InsideJapan - Autumn Leaves Are The New Cherry Blossoms

Cherry blossom season in Japan is almost a case of “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia”.

Every accolade is merited of this bucket-list experience, but as the leaves dissipate in ethereal pearl-hued showers, attention turns to the lesser known, but arguably as stunning sibling of the flora world  – leaf peeping.

Known asKoyo’, autumn leaf viewing lasts for nearly three months, the ‘Koyo front’ descending the length of Japan from October. Palettes of warm colour spark around Tokyo and Kyoto into early December and although overlooked by western travellers for the pink blossom, the vermillion leaves are just as impressive, creating a blaze of colour up mountainsides and temple gardens across Japan.

Co-founder of InsideJapan Tours, Alastair Donnelly, says, “The spectacle is arguably more enjoyable than the cherry blossom as although very popular with Japanese, the Koyo period is not so well known abroad and a lot less busy. During the peak Koyo period, the weather is more often than not, dry, sunny and quite warm during the day making it a great time of year to travel to Japan.” 

To further tempt, here are InsideJapan Tour’s top reasons to enjoy one of Japan’s most spectacular natural phenomena.


Lovely leaves – The mountains, canyons and temples are already impressive, only enhanced by the blazing Japanese Acer (maple) trees.  Japan is 70% mountains, but many visitors head to the cities of Tokyo and Kyoto over the mountains. Autumn is perfect for venturing into the Japanese Alps with the leaves cutting kaleidoscopic swathes to mountain peaks.

Lose the crowd – Less people visit Japan in autumn than spring for the cherry blossom. Although not as quiet as winter, noticeably fewer people travel in November and December to Kyoto with the leaves turning late in the year.

Benign Weather – Autumn weather is generally good in Japan – dry, sunny and quite warm during the day. There is less unpredictability with weather during the season offering picture perfect scenery….a lot of the time.

Autumn Feasting – The food often reflects the seasons in Japan. A good bowl of hot Nabe accompanied by a special autumn beer is the perfect leaf peeping recovery. There are other foods that come into season during autumn such as sweet potato, Matsutake mushrooms and ‘Saba’ Mackerel is at its best.

Festival Season – Apart from leaf-arama, you’ll also catch major cultural festivals (matsuri) such as Kyoto’s Jidai Matsuri (22 October) , a celebration of Japan’s feudal history with processions of performers dressed in samurai costume parading through the streets. Also in Kyoto, witness the beautiful Gion Geisha dances from 1-10 November, each telling a story to the accompaniment of the shamisen (Japanese guitar). On 15 November, children across the country dress up in kimonos to celebrate the Shichi-go-san festival that marks a coming of age at 3, 5 and 7 years.

InsideJapan Tours Top Leaf Peeping Itineraries

The 13 night ‘Autumn Splendour’ self-guided adventure heads from Tokyo to Kyoto, via Nikko and the Japanese Alps and the Kamikochi national park. The best done from late October right through November to catch the best of the leaves. 13 nights of traditional and modern accommodation is included with all transport between all destinations in Japan, breakfast every day, some evening meals, private guiding in Tokyo and Kyoto, a tea ceremony experience in Kyoto a cycle tour in Takayama and more. Costs from AUD$4810pp (based on two sharing and excluding international flights).

The 13 night Classic Japan small group tour heads into the Kamikochi National Park and takes in Tokyo, Kyoto and beyond. All accommodation and transport between destinations within Japan are included, with daily breakfast and seven evening meals, afternoon tea with a Geisha in Kyoto, Tokyo and Hakone transport passes, luggage forwarding, the full time services of a tour leader and much more. It costs AUD$6640pp (excluding international flights).

Source: Inside Japan Tours

Tahiti Air Charter launches in paradise

Get ready to fly high in The Islands of Tahiti as a new private seaplane company launches this month. After years spent in maritime transportation in the region, the Degage family has launched the commercial Tahiti Air Charter – also becoming the first French seaplane airline in 50 years.

Based in Raiatea, which is just 20 minutes from Bora Bora by plane, Tahiti Air Charter will offer flights and day tours over and around Bora Bora and the Society Islands. Plans for the Charter includes private inter-island charters, flights over Bora Bora and Tupai (the heart-shaped island), and full-day excursions to discover more hidden islands including Taha’a and Maupiti.

With a capacity of 8 passengers and the ability to land on both land and water, the Cessna 208 caravan amphibian used by Tahiti Air Charter is known as one of the quietest in its class. The ideal transport for a perfect and exclusive getaway in The Islands of Tahiti, Tahiti Air Charter flights will provide security, comfort and modernity.

With water landing areas mainly located in the Society Islands, the objective of Tahiti Air Charter is to expand this capacity and its air fleet in order to serve the sustainable development of tourism in French Polynesia.

Flights commence from this week. Visit and for more information.

Source: Tahiti Tourisme

Travel to India - 14-day Battles of the Raj

Anywhere Travel has announced details of an exclusive 14-day Battles of the Raj tour which will take travellers on a fascinating journey to India’s famous sites and into battlefields, cantonments and cemeteries to explore the drama of the Raj in its days of greatest danger and decades of its short-lived triumphs.

Leading this exclusive tour will be Professor Peter Stanley from UNSW Canberra, one of Australia’s most active military social historians and an expert in the military history of British India.

Professor Stanley has, in many stages of the tour, sought to combine elements of the long-gone British Raj amid the monuments of ancient India in the cities of the modern nation which is clearly illustrated with the cantonment of Agra – a wonderful preserved example of what the Raj created – located virtually beside the magnificent Taj Mahal and within an hour’s drive of the Mughal city of Fatepur Sikri.

The 14-day journey unfolds as follows;

Day 1 – 27 October – Kolkata
Welcome to Kolkata and India! After your private transfer to Hotel Taj Bengal for two nights, you will have the evening at leisure.

Day 2 – 28 October – Kolkata
This morning you will visit St John’s Church, which is the third oldest church in Kolkata and Black Hole of Calcutta Memorial in the church grounds, then explore the Lascar War Memorial, Park Street Cemetery, Victoria Memorial and gothic St Paul’s Cathedral.

Day 3 – 29 October – Kolkata – Barrackpur – Lucknow
You will head off to Barrackpur to see the Semaphore Tower, Government House which is now a hospital, Temple of Fame and Flagstaff House, before flying onto Lucknow and Hotel Vivanta by Taj for two nights.

Day 4 – 30 October – Lucknow
Your day in Lucknow will include stops at La Martiniere School, Ruins of Dilkusha Palace, ruins of Sikander Bag and Lucknow Residency followed by lunch, then to Moti Mahal and the Old British cantonment of Mardiaon.

Day 5 – 31 October – Lucknow – Kanpur – Agra
First stop this morning is Kanpur and the fort of the Wheeler’s Entrenchment and All Soul’s Memorial Church, then a 4-hour journey allowing for an early evening arrival in Agra and ITC Mughal Hotel for two nights.

Day 6 – 1 November – Agra
A very special morning with a sunrise visit to the Taj Mahal, then onto Agra Fort – both UNESCO World Heritage sites – and return for sunset at the Taj Mahal.

Day 7 – 2 November – Agra – Delhi
You will travel onto Fatehpur, before continuing to Delhi and Taj Mahal Hotel for three nights.

Day 8 – 3 November – Delhi
Your day of touring in Delhi will take in the Red Fort, Kasmiri Gate, Telegraph Memorial, St James Church, Mutiny Memorial, Nicholson Cemetery, the President’s House, India Gate (War Memorial) and Delhi War Cemetery.

Day 9 – 4 November – Delhi – Meerut – Delhi
This morning you are heading out on a full-day tour to Meerut, including St John’s Church and cemetery and a drive through the Indian and British Cantonments – look out for the Parade Ground in Lehka Nagar where sepoys were court-martialled triggering the mutiny.

Day 10 – 5 November – Delhi – Chandigarh – Shimla
All aboard the Kalka Shatabdi Express train to Chandigarh with a stop in Dagshai before continuing onto Shimla and Oberoi Clarks for two nights.

Day 11 – 6 November – Shimla
Today’s highlights include Viceregal Lodge, Jakhu Temple and Rothney Castle and a visit to the Army Heritage Museum at Annadale.

Day 12 – 7 November – Shimla – Chandigarh – Mumbai
A leisurely start to the day before flying out from Chandigarh to Mumbai and Taj Mahal Hotel for two nights.

Day 13 – 8 November – Mumbai
After breakfast, a ‘Colonial Walk’ throughout Mumbai will take in the Gateway of India, Royal Mumbai Yacht Club and City Museum, then your next stop, the architectural masterpiece – Victoria Terminus Railway Station.

Day 14 – 9 November – Depart Mumbai
Today marks the conclusion of your 14-day journey through India and it is time to head home or to your next destination.

The 14-day Battles of The Raj is priced from $5799 per person twin share including:

5-star hotel twin share or single accommodation
Daily breakfast
Services of Professor Peter Stanley throughout tour
Co-hosting by Anywhere Travel Managing Director, Barbara Whitten and Ray Whitten
Services of local English-speaking guides and experts in Kolkata, Lucknow, Kanpur and Mumbai
Services of a local expert in Delhi and on day trip to Meerut
Services of Raj Bhasin for sightseeing in Shimla
Private chauffeur-driven air-conditioned deluxe coach for all transfers and excursions
A fleet of Toyota Innovas for transfers and sightseeing in Shimla (3 in each car)
Monument entrances and still camera fees
Bottled water and soft beverages in all vehicles

For bookings, please contact Anywhere Travel on 1300 130 464 or

Source: Anywhere Travel

Ten reasons why you should visit Santa Monica

Set along a heavenly 5.5-kilometre stretch of coastline, Santa Monica combines the laid-back appeal of a classic California beach town with vibrant, big-city sophistication to create a destination that is truly like nowhere else in the world. Thanks to the city’s picturesque beachside setting, world-class hotels, celebrated restaurants, lively cultural scene, friendly locals, and over 300 days of sunshine a year, it’s easy to spend time in this coastal paradise.

And the best bit? It’s less than an hour from Hollywood and even closer from downtown Los Angeles. Whether you’re exploring the Santa Monica Pier, strolling the luxury shops on Montana Avenue, or soaking in spectacular sunset views with a drink in hand – here are 10 top Santa Monica hot spots.

  1. Hotel Casa del Mar

Each evening the Santa Monica sky explodes in layers of orange, pink, and purple, all rippling against the ocean tides. And one of the best places to catch a truly spectacular Santa Monica sunset is the Terrazza Lounge at Hotel Casa del Mar.

Terrazza offers 180-degree views of Santa Monica Beach along with Italian cuisine. You can sip and savour specialty cocktails during happy hour, choose from a selection of handmade artisan pizzas, and enjoy the unbeatable panoramic ocean views from your perfect sunset viewing point. Cocktails and the best views of the California sunset create an unforgettable pairing that is only enhanced by that ever-present ocean breeze.

  1. Trapeze School of New York – Los Angeles

Santa Monica is a hub of healthy living that has been home to some of the biggest fitness trends over the years. So if you’re looking for a fun new way to break a sweat in 2018, head down to the Santa Monica Pier for a flying trapeze class. The Trapeze School New York (TSNY) Los Angeles is a world-class aerial school and performance centre dedicated to making flying trapeze available to anyone who seeks inspiration, challenge, fitness, or just a couple hours of unique fun. Face your fears on the Pier with brilliant views of the Pacific Ocean with classes like flying trapeze, swinging trapeze, static trapeze, silks, and trampoline.

  1. Fig Restaurant

Located in the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows, Fig Restaurant in Santa Monica is a go-to lunch spot for enjoying easy-going meal just steps from Palisade Park. Headed by chef, Yousef Ghalaini, Fig features only the freshest local and organically grown ingredients straight from the award-winning Santa Monica Farmers Market.

Chef Ghalaini’s Mediterranean-influenced bistro features a frequently changing seasonal menu of wood-fired dishes, a charcuterie and cheese bar, approachable wines by the glass, and a signature cocktail program. Fig’s communal table and private dining area provide an inviting space to share a bite – from albacore tuna crudo to a winter squash pizza – the casual and intimate atmosphere featuring massive windows, striped banquettes, and a circular wooden bar create a picturesque dining experience.

7. Exhale Spa
The intimate Exhale Santa Monica studio and spa, nestled within the luxurious Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows, offers the perfect Pacific coast getaway for hotel guests and Los Angeles residents. The fully appointed spa boasts a menu of massages, facials, healing, acupuncture, waxing and nail therapies, including poolside spa experiences, while Exhale studio offers a packed schedule of boutique fitness classes including Barre, Cardio, Yoga and HIIT.

With over eight types of massages including shiatsu, acupuncture, sports and deep tissue guests can refresh and rejuvenate during their Southern California getaway within a relaxing and uplifting sanctuary. Relax in the zen lounge, shop the fully-stocked boutique, and get settled in the changing rooms.

  1. Santa Monica State Beach

Perched on the Pacific Ocean and set along 5.5 kilometres of glistening coastline, the beachfront city of Santa Monica presents endless opportunities to truly embrace the Santa Monica lifestyle and the wide array of oceanfront activities that come along with it.

In fact, a California getaway isn’t complete without a trip to what is an iconic beach. The wide expanse of soft sand offers a variety of activities and attractions for beachgoers, so you can sit back with your toes in the sand and sunbathe or enjoy first-come, first serve volleyball courts, surf and paddle schools and a 35km long paved bike trail.

Melissa Hoyer was a guest in Santa Monica of Qantas and Santa Monica Travel and Tourism

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Paramount House Hotel - Now Open in Surry Hills

After four years in the making, Paramount House Hotel is now open. Its copper-clad roof shines on Commonwealth Street in Sydney’s Surry Hills, and signals the completion of a long-running restoration and reformation of what was once the former warehouse and offices of Paramount Picture Studios.

The hotel’s 29 rooms and atrium-style lobby blend heritage with new. Restored ceilings, windows and old brick walls are complemented by fresh timber floors and terrazzo-tiled bathrooms.

Each room has its own sense of personality and design details, but all are dressed with French linen sheets, Aesop amenities, Seljak wool blankets and artwork curated by local gallery China Heights. Indoor and outdoor plants in all rooms speak to the hotel’s appreciation for detail and tactile experiences.

Guests can choose from Everyday or Sunny rooms. As well as Lofts and two spacious Mack Daddy suites. Lofts feature floor to ceiling glass windows, and beds hovering above lounges via a mezzanine level.

Japanese-style timber baths feature in a selection of rooms. Wake up to a thermos of single origin filter coffee hanging on your door as part of Paramount Coffee Project’s breakfast and lunch room service.

Paramount House Hotel is a design project by the Melbourne-based Breathe Architecture. It is the first accommodation offering by owners Russell Beard, Ping Jin Ng and Mark Dundon; a team formed through their love of hospitality. Together they run Paramount Coffee Project, Bondi Hall and Hills Bros in Sydney. Beard runs the Surry Hills micro-roaster and cafe Rueben Hills. Dundon leads much-loved Melbourne cafes Brother Bubba Budan and roaster and cafe Seven Seeds.

This sense of hospitality extends to the hotel room mini-bars which are filled with LPs Quality Meats, Tom Shobbrook wines and more. A selection of drinks are provided to guests on arrival including a sour by the Marrickville brewery Wildflower.

Still to come in the Paramount House building is Ester’s sister restaurant Poly which will provide dinner room service to guests from June. Paramount Recreation Club and Kiosk will open on the roof of the building mid-April.

Rooms from $240

Source: Paramount House Hotel