Goa, India

It may be known as a party hotspot today, but Goa used to be firmly off the beaten track. The relaxed local culture, delicious cuisine and endless white-sand beaches have always attracted chilled-out travellers in need of a break, with an optional side of spiritual exploration. Whether or not you’re interested in the nightlife, luckily there’s still much of the old, laidback Goa in evidence for the independent-minded traveller today.

Negril, Jamaica

This gorgeous beach may be over-developed in some places now, but it goes on for so indulgently long (it’s around four miles end to end) that you only need to wander a bit further to find yourself some peace and quiet. If you’re feeling particularly active you can join in the watersports on offer, but you may find your schedule is soon pretty packed with sunbathing, walking and, if you’re that way inclined, some meditating.

Glastonbury, England

Hear Glastonbury and you think of the festival. Of course, anyone can find their inner happy hippy at this world-famous music and arts festival, especially over in the Green Fields, but this is a year-round destination. It’s at the heart of the "Isle of Avalon", an area rich in myths and Arthurian legends which attracts Pagans, Wiccans and all manner of New-Agers. Head up to Glastonbury Tor for ley-lines and gorgeous views, or wander along the hippy-tastic High Street.

Cape Maclear, Malawi

Diving, kayaking, walking, snorkelling… there’s plenty to do in Cape Maclear, but you may be content just lazing lakeside in a hammock, drinking in the stunning view of Africa’s third-largest, second-deepest lake. The area’s stayed pretty rustic despite its popularity with backpackers from around the world, and it’s a truly chilled, calm place to while away some time.

Kathmandu, Nepal

Nepal has had many troubles to contend with, not least the 2015 earthquake, but it’s always attracted spiritually curious travellers and probably always will. After all, there’s nowhere in the world quite like it – a truly awe-inspiring natural setting with a view across the Himalayas, a city full of treasures with a kind and welcoming population, and a key site in both Buddhism and Hindusim. It’s also the perfect base for continuing your spiritual exploration, with treks to Pokhara and onwards to the Himalayas.

Dahab, Egypt

Diving in the clear waters of the Gulf of Aqaba; sharing shisha with friends in the evening; sleeping under the stars in Bedouin tents… The laidback pace of life makes Dahab a great place to sit back, relax and enjoy your environment. Though unrest in the region has resulted in fewer visitors lately, there’s little doubt they’ll find their way back soon enough.

Panajachel, Guatemala

During the sixties the lakeside Guatemalan town of Panajachel was so popular with itinerant hippies (mostly wandering down the continent from the US) that it became known as ‘Gringotenango’. As the civil war intensified visitor numbers dropped, but from the mid-nineties travellers started coming back in search of relaxation, stunning views of Lago de Atitlán and… well, what else do you need?

Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand

Just above Ko Samui in the Gulf of Thailand is this small island, a classic stop on the Hippy Trail. Somewhere between 1983 and 1993 (no one seems sure of the exact date, or particularly bothered) a few travellers started playing music on the beach during the full moon, and year on year the event grew and attracted more visitors. The rest (hard partying, day-glo, chemically-enhanced) is history.

Siargao, Philippines

For real seclusion, head to Siargao Island in the Philippines. If it’s peace and quiet that you’re after, though, maybe avoid September – the island became famous after word spread among the world’s surfers that there’s a break so good they called it "Cloud 9", and the Siargao Cup global surfing competition is now held there annually. For the rest of the year it’s sedate and beautiful, a perfect place to find some zen.

Dali, China

A low-key city by Erhai Lake, Dali has long been a popular stop for backpackers and hippies. It’s still not overwhelmed by tourism, despite its gorgeous surroundings and intriguing traditional architecture (the Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple are a well-known symbol of the city), which means it’s still a great place to find a bit of calm.

Eugene, Oregon, USA

Where Portland is hipster, Eugene is resolutely hippy. It’s the place to go for all your tie-dyeing needs, not to mention New Age philosophy, communal living and herbal remedies. There’s a lot to attract any type of traveller, but to get the most out of the city’s gorgeous natural setting and strong artistic community you should absolutely embrace your inner hippy.

Jericoacoara, Brazil

Known for its dazzlingly white beach and impressive sand dunes, Brazil’s beautiful Jericoacoara has been pulling in hippies and surfers for years. It’s a great spot for windsurfing, as well, and of course for walking, sunbathing and any other chilled-out beach activity you can think of. It’s also a national park, so it’s reasonably safe from development for now.

The Cyclades, Greece

Mykonos has always been a traditional stop on the Hippy Trail, but today is perhaps a bit overdeveloped and party-focused for some tastes. Luckily, there are other destinations in this group of gorgeous Greek islands. Keep going to Andros, for instance, and you’ll find peace, quiet and stunning walks. If you’re really after isolation, though, aim for Anafi. It’s the last ferry stop, and the perfect place for some reflection and relaxation.

Lamu, Kenya

The small island of Lamu has long been a prime spot for hippy travellers, and though there have been security concerns recently, it’s not hard to see the attraction. There’s not much to do other than take in the gorgeous medieval town, take leisurely dhow rides to nearby islands, and just chill out, man…

California, USA

California is in many ways the perfect place to find your hippy self. The most hardcore of hippies can chill out in accepting, alternative San Francisco; those who still love a bit of luxury can head to LA to dabble in meditation and organic green juices; literary hippies can go all Dharma Bums and scale the Matterhorn; and anyone at all can find a bit of inner peace wandering the stunning Yosemite National park.

Christiania, Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen is a pretty perfect city for hippy-minded individuals: great cycling, lots of greenery, good food and a thriving music scene. If you really want to get into the hippy lifestyle, though, you need to head to Christiania. This colourful city-within-a-city has been a commune since 1971, and is showing no signs of slowing down. It’s autonomous and self-governing, to an extent, and a fascinating place to see a long-term social experiment in action.

Byron Bay, Australia

Byron Bay means one thing: surfing. It’s famous for its long, sandy beach and a local life so laidback it’s almost horizontal. If you feel like even this New Agey, chilled out surfer town isn’t quite hippy enough for you, head to nearby Nimbin for colourful murals, dreadlocks and tie-dye galore. Nimbin also happens to be known as the marijuana capital of Australia, even holding a "Mardi Grass" festival in May.

Chefchaouen, Morocco

Morocco has long been known as a destination for travellers who want to get off the beaten track. Marrakesh and Fez are the obvious places to go, but the travelling hippies of the world have long-preferred Chefchaouen. It’s cheap, cheerful and full of open-air markets and beautiful pale blue buildings. What’s not to like?

Istanbul, Turkey

The only city in the world to sit on two continents, Istanbul has long intrigued and enticed independent travellers. The "gateway to Asia" was a key point on the Hippy Trail of the sixties, a fork in the road from where some would head back into Europe and others would look onwards to India, Thailand, and Vietnam. Today it retains its independent vibe, attracting hippies, hedonists, artists and romantics from all around the world.

Gili Islands, Indonesia

These secluded islands off Lombok in Indonesia are pretty perfect if you want to get away from it all. Backpackers and hippies started heading there in the seventies and eighties, and now the islands are an established destination. They’re perfect for diving, lounging on the beach, and simply doing nothing at all.

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.

So you’ve gawked at the guards of Buckingham Palace, hiked up Snowdon and hit the beach – what next? From lethal motorcycle races to mountain towns that look like something out of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, here are 8 unconventional things to do in the UK.

1. Horse about at Scotland’s Common Ridings

The Common Ridings of the Scottish border towns of Hawick, Selkirk, Jedburgh and Lauder are an equestrian extravaganza that combines the danger of Pamplona’s Fiesta de San Fermin and the drinking of Munich’s Oktoberfest. At dawn on each day of the ridings, a colourful and incredibly noisy drum and fife band marches around the streets to shake people from their sleep. It’s a signal: everyone get down to the pub – they open at 6am – and stock up on the traditional breakfast of “Curds and Cream” (rum and milk). Suitably fortified, over two hundred riders then mount their horses and gallop at breakneck speed around the ancient lanes and narrow streets of town, before heading out into the fields to race again.

By early evening, the spectators and riders stagger back into Hawick to reacquaint themselves with the town’s pubs. Stumbling out onto the street at well past midnight, you should have just enough time for an hour or two of shuteye before the fife band strikes up once more and it’s time to do it all over again.

2. Find Middle Earth in Northern Ireland

The mountains rise above the seaside town of Newcastle like green giants, with Slieve Donard the highest, almost 3000ft above the sandy strand of Dundrum Bay. Donard is just one of more than twenty peaks in County Down’s Mourne, with a dozen of them towering over 2000ft.

Conveniently grouped together in a range that is just seven miles broad and about fourteen miles long, they are surprisingly overlooked. On foot, in a landscape with no interior roads, you feel as if you have reached a magical oasis of high ground, a pure space that is part Finian’s Rainbow and part Middle Earth. This is ancient land and prehistoric cairns and stone graves – said to mark the resting place of Irish chiefs – dot the hills, peering through the mist to meet you.

3. Mountain bike on world-class trails in Wales

It’s not often that the modest mountains of Wales can compete with giants like the Alps or the Rockies, but when it comes to mountain biking, the trails that run through the craggy peaks of Snowdonia, the high moorlands of the Cambrian Mountains, and the deep, green valleys of South Wales are more than a match for their loftier counterparts. Indeed, the International Mountain Biking Association has long rated Wales as one of the planet’s top destinations.

Over the last decade or so, a series of purpose-built mountain-biking centres has been created throughout the country, providing world-class riding for everyone from rank beginner through to potential-world-cup downhiller. From easy, gently undulating trails along former rail lines that once served the heavy industry of the South Wales valleys, to the steep, rooty, rocky single tracks that run through the cloud-shadowed hills of North Wales, this is mountain biking at its finest.

_MTB1662 by Dai Williams (license)

4. Explore Britain’s most mysterious beach in Scotland

Cape Wrath is a name that epitomizes nature at its harshest, land and sea at their most unforgiving. In fact, the name Wrath denotes a “turning point” in Old Norse, and the Vikings regarded this stockade of vertical rock in the most northwesterly corner of Scotland as a milestone in their ocean-going voyages. As such, they were surely among the first travellers to come under the spell of Sandwood Bay, the Cape’s most elemental stretch of coastline.

Here blow Britain’s most remote sands, flanked by epic dunes and a slither of shimmering loch; a beach of such austere and unexpected elegance, scoured so relentlessly by the Atlantic and located in such relative isolation, that it scarcely seems part of the Scottish mainland at all. Even on the clearest of summer days, when shoals of cumuli race shadows across the foreshore, you are unlikely to encounter other visitors save for the odd sandpiper. You might not be entirely alone, though; whole galleons are said to be buried in the sand, and a cast of mermaids, ghostly pirates and grumbling sailors has filled accounts of the place for as long as people have frequented it.

5. Discover heaven on Earth in Cornwall

A disused clay pit may seem like an odd location for Britain’s very own ecological paradise, but then everything about Cornwall’s Eden Project is far from conventional. From the concept of creating a unique ecosystem that could showcase the diversity of the world’s plant life, through to the execution – a set of bulbous, alien-like, geodesic biomes wedged into the hillside of a crater – the designers have never been less than innovative.

The gigantic humid Rainforest Biome, the largest conservatory in the world, is kept at a constant temperature of 30°c. Besides housing lofty trees and creepers that scale its full 160ft height, it takes visitors on a journey through tropical agriculture from coffee growing to the banana trade, to rice production and finding a cure for leukaemia. There’s even a life-size replica of a bamboo Malaysian jungle home, and a spectacular treetop Canopy Walkway.

6. Call in the heavies at the Highland Games

Throughout Scotland, not just in the Highlands, summer signals the onset of the Highland Games, from the smallest village get-togethers to the Giant Cowal Highland Gathering in Dunoon, which draws a crowd of around 20,000. Urbanites might blanch at the idea of alfresco Scottish country dancing, but with dog trials, tractors, fudge stalls and more cute animals than you could toss a caber (tree trunk) at, the Highland Games are a guaranteed paradise for kids.

The military origins of the games are recalled in displays of muscle-power by bulky bekilted local men, from tossing the caber to hurling hammers and stones, and pitching bales of straw over a raised pole. Music and dance are also integral to the games, with pipe bands and young girls – kitted out in waistcoats, kilts and long woolly socks – performing reels and sword dances. A truly Scottish sight to behold.

7. Take bonfire night to extremes in Lewes

The first week of November sees one of the eccentric English’s most irresponsible, unruly and downright dangerous festivals – Bonfire Night. Up and down the country, human effigies are burned in back gardens and fireworks are set off – all in the name of Guy Fawkes’ foiled attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605 – but in the otherwise peaceful market town of Lewes, things are taken to extremes. Imagine a head-on collision between Halloween and Mardi Gras and you’re well on your way to picturing Bonfire Night, Lewes-style.

Throughout the evening, smoke fills the Lewes air, giving the steep and narrow streets an eerie, almost medieval feel. As the evening draws on, rowdy torch-lit processions make their way through the streets, pausing to hurl barrels of burning tar into the River Ouse before dispersing to their own part of town to stoke up their bonfires.

Forget the limp burgers of mainstream displays and lame sparklers suitable for use at home – for a real pyrotechnic party, Lewes is king.

8. Browse one of England’s oldest markets in Birmingham

There’s enough chaos and colour to rival any frenetic southeast-Asian market here, as a stroll around Birmingham’s Bull Ring markets is an overdose for the senses. The pungent aromas of fresh seafood; the jewel colours and silken textures of miles and miles of rolled fabrics; the racket from hundreds of vendors bellowing news of their latest offerings in hopes of making a sale.

Around 850 years ago Birmingham became one of the first towns in medieval England to hold a legitimate weekly market, selling wares from leather to metal to meat at a site they named the Bull Ring, and cementing the Anglo-Saxon settlement on the map for centuries to come. But while Birmingham has much-changed since medieval times, the noise, excitement and commotion of its Bull Ring markets have barely changed at all – only now you can buy almost anything from neon mobile phone cases and knock-off superhero outfits to fresh meat, fruit and veg.


Discover more unforgettable places around the world with the new edition of Make the Most of Your Time on Earth.

Taken from the Rough Guide to Southeast Asia on a Budget, these are our top 11 tips for backpacking Southeast Asia.

With its tempting mix of volcanoes, rainforest, rice fields, beaches and coral reefs, Southeast Asia is one of the most stimulating and accessible regions for independent travel in the world. You can spend the day exploring thousand-year-old Hindu ruins and the night at a rave on the beach; attend a Buddhist alms-giving ceremony at dawn and go whitewater rafting in the afternoon; chill out in a bamboo beach hut one week and hike through the jungle looking for orang-utans the next.

In short, there is enough here to keep anyone hooked for months. Here’s our advice for getting the most out of backpacking Southeast Asia for the first time.

1. Plan around the weather

Southeast Asia sits entirely within the tropics and so is broadly characterized by a hot and humid climate that varies little throughout the year, except during the two annual monsoons. Bear in mind, however, that each country has myriad microclimates; for more detail see our “when to go” pages for Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

2. Get off the beaten track

Though Southeast Asia has long been on the travellers’ trail, it doesn’t take too much to get off the beaten track – whether it’s to discover that perfect beach or to delve into the lush surrounds of the rainforest. Think about visiting the overlooked city of Battambang in Cambodia, taking the railroad less travelled in Thailand or exploring Myanmar’s unspoiled southern coast.

3. Try the street food

This is the home of the world’s tastiest cuisines, and the really good news is that the cheapest is often the best, with markets and roadside hawkers unbeatable places to try the many local specialities. Night markets, in particular, are great for tasting different dishes at extremely low prices – sizzling woks full of frying noodles, swirling clouds of spice-infused smoke and rows of glistening fried insects all make for an unforgettable gastronomic experience.

4. Budget carefully – but have the odd splurge

Your daily budget in Southeast Asia depends on where you’re travelling and how comfortable you want to be. You can survive on as little as $20 a day in some countries, but for this money you’ll be sleeping in very basic accommodation, eating at simple food stalls, and travelling on local non-a/c buses. Think about where paying a little more will really enrich your trip.

5. Learn from the locals

Tribal culture is a highlight of many visits to less explored areas, and among the most approachable communities are the tribal groups around Sa Pa in Vietnam, the Torjan of Sulawesi in Indonesia, known for their intriguing architecture and ghoulish burial rituals, and the ethnic minority villages surrounding Hsipaw in Myanmar.

6. Embrace the great outdoors

Up for getting active? There’s plenty to keep you busy. You can tackle world-class surf at G-land in Indonesia, take a mountain-bike tour of Vietnam’s far north or discover your own lonely bays and mysterious lagoons on a sea-kayak tour of Krabi in Thailand. And that’s just for starters…

7. Make time for temples

Southeast Asia’s myriad temple complexes are some of the region’s best-known attractions. The Hindu Khmers left a string of magnificent monuments, the most impressive of which can be seen at Angkor in Cambodia, while the Buddhists’ most impressive legacies include the colossal ninth-century stupa of Borobudur in Indonesia and the temple-strewn plain of Bagan in Myanmar.

8. Get high

No, not that kind of high. Every visitor should make an effort to climb one of the spectacular mountains, whether getting up before dawn to watch the sun rise from Indonesia’s Mount Bromo or embarking on the two-day trek to scale Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia.

9. Hit the beach

The beaches here are some of the finest in the world, and you’ll find the cream of the crop in Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia, all of which boast postcard-pretty, white-sand bays, complete with azure waters and wooden beach shacks dotted along their palm-fringed shores. The clear tropical waters also offer supreme diving opportunities for novices and seasoned divers alike.

10. Take local transport

Local transport across Southeast Asia is uniformly good value compared to public transport in the West, and is often one of the highlights of a trip, not least because of the chance to fraternize with local travellers. Overland transport between neighbouring countries is also fairly straightforward so long as you have the right paperwork and are prepared to be patient.

11. Stay healthy

The vast majority of travellers to Southeast Asia suffer nothing more than an upset stomach, so long as they observe basic precautions about food and water hygiene, and research pre-trip vaccination and malaria prophylactic requirements – but it’s still vital to arrange health insurance before you leave home. Some of the illnesses you can pick up may also not show themselves immediately, so if you become ill within a year of returning home, tell your doctor where you have been.

For a complete guide to backpacking Southeast Asia, check out The Rough Guide to Southeast Asia on a Budget. Compare flightsbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

Spain is known for its costas, the sandy strands that attract thousands of visitors seeking sun and sangria every year. But most people tend to head to the big hitters: the Costa del Sol, the Costa Brava and the Costa Blanca.

But of course these are just the bright and brazen names that have made it into international acclaim. Spain, with its more than 3000 miles of coastline, has plenty more shimmering sands, costas that perhaps you’ve never even heard of, and that the Spanish have managed to keep (largely) to themselves. At least until now.

One of Spain’s unsung beachy stretches is the Costa del Azahar, or Orange Blossom Coast. It’s quiet, for now, but from September Ryanair will be flying in from London Stansted and Bristol to the costa’s once-white-elephant airport of Castellon. It was opened in 2011 at a cost of €150 million but has been flightless, save a handful of private planes, ever since.

So just what have the Costa del Azahar’s mainly Spanish visitors been keeping to themselves all this time?

Blissful beach hopping

On the Orange Blossom Coast you can beach hop all the way from Castellon to Vinaros, 50 miles north. Find a crowd in Benicassim? Simply head on north to Oropesa. Packed out in Benicarlo? Peniscola is just a few minutes’ drive away.

Peniscola is top pick for families, with water so shallow even the shortest of adults won’t be up to their knees until they’re a good 20m from shore. You’ll find sandcastles, buried padres and families playing bat and ball along the sands of Playa Norte here. Playa Sur can be slightly quieter, but this isn’t the place for chilling.

Playa del Pebret, in the Parque Natural de la Sierra de Irta is perfect for an escape. Relax among the dunes here and spot sea lilies in the ever-moving sands.

IMG_0095 by ADF AA (license)

Vinaros also tends to be quieter, and is the best place for a beer with your toes embedded in the golden grains – it has a handful of bars right on the seafront (it’s common along this part of the coast for the road to divide the bars from the sands).

Don’t leave without checking out Playa de las Fuentes in Alcossebre, where freshwater springs bubble up through the sand and will swallow human limbs whole if you step into their ribbons of quicksand. Don’t worry, you’ll see them before they seize you.

Bold claims: the best seafood in Spain

Vinaros has a lofty reputation: it’s argued they have the best langoustines in Spain. This seems like a bold claim until you order lunch at Restaurante Bergantin, where plump, juicy langoustines are served up whole and grilled (a la plancha) with slices of lemon, as well as in any number of paella-style rice dishes. Try the rossejat con espardenyes, which comes with a Mediterranean sea cucumber that melts into the rice, and don’t leave without posing next to the giant langoustine in the square behind the bull ring.

More creative seafood dishes are found on the menu of Casa Jaime in Peniscola, where beach and castle views accompany lunches served on the terrace and as much of the produce as possible is local. The chef here is an ex-fisherman and so he knows his stuff, cooking up galera (mantis shrimp) in croquettes and carpaccio of red prawns with three types of local olive oil.

For cheaper prices and only a slight diminishment in quality head to Benicarlo, where the strip of portside terraces serve up succulent squid, grilled razor clams and fideoa, a paella-type dish made with noodles instead of rice.

Castles in the sand

Forts and castles tend to enjoy lofty positions, but the one in Peniscola affords more beautiful views than most: down over the sandy isthmus that attaches the fortified old town to the coast.

It also offers shady respite from hot summer days, its sturdy stone walls dividing church from great hall, stables from courtyard. Continue up onto the roof where smooth marble stretches off towards brilliant blue sea or sky in all directions.

Look out to sea and see if you can spot the volcanic Columbretes Islands, a semi circle of inhabited islets some 30 miles offshore. As you make your way back to beach level, stroll through the lush castle gardens and your nose will tell you why this coast deserves its name.

Explore more of Spain with the Rough Guide to SpainCompare flightsbook 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.

Can’t decide between a city or beach break? Some of the world’s most magnificent metropolises have been blessed with pristine stretches of sand, so you can effortlessly combine architectural riches, cutting-edge cuisine and vibrant nightlife with a spot of seaside relaxation. So slap on the sun block and the shades, here’s our pick of the best urban beaches.

Havana, Cuba

On summer weekends it seems like the whole of Havana decamps to Playas del Este, a seemingly endless sweep of palm-fringed sand just 18km from the city. Santa Maria at the western end has an all-day piña colada-party vibe. If you’re prepared to walk, you might even find your own private Caribbean paradise.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Despite the high body count in summer, Banje Beach by the Old Town walls is the most famous in Dubrovnik. Just 1.5km from the city, Sveti Jakov Beach is the under-the-radar local’s favourite, a 500m-long crunchy mix of sand and small pebbles, beneath a beautiful church of the same name.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Cities don’t come more beach-centric than Rio, backed by a high-rise skyline and granite peaks. So join the bronzed Cariocas on iconic Copacabana and upmarket Ipanema for a friendly game of footvolley (you guessed it: a sport combining volleyball and football), or just admire the view over a caipirinha. The famous sands are also host spectacular New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Miami, USA

Once-seedy SoBe (South Beach) is now the stomping ground for Miami’s beautiful people, its palm-studded strip filled with chic bars, fusion restaurants and hedonistic clubs. But you can up the culture quotient with a tour of the historic Art Deco neighbourhood, or head inland to the up-and-coming Wynwood Arts District.

Barcelona, Spain

Barceloneta is one of the city’s most iconic and popular beaches. Its shabby waterfront was revitalised in the massive makeover for the 1992 Olympics and now this former fisherman’s quarter is lined with chic and cheerful tapas bars. Join the throng over a cold beer and the Catalan take on paella.

Sydney, Australia

Most visitors join the burnt backpackers and territorial surfers on Sydney‘s world-famous Bondi, but the surrounding Eastern Suburbs beaches, including Bronte, Clovelly and Coogee have a more laid-back, local vibe. Manly is the party hub of the Northern Beaches, while keen surfers should check out Freshwater, Dee Why, Curl Curl and Narrabeen.

Dubai, UAE

Better known for its soaring skyscrapers and mega-malls, the Middle East’s most flamboyant city has miles of white-sand beaches – some of them shipped in from the desert. You’ll find the designer-clad sun worshippers on Jumeirah Beach, or there’s the free stretch of sand running the length of Umm Suqeim, known as Kite Beach.

Los Angeles, USA

West LA’s Venice Beach is a people-watching paradise. Ocean Front Walk is lined with surf shops, ice cream parlours and street vendors, and a never-ending circus of stilt-walkers, jugglers and fortune-tellers play to the eclectic crowd of power walkers, cyclists, rollerbladers and skateboarders. Just don’t expect to have it to yourself.

Nice, France

More than 35 pebbly beaches – both public and private – stretch uninterrupted along Nice’s glamorous Promenade des Anglais, from the airport to the Old Port. Each beach has its own vibe but it can be worth splashing out to lounge on a private plage that comes with a few frills.

Cape Town, South Africa

Dramatic boulders divide Clifton Beaches into four small, interlinked coves. Fourth Beach is the liveliest, Third is gay-friendly, Second is the students’ hangout and First is the one for surfers. While they’re sheltered from the bitter trade winds in summer (November to March) be warned, the water is always icy in Cape Town.

Helsinki, Finland

You might not put ‘Helsinki’ and ‘beach’ in the same sentence but Finns flock to the nearest strip of sand – the 450-metre-long Hietaniemi, known as Hietsu – in summer to make the most of the ‘white nights’. Out of the (rather chilly) water, you can get active with volleyball, basketball and football.

Honolulu, Hawaii

Once a retreat for nineteenth-century Hawaiian royalty, Waikiki Beach is now chock-full of high-rise resorts, tourists and surfers. But even that can’t detract from the killer views of Diamond Head volcano. The long, rolling breaks are perfect for novice surfers, or you can ride an outrigger canoe, before watching the sunset from an oceanfront bar.

Vancouver, Canada

The city’s many beaches all come with views over the North Shore Mountains. Kitsilano (Kits) Beach is the place to see and be seen, with free tennis and basketball courts and the largest saltwater pool in Canada. The more low-key Spanish Beach is perfect for BBQs and long strolls.

Chicago, USA

Over 40km of beautiful public beaches line the Chicago shores of Lake Michigan, perfect for work (with free wi-fi), rest and play. North Avenue is one of the most popular, where you can start the day with a yoga session, play some volleyball and end with a dip in the freshwater lake.

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The Great Lakes comprise the largest body of fresh water on the planet and more than 35,000 islands are found in the water system. Not all are inhabited and some aren’t much more than a single rock jutting out of the lake with a lighthouse on it – but the inhabited ones provide the perfect opportunity for a weekend getaway. Here’s our list of the best islands in the Great Lakes.

Lake Huron: Manitoulin Island for First Nations Tourism

Manitoulin is largely undiscovered territory for modern travellers because it’s difficult to get to without a car or boat, but it’s totally worth the effort. Six small reserves with names like Kagawong, M’Chigeeng and Sheguiandah dot the shores of this island and are the best places to find out more about Canada’s First Nations people.

Canada’s most famous First Nations theatre group, De-Ba-Jeh-Mu-Jig (meaning “storyteller”), are based in Wikwemikong and do performances of native legends during summer.

The island is also unique for the small reddish hawberries that grow wild along its shores. Early settlers ate the berries in winter as a last-remaining food source – today, residents born on Manitoulin refer to themselves as “haweaters” as if it’s some secret club.

Lake Ontario: the Thousand Islands for history

This isn’t just one island, but an archipelago of 1864 dots of land straddling the Canada-US border on the north-eastern exit of Lake Ontario into the St Lawrence River. The islands span fifty miles from the lake into the river, with dozens of waterfront towns (and even some cities) and restaurants.

The Thousand Islands have a rich history – they were a battleground for the War of 1812, an early 1900s playground for the rich and famous, and have always been a hub of maritime activity. This history is celebrated in the many museums, castles and mansions across the islands. If you’re looking for a hands-on experience, take part in one of the re-enactments or living history demonstrations that overtake Sackets Harbor Battlefield during the summer.

One of the Thousand Islands by Benson Kua (license)

Lake Michigan: Beaver Island for hunting and fishing

Beaver Island’s history is unique: it began as a strong Mormon settlement with 300 followers of the Strangite sect, the Mormons who chose to follow James Strang instead of Brigham Young. The Strangites weren’t necessarily welcomed, and after Strang’s death in 1856, mobs from nearby communities drove the settlers off the island. So then the Irish fisherman came – earning Beaver Island the nickname “America’s Emerald Isle”. They were quickly followed by droves of outdoor-loving tourists and now the island is a hotspot for fishing and hunting.

The Beaver Island Wildlife Club has been active for more than 70 years working to preserve and maintain the wildlife and its habitat. In addition to many available deer, wild turkey, and small game for hunting, the island is known for excellent fly-fishing and a robust supply of smallmouth bass, carp, and walleye.

Lake Erie: South Bass Island for late-night revellers

Party-lovers rejoice: you have your place in the Great Lakes, too. South Bass Island is home to one of Lake Erie’s largest entertainment destinations, the town of Put-in-Bay. Beer Barrel Saloon claims to have the longest uninterrupted bar in the world, seating 160 people on its stools, and the Round House has great live bands daily. There’s a reason it’s called the “Key West of Lake Erie,” and it’s not just because of the sun-kissed sands.

Courtesy of www.rabbitisland.org

Lake Superior: Rabbit Island for artists

This small island once belonged to a Swedish fisherman but was recently purchased by New Yorker, Rob Gorski, and turned into a thriving artists’ colony. Gorski, an emergency room doctor, found the island on CraigsList. At the time, it only held the remains of a cabin, but Gorski saw more. Now the island has a shelter, a kitchen, and a sauna, and attracts artists from across the world to live in the wild wooded space and let Lake Superior’s moods influence their art.

Gorski hopes to eventually open an office and studio space in nearby Calumet, Michigan, to showcase the work of the island’s artists for locals and visitors interested in the robust art scene in the Upper Peninsula.

Explore of this area with the Rough Guides Great Lakes SnapshotCompare flightsbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

What once began as a marketing ploy for a therapeutic mud found near Boryeong, a small city on South Korea’s sandy west coast, has since transformed into a unique festival that draws millions every year. But this is no spa day.

Mud Fest 2008 by Hypnotica Studios Infinite (license)

The annual Boryeong Mud Festival is where people come to get dirty. Filthy. Caked from head to toe in wet, grey earth that is – according to Korean research institutions – exceptionally good for your skin.

Try keeping those cosmetic benefits in mind as you speed down inflatable super-slides into mud pools. Challenge others attendees to a wrestling match in the much-famed mud ring, fly high in a slimy bouncy castle, or try some marine-style mud training if you’re feeling tough. All this and more is situated right on Daecheon beach. So if you feel the need, just wash off in the placid Yellow Sea.

Mud Fest 2008 by Hypnotica Studios Infinite (license)

Boryeong Mud Festival runs for ten days, from July 17th–26th, and is open to all ages. The final weekend has proven to be the wildest in the past, kicked off by a Friday night hip-hop rave, but don’t underestimate the party-power of mud on any given day.

Muddy people 2 by Jordi Sanchez Teruel (license)

Whether you’re trying to sort out where wet earth ends and your body begins, or comprehend the paradox that mud is actually cleaning you, this festival is definitely worth the trip. Who’s up for it?

Compare flightsbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

It starts as soon as the ferry pulls away from the quay. Heading out from the bustle of the main island of Malta into the shimmering blue waters of the Gozo Channel, the Mediterranean sun warm on your skin, tensions just ebb away. Sliding past the tiny island of Comino, its solitary defensive tower giving a gentle thumbs up, the pretty little port of Mgarr is already in sight.

It’s only 25 minutes on the water from Malta to Gozo, but it’s time enough to slip back a few decades, throw off the stresses of modern life and prepare for a holiday on GMT.

No, not Greenwich Meantime, Gozo Maybe Time, the island’s default setting and the ideal time zone for a truly relaxing break.

Gozo is rural in a way Malta no longer is. Terraced flat-top hills punctuate fertile valleys, mosaics of tiny fields surrounded by dry-stone walls. The local limestone – honey-coloured and glowing – is everywhere, the island’s building material for everything from Neolithic temples and farmers huts to the towering Medieval Citadel that rises dramatically from the centre of the island, popping up in almost every inland view.

Each village square on the island has its shop or café and most have a red letter box or phone booth and a tiny police station hung with a traditional blue lantern – a colourful dash of leftover Britishness.

Take your time

In Gozo everyone seems to have time. Time to sit beneath the citadel in It-Tokk (literally ‘the Meeting Place’), the main square of Gozo’s charming little capital, Victoria. Time to chat in the shade of an oleander tree or the oversized Parish church that dominates every village square.

Gozitans make time for visitors too. Ask the way, and you may find yourself accompanied rather than told. That is not to say they intrude; they don’t – not even on celebrities. Which is one reason the likes of Gary Neville and Billy Connolly escape here.

Follow in Brangelina’s footsteps

One of Connolly’s haunts is secluded Mgarr Ix-Xini. He comes here to eat at the peaceful little fish restaurant that sits at the head of this steep-sided rocky creek from March to November.

A narrow path, flanked by sweet-smelling wild fennel and rich aromatic thyme, winds up the rock above clear waters. The sea here is perfect for swimming, snorkelling and diving, protected from the prevailing northwesterly winds.

Until recently it was truly off the beaten track, but Mgarr Ix-Xini has just landed on the map as the place where Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt filmed their latest movie, By the Sea. In the film this is the South of France in the 1970s and the restaurant’s tiny interior is the French village shop. Colourful shelves and a few props remain and you can now sit on the Tamarisk-shaded terrace sipping wine ‘mis en bouteille par Jolie-Pitt’.

Marvel at Gozo’s magnificence

Mgarr Ix-Xini is just one of Gozo’s many coastal attractions. Edward Lear, master of the nonsense rhyme, who came here to rest, walk and paint, described the island’s landscape as “pomskizillious and gromphiberous, being as no words can describe its magnificence”.

The landscape is indeed amazing; from the dramatic Ta’Cenc cliffs plunging 145m into the sea to a strange clay hill like a giant grey doorknob, and the rich red sands of Ramla Beach – arguably the best beach in the country.

At ‘Calypso’s Cave’, meanwhile, Homer’s Odysseus is said to have been held willing hostage by the charming sea nymph. The collapsed cave isn’t much to look at but the view is stunning and it isn’t hard to see how Odysseus might have fallen into GMT and forgotten to go home.

Get salty

Gozo has been feeding a human population for 7000 years. In fact, it may have been the first place in Malta to be settled, with farmers arriving by sea from Sicily just 90km to the north.

Evidence of this can be seen on the stretch of coast just west of the little resort of Marsalforn. Scooped out cliffs of smooth golden sandstone, like desert dunes, form the backdrop to chequer-boards of seaside salt pans.

It’s a place that time forgot, where a few families still produce salt as it has been made since Roman times, storing it in rock-cut rooms behind the bright-painted doors tucked into the cliff face.

You can buy salt at Jubilee Foods in It-Tokk, which also offers tastings of other local produce like sweet prickly pear jam and tangy dried Gozitan goats cheese.

Go back in time

By the middle of the fourth millennium BC – before the creation of Stonehenge or the Great Pyramids – people on Gozo were building sophisticated stone temples, with monumental facades, semi-circular rooms, plastered walls and carved decoration.

The best remains can be seen at Ggantija, pronounced “Ji-gan-tee-ya” – as in, “gigantic”. Constructed of limestone blocks up to fifty tonnes in weight, it is little wonder that locals long-believed the temples were built by giants.

You can learn about the people who actually built them in the excellent exhibition at the Ggantija visitors’ centre, which also houses some remarkable prehistoric statuary including a few of ‘The Fat Ladies of Malta’ – big-bottomed women in pleated skirts – and phallic symbols, probably both part of an ancient fertility cult.

The temples are built on one of Gozo’s characteristic plateaux above a rural landscape probably little-changed since the Temple Period. The temple terrace was originally paved and was perhaps the ‘It-Tokk’ of Neolithic Gozitans, chatting away their own GMT.

When you come to leave, you’ll find aeroplanes do not run on Gozo time. Instead, laze in the Mediterranean sun on the deck of the Gozo Ferry – that precious 25 minutes feels like a crucial final burst of GMT to fortify you for a return to the twenty-first century.

Malta International Airport is just a 45 minute drive (or 1hr 15mins by bus) from the Gozo Ferry and nowhere on Gozo is more than half an hour from the port. Tickets are only required on the return ferry and cost just €4.65. Compare flights, book hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

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