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Category Archives: Travel

best places to visit in Iceland in summer

To get off the tourist trail: the West Fjords

Summer is the perfect time to hike through the stunning Icelandic scenery, and if you can camp, so much the better (and cheaper). Dynjandi is a particularly good spot to pitch up – the waterfall may not be as famous as Gullfoss, but it still attracts plenty of visitors. Stay the night and you may well get the thunderous falls, glittering in the early-morning sun, all to yourself.

For a more remote West Fjords experience head to Hornstrandir, right on the edge of the Arctic Circle and barely accessible out of summer. This peninsula in Iceland’s far northwest is entirely wild, its inhospitable but beautiful terrain preserved as a nature reserve.

It’s the perfect place to escape the crowds of the southern coast – though even in the middle of summer the weather is unpredictable, so hikers should take precautions to stay safe.

For wildlife: Vestmannaeyjar, the Westman Islands

One of Iceland’s biggest draws is its wildlife and the Westman Islands are the prime place to go for puffin spotting. Every year between April and August, the archipelago becomes the biggest puffin colony in the world. The friendly town of Vestmannaeyjar is located on the only inhabited island, Heimaey, and is the best base for seeing these cute orange-beaked birds.

Visit in early August and you might be lucky enough to witness a truly heart-warming event: local families collect lost baby puffins, or “pufflings”, who’ve found their way into the town by mistake, and bring them to the shore to safely release them.

The summer festival, Þjóðhátíð, is also held in early August; its popularity among Icelanders is reflected in the fact it’s known, quite simply, as “The Festival”.

For a rugged adventure: the Interior

The Interior (also known as the hálendið, or highlands) is generally only accessible in summer, and the window can be as short as a few weeks.

If you’re not keen on carrying a tent, try staying in one of the huts (sæluhús) which dot the highlands; book ahead, as Icelanders and visitors make the most of the short season.

However you choose to do it – day-hike, camping, staying in huts – if you’re a keen walker you shouldn’t miss the chance to explore the Interior on foot. It’s the archetype of Icelandic nature, with a bleak and otherworldly beauty you can find nowhere else: smooth glacial valleys; colourful, iron-streaked earth and milky sulphur springs.

Be sure to also take advantage of these warm rivers and hot springs for a traditional dip. Hveravellir is a good option, but perhaps the most isolated spot for outdoor bathing is Viti, a small crater lake in the Askja caldera. However, the volcano is still active; while this definitely adds a bit of extra excitement to your swim, it also adds some real danger.

To take a hike: Siglufjörður

In Iceland’s northwest is the small fishing town of Siglufjörður (or Sigló). This is the most northerly town in the country, and the road here – usable only in summer – is the highest in Iceland.

The town’s laidback, low-key feel and dramatic setting are reasons enough to visit – not to mention the freshly smoked kippers and summer Folk Music Festival. But it’s also a perfect base for hiking in the surrounding area.

Eyjafjörður, the fjord to the east of the town, is the best place to go to spot wildlife. Hrísey, the island at the mouth of the fjord, is renowned for its birdlife – and it’s not only twitchers who’ll be charmed by the sight of its famous ptarmigans casually wandering around town.

Alternatively, head to the villages of Ólafsfjörður and Dalvík for a whale-watching trip – some operators even run midnight sun tours.

Try to time your visit to coincide with the local summer festival, the Great Fish Day: a popular event that draws the whole community together for delicious (free) food and warm Icelandic hospitality.

For a festival: Reykjavík

Around Iceland National Day (also called Independence Day; June 17) there are parties throughout the country, but the biggest and best are in the centre of Iceland’s charming capital city. Expect parades, poetry readings and dancing all night long. After all, the sun hardly sets.

For some background on Iceland’s history, head to Reykjavík’s Árbæjarsafn (Open Air Museum). The big draw on Independence Day is that anyone wearing national dress gets in for free. So if you happen to own your own upphlutur you can save on the entry fee.

For a different kind of festival, book tickets for Secret Solstice, set up in 2014 with the rationale that the sunny nights of the Icelandic summer are perfect for a weekend-long party. The line-up is consistently brilliant, and every year they hold special events away from the main Reykjavík venues. Who doesn’t want to dance inside a glacier?

For bathing in the buff: Reykjadalur

Falling shortly after National Day, midsummer can get a bit overlooked in Iceland. However, there’s one tradition well worth trying out if you’re brave enough: bathing naked in a river at night.

The most convenient place to head – not far from the capital – is Reykjadalur (“Steam Valley”). The river running through this valley is warmed by a geothermal spring, making it a popular spot for an alfresco dip.

best places to go in spring

Ōsaka, Japan

With the natural phenomenon known as hanami (cherry blossom), spring in Japan is simply stunning. Head to Ōsaka, one of our top 10 cities for 2017, in early April to see the city’s castle rise high above a sea of petals, or walk through the Expo 70 Commemorative Park beneath a canopy of pink.

Alentejo, Portugal

After years of economic crisis, Portugal is finally on the up. Spring is a beautiful time of year for the Rota Vicentina, a network of walking trails on the west coast of Portugal’s Alentejo region. There’s an inland route – the Historical Way – for the sea-scraping Fishermen’s Trail cliff-top paths stunning ocean views shrubs and flowers are aromatic beyond belief and the native storks should be returning from their winter holidays around now too.

New Orleans, USA

Mardi Gras isn’t the only reason to make a trip down south. Louisiana’s capital is just as enchanting when things have quietened down. Take your time soaking up the faded beauty of the French Quarter’s backstreets before heading to Frenchmen Street for a night of live jazz and cocktails.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Amsterdam really comes to life in the spring, as cafés and bars spread out over the cobbled streets. Get to know the city’s ins and outs in a canal-boat ride, or take a trip to the unforgettable Keukenhof , 25km out of town, where tulips bloom in spectacular colours from late-March to mid-May.

The Wye Valley, Wales

This Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has never wanted for visitors, and for good reason. The river itself is fantastic for canoeing and kayaking, while your inner twitcher will rejoice at the sight of the gorgeously flecked goshawk engaging in its so-called ‘sky dance’, a mate-attracting display of flying prowess that is a spring (and late-winter) phenomenon.

The Romantic Road, Germany

Travelled on foot, by bike or car, the scenic 400km Romantische Strasse from Würzburg to Füssen takes in medieval walled towns, traditional villages with half-timbered houses, vineyards and the fairytale castle of Neuschwanstein. This picture perfect route through Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg was created to attract visitors after WWII – more than sixty years later it’s hugely popular and often overrun by the summer months.

Cornwall, England

Cornwall has plenty of activities to help burn off all the delicious seasonal food available, like a wander among blooming flowers on the moors, or a dip in the sea if you’re brave (or mad). If there are a few spring storms, all the better – the waves make for an incredibly dramatic scene.

Barcelona, Spain

Looking like a kids’ lego experiment, the spanking new Disseny Hub arts centre in Barcelona brings four museums under one roof and is set to open its doors this . After all that culture grab a burger at Makamaka, a beach where Hawaii meets Catalonia.

The Loire Valley, France

The Loire’s sleepy villages are just shaking off their winter chill around now, while out in the vineyards buds are starting to burst and wildflowers are cropping up along the riverside. Whether you’re in search of the most memorable cuvée or the most magnificent château, spring a great time to come.

Essaouira, Morocco

For active types, this popular eighteenthcentury port makes for a perfect long weekend getaway in spring. With pleasant temperatures and the high winds – locally known as the alizee – it’s the prime location for windsurfing and kitesurfing along Morocco’s Atlantic coast. And if you’re not drawn to the waters, you can enjoy afternoons strolling past the whitewashed and blue-shuttered houses, nipping into art galleries and sipping on mint tea.

Montréal, Canada

Montréal is beautiful at this time of year; as the snow melts off the roofs of its technicolour houses, everyone gets excited about the sunshine. Plus, you can officially indulge in as much maple syrup as you want – the locals call it “sugaring off”.

5 things you need to know about hygge

In case you’ve been living in a cave (probably unknowingly having quite a hyggelig time while you’re at it), hygge is the Scandi word that translates to being comfortable, content and – paradoxically – antisocial amongst friends. It is a spiritual turning inwards, or a literal turning towards the nearest candle; a concept casually applied by Danes for decades before the rest of the world caught wind last year.

Lovers have flocked to the shops to buy handsome books, thick woolly socks and as much cocoa as they can get their cashmere mitts on. Haters claim that the concept has been exploited by publishers and clothing companies in a cynical bid to sell more stuff.

So, just before hygge reaches ultimate saturation point, we decided to talk to the global spokesman for hygge, CEO of the Institute of the Happiness Research Institute, Meik Wiking, to settle the score.

Before you listen to our podcast, here are 5 things you need to know about hygge to get you up to speed.

1. It rhymes with “cougar”

“Higgy”, “herger”, “hig” are all wrong.

It’s “hoo-gah”, people.

2. It’s not new

The word hygge has been part of the Danish language since the early 1800s, when the word first appears in written records. Meaning it took the rest of the world a mere two hundred years to catch on.

3. It was the 2016 Word of the Year

Every year, Collins English Dictionary publishes a list of the ten most popular new words and expressions of the year, and hygge made the cut. The 2016 list also included the words “Trumpism”, “Brexit”and “uberization”.

4. But some people think it’s an over-hyped trend

After a swathe of articles and magazine pieces on hygge, the press quickly turned on hygge, calling it “overhyped”, “a conspiracy” and one article even went so far as to brutally proclaim “Hygge Is Byllshytte”.

5 Hygge’s not just for winter

In our podcast interview with hygge spokesman, Meik Wiking, he explains that Danes embrace hygge throughout the year. Sitting outside a café in Copenhagen, supping a beer in the July sunshine – it turns out that’s hygge too.

the world’s least romantic experiences

1. Exploring the Museum of Broken Relationships, Croatia

There’s plenty to ogle at this unique museum in Zagreb, where any amorous feeling will be shattered by illuminating stories of relationship failures and disasters. The trauma is further embellished by the display of associated artefacts. Once-treasured mementoes are now just creepy relics of pain and broken promises – a gross spectacle to be sure, but perhaps you’ll leave feeling mutually confident that yours is a love which will endure?

2. Getting serious sunburn, Australia

If there’s one way to set you apart from the locals, it’s getting sunburnt. As a nation of surfers and sun worshipers, beach life in Australia is par for the course. But be warned, twenty minutes in the powerful Oz sun is enough to scorch you senseless. Once burnt, you can wave goodbye to most activities, so spare your partner the task of gingerly applying aloe lotion to rupturing blisters before bedtime. It’s a total mood killer.

3. Celebrating Holi Festival, India

This colourful Hindu festival is celebrated every year in March to commemorate the victory of good over evil. You can expect high spirits and vibrant revelry as multi-coloured powdered paint is thrown about in joyful abandon. The sight is thrilling, but handfuls of paint smacked vigorously into the face will work its way into every orifice. Be on your guard as crowds enjoying the festivities might become overzealous, and losing your partner in the rabble is a real possibility.

4. Boating on the Broads, Norfolk, England

Norfolk is an ideal destination for couples looking for a slice of English countryside and navigating the waterways of the Broads by boat doesn’t get more quintessentially British. However, a narrowboat can sink in less than a minute and there are various ways of accomplishing that job with a rookie at the helm. Other snares include seasickness and cabin fever. It’s an intimate experience to say the least.

5. Motorbiking, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City is famous for street food, bargain shopping and chaotic traffic. Motorbikes swarm like angry hornets, vying for space and jostling to squeeze through gaps in the congestion. Biking in this urban jungle is stressful to say the least and at worst, deadly. So keen motorcyclists should head for the highway between Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi instead, for memorable scenery and an open road without exhaust fumes clouding the horizon.

6. Digging into Sichuan food, China

Powerful combinations of garlic, chilli and Sichuan peppers make this cuisine quite possibly the boldest and most pungent of chows. Originating in the South Western province of Sichuan and today available widely across China, its fiery flavour will quite literally knock your socks off. When dining out, we advise to taste tentatively, thus avoiding unappealing chilli sweats and the unmentionable after effects.

7. A dip in Totumo’s volcanic mud bath, Colombia

Forget all notions of a spa-like experience. It’s not necessarily the slithering around with strangers in a pit of liquid mud that is most unappealing; it’s probably exiting the ‘bath’ up an awkward ladder, caked in grey, crusty mud-slime. Vigorous (and thorough) scrub-downs are available from locals for a fee after your dip in the gloopy pool, but these obliterate any mineral benefits and leave your skin unattractively raw.

8. Climbing Giotto’s Bell Tower, Florence, Italy

It is 414 steps to the zenith of this stunning Gothic bell tower. Once you reach the top, the views over Florence are undoubtedly rewarding, but first must come the legwork. Even the fittest of couples will be puffing by halfway. Will you see the funny side of your red faces, as you wheeze your way up each narrow flight of steps? For those who are unsure, this magnificent edifice is best admired from below.

9. Stay in a haunted hotel, England

With buildings dating back to 500AD and a long gruesome history, it is no surprise thatEngland boasts some of the most notoriously haunted dwellings in the world. The upside of staying in a haunted house? Your lodgings are likely to be of architectural and historical importance (think romantic Tudor beams and cosy firesides). Downsides include a sleepless night feeling like you’re not the only people in the room…

a magical journey to Norway’s Arctic north

This year, there’s more than the aurora borealis to draw you to ethereally beautiful Arctic Norway. On the shores of Lyngenfjord, two hours from the city of Tromsø, a team of plucky entrepreneurs have opened the northernmost distillery in the world. We went to discover why this is a magical escape for whisky lovers and northern lights hunters alike.

It might as well be midnight as we leave Tromsø. Last night’s snow crunching beneath the tyres, only the pinkish glow of street lights illuminates the ink-blue sky. This close to the winter solstice, the days here have a strange beauty. The first light doesn’t appear until just before 11am; it’s dark by 1.30pm.

We may already be 350km north of the Arctic circle, but today our journey is only just getting started. Striking out from the city, we snake along the shores of placid fjords, passing traditional red clapboard houses, candles flickering in the windows. These are the most northerly reaches of Europe – and fairytale Norway at its finest.

Even at Breivikeidet, where an isolated ferry plies passengers across the glassy expanse of Ullsfjord, the local population stands at just fifty souls. It’s certainly a challenging place to live – with temperatures dropping to -17°C (1ºF) in winter and 24-hour daylight summer – yet speak to most locals, and they wouldn’t move anywhere else.

As we begin the crossing to Svensby, the Arctic day finally gets going, a soft blue light illuminating the sheer, snow-covered slopes that plunge into the channel’s icy depths. This landscape, its intricate geography of fjords and archipelagos carved over millennia, is simply astounding.

And it’s a good thing the views are so mesmerising, as it turns out I’m as over-dressed as a polar bear in a sauna. Despite the snow, it’s so unseasonably warm that kids are getting stuck into the ferry’s extensive ice-cream selection.

Luckily, we’re not setting out for a day’s exploration. Instead, our two-hour journey reaches its conclusion just over the Lyngen Alps, where a team of entrepreneurs have dreamt up a new reason to draw visitors to this magical region.

On the shores of Lyngenfjord, you can now visit Aurora Spirit, the northernmost distillery in the world. It’s fittingly named; on winter nights the northern lights regularly dance in the sky above the strikingly modern distillery building. Nature always makes its presence felt here.

The project was conceived by three friends, Hans, Tor and Tor’s wife Anne-Lise, and completed in 2016. Inspired by trips to the Islay distilleries in Scotland, they wanted to create a similar experience back home. So, they set out to source local ingredients and talent to make “extraordinary spirits in an extraordinary place”.

And this is certainly an extraordinary place. Perched on a spur jutting out towards the island of Årøya, the wood-clad distillery has a location to rival any of its Scottish cousins.

Currently they produce vodka, gin and aquavit, the traditional Norwegian spirit, with their first whiskies maturing in cask in the NATO tunnels that run beneath the site. There’s a reason why this beautiful tract of land remained undeveloped; the site of a Cold War bunker, it was off-limits until 2005.

Today, however, their spirits draw on an older history. They’re sold under the brand Bivrost, the name of the mythical bridge that connected the human world to the world of the gods in Norse mythology. You can learn more on their exemplary distillery tours, which explain the processes of distillation and maturation, or at one of their tutored whisky tastings.

If you’re after an adrenalin kick instead, you can use the distillery as a base for a RIB tour of the fjord or try spot of Viking-inspired axe-throwing on their outdoor range. I’m hesitant about a trip into the bunker, eerily left exactly as it was abandoned in 1993, notebooks and pencils still scattered across the command room desks.

It’s more tempting to book a night in one of the luxury cabins currently being built on a hill above the distillery, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the bay. It’s hard to imagine a more serene experience than watching the sun dip below the snow covered mountains, or spotting eagles soaring over the fjord from the waterside jacuzzi.

Puerto Princesa Underground River

Wait, an underground river? How is that possible?

Yep, that’s right. In fact, the river flows directly underneath the St Paul Mountain Range, found on the mid-western coast of Palawan. The river channeled its way through a series of vast chambers and caverns over millions of years ago.

The cave system stretches for a total of 24km underneath the mountains, and the river itself winds its way through 8.2km of it. Besides being one of the longest underground rivers in the world, the PPUR is also one of the very few that outflows directly to the sea.

The river and caves are home to complex eco-system that has adapted to living underground here over hundreds of years. Many of the animals in the caves are found only here, including certain types of giant spiders, crabs, fish and snakes, although bats and swallows are likely to be the only ones you’ll see.

Is it worth the trip?

Yes, absolutely. It’s an otherworldly experience: imagine paddling through the dark in a small boat – the boatman’s headlamp the only light guiding your way – while the soft click-click of bats, chirps of swallows and the echoey drip, drip of water from the roof is your soundtrack. You glide through giant cavernous cathedrals, past mushroom-shaped rocks, in-between candle-like spindles of limestone and into some of the darkest reaches of the underbelly of the cave.

Tours only take visitors up to the 4km mark, but those wanting to apply for a special permit far enough in advance, can tour all 8.2 kilometres. This far into the cave, it’s so narrow that boats can’t pass and you have to swim between the rock walls.

Conquer your fears of small, dark spaces however, and you’ll be treated to the rare sights of waterfalls gushing through the cave walls, a unique 20 million-year-old fossil of asirenia or manatee, and a tiny rock passage that leads into a vast room, carpeted from floor to ceiling in glimmering crystals.

Even the journey to the cave itself is worth it: you’ll enjoy a scenic 20-minute boat ride across the sea, past towering limestone karsts and walk through the national park, home to monkeys swinging through the tree canopies and giant monitor lizards slinking their way through the undergrowth.

So how can I visit?

The jumping-off point is the small village of Sabang, located around 40km north of the capital of the island – Puerto Princesa. You can either choose to visit on a day-trip from the capital or stay in Sabang itself, which also has a lovely beach, a couple of luxury resorts and plenty of cheap beach huts for backpackers.

Everyone wanting to visit the underground river must apply for a permit to do so, and because of limited capacity and high demand, it’s best to book a few days in advance. You can either visit on an organised tour or arrange the permit and boat ride yourself, and pay for everything separately.

OK, I’m sold. What do I need to know?

Tours from Puerto Princesa (around 1800 pesos per person) usually include transport to and from the PPUR, your permit, the boat ride, a guide and lunch. Those staying in the small village of Sabang can also book a tour (significantly cheaper as it won’t include van transfer or lunch) or buy their own permits at the office on the wharf. Permits are 250 pesos for adults and 150 pesos for children, plus there’s an environmental fee of 40 pesos extra to pay per person. Your boat ride to and from the entrance to the park and audio device will also cost extra.

Helmets and life jackets are provided and must be worn for the duration of the tour (lasting around 45 minutes in total). Remember to keep your mouth closed when you look up, as the cave is also home to thousands of bats, who often drop “gifts” (read, faeces) from above.

An audio guide is available and provides lots of scientific information about the river and the caves, as well accompanying atmospheric music. Although informative, at times it’s also a little far-fetched, telling you to look out for rock formations that resemble Sharon Stone from Basic Instinct or Jesus at The Last Supper. If you don’t want to spend your time here looking around in bewilderment or getting frustrated when you can’t spot the formations, remove your earphones and let your imagination take over.

incredible journeys in South America

1. The Inca Trail, Peru

The four-day hike between Cusco and Machu Picchu, a spell-binding mountain trek into the Inca past, needs no introduction.

Although just one of the Inca trails you can follow across the Andes, what makes this 33km route so popular is the unrivalled reward of Machu Picchu at its end. The most famous ruins in South America are a place that – no matter how jaded you are – stop you in your tracks.

2. Carretera Austral, Chile

To see the wettest, greenest and wildest part of Chile, head to Northern Patagonia where the Carretera Austral, the partially paved, partly dirt-and-gravel “Southern Highway”, stretches for 1240km from Puerto Montt to tiny Villa O’Higgins.

The rounding ice-fields, vast glaciers and jagged fjords along this spectacular highway are most easily visited with your own wheels, but most are reachable by public transport; all you need is a bit of time and some organizational skills, since not all buses run daily.

3. Death Road, Bolivia

One of the most popular trips in Bolivia, and some travellers’ sole reason for crossing the border, is a chance to hurtle down the infamous Death Road. This hair-raising adventure involves a 3500m descent along the old road from La Paz to Coroico in the Yungas.

Be careful when planning a trip, though – cyclists have been killed or seriously injured on this rough, narrow track chiselled out of near-vertical mountainsides, and you must choose a tour operator with great care.

 

4. Ruta 40, Argentina

The legendary Ruta 40 (or RN40) runs from the top to the bottom of Argentina, following the line of the Andes all the way to the far south from the border with Bolivia. It covers 5000km and 11 provinces, crosses 18 important rivers on 236 bridges, and connects 13 great lakes and salt flats, 20 national parks and hundreds of communities. There’s little wonder it’s one of the most famous attractions in the country.

If you haven’t got your own wheels, head to the section between El Calafate/El Chalténand Bariloche. Long popular with backpackers, with much of this route is paved and buses run its length almost daily in season – but it still retains a sense of isolation thanks to the endless pampas scrubland, interrupted only by the occasional tiny settlement or estancia.

5. Serra Verde Railway, Brazil

The Serra Verde Express is one of the most scenic train journeys in Brazil. This enchanting ride winds around mountainsides, slips through tunnels and traverses one of the largest Atlantic Forest reserves in the country.

In fact, it’s one of our top reasons to visit Brazil’s overlooked southern states. Make sure to sit on the left-hand side of the train for the best views (or on the right if you’re not good with heights).

6. The Circuit, Torres del Paine, Chile

The great massif contained within the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, with the sheer granite towers of Las Torres to the east, and the multicoloured Los Cuernos to the west, is one of Patagonia’s most jaw-dropping sights. The park offers incomparable opportunities for backcountry hiking, as well as animal spotting; you are likely to see guanacos – wild relatives of llamas – and ñandú or rhea (like a small ostrich).

To best soak up the charms and wildlife of this rugged landscape, embark on “The Circuit” – a seven- to ten-day hike. An extended version of the popular “W”, this route that leads you around the back of the Torres, giving you some respite from the inevitable crowds.

If You Like a Challenge Let’s Travel to This Places

 1. Chipaya, Bolivia

High on the windswept plains of Bolivia, the Uru Chipaya are one of the oldest peoples of South America, having survived for thousands of years on such arid land that even the Incas avoided. Living in huts made of mud and straw, you won’t find any modern comforts in Chipaya, but you will experience an ancient culture that has hardly changed its customs or dress for millennia.

2. Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russia

Known as the ‘Pearl of Siberia’, Lake Baikal is the world’s oldest and deepest lake. In winter, the water freezes over and its uneven icy surface stretches as far as the eye can see. It’s best to travel by car to reach the most isolated ice grottoes but be careful; cracks, slabs of ice and a dangerously slippery surface mean it’s best to hire an experienced driver. Although, if you really want to test your perseverance, try walking across the lake.

3. Aldabra, Seychelles

Incredibly isolated and wonderfully untouched, it’s no surprise that David Attenborough described Aldabra as one of the wonders of the world. With no regular ship or air services, the intrepid traveller will need to organise their own transport to reach the remote paradise. Strong tides around the island and challenging terrain are worth braving for the vibrant sea life and chance to spot an endangered giant tortoise.

4. Derweze, Turkmenistan

Deep in the barren Karakum desert, you’ll find the otherworldly Door To Hell, a fiery natural gas crater that has been burning for more than forty years. The mesmerising sight is visible for miles, and is best visited at night when it juxtaposes stunningly against the dark sky.

5. Easter Island, Chile

Once the home of the Rapa Nui, Easter Island is one of the most isolated inhabited islands on Earth. The landscape is dotted with imposing moai statues, relics of its ancient Polynesian culture. The Rapa Nui devastated the island’s natural resources, destroying its environment, so the rugged terrain can be testing, particularly in bad weather.

6. Kungsleden, Sweden

If we asked you to think of Western Europe’s last remaining wilderness areas, you might not have Sweden in mind. But in the far north of Swedish lapland, the atmospheric and grandly-named Kungsleden, or King’s Trail, is a stunning area of untouched natural beauty. Although much of the trail is well-adapted for hikers, try a route through Sarek National Park, where there are no marked trails, for a real challenge.

7. Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland

Ittoqqortoormiit, on the eastern coast of Greenland, is the country’s most isolated and undisturbed region. The neighbouring sea freezes over for nine months of the year, making it even harder to access, but visit in winter to experience it at its best. The colourful houses on the shore poke out above thick snow and the ice can reach six feet deep. Roads become unusable, so dogsleds and ski-mobiles are the preferred form of transport.

8. Alert, Nunavut, Canada

Canada’s Nunavut is its largest but also least populous territory. Inaccessible over land and with a largely polar climate, Nunavut boasts Alert, the most northerly permanently inhabited place in the world. Go to see the gorgeous midnight sun and mesmerising northern lights – a trip that’s certainly worth the effort.

9. Macquarie Island, Subantarctic Islands

Sitting between New Zealand and Antarctica, the remote, icy and utterly fascinating subantarctic islands are filled with rare and endangered species. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997, you’ll find fur and elephant seals as well as royal, king and gentoo penguins on Macquarie Island.

10. Salavan, Laos

Wide open spaces, spectacular waterfalls and mountainous terrain characterise the Lao province of Salavan. Despite the stunning scenery, little tourism infrastructure or transport means that its remote villages still attract only the most intrepid travellers.

6 incredible treehouses you’ll want to stay

 1. Treehotel, Sweden

Sweden’s Treehotel, built by some of the country’s finest architects, takes the humble treehouse to new levels. Its six, strikingly modern “treerooms” range from the futuristic glass Mirrorcube to the alien-like UFO. And if a night here wasn’t unforgettable enough, there’s even a sauna suspended from the pines.

2. Tree House Lodge, Costa Rica

In 10 acres behind Punta Uva beach in the province of Limón lies a treehouse that owners Edsart Besier & Pamela Rodriguez promise will take you back to your childhood. Surrounded by a tropical garden and accessed via a wooden suspension bridge, it’s the perfect place to unwind.

3. Garden Village, Slovenia

A short walk from the banks of Slovenia’s famous Lake Bled, Garden Village is a fairytale come to life. Neat rows of luxury glamping tents are staggered down the hillside, while six treehouses hide in the woods alongside, connected by wooden platforms and short suspension bridges. Romantic escapes don’t come much better than this.

4. Chewton Glen, England

You’ll find the ultimate in treehouse luxury at Chewton Glen in the New Forest. Four luxury treehouse cabins are squirrelled away in a wooded valley here and the extras are fittingly decadent: spa treatments, golf buggies to take you to the main hotel and gourmet hampers delivered through a secret hatch.

5. Tongabezi Lodge, Zambia

It’s hard to imagine waking up to the crashing of Victoria Falls. but when you stay at Tongabezi Lodge’s Tree House, this becomes a reality. Hidden away on the banks of the Zambezi river, along the cliff face past the pool, this ground-level treehouse offers a tranquil situated away from the main lodge. Staying here is a way to “experience the beauty and majesty of Zambia without setting a foot outside”, they say.

6. Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica, Peru

Deep in the Peruvian Rainforest, a stay at Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica plunges you into jungle life. Set within a 17,000 hectare private reserve, this luxury resort offers the likes of spa treatments, jungle treks and bird watching expeditions. Best of all, however, is their Canopy Tree House – although at 90-ft above the jungle floor, a night here is not for the faint hearted.

7 most beautiful places in Italy

 1. Florence

This Renaissance beauty has it all. For starters, there’s the glorious architecture – who could resist the cheerful pink-and-green facade and iconic cupola of the Duomo, the photogenic Piazza della Signoria with its statement statuary, and the Ponte Vecchio’s jumble of shops spanning the river Arno? For most, though, Florence’s biggest draw is its staggering hoard of world-class paintings, frescoes and sculptures: according to UNESCO, thirty percent of the world’s most important works of art are to be found here.

2. San Gimignano

Tuscany has no shortage of winsome hill-towns but San Gimignano stands tall above the rest for its distinctive skyline, bristling with medieval towers, and its remarkably intact historic centre, a gorgeous assemblage of honey-coloured stone buildings. Its winding backstreets hold frescoed churches and Gothic palazzi, and beyond the city walls on all sides, the hills are blanketed with vineyards and olive groves.

3. Lake Garda

With a more down-to-earth feel than glitzy Como but with plenty of class, Lake Garda is the largest of Italy’s spectacular lakes. Rugged mountains encircle its deep blue waters, with boats zipping between the pretty towns that hug the shore. You could base yourself here for a week or more – choose between luxury spas and faded waterside hotels – or day-trip it from Milan. Whatever you do, make time for a Spritz overlooking the lake, preferably at sunset.

4. Positano

The Amalfi Coast is wildly beautiful, and the few towns strung along its length are ideal vantage points for taking in the coast’s dazzling ensemble of craggy cliffs, lush forests and dramatic seascapes. Chichi Positano is the pick of the towns: a dramatic huddle of pastel-coloured houses tumbling down to the sea, its centre a warren of stepped lanes framed by pink bougainvillea and lined with smart boutiques.

5. Puglia

With its crystalline seas, white-sand beaches and hidden rocky coves, Puglia is many Italians’ favourite place to soak up the sun in the summer months. Its interior is just as beautiful, with wooded hills, wildlife-rich lakes, and endless olive groves: the region produces around forty percent of Italy’s olive oil.

6. Capri

The legendary island of Capri, beloved of the emperor Tiberius, any number of artists and writers in search of inspiration, and legions of modern-day celebrities, has star appeal in spades. Away from its twin centres, Capri Town and Anacapri – bursting with designer boutiques and chichi cafés – picturesque lanes wind past Roman ruins and grand villas, with staggering views over the deep blue Mediterranean.

7. Venice

No one forgets their first glimpse of Venice: however many times you’ve seen it in pictures, you can’t prepare yourself for the sight of a city of stately marble palazzi sitting pretty atop a dazzling green lagoon. Mesmerizing in sunshine, moodily atmospheric when wreathed in mist, colourful at Carnevale, unforgettable when it floods: Venice is never anything short of a knockout.