In the shadow of the Duomo
Located right next to the Duomo, Straf Bar is where young fashionistas tend to gather. Don’t feel intimidated though, the atmosphere is relaxed and casual. An extension of the design hotel, the bar resembles a tiny art gallery, but if the weather is good try and join the locals outside on the red sofas.
Where the hip things hang
For something creative, seek out Rita in the vibrant Navigli area, where the bartenders aren’t afraid to get inventive with their ingredients. With a wide selection of spirits arranged like a liquor library behind the bar, a drink can mean anything from a classic Campari-based pick-me-up to a sharp Gin Zen (gin, ginger, sugar and lime cordial). The nibbles change, but expect homemade pizzettas, plump green olives and stacks of vegetable crudités.
The bar that turns back the clock
One of Navigli’s more unique spots, Mag Café sells a remarkable array of cocktails with the drinks menu changing regularly. Inside, it’s all a bitMidnight in Paris as bartenders dressed in braces handcraft extraordinary cocktails,
Limerick’s history has not always been sunny: three centuries ago it was besieged by Cromwellian forces and in the early 00s a wave of organised crime crippled the city’s reputation. But it’s always been a safe city for visitors and a whopping €1 billion investment strategy has smartened up sights including King John’s Castle and the riverside quays. Thomond Park Stadium is a massive shrine to the local fixation with rugby, and the city’s recent inclusion as an estuary spur route from the Wild Atlantic Way is blowing fresh air along its narrow medieval lanes and neat Georgian avenues.
This may be Ireland’s third largest city, but the centre is walkable and just 20 minutes’ drive from Shannon Airport.
Walk English Town
A 3km amble through Limerick’s Medieval Quarter delivers a rapid rundown of Ireland’s history from the 12th century until the Flight of the Wild Geese in 1691. The ‘wild geese’ were the Irish Jacobite army who were defeated at the hands of William I, effectively ending James II’s chance of reclaiming the British crown. They signed a
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
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.
1. Plan a rough itinerary
Spontaneity is one of the best things about backpacking, but in Australia it pays to have at least a rough itinerary, as it’s easy to underestimate how long it takes to get around this vast country. Spending longer than planned pottering around South Australia’s wine country – fun though it is – might mean you have to sacrifice that eagerly awaited trip to extraordinary Uluru or exploring the billabongs of Kakudu.
Three weeks is the absolute minimum to “do” the East Coast by land: Sydney to Cairns via the broad beaches of Byron Bay and the Gold Coast, self-driving the length of Fraser Island (the largest sand island in the world), sailing the gorgeous Whitsundays, diving at the Great Barrier Reef and trekking in Daintree, the oldest tropical rainforest on earth. So to see the rest of Australia, you’ll need to fly or have much more time.
2. Plan where to go when
At any time of year, Australia is a great place to visit but it can get unbelievably hot, as well as surprisingly chilly and rainy, depending on where you go. Avoid travelling north during the “build-up”
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. Oradour-sur-Glane, France
The small village of Oradour-sur-Glane, tucked in the Limousin countryside, was the site of one of WWII’s most harrowing atrocities. On June 10, 1944, 642 of its inhabitants were massacred by the Nazi Waffen-SS. People from the village were rounded up, machine-gunned and many burned alive.
Today, the town’s crumbling buildings are a brutal reminder of that fateful day. Houses and shops lie in ruins, some retaining original details – rusting lamps, sewing machines and pots and pans.
The Centre de la Mémoire commemorates the crimes that took place with testimonials, exhibits and films shedding light on Oradour’s bloody past.
2. Imber Village, UK
In 1943, with only 47 days’ notice, the villagers of Imber in Wiltshire were evicted from their homes to allow American troops to train for the liberation of Europe. They never returned.
Villagers are said to have protested their banishment, but to no avail. Imber had been acquired by the Ministry of Defence before the war in a bid to make Salisbury plain the largest training ground in the country. To this day, the land belongs to the British Army.
1. Berlin, Germany
A divided and somewhat neglected city until 1989, Berlin has completely transformed itself. This diverse metropolis has deep historical resonances, an archipelago of urban nightlife scenes and a pop-cultural pedigree that embraces everything from Marlene Dietrich to Einstürzende Neubauten.
As well as the prestigious museums and galleries of the Kulturforum, there are plenty of smaller venues showcasing more offbeat artistic offerings. The Bauhaus Archiv Museum is the ultimate pilgrimage for design lovers. Meanwhile, the city’s fabled weekend flea markets allow you to rummage through a century’s worth of consumer culture.
2. Kanazawa, Japan
Horticulture can be just as inspirational as any other art form – and the Japanese city of Kanazawa is the perfect place to appreciate it. Here, the seventeenth-century Kenrokuen Park showcases the compositional qualities that make Japanese gardening so unique. Also known for its Samurai villas, geisha teahouses and traditional handicrafts, Kanazawa is the ideal destination for discovering the Japan of the Edo period, rather than its garish twenty-first century reincarnation.
But, if Kanazawa proves to be a bit too folksy, then fear not – you can always stop off inTokyo on the way
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.
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. 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
Bergen looks like it was built
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
Snake charmers charm at Viharamahadevi Park
Colombo is spoilt for choice when it comes to places to chill out, but beautifully maintained Viharamahadevi Park is a city favourite. The parades of palms and fig trees are spectacular, the lawns are dotted with statues and fountains, there are views of Colombo’s colonial-era Town Hall, and there’s always the chance of catching the odd snake charmer in action. Find a shady spot and you can people-watch for hours.
Join the locals on Colombo’s favourite promenade
Whilst it might not be quite as green as it once was, Galle Face Green is still frequented by locals in search of some relaxing downtime. There’s a tacky but loveable charm to this seafront park, which is animated by bubble-blowers, bouncing beach balls and vibrant kites swooping across the sky. It’s also a great spot for a snack – street food traders congregate on the waterfront at sunset, serving delicious Sri Lankan treats, including crispy egg hoppers and the island’s signature kottu, a griddle fry-up of chopped noodles, eggs and spices.
Dive into an open-air gallery at Kala Pola Art Market
On any non-rainy day of
Sydney is famous for its surf beaches but there are many secluded hideaway beaches dotted all around the harbour. Some are more popular than others, depending on their accessibility, but our top tips are the diminutive Lady Martins Beach at Point Piper, not far from central Sydney and tucked between the salubrious suburbs of Double Bay and Rose Bay.
On the northern side of city, head for Balmoral Beach near Mosman. It is an excellent beach for families, with a netted enclosed swimming area and large shady Moreton Bay fig trees to escape the heat. Lastly, look for Collins Beach at Manly, a long circuitous walk from the Manly ferry pier, where you may well find yourself alone for a good part of the day.
This may surprise many first-time travellers to Sydney, but autumn (March to May) is a perhaps the best time to hit the beach. Sydney is blessed with a fairly temperate climate so it can stay sunny and reasonably warm right into late May (the beginning of the Australian winter). It takes some months for the ocean to cool down to the same temperature
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, including a splendid jade burial suit from the Han dynasty (221–206 BC). Best of all, it’s free to enter: the museum issues a set number of tickets each day for different time slots.
If you’re looking for a moment of calm, Fuxing Park at the edge of theFrench Concession might not quite fit the bill. It’s overflowing with culture, though, and welcomes
Tex-Mex meets white rice
Taco rice, for the uninitiated, is a plate of Japanese white rice topped with seasoned ground beef, grated cheese, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, and usually a dollop of salsa out of a jar. It’s essentially a ’70s-style Tex-Mex taco nestled on a bed of rice instead of in a crunchy tortilla shell. Taco rice appears on menus throughout the islands and is a must-try local dish that represents the beautiful, oddball harmony of Mexican-American and Japanese culinary cross-pollination.
More recently, Okinawa’s contemporary culinary trends are going the way of many other regional styles, by leaning international. While the islands aren’t necessarily a hotbed for innovation, there are a few standouts worth checking out.
In Naha, break away from the noisy, garish souvenir shops of the main drag and wander the curving alley leading to Ukishima Garden (ukishima-garden.com). This little oasis of calmness and clean eating offers a seasonally changing, all-vegetarian, macrobiotic menu consisting mostly of vegan Okinawan goodness. Using organic produce, the chefs create lovely, fresh fusion pastas, vegan ‘hamburger steak’ and taco rice with locally gathered and grown mozuku (local seaweed), millet, gōyā (bitter melon,
Can American travel freely to Cuba yet?
No – at least not for standard beach holidays. The de facto travel ban, in place since President Kennedy invoked the Trading with the Enemy Act in 1963, still holds – for the time-being. Congressional approval is required to change this.
The ban was originally enacted as a retaliatory measure after the Cuban Missile Crisis; the small-print of the act makes it illegal for Americans to make transactions in Cuba. To circumnavigate this, US citizens interested in visiting Cuba can apply for a general license. General licenses allow for various forms of cultural, educational or humanitarian travel and no longer require a complicated application process.
What has changed since Obama’s historic 2014 announcement?
Quite a bit. By loosening restrictions on ‘general licenses’, it is now easier for US citizens to travel to Cuba if they fall into one of 12 different categories. These range from the specific (public performances or athletic competitions) to the vague (‘support for the Cuban people’).
Booking accommodation also got a lot easier in April 2015, when Airbnb began listing thousands of traditional Cuban homestays on its website. Qualifying US travelers
Our seven-day itinerary incorporates the best times to avoid the crowds at the beach and the most enticing experiences the surrounding area has to offer.
Sunday: kick off with Mexican flavor
Avoid the weekend beach crowds by heading Downtown for an afternoon of Mexican culture. Occupying a full city block, Mercado 28 is a maze-like market of colorful local souvenir stands, where vendors call out to you in Spanglish offering sunglasses, sarongs, traditional Maya dresses and handmade jewelry. In the center is a courtyard surrounded by inexpensive open-air eateries, while the market’s northern corner is aptly named ‘Plaza Bonita’ for its pretty (bonita) buildings.
Once the sun goes down, take a stroll to nearby Avenida Yaxchilán for dinner at La Parrilla (laparrilla.com.mx). Here, the harmonized melodies of strolling mariachi bands set the mood for a true cena Mexicana. Locals and travelers alike rave about the tacos al pastor, and the Margarita Especial just might be the perfect treat for your first night out in Cancún. Finish your evening with a walk to the food stands at Las Palapas Park for a traditional marquesita, a Yucatán treat made of a hot and crispy crêpe-like roll