some fine travelling exhibitions by the likes of Botero, Picasso and Chagal.

Istanbul city breaks don't get much better for the contemporary art fan in you, and here at Direct Traveller, we can put together a package that perfectly appeals to you as a discerning holidaymaker in this most fascinating part of the world.

The pick of Sri Lanka's beaches

So many great reasons exist to take advantage of our vast complement of Sri Lanka tours here at Direct Traveller, from the country's astonishing natural beauty and remarkable historic architecture to the broad choice of distinguished hotels and the lingering remnants of its days as part of the British Empire, like the old steam railways, cricket and horse riding clubs.

There's just so much to see and do in Sri Lanka, but then, there's nothing wrong with being a beach bum as well from time to time. If that sounds like you, there's definitely no shortage of great seaside spots in which to while away the hours. You could head to one of the most popular beaches like Unawatuna, for instance, with its irresistible combination of calm, moonstone waters and the delicious cuisine served by the beachside cafes.

Indeed, you can go for the obvious or the infinitely-less-than-obvious seaside destinations here in Sri Lanka, and be just as pleased by what you find. Bentota is one beach that you might expect to be packed with the tourist hoi polloi, given the seemingly endless string of package resort hotels found nearby, and yet, it's actually a wonderfully tranquil stretch of golden sand. You'll barely see another footprint for as long as you walk.

Other easily reachable beach diversions from our Sri Lanka tours are good picks for specific activities, with surfers often drawn to the gorgeous Arugam Bay, which is equally well-suited to some simple lounging about or as a stop-off point for exploration of the nearby national parks. For those who would rather snorkel, Pigeon island off Nilaveli beach is difficult to ignore, on account of its inviting shallow reefs, sparkling waters and fish in so many bright shades.

If it's whales that you want to spot, well, any part of the Sri Lankan coast is good for that, although it's probably Mirissa where you'll have the most fun, these jaw-dropping animals making frequent appearances very close to the shore.  Sri Lankan beaches may get no better than those surrounding Tangella, however, given how it serves as something of a dividing line between the southwest coast's beautiful tropical coves and the lengthier, wave-lashed beaches in the island's southeast corner.

How many pointers do you really need to start booking that Sri Lankan beach holiday? Enquire now about our truly forgettable Sri Lanka tours and the beaches that you can discover for yourself on your next journey to this infinitely charming and fascinating part of the world.

Find out more about Sri Lanka Holidays with Direct Traveller call us on 0844 414 1686.

Top 5 Things to Eat In Turkey

Turkish cuisine has influenced many of the countries that were part of the Ottoman Empire and reflects Turkey’s history and geography. The varied climate means that there is always an abundance of the freshest vegetables and fruits available to cook with. Turkish food is not overly spiced, apart from in the Southeast, typical seasonings are mint, dill, flat-leaf parsley, paprika, cumin and the lemony, dried and ground berries from an edible sumac shrub. Modern-day Turkish cuisine fuses Middle Eastern, North African and Central Asian cuisines and flavours.

Here are Direct Travellers 5 top delicious dishes for you must try whilst on holiday in Turkey.


These are the wonderful small dishes which are eaten before the main meal or can be a light meal in themselves and are tantalising morsels to entice the appetite. Meze is always to be shared with friends and is intended to accompany drink, scenery or conversation. You can explore bite-size different flavours, textures and aromas between Raki, Turkey's aniseed - flavoured national drink distilled from grapes. Hot dishes follow cold dishes and include borek, cacik, octopus, dolma, fava, hummus and kofte. In Turkish, Dolma means “to be stuffed” and one the most popular Dolma is “stuffed vine leaves” or Yaprak Dolmasi. Dolmas generally use: tomatoes, bell peppers, cabbage leaves and eggplants. In addition to rice the stuffing contains, nuts and raisins, but it varies from region to region. Dolmas made without meat are served cold; while dolmas made with meat are served warm. -YUMMY!


Turkey is famous for its kebabs the world over and there is no better place to eat them than in the country itself. The word Kebab (Kabob) literally means any kind of grilled meat served alongside vegetables. Turks don’t eat pork due to their Muslim religion so the most popular meat used is succulent lamb, but beef and chicken are also used. The Shish kebab is traditionally grilled meat served on a skewer with vegetable pieces such as onion, zucchini, tomato placed in between. The equally well known Doner Kebab is made from meat grilled on a large vertical skewer. Turks don’t eat pork, because of the religion. But you can find beef, lamb, fish and poultry in the dishes, although the vegetarian specialties are also incredible. The Adana Kebab is a spicier option of grilled ground meat. The aromas of kebabs cooking are evocative of Turkey wherever you are in the world.


Being surrounded on three sides by sea means that Turkey has always been a place to eat the freshest sea- food. Fried mussels are a perennial favourite in the seafood category, and are especially tasty with a ground nut sauce containing garlic and vinegar or lemon juice. Hamsi (Anchovy) is Turkey’s most popular fish, is known as the prince of all fish and cooked in a variety of ways such as steaming and frying. The most delicious way to eat fish is by grilling it over charcoal which envelopes the fish in smoke thereby bringing out the delicate flavours. Along the Aegean, octopus and calamari are popular meze dishes.


Baklava is the most famous Turkish dessert with delicate layers of filo pastry spread with melted butter, pistachios or walnuts and drizzled with honey. As the pastry bakes the Baklava is soaked through with the sweet liquid. When speaking of baklava, the first place that comes to mind is Gaziantep, from where baklava masters have spread all over Turkey. It is believed that the rolling pin should be made of wood from the pear tree. In addition to the traditional baklava filled with pistachio and walnut, it is possible to find light, diabetic and aloe vera baklava.


Throughout the centuries Lokum (Turkish delight) has been an essential part of traditional cuisine in the Ottoman Palaces. In Europe it became popular during the 18th Century when it was brought back to the UK and given the name by which we all know it today; Turkish Delight. It is a light, sugary gel sweet generally flavoured with rosewater, mastic, Bergamot orange, or lemon. It is traditionally cut into small cubes of different colours and can make a lovely gift to take home for presents.

Have you tried any of these delicious dishes while on holiday in Turkey? If so which was your favorite?

A Personal Q & A on Santorini Holidays

Have you been yearning to visit Santorini? Is it on your to-do list.. or do the views just amaze you enough to think of travelling there one day. 

We have asked our local Santorini office to give some personal recommendations for you to make the most of your Santorini holidays.. here are the results.

What do you like most about Santorini?

I love the brightness of it all. The sea is so blue…azure, aquamarine and so clear and the sky is blue too. Then you have the dazzling white of the little circular houses with their bright blue roofs. It’s like a painting.

Santorini View

Which foods should I try when visiting Santorini?

You must try the seafood: shrimp, octopus, lobster and any freshly caught fish. Fish is sold by the kilo and you choose what you want from the display and they go off and cook it for you. In some restaurants they carry a tray with all the different choices of seafood, meat and fish which is like a walking menu for you to pick from.

Are there any restaurants in particular that you’d recommend?

The restaurants here are serve mainly seafood or Greek food. Enjoy the traditional atmosphere on the rooftop terrace at Camille Stefani which serves traditional Meze plates of stuffed vine leaves and saganaki cheese. At 1500bc, yes it is the name of a restaurant, you will not only have divine seafood like caramelised octopus or grilled lobster but also stunning views out to sea.

Santorini sunset

What are your favourite activities in Santorini?

My favourite thing is to take the walk from Fira to Oia to watch the sunset…it’s legendary and a truly romantic setting. I also spend days sunbathing on one of the gorgeous coloured beaches.

Where are the best beaches?

The black volcanic sands at Kamari and Perissa are an amazing spectacle as is The Red Beach which is probably the most famous. However, it’s a bit of a hike to get down to it and it can get very crowded but you must make sure you visit it once.

Santorini hotel

Do you have a favourite historical site?

For me it’s the hidden gem of the Monastery of Profitis Ilias even though it’s a long drive up a narrow road to reach it the spectacular views you get from the top make it well worth it. It is an oasis of calm and peace.

If you had to sum up Santorini in one word, what would it be?


Santorini pool

If you are interested in Santorini holidays, Direct Traveller currently has amazing itineraries of gulet cruises and tours that venture to this beautiful island. 

Have you visited Santorini? What did you think and how was your experience?

Turtle Hatching in North Cyprus

Are you fascinated by marine turtles? Or are your children's imagination buzzed with the arrival of the latest film "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles". Feed your curiosity or your children's imagination with an experience of real marine turtles.

These gorgeous creatures are very selective about their breeding ground. Guess what? North Cyprus is one of their preferred locations...

North Cyprus is an area now world famous as a destination to see Loggerhead and Green nesting and hatching. The turtles are a protected species and also increasingly important for the tourist industry. 

The Marine Turtle Conservation Project at Alagadi beach is in its third decade with an estimated 5000 visitors in recent years. The marine turtle is such an important creature to Cyprus that it has been used as the emblem of the North Cyprus tourism industry for many years. Nesting peaks in late June/early July, whilst the hatching season starts in mid- July. 

Turtle hatching

 The Marine Turtle Research Group, coordinated by Exeter University, carries out daily nest excavations, at dawn and at night and allows visitors to join night patrols when it is safe for the turtles. This is a chance for people like you and me to get up close and personal and watch these beautiful creatures.

Watching turtles under the supervision of the experts is the best way to see and help the turtles, as even visiting nesting beaches during the breeding season can seriously affect the turtles’ welfare. Some of the money provided by turtle tourism allows the research work and protection of the turtles’ environment to continue. The nesting beach at Alagadi is a specially protected area and closed to general public access between 22.00 and 08.00. Anyone who is there without permission will be escorted from the beach.

Marine Turtle swimming

If you are lucky enough to witness turtles hatching you will see hundreds of tiny baby turtles frantically dig their way out of their sandy nests and scuttle as fast as they can down to the open sea. Their first instinct is to head for the light and that used to only mean the moonlight on the sea, but over recent years the modern developments and their resulting light pollution have confused turtles causing them to go the wrong way, often ending in disaster for the turtles. 

Northern Cyprus has quieter bays which are safe breeding grounds for the 300 green and 1000 loggerhead turtles that inhabit the waters of the Med. Today turtles nest on the sandy beaches of Alagadi, Girne, the Karpaz peninsula and in Famagusta Bay.

Turtle Beach location

Seeing this amazing spectacle will be a memory for you to treasure. Remember you will need to be in the right place at the right time and you will be directly contributing to the preservation of these truly fascinating creatures.

If you are interested in North Cyprus turtles. Direct Traveller can arrange visits to turtle beach during the hatching and breeding seasons. 

Have you seen a marine turtle? what do you think of this amazing experience?

Why Direct Traveller offers truly the finest holiday deals online

When you are looking for the best company with which to book your next holiday, there are certain priorities that will matter more to you than others. Of course, you will want to find a holiday provider with a wide range of destinations, but for many of the most discerning travellers, it's also vital to find a company that prizes the utmost quality in everything that it does.

Direct Traveller doesn't merely offer competitively-priced holiday deals online. That's because we also ensure that every aspect of our service lives up to the most demanding expectations. This specialist in tailor made holidays certainly has the right past reputation, having been founded back in 2003 as a pioneer in direct-flight breaks to North Cyprus, since expanding its range of destinations and scooping accolades from the likes of Virgin Group and The Sunday Times.

However, Direct Traveller would not enjoy the status of 77th fastest growing company in Great Britain unless it also truly valued the relationship that it enjoys with its customers, working hard to ensure that the holidays that it provides meet with constant high satisfaction. Over the last 11 years, we have established a reputation as one of the UK's premier specialist tour operators, with a portfolio of destinations that includes not just North Cyprus, but also Turkey, Dubai, Sri Lanka and Oman.

As well as a greater number of destinations, we have built on various aspects of our current service. In addition to the guided tours that we can now provide in all of our specialist destinations, we can offer everything from private villa holidays in North Cyprus to activities like balloon riding and cooking classes in Turkey and elephant safaris in Sri Lanka. Our currently available holiday deals online even extend to luxury desert night camps in Arabia and hotel rooms under the ocean in Dubai.

These are offered alongside all of the more traditional beach holidays and city breaks, all while Direct Traveller continues to pay close attention to its principal objective of the very highest quality. We recognise that our considerable success to date has not been by chance, and that only by continuing to cater for the specific requirements of our customers in line with our family-oriented service, can we remain a leading choice for high quality, tailor made holiday deals online.

Buddhism and Sri Lankan Cultural Heritage

Buddhism has been a great civilising force of the Sri Lankan people since it was introduced in the 3rd century BC by Venerable Mahinda the son of the Indian Emperor Ashoka.

Sri Lanka, with a population of 20 Million out of which 75% is Sinhalese Buddhist, has the longest continuous history of Buddhism compared to any other Buddhist nation.
Sri Lankan culture has been nourished by Theravada Buddhism & is dating back as far as 2600 years.

Buddhism is based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, who is known as the Buddha ‘The enlightened one’. It is a ‘non theistic’ religion & doesn’t involve any believe in God. Instead, it encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices.

Buddhism has greatly influenced Sri Lankan way of life although this is less apparent today specially in cities like Colombo. Majority of Sri Lankans are quite conservative and have simple life style. They believe in the effects of karma and the cycle of death and rebirth. Some Buddhists exempt completely from eating meat & the ultimate goal would be to attain ‘Nirvana’ a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self.

However, Sri Lankan Buddhists have eventually adopted religious elements of Hinduism in their religious practices. Some of these practices may relate to ancient indigenous beliefs and traditions on spirits, worship of deities etc.

The Sri Lankan culture centres around the temple. Kandy ‘Dalada Maligawe’ which house the ‘tooth relic of Buddha’ is one of the sacred places on the Island. It is believed that Sinhalese as an ethnic group are destined to preserve and protect Buddhism in the country. Therefore, Sri Lanka has been ruled by Sinhalese Buddhist kings and leaders for many years in the past to date.

Buddhism has formed & shaped Sri Lankan heritage. In most instances, Sri Lankan arts & crafts, Literature, music & dancing, beliefs and traditions have originated from religious beliefs. This is represented in many forms such as painting, sculpture, and architecture.
Such as, the paintings and statues found in the ‘Dambulla Cave temple’ are related to Lord Buddha and his life. The frescoes found at Sigiriya and Temple of the Tooth Relic in Kandy are with historical value.

UNESCO has identified six archaeological World Heritage Sites in the island, such as Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Dambulla, Sigiriya, Kandy & Galle fort. Most of these World Heritage Sites within a compact area called the Cultural Triangle.

These are few of the places not to be missed! You can see these amazing sites for yourself with a Direct Traveller Sri Lankan culturaltriangle tour which explores the very best of the region in the comfort of a private tour, chauffeured by your own guide.

Eating out In Istanbul....So many choices!

Having visited Istanbul so many times, each time the trips become more and more fascinating. People tend to do Istanbul as a short weekend city breaks or combine it with a beach stay in Turkey or North Cyprus. It extremely charming that a city can vary from one visit to another where you find ‘not one’ or ‘two’ places you have not seen or heard off but so many places which you did not even know were there from your last visit which is why my experience has been a different and better every time.

Istanbul Bosporus bridge - Ortakoy

I travelled to many cities around the world but this city has by far been one of the most interesting and fascinating, especially for dining and eating out. Restaurants from your local average hidden places, in the side streets to the more commercial dining places but the experience no matter where you chose to dine it is just incredible and memorable each time. Having discovered new places which were better than the previous and yet still so many restaurants to explore and try the local Turkish cuisine. One thing , you do find in Istanbul is the good quality of food was not just in those very expensive restaurants but also in those small local places where the people are credibly friendly, service and food is just ‘spot on’ at all times.

You will notice that the less commercial side of the city and places to dine were actually the best which you will find in many other cities surely but what makes Istanbul unique is that there is so much choice and variety of places to dine that you really feel the real Turkish Culture.  The most amazing places to eat are often found on small side streets which are not on any tourist map/guide by the way so make sure you explore the hidden streets during your visit as you will get good value for money as well as amazing food.  One thing the Turkish culture takes pride in is their food and their big kitchen so whether you’re on a budget or don’t mind splashing the cash you will always find ‘good’ food to suit your needs in this city.

The local small kebab booths to the top end classy prestige restaurants and the best wraps that little man put together in the little ‘kofte’ booth near Taksim square. If you get hungry, at 2am at 3pm in the morning you will always find a place to eat in this city and not just fast food take out but proper home cooked food. It is like a 24 hour moving city. I will never forget the little diner place where I had the opportunity to have their local  home-made lentil soup with fresh bread early hours of the morning as I was ill with a cold and needed something warm for my throat. This little family owned place was where the locals would go if they were hungry after a night out with friends or people coming back from a long day of work so there was something for everybody...

Try to go dine at different places in Istanbul because this city has a big ‘food’ culture where you can experience home-made cooked food from different villages to the traditional Turkish Cuisine depending on what you feel like really. With various options and types of restaurants it really tops my list for fine dining as my experience has been nothing other than amazing. The options and variety of places to eat is creditable in comparison to other cities I have visited over the years and more importantly the quality of food just gets better.

A simple salad has never tasted so amazing with just simple ingredients; you can actually taste the freshness and enjoy it. When you think about the views of the Bosporus and the fine dining you almost forget the traffic and over populated crowd walking in the streets but it makes you wonder why people continue to migrate to Istanbul it has amazing views, history speaks for itself, great food and lastly socialising is so easy with so much to do you will never get bored. It is a 24 hour buzzing city! 

Have you been to Istanbul.. or are you planning to go? What do you think of Guner's tips on Istanbul dining. 

Pinnawala – The Elephant orphanage in Sri Lanka

It is believed that Sri Lanka has the highest density of elephants in Asia...

A visit to Pinnawala – Elephant orphanage is an unforgettable experience for anybody.

The orphanage was originally founded in order to protect many of the orphaned wild elephants found wandering in and near the forests of Sri Lanka and is a captive breeding ground. Many Elephants were injured or orphaned due to deforestation or during the past conflict in the county.

 Pinnawala – Elephant orphanage

The orphanage did attract local and foreign visitors and the income was intended to use to maintain the orphanage.

It would take about one & half hours from Colombo to reach ‘Pinnawala’.  It is advisable to start the day early as it would give you plenty of time.

As soon as you enter, in the close vicinity you would see a group of 50-60 elephants of different sizes and shapes.  You may find some of the large Male elephants are chained. This may be sometimes necessary to tame them & don’t forget these are large wild animals and therefore, only specially trained ‘mahouts’ are capable of controlling them.

Tourists get the opportunity to bottle feed the baby elephants and can also observe the bathing elephants from the broad ‘Ma Oya’ river bank.  This would be very interesting sight as these herds of elephants interact socially, bathing and playing.

 Pinnawala Elephants bathing

Most of the elephants at Pinnawala are healthy and once attaining adulthood they were released to temples or private owners whilst the injured ones remained.

Unfortunately, the elephant population in Sri Lanka has declined drastically by at least 50% over the last three generations. This could be due to poaching, illegal trading etc.

Today, the elephant population is largely restricted to the dry zone in the north, east and southeast of Sri Lanka. Elephants are present in the Sri Lankan National parks of Udawalawe National Park, Yala National Park, Lunugamvehera National Park, Wilpattu National Park and Minneriya National Park but also live outside protected areas.

Sri Lanka Elephants Drinking

Elephant is an endangered species and need to be protected for the sustainability of the natural balance for generations to come.

Visit the orphanage is an amazing experience, and a must-see for anyone. Whether you are interested in wildlife or not, watching the elephants will captivate you into another world.

Are you planning to visit the orphanage? need tips or ideas? let us know here...

Oman – The undiscovered...

Oman renowned for it is endless desert; beautiful greenery it is one of those destinations with a lot of charm and natural beauty. The best time to visit Oman is between October and April where the temperature varies between 20c to 30c's.

The beautiful Muscat City is where most of the busy life takes place, saying that you would still find it quiet and peaceful. Rocky mountain scenery and the beautiful ocean complete the atmosphere of this beautiful area.

Oman Locals

While swimming in Oman, I walked in the sea for over 300 meters in a shallow water to reach 1.50 meter depth, it's a very nice sandy beach where locals and tourist can enjoy, but tourists tend to use hotel private beaches as it's not a local trend to appear with a bikini on public beaches. 

When it comes to hotels, it has more to offer than any other place and it’s the popular places for tourists and locals alike to hang out, dine, or have an alcoholic drink, as drinking alcohol is only permitted in hotels.

The Oman cuisine is quite spicy and close to Indian food, and it's not as popular outdoor, but you tend to find more Lebanese and Turkish restaurants in and outside the hotels. but one thing I can recommend is the sea food, Oman its an area rich in sea food cuisine as the sea food export business forms 70-80 % of it's economy, so don't hesitate to order fish it will always come flapping on your plate :)
Oman beaches

An enjoyable time prior to dinner is sipping a nice cold drink on the hotel terrace and watching the sun immersing behind the sea, reflecting a beautiful colour on both sky and water. 

The people in Oman are very friendly and polite, as they are famous on having a laid back and relaxed mood most of the time. 

Definitely, a must do in Oman is scuba diving especially if you have a passion for undersea photography and filming. The marine life is absolutely thrilling, in particular the turtles.

The beaches of Ras Al Had and Ras Al Junayz are the most popular areas for turtles to come lay their eggs. Green turtles, loggerheads, Hawksbill and leatherbacks live for over 100 years and swim the length and breadth of the Indian Ocean only to return every year to the same sites to lay their eggs.

Oman architecture 
What is more fascinating are the intriguing caves Al Hoota being the most popular cave in Oman. This cave is over 2 million years old; it is in Jabal Shams and will take about 45 minutes to tour the whole cave. Even though the cave may look like its made of stone, it isn’t. It made of water. It all starts when rainwater dissolves, carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or soil, producing a dilute carbonic acid that dissolves the limestone, creating room for it, thus forming the cave.

From many people we hear Oman is the natural version of Dubai, which is agreeable based on the nature, the beaches and the amazing architecture. If your looking for a place to escape have nothing but pure indulgence, fantastic beaches and deserts, with a lot of scenic views Oman is the place to go.

Have you been to Oman? or thinking tell us your thoughts?

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