Mix the ancient and modern in Japan’s spiritual heart – Kyoto
magical. A tea ceremony is also included in the price, plus you get to take home a piece of Japanese style. A rather lovely small plate is used to serve a sweet which accompanies your matcha green tea and you can keep it as a souvenir.
According to booking.com, 70% of travellers choose their destination and accommodation with design in mind. More than half say foreign travel inspires the way they decorate their homes – to remind them of those happy holidays and Kyoto is certainly a place to inspire a zen makeover.
We stayed at the cosy Hotel Gran Ms Kyoto, which is handy for local bars and restaurants like gyoza emporium, Anzukko.
For a real treat we booked the fancy French/Japanese restaurant, Kyo Gastronomy Kozo, where you can watch chef Kozo Noda whip up modernist taste sensations. With a sake pairing to go with the many courses, we left smiling. From Kyoto we travelled to Nara, a small city which was once the capital of Japan, and home to Todai-ji temple, the largest wooden building in the world, housing a huge bronze Buddha statue.
It was teeming with tourists and school parties who were either trying to feed or avoid the deer. It almost feels like these creatures own the city and they are used to the huge crowds. You can even buy special crackers that are safe for them to eat. Our hotel was the centrally-located Onyado Nono Nara Natural Hot Spring, with its own onsen.
As well as the traditional sites, it’s also worth a spiritually uplifting stop at the Harushika Sake brewery.
Another nearby site not to miss is Koyasan, the most sacred place for the Shingon Buddhism sect introduced to Japan by the monk Kobo Daishi in 805. There’s a limit to the number of people AMSTERDAM: Two nights’ room-only at the four-star Apollo Hotel Almere City Centre on Koetsierbaan is £192. Leave from Luton on June 21. Book it at loveholidays.com.
ITALY CAMPING: Enjoy a week at the four-star Camping Europa Silvella in San Felice Del who can stay, with most accommodation being in the temples themselves, where you can join morning rituals and meditation.
If it all sounds a bit hippy, don’t worry, the monks have a sense of humour and enjoy interacting with visitors.
Our guide on the night cemetery walk, Nobu, was particularly good and obviously picked up a bit of northern humour as we discovered he studied in Manchester before becoming a monk.
It’s impossible to leave without some great photos but not of the most sacred place in town – the mausoleum of Kobo Daishi. His followers believe that he is still alive and still meditating.
You can see the surrounding buildings but must not take photos and you certainly cannot enter the mausoleum itself. Only the head monk can go in, taking Kobo his breakfast and lunch each day. SUSSEX: THAILAND:
■ EASTERN PROMISE: Kyoto and, right, the Buddha at Todai-ji TURNING JAPANESE: Matt in trad gear
Benaco on Lake Garda for £255. Price based on a family of six sharing a two-bedroom Puccini Riviera mobile home. Arrive on June 24. More at alfresco-holidays. com or call 0161 332 8900.
Enjoy a four-night self-catering break at Combe Haven Holiday Park in Hastings for
£162.50. Sleeps six. Arrive on June
25. More info or book at haven.com. Get a free upgrade with a seven-night holiday with breakfast at Apsara Beachfront Resort & Villas in Khao Lak from £739. From Gatwick between Sept 15 to Oct 20. Book by Thursday at emiratesholidays.com.