Authorities in south-east Asia are clamping down on the trend of westerners asking locals for money to fund travelling
Kettle on, roof up … The world’s only all-electric vintage VW campervan for hire is perfect for pottering around the Dales
‘It’s a bit like a Super Mario Kart,” the owner Kit had joked. And halfway up a steep hill, I got my chance to prove it. Flicking the thrilling “turbo” switch on the dashboard, I rocketed skyward.
Well, perhaps not quite skyward, but what is claimed to be the world’s only all-electric classic VW campervan for hire made easy work of it. To be honest, that was out of character as it’s a vehicle that actively encourages pottering. Often I had the impression I was careering madly along an open road only to glance at the speedo and find I was not quite doing 30mph. But it was the most not-quite-doing-30 fun I think I’ve ever had.
Strange, ancient and beautiful, there’s much to discover amid the cultural crossroads of a country that provides a real adventure
Was it a wolf? As our car swung round yet another tight bend deep in the Albanian countryside, a gangly, shaggy creature watched from the edge. No doubt it was, as we had just left a nature reserve where a panel on local fauna portrayed an identical Canis lupus. Nor was it to be the only unexpected experience in the land of Zog (Albania’s only king, in the 1920s and 30s) which, under the repressive dictator Enver Hoxha, was hermetically sealed apart from the rest of Europe until the 1990s.
The colourful history of Brownsea Island in Poole harbour takes in Henry VIII, Lord Baden-Powell and the Famous Five. Now the public can camp among its flora and fauna
The first time I hear a peacock scream it scares the bejesus out of me. I’m sussing out my tree tent – cleverly strung between four sweet chestnuts a few feet off the ground – and the sound stops me in my tracks. The bird struts past, glorious tail ablaze, in pursuit of the less colourful (and seemingly unimpressed) peahen before embarking on an elaborate twerking ritual.
Close encounters with nature are part of any experience on Brownsea Island, the largest isle in Dorset’s Poole harbour and the second biggest natural harbour in the world after Sydney. As I sit back and soak up the view across to the Purbeck Hills, I spy white bunny tails disappear into bushes; oystercatchers flap above the sea and I lock eyes with a sika deer grazing nearby before she darts gracefully away.
Enjoy ocean views from rooftop bars or just step out and get the sand between your toes. From Mazatlán to Pochutla, here are 10 charming beachside escapes
Mexico’s Pacific coast, more than 1,000 miles of it, is renowned for its beaches, as well as the resorts which have attracted Hollywood royalty. However, it’s also an area that can experience tropical storms, usually between June and December. The most recent was Hurricane Patricia, the strongest hurricane ever recorded at sea, which swept across the region at the end of October, but caused less damage than anticipated. Hotels are now operating as normal.
Well-known and deservedly popular for its jungle, coast and ancient ruins, the Yucatán peninsula can be a pricey place to stay – unless you pick one of these brilliant budget hotels and hostels
On the surface, this mid-size hotel in Cancún’s hotel zone is pretty unremarkable. The tile-floored rooms are big and clean, with terraces or balconies – though they’re not notably stylish. The restaurant is good, not gourmet. The pool is a sensible size. But set this against its glitzy, high-rise neighbours and check the rates, which are often lower than similarly appointed hotels on the mainland, 30 minutes from the water – and Beachscape starts looking pretty good. Then walk out on to the palm-shaded beach, one of the prettiest stretches in the hotel zone, and the place becomes a minor miracle.
• Doubles from $109, +52 998 891 5427, beachscape.com.mx
The Seychelles islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue may be known for their luxury resorts but there is also a great selection of family-run, more affordable guesthouses just as close to the archipelago’s famous, world-class beaches
For a room with a five-star view, Colibri is hard to beat. Nine rustic rooms – all wood and stone – ensconced amid tropical foliage that tumbles down a hillside to the turquoise waters of Baie Sainte Anne. There’s no beach but you can use the small infinity pool overlooking the bay at neighbouring B&B Chalets Cote Mer, also owned by Sylvie and Stephan, and costing about €10 more a night. You also share the waterfront creole restaurant. The owners can help with car hire but it’s a five-minute walk to a bus stop – which will take you to Praslin’s most famous beach Anse Lazio and the Unesco-protected Vallée de Mai nature reserve – and the jetty for ferries to Mahé and La Digue.
• Doubles from £112 B&B, +248 429 4200, colibrisweethome.com
From Cape Town and its peninsula to the Garden Route and the West Coast, the Western Cape is a dazzling part of South Africa, and its beachside accommodation doesn’t have to break the bank
With the annual summer dash under starter’s orders, we suggest how to turn a schlep into a road trip, staying in treehouses, chateaux and cool hotels en route
From the north-west ferry ports (St Malo, Cherbourg, Caen, Le Havre) down the west of France, via Nantes and Bordeaux, to the south-west
Get beach ready with our week-long planners to 10 glorious seaside spots, covering everything from secluded coves to surf lessons, boat rides and places to stay
Electro music fans are heading to Turin for this weekend’s Kappa Futurfestival, but this also one of the best cities in Italy for culture and affordable restaurants
Without Turin, Italy would be a totally different country. It was pivotal to the unification in 1861 and served as the first capital, until 1865. Its royal palaces were home to the ruling House of Savoy until the second world war and then its factories – and the influx of migrant workers they attracted – were integral to the economic miracle that rebuilt and transformed the country after it.
Curious, then, that it is so often ignored when people talk about the best places to visit in the bel paese. Italy’s fourth largest city nestles in the foothills of the Alps and snowy peaks are never far from view. There are echoes of Paris along Turin’s central boulevards, and though it’s been more than 200 years since Napoleon’s rule was replaced by the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, there are still tangible French influences to be found in the city’s rich cultural and culinary traditions.
This beach town in the far south of Spain, only a windsurf away from Africa, mixes a surfer vibe with excellent nightlife
It’s the most southerly town in mainland Europe, only 14km from Africa across the Strait of Gibraltar. It’s a 1,000-year-old walled labyrinth with a youthful party scene and a world-class kitesurfing and windsurfing destination. In summer it’s also a destination for families who want just a shady dune, a bar and a place serving fish – all of which are available in abundance along the 35km of coast north of Tarifa, beyond the beaches of Los Lances (home to Santa Catalina castle, an emblem of Tarifa) and Valdevaqueros to Bolonia with its Roman ruins and the seaside village of Zahara de las Atunes. Its community swelled by surfers who came and never left, Tarifa is a curious mix of off-the-beaten-track, cosmopolitan and barefoot cool, an adventure playground that’s home to some of the best places to eat, drink and stay on the Costa de la Luz. It can also be windy. If it wasn’t, as everyone will tell you, Tarifa would be just another Marbella – and no one wants that.
Mixing high art with the down-to-earth feel of an ancient port, Genoa is a treasure trove of fine foods and unpretentious bars
Tourists tend to overlook the capital of the Liguria region in favour of Turin, Milan or Bologna when it comes to city breaks in northern Italy, just using its airport to head for the Italian riviera. But the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, St George’s Cross, focaccia, blue jeans (the fabric was invented here by some accounts: “jeans” coming from Gênes, the French word for Genoa) and Joy Division record covers (I’ll explain that one later) is a joy in its own right.
Genoa’s long, narrow shape is dictated by its position between the sea and the Ligurian Appenines. Rarely more than a couple of kilometres wide, the city stretches along nearly 40km of coast – from the Voltri neighbourhood in the west to Nervi, a fishing village-turned-seaside resort in the east – with development snaking inland into a couple of valleys. Just east of the Porto Antico is the old city, Europe’s largest medieval town, a warren of tight caruggi (narrow streets) reminiscent of the Barrio Gótico in Barcelona or the centre of Naples. Genoa’s modern business/shopping area borders the old town, starting at the central Piazza De Ferrari.
This progressive lakeside town has gone its own way since the hippy years: we showcase its best bars, live music venues and restaurants
When 24-year-old Svante Myrick was elected mayor of Ithaca five years ago, he gave up his car. He also gave up his parking space outside City Hall, decorated the spot with benches and plants and welcomed all and sundry to use it as they pleased. For several years it was Ithaca’s smallest park.
Tour classical sites with locals and discover the guesthouses, restaurants and bars being opened by young entrepreneurs in a city buzzing with creativity
The revival of Europe’s classical capital has attracted plenty of artists, curators and digital nomads. But it’s entrepreneurial young Athenians who are opening pop-up restaurants, design collectives and guesthouses, regenerating derelict buildings in rough-around-the-edges areas such as Pangrati, Kypseli and Keramikos. Messy and unpredictable, Athens fizzes with an intense energy that burns bright into the night.