Category Archives: Travel

Destinations to go for Relaxation

Soak up the Caribbean sun away from the hurricane belt

It’s the Caribbean, but not as you know it. The ABC islands, as Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao are playfully known, sit just off the north coast of Venezuela. Although they’re geographically part of South America, they’ve been governed by, and been part of, the Netherlands since the early 17th century. June is the sweet spot between the high season (which also happens to be the rainy season) in the northern winter, and the slightly hotter summer months. Since the islands are outside the hurricane belt (unlike most of the other Caribbean islands), they’re a safe bet at this time of year, yet hotel rates are low and beaches less crowded.

And what beaches: from gorgeous Eagle Beach on Aruba, beloved of honeymooners, to the resorts of Curaçao’s southwest. Come to Aruba for nightlife, Bonaire for wonderful diving and snorkelling, and Curaçao for Dutch-influenced culture and cuisine, and to explore its colourful capital, Willemstad.

  • Trip plan: Direct flights from New York and Amsterdam serve Curaçao, Bonaire and Aruba, with flights from Miami to the first two.
  • Need to know: Corals spawn off Bonaire around September or October – a nocturnal spectacle for scuba divers.
  • Other months: Feb-Sep – consistently warm and dry; Oct-Jan – rainy season.

Dive and snorkel clear, warm, turquoise waters in Mozambique

Are these the most beautiful tropical islands on Earth? The Bazaruto Archipelago faces stiff competition from other Indian Ocean destinations (and Mozambique’s own Quirimbas Archipelago) – but wriggle your toes into the silky sand on a glorious June morning (the start of the dry season), or gaze through your mask at impossibly colourful reef fish, and maybe a humpback whale migrating past, and they could stake a fair claim.

Much of this chain of five islands off Mozambique’s southeastern coast is protected as a national park, conserving dolphins, dugongs, sea turtles and around 2000 fish species. Oh, and Nile crocodiles – but perhaps you’re not so keen to see those… This is a paradise for divers, but also for anyone seeking a truly barefoot beach holiday.

  • Trip plan: Several islands have airstrips, and access is usually by plane or helicopter, speedboat or dhow from the mainland port of Vilankulo. Day trips from Vilankulo are possible but most visitors arrive on a package to one of the luxury lodges with an upmarket tour operator, often incorporating South Africa’s Kruger National Park.
  • Need to know: Humpback whales migrate past the archipelago from June or July to September or October.
  • Other months: Jun-Oct – dry; Apr-Jun & Sep-Nov – best diving; Nov-Mar – rains build.

Soak in the sun and Mediterranean before the crowds hit Sardinia, Italy

Italy’s second-largest island is, fair to say, famed mostly for one key asset: beaches. Nowhere else is the Mediterranean such an incredible shade of jade-turquoise-azure, lined with such perfect white-sand beaches. Best known is Costa Smeralda, the archetypal millionaire’s playground, but there are plenty more for mere mortals to enjoy. And June’s the time to enjoy them, with fine, clear weather but before the hordes of high summer descend.

Which beach? South of capital Cagliari is Chia, with not one but five fine beaches; The Sinis Peninsula has good snorkelling and Greek ruins; Alghero has popular resorts; from Cala Gonone on the east coast boats depart for secluded beaches; and the Costa Rei further south is exquisitely beautiful. If you can stir from the sand, you’ll find great hiking in the Gennargentu Mountains, historic old town centres – Cagliari included – and 3000-year-old nuraghi dwellings to discover.

  • Trip plan: International airports at Cagliari, Alghero and Olbia all receive low-cost flights.
  • Need to know: Many facilities close for a siesta in the early afternoon, particularly outside the main tourist resorts.
  • Other months: May-Jun – clear days; Jul-Aug – high season; Apr & Sep-Oct – shoulder, lower prices; Nov-Feb – colder.

Relax in the tropical paradise of Bora Bora in its balmiest season

Blue, turquoise, azure, teal, indigo… there aren’t enough words to describe the hues of the Pacific Ocean around French Polynesia on a clear, calm, sunny day. And there are plenty of those in June, the start of the driest season, when the main island of Bora Bora and its motu (ringing islands) bask around the high 20°Cs.

This is the stuff of movies, with luxurious resorts perched over the crystal waters, shaded by swaying palms – and you need to be a film star to afford the prices at the very top hotels and resorts, though more modest accommodation can be found. As if the scenery wasn’t paradisiacal enough, the snorkelling and diving, over coral gardens and with sharks and rays, is spectacular.

Walk on the wild side with these animal encounters that invite you to get up close and personal with some of the planet’s most incredible wildlife.

Between silverback gorillas, whale sharks and manta rays, these adventures will see you rub shoulders with some of Mother Nature’s giants. Alternatively, downsize the creatures but scale-up the number, watching legions of baby turtles hatch in Borneo; or discover the whole cast of the Lion King with a walking safari on Zambia’s vast plains.

Dive with giants on Australia’s other barrier reef

Now’s the time to think Big. Visit Australia’s largest state (area: around one million sq miles; 2.5 million sq km) in June to swim with the world’s heftiest fish, the whale shark (length: up to 60ft; 18m) and manta rays (wing width: up to 18ft; 5.5m) as well as watching humpback whales (weight: up to 30 tonnes) on – OK – only Australia’s second-largest reef, Ningaloo.

Coral spawning from March prompts a zooplankton explosion, attracting the sharks until mid-August, while manta rays – present year-round at Coral Bay – tend to visit Exmouth May to November, and humpbacks migrate past June to November. The turquoise waters are beautifully clear for snorkelling and diving among dazzling reef fish, too.

  • Trip plan: Coral Bay and Exmouth are both good bases for visiting the reef. Learmonth airport near Exmouth is served by flights from Perth, an 800-mile (1300 km) drive away. For a road-trip, stop off en route at the Pinnacles Desert near Cervantes, craggy Kalbarri National Park and the ancient stromatolites of Shark Bay.
  • Need to know: No more than 10 people are allowed in the water with a whale shark, and must not approach closer than 10ft (3m).
  • Other months: Apr-Jul – moderate heat, whale sharks; Oct-Apr – summer, high 30s°C/90s°F; Aug-Sep – warm.

Explore jungles and see turtles hatching in Borneo’s dry season

For some of us, Borneo seems a long way to travel for a beach. But if that beach is liable to erupt with hatching turtles and is backed by wildlife-rich rainforest, in which former head-hunters live largely traditional lifestyles – well, then the long journey seems entirely worthwhile. That’s Borneo – or, more specifically, the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah, at their best in the (relatively) dry month of June, when turtles hatch and orangutans thrive on plentiful fruit.

Sarawak has the longhouse communities along the Batang (River) Rejang, the bat-thronged caves of Gunung Mulu National Park, the proboscis monkeys and enormous rafflesia flowers. Sabah has mighty Mt Kinabalu, Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, fine diving and those turtle-nesting beaches. Both offer incredible wildlife and cultural experiences. And yes, both have beautiful stretches of sand on which to simply lie back and relax.

  • Trip planner: Fly to Kuching or Kota Kinabalu from Kuala Lumpur. There are regular flights between those two state capitals, and buses and boats serve other regional destinations.
  • Need to know: Some governments advise against travel to islands off the far eastern coast of Sabah. Check the latest advice before visiting those areas.
  • Other months: Apr-Sep – driest, but rain possible any time; Oct-Mar – wet, still hot.

See eye to eye with a silverback gorilla in Rwanda

That something so huge (a male gorilla can top 180kg) can be so vulnerable is hard to understand. Yet only 700 or so endangered mountain gorillas survive in two isolated subpopulations. June, the start of Rwanda’s dry season, is the time to venture to Volcanoes National Park to track one of its 10 habituated groups; prepare for muddy, steep trails, heady altitude (around 9850 ft; 3000m) and the heart-melting sight of a precious primate family.

A gorilla encounter is far from the only reason to come to Rwanda. The calm, neat capital, Kigali is a fine place to start, redolent with the aroma of Rwanda’s great coffee; Nyungwe Forest harbours large populations of chimpanzees and Rwenzori colobus monkeys, while to the east Akagera National Park is a pretty mix of savannah, hills and valleys, with giraffe, zebra, elephant and some shy lions.

  • Trip plan: Fly to the capital, Kigali. Independent travel is fairly straightforward, with a good minibus service, though it’s easiest to book a tour (including gorilla tracking) with an international operator.
  • Need to know: Book your gorilla-tracking permit (currently US$750) well in advance for this popular season.
  • Other months: Jun-Aug – driest season, gorilla-trekking easiest; Mar-May & Nov – heaviest rain; Sep-Oct & Dec-Feb – damp, possibly cheaper, better gorilla-permit availability.

Walk with the wild animals in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

The eyes of a lion give nothing away: not anger, not fear, not curiosity. That’s something you notice when you encounter this majestic carnivore without the protection of a vehicle – on foot in the birthplace of the walking safari: Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. June’s the ideal time to explore ‘the valley’ as it’s the start of the dry season, before vegetation has withered.

Amble alongside one of the continent’s finest guides, spotting elephants, giraffes, dazzling birdlife and, if you’re lucky, even wild dog. Seeing wildlife of any kind on foot is both electrifying and enlightening, bringing into focus not just the sights but also the sounds and smells of the bush. Leopards and various nocturnal species are often seen on night drives, too.

Travel In Mexico City

The sinking city

Xochimilco has an environmental management plan in place, but Mexico City’s water problems are so much bigger than the canals. Geologists estimate that in certain areas the city sinks about 6 centimeters (2.5 inches) a year, and as water tables drop, subsidence becomes a more serious concern. To fully grasp the sinking-city phenomenon, check out the slanted Catedral Metropolitana, Mexico City’s iconic cathedral on the capital’s main square, or the teetering 17th-century Ex Teresa Arte Actual museum nearby.

Water issues may not seem all that obvious when cruising the wetlands of Xochimilco, but environmentalists warn that without a more forward-thinking approach to water regeneration and conservation, tour boat operators, chinampa farmers and the city’s inhabitants in general might find themselves up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

Wonderfully weird Mexico City: the Distrito Federal’s most bizarre sights

Just when you think things can’t get any stranger in Mexico City, they usually do. In fact, the sprawling capital offers so many unusual sights that you can plan a whole trip around visiting oddball places. Here are 10 experiences sure to make a lasting impression.

Island of the Dolls

Slasher doll Chucky would feel right at home on spooky Isla de las Muñecas. Hundreds of weathered dolls – some missing heads and limbs – hang from trees and clotheslines on a chinampa (raised garden) deep in the heart of the Xochimilco canals. An island caretaker dredged the dolls from surrounding canals to appease the spirit of a girl who had drowned nearby.

Make it happen
Recommended visiting hours are 8am-4pm. The island is only accessible by boat so take a ‘Tláhuac Paradero’ bus from metro General Anaya to the Embarcadero Cuemanco entrance, walk a kilometer to the docks and take a 4hr trajinera (gondola) boat ride for M$1400.

Munch on bugs at Mercado San Juan

Feeling peckish? How about some escamoles (ant larvae), jumiles (stink bugs), gusanos de maguey (maguey worms), or perhaps some crunchy chapulines (grasshoppers)? Many folks are pleasantly surprised when sampling insects for the first time at this gourmet food market (that is, if they don’t mind getting grasshopper legs wedged between their teeth). Mexico’s love for bugs dates back to the pre-Hispanic era – today insects are seen as a delicacy in upscale restaurants, and they’re highly nutritious to boot. Still peckish?

Make it happen
Mercado San Juan is at Pugibet 21, Colonia Centro, metro San Juan de Letrán, and is open 8am-5:30pm.

Santa Muerte patiently awaits

Once revolving around a small cult, Santa Muerte, or Our Lady of Death, now draws millions of followers who have left behind Catholicism and turned to worshipping the popular skeleton saint instead. Throughout the city you’ll find numerous Santa Muerte altars, but the mother of all shrines is in the working-class neighborhood of Colonia Morelos, where the faithful kneel before a grim reaper figure wearing a sequined gown and wig of long dark tresses.

Make it happen
Enter Colonia Morelos at your own risk – it’s relatively safe by day, but don’t visit this crime-ridden area after dark. The Santa Muerte altar can be found at number 12 Calle Alfarería, between Mineros and Panderos streets, metro Tepito.

Go underground at El Chopo

Every Saturday afternoon, thousands of people flock to tianguis (open street market) El Chopo, a weekly gathering of black-clad punks, die-hard head bangers and just about every other youth subculture imaginable. Vendors hawk random band T-shirts, indie music, cult videos and all kinds of quirky stuff, while at the market’s north end, young-and-hungry bands grind out garage punk, metal and rockabilly. After the market closes, Chopo regulars unwind in the raucous neighborhood bars.

Make it happen
Tianguis Cultural del Chopo is on Calle Aldama in Colonia Guerrero, metro Buenavista, and is open 10am-5pm Sat.

Mercado Sonora – for all your witchcraft needs

Ward off evil spirits or rid yourself of a curse at Mercado Sonora, aka ‘the witches’ market’. Aisles are lined with stalls offering black magic items, strange potions and limpias, a pre-Hispanic cleansing ritual involving clouds of incense and a herbal brushing. Amulets and talismans abound – some stands even sell ceramic figures of Jesus Malverde, a narco folk saint who brings good luck to drug traffickers.

Make it happen
Mercado Sonora is on Avenida Fray Servando Teresa de Mier 419, Colonia Merced Balbuena, metro Merced, and is open 10am-7pm.

A shrine to Mexico’s masked marvels

Former pro wrestler Super Astro has turned his downtown sandwich shop, El Cuadrilatero (The Ring), into a lucha libre (wrestling) shrine. Colorful masks encased in glass boxes pay tribute to Mexican wrestling greats such as Blue Demon and El Santo. Hungry? If in 15 minutes you can devour the 1.3kg/2.9lb torta gladiador (an artery-choking sub stacked with various meats, egg and cheese), it’s free. Chewing is optional.

Make it happen
El Cuadrilatero can be found at Luis Moya 73, Colonia Centro, metrobus Plaza San Juan. Tortas cost M$65-95, the gladiador costs M$270, and it’s open 7am-8pm Mon-Sat.

Get your freak on at Disco Patrick Miller

People-watching is downright fascinating at Disco Patrick Miller, a throbbing nightclub known for its ‘Hi-NRG’ music (up-tempo disco). The venue draws a highly diverse clientele, ranging from ‘80s throwbacks and working-class regulars to cross dressers and break dancers. The real fun begins when circles open up on the floor and locals pull off moves that would have made Michael Jackson proud.

Make it happen
You can dance every Friday night away (10.30pm-4am) at Mérida 17, Colonia Roma, metro Insurgentes; cover M$30.

Marvel at mummies in a crypt

Shortly after occupying this convent during the Mexican Revolution, Zapatista soldiers came across a surprising find while digging for buried gold – a dozen mummified corpses. The unidentified bodies, now on display in a muraled museum crypt, are believed to be 17th-century benefactors and friars of the Carmelite order. The mummies’ horrific facial expressions have been remarkably well preserved for your morbid viewing pleasure.

Make it happen
El Museo de El Carmen is at Av Revolución 4, Colonia San Ángel, metrobus La Bombilla, and is open 10am-5pm Tue-Sun. Admission is M$52, Sun free.

Find your inner kid in a funky toy museum

Japanese-Mexican Roberto Shimizu claims to have amassed the world’s largest collection of antique toys. His Museo del Juguete Antiguo Mexico is a hoarder’s paradise with a collection of more than one million items, of which around 60,000 are on permanent display in unique cases Shimizu himself designed from recycled objects. Exhibits across the three cluttered floors come in all sizes, from tiny action figures to life-size robots.

Make it happen
The museum is at Dr. Olvera 15, Colonia Doctores, metro Obrera. Admission is M$75, and it’s open 9am-6pm Mon-Fri, 9am-4pm Sat, 10am-4pm Sun.

The sinking city phenomenon

Downtown Mexico City is sinking fast. The vast valley of present-day D.F. sits atop a lake bed that was drained by the Spanish at the beginning of the colonial era meaning that many weighty old buildings in the Historic Center continue to sink into the sloshy soil. Nowhere is this more evident than inside cultural center Ex Teresa Arte Actual, a teetering 17th-century former convent. From the moment you walk into the slanted edifice, it feels like you’re walking around a funhouse, but instead of mirrors you get trippy experimental art on display.

Destinations Places to go for wildlife and nature

Between silverback gorillas, whale sharks and manta rays, these adventures will see you rub shoulders with some of Mother Nature’s giants. Alternatively, downsize the creatures but scale-up the number, watching legions of baby turtles hatch in Borneo; or discover the whole cast of the Lion King with a walking safari on Zambia’s vast plains.

Dive with giants on Australia’s other barrier reef

Now’s the time to think Big. Visit Australia’s largest state (area: around one million sq miles; 2.5 million sq km) in June to swim with the world’s heftiest fish, the whale shark (length: up to 60ft; 18m) and manta rays (wing width: up to 18ft; 5.5m) as well as watching humpback whales (weight: up to 30 tonnes) on – OK – only Australia’s second-largest reef, Ningaloo.

Coral spawning from March prompts a zooplankton explosion, attracting the sharks until mid-August, while manta rays – present year-round at Coral Bay – tend to visit Exmouth May to November, and humpbacks migrate past June to November. The turquoise waters are beautifully clear for snorkelling and diving among dazzling reef fish, too.

  • Trip plan: Coral Bay and Exmouth are both good bases for visiting the reef. Learmonth airport near Exmouth is served by flights from Perth, an 800-mile (1300 km) drive away. For a road-trip, stop off en route at the Pinnacles Desert near Cervantes, craggy Kalbarri National Park and the ancient stromatolites of Shark Bay.
  • Need to know: No more than 10 people are allowed in the water with a whale shark, and must not approach closer than 10ft (3m).
  • Other months: Apr-Jul – moderate heat, whale sharks; Oct-Apr – summer, high 30s°C/90s°F; Aug-Sep – warm.

Explore jungles and see turtles hatching in Borneo’s dry season

For some of us, Borneo seems a long way to travel for a beach. But if that beach is liable to erupt with hatching turtles and is backed by wildlife-rich rainforest, in which former head-hunters live largely traditional lifestyles – well, then the long journey seems entirely worthwhile. That’s Borneo – or, more specifically, the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah, at their best in the (relatively) dry month of June, when turtles hatch and orangutans thrive on plentiful fruit.

Sarawak has the longhouse communities along the Batang (River) Rejang, the bat-thronged caves of Gunung Mulu National Park, the proboscis monkeys and enormous rafflesia flowers. Sabah has mighty Mt Kinabalu, Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, fine diving and those turtle-nesting beaches. Both offer incredible wildlife and cultural experiences. And yes, both have beautiful stretches of sand on which to simply lie back and relax.

  • Trip planner: Fly to Kuching or Kota Kinabalu from Kuala Lumpur. There are regular flights between those two state capitals, and buses and boats serve other regional destinations.
  • Need to know: Some governments advise against travel to islands off the far eastern coast of Sabah. Check the latest advice before visiting those areas.
  • Other months: Apr-Sep – driest, but rain possible any time; Oct-Mar – wet, still hot.

See eye to eye with a silverback gorilla in Rwanda

That something so huge (a male gorilla can top 180kg) can be so vulnerable is hard to understand. Yet only 700 or so endangered mountain gorillas survive in two isolated subpopulations. June, the start of Rwanda’s dry season, is the time to venture to Volcanoes National Park to track one of its 10 habituated groups; prepare for muddy, steep trails, heady altitude (around 9850 ft; 3000m) and the heart-melting sight of a precious primate family.

A gorilla encounter is far from the only reason to come to Rwanda. The calm, neat capital, Kigali is a fine place to start, redolent with the aroma of Rwanda’s great coffee; Nyungwe Forest harbours large populations of chimpanzees and Rwenzori colobus monkeys, while to the east Akagera National Park is a pretty mix of savannah, hills and valleys, with giraffe, zebra, elephant and some shy lions.

  • Trip plan: Fly to the capital, Kigali. Independent travel is fairly straightforward, with a good minibus service, though it’s easiest to book a tour (including gorilla tracking) with an international operator.
  • Need to know: Book your gorilla-tracking permit (currently US$750) well in advance for this popular season.
  • Other months: Jun-Aug – driest season, gorilla-trekking easiest; Mar-May & Nov – heaviest rain; Sep-Oct & Dec-Feb – damp, possibly cheaper, better gorilla-permit availability.

Walk with the wild animals in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

The eyes of a lion give nothing away: not anger, not fear, not curiosity. That’s something you notice when you encounter this majestic carnivore without the protection of a vehicle – on foot in the birthplace of the walking safari: Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. June’s the ideal time to explore ‘the valley’ as it’s the start of the dry season, before vegetation has withered.

Amble alongside one of the continent’s finest guides, spotting elephants, giraffes, dazzling birdlife and, if you’re lucky, even wild dog. Seeing wildlife of any kind on foot is both electrifying and enlightening, bringing into focus not just the sights but also the sounds and smells of the bush. Leopards and various nocturnal species are often seen on night drives, too.

  • Trip plan: Fly via Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, into the airstrip at Mfuwe, near the main park gate. It’s easy to combine a few days in South Luangwa with Victoria Falls and other Zambian parks such as Lower Zambezi, Mana Pools in Zimbabwe or Lake Malawi.
  • Need to know: Though most visitors stay in luxurious accommodation in the park, budget safaris are possible staying at cheaper lodges or camps at Mfuwe.
  • Other months: Jun-Oct – dry season; Nov-May – ‘emerald’ season: trails may be washed out, fantastic for birders and photographers.

Celebrating street art with eight festivals for the urban art form

From Europe’s largest urban art festival in Banksy’s hometown of Bristol to the comic book-inspired POW!WOW! in Hawaii, these are just some of the fabulous celebrations you can find in our new Street Art book.

Upfest – Bristol, UK

Hailed as the largest street and urban art festival in Europe, Upfest (upfest.co.uk) draws artists from all over the world to Bristol – renowned for its street art and the rumoured birthplace of Banksy – in July to paint at the festival’s home in Bedminster. Using the streets, walls, boards, double-decker buses, vans, cars and even a New York subway train as their canvas, more than 300 artists bring their brushes here each year.

Upfest remains true to its roots as a platform for some of the world’s most creative artists to get together and paint live in front of thousands of people, with the artwork remaining in situ until the following year. Held over one weekend, the festival also includes workshops, musical performances and other types of live entertainment. A portion of the money raised goes towards the charity NACOA, which assists children whose parents suffer from alcoholism.

Nuart – Stavanger, Norway

Norway’s third-largest city probably isn’t the first place you’d look for one of the world’s oldest street art festivals, and yet that’s exactly what you’ll find in Stavanger. Since 2001, the renowned Nuart Festival (nuartfestival.no) has provided an annual platform for the world’s best urban artists to exhibit their creativity. From the first week of September a team of local and international street artists leave their mark on the city’s walls – both indoor and out – creating one of Europe’s most dynamic and constantly evolving public art events.

The festival includes a series of citywide exhibitions, events, performances, debates and workshops, by some of the world’s leading practitioners and emerging names in street art. In 2016, a new partnership with local bus company Kolumbus also led to the introduction of eight ‘street art buses’ – mobile artworks that bring street art even closer to the heart of the city.

POW! WOW! – Hawaii, USA

The name ‘POW! WOW!’ was inspired by the colour-filled pages of comic books – ‘POW!’ being the impact of the art, and ‘WOW!’ being the reaction of the viewer. Together, the words pay homage to the Native American pow wow, a gathering that celebrates culture, music, art and community. The main event of the POW! WOW! (powwowhawaii.com) calendar takes place over a week in February in the Kaka’ako district of Honolulu. The festival brings together more than a hundred international and local artists to create murals and installations in public spaces.

Since its beginnings in Hawaii, POW! WOW! has expanded across the globe, taking the festival to Taiwan, Japan, California, Washington D.C., Massachusetts and Texas. The organisation has grown into a global network responsible for art exhibitions, lectures, schools for art and music, creative community spaces, concerts and live art installations worldwide.

MB6: Street Art – Marrakesh, Morocco

In 2016, the Marrakesh Biennale included urban art as part of its integral programming for the first time since its inauguration in 2004. Twelve leading local and international street artists were invited to Morocco to participate in the Biennale as part of the MB6: Street Art project (mb6streetart.org). The focus on public art is indicative of the inclusive motivations behind the festival, allowing audiences of all backgrounds to engage with artistic works across the cityscape.

The murals are located in key public spaces, including the rooftops of the souks in the Medina, the area around the palace, and walls across the Mellah and Gueliz districts. The project also included the installation of North Africa’s largest mural, a 6400 sq metre work by Italian artist Giacomo Bufarini (aka ‘RUN’), painted on the ground of the Moulay Hassan Square in Essaouira. The artwork depicts two figures communicating across borders, echoing the rich musical heritage in Essaouira while also addressing the migration crisis.

BLOOP – Ibiza, Spain

BLOOP International Proactive Art Festival (bloop-festival.com) is an independent initiative that showcases art, technology, music, education and gastronomy. The month-long festival has run in July and August every year since 2011, covering the streets of Ibiza in murals, interactive installations, paintings, video mappings, sculptures, parties, workshops, exhibitions and more.

One of the main activities within this fiesta is OpenAir.Gallery, which currently exhibits more than 20 murals by artists from around the world. The gallery is open year-round, embodying the festival’s ethos: ‘art is for everybody’. After six consecutive years, the festival is now considered a tourist attraction in its own right, with something for everyone from art lovers through to partygoers visiting Ibiza for its renowned nightlife.

HKwalls – Hong Kong, China

The HKwalls festival (hkwalls.org) adds a much-needed street art element to Hong Kong Arts Month, held annually in March. HKwalls invites local and international artists to create large-scale works on the streets of the city. The festival celebrates creativity, originality and freedom of expression, actively connecting and building relationships between artists and the community through high-quality public art.

Each year, HKwalls selects one area of Hong Kong to focus on, with artists painting as many exterior walls, gates and windows as possible throughout the district. During the festival, HKwalls also hosts a number of supplementary events and activities including exhibitions, film screenings and public workshops. Works from the 2015 and 2016 iterations of the festival, which took place in the Sheung Wan, Stanley Market and Sham Shui Po neighbourhoods, are still visible to visitors.

Artscape – Gothenburg, Sweden

The 2016 Artscape festival (artscape.se) was one of the most ambitious urban art projects ever undertaken in Scandinavia, joining other established events in the region such as Nuart in Norway. Over four weeks in July and August, 20 international, national and local artists joined forces to create large-scale art in every single borough of Sweden’s second-largest city, Gothenburg. Artscape seeks to promote public art for everyone, believing that the advertising jungle of the modern cityscape needs competition, and that great art shouldn’t be confined to galleries and museums. The festival was another important step for the Swedish urban art scene. It brings into the mainstream an art form that is still very much on the outer, in a country influenced by a conservative view of the purposes of public space and a long-standing ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards any kind of aerosol-based art.

St+art Festival – New Delhi, India

St+art (st-artindia.org) is a not-for-profit organisation bringing large-scale street art to public spaces across India. Since 2014, St+art has promoted annual festivals throughout the country, including in New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore, with the aim of moving art from the galleries to the streets, making it accessible to a much wider audience.

The fourth iteration of the festival took place in New Delhi at the beginning of 2016, in collaboration with the Ministry of Urban Development. It featured the creation of the first open-air street-art zone in India, the Lodhi Colony Art District. This vision of a pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood transformed into an open-air art museum wowed locals and helped to reinvent the idea of public spaces in Indian cities.

The colony now exhibits 26 major new artworks by globally renowned artists running along the Meharchand Market Road and Khanna Market Road, and has become a tourist destination in its own right.

Exploring Beaches In The Gambia

In some cases, you need not even leave The Gambia’s sandy shores to soak up some sensational cultural experiences, while other traveller treats involve trips into dense forests, mangrove swamps and petite villages.

The village of Tanji

Set on a wide, sweeping beach, this tiny village is ripe with cultural and wildlife opportunities. Stand with your feet in the surf and watch the colourfully-painted fishing boats bobbing rhythmically in the waves as local women ferry the day’s catch to shore in buckets atop their heads. Behind you is the fish market, which heaves with Gambians shopping for everything from fish and flip flops to vibrant vegetables and loudly-coloured clothing. As the sun starts to set and the crowds begin to wane, the beauty of the scene seems to grow tenfold – the water sparkles, elegant silhouettes parade across the backdrop of a golden sky and the long light cuts deep into the incredibly atmospheric smoke houses.

The village also has a charming museum where you can explore a recreated Mandinka village, complete with huts and displays about this ethnic group’s traditional customs, beliefs, music and crafts. For a wilder, more nature-based experience, check out the Tanji River Bird Reserve, which hosts as many as 300 species of birds. This area also protects lagoons, woodland, dunes and Bijol Island, a noted breeding ground for Caspian terns.

The village of Tanji is less than 30 minutes’ drive south of Serekunda and the Atlantic coast resorts.

Gambian cooking lessons

Make your fish market visit all the more rewarding by turning the acquired foodstuffs into a traditional Gambian meal. To the uninitiated this is easier said than done, but for those who want to learn a thing or two about the nation’s cuisine there are some great cooking classes available. One such lesson is available at Yabony Home Cooking (www.facebook.com/gambianhomecooking), which is run by the irrepressibly charming Ida Cham-Njie from her home in Brufut.

The half-day course at Ida’s starts with each student choosing some Gambian attire from her large collection of garb in her courtyard, and then donning it before venturing out to Tanji’s fish market where ingredients are procured. Once back at Ida’s it is a communal affair, with everyone pitching in to help with various parts of the process – either peeling and chopping vegetables, pounding peppers and onions with an oversized mortar and pestle, or stirring aromatic components on the outdoor charcoal stove. During the proceedings Ida not only discusses the various elements of the dish being prepared (and its history), but also regales the group with stories from her life in The Gambia and teaches local games. The hours pass quickly and it’s soon time to sit and enjoy the fruits of everyone’s labours.

Dishes include delicious domoda (peanut butter stew) with fresh fish and rice, superkanja (okra stew) and the iconic benachin (one pot), which contains fish, chicken or beef in combination with ingredients such as tomatoes, carrots, spring onions, sweet potatoes, onions, aubergine, cassava, bitter tomatoes and butternut squash.

Gambian wrestling

Once the national sport of The Gambia, traditional wrestling is on the comeback. And while the entertaining pre- and post-match goings on – complete with strutting, chest slapping, oiling up and boisterous displays of physical prowess – are more theatrics than anything else, the matches themselves are impressive (and very competitive) displays of pure athleticism. The raw aggression is plain to see in the eyes of each competitor, and the speed and forcefulness of the grappling manoeuvres are a sight to behold. The victor is the first to ground his opponent within the sand ring. Some venues, such as the one on Paradise Beach, encourage audience engagement and raise the entertainment stakes by getting specific sections of the crowd to support particular wrestlers.

Street art in rural villages

Encountering world-class urban street art in remote villages of The Gambia isn’t something you’d expect, but thanks to the Wide Open Walls project you will be rewarded with just that. Started in Kubuneh in 2009 by British artist and lodge owner Lawrence Williams and the Gambian painter Njogu Touray, Wide Open Walls has been described by the latter as “a democratic and interactive street art project bringing artists of the world to celebrate through art, all good things in life, environmental awareness, peace, love and respect for our cultural values.” Renowned artists such as Roa from Belgium have now created more than 400 murals in some 14 villages within the Ballabu conservation area, which borders the Makasutu Culture Forest. Besides creating a valid art installation, the goal of Wide Open Walls has been to generate a sustainable income for the rural communities who host the works. Future plans include interactive sculptures to encourage recycling within the communities. To tour the sites, contact Makasutu (www.mandinalodges.com).

Makasutu Culture Forest

It may be just 10 sq km in size, but this easily accessible wedge of nature is rich in diversity, with savannah, wetlands, palm groves and mangrove swamps all being present. Touring the latter in a piroque (traditional canoe) is a peaceful exercise, while guided walks through the other landscapes bring their own rewards, such as encounters with baboons, monitor lizards and hundreds of bird species.

Some culinary adventures in northern Kyūshū

Fukuoka and Saga prefectures, in northern Kyūshū, are accessible places to start a food-inspired tour of the region. From ever-popular ramen to the more nuanced flavours of fermented vinegar, here is a small selection of the many local specialities worth savouring on your trip.

Ramen in Fukuoka

Any conversation about food in this corner of Kyūshū has to begin with ramen (and for some it ends right there, too). The ubiquitous noodles may have their origins in China, but they are hugely popular in Japan, with every region having its particular variations. Fukuoka is the country’s top ramen destination, famous for its signature tonkotsu ramen, also called Hakata or Nagahama ramen: straight, thin noodles in a thick, rich pork-bone-based broth. You can slurp back a bowl at one of the many food stalls around Fukuoka city. There are about 150 of these hawker-style stalls (yatai in Japanese), which typically have a simple counter with a few stools and start service in the evenings. Most stalls set up along the river in the Nakasu area, in the Tenjin area, and in Nagahama near the docks.

Or, for ramen indoors, head to 40-year-old Ichiran, where customers dine in individual cubicles (presumably so one can give the noodles their full deserved attention). Fukuoka city is also home to the now international Ippudo ramen restaurant chain. There are a few Ippudo dotted around the city (the flagship store, established 1985, is at 1-13-14 Daimyo); a collaboration between Ippudo and the Kyushu-based Drum Tao performance group means that the ‘Ippudo Tao’ store at 1-13-13 Tenjin (ippudo.com/store/tao_fukuoka) has taiko drums as decor.

Kudzu in Akizuki castle town

All that remains of the castle in Akizuki is a large gate and some hulking stone-wall ruins, but the 800-year-old village still draws visitors, especially when the laneways flush with pink in cherry-blossom season. Amid the old samurai residences, pretty bridges and temples of the historic centre is the similarly historic store Hirokyu Kuzu Honpo (0946-25-0215; 532 Akizuki), a 9th-generation family business. The speciality here is kudzu (or kuzu), also called Japanese arrowroot, a kind of woody vine whose large roots are processed into a starch powder. Heated with water and set, kudzu forms the basis of Japanese summertime favourites such as kuzu-mochi – a chilled firm jelly-like ‘cake’ sweetened with syrup or topped with nutty-tasting kinako (roasted soybean flour).

Hirokyu uses traditional methods to process the kudzu root at its Akizuki factory, dishing up kudzu-based fare at the attached cafe and store, which is housed in a 260-year-old wooden building. The cafe interior – with its stone floors, low tables, and old scrolls and photos – is worth a look even if you’re not keen on kudzu. Akizuki is about 40km southeast of Fukuoka city.

Fermented vinegar in Ōkawa

Shoubun Vinegar (shoubun.jp; 0944-88-1535; 548 Enokizu, Ōkawa), run by the Takahashi family in the small riverside town of Ōkawa, has been a purveyor of rice vinegar for some 300 years. In a world of short cuts and mass production, Shoubun has kept true to handed-down techniques, fermenting organic brown rice in half-buried earthenware pots and allowing it to mature in wooden vats (kept warm in the winter months with a snug layer of straw matting).

While the original vinegar recipe may have been passed down from the ancestors, the modern-day Takahashi clan have developed a wide range of vinegar products, which you can peruse in the 250-year-old townhouse that fronts the factory. The yuzu-flavoured drinking vinegar (you mix it with water like a cordial) makes a great souvenir for that foodie friend who has tried everything. Upstairs from the shop is the small, low-ceilinged Ristorante Shoubun. In former times this would have been a storage area, but now visitors can dine under the dark-wood beams on a multicourse lunch in which every item features vinegar as an ingredient – from the soup and salad to the fish and even the (surprisingly tasty!) dessert. Ōkawa is about 60km south of Fukuoka city, and 12km southeast of Saga city.

Beef in Saga

If you’re more a meat-and-potatoes kind of eater, never fear, this part of Kyūshū also has some of the best wagyū (Japanese beef) in the business. Saga beef, of Saga Prefecture, is on par with Kōbe and Matsusaka beef when it comes to fine marbling and melt-in-the-mouth tenderness: a result of farmers paying careful attention to quality feed, clean air and water, a long fattening period, and providing their prized bovines with a relatively stress-free life. Not just any beef raised in Saga can be officially labelled ‘Saga beef’. It must meet strict certification standards (the right kind of cow, the right farm environment), and score above seven (out of 12) on the ‘beef marbling standard’ scale. If it doesn’t meet those standards then it’s just wagyū.

Kira (kira.saga-ja.jp; 0952-28-4132; 3-9-16 Otakara, Saga city), not far from Saga Station, specialises in serving both official Saga beef and other wagyū in various styles – try it as a chef-prepared steak, grill your own thin slices at your table, have it in a shabu-shabu or sukiyaki hotpot, or steamed. There is also a Kira in central Fukuoka city.

Tea in Yame

After all that eating, a nice cup of tea might go down well. The forested, mountainous Yame region of Fukuoka Prefecture has been producing tea for centuries. The story goes that Buddhist monk Eirin Shuzui brought tea seeds and growing methods here from China in the early 1400s. A bronze statue of Shuzui (with tea seed in hand) stands outside Reigan-ji, the temple he founded in the area around the same time. Yame is particularly renowned for its gyokuro tea (translated as ‘jade dew’ or ‘pearl dew’), one of the highest grades of tea in Japan. Gyokuro has a slightly sweet taste – in part a result of the plants being shaded for a few weeks prior to harvesting.

Among the most well-established local tea merchants, Konomien (konomien.jp; 0120-72-0201; 126 Moto-machi, Yame city) got into the tea wholesaling business in 1865 and runs a small store for the public selling packets of tea leaves, tea bags, and tea-flavoured sweets and biscuits. At Konomien, the gyokuro leaves are dried using an old-school method: the leaves are scattered and gently swirled around by hand on a sheet of heavy paper, which is fixed atop a wooden box over a charcoal fire. (You’ll know if this process is happening by the earthy aroma wafting from behind the store.) Konomien also has a 120-year-old tearoom where you can sample the lauded gyokuro, a sencha or matcha, with a side of wagashi (Japanese sweet). Reservations to partake in tea should be made by noon of the day prior to arrival (reservation form online: konomien.jp/contents/about/kissa).

Make it happen

Getting there Fukuoka city is the main gateway to Kyūshū and is on the shinkansen (bullet train) line, about 2.5 hours from Kyoto and Osaka. There are also direct flights to Fukuoka from Tokyo and other major cities in Japan.

Getting around Local train lines and buses connect the main towns but a rental car is much more convenient for exploring this region. Large agencies such as Toyota Rent-a-Car and Nippon Rent-a-Car are at Fukuoka’s airport and main rail station (Hakata Station). Tip: Japanese addresses can be confusing; the best way to set your destination in the satellite navigation system is by inputting the phone number.

Stay Fukuoka city has a range of accommodation across all budgets and styles. For a ryokan (traditional inn) experience further afield, try Ohana (ohana.co.jp) in pretty canalside Yanagawa, just south of Ōkawa; or Akebono (akebono-saga.jp), in central Saga.

Travel at Castles, cairns and gin-making in the Boyne Valley

Ireland’s west coast may have the wild coastline, but the east is the country’s historic heartland. Set within striking distance of Dublin, the Boyne Valley’s rich soils and rolling hills have been occupied and battled over for millennia. As a result, ancient tombs rub shoulders with Norman castles and peaceful canals bisect battlefields.

And as well as past glories, there’s food and drink to set your lips smacking.

Older than the Pyramids: Brú na Bóinne

At first glance, the famous cairns that cluster around the River Boyne, in counties Meath and Louth might elicit a shrug – most are simple passages leading into small chambers. But the more you look, the more fascinating they get.

Almost 100 Neolithic monuments make up the World Heritage Site of Brú na Bóinne (‘the Palace of the Boyne’), many dating from around 3200 BC, making them around seven centuries older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids. They’re decorated with strange swirls and shapes and aligned with the sun and the landscape, yet so distant are their pre-Celtic creators that archaeologists are still guessing how the great stones were transported (possibly by river, or even rolled on seaweed) and whether they were built to honour the dead, the sun or the sea.

Stone Age magic at Newgrange and Loughcrew

Newgrange is the largest and most popular tomb, as well as the easiest to visit, via buses from the nearby visitor centre. Its 80m diameter is impressive, but the real thrill comes when you clamber through its dark tunnel, feeling the silence under muffled breath and gazing up at the enormous sandstone roof slabs as your heart stills and your eyesight sharpens. It’s hard not to feel a thorough connection to the living history of this place, an impression that swells as you stumble back out into the bright light and gentle hills of the surrounding farmland.

A trip to Loughcrew can be even more magical. That’s partly due to the lovely 15-minute walk from the winding R154 road, which takes you on a fairly steep climb into the Loughcrew Hills and views that stretch towards Dublin on one side and the Mourne Mountains on the other. And it’s partly due to the silence – even the most famous monument here, Cairn T, sees far fewer visitors than Newgrange. In summer, there are guides here to show you around (late April to end August), while in winter you can pick up a key from the visitor centre.

The feeling of epic discovery is heightened by the fact – only rediscovered in the 20th century – that the amber light of morning pierces the chamber at Cairn T (on the spring and autumn equinoxes) and Newgrange (at the winter equinox), bathing their mysterious symbols in a warmth and life that belies their age. At Newgrange, there’s a lottery for the winter equinox, and if you’re not lucky enough to get a place, at the end of each standard tour an artificial light is shone, mimicking its glorious effect.

Druids, monks and mercenaries

Subsequent visitors also left their mark in this fertile region. The Celts (who decided the impressive cairns must be the work of the faerie folk) arrived around 500 BC. You can ponder the roots they laid at Tara, where a hill marks the seat of the druids and the ceremonial capital of the high kings of Ireland.

Christianity arrived around 500 AD, and Irish monasteries became vital centres of European scholarship – the market town of Kells gave its name to the magnificent Book of Kells, now displayed in Dublin’s Trinity College. The monastery that was its home for six centuries is no more, but you can explore its ruins, including a 30m-tall round tower.

Twenty kilometres south of here, at a bend in the Boyne, Trim Castle is grand enough to have featured as no less than three castles (Edinburgh, York and the Tower of London) in the film Braveheart. Its atmospheric keep offers wonderful views of the countryside around, and a very solid reminder of another set of arrivals: Normans who came as mercenaries and ended up as rulers.

The Boyne’s game of thrones

The Boyne Valley was accustomed to being at the heart of Irish affairs, but in 1690 it was the site of a battle that shaped European history. Over 60,000 troops clashed a few kilometres west of Drogheda (now one of the best bases for exploring the region), as James II and his son-in-law William of Hanover fought for the British Isles. Despite the valiant efforts of the Jacobite cavalry, William’s larger, better-equipped force won the day – James fled to France, winning the nickname Seamus a’ chaca (‘James the shit’), and cementing the power of Protestant landowners and clergy across Ireland.

The site today is home to an enjoyable visitor centre, which explains the twists and turns of the battle via exhibits and video.

The landscape of the Boyne Valley isn’t the most stunning in Ireland – there’s a fair bit of commuter-belt sprawl around these lovely rolling hills. But you can give your explorations a focus by taking a boat trip up the nearby Boyne Navigation canal with Boyne Boats (boyneboats.ie). A paddle up this quiet waterway on a traditional currach is a wonderfully intimate experience – the boats were used in the filming of Game of Thrones, making them an ideal spot from which to ponder the ambition and bloodshed of the conflict.

Kings, rock and whiskey

With power came wealth, and the stately homes of Anglo-Irish landowners dot the Boyne Valley and beyond. Substantial yet elegant Slane Castle was home to Elizabeth Conyngham, the mistress of King George VI, and it’s said the road between Dublin and Slane was built especially straight to speed the smitten king’s journeys.

The great estates have mostly been broken up, and the Conynghams have diversified: Slane Castle is a famous venue for concerts (including U2 – who also recorded parts of The Unforgettable Fire in the Great Library – and Guns ‘n’ Roses), there’s now a rather lovely organic glampsite (rockfarmslane.ie) on the hills above, and a €47 million whiskey distillery opened in late spring 2017. Visits to the house and distillery offer a neat perspective on changing times, from the burnished new copper stills to the grand paintings of distant aristocrats, as the Boyne takes its peaceful path along the valley below.

Nearby Beaulieu House (beaulieuhouse.ie) has a gorgeous garden and a soaring hall, as well as connections to motor racing and the martyred 17th-century archbishop Oliver Plunkett.

Gin and local produce

The Boyne Valley is no fossil. Slane Castle’s whiskey is a traditional spirit given a contemporary twist (their first release is matured in virgin, seasoned and sherry casks), while Tayto Park uses Ireland’s most iconic crisp – and a dash of Irish mythology –  as the hook for a popular theme park.

Listoke Distillery (listokedistillery.ie), meanwhile, takes a drink more associated with England and the Netherlands and uses local botanicals to tie it into the region’s buoyant food scene. A gin-making session at this 19th century house just outside Drogheda is enormous fun – you get to research and perfect your own mix of botanicals while drinking G&Ts.

Indeed, restaurants across the Boyne Valley are proudly touting their local produce, from lamb and goat’s cheese to pale ale, and there’s fine food on offer at restaurants including Tankardstown House (tankardstown.ie) and Scholars. And eating local food ties you back – in a satisfyingly filling way – to the landscape that has made this place a crucible of Irish history.

The Family travel myths worth forgetting

Travelling with children – particularly babies and young kids – certainly has its challenges, but it’s also one of the most eye-opening adventures of family life, as long as you’re prepared.

Long-haul’s a bad call

Sleep deprivation is a form of torture, that’s for sure. And just the thought of having to hush the baby or keep a writhing toddler still in the aeroplane seat for 10 or – gulp – up to 24 hours when, chances are, they simply will not sleep, is enough to make most parents retreat into a dark chasm of despair.

But the reality isn’t nearly that bad. Babies are often coaxed into a sleepy state by the drone of the plane’s air regulator. True, flying with young kids of a certain age – let’s say roughly between one and two years old – can be a constant trial, but once they are old enough to appreciate in-flight entertainment, two thirds of the battle is won. The trick is to understand what you’re getting yourself into and plan ahead.

Top tips: Take a night flight if you can, when your kids are at their sleepiest and the cabin lights will be dimmed, and tag-team with a flying partner so each of you gets some respite if the kids are playing up. Run your children ragged in the airport before boarding, and always overestimate the amount of carry-on clothes, nappies and snacks you think you’ll need.

It’ll be too hot – or cold – for little ones

Nobody wants to see their children wilt under a scorching sun, or shiver in an Arctic gale. But kids are more resilient than we think. Extremes of weather are just another point of fascination for fledgling travellers – be that the sultry 24/7 heat of Thailand, or the theatre of ice and snow in Lapland.

The tropics, in particular, are guaranteed to fulfil the wildest dreams of clothing-averse young ones. That daily struggle to get your kids dressed? Gone.

Top tips: In the tropics, hot nights call for air-con so your little ones can sleep easy. Pack cooling spray for sizzling days out. In freezing climates, bring portable hand heaters and insulating underclothes made of quality fabrics such as merino wool (widely available for kids, and even babies).

Beach is always best

All kids love wallowing in sand, right? Sand castles feed the imagination for hours on end, and chasing shallow surf is a game that knows no bounds.

Unfortunately, sand gets everywhere (ears, nose, nappy… you name it!); the salty stuff can be excruciating for grazes or baby eczema; the sun can be relentless, and kids get bored surprisingly quickly. The point is, try as you might, it’s not always possible to predict what’s going to float your kids’ boat.

Top tips: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Variety is the spice of life, as the saying goes, and that applies to your children too. Pick destinations that have plenty to see and do around the beach and easy transport for day trips. Pebble beaches can also be great for stone-skimming – just pack sturdy jelly shoes.

Fussy eaters won’t touch a thing

Children aren’t known for their sophisticated palates, but it’s a myth that they’ll wither away if their familiar favourites aren’t available. Removed from their routines, you may find your children are more open to new foods. And trust us: every culture will have something that your child loves.

Spicy curry might be a no-no in India, for instance, but potato- or cheese-stuffed dosas could make them drool. The tropics will tempt them with seasonal fruit and freshly whizzed juices that’ll make their eyes pop. Local markets and hands-on, child-friendly cooking classes can also inspire tiny tummies.

Top tips: Pack a stash of snacks from back home to temper the new food experiences. Try using the one-bite taste-test rule. If all else fails, every country has a staple plain enough to satisfy the pickiest of eaters. Don’t beat yourself up if all they want to do is eat bread, rice or chips for the entire trip. Life’s too short.

Kids and fancy establishments don’t mix

Every parent will tell you there is nothing more embarrassing than watching your kids run amok when you’ve forked out for a sophisticated restaurant or hotel. In fact, many would argue that kids have no place in such fancy venues.

This view will always hold true with some establishments – and their clientele – but an increasing number of luxury businesses are catering for family travellers in new and interesting ways. Be that through the introduction of baby-sitting services and children’s spa facilities in swanky resorts, or because of the rise of more intimate luxury guesthouses and experiences.

Top tips: Redefine how you think about luxury. Businesses that champion personalised service (such as family-run boutique hotels) and private experiences (such as guided tours) are your new best friends, because they share one key principle: it’s all about you.

Road trips bore kids to tears

Trapped inside a tin can, with kids bouncing off the walls and whining ‘are we there yet?’. This not-so-pretty picture might be prophetic if you plan to cover several thousand kilometres of empty road in a week (wave goodbye to that Route 66 trip), but you just need to readjust your expectations. Small countries, for example, often make excellent road-tripping terrain for little ones.

Top tips: Consider European countries such as Montenegro, where distances are short, scenery is staggering and interesting stops are plentiful. Small, sleepy babies can make excellent road-trip companions; just coincide your driving time with their day-time sleeps. Got older kids? No problem – it’s all about engaging their imagination. Snacks always help, too.

Parents can wave goodbye to the night

The thought of spending your evening sitting in a darkened hotel room, talking in hushed tones and contemplating how on earth you’re going to get a bite to eat while your baby drifts off at 7pm is grim. But while travelling with babies and toddlers makes night-time exploration harder, it doesn’t have to mean you lose the evening completely.

Darkened skies can offer a whole new perspective on a destination and if kids can be encouraged to embrace a late-afternoon siesta, you might just find they’re fresher and eager to get out after dark.

Top tips: Choose accommodation carefully. A balcony with a view could provide a private oasis for evening relaxation near your sleeping baby. Look for small hotels with a garden, on-site restaurant or hip roof terrace – pack a decent baby monitor and these can all be convivial places for you to spend the evening if your kids need to hit the pillow.

Here a guide to the locations of the cult classic

The Roadhouse

The heart of Twin Peaks country is the Snoqualmie Valley, in the hills east of Seattle. It’s at an easy distance for a day trip from the big city. Drop in first to Fall City, a town that is home to the building which starred as Bang Bang Bar, generally referred to as The Roadhouse. This was Twin Peaks’ adult entertainment venue, filled with couples and bikers listening to live music and downing a beer or two.

One of the most memorable scenes here featured the mystical Giant appearing in a vision to FBI Agent Dale Cooper, warning him of a murder with the line ‘It is happening again.’ Nowadays the century-old building houses the Fall City Roadhouse (fcroadhouse.com), offering food and accommodation.

Out back is another location: the cabin used to depict The Bookhouse, headquarters of the secret society known as The Bookhouse Boys.

Location: 4200 Preston-Fall City Rd SE, Fall City

White Tail Falls

Heading farther south-east to the town of Snoqualmie, the next major location is this impressive waterfall, falling majestically across our screens as the opening credits played to the haunting theme of composer Angelo Badalamenti.

In reality known as the Snoqualmie Falls (snoqualmiefalls.com), it’s a significant site to the Native American Snoqualmie people, who say the mist from the falls connects the heaven and earth. Since 1899 it’s also been the site of a hydroelectric power plant, which you can learn more about at the nearby Snoqualmie Falls Hydroelectric Museum.

Its great beauty makes the location a popular tourist attraction, and there’s an observation platform from which to catch that Twin Peaks selfie featuring you, the falls and our next location: The Great Northern.

Location: 6501 Railroad Ave SE, Snoqualmie

The Great Northern

Sitting proudly above the waterfall, this grand hotel with timber interiors bearing Native American totems was the domain of scheming businessman Benjamin Horne and his daughter Audrey. It’s also where Agent Cooper was shot by an unknown assailant in the cliffhanger ending to the first season.

The first hotel built here was the 1916 Snoqualmie Falls Lodge, a small inn where travelers rested on their journey through the mountains. In 1988 it was remodeled and expanded to become the upmarket Salish Lodge. With its spa treatments and scenic views, it’s a good base from which to explore the Twin Peaks universe. At the end of the day the hotel bar will serve you a Dale Cooper cocktail in memory of the Twin Peaks agent, featuring gin, cider, and the establishment’s in-house honey.

Location: 6501 Railroad Avenue SE, Snoqualmie

Ronette’s Bridge

Across the Snoqualmie River from the Salish Lodge, Railroad Avenue takes you past the Northwest Railway Museum and the giant Snoqualmie Centennial Log which appeared in the credits of Twin Peaks’ pilot episode. A left turn on Meadowbrook Way will lead you back to the river and the most chilling of filming locations: Ronette’s Bridge.

This railroad bridge was the location where a dazed and injured Ronette Pulaski was found, having escaped the fate of the murdered Laura Palmer. In the present day the rails have been removed and the bridge is now part of the Snoqualmie Valley Trail, used by walkers and cyclists. Despite this healthy modern purpose, the dark girders of the structure still seem to loom ominously over the waters below.

Location: 40412 SE Reinig Rd, Snoqualmie

Sheriff’s Station and Packard Sawmill

North of Ronette’s Bridge, 396th Drive leads through trees to the location which stood in as the sheriff’s station, occupied by Sheriff Harry S Truman and his loyal deputies. It’s instantly recognizable, though it’s now occupied by the DirtFish rally driving school (dirtfish.com).

From the parking lot, there’s a clear view of another Twin Peaks landmark, the Packard Sawmill. This facility was portrayed as the key asset of the Packard and Martell families. Opened in 1917 as the Weyerhaeuser Mill, the facility closed in 2003 and now only a single smokestack is left to bear witness to its history and television fame.

Location: 7001 396th Drive SE, Snoqualmie.

Double R Diner

Back over the river on Railroad Avenue, head southeast to the small town of North Bend. Here you’ll find the most fondly remembered Twin Peaks location, the Double R Diner. This old-school café, presided over by owner Norma Jennings in her retro blue uniform, was the quintessential small town eatery in the series. It was also a favorite haunt of Agent Cooper, who famously praised its cherry pie and ‘damn fine cup of coffee.’

Actually known as Twede’s Café, the family-owned diner that opened in 1941 has been through various ups and downs since its 1990s starring role (including a fire). With the filming of the new Twin Peaks season, it was transformed into its old appearance. If you visit now, you can still drink coffee, eat pie, and eavesdrop on small-town secrets.

Location: 137 W North Bend Way, North Bend.

‘Welcome to Twin Peaks’ sign

For a bonus location, steer your vehicle to 41483 SE Reinig Rd, Snoqualmie, then carefully pull over. You’re gazing at the view once graced by the ‘Welcome to Twin Peaks’ sign in the opening credits of every episode. The sign is no longer there, but the scenery hasn’t much changed. Sit back, take in the view of the mountains, and try to interpret the mysteries whistling through the mighty trees that Agent Cooper so admired.

Info Shipwrecks, tin mines and smugglers’ coves In Cornwall

There are many things for which Cornwall is famous: wind-blown cliff-tops, white sandy bays, crumbling tin mines, the Cornish pasty. But a new spotlight is shining on this ancient Celtic kingdom thanks to the smash-hit BBC series Poldark, which is set and filmed here, and has transmitted the county’s charms to a global audience.

Based on Cornish author Winston Graham’s historical novels, written between 1945 and 2002, the story traces the fortunes of the Poldark dynasty during Cornwall’s 18th and 19th century mining boom (tin and copper, as well as tungsten, arsenic and silver, were all extracted) with a particular focus on the brooding, troubled Ross Poldark.

First adapted for television in the 1970s, Poldark’s recent big-budget makeover has proved a massive hit thanks to its rollicking plots, cracking cinematography and the smouldering good looks of its cast, particularly Aiden Turner, who plays Ross and is now notorious thanks to his shirtless scythe-wielding in season one.

But the cast are mere understudies to the series’ real star – the spectacular Cornish scenery that’s on display in almost every frame. With the series now in its third season, here’s a run-down of some of its most memorable locations, from golden bays to smugglers’ coves and wild headlands to windswept moor.

Charlestown

This small granite port a couple of miles from St Austell has provided a ready-built backdrop for several harbour scenes. Originally built to serve Cornwall’s china clay industry, which was based around St Austell and Fowey, the port has now found a new lease of life as a filming location. It’s been used in countless films and costume dramas, including Poldark – admittedly with a bit of help from set-dressers and CGI to add period detail. While you’re here, drop into the Shipwreck and Heritage Centre (shipwreckcharlestown.com), which traces the harbour’s maritime history and also displays lots of flotsam and jetsam collected from nearby shipwrecks.

Porthcurno

You don’t need to be a cinematographer to spot the photogenic qualities of Porthcurno, a couple of miles south of Land’s End. A deep, sloping wedge of white sand framed by granite cliffs and the blue Atlantic, the beach is one of the most beautiful in Cornwall. It provided the location for a memorable Demelza Carne dream sequence in season one. It also happens to be home to Cornwall’s most stunning theatre, the Minack – an Ancient Greek-inspired amphitheatre carved into the clifftops by a redoubtable theatre enthusiast called Rowena Cade. It’s still regularly used for summer performances.

St Agnes

Nowadays it’s mainly frequented by surfers and second-homers, but a hundred years ago the coastal village of St Agnes was one of the epicentres of Cornish mining, and the countryside is littered with abandoned stacks and rocky mining valleys cloaked with heather and gorse.

Various sites around the village and nearby St Agnes Head have been used to represent the Nampara Valley, a key part of the Poldark family’s estate – notably the iconic cliff-top mine at Wheal Coates above Chapel Porth, now owned by the National Trust. The Chapel Porth Café is a lovely spot for lunch, too.

Porthgwarra

This tiny, cliff-backed cove looks so picture-perfect you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a studio set. It was used for a risqué scene in which Ross goes for an impromptu dip while his future wife Demelza spies on him from the cliff-tops. You can swim here too, but be careful of swells and currents – and afterwards, don’t miss warming up with a mug of hot chocolate at the cute Porthgwarra Cove Cafe, where cast and crew refueled during filming.

Botallack to Levant

Another area rich with mining heritage and littered with photogenic mining ruins – including the cliffside, sea-sprayed workings of Botallack and the 19th-century Levant Beam Engine, believed to be the only one of its kind still working in the world. Unsurprisingly, it’s cropped up regularly in the series, largely since Levant Mine doubles as Poldark’s fictional Tressiders Rolling Mill. From Levant, you can hike along the coast path to Botallack and the ruined mine at Wheal Crowns, or if you prefer to dig deeper, you can also take an underground tour of an actual tin mine – it only closed in 1990 – nearby at Geevor. For lunch, drop in to the excellent Gurnard’s Head (gurnardshead.co.uk) near Zennor for some hearty grub and local ale.

Predannack Wollas

The rugged cliffs, wheeling gulls and booming surf of the Lizard peninsula are a favourite for hikers, bird-watchers and photographers, and they’ve barely changed since the era in which Poldark is set.

They’re also a natural fit for big-sky scenes, and Ross Poldark is often glimpsed riding along the clifftops around Predannack Wollas during seasons one and two. The nearby National Trust-owned Kynance Cove was used as a double for Nampara Cove, and it’s a glorious spot for a picnic lunch – or you can drop by the eco-friendly Kynance Cove Cafe for a crab sandwich and some homemade cake.

Church Cove

Also on the Lizard, near the village of Gunwalloe, this quiet beach is home to a medieval church dedicated to St Winwalloe. Once a hideout used by smugglers and free-traders, the beach’s past was brought back to life when it was used for a memorable sequence in season one, in which a shipwreck is plundered by locals for booty. At the nearby beach of Dollar Cove, legend has it that there’s treasure to be found from a shipwrecked Spanish galleon – so definitely a place to bring along your metal detector.

Bodmin Moor

Stark and wild, and spotted with granite rock-stacks known as tors, Cornwall’s ‘roof’ is a landscape that radiates natural drama – something the makers of Poldark exploited by using Bodmin Moor as the location for Ross’s lonely cottage at Nampara, not to mention numerous scenes of the lovelorn hero galloping against suitably moody skies. Equestrian activities notwithstanding, the main reason to visit is the chance to hike to the top of Cornwall’s highest hill, Brown Willy.

Perranporth

A location of a different kind: this popular beachfront town on the north coast was Poldark author Winston Graham’s home for more than four decades, and he wrote most of the novels here. A memorial seat on the cliffs above Perranporth Beach commemorates the writer’s literary achievements – it’s on the coast path near Droskyn Point, but it’s a bit tricky to find, so you may have to ask a local or consult a map. It’s also a fitting spot to conclude your Poldark tour: staring down over golden sands framed by craggy cliffs and white-horse surf, it’s not hard to see where Winston Graham found his inspiration.