From Elysium to Middle Earth: travel deals 20 Jan 2013

The crowd-pleasing silvery gibbon, Indonesia.
Track down the Asian Big 5, find Elysium in the Hunter Valley or hit Middle Earth, in this week's domestic and international travel deals.

ACT
With the National Portrait Gallery, the National Museum of Australia and the National Gallery of Australia (currently showing the Toulouse Lautrec exhibition) all within cooee of each other, it’s easy to see why art lovers love Canberra. Plan ahead and save when you stay at the Mercure Canberra. Book 30 days in advance and save up to 30 per cent on your room rate. Costs from $112 a night, room only. 136 565, accorhotels.com.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Need a break after the rush and bustle of Christmas? Head to the serenity of the Barossa Valley, an hour’s drive north of Adelaide.  The Novotel Barossa Valley costs from $239 a night; fly return with Virgin Australia to Adelaide and stay two nights until March 31. Costs from $429 a person, twin share, ex-Sydney. 1300 130 485, travel.com.au.

QUEENSLAND
Stay five nights, pay four at Daydream Island Resort & Spa and get full buffet breakfast daily and free use of watersports equipment and open-air cinema. Two children under 14 also get to stay and eat breakfast free for stays January 28-March 31. Costs from $598 a person, twin share, four nights. 1800 075 040, daydreamisland.com.
Elysia, Hunter Valley NSW

NSW
The Hunter Valley’s Golden Door health retreat, Elysia, is running a ‘bring a friend for half-price’ deal over summer. Packages include beautiful spa cuisine, snacks, an initial assessment as well as wellness seminars, exercise equipment and classes including meditation and early morning tai chi. Book before January 31 for stays until February 14 and save $525. Costs from $1575, two people for two days.  1800 212 011, goldendoor.com.au/health-retreats/elysia.

VICTORIA
Forget heatwaves, it’s time to plan your snow play, and happening Hotham has launched its early-bird specials. Stay five nights in a ski-in/ski-out one-bedroom White Crystal apartment, in the middle of the village, and save $251 when booked by January 31. Costs from $2102 for five nights during the value season, June 7 -27, July 22–August 1, August 26-29 September. Costs from $2256 for five nights during peak season (June 28 – July 21 and August 2 – 25). 1800 468 426, hotham.com.au.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Eagle Lodge, Faraway Bay
Far up on the remote Kimberley coastline sits the aptly named Faraway Bay, a tiny resort amidst the wonders of pristine waterfalls, sublime waterways and ancient Aboriginal art. Book before January 31 and save 10 per cent off the regular rate, and they’ll also include a free night at the Pinctada Kimberley Grande Resort, Kununurra before you fly out to the remote property.  Rates include guided activities, unlimited boat charters to hook the big one, and all meals and most drinks. Costs from $3330 for two nights. 0419 918 953, farawaybay.com.au.

NEW ZEALAND
Just 3½ hours from Sydney, Wellington (aka Wellywood to Middle-earth devotees) is ramping up the deals. Book a ‘Spring into Summer’ deal at the five-star Bolton Hotel and get buffet breakfast and an antipasti tasting plate for two, as well as late check-out. Normally from $382 a night, stay before January 27 and pay from $151 for two people. Stay January 28-April 1, costs from $238 a night, weekends only. 1300 887 979, wotif.com/hotelW12421.

UK
Traverse Britain on its railways, including the most scenic routes – from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh in Scotland, Llandudno to Blaenau Ffestiniog in Wales Exeter to Penzance, in the West Country – and buy your freedom to hop on and hop off at will. Buy a selected BritRail pass before February 14 for travel until February 28 and save 20 per cent. Costs from $170 for a three-day, second-class Britrail Consecutive Pass. 1300 387 245, internationalrail.com.au.

THAILAND
Head for the hills in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand and stay three nights for the price of two in the tranquil Tamarind Village, until March 31. With just 45 rooms and suites, the hotel is decorated by the region’s rich tribal weavings and patterns. It also offers a 10 per cent discount on stays booked more than 30 days in advance, until October 31. Costs from $300 for three nights, includes buffet breakfast. (02) 9211 6590, tamarindvillage.com.
Notre Dame cathedral, Paris.

EUROPE
Get the passport out for some serious stamping when you cover 15 European countries in 30 days on Topdeck’s popular Discover Europe trip. All the icons are there: baguettes at the Eiffel Tower, wine tasting in Bordeaux, gondolas in Venice and bicycles in Amsterdam. Save 7.5 per cent on summer trips when booked and paid for by February 28. Costs from $5411 a person.  1300 886 332, topdeck.travel.

INDIA
Get your Bollywood on where it all began, in Mumbai, where you’ll enjoy two free nights at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel when you book a 14-day Splendours of Rajasthan journey. Highlights include the Pink City of Jaipur, Jodhpur’s Mehrangarh Fort and a stay in a traditional tented camp with evening birding walks. Save up to $1045 a person and get two nights free, when travelling until April 15. Costs from $7410 a person, twin share. 1300 851 800, abercrombiekent.com.au
 
TOURWATCH

If you haven’t heard of the Asian Big 5, this is the trip for you. Join Wildlife Asia board member Clare Campbell (pictured) travelling through Indonesia, from Jakarta to east Borneo and Sumatra, to see and save five endangered species. Bornean orang-utans, Sumatran rhinos, Asian elephants, Sun bears and the crowdpleasing Silvery gibbons all are under threat from disappearing habitats and poaching. 

The group of up to 12 will travel on traditional river boats (klotoks) and trek through rainforests, staying in jungle lodges and on boats to view the wildlife and visit animal rescue centres and the Dayak villages of Borneo. Departs 10-18 March, 2013. Costs $3100 a person plus $1000 secured fundraising. Excludes international airfares, 0499 773 303, wildlifeasia.org.au.

Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald

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