Trek up Mt Vesuvius and explore Pompeii
A morning hike up Mt Vesuvius, the volatile volcano that entombed the ancient Roman city of Pompeii in 79 AD, is classic Neapolitan adventure. The 30-minute ascent along a steep gravel path is suitable for most fitness levels. Peering inside the crater, you won’t see any gurgling lava, but your efforts will be rewarded with stunning views across the Bay of Naples.
Spend the rest of the day exploring the mammoth Unesco World Heritage Site of Pompeii. Don’t miss the Forum, with its chilling Vesuvian view, the vibrantly restored Dionysus fresco at the Villa of the Mysteries, the co-ed Stabian baths, the 2nd-century BC House of the Faun and the ancient stone Amphitheatre.
Lunch stop: Just outside Pompeii’s amphitheatre gate, Stuzzicò by Lucius (facebook.com/Stuzzicò-by-Lucius) serves freshly made Neapolitan dishes in a small, authentic setting.
Getting there: Take the EAV bus (eavsrl.it) from Naples to Vesuvius and back to Pompeii. Return to Naples on the Circumvesuviana or seasonal Campania Express train.
Relax and rejuvenate on Ischia
A short boat ride from Naples is the bay’s largest island – Ischia, a land of
The majority of travellers to Pafos today are lured by sea, sand and sun, and Cyprus certainly gets a lot of sun – 326 sparkling, sunshiny days per year, on average. But on this island you can’t walk more than a few paces in any direction without tripping over an ancient ruin or real-life setting for a Hellenic myth. And Pafos is no Agia Napa or Protaras – this is a proper Mediterranean city, down to the veg-stacked grocers’ shops and courtyards full of potted geraniums.
With more than 3000 years of uninterrupted history, Pafos was an obvious candidate for the European City of Culture 2017. Performers have been gathering on the stage of its ancient odeon (amphitheatre) since at least the 2nd century BC, and the cult of fertility worship has been active in these thyme-scented hills since Neolithic times. It was no accident that the ancient Greeks chose this stretch of coast as the birthplace of Aphrodite, goddess of love.
Every July and August, dramas by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes and others get the full amphitheatre treatment in the Pafos odeon for the
This dynamic metropolis is prized photography country, even for those who prefer to shoot bite-sized, instantly uploadable images. Inspiration can strike anywhere, but below are the 7 best places to capture Hong Kong’s most iconic photographs.
1. Hong Kong’s garden hideaway
Few photos can capture the essence of Hong Kong better than those taken at Chi Lin Nunnery in Kowloon. Instagram opportunities unfurl before your lens here as classical Chinese gardens give way to a glorious golden pagoda and a lotus pond filled with plump koi carp. This serene Buddhist complex seems all the more tranquil when snapped against the contrasting skyscrapers that tower above, creating a seamless fusion of the modern and the natural.
2. Food too cute to eat
Embedded into Hong Kong’s culture like dragon dances and milk tea, Instagram swells with shots of steaming baskets of dim sum, so head toYum Cha to snap something more contemporary. This dim sum restaurant does things a little differently: the pork buns are shaped as pigs and the sausage rolls are designed like dogs. Even the pineapple puff cookies are made to look like birds
1. Creating parks in Patagonia
The Parque Pumalín is not the end, but the beginning: Tompkins Conservation, which was the subject of our latest travel podcast, will continue its rewilding mission in Patagonia. But the organisation can’t do it alone and is encouraging volunteers to come to Chile or Argentina, where they can get involved in tree planting, wildlife monitoring and, sometimes, reintroducing locally extinct species.
2. Going on safari in Laos
The last remaining home for tigers in Indochina, Nam Et-Phou Louey is a hotbed of biodiversity and an unexpectedly brilliant place to go on a safari. And we’re not talking about any old safari; we’re talking about the Nam Nern Night Safari and Ecolodge, which ploughs most of its profits into local outreach programmes that educate locals about conservation and sustainability. Twice a winner at the World Responsible Tourism Awards, guests on the safari not only support admirable conservation work but also have the opportunity to spy endangered species, mingle with locals and sleep in low-impact bungalows.
3. Crashing with locals in India
For remote Himalayan communities there can be scant opportunity for employment.
Glen Tilt, Blair Atholl
One of Scotland’s lesser-known glens, this magnificent walk begins at the Old Bridge of Tilt, a hint of many ancient stone bridges hunkered in widescreen landscapes to come. This is Big Tree Country, populated by the tallest trees in Britain. Stay in a Scandinavian-esque woodland lodge on the Atholl Estates, which has been visited over centuries by everyone from Mary Queen of Scots to Queen Victoria.
Sandwood Bay, Sutherland
Bleak and lunar-like, this bracing hike is punctuated by glimpses of the lighthouse at Cape Wrath on the horizon. Here, at the exposed north-western tip of Scotland, the rewards are great and hard-won. Sandwood Bay is one of Britain’s most inaccessible beaches, flanked by a skyscraping sea stack – a ruin said to be haunted by the ghost of a shipwrecked seaman – and sand dunes the size of houses. It’s perfect for wild camping, if you can face carrying your gear in and out of the boggiest of moorland. Make sure you go for a pint and plate of langoustines.
Castle Tioram, Ardnamurchan
Ardnamurchan, the most westerly point of Britain, is a slender calloused finger of a peninsula pointing outward
1. Sri Lanka: Kandy to Ella
Starting in colonial-style Kandy, the little train to Ella chugs through tea plantations and up hillsides to reach a remote station in the middle of Hill Country. It takes nearly seven hours to reach the final destination.
Rules around riding the train are lax in Sri Lanka, so you’ll find passengers sitting in open doorways swinging their legs in the sunshine as the train gasps its way into the hills. The last leg of the ride can be misty as the train breaks through the cloud line.
2. China: Jiayuguan to Xi’an
On the edge of the Gobi Desert, the city of Jiayuguan, in China’s far northwest, couldn’t feel more different to the metropolises of Beijing or Shanghai. In the Gansu province, the city is home to the Jiayu Pass, the furthest western end of the Great Wall of China.
The 18-hour train ride to Xi’an, also known as the end of the Silk Road, offers up more of the same. Scenery is bleak and awe-inspiringly vast. This journey – longer than any other in China – will give you a sense of the country’s sheer size.
1. Try the freshest seafood
The clear waters around Kyūshū yield an abundance of seafood. There’s Takezaki Crab and super-tender squid, mounds of fat tiger prawns and fugu, Japan’s deadly pufferfish – a popular sushi delicacy. Famous seafood dishes include ikizukuri, a live-squid sashimi typical of Yobuko in Saga – don’t try this if you’re squeamish.
What fresher way to try seafood than in its sushi form. Sushi no Jirocho in Kurume is one of the best sushi restaurants on the island. Here, you’ll sit at the counter and watch chef Ryoji Katsuno preparing immaculate plates. In a silvery flash of his knife, Katsuno presents a steady stream of sashimi: highest-quality “fatty” tuna, tender squid and grilled seabass follow fugu, oysters and the ever-popular horse mackerel. Katsuno then impresses with a selection of miniature matchbox sushi.
2. Taste rare foods
At the source of a river in Asakurashi, southern Fukuoka, an unassuming weed grows in abundance. This is the rare suizenji nori (kawatake) river weed and it’s believed to only grow in this metres-long stretch of clear volcanic spring water. The Endo Kawatake plantation, which harvests the weed here, sells a
1. Gothenburg and the west coast, Sweden
In the space of a couple of decades, Sweden’s second biggest city has reinvented itself as one of Europe’s coolest city break destinations. It’s still a big industrial hub with a busy port at its heart, but the focus is increasingly on tourism. Why should you go? For the super-fresh seafood, for the locally brewed beer and laidback bars, and for the car-free islands that lie just offshore, where you can swim in cool, clear waters.
2. Skagen, Denmark
Set on a narrow spit of land with breezy beaches on both sides, Skagen is Denmark’s northernmost town – and one of its prettiest, too, with mustard-yellow houses lining the streets. Since the Nordic Impressionists arrived here more than a century ago, attracted by the big skies and soft golden light, the artists have kept on coming. Now the town is dotted with galleries, workshops and antiques shops. Cycle a few kilometres northeast of town to the sandbar called Grenen, where Denmark ends, and you can watch two separate seas sloshing together before your eyes.
3. Bergen and the fjords, Norway
Best for sightseeing: Spandauer Vorstadt
Arcing elegantly above the Spree between Friedrichstrasse and Alexanderplatz, theSpandauer Vorstadt was an eighteenth-century suburb that today serves as Berlin’s primary “downtown” area, and is the heart of the Mitte district.
This is the most obvious area to stay in Berlin, particularly if you’re after a major hotel. There is also a good selection of hostels and boutique hotels here – all within walking distance of many city-centre attractions, and near good eating and nightlife options.
Best boutique: Hackescher Markt. Quirky little hotel on a quiet side street, in the middle of the Hackescher Markt bar scene.
Best for families: Prenzlauer Berg
If you are going to be in Berlin a little longer than a weekend or prefer a quieter, less touristy but equally happening residential neighbourhood, Prenzlauer Berg is a good choice.
Built in the nineteenth century as a working-class district, the area has seen huge gentrification. Today’s refurbished buildings and handsome, cobbled streets create an attractive Alt Berlin atmosphere beloved by wealthy creative types and middle-class families, who gravitate towards leafy, laidback squares like Helmholtzplatz and Kollwitzplatz.
Apartment stay: Ackselhaus. Offbeat hotel
1. Make the journey to Bai Tu Long Bay
Bai Tu Long Bay is just to the northeast of world-famous Ha Long Bay – and its striking expanse is just as beautiful. However, it sees a fraction of the visitors.
More and more tour companies are now offering trips to Bai Tu Long (“Children of the Dragon”). Or, if you want to go it alone, you can take the ferry to remote Quan Lan Island – the slow boat from Cai Rong has the best views.
Quan Lan has only a handful of hotels, and very little English is spoken – but that’s part of the joy. Once you’ve taken in the bay, bask on the untouched beaches (the best stretch along the east coast) and explore the virtually empty roads by bicycle. You’ll get the impression that little has changed here for decades.
2. Enjoy farm-to-table food in Bong Lai Valley
Phong Nha National Park may already be on your itinerary, but your taste buds will thank you for venturing to nearby Bong Lai Valley. Farming is integral to the community here, and more and more locals are now opening
Best for: winter thrills
The world’s largest island is covered almost entirely in ice – which makes for unbeatable winter sports conditions. Strap on the skis for some cross-country or head up higher on a helicopter to ski back down from the ice caps. It’s also possible to kayak among the icebergs and even scuba dive down to see what lies beneath their famously shallow surface. If you’d rather gather some speed, hire a snowmobile or take charge of a dog sled and head out there into the snow.
On The Go Tours tip: After a busy day of outdoor adventure, relax at Cafe Iluliaq (in Ilulissat) with a craft beer flavoured with berries and herbs sourced from the surrounding mountains and valleys.
Best for: urban adventures
Japanese culture may have been exported worldwide but nothing can compare to seeing it first hand, perhaps by eating sushi in Tokyo or seeing geishas perform a cultural ritual in Kyoto. Take in the culture by learning to cook Japanese food yourself on a cookery course and discover what it’s like to live in one of the world’s most frenetic cities at
1. Cruise the fjords of the Lofoten Islands, Norway
When it comes to jaw-dropping natural beauty, few places can compare with the Lofoten archipelago, whose clustered mountains tower above deeply indented bays. It’s not exactly empty of people, with quaint fishing villages now playing host to a burgeoning tourist industry. But untrammelled nature is never far away.
A plethora of hiking trails, cycling routes and fjord cruises provide access to some truly heart-stopping scenery. The islands are well within the Arctic Circle too, so there’s every chance that the midnight sun will add to the drama.
2. Boat through the Danube Delta, Romania
When it comes to European wetlands, few can compete in size and diversity with the Danube Delta. Here, the continent’s greatest river splits into myriad channels before entering the Black Sea. It’s a unique landscape of sandbar islands, semi-sunken forest and dirt-road villages, the majority of which can only be reached by boat.
Disembark at the fishing village of Crişan in the heart of the delta and you’ll be able to follow trails into reed-beds frequented by all manner of birds. Sfântu Gheorghe, the end-of-the-river settlement on
Famous landscape architect Beatrix Farrand designed this botanical panorama in northern Georgetown. At Dumbarton Oaks, each sweet-smelling garden is more beautiful than the next. Be sure to check the website (www.doaks.org) before your visit to see what’s in bloom, but must-sees include the Orangery, where the climbing ficus dates from the 1860s; the rose garden, arranged by color; the Prunus Walk with its flowering plums; and the Pebble Garden, best viewed from the terrace above to take in the intricate, swirling neo-baroque designs of grey and white stones. It’s a shame that picnicking isn’t permitted on the grounds.
Did George Washington ever wander past the centuries-old Osage orange tree that dominates River Farm’s Garden Calm? It’s possible. The first president owned these 25 park-like acres along the Potomac River just south of DC, and the story goes that the tree was a gift from Thomas Jefferson to the Washington family. Among the pocket gardens here, you’ll find a grove of Franklin trees (extinct in the wild), an orchard of pear, apple and plum trees, and an azalea garden with a rainbow of different species. The American Horticultural Society (www.ahsgardening.org) now resides in the
In an instant, modern civilisation seems to fall away. Cow-speckled grasslands unfurl across Moldova’s low hills, and farm-hands draw water from roadside wells. As for the horse-drawn hay carts, they rattle along at a surprisingly brisk pace – and I have a sneaking suspicion they are sturdier than our little rental car…
Exploring the country time forgot
Despite budget flights from western Europe to Chişinău, travellers aren’t yet descending in droves on this little country squeezed between Romania and Ukraine. Starting from WWII, Moldova was part of the Soviet Union for five decades; the country continues to be dismissed as a gloomy throwback to that period. Certainly, modern Chişinău has its Soviet-era stalwarts – like the crumbling state circus building (Strada Circului 33) and the tanks assembled outside the Army Museum – though the city is freshened by fountain-filled parks and tree-fringed boulevards.
But if Chişinău feels anchored in the 1970s, the rest of Moldova froze in time centuries earlier. On our northbound drive, women in headscarves are stepping out into the road and waving hand-picked bouquets. They’re selling wildflowers to passing motorists, but for a moment it seems as though they are beckoning us towards Moldova’s
Tianzifang’s bustling alleyways
Expect cheerfully decorated shop fronts and a lively atmosphere in this fun shopping area at the edge of the French Concession. Tianzifang is a network of small alleys lined with craft shops, bars and food stands. Shoppers looking for the best bargains need to come armed with a price in mind and a knack for haggling – shopkeepers here love the chase!
The Bund waterfront
Shanghai’s elegant skyline comes to life at night along the city’s glittering waterfront, The Bund. This stretch of colonial buildings delights visitors who flock here to gaze at some of China’s most impressive architectural landmarks and towering modern wonders across the river in Pudong. Don’t be put off by the crowds, however; head down in the early evening to savour the light displays before they are turned off at 10pm.
When it comes to ancient art relics, China’s collection is extensive and impressive. Shanghai Museum houses a comprehensive display of the legacy left by the advanced cultures of bygone eras, including the Ming and Qing dynasties. Bronzes, ceramics, ancient coins, jade artefacts and traditional costumes are exhibited across the museum’s four floors,
Getting your bearings
Waves break year-round in Nicaragua and are best on the Pacific coast. Experienced riders should time trips according the swell and aim to get here from March through September. San Juan del Sur is the long-time surf capital of Nicaragua, and it has the partying pedigree to show for it. It’s also a good spot to gear up, hire out local tour boats to take you to hard-to-reach breaks and spend a few days cruising the colonial streets. Ironically, there’s only one half-decent break right in town. Unless you’re shelling out for daily boat charters, the real action happens in the little surf colonies north and south of here.
South of San Juan, Playa Remanso has a good beach break for beginners, with Playa Tamarindo just south offering up long left and right breaks. It’s also home to the lovingly playful Playa Hermosa Ecolodge (playahermosabeachhotel.com). On the other hand, you could head north, stopping off first at Playa Maderas and its gnarly reef break. Other worthwhile northern surf spots include Bahía Majagual and Arena Blanca.
If you continue on up the coast, you’ll find consistent waves as long as development doesn’t block your access. Playa Popoyo
District I: Castle Hill
With cobbled streets, Ottoman echoes and grand Habsburg palaces, there’s history in layers on Castle Hill. Alongside its medieval relics you’ll find the Hospital in the Rock, a subterranean hospital used in WWII and the 1956 Revolution.
Take a morning plunge into the thermal pools set under the Ottoman domes of the Rudas Baths (note that some days are single-sex only). Then get your body moving with a walk through the Tabán area to Krisztina tér for a decadent brunch at Deryné.
Afterwards, hike up the hill to Buda Castle for a visit to the Hungarian National Gallery or the Castle Museum. Curb the hunger pangs with a velvety cream cake at Ruszwurm Cukrászda, the city’s oldest patisserie, before popping by the turrets of the Fisherman’s Bastion for views over the Danube.
In the evening, wander through the quaint streets and keep an eye out for a 14th-century synagogue, the ruins around Magdalene Tower and the grave of the last Pasha of Buda. Salute the day with a glass of wine over dinner at Baltazár Grill & Wine Bar.
District V: Belváros & Lipótváros
You can still see the stones from Pest’s old city wall surrounding District V, but today