This is default featured slide 1 title
This is default featured slide 2 title
This is default featured slide 3 title
This is default featured slide 4 title
This is default featured slide 5 title
 

Category Archives: Travel

Top 9 Free Things to do in Paris

1. Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris

Festooned with gargoyles and Gothic touches, this imposing icon ofParis is essential for every visitor. Entering this grand medieval edifice is free (although it costs to climb its twin towers) as is a stroll along the neighbouring Seine for an alternate view of the cathedral’s spiky apse and naturalist sculptures.

2. Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen

Window-shopping (or lécher les vitrines to the locals) is a great way to take an indulgent peek at objets d’art and wild curiosities you’d never actually buy. The St-Ouen flea market and antiques fair is the perfect place to let your imagination run riot. Marvel at bearskin rugs, antique tapestries and brass diving bells in this decadently eccentric marketplace. (But try to keep your eyebrow-raising in check when you look at the price tags.) Hop off the metro at Porte de Clignancourt (line 4) and continue under the bridge until the souvenir stalls give way to side streets crammed with beautiful buys.

3. Parc du Champ de Mars

A lift to the peak of the Eiffel Tower can squeeze the budget but views below can be equally stunning, albeit from a different angle. Parc du Champ de Mars has lawns and flowerbeds manicured with military precision (as you’d expect from a former army marching ground). Bring a blanket, wine and the best brie you can find to this expanse of greenery and wait for the light show at dusk to set La Tour Eiffel a-twinkle.

4. Cimitière du Père Lachaise

The most haunting spot in Paris allows you to rub shoulders with literary greats like Proust and Balzac, and modern icons like Oscar Wilde and Edith Piaf. Jim Morrison also lies in this ancient cemetery, his grave barricaded off to protect it from over-zealous fans who make a musical pilgrimage here. The tree-lined avenues and calling crows make Père Lachaise the most atmospheric walk in Paris. Head to the 20th arrondissement, jumping off the metro at Père Lachaise (line 2) or Gambetta (line 3).

5. Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

For a surreal view of French culture, dive into the permanent collections of Paris’ Museum of Modern Art. From the bolshy cubism of Braque to Matisse’s dancers, there’s sure to be something to lift your spirits. Take metro line 9 and alight at Alma-Marceau.

6. Marché d’Aligre

Feast your eyes on the finest local produce at this fabulous covered food market on Place d’Aligre in the 12th arrondissement. Mountains of cheese, artisan butchers and a field of flower stalls can send you into sensory overload after wandering through a few aisles. Stop for a discreet glass of Bordeaux and get your hands floury on some crusty baguette. Ride metro line 8 to the Ledru-Rollin stop.

7. Basilique du Sacré Coeur

This palatial white marble church crowns the lively Montmartre district in the 18th arrondissement. Its interior is bedecked with gold mosaics and towering stained-glass windows, and you can listen for the peal of one of the world’s heaviest bells. Visiting the basilica is free, but there’s a charge to ascend into the dome or explore the crypt.

8. Musée Carnavalet

Experience a tour de force through Paris’ history, from its ancient origins to the fashion-forward capital of sophistication it is today. The Musée Carnavalet’s permanent collection has no charge, allowing you to saunter through fin-de-siècle drawing rooms and delicately reconstructed baroque interiors without spending a euro. The closest metro stops are Chemin Vert (line 8) and Saint Paul (line 1).

9. Cimitière du Montparnasse

The final resting place for hundreds of glamorous and intellectual Parisians, Montparnasse cemetery is less ostentatious than Père Lachaise but perfect for a serene stroll. Get closer than you ever thought possible to Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Samuel Beckett. Ride metro line 6 to the Edgar Quinet or Raspail stop.

Sipping Cocktails and Craft Brews in India

The Bengaluru drinking scene spans the spectrum, from nostalgic holes-in-the-wall to chic cocktail lounges that could hold their own in Paris or New York. Keep a particular eye out for the city’s craft beers – local brewers create everything from wheat beers to pale ales and stout – and Bengaluru mixologists who add Indian herbs and spices to the standard cocktail palette. Here’s our pick of the best places in Bengaluru to wet your whistle after hours.

Daytime tipples at Noon Wines

The appeal of Noon Wines & Scottish Pub (No 17/21, Vasavi Complex, St Marks Road) lies in its nonchalance. This ‘hole in the wall’ outpost of colonial-era Bengaluru is open for only five hours in the day (12-5pm), but nostalgia seekers flock here for inexpensive wines and an agreeably short menu with simple potato wafers as a best seller. The Heritage wine is extra sweet and extra potent in nature, served in shot glass-sized wine glasses.

Cocktails like grandma used to mix

Take a map of Bengaluru and stick a pin in its heart and you’ll find yourself on the threshold of The Permit Room, a welcome retreat from the hubbub of MG Road. Cosy interiors decked out in the iconography of South Indian slang make you feel like an insider immediately. The moody mixologist, inspired by his ajji(grandma), has reimagined hearty home cooking as well as the cocktail menu; for our rupee, Paati’s Magic Rasam curry, Highway Pandi Curry, and filter coffee-flavoured pot de crème are all decided winners.

Ten of the best at Arbor Brewing Company

Start your love affair with the brews of Bengaluru with a choice of ten in-house craft beers at this spacious, minimalist American-style microbrewery. The pub fare at Arbor Brewing Company is best enjoyed at long communal wooden tables, with low hanging lights running along the centre. Sip crispy Hefewiezens, confident stouts, German-style pilsners, Belgian fruit beers and pale ales with lingering bitterness to wash down amply portioned dishes with a US flavour.

Wheat beer that pulls in a crowd at Toit

Back in 2010, Toit Brewpub almost single-handedly salvaged Bangalore’s flagging pub scene with a sprawling wooden-floored brewery, providing space for close to 400 happy beer drinkers. Of the six house brews, the Bavarian-style Toit Weiss wheat beer trumps the competition any day of the week. Check out the curious logo, inspired by Pepé Le Pew (the skunk of Looney Tunes fame), with the motto ‘sending it since 2010’ (a local phrase for downing a drink).

In the cocktail mood at Sotally Tober

At this twenty-something focussed nightspot, expectations are set high by paint-splashed walls, vintage cameras and lamps fashioned out of Mason jars and teapots. The moody lighting arrangement keeps heads turned in conversation until the juicy pulled pork and signature cocktails arrive (try the Sotally Spice – vodka, peri peri sauce and mint). Start with familiar hummable music during the day and reach a joyous crescendo as the sky turns dark.

Monkey around with mangoes at Monkey Bar

The brains behind Monkey Bar mixed a substantial list of ingenious cocktails and bar nibbles with piles of monkey-themed trinkets and cheeky posters. Browse the specials on the menu and home in on the ‘Maanga’ – vodka flavoured with green mango, cumin and salt. For eats, the aubergine tacos and Sorpotel pickle pot (an east –west fusion of pork belly and liver) will transport you to food heaven.

Reinvent the Raj at Toast & Tonic

Toast & Tonic is the kind of place that’ll make you forget flowers, violins and heart-shaped balloons as romantic gestures. Reserve ahead for a dreamy evening of mellow yellow lighting, soft-toned wooden décor and smooth Gin ‘n’ Tonic based cocktails. Try the British Raj, infused with cinnamon and pomegranate and topped with a rose petal cucumber ice. With a harvest of international flavours on the dinner menu, what’s not to love?

Tunes, views and party people at Watson’s

The intense devotion of regulars at Watsons is thanks to the uplifting view of a leafy canopy of trees below. Drinkers congregate for affordable beer and signature cocktails like the Watsons Mule, Mirchi Margarita and Flat White Martini. When it comes to food, any dish suffixed with the words ‘pepper fry’ is sure to fly off the table. The winning ingredient, though, is the 90s music, which has everyone on their feet as the evening progresses. Come early while you can still see the décor.

Bar hop to Bangkok in Bengaluru

Down-home ‘ten table’ bar One Night in Bangkok has a sparse menu, a shortage of elbow room and poorly lit interiors, but it’s still easy to sing its praises. For starters, it feels like you’ve stumbled upon a secret – a green velvet curtain parts to reveal a cheerful facsimile of Thailand, complete with a massive Muay Thai mural. Add in cheesy music from the 80s and great pub grub, and it knocks the socks off many of its glitzy neighbours.

Catch the breeze at Windmills

There are plenty of reasons to splurge on the in-house brews and American-inspired cuisine at Windmills, with its book-lined walls, small stage for live jazz gigs and open-air wooden deck that catches the breeze on sultry Bengaluru evenings. It’s up on the 5th floor, diners order on tablets and the music of the in-house Jazz Theatre is intimate and uniformly brilliant.

7 Most Romantic Places in The UK

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.

London, England

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.

Solo travel in South America

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.

Getting around

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.

7 Fantastically Romantic Places

The Seychelles

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.

Jukkasjärvi, Sweden

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.

Heidelberg, Germany

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.

Venice, Italy

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.

Istanbul, Turkey

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.

7 Best Place to Camp Around The World

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.

The Most Beautiful Mosques in The World

They act not only as places of worship but also as schools, community centres, charitable foundations and even (in days past) hospitals and law courts. They are places in which worldly divisions of class, wealth, status and ethnicity vanish, with all becoming equal in the sight of god.

Most mosques around the world are off-limits to non-believers, reinforcing stereotypes and encouraging skeptics to label them as hives of Islamist extremism. Fortunately many of Islam’s largest, loveliest and most historic shrines are freely open to all, not only allowing visitors to experience some of the planet’s most spectacular buildings, but also to glimpse something of the religious and cultural life of these remarkable monuments to the world’s most misunderstood faith.

1. Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca, Morocco

Morocco’s largest city, Casablanca sees relatively few foreign visitors despite its absorbing array of sights ranging from medieval souks to Art Nouveau mansions, strung out along an attractively windswept expanse of Atlantic coastline.

Few who visit, however, pass up the chance to explore the city’s landmark Hassan II Mosque. Completed in 1993, the mosque stands on an oceanfront promontory, its enormous minaret (the world’s tallest, at 210m) soaring above the coast like an enormous Islamic lighthouse, while the cavernous interior glows with the magical colours of blue marble mosaics, lustrous tilework and enormous pendant chandeliers.

2. Aqsunqur Mosque, Cairo, Egypt

Old Cairo is a virtual museum of mosques, with dozens of historic shrines dotted around the twisting, time-warped alleyways of the medieval centre. Amongst the finest is the stately Aqsunqur Mosque, completed in 1347. Rising above Bab al-Wazir Street, the building’s fortress-like walls are capped with minarets and intricately carved domes, while inside stands the mosque’s magnificent Mecca-facing eastern wall, entirely covered in a luminous array of azure tiles.

3. Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey

Soaring high above the heart of Istanbul at the meeting point of Europe and Asia, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (completed in 1616, also known as the Blue Mosque) is generally reckoned the crowning example of Ottoman architecture, with a quartet of needle-thin minarets pointing dramatically skywards and a sumptuously red-carpeted interior smothered in delicate tilework blossoming with thousands of stylized blue tulips.

 

4. Masjed-e Jameh, Isfahan, Iran

If it were almost anywhere else in the world, Isfahan’s great Naghsh-e Jahan Square would be teeming with tourists. Present-day political and practical realities mean that those who make it to Iran can enjoy an authentically foreigner-free taste of the world’s most perfectly preserved Islamic architectural set-piece.

The square is home to not one but two of the planet’s most stunning mosques, the Shah and the Jameh (Masjed-e Jameh) mosques. The Jameh Mosque is the larger and the older of the two, dating back to pre-Islamic Zoroastrian times and has been rebuilt continuously over the centuries to produce the stunning complex you see today, with three stupendously huge, blue-tiled porticoes rising around a vast courtyard, and mirror-perfect reflections in the ablutions pool between.

5. Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, Syria

One of the world’s oldest and most revered Islamic shrines, Damascus’s Umayyad Mosque dates back to 715, less than a century after the Muslim faith first burst spectacularly into the world. The monumental building itself reflects the changing times in which it was built, adorned with Classical Roman-style Corinthian columns and Byzantine-style mosaics alongside the first of the great congregational courtyards which subsequently became the norm throughout the Islamic world.

6. Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Looming above the approach roads to Abu Dhabi like a vast wedding cake – with minarets – the Sheikh Zayed Mosque (completed 2007) offers a gigantic monument to the Muslim faith in a region now better known for its seven-star hotels, record-breaking skyscrapers and palm-shaped artificial islands.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Abu Dhabi’s shiny new mega-mosque boasts its own string of record-breaking attractions: the world’s largest carpet lives here, along with the planet’s largest marble mosaic. Although it’s the serene beauty of the overall conception, with vast expanses of lustrous marble and myriad dazzling domes shining snowy white in the fierce Gulf sunlight, which really lingers in the memory.

7. Jama Masjid, Delhi, India

A majestic monument to India’s great Mughal rulers, rising in stately splendour above the tangled labyrinth of hectic streets at the very heart of Old Delhi. Commissioned by Shah Jahan, creator of the Taj Mahal, the Jama Masjid remains an unequalled symbol of Islamic architecture in a largely Hindu country, with soaring minarets, delicate marble domes and a vast prayer hall – as well as peerless views across the teeming melée of the old city from its vast courtyard, raised high above the streets below.

The 7 Best Beaches in Portugal

 1. Praia de Tavira, Ilha de Tavira (The Algarve)

Linked to the mainland by ferry, the superb Praia de Tavira, is located on the Ilha de Tavira, a sandbar island that stretches southwest from Tavira almost as far as Fuseta.

Strung along this are miles of soft, dune-baked sand, without a hotel in sight. The main part of the beach is dotted with umbrellas and pedalos for rent, and scattered with a handful of bar-restaurants.

In high summer this part of the beach can get very busy, but you only have to wander fifteen minutes or so to escape the crowds. Come here out of season and you’ll probably have the place to yourself.

2. Praia da Marinha and Benagil (The Algarve)

The stretch of coast between Armação de Pêra and Centianes is strung with a series of delightful cove beaches that have mostly escaped large-scale development. Of them two stand out: Praia da Marinha and Benagil. A classic cliff-backed warren of coves, the only trace of development on Praia da Marinha is the seasonal beach restaurant.

Follow the clifftop path on from here as it winds round to the next bay at Benagil, a pint-sized village with its fine beach sitting beneath high cliffs. Fishing boats can take you out to an amazing sea cave, as large as a cathedral, with a hole in its roof.

3. Nazaré (Estremadura)

Now a busy seaside resort – with all the hustle and trimmings that you’d expect with that title – the former fishing village of Nazaré has a great town beach. The main stretch is an expanse of clean sand, packed with multicoloured sunshades in summer, while further beaches spread north beyond the headland.

The water might look inviting on calm, hot days, but it’s worth bearing in mind that swimming off these exposed Atlantic beaches can be dangerous. Nazaré has a worldwide reputation among surfers seeking serious waves – this is where the world’s largest-ever wave was surfed. 

4. Foz de Minho (The Minho)

Just 2km southwest from the charming, sleepy town of Caminha, Foz de Minho – Portugal’s northernmost beach – is a hidden gem.

Located on an idyllic wooded peninsula where the broad estuary of the Rio Minho flows into the Atlantic, here a wooden boardwalk hugs the water’s edge, leading to a sheltered river beach. Wander slightly further on for five minutes through the pines, and you’ll reach a great Atlantic beach, with a little fortified islet just offshore and Spain visible opposite.

5. Praia da Figueira (The Algarve)

You’ll have to walk to get here, but it’s worth it to find this often deserted beach. The small village of Figueira, is the starting point for a rough track to Praia da Figueira, that lies below the ruins of an old fort. This is one of the least-visited beaches along this stretch of coastline, mainly due to the fact that it’s not reachable by car. The walk takes twenty to thirty minutes, with the path passing through some lovely countryside.

6. Praia de Odeceixe (The Algarve)

Sleepy out of season, the charming village of Odeceixe comes to life in the summer when it draws a stream of surfers and holidaymakers, lured by it’s magnificent beach, which lies just 4km west of the village.

In the summer take the road train to Praia de Odeceixe, or follow the road on foot through the river valley to the broad bay framed by low cliffs. The beach here is one of the most sheltered along this stretch of coast, where you can enjoy fantastic surfing, and relatively safe swimming.

7. Comporta (Alentejo)

Tucked into a remote part of the northern Alentejo, a drive west of the historical port town of Alcácer do Sal, is one of the region’s best beaches.

Here at Comporta, deserted sands stretch as far a the eye can see – a magnificent, swathe of soft beach that is served by a couple of seasonal café-restaurants, which double as popular hangouts for wealthy Lisboetas.

7 Best Road Trips in Europe

 From the sunny shores of Portugal to the darkest dungeons of Dracula’s castle inTransylvania, the following itineraries can be easily combined, shortened or altered to suit your wayfaring tastes. If you’ve got wheels, wanderlust and a spot of time, start your engines: these are the best road trips in Europe.

1. From the glamour and glitz of Paris to the glorious grit of Berlin

Leaving Paris, cruise through the gentle hills of Champagne and Reims to the quaint capital of Luxembourg City, and explore the country’s plethora of fairy-tale castles.

Trier, Germany’s oldest city, is less than an hour’s drive further north-east, where ancient Roman baths and basilicas stand marvellously intact.

Spend a night in the medieval village of Bacharach in Riesling wine country, before wandering the riverside streets of Heidelberg. Onward to Nuremberg, and then to Leipzigfor a strong dose of hot caffeine with your Cold War history, classical music and cake.

2. Surf and sun in the Basque and beyond

 

The Basque roads beg a convertible – or better yet, a colourful camper van with surfboards strapped to the roof.

Begin in Bilbao, where the nearby villages boast some of the world’s best surf, and drive along the Atlantic to San Sebastian: watersports wonderland and foodie heaven. Then venture south through the rugged wilderness of the Pyrenees to Pamplona. Ascend onwards to the Roncesvalles Pass before looping back to the coast. Or continue along the Bay of Biscay to the attractive seaside resort of St-Jean-de-Luz.

Travellers with a little extra money lining their pockets will be happy to spend days lingering on boho beaches in Biarritz, while those looking for gargantuan swell can do no better than the surfer hangouts in Hossegor.

3. The Arctic fjords from Bergen to Trondheim

Kick off in the city of Bergen, on Norway’s southwest coast, and make way past mighty fjords to Voss and the colossal Tvindefossen waterfall. Then check the world’s longest road tunnel off your to-do list, a cavernous 24.5km route under the mountains.

Catch a quick ferry across the Sognefjord and carry on to the Fjaler valleys, a land of glaciers and snowy mountain peaks, to the waterside towns of Stryn or the mountain village Videster.

Work your way northward to the well-touristed towns of Geiranger, down the death-defying hairpin turns of Trollstigen (literally “The Troll Path”).

4. The unexplored east: Bucharest, Transylvania, Budapest, Bratislava and Vienna

Embark from Bucharest, travelling northward through the Carpathian mountains toTransylvania, and make a mandatory stop at Bran Castle (claimed to be the old stomping grounds of Dracula himself).

Take the Transfagarasan mountain road, one of the most incredibly beautiful routes in the world, towards the age-old cities and countless castles of Sibu, Brasovand Sighisoara. Then set course to the unexplored architectural gems of Timisoara.

Carry on towards the tranquil baths and hip ruin pubs of bustling Budapest, and be prepared to stay at least a few days. Depart for Bratislava – a capital full of surprises – from where it’s only an hour further to the coffeehouses and eclectic architecture ofVienna.

5. To Portugal and beyond

Start in Braga, before driving south to the medieval town of Guimarães, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Then it’s onward to the breathtaking “second-city” of Porto, though it’s nothing less than first-rate.

Drive east to the vineyards and steep valleys of Penafiel and Amarante before hitting the coastal road to the vast white beaches of Figueira da Foz. From here it’s on to Peniche,Ericeira and then Lisbon: the country’s vibrant capital that’s on course to beat out Berlin for Europe’s coolest city.

Drive south to Sagres, Arrifana and Carrapateira. After soaking up the sun on the picturesque shores of the Algarve, wrap this road trip up in the Mediterranean dreamland otherwise known as Faro.

But if you’ve still got itchy feet when you reach Faro, take the ferry from Algeciras in Spain to Morocco. Imagine the satisfaction of parking your ride in the desert village of Merzouga, before exploring the Sahara – that’s right, it would feel awesome.

6. High-altitude adventure on Germany’s Alpine Road

The Alpenstrasse, or Alpine Road, is your ticket to a bonafide Bavarian odyssey: a safe route through the unforgettable vistas of Germany’s high-altitude meadows, mountains, crystal-clear lakes and cosy village restaurants. Start lakeside at Lindau and head to Oberstaufen if you fancy a therapeutic beauty treatment in the country’s “capital of wellness”.

Venture eastwards to the Breitachklamm gorge, where the river Breitach cuts through verdant cliffs and colossal boulders. Carry on to the town of Füssen – famous for its unparalleled violin makers – stopping along the way at any quaint Alpine villages you please. The iconic Neuschwanstein Castle, the same structure that inspired Walt Disney to build his own version for Cinderella, isn’t far off either.

Hit the slopes of Garmisch-Partenkirchen if the season’s right. Stop at Benediktbeuern on your way to the medieval town of Bad Tölz, then up through the stunning wilderness scenes of the Chiemgau Alps before ending in the regional capital of Munich. If you’re missing the mountain roads already, carry on to Salzburg and stop in the ice caves of Werfen on the way.

 

7. Godly beaches and ancient highways in Greece

Start in Athens and take the coastal roads south through the Athenian Riviera to Sounion, situated at the tip the Attic peninsula. Watch a sunset at the Temple of Posseidon, then drive northward through mythic mountains to the fortress of Kórinthos before posting up in the legendary city of Mycenae (home of Homeric heroes).

If you’re craving a luxurious seaside stay, look no further than the resort town of Náfplio. If not, carry onwards through the unforgiving landscapes to Mystra, the cultural and political capital of Byzantium.

Feet still itching? Then it’s on to Olympia, sporting grounds of the ancients, and the mystic ruins of Delphi. Loop back towards Athens, approaching the city from the north.

7 Wildlife Photography Tips

 Wildlife photography is on the rise again. With gear becoming more affordable and landmark TV shows such as Planet Earth 2 inspiring professionals and amateurs alike, there’s a new wave of photographers wanting to indulge themselves in everything Mother Nature has to offer.

But wildlife photography is a fine art, and certainly not as easy as point-and-shoot. Whether you’re going in search of the elusive leopard on the African plains, or want to snap birds of prey high in the skies, here are eight wildlife photography tips to help you take better pictures on your travels.

1. Gear up

Thanks to massive technological advancements in digital cameras, the barrier to entry for wildlife photography has become significantly lower.

To get started, invest in a decent DSLR (think Nikon D3300) with an entry-level telephoto lens (around 300mm). Bridge cameras work too, but the light sensitivity that a DSLR gives you can make a big difference. If you’re feeling creative, invest in a wide angle (anything under 35mm) to show off the gorgeous setting you’re shooting in.

2. Plan ahead and do your research

Scout out your intended shooting locations before you want to start taking pictures. Study how the light of sunrise or sunset changes the environment, find dens or roosting sites and, of course, witness the behaviour of your subjects.

Wildlife is inherently unpredictable, which is exciting but sometimes frustrating. Pick a species you want to photograph and do your research. When are they most active? Where do they live? What do they eat? How do they react to a human presence?

Understanding the innate behaviours of your subject will not only bring better sightings but ultimately, allow you to reflect their character in your photography.

3. Get low

When setting up – whether on the forest floor in Finland or on the heaths of Scotland’s Highlands – you’ll want to get as low as physically possible. Practically, you’re far less visible to the animal. Photographically, the image will be far more powerful.

Being at eye level allows for a stronger emotional bond between the subject and the viewer. You want a viewer to feel part of the environment that your subject lives in.

4. Use light to your advantage

As with all photography, lighting is everything. For wildlife photography, there are three general categories: backlighting/rim light, standard lighting (direct on subject) and silhouetting.

To choose your approach, consider both the type of light and character of the animal. If you’re photographing a fox in the spring time, for example, you might want to consider how the dawn light plays with the dew on grass.

5. Frame it right

The right framing separates the good from the great. With long focal lengths, even a slight shuffle to the left or right could change the image entirely, so don’t just snap away without thinking.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t take a picture if the frame isn’t perfect, though: if you’re in the midst of photographing your subject and it suddenly moves, keep in mind that slightly off-framing is better than an image with no animal at all.

6. Tell a story

Light, framing and backgrounds all come together to tell a story around the subject. The best wildlife photography always creates intrigue in the viewer and gives an understanding of behaviour and environment. Think about how the background of your shot complements the animal.

Hares in long grass; little owls sitting on a post with a forested background; leopards lounging in trees: whilst the eye is naturally drawn to the subject, it’s important the whole scene tells a story.

7. Be persistent

Wildlife photography is one of the hardest mediums of all. You need good light, interesting landscapes, ideal weather conditions, and an animal – and, of course, for said animal to be doing something interesting.

The reality is that most outings won’t meet the lofty expectations that you set for yourself – with so many variables, the odds are always against you. However, persistence and a real passion for wildlife are key, and when it does come off, there’s no better feeling in photography.