From a painting course in Italy to a tour of Japan, appreciate the finer things in life this autumn.
Travel Deals: Brushes with beauty
Sign up for a painting or writing course in rural Tuscany and combine it with a three-day jaunt around Florence. The Watermill at Posara organises painting and creative writing workshops at a restored 17th-century mill for grain, chestnut and olives along with holiday accommodation. The courses are available right through the year and are conducted by professional artists and writers who provide one-to-one tuition and tips. From £1,116 (Dh6,615) per person, with transfers to and from Pisa, all instruction, seven nights' stay based on two sharing, pre-dinner beverages, all meals, local transport and a mid-week sightseeing tour to either Lucca or the Cinque Terre (five villages) on the Italian Riviera. Partners who do not wish to paint receive a £200 (Dh1,185) reduction.
The optional three-night Florence add-on costs from £585 (Dh3,468) per person, and includes three nights' hotel accommodation with breakfast, a guide, airport transfers, two four-hour walking tours and a Florence guidebook. All 2012 courses booked by the end of the year get a discount of £75 (Dh433) per person. International airfare is not included. Visit www.watermill.net for more details.
Stay on a ranch and spend a few days exploring Kenya - go on wilderness drives to view game and return at night to a private cottage with its own fireplace and spectacular views. The six spacious, traditional-style thatched cottages at the exclusive Mutamaiyu Lodge in Laikipia sleep a maximum of 12 people. Each cottage has a large sitting room, terrace, an en suite bathroom and a separate dining room with direct views over the waterhole below. A short walk through the gardens takes you to a cliff-top swimming pool and bar. There is an immense range of activities to choose from, including day and night game drives in the bush; visits to the Mugie rhino sanctuary, school and local market; lion tracking, bush walks and camel walks; and meetings with the Pokot and Samburu tribes.
Prices start from US$450 (Dh1,653) per person, per night, full board, including daily laundry service, game drives and guided bush walks. Visit www.mugie.org or call 00 254 732 222423 to book. International airfare is not included.
Bales Worldwide has a two-week tour of Japan next month where the highlight is the Takayama festival. The trip starts in Tokyo before going on to Kyoto for a tour of the city. Among other attractions, you'll visit Kinkakuji Temple, also known as the Golden Temple, Ryoanji Rock Garden, Kiyomizu Temple and Nijo Castle, plus a walk around Gion for an opportunity to see geishas. There are also day excursions to Nara, famous for its deer park, Todajij temple and Kasuga shrine, and a chance to partake in a traditional tea ceremony.
Next is a bullet train to Hiroshima for a two-night stay (one night in a traditional ryokan), the ideal base for a quick train and ferry ride to Miyajima island. You'll also explore Hiroshima and visit Kanazawa for a tour of the Kenrokuen gardens and museum before visiting Shirakwago, known for its gasshozukuri houses and Gokayama village. Spend a couple of days soaking up the sights and sounds of the Takayama matsure (festival), with its distinctive processions of floats, puppets and music. Other highlights of the tour include a trip to Mount Fuji and a cable car ride to the Owakudani sulphur springs in Hakone.
The tour ends with three nights in Tokyo. The "Japan panorama - Takayama Festival" trip costs from £3,630 (Dh21,135) per person and includes the services of a guide, local transport by air-conditioned vehicles, train fare, all sightseeing, entrance fees, accommodation and most meals. International airfare is not included. Visit www.balesworldwide.com or call 00 44 845 057 1819.
Etihad Holidays has a three-night package to Milan from Dh3,600 per person, with accommodation at the four-star Hilton Milan (based on two sharing), breakfast, return flights and taxes, plus a discount of 20 per cent on food and beverages and a free room upgrade (subject to availability). Additional nights cost Dh490 in September and Dh299 in October. Visit www.etihadholidays.com to book.