Bournemouth’s main draw has always been its long, wide and immaculate yellow sandy beaches. It was once the playground of rich Victorians – Charles Rolls (as in Rolls-Royce) and Edward VII both enjoyed its shores – and has been extremely popular ever since it was founded as a purpose-built resort in the early 1800s.

But as increasingly cheap air travel lured visitors away from the UK in the twentieth century, Bournemouth went the way of many other coastal towns in Britain: tourism dwindled and its seaside grandeur faded to a dreary, out-of-date facade.

Today things are changing. Bournemouth is shrugging off its stag-do central image, and welcoming a new breed – or, in fact, a few new breeds – of visitor to its sands. Lottie Gross explores what the town has to offer visitors today.

For the active traveller

It’s not all about beach-bumming in Bournemouth. While there are indeed some superb stretches of sand, there’s also a whole lot of surrounding countryside ripe for exploration.

Get yourself a pair of wheels from Front Bike Hire on the promenade do the ten-mile round cycle to dramatic Hengistbury Head. Stop off at the top to take in the views over the coastline and sample Purbeck ice cream in the visitor centre before heading back to town.

Bournemouth pier also caters for the adventurous: there’s a zipline that whisks willing participants from the end of the pier onto the beach, narrowly avoiding a dip in the Atlantic, and inside Rock Reef there’s a climbing wall and suspended assault course.

For surfers and ocean explorers

Surf culture has been ever-growing in Bournemouth over the last two decades, despite the much-criticised surf reef that never made waves in Boscombe (pun intended).

The Boscombe area, east of the main Bournemouth beach, continues to be surf-central, with opportunities to hire kayaks, SUPs (stand-up paddle boards) and, of course, book in for surf lessons.

If you’re not keen on diving in, hang out at Urban Reef to watch novices and experts out on the water while sipping a cocktail of your choice (takeaway drinks available for those who’d rather relax on the beach).

Image by Manuel Martín on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

For food fiends

Bournemouth has long been a victim of big restaurant chains and small, somewhat grotty takeaway joints. But there are a few diamonds in the rough – if you know where to look.

The latest addition to the nearby Sandbanks area is a new Rick Stein restaurant that serves deliciously fresh seafood and fish dishes on an inventive, daily-changing menu.

The Koh Thai tapas bar has been a long favourite with the locals, with two locations in Bournemouth town centre and Boscombe. Try the 24-hour ribs and the prawn tempura and you won’t be disappointed.

A photo posted by Lottie Gross (@lortusfleur) on

For culture vultures

As a relatively new town whose tourism focus is mainly around the beach, Bournemouth is somewhat lacking in museums and art galleries. But there’s one star on the seafront that makes up for it: the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum is a treasure trove of Victorian eccentricities showcased among world-renowned artworks.

The building, commissioned by former Bournemouth mayor Merton Russell-Cotes in 1901 as a summer home for his wife, is an unusual piece of architecture and now dedicated to the couple’s extensive travels around the world and their vast collection of art.

The rooms are lavishly decorated, with nods to various cultures around the world (see the Japanese symbolism in the murals on the ceiling in the main hall), and there’s a curious artefact around every corner.

Visit the ladies’ toilet on the ground floor to see an original, working Victorian loo, and take five in the café on the first floor, which has one of the best views of Bournemouth beach.

For luxury

The latest addition to Bournemouth’s accommodation portfolio finally signifies a shift in the standard: the brand new Hilton hotel on Terrace Road is far cry from the tired 1960s-style hotels the town is overrun by.

It’s stylish inside with a surprisingly boutique feel about it – the rooms are decorated with retro tourism posters – and the hotel’s restaurant, Schpoons & Forx (complete with cutlery-themed décor) is one of the town’s best establishments, with a varied but expertly executed menu by chef Matt Tebutt.

Slightly out of town, the Chocolate Boutique Hotel is perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth. They run truffle-making and chocolate portrait painting workshops for guests, and each room comes with its own daily supply of the sweet stuff.

Perfectly poised near the town centre, the Green House Hotel provides a conscience-friendly luxury option. The hotel generates much of their own electricity and uses solar power to heat the water that fills their gorgeous free-standing baths.

© Pellier Photography

South West Trains run a service from London Waterloo to Bournemouth, with tickets from £16 return. Explore more of Bournemouth and the south coast with the Rough Guide to Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of WightCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to buy travel insurance before you go.

Italy has long been one of Europe’s most popular destinations. From the magnificent remnants of ancient Rome to the coolest in contemporary culture, secret beaches to snow-covered peaks, tranquil countryside to frenetic city streets, plus an all-pervasive passion for food – the allure of this boot-shaped nation has proven itself timeless.

With so much diversity, deciding where to go in Italy can be simply overwhelming. This one minute video guide will help you plan your trip.

Remember, even in the country’s most touristed destinations, you need only detour down a small city backstreet, or stop briefly in a nameless village, to discover the Italy of legend – an Italy that seems yours, and yours alone.

It’s easy to be daunted by the endless choices on offer when planning a trip with kids. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of family vacation ideas that will get everyone – even jaded teenagers – excited.

For adventure: India

In the spirit of the latest The Jungle Book movie, take the kids on a tiger safari in India’s national parks. Two of the best tiger reserves are in Tadoba and Kanha national parks in central India – the latter in Madhya Pradesh which was the inspiration for Kipling’s classic story. There’s also the sprawling Satpura National Park in the same region, where you can pile into 4x4s for game drives and spot other wildlife lurking in the lush landscapes.

For seaside fun: Britain

Ignore the jokes about the changeable British weather and head for the beach for your next family vacation. For such a small island, Britain has an astonishingly varied coastline – from the rocky coves indenting Cornwall’s Atlantic side to the long sandy beaches of Rhossili bay in Wales and Cape Wrath at Scotland’s northwestern tip. Get into the old-fashioned seaside spirit in Blackpool or Scarborough, or check out the cool chic of Brighton and its exotic Royal Pavilion.

For activities: Costa Rica

Cloud forests, jungles, volcanoes and tumbling waterfalls – the natural beauty of Costa Rica is inexhaustible, and even better appreciated when you’re in the thick of it. Strap the family into zip wires for an unforgettable ride above Monteverde’s cloud forest, and hold on tight for a white-water rafting adventure in the jungles of Arenal. For a gentle comedown, take a leisurely boat cruise through the green waterways and lagoons of Tortuguero National Park.

For exotic culture: Morocco

Choose your transport – camels, 4x4s, mules or your own two feet – for guided treks through the Atlas Mountains surrounding Marrakesh. Along the way, you get to stay in Berber villages to unplug yourself (and the gadget-glued kids) and discover a completely different way of life. After a family vacation spent riding the sand dunes or biking along dusty trails, finish in relaxing style on the beach at Essaouira.

For history: Rome

People of all ages can’t help but wonder at the ancient marvels that are casually strewn all over Rome. The Forum and the Colosseum are the big-hitters, of course, but there’s also the miracle that’s the Pantheon, which has been standing in Piazza della Rotonda since AD125 despite all that history has thrown at it. Children who are fans of Roman history will get a thrill from wandering through the ancient ruins of Ostia Antica. They’re only about 30 minutes from Rome and attract only a fraction of the tourists you’ll find in Italy’s capital.

For a road trip: America’s West

Start in Los Angeles – maybe squeeze in a visit to Universal Studios or Disneyland while you’re there – before hitting the road. Get a taste of the desert while driving through Joshua Tree National Park before crossing the border into the dusty red landscapes of Arizona and New Mexico. The area around Tucson, Santa Fe and Albuquerque is rich in colonial Spanish history and Native American culture, including the terracotta-coloured Unesco World Heritage Site of Taos Pueblo. At this point it’s very tempting to continue north towards the Grand Canyon.

For food: Vietnam

Stick a plate of noodles in front of children and most of them would be happy. Go a step further and let them discover how to cook it themselves in the bewitching surroundings of Hoi An, preferably in one of the cooking schools that’s in a scenic riverside spot. The kids will be whipping up a classic Vietnamese pho in no time after spending the morning scouring the local markets for fresh ingredients for their lunch. Hoi An is street-food heaven, with stalls mingling influences from both the north and south of the country.

For wildlife: Kangaroo Island, Australia

More than a third of this peaceful South Australia island is covered in national parks where you can get comfortably close to wildlife – that means lounging with the sea lions on the beach and feeding the kangaroos in the aptly named Kangaroo Island National Park. There are also wallabies and koalas too, of course – not to mention possums, bandicoots and other native creatures. You’ll spot another exotic species in any of the five surf bays too, as the long sandy beaches and waves attract surfers from all over the world.

Compare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to buy travel insurance before you go. Featured image Pixabay / CC0. 

Spanning an area as large as Europe, French Polynesia can be intimidating to the first-­time visitor. Technically an overseas collectivity of France, this globally ­renowned destination is considered by many to be a slice of heaven on earth.

With its idyllic beaches, postcard­-worthy sunsets, and incredible turquoise waters filled with abundant marine life, French Polynesia’s Society Islands (most notably Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Raiatea, and Taha’a) attract the majority of the region’s visitors. Yet there’s all this – and more – to discover in these halcyon isles.

Here, Eric Grossman takes us through French Polynesia’s highlights in a (coco)nut shell.

Tahiti Island

Tahiti Island is the largest and most populated of the 118 islands and atolls that make up French Polynesia. Most visitors use Tahiti as a base from which to explore the region’s many highlights; all the major destinations can be reached from the international airport in Faa’a.

With its ubiquitous pearl shops, lively roulottes (food trucks), and occasional traffic jams, the capital city of Papeete is the closest thing French Polynesia has to a metropolis. To truly appreciate the island’s many natural wonders, however, be sure to explore its rugged coastline, myriad historical sites, and mountainous interior.

Tahiti also affords visitors their best chance to get a taste of normal everyday Polynesian life by seeking out a beach or market (such as the Marché Papeete) crammed with friendly locals.

Tahiti via Pixabay/CC0

Moorea

Only a 30 minute ferry ride from Papeete, the charming island of Moorea is less populated and developed than its famous neighbour. Visitors exploring the mountainous, mostly rural island are more likely to encounter more chickens than humans.

From an elevated perch inland (for which you’ll need a 4×4 vehicle) one can view the two small, nearly symmetrical bays on the north shore where most of the island’s action takes place.

Moorea via Pixabay/CC0

Bora Bora

Perhaps the most lauded honeymoon spot on the planet, Bora Bora benefits from its natural lagoon that’s monitored by the imposing, majestic Mount Otemanu. The clear, warm waters are filled with colorful fish and majestic rays, and most visitors spend as much time here as possible.

A handful of upscale resorts, including the family friendly Four Seasons and opulent St. Regis, are famous for their overwater bungalows. These pricey accommodations offer an exceptional, once-­in-­a-­lifetime splurge perfect for celebs looking for some peace and privacy, as well as mere mortals celebrating a special occasion.

Bora Bora via Pixabay/CC0

Raiatea and Taha’a

The islands of Raiatea and Taha’a can be seen from Bora Bora, and like their world-­famous neighbour, both offer astoundingly clear waters and a relaxing break from modern life (in other words, don’t expect perfect internet access).

Prized by yachters and sailors, Raiatea is the larger and more visited of the two. The island is believed to be the site from which organised migrations to Hawaii and other parts of Polynesia were launched many centuries ago.

Smaller, quieter Taha’a is also worth a visit, especially for those interested in its two most famous products: vanilla and pearls.

Raiatea by Liz Saldaña via Flickr (CC-BY – modified)

Tuamotu Islands

While no one will confuse the Society Islands for busier, more developed tropical destinations, certain visitors may seek something a little quieter; those looking to completely disconnect are wise to consider the Tuamotu Islands.

This vast archipelago of coral atolls is headlined by Rangiroa and Tikehau, where pink sand beaches give way to clear waters filled with a kaleidoscope of colorful fish (the famed underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau was a fan).

If you’ve ever fantasized about seeing a shark swim under your bungalow, look no further. Rangiroa, comprised of 240 small islets that form the second­-largest atoll in the world, ­is a mecca for divers.

Few visitors leave the Tuamotus without diving, snorkeling, or boating. Just don’t expect anything by way of shopping or nightlife ­ visitor services are at a minimum in these sparsely ­populated destinations.

Rangiroa by dany13 via Flickr (CC-BY – modified)

Marquesas Islands

About a three hour flight from the Society Islands resides the Marquesas Islands; these rugged, quiet islands are renowned within French Polynesia for their rich culture and breathtaking nature.

Some of the Marquesas have remained untouched since the era of European exploration. Fearless visitors traverse steep mountains while keeping an eye out for the wild horses, pigs, and goats that roam inland.

Nuku Hiva, the largest of the Marquesas, lures visitors with its lush valleys, ancient religious sites, and towering waterfalls. The island of Hiva Oa also receives tourism due to its wild landscape, giant stone tiki, and rich history (it’s the final resting place of the performer Jacques Brel and artist Paul Gauguin).

Marquesas via Pixabay/CC0

Compare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to buy travel insurance before you go. Header image via Pixabay/CC0

The twin-island republic of Trinidad and Tobago is one of the Caribbean‘s most under explored destinations. With an incredibly diverse range of wildlife and scenery, the islands are home to stunning waterfalls, rainforests and reefs as well as countless undeveloped beaches along their coastlines.

Here’s selection of our favourite photographs showcasing the natural beauty of Trinidad and Tobago.

The north coast of Trinidad

Pigeon Point, Tobago

A tiny Tobago islet

A blustery sandy beach on Trinidad

Parlatuvier Bay, Tobago

Trinidad’s North Coast

Beach view, Tobago

A parched tree on the waterline

Scarlet Ibis soar above the trees

A boat looks out to the clear Caribbean sea

Manzanilla and Mayaro, Trinidad

 A dramatic sunset

Siewdass Sadhu Temple in the sea, Trinidad

Beached fishing boats

Colourful windswept fabrics

Castara beach at sunset, Tobago

Store Bay, Tobago

Las Cuevas Bay, Trinidad

Castara Bay, Tobago

A view over Speyside and Little Tobago

Explore more of these beautiful islands with the Rough Guide to Trinidad & TobagoCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to buy travel insurance before you go.

Not all that long ago Margate was a forlorn seaside town rejected by even the bucket-and-spade brigade. In a sad story echoed across England, the already struggling high street was devastated by the opening of an out-of-town shopping centre; pubs and restaurants were closing, and the future of this once thriving seaside resort looked grim.

Fast forward ten years to the latest edition of the Rough Guide to England and this North Kent town is lauded for its “irresistible energy” and its “vintage shopping and fabulous art gallery”.

So how exactly did this revival happen? And why has Margate’s regeneration been covered everywhere from the BBC to the New York Times?

Image courtesy of Visit Thanet

High speed London to Margate

Walking from the rail station past the iconic (or unsightly, depending on your point of view) granite high-rise block and shabby amusement arcades, it’s clear who has just stepped off the one-hour-twenty-minute high speed train from St Pancras. Moustachio’d hipsters cross over to the beach side of the busy seafront road, taking great gulps of sea air and gravitating to the pretty harbour arm in the distance.

Margate’s sea and sandy beach first attracted flannel-bathing-suited pleasure seekers in the Victorian times, and most of what today’s day-trippers are after, from fish and chips to art and antiques, can be found close to the harbour in the tiny Old Town.

A short stroll reveals narrow lanes bursting with independent little galleries, cafes and vintage clothing shops, plus an old fashioned sweet shop and the ridiculously atmospheric Lifeboat Ale and Cider House.

Art and the Creative Quarter

You can’t talk about art in Margate without more than a nod to landscape painter JMW Turner, who, after attending school in the Old Town, became a regular visitor to Margate – and Mrs Booth, his landlady – and said that the skies here “were the loveliest in all Europe”.

The Turner Contemporary opened in a big glass box on the seafront in 2011 and hosts all sorts of exciting historic and contemporary exhibitions, not least by local girl Tracy Emin, who was also commissioned to create the artwork over the visitor centre entrance, where her declaration to the town “I Never Stopped Loving You” blazes in neon green.

Image by Benjamin Becker

Riding in the slipstream of the Turner Contemporary’s national profile, an entire “Creative Quarter” has emerged, with collaborative artist-led spaces like Crate and Resort supporting local artists, and lots of the town’s independent shops have an artistic bent.

Small businesses like souvenir shop Crafted Naturally have studio space; owner Wendy runs hands-on workshops where you can create your own gorgeous batik print – drawing and brushing with hot wax over cloth.

One of the town’s most intriguing works of art can only be seen by leaving the other day-trippers behind and making for the underground Shell Grotto. Twisting passageways and damp chambers covered in the swirls and patterns of more than four million shells were discovered in 1835; you’re invited to make up your own mind whether it’s an eccentric Victorian folly, an ancient pagan temple, or simply the town’s first, best, PR stunt.

Seaside nostalgia

Back on the seafront there’s something proudly working class about Margate. It’s got character – and characters. Mannings Seafood Stall still serves up jellied eel and oysters, families line the steps down to the sands eating chips from Peter’s Fish Factory and kiosks do a roaring trade in Mr Whippy’s.

After years as a bingo hall and then snooker club, the 1911 Parade Cinema has reemerged as the Old Kent Market, complete with food stalls and double decker bus serving coffee and cocktails.

The nostalgic theme has been turned up a notch with the recent grand reopening of the sixteen-acre amusement park Dreamland, with the UK’s oldest wooden roller-coaster, dodgems, vintage arcade games and a roller room for skating like it’s 1979.

Image by Sam Pow

Playing up to the associations with the mods and rockers who gathered here in the sixties, vintage furniture and clothing stores have sprung up across the Old Town and, for those who have been put off by Margate’s rocketing rental rates, up Fort Hill to neighbouring Cliftonville.

Hunkydory 24, Junk Deluxe, Paraphernalia and Breuer & Dawson are some of the best, and the Aladdin’s cave that is Scott’s Furniture Mart shouldn’t be missed. Luckily, they deliver. The Art Deco desk you’ve got your eye on would be tricky to haul to St Pancras.

Rachel stayed at the Sands Hotel. More information about Margate can be found in the Rough Guide to Kent, Sussex and Surrey and via Visit Kent. Header image courtesy of Visit Thanet

Backpacking Thailand can mean staying in fun-packed hostels and idyllic beach bungalows, eating noodles so tasty and so cheap you’ll swear off all other food groups and climbing aboard everything from an overnight train to a lolloping elephant.

But it also means following a well-worn route – one that has sprouted an entire industry to service it, and sometimes, sadly, to take advantage of it.

Sidestep those scams and dodge the dangers with our top tips for making the most of backpacking Thailand.

1. Be respectful – know the etiquette

Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles for a reason, but those smiles can quickly disappear if you don’t respect the culture. The feet are considered the lowest part of the body so never point them (especially the soles) towards somebody, especially if that somebody is a statue of Buddha. The head is considered most sacred so don’t touch people on the head, even children.

2. Eat bravely

One of the best things about travelling in Thailand is the food and you’ll find the tastiest – and cheapest – Thai noodles and curries at the street food stalls.

Be brave and follow the locals, they know which places have the highest standards, and the more people eating means more turnover and fresher ingredients.

3. Embrace public transport

Yes, the tuk tuk is an experience you mustn’t miss but to get proper mileage under your belt (and to get between Bangkok and the highlights of Chiang Mai, the southern islands and Kanchanaburi) you’re going to need to get to grips with the Thai bus service (Baw Khaw Saw or BKS).

Government-run, it’s reliable and extensive, with a BKS station in almost every town. Book your tickets here the day before you want to travel if and take the overnight first class bus to save on a night’s accommodation.

These generally stop somewhere en route for you to eat and will have reclining seats and a toilet on board. Bring a warm jacket to wrap up in, earplugs and an eye shade and prepare to arrive very early in the morning.

4. Timing is everything

The best time to visit Thailand is between November and February, when the monsoons finish for the year and temperatures are at coolest. This is also peak season though so if saving money and avoiding crowds is more important to you than sunbathing, the wet season (May to October) could be a better bet. To see all the highlights at a reasonable pace you’re going to need at least a month, though two is better.

5. Don’t be fooled

That tuk tuk driver stopping you on the street to tell you it’s a national holiday and that temple you’re about to visit is closed? It’s almost certainly not, he or she may just want to take you to their cousin’s carpet factory or sister’s gem shop.

Don’t be fooled by official looking uniforms, cheap or free tuk tuk tours or one day only gem sales either – unfortunately all are scams set up to part you from your travel funds, usually in exchange for a worthless ‘gem’ you can sell when you get back home

And don’t even think about getting involved in the sex industry – prostitution may be rife in Thailand but one thing it’s not is legal.

6. Agree a price before you ride

Be it a taxi or a tuk tuk, you need to agree a price for your journey in advance. Taxi drivers are meant to use the meter so ask them to and if they say no move on along the rank to the next driver.

Tuk tuks should be haggled over – ask your hostel for a rough estimate on current rates and stand firm. Though it also pays to remember that haggling over 20 baht is about equivalent to getting in a stress over 40p or 60 cents – sometimes it just isn’t worth it.

7. Pack light

You’re going backpacking for the freedom – so don’t weigh yourself down. Buy a light backpack and fill it only with the essentials.

You’ll need layers for those chilly bus journeys, a few items of underwear you can wash repeatedly, a waterproof jacket, earplugs, your phone charger and adaptor and insect repellent. Here’s a backpacking checklist to help you plan your backpack.

8. Use hostels

Thailand has a great network of hostels and you’ll not only save money over hotels, but also meet more people and get more local recommendations. Hostel staff are also a reliable source of advice and information on everything from avoiding the latest scam to where to get the best noodles, so talk to them.

9. Go with the flow

Thailand is a place to chill. So stay on somewhere if you love it, move on if you don’t, and if you hear about a cool new bar or restaurant, or a party on the beach, go. Unpredictable sometimes, unforgettable always.

Explore more of Thailand with the Rough Guide to ThailandCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to buy travel insurance before you go.

For a relatively small continent, Europe has some extraordinary coastlines. Their variety is dizzying, from sheltered rocky coves fringed with olive trees to vast stretches of soft sandy beaches. Whittling down the list for possible beach holidays in Europe can be tough, so here are a few places that will get you in the mood for lazy days in the sun.

1. Find paradise in Rab, Croatia

Sandy beaches are a rarity in Croatia, but on this small island in the Kvarner Gulf, you’ve got 22 to choose from. Rab’s aptly named Paradise Beach on the Lopar peninsula is a good place to start for a relaxing beach holiday, with a 1.5km sweep of sand and clear shallow waters. Or take a half-hour hike through woods to reach Sahara Beach in a sheltered inlet – a popular spot for naturists.

2. Take the plunge in Tropea, Italy

It’s hard to find a beach with a more dramatic backdrop than Tropea’s steep cliffs, where brightly coloured houses cling on, seemingly in defiance of gravity. Down in Italy’s toe, Calabria’s prettiest town hovers over several sandy beaches as well as a rocky promontory topped by the church of Santa Maria dell’Isola. Calabria is one of Italy’s least developed regions, and its warmth comes not just from the southern sun and the famously spicy cuisine.

3. Spin those wheels in Ile de Ré, France

Everyone’s on a bike on this chilled-out French Atlantic island, where 100km of cycle trails wind past sandy beaches, vineyards, salt pans and pine forests. Head inland where oyster beds hint at the gorgeous seafood on offer at the food market in the village of La Flotte. After a day on the dunes at Sainte-Marie-de-Ré’s beach, try one of the quayside cafés in St-Martin-de-Ré.

4. Go back in time in Norfolk, England

Norfolk’s North Sea coast might not have the balmy climate of its Continental counterparts, but the six kilometres of Holkham beach’s soft and often empty sands are very tempting all the same. Rent a bike and check out the Norfolk Coast Cycleway along the coast to Wells-next-the-Sea, where rustic beach huts give the area an old-fashioned charm.

5. Chill out in Paxos, Greece

Strap on your swimming shoes to get the most out of the long rocky beach at Monodendri on the east coast of Paxos. You’ll be able to see every detail of the pebbles in the sparkling waters of the Ionian Sea here. Pine and olive trees offer shade, and both of the beach restaurants serve classic Greek dishes; one even has an outdoor pool.

6. Find peace on Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast

Just north of Bulgaria’s border with Turkey are some of the country’s least developed beaches. Start in the small village of Sinemorets and work your way down the indented coast, where quiet golden-sand beaches are surrounded by protected nature reserves and pine forests. Bring your own picnic to the secluded sands of Lipite Beach and Silistar Beach, as you won’t find the bars and clubs that dominate the resorts further north.

7. Laid-back Liguria, Italy

There’s a wonderfully traditional and mellow air to the beach at Santa Margarita Ligure. Away from the smart yachts in the pleasure port, you can still watch the fishermen offload their catch, destined for the seafront restaurants. The town makes a good base for exploring this part of Italy’s Ligurian coast, with classy Portofino just to the west and the exquisite Cinque Terre villages a short train ride away.

8. Go wild in Galicia, Spain

The Costa da Morte in Spain’s north-western tip might be known as the Coast of Death – thanks to a few too many nineteenth-century shipwrecks – but its beaches are heavenly. Carnota is the longest beach in Galicia, a wild seven-kilometre stretch of white sand backed by marshland, dunes and mountains. Stroll along the wooden walkways that cross the marshes and catch glimpses of herons and other wildlife.

9. Lose yourself in Languedoc, France

The windswept coast of France’s Languedoc region seems to go on forever as it stretches from the Camargue to the Spanish coast (when it technically becomes Roussillon). Even in the height of summer, there’s plenty of sandy beach to go round. On the western fringe of the Camargue is Plage de l’Espiguette, nearly ten kilometres of untamed dunes and, refreshingly, not much else. If it’s beach bars you’re after, head to nearby Le Grau-du-Roi or La Grande Motte.

10. Go off the rails in Rügen, Germany

Germany’s largest island is also one of its most popular holiday destinations, a fascinating mix of Victorian resorts, long sandy beaches and a national park with imposing chalk cliffs. The most entertaining way of getting around Rügen is by the historic steam railway which connects its eastern beaches. For one of the strangest relics of Nazi Germany, stop at Prora and check out the ruins of what was supposed to be the world’s largest beach resort.

Explore more of Europe with the Rough Guide to Europe on a BudgetCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to buy travel insurance before you go.

With its mountainous coastal backdrop, scattering of tawny islands and giddyingly translucent waters, the Croatian Adriatic offers one of the most compelling seascapes in Europe.

Indeed it’s something of an island-hopper’s paradise, with a veritable shoal of ferries providing the opportunity to stride up the gangplank, sprawl on the sun deck and soak up the maritime scenery.

And with a recent increase in the number of sea and air connections, there’s never been a better time to raise anchor.

Where to start

Where you start largely depends on which airport you fly into. The mid-Dalmatian city of Split receives the largest number of incoming flights and is also the Adriatic Sea’s largest ferry port, serving the ever-popular islands of Šolta, Hvar, Brač, Korčula and Vis.

Dubrovnik is also a useful gateway thanks to its catamaran services to Mljet, Lastovo, Korčula and Hvar.

The two other entry points are the northern city of Rijeka, providing access to a varied group of islands in the Kvarner Gulf; and the north Dalmatian port of Zadar, with its own group of laid-back island getaways.

How to get around

Car ferries run by state company Jadrolinija serve the main islands, providing public transport for the locals as well as sustaining island tourism.

Faster and slightly more expensive than the ferries, passenger-only catamarans run by both Jadrolinija and Krilo Jet whizz across the water to a selection of destinations.

In summer 2015 a fleet of seaplanes run by European Coastal Airlines started flying from Pula, Rijeka and Split to Lošinj, Hvar, Korčula and Lastovo, adding significantly to the number of itineraries on offer.

When to go

It is possible to island-hop all year round, although sailings to particular islands might be limited to one a day in winter. Wait until the summer timetables come into effect (usually June–Sept) to take advantage of the full range of options.

Note that some routes (such as the Veli Lošinj-Zadar ferry or the Split-Hvar-Dubrovnik catamaran) only run in summer.

July and August can be very hot indeed – perfect for splashing around in the Adriatic but potentially exhausting if you are indulging in urban sightseeing, not to mention hiking or cycling.

Some of the catamaran sailings can sell out in high season, raising the chances of you getting stranded at least once during your trip.

Costs are also at their highest in midsummer, when accommodation prices go through the roof. Travel in late spring or early autumn and you’ll get better value all round.

The classic circuit

The most popular island-hopping itinerary is from Split to Dubrovnik via Brač, Hvar and Korčula. This allows you to see the very best of Dalmatia and is relatively easy to do.

There are numerous ferries from Split to Supetar on Brač, from where you can cross the island to visit the fabulous (but over-popular) Zlatni rat beach at Bol. A daily catamaran sails from Bol to Jelsa on Hvar, from where regular buses will take you to Hvar Town and its compulsive mixture of Renaissance architecture and cocktail-fuelled nights.

There’s a daily catamaran service from Hvar Town to Korčula, where another seductive blend of past glory and present-day hedonism awaits. From here, you can choose between a catamaran or bus ride to Dubrovnik, which makes for a suitably spectacular climax to your trip.

Don’t rush it

The only problem with the classic island circuit is that it can sometimes seem like an oversubscribed exercise in box-ticking, and you really need to give each island time in order to get the most out of the experience.

Consider a side-trip to sleepy, understated Šolta, the nearest island to Split, with its dry-stone-walled olive groves and picture-perfect harbour villages, Maslinica and Stomorska.

Once on Brač, avoid Zlatni rat and make for less-hyped beaches like Lovrečina Bay, or the rocky shores around bike-friendly Sutivan.

On Hvar, don’t just stick to the main town but find time for the equally historic but decidedly more mellow Stari Grad.

It’s a shame to go to Korčula without visiting Proizd, the famously alluring rocky islet just off the port of Vela Luka.

Make time for Vis

Very much an independent traveller’s favourite due to the relative lack of package hotels, Vis is the kind of island that attracts superlatives, whether on account of its rugged scenery, stunning beaches, individual cuisine, or its increasingly cool reputation for offshore bohemia (check out this year’s Goulash Disko Festival in early September).

However Vis is also notoriously difficult to island-hop, with Tuesday morning’s catamaran service to Hvar Town the only link to a nearby island. All other ferry transport goes through Split, meaning that you have to track back to the mainland before travelling onwards. Providing you study the timetable carefully, the diversion to Vis will be well worth the effort.

Don’t forget the north

The islands of the northern Adriatic can be just as rewarding as those of the south. Catamaran services from Rijeka allow you to sample some highly individual, under-touristed islands, alongside increasingly sophisticated Lošinj, the rising star of Adriatic chic.

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The uniquely sandy island of Susak ought to be your first stop, followed by bustling Mali Lošinj with its sleek spa hotels and palm-fringed promenades. From here you can travel on to Silba, a snoozy Shangri-la of independent travel where cars and even bicycles are banned. From Silba, head south by catamaran or ferry to the historic port of Zadar (gateway to another group of low-key islands), or return to Lošinj, where one of European Coastal Airlines’ seaplanes will whisk you down the coast to Split, ready to start your island-hopping adventures all over again.

Explore more of Croatia with the Rough Guide to CroatiaCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to buy travel insurance before you go.

It’s not just appearance that makes up the beauty of a place. Often, travellers will cite the people as the most beautiful thing about a country or culture. In Southeast Asia, there’s no doubt there is beauty in every form – and now our readers have voted to decide which countries are the most beautiful. Here are Southeast Asia’s most beautiful countries ranked by our readers.

7. Thailand

An ever-popular backpacking destination, we’re surprised to see Thailand at the bottom of this list. That’s not to say it’s not beautiful, though. With brochure-worthy beaches in almost every bay and some luscious mountain landscapes, there’s plenty to wow travellers in Thailand. And, of course, the people are indeed beautiful – they were even voted some of the friendliest in the world by our readers.

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6. Laos

This little nation sandwiched between Thailand and Vietnam sits in a similar position here. Laos has no coastline to woo travellers seeking pristine beaches, but instead there are some picturesque waterfalls perfect for swimming beneath, plus one of Southeast Asia’s most charming little towns: Luang Prabang.

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5. Vietnam

If the karst rock formations of Ha Long Bay, jutting out of a cerulean sea, aren’t enough to inspire awe, then perhaps the tiered terraces of Sa Pa might just make your heart beat faster. There’s a lot more to Vietnam’s beauty though, including the evocative ruins of Mỹ Sơn and a string of pretty little beaches along its coastline. Not forgetting one of the world’s greatest rivers, the Mekong, and its lush delta in the south of the country.

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4. The Philippines

An archipelago of more than seven thousand islands, The Philippines earns its place as the fourth most beautiful country in Southeast Asia. The island of Palawan is one of the most picturesque spots, with azure waterways flowing between vast rocky cliffs that drop sheer to the water. For some otherworldly beauty, head to the “Chocolate Hills” on Bohol, an undulating landscape of 40-metre-high grassy mounds.

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3. Cambodia

Voted the world’s friendliest country by our readers, it’s no wonder Cambodia takes a top spot in this list too. No-one could deny that, despite the crowds, sunrise at Angkor Wat is a stunning sight. But Cambodia’s beauty extends beyond ruined temple complexes and into brilliant beaches and fascinating floating communities.

2. Myanmar

Tourism in Myanmar has boomed since the NLD lifted its tourism boycott, and for good reason. The country has plenty of travel eye-candy on offer, whether you want to watch the fishermen on Inle Lake, see the sunrise over the thousands of temples in Bagan, or just slowly meander down the Irrawaddy and meet the smiling locals as you go. A deserving destination for second most beautiful in Southeast Asia.

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1. Indonesia

It’s Indonesia that’s captured the hearts and minds of our readers, taking the number one spot for most beautiful place in Southeast Asia. Its astonishing array of natural wonders would make even the most jaded traveller’s jaw drop: beyond the stunning beaches scattered across these 17,000 islands, there are pretty waterfalls, dense jungles and towering volcanoes.

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Explore more of Southeast Asia with the Rough Guide to Southeast Asia on a BudgetCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. Featured image Pixabay / CC0. 

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