SOURCE: Zicasso

September 18, 2008 08:01 ET

Zicasso Showcases Top Holiday Travel Picks

Featured Destinations Offer Travelers Festive European Holiday Vacations or Warm Winter Hidden Gems

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA--(Marketwire - September 18, 2008) - Zicasso, a free, personalized online trip planning service that matches busy, discerning travelers with distinguished travel specialists, is showcasing holiday and warm weather getaways targeting the holiday season. Consumers have been booking their holiday season travel earlier than usual, resulting in many popular destinations being already fully booked. Zicasso surveyed its top specialists to identify destinations that offer unique experiences and are not overly crowded, and where air tickets, hotels, and tours are still available at good value.

Zicasso's Top Holiday Picks feature festive destinations for travelers interested in reveling in traditional European holiday celebrations. Zicasso is also highlighting distinctive, less-traveled destinations, where travelers can take advantage of a broader selection of quality accommodations, favorable currency rates, smaller crowds, and warm weather.

For travelers who may still be looking to book their holiday vacation, Zicasso's highlighted destinations feature itineraries developed from distinguished travel specialists that make up the company's hand-picked network. Travelers receive handcrafted itineraries that match their preferences and needs, resulting in personalized, hassle-free travel planning. With Zicasso, travelers receive custom itineraries that can optionally include services such as accommodations, transportation (i.e.: flights, car rentals, rail, cruises, ferries), drivers, tour guides, tickets to attractions or events, reservations, etc.

Europe's Christmas Markets

Europe during the holiday season offers an array of distinctive celebrations, many deeply rooted in unique traditions and customs, and can save travelers up to 20% compared to summer's high season. Its famous Christmas markets glisten in old-world charm, setting the stage for an unforgettable holiday experience.

-- Germany: Deutschland is home to the world's most famous Christmas markets, a tradition dating back to 1384. Traditional carols and Christmas music fill the air, and market booths brim with artisan crafts, woodcarved toys and ornaments. Traditional drinks such as Glühwein (hot spiced wine) and hot cider keep shoppers warm while holiday breads such as Kugelhopf and Lebkuchen (gingerbread), marzipan and chocolates keep shoppers happy. Travelers will delight as they stroll through village squares decked with thousands of sparkling lights and flickering candles, fragrant pine garlands and Advent wreaths, working in harmony to create a magical Christmas atmosphere.

- Sample Top Holiday Pick: Archer Travel Services offers a 7-night package to tour Germany's Christmas Markets, starting at $1,675 per person.

-- Austria: From visiting Oberndorf where the famous carol Silent Night was written, to strolling Christmas markets in Vienna, or skiing snowy trails in Innsbruck, Christmas in Austria is enchanting. In Vienna, the world-famous Boys' Choir performs traditional carols and Christmas pieces. Drive along the banks of the Danube River to Salzburg, famous for Mozart's birthplace and where the 900 year-old Hohensalzburg Fortress dominates the cityscape. During Advent, the Fortress is home to a Christmas market featuring local arts and crafts, seasonal delicacies and holiday concert performances.

- Sample Top Holiday Pick: Archer Travel Services offers a 7-night package to tour Austria's Christmas Markets and the Alps, starting at $949 per person.

-- France: Christmas markets also abound throughout France; one of the largest is in Strasbourg, with a breathtaking cathedral as the backdrop. Nestled within the Alsace region, Strasbourg is renowned for its small wine producing towns dotting the landscape. Each season, Alsace transforms into a winter wonderland with nativity plays, caroling and festivals. And to ring in the New Year, Paris is simply de rigueur. Whether sipping champagne on the Champs Elysees, attending a black-tie party at Loire Castle, or watching a night showing of Moulin Rouge, the City of Lights offers a dazzling holiday atmosphere in arguably the world's most beautiful city.

- Sample Top Holiday Pick: Traveloteca Tours offers a 7-night package to experience festive Paris and London, starting at $2,390 per person, including airfare from New York.

-- Poland: In Warsaw, families can enjoy a children's choir singing traditional Polish carols or visit the Ethnographical Museum to learn about legends rooted in Christmas tradition. Drive to the countryside village of Lowicz for a holiday concert in the square's magnificent Basilica. The annual Opera Week features performances such as Swan Lake and La Boheme in renowned opera houses in Wroclaw, Poznan, Krakow, and Warsaw.

- Sample Top Holiday Pick: Traveloteca Tours offers a 3-night package to experience Polish Christmas traditions as an add-on when visiting other European destinations.

Warm, Hidden Gems With Much to Offer Except the Crowds

Travelers that prefer warmer destinations, Zicasso features several hidden gems. High-peak winter destinations such as Hawaii and the Caribbean are typically crowded and command higher rates for airline tickets and hotels. The following less-traveled destinations deliver distinctive appeal and good value, as well as offer attractive currency exchanges, and more availability of higher quality accommodations and services.

-- South Pacific Islands -- Samoa, Tonga and Papua New Guinea: While Bali is a top destination, neighboring islands, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, and Tonga are the South Pacific's best kept secrets. Beachside villas at Samoa's famous Aggie Grey's Hotel, a Polynesian paradise, also features an 18-hole championship golf course. The tiny kingdom of Tonga hosts a range of island festivals and offers virgin coral reefs perfect for snorkeling. For those seeking more adventure -- Papua New Guinea awaits. Whether trekking through rolling hills, sweet potato gardens, across suspension bridges, or scuba diving the famous Walindi, Tufi or Madang ship wrecks, this exotic island offers adventure travelers plenty of fun and sun.

- Sample Top Holiday Pick: Global Basecamps offers a 4-night package to trek through the beautiful riverside landscape in Papua New Guinea, starting at $1,470 per person.

-- South Africa: For an unforgettable travel experience, South Africa is a top choice. Said to sustain the most biodiversity of any game reserve, Kruger National Park boasts five million acres and six eco-systems of wildlife. For a unique luxury safari experience, travelers stay in the African bush of the Sabi Sands in a private villa at the 6-star Lions Sands Lodge. Enjoy incredible views from Table Mountain, indulge in gourmet food and world class wines in Cape Town's vineyards, or relish the sights and sounds of the magnificent Victoria Falls.

- Sample Top Holiday Pick: Roar Africa offers a 10-night luxury package to experience the beauty of South African landscape and unique wildlife safari, starting at $5,400 per person.

-- Morocco: Unbelievable landscapes, rich spices, and vibrant fabrics are the essence of Morocco. Travelers can watch the sunrise across the Merzouga sand dunes, climb the Atlas Mountains, and sleep under the stars in the Sahara Desert. Casablanca, Fez, Tangier, or Marrakech all offer luxury B&Bs that were formerly riads, or ancient palaces and private residences, which previously belonged to Sultan princes, aristocrats, and noble families.

- Sample Top Holiday Pick: Homeric Tours offers an 8-night package to visit Moroccan Imperial Cities, starting at $1,729 per person, including airfare from New York.

About Zicasso

Zicasso is a first-of-a-kind online travel service that combines the best of online Web 2.0 tools with offline personalized services from expert tour operators and travel agencies. Ideal for planning complex trips, Zicasso saves travelers time and money by matching them to pre-qualified, quality travel companies that compete to provide personalized itinerary bids, all within an online Web 2.0 environment. Zicasso's free online travel service gives busy, discerning consumers a hassle-free way to obtain authentic, quality travel experiences, at the best value. Based in Mountain View, CA, Zicasso is a privately-held company. For more information, please visit www.zicasso.com.

Editor's Note: Artwork available upon request.

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