Monthly Archives: November 2016
Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales
If paradise is strolling out of your back door and straight into the mountains, then theBrecon Beacons is your nirvana. Holiday cottages situated within this seemingly boundless national park offer couples with outdoorsy spirit a chance to commune with nature. Walking, mountain biking and pony trekking are fun ways to explore the uplands and valleys of the Black Mountains and if you’re not tired-out from the day’s adventures, the area is scattered with proper pubs boasting serious cheffy credentials.
Seeking the ultimate city break? Look no further than London. Smart, edgy and bursting with multicultural swagger, the diversity of this buzzing heartland is perhaps its star quality. The Shard’s viewing platform is a magnificent way to soak up some atmosphere with your amore, but you can cop a thriftier view by boarding the Thames Clipper from Tate Britain to Tate Modern or taking a stroll up the infamous Parliament Hill to watch the sun go down over this sprawling city.
Tintagel Castle, Cornwall, England
In the most far-reaching corner of the British Isles dwells Cornwall, known fondly for its sandy beaches and cream teas, but also as a county that exudes myth from every mound.Tintagel Castle is perhaps the most evocative, as one of the greatest medieval sites in the entire country, and alleged birthplace of King Arthur. Think wizardry, tales of damsels in distress and knights in shining armour. The winding paths and sea views along Tintagel’s ruined battlements are simply enchanting.
Peak District National Park, Derbyshire, England
Escape to the wildly romantic Peak District for a rural sojourn. In August, when the moorlands yield vibrant purple heather, this hearty hinterland – stomping ground of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre – is breathtaking. Make sure you book into one of the many characterful cottages available in the area and spend a day at the stunning stately home of Chatsworth House, the historic seat of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and setting of many famous love stories.
Bath, Somerset, England
A UNESCO World Heritage site interwoven with literary history, the Georgian city of Bath is the perfect setting for a weekend liaison. Stroll through town to the Royal Crescent and observe Palladian architecture at its most magnificent before visiting The Pump Room for champagne tea overlooking the Roman Baths. Browse independent galleries and shops for a memento and end the day with a soak in the naturally warm rooftop pool at Thermae Bath Spa – the twinkling city views from here are awesome.
Orford, Suffolk, England
This small Suffolk town with its Norman castle and picturesque quayside is pretty and quaint in equal measure. Stay at the King’s Head Inn, a quality Bed & Breakfast owned by Adnams Brewery, or head to The Crown and Castle hotel for a cosy stay with castle views. Breakfast at the village’s celebrated Pump Street Bakery and get a heady dose of aphrodisiac at the Butley and Orford Oysterage – a local institution serving up the freshest oysters in an unpretentious setting.
The Isle of Skye, Scotland
Undulant and unspoilt, the rugged scenery of Skye is some of Scotland’s most captivating. The island’s hub is Portree, a picturesque town of colourful harbour buildings and a good base for those looking to explore the island. Keen wild swimmers should head for the enchanting Fairy Pools near Glen Brittle – a memorable spot for taking the plunge. And whisky fans mustn’t leave without a trip to the Talisker Distillery, where you can warm those cockles with a tasting tour.
A land of ancient ruins, soaring Andean peaks and sweltering, seemingly endless jungle,South America is a true treat for the adventurous traveller.
Covered with sights that give testimony to the continent’s chaotic yet captivating history, across a series of nations as unique as they are huge, this is a region where few are disappointed – and many can’t help but return. If you’re planning a solo trip in South America, here’s everything you need to know.
The must-see destinations
The once Inca capital of Cusco is the gateway to the continent’s prime destination: Machu Picchu. Trek the paved path of the classic Inca Trail through lofty peaks and cloud forest, or escape the crowds along the increasingly popular Salkantay or Lares treks that take longer – and more remote – routes to these magnificent ruins.
In the south, Patagonia has become synonymous with world-class hiking, particularly inChile’s Torres del Paine and Argentina’s Los Glaciares national parks, while Bolivia’sSalar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flats, are an incomparable sight at dawn.
At the heart of South America, the Amazon rainforest draws visitors in their droves, all keen to spot a yawning caiman or one of the jungle’s most elusive residents, the jaguar. Sling up a hammock on a river boat journey, take a tour from Iquitos in Peru, or explore the wilderness surrounding the Brazilian city of Manaus.
But it’s not all about the countryside in South America. Encounter graceful colonial architecture in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, and learn to tango in the sultry streets of ‘The Paris of South America”, Buenos Aires. If samba, caipirinhas and hedonism are more your style, join the ultimate Brazilian party at Rio de Janeiro’s famous carnival celebrations.
Covering over 17.8 million square kilometres, the continent is best explored by focusing on a few countries at a time, particularly as domestic and international flights are expensive unless booked well in advance.
Many budget travellers take the local approach and journey by bus. Although the quality varies between countries, overnight buses are an affordable means of travelling and help to save cash on accommodation.
Hiring or buying a vehicle (particularly in Chile where the process is easier for foreigner visitors) has become a common way of exploring South America. Argentina’s Ruta 40, the Carretera Austral in Chilean Patagonia, Uruguay’s east coast and the Pan-American Highway have all contributed to the continent’s reputation as one best explored with your own wheels. Try one of these 6 incredible journeys if you need more inspiration.
Where to stay
Hostels – the mainstays of solo backpackers – are found in the vast majority of towns and cities, but keep an eye out for local types of accommodation that rarely appear online, such as family-run alojamientos or hospedajes. Often cheaper than hostels, these take the form of a dorm bed or individual room in a family’s house.
Basic campsites are common in Chile and Argentina, while all across the continent, a homestay with a family offers the dual benefits of language learning and a greater insight into the lives of the local people.
Where to eat (and drink)
South America is an easy place to find cheap and filling food. Menús del día (two-course lunchtime menus) served in small, local restaurants can cost as little as US$1.25 in some countries and street food is a quick and delicious alternative to a full sit-down meal.
Don’t miss out on the sensory experience of the South American market either. Feast your eyes on stalls loaded with strange fruits and hundreds of types of potatoes – and then fill your stomach with breakfast, lunch or dinner, eating shoulder-to-shoulder with locals on communal benches.
In larger towns and cities, bars offer the chance to get chatting to other travellers and introduce the continent’s various national drinks. Sample a host of locally-produced wine, pisco, aguardiente and even craft beer.
Where to find work
Securing a working visa is a complicated process in most South American countries, so getting a paid job is more hassle than its worth.
Instead, find hostels and farms listed on volunteering sites such as Workaway and Helpxwhere you can expect to work a few hours per day in exchange for food and board – ideal arrangements for those on a strict budget.
How to meet people
Although travelling alone in South America might feel like a daunting prospect, you’re never likely to be far away from potential travel companions. Most visitors follow a similar itinerary, known as the “gringo trail”, which winds through the continent’s top destinations.
Another way to meet other foreigners and get chatting to locals is at language exchange nights; one example is Mundo Lingo held in Buenos Aires and Lima. Organised tours, such as trekking to Colombia’s Lost City or sailing around the Galápagos Islands, are also excellent for meeting other travellers.
Explore beyond the gringo trail
For those looking for a more unusual adventure, there’s still ample opportunity for delving into this continent’s wildest corners. To make the most of escaping the tourist thoroughfare, learn some Spanish before you go or invest in an intensive language course upon arrival.
Sucre, the Bolivian capital and Quito welcome wannabe linguists with affordable classes, making them ideal places to pack your brain with enough Spanish before embarking on your adventure.
With verdant rainforest stretching down to dazzling white-sand beaches and warm azure seas, it’s no surprise that the islands of the Seychelles are such an intoxicating destination. Home to a number of intimate (and often exclusive) resorts – not least on beautiful La Digue island – this is undoubtedly a honeymooner’s paradise.
Constructed afresh each winter, the IceHotel is just as much an art project as it is somewhere to spend the night. Situated in Swedish Lapland, 200km north of the Arctic Circle, this is more than just an unusual place to stay (and snuggle up); it’s also an amazing spot from which to see one of the most astounding natural phenomena – the Northern Lights.
The Lake District, England
With sixteen major lakes squeezed between England’s highest mountains – and set within a mere thirty-mile area – the Lake District deserves all its hype. This is the place for long walks, picturesque villages and breathtaking scenery – and fantastic pubs in which to cosy up at the end of a day exploring.
This pristine town, nestled in a wooded gorge on the River Necker, has inspired everyone from Goethe to Disraeli with the loveliness of its setting. The epitome of a German fairytale, complete with a medieval castle set on the hill and “gingerbread” houses, it’s a great spot for a relaxed few days of fine food and people-watching.
Endlessly fascinating, Venice boasts an urban landscape so rich that even the sheer number of other tourists can’t detract from its overwhelming beauty. At its most alluring in winter, when mist descends over the canals, a leisurely wander through the quieter streets at any time of year will lead you to discover the true heart of the city.
Burgh Island, England
Separated from the mainland at high tide, this Art Deco hotel has long been associated with old-fashioned glamour. Decked out in period furnishings, a stay here is like stepping back in time – whether it’s sipping a pint in the old “smugglers” pub, swimming in the seawater rock pool, or getting your glad rags on for one of its famous dinner dances.
With one foot in Europe and the other in Asia, Istanbul has been irresistible to travellers for centuries. Boasting a staggering wealth of attractions – from Byzantine churches to the minarets of its Ottoman mosques – complemented by superb food and exciting nightlife, Istanbul is undoubtedly one of the world’s most beguiling cities.
There are few more rewarding feelings than pitching your tent and spending the night beneath the stars. Whether you want to escape to a remote mountainside or find an idyllic coastal campsite, there are some spectacular locations to discover. From New Zealand to Finland, this is our pick of the best places to camp around the globe.
1. Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand
You can’t talk about camping without waxing lyrical about New Zealand’s out-of-this-world landscapes. Mount Cook (or Aoraki to the Maori) is the country’s highest mountain and the entire surrounding rugged region is the South Island’s finest outdoor playground. Views from the campgrounds here are simply staggering.
2. Devon, England
The southwest of England feels a million miles from the rest of the UK. The campsites on Dartmoor and Exmoor are fantastic places to pitch a tent, while you’ll find spots with unbeatable vistas along the craggy cliffs that sweep down to the Atlantic on the north Devon coast. Come in autumn, when you can watch a huge red sun dip slowly over the horizon.
3. Loch Lomond & The Trossachs, Scotland
The scattered peaks, valleys and villages of the Trossachs – often called the Highlands in miniature – make an incredibly scenic backdrop for a camping trip. Amid these romantic lochs and glens you’ll find everything from sprawling caravan parks to remote wild camping spots; be sure to read the Outdoor Access Code before you go.
4. The Alps, France
The dominion of skiers in the winter months, the Alps transform as the snow thaws. Once the balmy spring weather arrives, so do hikers and campers. You’ll find beautifully fresh alpine air and quaint villages nestled in the foothills. It’s a magical place to camp, made all the more special by the glittering night sky above.
5. Hossa National Park, Finland
Finland’s newest national park (set to open in June 2017) is in the wild northeast of the country, a rugged landscape of rivers, lakes and old-growth spruce forests. Finland welcomes wild campers and the park is dotted with remote lean-to shelters and rustic cabins, all with spots for campfires.
6. Skåne, Sweden
Long bright summer days pass delightfully slowly in Sweden’s most southerly region. Gentle countryside backs the coastline and there are many tranquil places to camp near Skåne’s beaches, lakes or forests. As in much of Scandinavia, wild camping is positively encouraged under Allemansrätt, the “right to roam”.
7. Zion National Park, Utah, USA
Zion is one of the most spectacular parks in the Southwest, with its red sandstone cliffs, rugged plateaus and forested canyons. Watchmen and South are the established campgrounds, but if you really want to get away from the crowds you can get a permit to overnight at one of the otherworldly wilderness campsites in the park’s interior.