Albania to become new Mediterranean gem while farther north Vilnius is Europe’s cheapest city break!
Chalkmarks: Oslo Opera House, Oslo, Norway, May 2024

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 17th May 2024

OVER the years Chalkmarks has spent a lot of time in southern Europe: Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Albania and Turkey too, but we haven’t spent much time in northern Europe: Norway, Sweden and Finland or Denmark. Heading south is just part of our British psyche, our natural instinct. But we’re seriously missing out, there’s so much up north. It’s full of great surprises and places to visit such as Denmark’s second city Aarhus with its beach, forest and harbour. There’s Norway’s Oslo which sits on a fjord with its floating saunas (see above) and one of the world’s most scenic railway journeys. Then there’s Stockholm where you can challenge yourself to visit all the city’s islands. And Finland, well… it’s the happiest country in the world. We’re rethinking all our trips this year. Just imagine the crowds in Paris this summer for the Olympics, or being in Venice when the mercury hits 40C, even on the Spanish islands where the locals want to crackdown on visitors. To truly escape the holiday pack this year head north. There’s no need to worry about it being cold, it’s warm and toasty there too. And because they are farther north you can sip cocktails under the midnight sun… in your sunglasses, shorts and t-shirt. If like us it’s travel that dominates your every thought, here’s what led this week’s headlines!

Travel like an agent!

Landing soon: Tui is looking to make Albania its next big Mediterranean holiday destination. Speaking to travel whisperer Simon Calder, Sebastian Ebel, boss of Europe’s biggest holiday firm, let slip: “I’m a big fan of Albania and I think we should and could do more. It’s on our agenda to look at it. I think the prospect is huge and I wouldn’t be surprised if we start a significant programme there.”

Spreading the gospel: Chalkmarks already called this trend last year when stunning beach photos tagged the “Maldives of Europe” went viral. The stats showed Albania was the fastest growing tourist hotspot in Europe in summer 2023 according to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. Tirana was also reporting huge numbers of visitors and the travel pages lapped it up with headlines such as “Caribbean of Europe” and “Little Italy”. 

Why Albania: It has the triple: that’s sun, sea and savings – it’s very pretty and it’s pretty cheap out there. Two scoops of gelato cost 100 lekë (pronounced lek), that’s 80p! It was still glorious summer in Sarande with temperatures hitting 30C when Chalkmarks went in September. We had flown in and reported live from the beaches. Here’s why Albania is the best place you’ve never been!

Stop the planes: Passengers could face flight cancellations this summer following the ongoing crisis with Boeing aircraft. There’s been growing concerns over the safety of the planes after a door blew out of an Alaska Airlines flight in January. Some aircraft have been taken out of service which has left the industry scrambling for planes to fulfil their summer timetables. There are also fears over the delivery of new aircraft in time for the summer months. The Mail Online has more.

Hook us up! Vilnius has been named the cheapest city break in Europe by Post Office Travel Money. Lisbon came second. The boffins have calculated that two nights’ in a three-star hotel cost £237 in the Lithuanian capital and £264 in the Portuguese city. In contrast a weekend away in Amsterdam will set you back £669 and two nights in Belfast £629, which was dearer than Venice which came in at £582. Mail Online has more.

Have you seen our pictures: Our fantastic travel photos, which capture some of our favourite destinations around the world, are now available for sale on Alamy. Woohoo!

Lovely Lisbon: Holding our pint-sized cocktails high, we carefully make our way on to the cobbles where the night is getting well and truly underway. There are hundreds of revellers who have crowded into a nook of Lisbon to let their hair down and get their groove on. Yet despite the never-ending number of bars in the heart of Portugal’s capital city, the real party is in the street… down the road and around the corner. The alfresco scene just goes on and on. Nobody really shouts about this westernmost corner of Europe compared to the Algarve known for its beaches and energetic party scene.  But Lisbon boasts a year-round Mediterranean climate, has its own stunning coastline and offers a nightlife that can be surprisingly sweaty, noisy and crowded. See here for the full experience

May Day, May Day: Having a good time in Dorset will cost more money from 1st July. Visitors staying in big hotels in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole will pay a tourist tax of £2 a night. The plan is to grow tourism in these areas with the money going towards staging big events. The BBC has more.

Palace gossip: 100 years of royal family portraits taken by famous photographers such as Annie Leibovitz, David Bailey, Andy Warhol and Rankin are going on display at Buckingham Palace. The exhibition at the Kings Gallery includes never-seen-before images and also those of popular royals with Paolo Roversi’s picture of the Princess Diana taken to mark her 40th birthday. It opens today. PA Media has the story.

This time last year: High flyers: Get ready for London to Sydney space travel! It may feel a long way off – literally – but the UK Civil Aviation Authority is looking into two-hour flights between London and Sydney via space within 10 years … Thanks to Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson’s recent trips to space, the CAA is funding studies to assess the realistic feasibility and the impact on the body of being blasted up into space then back down again … With seats on Blue Origin costing more than £350,000, it won’t be cheap … Center Parcs put up the for sale sign this week with a price tag of £5 billion … Trains are back to being as busy as pre-Covid times … Banksy’s famous murals including Girl With Balloon, Flower Thrower and Rude Copper would go on display for the first time in London.

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Go early!

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