Croatia is one of Europe’s rising tourist stars. This remarkable Adriatic country of 1244 islands, bear and wild boar inhabited forests and world-class vineyards is so much more than just a beach destination. To make sure you hit the ground running in this complex and diverse nation, follow our top ten Croatia travel tips.

1. Be picky

Avoid the temptation to cram too much of this geographically challenging country in to your first visit. If you only have a week split it between the capital, Zagreb, for a night or two and spend the rest of the time exploring the famous Adriatic coast. Longer trips allow rewarding forays further afield, where gems like the UNESCO listed Plitvice Lakes, the castles of the Zagorje and the Slavonian vineyards await.

2. Don’t only go to Dubrovnik

Yes Games of Thrones star Dubrovnik is every bit Lord Byron’s ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, but also tempting on the coast is Split, the country’s second largest city, whose city centre is remarkably a UNESCO site, the spectacular Roman Diocletian’s Palace.

Further north the old Roman hub of Zadar and early Croatian city Šibenik are lively hubs just emerging from the bitter 1990s war, where the cafes are less filled with tourists.

The same goes for the city of Pula in the northwest of the Croatian littoral, which boasts a UNESCO listed Roman amphitheatre.

3. Don’t let the bugs bite

From late spring into autumn mosquitoes are a nuisance throughout much of the country so find a good repellent that your skin does not react to. Light colours help. Avoid wearing fragrances too. Tics are a more pressing problem as they can cause serious illness so wear thick socks and cover up your legs when hiking. A simple tic remover is a good investment, especially if you may be trekking in rural areas.

4. Get the best beds

Spare beds can be hard to come by in summer especially in the most popular islands – like Hvar and Brač – and Dubrovnik. Booking ahead makes sense, but if you do get caught short look out for the sobe signs, which are essentially advertising rooms in locals’ homes. As well as being cheap, staying at a sobe can be a great way to meet Croats. If they are full, owners will often point you in the direction of another nearby.

5. Drink up

Of the big domestic brands Karlovacko is the favourite beer of many Croats and justifiably so. Croatia’s wines are seriously underrated abroad, at least in part due to the relatively small production and high domestic demand. Look out for the mighty Dingac red and the dry Posip white, both from Dalmatia. Istria is renowned for its Malvasija (great with seafood), while the Dubrovnik region’s own Malvasia is on the rise too.

6. Health matters

You should always take out decent travel insurance, even for a weekend break. If you’re an EU resident, be sure to pack a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This entitles you to a basic level of state health care in Croatia. It won’t cover you for repatriation, ongoing medical treatment and non-urgent treatment though, which is where good travel insurance comes in. The emergency ambulance number in Croatia is 112.

7. Get active

Croatia may be famed as a sea and sun destination, but getting active is the best way to discover its wilder corners. Paklenica National Park offers superb hiking and climbing, while in the islands the walk to the highest point, Vidova Gora on Brač, offers remarkable views. For rafting the Cetina River tempts, while windsurfers should head to Korčula and paragliders to Mount Ucka.

8. Eat well

Croats are justifiably proud of the fine organic produce their country conjures up in such abundance and many will refer to the processed food in supermarkets witheringly as ‘cat food’. Wherever you are, a local market is never far away, so shop local to put together a mouth-watering picnic bursting with fresh flavour.

9. Talk to the locals

Be very careful when discussing the Homeland War, which ravaged the country as it became independent from Yugoslavia in the 1990s, with a local. Do a little bit of research before your trip and hold back any too hastily formed views. Then when a Croat does decide to open up a little about those defining years, your knowledge and interest may help you gain an insight into the country well beyond the tourist sheen, which adds a totally different dimension to your trip.

10. Savour the seafood

Croatia’s seafood is truly world class. A bounty of fishy delights are hauled daily from the Adriatic, the cleanest corner of the Mediterranean. Even if you’re timid about bones and shells no trip to the coast is complete without a seafood feast. The best value way of sampling a range of delights is to order the riblja plata, a mixed platter of fish and shellfish, which is usually plenty for two to share.

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

In search of somewhere a little more adventurous and lot less travelled than the famous backwaters of Kerala? Head to the Godavari Delta on the eastern coast of Andhra Pradesh, where you’ll find a rich area for exploration says Nick Edwards, co-author of The Rough Guide to India.

The mighty Godavari, second only in length to the Ganges, traverses central India from its source near the holy city of Nasik in the Western Ghats, finally issuing in the Bay of Bengal after its almost 1500km journey. As it widens and then divides into several distinct mouths, not only does it create a highly fertile basin but it also offers a number of delightful hideaways that are only just opening up as tourist destinations.

So far such visitors as do make it here are almost exclusively domestic tourists, meaning that it’s a great place to get an authentic experience of being the only foreigner for miles around.

Drop anchor at Rajahmundry

The best base to start investigating this fascinating region is Rajahmundry, which sprawls along the east bank of the river just at the point where it makes its first major split into the mouths that constitute the vast estuary.

Although Rajahmundry is a good eighty kilometres from the coast, the river is so wide at this point that it takes five to ten minutes to cross by road or train. It’s well connected, lying on the main east coast transport route, roughly halfway between the  better known cities of Vijayawada and Vishakapatnam.

Godavari by Venkataramesh Kommoju via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The city itself is busy in a typically Indian way and doesn’t offer any particular attractions but is far from unpleasant, with plenty of greenery and a lively riverfront. As you would expect for the last major town on India’s second holiest river, this area is lined with all sorts of temples, shrines and bathing ghats, making it a splendid spot to take in Hindu practices at work.

As many of the places that are worth visiting are quite difficult or impossible to access under your own steam, Rajahmundry is also the place to organise a tour with a dedicated agency such as Konaseema Tourism.

Head for the hills upriver

One excellent tour that is well worth considering is the trip north up the main trunk of the Godavari to the hills of Papikondalu. This can be done as a lengthy day-trip but it’s far better to make it into an overnight stay.

Having been transported some 50km by road along the west bank of the narrowing river to a small jetty at Polavaram, you board a double-decker motor boat and are fed a typically South Indian breakfast of idli, vada, sambar and coconut chutney. This vessel then chugs upstream at a sedate pace, as the river snakes through a mixture of agricultural and wooded land, fringed with more thickly forested hills.

The trip is very much geared towards locals, with speakers blaring out extremely loud music, ranging from devotional temple chants, through Bollywood hits to Indian reggae (yes, reggae not raga), interspersed with a rapid rap-style Telugu commentary. There are a couple of stops, one for puja at a small riverside Shiva temple and later a quiet Ramakrishna hermitage. A tasty veg lunch is also provided on board.

If you choose to stay overnight, there’s a choice between the very basic Kolluru Bamboo Huts, only accessible by boat, and a slightly more comfortable hotel at Bhadrachalam, which has an impressive Sri Rama temple and is connected by road, so the tour can actually be used as a means of transport, much like the famous Kollam to Alleppey trip in Kerala.

There’s is no doubt the more romantic option is to stay at Kolluru. The huts certainly have no frills, or even doors, but the location on a hillock between the Godavari and a picturesque side stream, surrounded by the high Papikondalu Hills, is exquisite. Try local specialities such as bamboo chicken, where small chunks of meat are roasted over coals in a thick hollowed-out section of bamboo, and take in the unforgettable night sky.

Explore Konaseema and Koringa

The other rewarding areas to explore are to the south and east of Rajahmundry.

Konaseema is the palm-rich region in the flat delta of large islands created by the seven mouths of the Godavari, dotted with grassy marshes, fishing boats and small motorised ferries. Fairly upmarket waterfront resorts are beginning to appear, mainly around the villages of Dindi and Razole, both of which are accessible by bus.

There are also the early signs of houseboats becoming available, although there is nothing like the choice of Kerala yet. This is the part of Andhra Pradesh where the purest form of Telugu is spoken and its vibrant cultural heritage is evidenced in colourful festivals at the many temples, such as Sankranti in January.

Konaseema – Coconut trees by { pranav } via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Finally, occupying a large swathe of coastline just north of the main mouth of the river, between the small Union Territory of Yanam, an old French colony, and the busy port of Kakinada, lies the Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary. The area is densely packed with mangrove swamps, second only in surface area to the Sunderbans, and a host of other water-loving plants, shrubs and trees.

There’s a boardwalk set up through the muddy groves and a tiny jetty for boat trips when the tide allows, plus a concrete viewing platform for a splendid overview. Among the birdlife you can spot here is the ubiquitous egret, the open-billed stork, kingfishers and even the Brahminy kite, while the elusive otter is the most notable resident mammal. The surrounding bay is also a major breeding ground for the Olive Ridley turtle.

Explore more of India with the Rough Guide to IndiaCompare flightsbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

You can’t expect to fit everything Europe has to offer into one trip and we don’t suggest you try. For those taking a big, extended trip around the continent you could join a few countries together.

Each of these itineraries could be done in two or three weeks if followed to the letter but don’t push it too hard – with so much to see and do you’re bound to get waylaid somewhere you love or stray off the suggested route.

For a complete guide to exploring the region and up-to-date recommendations of the best hotels, hostels, activities and more, buy the full guide here.

1. Britain and Ireland

Where else to begin but London (1) – one of the world’s greatest but most expensive cities. While your wallet is still intact move on to the storied grounds of Oxford (2) before heading to Snowdonia (3), where the Welsh mountains provide excellent hiking.

Soak up some history in the medieval streets of York (4), then make the trip north to stunning Edinburgh (5). Find your inner Braveheart in the Scottish Highlands (6) and fit in an unforgettable hike, climb, or ski while you’re at it.

Pop across the North Channel to Belfast (7), but be sure not to miss the nearby Giant’s Causeway – one of Europe’s great natural wonders. Grab a perfect pint of Guinness in Dublin (8), then wind down on the windswept beaches of Ireland’s West Coast (9).

2. France and Switzerland

Start in Paris (1), Europe’s most elegant capital, then venture off to the châteaux and prime vineyards of the Loire Valley (2). Move south to beautiful Bordeaux (3), which boasts bustling city life and some of Europe’s finest surfing beaches to boot.

Head south the peaks of the Pyrenees (4) before taking a trip through Southern France to the Côte d’Azur (5). Don’t miss the magic of Corsica (6), a true adventure playground, or traditional cooking in Lyon (7), the country’s gastronomic capital.

Try your luck skiing and climbing in the Alps (8), and end by relaxing riverside in laid-back Zürich (9).

3. Benelux, Germany and Austria

Kick off in Amsterdam (1) before enjoying more atmospheric canals and beautiful buildings in Bruges (2). Cologne’s (3) spectacular old town is a perfect first stop in Germany, but be sure to head north soon after for the vast port and riotous bars of Hamburg (4).

Few cities can compete with the style and youthful energy of Berlin (5), while Dresden (6) has also become a favourite backpacker hangout. Then head south to Munich (7), where Bavaria’s capital boasts everything from snowy scenery to beer-fuelled Oktoberfest.

Cross over the boarder to Austria and hit the slopes or the Mozart trail in scenic Salzburg (8), and conclude this itinerary among the palaces, museums, cafés and boulevards of Vienna (9).

4. Spain, Portugal and Morocco

Begin in the Basque capital of Bilbao (1), Spain’s friendliest city and home of the Guggenheim. Then it’s on to the city beaches, late-night bars and enchanting old town of Barcelona (2). Ibiza‘s (3) nightclubs are famous the world over, but its pockets of peace and quiet are worth the trip alone.

Gobble tapas and dance the night away in Madrid (4) before heading west for the countless port lodges of Porto (5). Cruise down the Atlantic coast to the historic Portuguese capital of Lisbon (6), then make for the region of Andalucía (7), stopping in the cities of Seville and Granada as you venture further south.

If you catch a ferry across the Straits of Gibraltar to Morocco and set course for Fez (8), explore the medieval Moroccan city of labyrinth alleys, souks and mosques. Finish up in Marrakesh (9), a colourful city with a stunning backdrop of the Atlas Mountains.

5. Italy

Start in Milan (1) for a little Prada, Gucci, and Leonardo da Vinci. Veer east to visit the world’s most beautiful city, Venice (2), then south to the foodie nirvana of Bologna (3). Glide onwards to Tuscany (4) where Florence and Siena make excellent bases to explore the region’s hill towns.

You can hardly “do” Europe and not see Rome (5), and there is truly no better place to eat pizza than in the crumbling yet attractive city of Naples (6). Experience a Roman town frozen in time at Pompeii (7), before sleeping in one of Matera’s (8) hand-carved caves.

Kick back in Sicily (9) on idyllic beaches beneath smouldering volcanoes, or enjoy the hectic pace of Palermo, one of Italy’s most in-your-face cities.

6. Central and Eastern Europe

Get going in Prague (1), a pan-European city with beer that never disappoints. Move east to Warsaw’s (2) vodka-soaked bar scenes, Old Town, palaces and parks.

Arty and atmospheric Kraków (3) shouldn’t be missed, and neither should a trip to charming cafés of L’viv (4). Leave cities behind for the majestic wilderness of Slovakia‘s Tatra Mountains (4), then head back to civilisation and immerse yourself in Budapest (6) where you’ll find two great cities in one.

Finish this itinerary up in Ljubljana (7); Slovenia’s capital is a perfectly formed pit stop between central Europe and the Adriatic if you’re eager to push on to the Balkans.

7. Scandinavia

Start in the lively lanes of beautiful Copenhagen (1), and head north to Gothenburg’s (2) elegant architecture, fantastic nightlife and fully-functioning rainforest. A visit to Oslo (3) is worth the expense, but after a while you’ll feel the pull of the Norwegian fjords (4).

The mild climate and wild scenery of the Lofoten Islands (5) should not be skipped, but neither should the reindeer, huskies and elusive Northern Lights of Lapland (6). Of course, no trip to Scandinavia would be complete without a stop in Stockholm (7).

If you’re travelling in summer, get to Gotland (8) – Sweden’s party island, buzzing with DJs and bronzed bodies on the beach.

8. Russia and the Baltic Coast

Big, brash, expensive surreal – Moscow (1) is almost a nation in itself, and well worth a visit before moving on to the jaw-dropping architecture and priceless art collections of St Petersburg (2).

Head west to Helsinki (3), the proudly Finnish love child of Russian and Swedish empires, then hop across the gulf to charming and beautifully preserved Tallinn in Estonia (4).

Latvia’s cosmopolitan Riga (5) should not be missed, and when you need your nature fix go further south to the Curonian Spit (6), a strip of sand dunes and dense forest ideal for cycling and hiking. Wind this trip down in Vilnius (7), the friendliest and perhaps even the prettiest of all Baltic capitals.

9. The Balkans

Start with a slew of cheap but delicious wine, watersports, and vitamin D on the Dalmatian coast (1), then move on to Europe’s war-scarred but most welcoming capital, Sarajevo (2).

History-steeped Dubrovnik (3) rivalled Venice in its day, and is an easy stop on the way to Budva (4), Montenegro’s star resort with unspoilt beaches and throbbing open-air bars. Head further south to Tirana (5) for charming architecture and urban exploration, before visiting the shimming shores of Ohrid’s (6) mountain-backed lake.

Be sure to check out the chilled vibe of Sofia (7), and the more upbeat buzz of Serbia’s hip capital: Belgrade (8). End this itinerary by discovering Transylvania (9) – you probably won’t find any vampires, but you will find fairytale villages, colourful festivals, and wolf tracking in the Carpathians.

10. Greece and Turkey

Begin by finding the perfect beach in Kefaloniá (1), and continue to Athens (2) for a sun set over the Parthenon. Sail first to the island of Íos (3) for partying backpackers and hippie-era charm, then on to Crete’s (4) Samarian Gorge.

Get to the Turkish mainland for a visit to the remarkably preserved temples, mosaics, and baths in Ephesus (5) before mountain biking, paragliding, or diving in Kaş (6).

Then venture east to Cappadocia’s (7) volcanic landscape and subterranean city, and wrap up among the bazaars, hammams, and surprisingly hectic nightlife in Istanbul (8).

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 purchase travel insurance before you go.

You can’t expect to fit everything Southeast Asia has to offer into one trip – or two or three or four, to be fair – and we don’t suggest you try. So, to help you start planning, we’ve put together 8 ideas for your Southeast Asia itinerary from The Rough Guide to Southeast Asia on a Budget.

For those taking a big, extended trip around the continent you could join a few together, but remember that the distances you’ll be covering can be vast. Plus, there’s lots to discover off the beaten track.

For a complete guide to exploring the region and up-to-date recommendations of the best hotels, hostels, activities and more, buy the full guide here.

1. Vietnam

Start in colonial streets of Hanoi (1), the country’s historical, political and cultural capital. Go for a sail around the famed natural wonders of Ha Long Bay (2), before heading to the northern hills to the ethnic minority villages orbiting Sa Pa (3).

Take the train down to imperial architecture of Hué (4), make a day-trip to the DMZ, then move south to charming Hoi An (5). Nha Trang (6) is Vietnam‘s pre-eminent beach party town, whereas Mui Ne (7) offers great water-sports and sandy coasts with a more laidback vibe.

Da Lat (8) is your gateway to the Central Highlands, but if you’re still craving sea and sand the island of Phy Quoc (9) is a haven for beach bums and divers. Float down lush canals in the Mekong Delta (10), and finish your trip in bustling Ho Chi Minh City (11).

2. Myanmar

Kick off in Yangon (1) for street markets and the glorious Shwedagon Paya, then go to Mawlamyine (2), Myanmar‘s third largest city. Catch a boat to Hpa-an (3) before visiting one of the holiest Buddhist sites in the country, Kyaiktiyo (4).

Kalaw (5) is a perfect base for treks to ethnic-minority villages, and traditional life at Inle Lake (6) shouldn’t be missed either. Watch the sunset over Mandalay (7), then soar in a hot-air balloon over the awe-inspiring temples of Bagan (8).

Stroll the botanical gardens at Pyin Oo Lwin (9) before taking the train ride across the Goteik viaduct to Hsipaw (10), an increasingly popular trekking base.

3. Laos and Cambodia

Begin with the unmissable two-day trip down the Mekong River from Houayxai to Luang Prabang (1), the city of golden spires. Then its off to the stunning natural playground of Vang Vieng (2), before venturing to the country’s quaint capital, Vientiane (3).

Enjoy the pretty French-colonial lanes of Savannakhet (4) and explore the Khmer ruins of Wat Phou near Champasak (5). Set course towards Si Phan Don (6) to chill out for a few days in one of the four thousand islands scattered across the Mekong River. Catch a mini-bus to Cambodia for river dolphin watching in Kratie (7), or laze riverside in relaxed Kampot (8).

An easy bus ride takes you from Phnom Penh (9) to  Siem Reap, where the world-famous temples of Angkor (10) beg to be explored. But if you’re feeling a little travel-worn afterwards there’s no better place to kick back than the beach resort and offshore islands of Sihanoukville (11).


4. Bangkok and Northern Thailand

After immersing yourself in Bangkok, Thailand’s frenetic and thriving capital, chill-out among the rafthouses and waterfalls of Kanchanaburi (2).

Rent a bicycle to explore the ancient ruins of Ayutthaya (3) and then make for the elegant temple remains in Sukhothai (4). To break free of the tourist route head to isolated Umphang (5), where the surrounding mountains are perfect for trekking.

Chaing Mai (6) is always a backpacking favourite, but an amble through the arty night markets and excellent live-music bars of Pai (7) shouldn’t be missed either.

5. Thailand’s Beaches and Islands

Commence among the old-world charms of Thailand‘s Phetchaburi (1), then take a trip to the paradisiacal islands of Ko Tao (2) and Ko Pha Ngan (3) for raging moon parties or a detox.

Trek through the jungle in Khao Sok National Park (4) ­– one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet – and as you move further south, consider a stop in the slightly ugly tourist village of Ko Phi Phi (5) for undeniably fun all-night parties, snorkelling and diving.

Continue south to the relaxed island getaway of Ko Lanta (6), before winding this itinerary down in the pockets of paradise still remaining in Ko Lipe (7) and the stunning Ko Tarutai National Marine Park nearby.

6. Singapore and Malaysia

Singapore (1) is an easy introduction to Southeast Asia with its array of tourist-friendly pleasures. But move on to Melaka (2) for a fascinating mix of cultures and an ideal first stop in Malaysia.

Kuala Lumpur (3) is a must, and the cooling heights of the Cameron Highlands (4) will provide refuge after the bustle. Relax on the beaches of the Perhentian Islands (5) then make for the rainforests of Taman Negara National Park (6), before catching a ride on the jungle railway to Kota Bharu.

Attractive Kuching (7) is an ideal base for visits to the Iban longhouses, and a journey along the 560km Batang Rajang (8) river into the heart of Sarawak is unforgettable.

Nature and adventure buffs alike will love Gunung Mulu National Park (9), Kinabalu National Park (10) and the wildlife outside of Sandakan (11). Finish this itinerary among the teeming marine life of Pulau Sipadan (12), one of the top dive sties in the world.

7. Indonesia

There’s plenty to discover by starting in Sumatra’s Bukit Lawang and Danau Toba (1), the famous orang-utan centre, soaring volcanoes and island retreats among them.

Take time to explore Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta (2), before moving on to Java cultural heart: Yogyakarta (3), the best base for the temples of Borobudur and Prambanan. Take a pre-dawn hike up to the crater rim of still-smoking Gunung Bromo (4), adventure the many wonders of Hindu Bali and hop over the Lombok (6) and the Gili Islands for adventures in paradise.

Enjoy close encouters with Komodo dragons in Komodo and Rinca (7) before heading to the mountainous landscapes of fertile Flores (8). Finish up on Sulawesi, immersed in the flamboyant festivals and fascinating culture of Tanah Toraja (9).

8. The Philippines

Start by soaking up the compelling energy of Manila (1), a convenient gateway to some of the country’s more inaccessible areas.

Check out the shipwrecks and prehistoric landscapes of Palawan (2), before you pass through Cebu city (3) on your way to Camiguin (4), a small volcanic island home to a bohemian arts scene and some amazing adventure activities. 

Surfers flock to the acclaimed reef breaks of Siargao (5), while the captivating sunsets and limited electricity at both Malapascua and Bantayan (6) typifies island living at its best.

Boracay (7) also shouldn’t be missed, home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and nightlife rivalling Manila. Conclude this itinerary in the cool mountain villages of the Igorot tribes in the Cordillera (8), nestled among jaw-dropping rice-terrace scenery.

Featured image by Lee Aik Soon.

Carved balconies like lace, swaggering villas in spacious gardens and an absurdly long pier. Who would have expected “Herring Village” to be so glitzy?

Indeed, who would have imagined such Bäderarchitektur (spa architecture) in a backwater like Usedom, a little-known island in the Baltic Sea?

Yet during the latter half of the nineteenth century, as German aristocracy went crazy for seawater spa cures, Heringsdorf and adjacent Ahlbeck morphed from fishing villages to become the St-Tropez of the Baltic.

When Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm III began holidaying here, earning the villages their collective name Kaiserbäder (Emperor’s spas), the Prussian elite followed. Aristocrats and industrialists set aside six weeks every summer to wet an ankle in Badewanne Berlins (“Berlin’s bathtub”).

You can almost smell the moustache wax along Delbrückstrasse in Heringsdorf. A des-res of its day, synonymous with status, the promenade is a glimpse of the Second Empire at the height of its pomp.

Mosaics glitter in the pediment of Neoclassical Villa Oechler at No. 5; it doesn’t stretch the imagination far to visualize the glittering garden balls hosted before the palatial colonnades of Villa Oppenheim, while the Kaiser himself took tea at Villa Staudt located at No. 6.

Only breeze-block architecture bequeathed by the GDR in the centre spoils things here – top apparatchiks built hotel blocks for workers and took the grand villas for themselves. Reunification has returned health cures and gloss to the resorts; Ahlbeck in particular has emerged as a stylish spa retreat for Berlin’s city slickers.

If you sit in a traditional Strandkörbe wicker seat, scrunching sugar-white sand between your toes – imperial villas on one side, Germans promenading continental Europe’s longest pier on the other – you’d be forgiven for thinking the Kaiserbäder are back to normal. Not quite.

Usedom has acquired a new reputation of late. In 2008 the world’s first nudist flights landed at its airport and a minor diplomatic spat occurred when Poles strolled across the newly dismantled border to see sizzling sausages of a very unexpected kind.

Sure, Freikörperkultur (literally “Free Body Culture”) is restricted to specified areas, but you can almost hear the Kaiser splutter into his Schnapps.

Usedom (kaiserbaeder-auf-usedom.de) is 2hr 30min by car or train from Berlin; change at Züssow to reach Heringsdorf and Ahlbeck by rail. Discover more unforgettable places around the world with the new edition of Make the Most of Your Time on Earth.

Go to Venice or Amsterdam, and you can hardly cross a street without tumbling into a canal. In London, you have to dig deeper.

You’re looking for the Regent’s Canal, which stretches from chichi Maida Vale to Thames-side Limehouse, and cutting past London Zoo’s aviaries, Camden’s pop kids, Islington restaurants and Hackney high-rises on its way.

Built in the early nineteenth century to connect London’s docks with the Grand Union Canal to Birmingham, its traffic was almost entirely lost to truck and rail by the 1950s. Now (mostly) cleaned up, the canal and its tributaries are a wonderfully novel way to delve into a compelling, overexposed city.

The canals by CGP Grey via Flickr (CC license)

Part of the canal’s allure is down to its submerged nature: much of its length is below street level, hidden by overgrown banks.

Spend time by the water’s edge and you feel utterly removed from the road and rail bridges above. When the route rises up or spews you back onto the street momentarily, you catch a brief glimpse of people seemingly oblivious to the green serpent that stretches across their city.

London waterbus by Markus Jalmerot via Flickr (CC license)

It’s not all idyllic: for every lovely patch of reeds or drifting duck, there’s a bobbing beer can or the unmistakable judder of traffic. Stroll the busier stretches on a summer Sunday, when the walkers, cyclists and barges are out, and the canal can feel more like a major thoroughfare than an escape route.

But this is a dynamic, breathing space: its energy is what makes it so vital, and makes the moments of quiet feel so special. There are countless highlights: the spire of St Pancras station, soaring over a surprisingly secluded corner near revitalized King’s Cross; Mile End’s picturesque nature reserve; and the bridges and wharfs that connect Limehouse to the Isle of Dogs.

Little Venice by Davide D’Amico via Flickr (CC license)

The poet Paul Verlaine thought the isle’s vast docks and warehouses classical in their majesty, calling them “astonishing…Tyre and Carthage all rolled in to one”. Turned into smart flats or left to crumble, they are no longer the heartbeat of an industrial nation, but with their forgotten corners and fascinating history, they definitely still feel magical.

Good tube stops from which to explore the canal include Warwick Avenue, Camden Town, Angel, Mile End and Limehouse. The London Canal Museum, 12–13 New Wharf Rd (canalmuseum.org.uk), is also worth a look. Discover more unforgettable places around the world with the new edition of Make the Most of Your Time on Earth.

 

There’s a whole lot more to Panama than its famous canal. Hiking, rafting, surfing and diving are just a few of the excellent adventure activities on offer, and it’s a brilliant destination for birdwatching with over 970 species soaring in its skies. From touring Panama City to sampling inventive cuisine from entrepreneurial chefs, there are countless ways to truly experience Panamanian culture. Here are ten of the best.

1. Scuba dive underneath the Panama Canal

Feeling adventurous? You can actually scuba dive (PADI qualification permitting) underneath the Panama Canal in the Gatun Lake. Once submerged, divers can see some of the remains of old communities and railroads that still exist under water. This all happened during the flooding of Gatun Lake during the original Canal construction.

2. Visit a little piece of paradise

Panama might be the least populous country in Central America but there are plenty of opportunities to mix and mingle with the locals. In fact, there are roughly nine different indigenous tribes in Panama, including the Kuna (Guna), Wounaan, Bokota and the Ngobe among others. A little piece of paradise, the San Blas Islands are home to the Kuna people, who have maintained political autonomy from the mainland – Panama Vacations can organise day trips spent with a local guide from the community.

3. Experience Panama’s past, present and future through food

Panama City is having a culinary renaissance of sorts, with Casco Viejo hotspot Donde José leading the pack. The restaurant seats only sixteen patrons at a time, and reservations fill up fast. Head chef Jose Carles breaks the menu into sixteen courses, each using Panamanian ingredients and cooking styles – many of the dishes are smoked because cooking over fire is common in rural Panama, and he endeavours to use the entire animal as is customary throughout the country. There’s also a drink menu that goes alongside several of the dishes, ranging from wines to craft cocktails.

4. Walk inside a bat cave

Panama’s biodiversity is astounding, and as well as in the skies and under the seas, where thousands of different species can be seen in their natural habitats, it also extends to the underground. Enter the Nivida Bat Cave, located on Isla Bastimentos, which is about ten minutes from Bocas del Toro by boat. Once inside the cavern, there are hundreds of bats, so come prepared for the pungent smell. Even better? The Spanish-language school Habla Ya leads tours.

5. Tour the Panama Canal by train

Forget the boat; opt for a train tour instead. While many tourists do wind up sailing along the Panama Canal, it’s pretty much downhill after the first lock. In fact, this might very well be the lowlight of your trip. Instead, hop on the Panama Canal Railway that dates back to the early nineteenth century and travel back in time.

6. Take a tour led by former gang members

Not only is Casco Viejo a World Heritage Site and the most picturesque part of the city, it’s also a window into Panama City‘s past. A tour group called Fortaleza Tours takes travellers beyond the monuments and deep into the heart of the city. As former gang members, these tour leaders have a story for every street. You’ll see first hand how the neighbourhood has completely transformed from a hotbed of crime into a same place.

7. Celebrate Mardi Gras

Sure, Rio de Janeiro is a safe bet for experiencing Carnival madness but don’t rule out Panama. As the country’s most celebrated festival, there is plenty in store for first-time partiers. The heart of the action – think decadent costume, loud music and plenty of dancing – tends to take place in a town called Las Tablas. There’s a bit of rivalry between the “High Street” and the “Low Street” when it comes to flats and costumes, so expect the best of the best. If staying in Panama City, there’s plenty going on there as well, especially on Via España.

8. Swim in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean in one day

Due to Panama’s geographic position and generally modest landmass (80 kilometers separates the two oceans), it’s possible to swim in both the Atlantic and the Pacific on the same day. There’s an abundance of beaches just south of the Interamericana (the main highway going through Panama City), and for an Atlantic swim, head northeast to Guna Yala for white sand and palm tree paradise.

9. Spot one of the world’s largest flying predators

The majestic and slightly daunting harpy eagle can be seen in Panama’s remote Darien region, along its border with Colombia. What makes them so scary? For starters, they stand three feet tall and can have a wingspan of up to two metres. Due to habitat loss or destruction, they’ve mostly disappeared from other destinations in Latin America so Panama is the best place to see them in action. Plus, the harpy eagle is the country’s national bird.

10. Indulge on fresh strawberries

Chiriquí Province is becoming a travel hotspot thanks to its ideal climate and agriculture. Besides lush forests, hiking trails and sandy beaches, you can satisfy your sweet tooth with strawberries. Since the soil is so fertile, coffee, oranges and other vegetables are grown here as well – stop by the Finca El Pariente strawberry farm for a closer look.

Explore more of Panama with The Rough Guide to Panama. Megan is the author of Bohemian TrailsCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Everybody knows the Isle of Man, Guernsey, Skye. But what about the other 6000-odd British Isles? Yes, we did say 6000. From the chunky Shetland Islands in Scotland’s far north to the sunny Isles of Scilly slung out from the coast of Cornwall, the British Isles are made up of islands of all shapes and sizes. Pick the right one and you could even have it all to yourself.

For a royal welcome: Piel Island

It’s probably fair to say that this Cumbrian island is the archipelago’s quirkiest, with its very own King and Queen. That’s Sheila and Steve, who own the island’s Ship Inn and welcome visitors to their kingdom with real ales and pub meals. This low-lying isle may be just 50 acres, but Piel has its own castle – and for the princely sum of £5 you can pitch your tent just about anywhere you like. The pub also has accommodation, and the royal family can organize seal watching and fishing trips. Take the ferry across from Roa Island, which confusingly is actually part of mainland England, for £5.

For an Art Deco stay: Burgh Island

You can walk to this island off Bigbury on Sea – assuming the tide is out, that is. At low tide the waters reveal a wide sandy beach, which acts as a 250-metre-long road for the Burgh Island Hotel’s Landrover, as well as anyone who wants to stroll across and have a pint in the ancient Pilchard Inn. At other times the hotel operates what could claim to be Britain’s oddest ferry: a “sea tractor” (£2 to non-residents) – essentially a raised platform 7ft above some very sturdy tractor wheels. Stay overnight in the Art Deco hotel and you’ll be in good company, previous guests have included Noel Coward and Agatha Christie, who set two of her mysteries here.

Off to sea by Ben Salter (license)

For complete rule of the roost: Towan

Here’s your chance to get an island all to yourself simply by booking a holiday cottage. That cottage is The House, perched atop Towan island on the eponymous beach in Newquay. Approach by private suspension bridge and enjoy the Atlantic views from your bar room, complete with bar billiards table, 3D TV and – of course – fully equipped bar. There’s even a flag you can raise to signal that you’re in residence. It sleeps six, so bring some friends for a game of snooker.

For adventure and activity: St Martin’s

Who wouldn’t want to visit Bread and Cheese cove? That’s the name of one of this unknown Scilly Isle’s superlative beaches, all fine, white sand and (usually) gently lapping seas. The population of St Martin’s is around 120 but don’t expect things to be quiet, there’s a pub, an art gallery, a diving school and even a vineyard. You could snorkel with seals, go rockpooling, learn to scuba or simply order a traditional Cornish pasty from the Island Bakery and enjoy a picnic on the beach. There’s plenty of accommodation, including camping, and Tresco Boat Services can ferry you to and from the other Scilly Isles.

Crossing to Little Sark by Brian Fagan (license)

For peace and quiet: Little Sark

Still – just about – joined to its sibling Sark by a very narrow isthmus known as La Coupée, Little Sark will one day be its very own island. Until then, hire a bike (there are no cars on Sark) and cycle across the 3-metre-wide concrete road to reach this rugged land of granite cliffs and ancient tin mines. Book ahead for a room at the delightfully chintzy La Sablonnerie Hotel, whose cooks will source your dinner from its own gardens and the sea that surrounds this tiny island (lobsters are a speciality).

For northernmost claims: Unst

Considered remote even by Shetlanders, Unst is the northernmost inhabited island in the UK and here you can collect “northernmost” experiences from the post office to the gin distillery, home to Shetland Reel gin, made with local botanicals. You have to stay at the northernmost hotel of course, and that’s Saxa Vord Resort, an ex-RAF base now offering hostel and self-catering accommodation – and plenty of that gin. Don’t miss a walk out to the northernmost point, at the far end of Hermaness nature reserve and overlooking Muckle Flugga lighthouse, built by Robert Stevenson and said to have inspired his son’s Treasure Island map. The island’s network of inter-island ferries will get you out here from the mainland of Shetland.

Tilly on lookout duty by Pete + Lynn (license)

For a short flight and long history: Papa Westray

The world’s shortest scheduled flight takes just two minutes, usually less, and carries people to Papa Westray from Westray in the Orkney Islands, dropping them off at an airport that is little more than a shed. You may even get a chance to play co-pilot, sitting up front next to Colin McAlistair as he operates a flight that covers less distance than the length of the main runway at Heathrow. Once here you can explore almost sixty archaeological sites, including the oldest known northern European house, the Knap of Howar, which predates the Pyramids.

For extreme living: St Kilda

Nobody has lived on St Kilda since 1930 when the population requested evacuation – and you’ll see why immediately. This dramatic scattering of granite rocks in the midst of the Atlantic is the most remote part of the British Isles, lying some 40 miles west of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides, and life here was hard. Today no crossing from the Hebrides is guaranteed, with landings on the main island of Hirta only possible for a few months in summer. Take a chance though and you could be richly rewarded, with a hike to the top of the UK’s highest sea cliffs and a sail past the world’s largest northern gannet colony and Britain’s greatest population of puffins. Head out here on a cruise with Hebrides Cruises for the chance to moor overnight in Village Bay.

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

Renowned the world over for their palm-fringed beaches and spectacular scenery, the ravishing islands of Hawaii poke up from the Pacific more than two thousand miles
 off the west coast of America. There’s nowhere better to get a fix of sun, sea and surf. To help you to get the best out of your trip, this is our pick of the best best beaches in Hawaii.

Oahu

Kailua Beach
Kailua Beach County Park, which fills the colossal main curve of La’aloa Bay, is utterly gorgeous – it’s the prettiest beach on the whole island – and makes an ideal family swimming spot year-round. The soft wide sands slope down into turquoise waters much used by windsurfers and kitesurfers.

Sandy Beach
Avoiding the crowds is not at all the point at Sandy Beach, half a mile south of Kailua Beach, where the shoreline flattens out between Koko Crater and Makapu‘u Head. Kids from all over Oahu meet up here most weekends for the best body-surfing and boogie-boarding in Hawaii; Barack Obama famously remains a devotee. This is also one of the few places on the island where the waves remain high enough in summer to tempt pro surfers.

The Big Island (Hawai’i)

Hāpuna Beach
With its gentle turquoise waters, swaying palm groves, and above all its broad expanse of pristine white sand, Hāpuna Beach, just north of Waialea and a total of six miles north of Mauna Lani, has often been called the most beautiful beach in the United States.

Punalu‘u Beach
Punalu‘u beach is the largest black sand beach on the Big Island. Black sand is a finite resource, as it’s only created by molten lava exploding on contact with the sea, and at any one spot that happens very rarely. Even those beaches not destroyed by new lava usually erode away within a few years. Each time the coastline of Punalu‘u Bay gets redrawn, however, its black sand washes in again, piling up to create a new beach. At the moment it’s gorgeous, a crescent of jet-black crystals surrounding a turquoise bay and framed by a fine stand of coconut palms.

Green Sand Beach
Green sand beach, a couple of miles northeast of Ka Lae, doesn’t quite live up to its name. It is a beach, and it is greenish in a rusty-olive sort of way, but if you’re expecting a dazzling stretch of green sand backed by a coconut grove you’ll be disappointed. The only reason to venture here is if you feel like a hot, shadeless, four-mile hike along the oceanfront, with a mild natural curiosity at the end. Without great expectations, and on a rain-free day, it’s worth the effort.

Maui

Oneola Beach
Maui’s most spectacular sweep of golden sand stretches for over half a mile south of the landmark cinder cone of Pu‘u ‘Ōla‘i, just south of Mākena. There’s not a building in sight at Oneloa Beach (literally “long sand,” and widely known as Big Beach), just perfect sands and mighty surf, backed by a dry forest of kiawe and cacti.

Kanahā Beach County Park
Kanahā Beach County Park shallow, choppy turquoise waters are ideal for novice windsurfers, who come from all over the world to swirl back and forth against the backdrop of ‘Īao Valley and the West Maui mountains.

Lanai

Shipwreck Beach
Lanai’s northern shoreline, however, is more commonly known as Shipwreck Beach, because countless vessels have come to grief in these shallow, treacherous waters; the coast is littered with fragments, while two large wrecks remain stuck fast a few hundred yards offshore.

Molokai

Kepuhi Beach
Although the Kaluako‘i Resort was positioned to enable guests to enjoy the long white sands of Kepuhi Beach, located directly in front of the Kaluako‘i Hotel, it’s only safe to swim here on calm summer days. Like most of the beaches of western Molokai, however, it looks fabulous and is ideal for sunset strolls.

Pāpōhaku Beach
Pāpōhaku Beach, long of 2,5 miles, is one of Hawaii’s broadest and most impressive white-sand beaches. It’s so huge that for many years it was quarried for sand, much of which was used to build an other beach in Honolulu, on Oahu.

Kauai

‘Anini Beach
All the way along, the beach is paralleled out to sea by one of the longest reefs in the state. Coral reefs take millions of years to form, so it’s not surprising that Hawaii’s largest are in the oldest region of its oldest island. This one shields an expanse of shallow, clear turquoise water that offers some of the North Shore’s safest swimming. Snorkelers and scuba-divers explore the reef; if it’s calm enough, you can peek at the huge drop-off beyond its outer edge. Other than during winter surf, the Kauai‘s only area to avoid is around the outlet of the ‘Anini Stream at the western end, which is plagued by treacherous currents that sweep out through a gap in the reef. The inshore area is a good place to learn to windsurf, but surfing and boogie-boarding are largely precluded by the jagged coral where the waves break.

Kalalau Beach
Kalalau Valley, the largest of the Nā Pali valleys at almost a mile wide and two miles deep, is home to Kalalau beach. To access it isn’t an easy task, bathers will first have to become hikers and to borrow Kalalau trail. After 10 miles they will finally deserve to discover Kalalau’s lovely white-sand beach. The only beach along the trail to retain its sand year-round, this nonetheless varies greatly with the seasons. In winter it’s a narrow shelf little more than 100 yards long, while in summer enough sand piles up for you to round the tumbled boulders and continue west for half a mile.

Explore more of Hawaii with the Rough Guide to the USA. Compare flightsbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Draped across the turbulent waters of the Norwegian Sea, far above the Arctic Circle, Norway’s Lofoten Islands are, by any standard, staggeringly beautiful.

In a largely tamed and heavily populated continent, the Lofoten are a rare wilderness outpost, an untrammelled landscape of rearing mountains, deep fjords, squawking seabird colonies and long, surf-swept beaches.

This was never a land for the faint-hearted, but, since Viking times, a few hundred islanders have always managed to hang on here, eking out a tough existence from the thin soils and cod-rich waters. Many emigrated, while those who stayed came to think they were unlucky: unlucky with the price of the fish on which they were dependent, unlucky to be so isolated, and unlucky when the storms rolled in to lash their tiny villages.

Then Norway found tourism. The first boatloads turned out to be English missionaries bent on saving souls, but subsequent contacts proved more financially rewarding. Even better, the Norwegians found oil in the 1960s, lots and lots of oil, quite enough to extend the road network to the smallest village, and thereby end rural isolation at a stroke.

The islands’ villages have benefited from this road-building bonanza and yet kept their erstwhile charm, from the remote Å i Lofoten in the south through to the beguiling headland hamlet of Henningsvaer, extravagantly picturesque Nusfjord and solitary Stamsund.

Today, the Lofoten have their own relaxed pace. For somewhere so far north, the weather can be exceptionally mild: you can spend summer days sunbathing on the rocks or hiking around the superb coastline.When it rains, as it does frequently, life focuses on the rorbuer (fishermen’s huts), where freshly caught fish are cooked over wood-burning stoves, tales are told and time gently wasted.

If this sounds contrived, in a sense it is – the way of life here is to some extent preserved for the tourists. But it’s rare to find anyone who isn’t enthralled by it all.

Discover more unforgettable places around the world with the new edition of Make the Most of Your Time on Earth.  Compare flightsbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

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