Where better to eat pizza than in the city where it was invented? Naples’ most affordable food is also its most sacred; a local saying goes “you can insult my mother but never my pizzamaker”. You can’t come to the city without trying an authentic crusty pizza, baked rapidly in a searingly hot wood-fired oven and doused in olive oil.

The archetypal Neapolitan pizza is the marinara – not, as you might think, anything to do with seafood, but topped with just tomato, garlic and basil, no cheese. The simplest toppings tend to be the best – margherita (with tomatoes and cheese), or perhaps salsiccia e friarelli (sausage and local bitter greens).

From the new Rough Guide to Naples and the Amalfi Coast, these are our top six places for the best pizza in Naples.

View of Naples from Mt Vesuvius, Campania, Italy


Opened by the Acunzo family in 1936, and owned by Michele and Caterina since 1964, this low-key trattoria has a bustling atmosphere and friendly staff. It’s not very well-known to tourists, and it’s definitely Vomero’s best pizza joint. Locals crowd into its spartan interior for the wonderful pizza, available in more than forty varieties, best enjoyed after a plentiful serving of fritti or their excellent parmigiana melanzane.

Acunzo, Via d. Cimarosa 60–62


In business since 1935, this place has a die-hard cult following that snubs the family’s newer pizza joint a few doors down in favour of this, the original. Yes, it’s always got a mob of tourists outside, but this might be the one place that’s worth the wait. Its popularity means that it’s a scrum most nights and you may have to give your name and wait for a table. But the pizzas are great, and use the highest-quality ingredients – the best mozzarella from nearby Agerola, sweet Vesuvian tomatoes and fine olive oil: a novel idea in the pizza business.

Sorbillo, Via d. Tribunali 32  

Sorbillo, Pizza, NaplesSorbillo ♥ by Daniela Vladimirova via Flickr (CC license)

I Decumani

Right in the heart of the Centro Storico, I Decumani is not quite as widely lauded as its better-known competitors, but definitely among the best pizzas in the city. Freshly remodelled and warmly tiled, the pizzeria has come a long way since it was a hole-in-the-wall friggitoria (still active next door). The fritti misti are a must, as are the huge, delicious pizzas. It’s also one of the few places in the Centro Storico open on Sundays.

I Decumani, Via d. Tribunali 58–61 (no website)

Da Michele

Tucked away off Corso Umberto I in the Forcella district, this is the most determinedly traditional of all the Naples pizzerias, though has now become so well-known you’ll most likely find yourself surrounded by other tourists. Da Michele serves just two varieties – marinara and margherita – for about €4. Don’t be surprised if you are shuttled to a communal, marble-topped table and seated with strangers; don’t arrive late, as they sometimes run out of dough.

Da Michele, Via Cesare Sersale 1–3 

Da Michele, pizza, Naples, ItalyPeople queuing outside Pizzeria da Michele by David McKelvey via Flickr (CC license)

Antica Pizzeria del Borgo Orefici

Down a little side street just off busy Corso Umberto, not far from the port, you can enjoy some of the city’s best pizza at this little-known joint with a handful of tables inside, and a little terrace outside. The very large pizzas more than make up for the lack of ambience; the salsiccia e friarielli is delicious.

Antica Pizzeria del Borgo Orefici, Luigi Palmieri 13 (no website)

Starita a Materdei

The Starita family has been serving pizza and fritti in the Materdei neighbourhood, uphill from the Museo Archeologico, since 1901, and along the way have created unique classics like the montarana, pizza dough that is deep-fried before being garnished with tomato and cheese then baked. For dessert, try the angioletti, deep-fried dough slathered in Nutella. It’s popular, and although the long main room seems to absorb people you may have a bit of a wait.

Starita a Materdei, Via Materdei 27–28 

Pizza, Naples, ItalyNeapolitańska pizza by Henryk Rypinski via Flickr (CC license) / colour corrected

Da Ettore

In the heart of Borgo Santa Lucia, this casual and lively neighbourhood restaurant is famous for its pagnotielli – sort of pizza sandwiches stuffed to bursting with mozzarella, ham and mushrooms, or salsicce and friarelli. Above all they offer good quality and value in a neighbourhood not especially known for either.

Da Ettore, Via Santa Lucia (no website)


Not a restaurant, but a festival, Pizzafest is a ten-day event held for over ten years in the Mostra d’Oltremare showground in Fuorigrotta. It celebrates Naples’ most famous gift to the world, with food stalls, demonstrations and plenty of cheesy entertainment.

Pizzafest is held over two weeks in mid September; see pizzafest.info for more information.

rough guide naples amalfi coast coverExplore more of Naples with the Rough Guide to Naples and the Amalfi Coast. Compare flights, find tours, book hostels and hotels for your trip, find tours and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

The days might be getting noticeably shorter and the crowds might be dispersing – but that doesn’t mean summer in Europe is coming to close. There’s still plenty of sun to be found if you know where to look. Whether you’re after balmy beaches or a relaxed city break, this is our pick of the best places for late summer sun in Europe.

Crete, Greece

Crete’s summers are long and warm, and there’s nothing better than kicking back at a beachside taverna and enjoying the last of the sun’s rays over plates of meze. For a glimpse of the island’s past, Crete’s Venetian and Turkish buildings are best-preserved in Chania; stroll around the narrow streets of the Old Town before taking a seat at a waterfront restaurant to enjoy the view of its lighthouse, one of the oldest in the world.


Warm days and cool nights make the end of summer the perfect time to go hiking in the Swiss mountains. You won’t be disappointed by the country’s enchanting scenery, with its fairytale-green hills, placid lakes and craggy mountains. Outside of high season you can be more flexible with your itinerary, so buy a Swiss Pass and head out to explore the towns.

Switzerland, Bern, Old Town, one of several bridges spanning River Aare

Budapest, Hungary

Late summer is one of the best times to visit Budapest, when the usually crowded streets become calmer, giving you the opportunity to make the most of the city’s cafés and bars. Before it gets too cold to brave, take a dip in the luxurious thermal Széchenyi Baths; you can even play chess on a floating board.

Cornwall, England

For the picture-perfect streets of its small seaside towns, stunning views out to sea and warmer climate than much of England, Cornwall is one of the best places to enjoy the last of England’s summer. For a unique theatre experience, try to catch a show at the open-air Minack Theatre, which juts out over the ocean. You’ll find beachside restaurants armed with blankets and heaters for when the sun goes down and the temperature drops.

Barcelona, Spain

There’s so much to see and do in Barcelona, and the searing heat of Spain’s mid-summer can make it difficult to appreciate. Less intense temperatures later in the year make sightseeing more pleasant; experience Gaudi’s dreamy yet slightly barmy Park Güell, walk around the Gothic quarter and hike to the top of Montjuïc. La Rambla is one of the most famous streets in Europe, and rightly so – stop at one of its restaurants and feed on the bustling energy of a city that parties late into the night.

Barcelona, Spain

Gran Canaria, the Canary Islands

If you’re hoping for a beach holiday, look no further than Gran Canaria. Away from the built-up holiday resorts, you’ll find long stretches of sandy beaches. From the desert south to inland subtropical forests, the landscape is spectacular – and if you just want to lie on a beach with a book, this is the perfect place.

Tuscany, Italy

Tuscany’s tall towers, striking towns and vast vineyards make it endlessly compelling. It’s one of the world’s most popular destinations year-round, but head for a late summer getaway and you’ll still be able to enjoy the pool in the balmy midday sun. From San Gimignano’s stunning skyline to Siena’s unique Piazza, there are fascinating historical towns aplenty.

Zadar, Croatia

The beautiful, largely unspoilt old city of Zadar is less busy than much of Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, and just as worth a visit for its marble streets and Roman and Venetian ruins. Head to the quay as the sun goes down and you’ll find that locals and visitors alike flock to watch one of the best sunset views in Europe, accompanied by the ethereal sounds of the Sea Organ and the mesmerising light display of the Greeting to the Sun, both created by Croatian architect Nikola Baši.

Sunset in Zadar, Dalmatia, Croatia

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Without the hordes of tourists on their summer holidays, the roads aren’t quite so mad in Amsterdam, so embrace the cliché and hire a bike like the locals. Amble along the backstreets with no particular aim in mind and you’ll find the canals twinkling in the late summer sun. The events and festival calendar of the Dutch capital remains packed late into September, a highlight of which is the city’s Fringe Festival.

Provence, France

Fields of sunflowers and lavender; vineyards that stretch as far as the eye can see; rustic cottages peppering the landscape; Provence is captivating. It would be easy to just sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery, but if you’re feeling more active, take a day-trip to Arles for its Roman amphitheatre and forum, or mix with locals at markets no longer heaving with holidaymakers; and you can’t leave without sampling the region’s wonderful wines.

Lake Como, Italy

Milan locals flock to Lake Como in the summer months for the lake’s cooling respite from the heat of the sun. In late summer, it’s still warm and bright but not as hot, so miss the main tourist rush and enjoy the Italian lake at a more leisurely pace, from lying on a beach and absorbing the last of the summer’s rays, to exploring traditional lakeside villages.

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.

If you’re looking for a city with fairytale architecture and gas-lit cobbled alleyways, you should probably stop reading now. Book a flight to Prague or Paris and be done with it. For Cologne (or Köln), is at first glance underwhelming in its postwar geometricity, with more busy roads than pedestrianised ones and only one blockbuster sight in the form of its towering cathedral. And even that’s the stuff of Gothic horror, not fairytales.

But what the city lacks in aesthetic appeal it makes up for in character by the bucket-load, with an open-minded, artsy scene that prompts obvious but accurate comparisons with Berlin, and a completely different kind of beer-drinking culture. Here are seven compelling reasons why you should go to Cologne for your next city break.

1. Because it has a unique beer culture…

If you thought Germany’s beer culture was all about oversized steins of frothy lager clinking together, think again.

Here, the brauhauses serve up skinny 20cl glasses of Kölsch, a pale and hoppy beer that, a bit like Champagne, must be made in Cologne to be granted the title. Expect the köbes (waiter) to keep slapping cold beers onto your table until you admit defeat and place a beer mat over your glass.

Brauhaus, Cologne – creative commons FlickrPeter’s Brauhaus by Daniel Farrell on Flickr (license)

Peter’s Brauhaus, Gaffel am Dom and Früh are the big names in the Altstadt and each offer a rousing, if slightly gimmicky, experience. For those who take their beer a bit more seriously, the Braustelle microbrewery in Ehrenfeld has a wide range of brews and runs popular tasting sessions and tours.

2. …and a cool wine culture, too

Of course, it’s not all about beer in Cologne. The city also has a taste for wine – the nearby Middle Rhine Valley is home to some of Germany’s finest vineyards.

The standout spot for wine is Wein am Rhein. The ambience here is almost the complete opposite of a brauhaus; tranquil and sophisticated with thoughtful decorative touches, like the hundreds of drooping white pockets of material hanging from the ceiling. If you go for the four- or five-course weinschmecker menu, sommelier Melanie will explain how the wines complement each dish with a degree of passion as intoxicating as the house aperitif.

3. Because of the cool grit and graffiti of Ehrenfeld

Lazy travel writers describe anywhere remotely hipster-ish as “The Dalston of…” these days, but the similarities between East London’s coolest neighbourhood and Ehrenfeld are too great to ignore.

Ehrenfeld, Cologne, Germany – creative commons FlickrEhrenfeld by Dietmar Temps on Flickr (license)

Ehrenfeld’s main artery, Venloer Strasse, affronts the senses with the fumes of its traffic and Turkish takeaways, with the odd boho café – squeezed between a pound store and an offy – pumping the irresistible aroma of roasted coffee into the street.

Occasionally you’ll be enticed away from the main drag by a residential street like Koernerstrasse, with its festive bunting joining the dots between boutique shops and charming brunch spots like Sensucht.

A little further north, poke your head down Senefelderstrasse to see Belgian-born graffiti artist ROA’s contribution to the district’s ever-growing exhibition of street art – a boney rabbit dangling from the roof of a building.

4. Because there’s a post-apocalyptic event space

JACK IN THE BOX, Cologne, GermanyPhoto by Greg Dickinson

Further out of town still, Jack in the Box is well worth the trek. If you get lost and end up traipsing through a post-apocalyptic scrapyard, you’re on the right track.

The reward for your efforts is a dusty, sparse space – littered with upcycled freight containers – that hosts everything from flea markets to gigs. During the Street Food Festival, you can take your pick from food carts like Turbobao and Raph’s BBQ to the sound of a DJ spinning the likes of Fela Kuti and Mayer Hawthorne.

5. Because you can see the city from a different angle on the Rhine

Whether you walk alongside it, cross it, or hop on a boat down it, you can’t visit Cologne without checking out the Rhine.

The most accessible part of the river is the pretty Rheingarten, lined by some of the most pleasingly German-looking buildings that you’ll see in the city centre – all housing tourist-trap cafés and restaurants. Lounging on the grass or people-watching on the promenade seem to be how the locals pass time around these parts.

River Rhine, Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, Europe

Nearby, the Hohenzollernbrücke railway bridge (the busiest one in the world, no less) is one of Europe’s gazillion ‘love-lock’ bridges, but lower that eyebrow – it’s actually pretty impressive. On the south side of the 800-metre bridge there is around two tonnes worth of locks. In some parts, space has run out and the locks start to climb the bridge’s steel railings like poison ivy (or something more romantic).

6. Because there’s ping pong and cocktails in the Belgian Quarter

The chic Belgisches Viertel (Belgian Quarter) escaped the wartime bombing that flattened much of Cologne’s Altstadt, leaving a collection of beautiful Art Nouveau apartment buildings that give an impression of what the city would have looked like a hundred years ago.

Centre of the action is Brüsseler Platz. During the day people come here to sip milschkaffe at a café, play ping pong on one of the fixed tables around St Michael’s Church or attempt to escape from a room at the recently opened Team Escape on the north side of the square.

Rhine, Cologne, Germany

At night the area throngs with under 30s. Those looking for a cocktail can while away their month’s wages in understated Little Link, anyone who wants to ‘be seen’ will head to Arty Farty Artspace (their words, not mine), while everyone else hangs out in the square like there’s no tomorrow.

7. And finally… because flights there are ludicrously cheap at the moment

Even if you’re a purist when it comes to budget airlines, it’s pretty tough to turn down the RyanAir and Germanwings flights to Köln/Bonn Airport – starting from as low as £15 return from London (yes, really) and similarly affordable from other European cities.

Greg stayed in an apartment in Bayenthal courtesy of HomeAway.co.uk, who offer quality accommodation in all of Europe’s major cities. For bookings, visit the website or call 0208 827 1971. Explore more of Germany with the Rough Guide to GermanyCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Just an hour’s drive from Washington DC, you’ll find Fredericksburg, a charming historic city with a bloody past. Some of the bitterest battles of the Civil War were fought here, and the city’s close ties with George Washington and James Monroe made it a frequent stopping point for influential figures during the Revolutionary War.

Fredericksburg’s quaint colonial streets, historic attractions, and quirky antique shops and boutiques have always attracted US tourists in their droves, but until now the city has remained little-known by travellers from further afield, overshadowed by its better-known neighbours Charlottesville and Richmond.

This year, the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, is the perfect time to discover a city closely linked with the historic conflict.

Fredericksburg, VA,USA, re-enactment Fredericksburg, VA by m01229 via Flickr (CC license

Why should I visit now?

For history buffs, Fredericksburg is best known as the site of the most one-sided battle in the Civil War. The Battle of Fredericksburg saw the Union experience a crushing defeat, suffering more than twice as many casualties as the Confederates. Thousands more died in the nearby Battles of Wilderness, Chancellorsville and Spotsylvania Court House.

Fredericksburg has marked the 150th anniversary in style, with re-enactments and smaller exhibits and performances highlighting the impact of the Civil War on the city and surrounding area.

What should I see?

Beyond the battlefields, there’s plenty to see in Fredericksburg. Top of the list should be Mary Washington House, a fascinating homage to George Washington’s mother, who lived here from 1772 until her death.

Just a short walk away is Kenmore Plantation, the former home of Washington’s sister, Betty Washington Lewis, and her husband. This Georgian-style mansion has been beautifully restored and is set in stunning grounds.

Kenmore Plantation, Fredericksburg, VA, USAFoggy Morning at Kenmore by John Earl via Flickr (CC license

Another famous Washington family residence is the Rising Sun Tavern. Initially the house of George’s younger brother Charles, this place was a frequent stopping point for many influential figures during the Revolutionary War, most notably Thomas Jefferson. The building became a popular tavern in 1791 and is now a living museum.

Other important sites include the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library, a museum filled with an eclectic mix of objects from the life of the Fifth President of the United States (who practised law in Fredericksburg), and Chatham Manor, a former plantation house that was the site of a slave rebellion in the nineteenth century and later became a hospital during the Civil War.

Where do only the locals know about?

Locals will tell you that the very best way to get a feel for Fredericksburg is to stroll through the streets of the Old Town and explore some of the city’s more unusual shops.

Must-see stores include the Picket Post, a veritable treasure trove of items from the Civil War battlefields; the Cottage Room, a shop dedicated to antique teapots and jewellery; and Fraser Wood Elements, which specializes in distinctive wooden furniture and one-of-a-kind hand-carved items. A tempting array of fresh fruit, vegetables, bread and local wine can also be found at the Farmers’ Market in Hurkamp Park.

Carl's, Fredericksburg, VA, USACarl’s by shoehorn99 via Flickr (CC license

Where are the best places to eat?

No trip to Fredericksburg would be complete without visiting Carl’s. There’s always a queue round the block for this retro frozen custard stand, which set up business in 1947 and hasn’t changed a bit since then. Opt for a scoop of one of the three flavours available (vanilla, chocolate and strawberry), or try one of the legendary root beer floats.

For something a bit more substantial, head to Basilico Deli for a lunch of freshly made sandwiches or pasta, or enjoy a hearty evening meal at Pueblo’s Tex Mex Grill.

Where can I stay?

There’s a wealth of hotels to choose from in Fredericksburg, but if you want to really immerse yourself in the history of the city you should book a room at the Kenmore Inn. Set in a series of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century buildings in the heart of the Old Town, the rooms are beautifully decorated with colonial-style furniture.

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

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.

Kuna Lady, San Blas, Panama

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.

Panama Canal, Train

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.

Panama, San Blas Islands, Isla Anzuelo, beach

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.

Drone footage has hit the news for all the wrong reasons recently, but this clip shows how incredible the results can be when it’s done right. Amateur film-makers, this is is the one video you need to see.

Max Seigal’s pin-sharp mini-film takes you round the world in two minutes. Starting in Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay, the soaring footage crams in New York City, Greece, Croatia, Switzerland, California, Colorado and more before coming to a close in Japan.

Look out for the incredible flight through a bird colony at 00:33, mountain bikers riding Utah’s burnt orange rocks at 00:57, the base jumper at 01:10 and the fisherman swinging their nets in Vietnam at 01:29.

There are still plenty of gaps in this world tour, but even so, this distance-defying film is our pick of the week.

Around the World in Two Minutes from Max Seigal on Vimeo.

Pakistan is a country filled with unexpected highlights. Contrary to many preconceptions, its borders hold soaring mountains, glassy lakes and intricately-decorated mosques.

Our video of the week gives an insight into Pakistani life. In this 2-minute clip, film-maker Umar Bhutta returns to his homeland, travelling from north to south, visiting five cities and mile-upon-mile of stunningly beautiful countryside along the way.

“It is my hope that one day, very soon, it will be commonplace for all of you too, to visit this beautiful country” he says, “[to] experience the delicious dishes, the overwhelming culture and the gracious people, and have an unforgettable journey of your own.”

Pakistan in 2 Minutes from Umar Bhutta on Vimeo.

Check the latest advice from your country’s embassy or consulate before travelling to Pakistan. 

Former National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, Alastair Humphreys is the pioneer of the microadventure. Greg Dickinson caught up with him to discuss walking around London’s M25, cycling around the planet and the joys of sleeping in a bivvy bag.

How did your life as an adventurer begin?

I started as a normal person who wanted to have a big adventure. When I was 24 I set off to cycle around the world. I had just finished university and I realised it was a perfect chance to go before real life got in the way.

When I got back I wanted to write a book about it, so to fund my life I started doing talks at schools and got paid a bit. Then I started to think… hey, maybe I can make adventure my life.

 Bicycle by the sea

In ten words, what exactly is a microadventure?

Just an adventure, but one that is compatible with busy real life.

That was 12 but we’ll let you off. How did you come up with the idea?

I started to realise that more people love the idea of adventures than those who actually go out and do the adventuring themselves. It’s partly down to laziness, but it’s also down to real life things getting in the way: like a lack of time, lack of money, lack of experience.

I wanted to show that you could still have adventures around those constraints. If you’re unable to spend four years cycling around the world, it’s better to go cycling for the weekend than to do absolutely nothing at all.

Microadventerer Alastair Humphreys camps under the stars

What is the “5 to 9” microadventure?

If you try to think of a trip that’s too big and too complicated it often just doesn’t happen. So I came up with the idea of leaving work at 5, having a microadventure and then going back to the office the next day.

If you go and do that once, you then realise it’s much easier to go and have a weekend trip. Then you start to get a bit of momentum, and before you know it you’re speaking to your boss requesting an extended chunk of annual leave.

Suit hanigng in tree, Alastair Humphreys

What was your first microadventure?

The thing that changed everything for me was when I walked a lap of the M25. I did it with a friend in January when it was snowy and cold. We would hop over the fence beyond the hard shoulder and walk in the fields, woods, towns and villages adjacent to the motorway.

I was really surprised by quite how much I enjoyed it, and how many similarities the trip had with something like cycling around the world; going to new places, meeting new people, doing something challenging, finding beautiful places to sleep. It was a really stupid thing to do, but I was trying to show that you can find adventure and wilderness anywhere, even in the most unlikely of spots.

What was your favourite microadventure to date?

One of my favourite microadventures was last summer. Trying to find time to see your friends becomes quite difficult; even when they live on the other side of London it’s a struggle. So quite a few of us who now live in different places – London, Kent, Bristol, Cheltenham – all agreed to meet on a hill in the middle of the Cotswolds one summer’s evening for sunset.

People finished work, we climbed the hill, rendezvoused for sunset, had food and a couple of drinks, slept on the hill in a bivvy bag and disappeared the next morning back to work.

So tell us, what’s it really like sleeping in a bivvy bag?

Sleeping in a tent out in the wild is quite fun, but once you’ve tried a bivvy bag you realise that a tent is just a really crap version of being indoors. If you want to be properly outside then a bivvy bag does the job; when you wake in the night you see the stars overhead. It’s cheap, simple, light to carry, it’s not a hassle, it’s easy to pack away when you get home and it’s a bit silly. Unless it rains, in which case they’re miserable. Or if there are midges…

Microadventure with Alastair Humphreys

What else is on the essential microadventure kit list?

The kit is so simple. Sleeping bag, warm clothes, rain clothes, bivvy bag, camping mat, torch, food and water – and any luxury items you feel will make things more enjoyable.

Cycling in England

What have you learnt about the UK since you started going on microadventures?

I’ve learnt so much about the UK. Before I started going on microadventures I was excited about travelling the world. I loved far-off wild places and thought Britain was a bit boring and small. But I’ve discovered that the variety of landscapes in the UK is truly amazing.

The mountains are really big, wild and beautiful but they’re also so tiny that anybody can go up them. From thinking of the UK as being a rubbish place for an adventurous person to live, I now absolutely love it. That’s been a real revelation for me.

Lakes in Great Britain

What would you say to convince someone to go on a microadventure?

The first step is putting a date in the diary. If you’re the sort of person who’s a bit lazy and wimps out of stuff, then recruit a friend so you can chivvy each other on. Next, find a plan that is really unambitious so you’ll actually do it.

If you find it difficult to motivate yourself for an adventure then I’d advocate just sleeping in your garden for one night, just to remind yourself what it’s like to see the stars and hear the birdsong.

Got the microadventure bug? For more ideas, listen to Episode 6 of The Rough Guide to Everywhere podcast. We talk to Alastair about his latest microadventures and our very own editor and Rough Guide to Everywhere host, Greg Dickinson, tries it out for himself.

Alastair blogs about his adventures and microadventures on www.alastairhumphreys.com. His highly acclaimed book, Microadventures, can be ordered through his website (UK) or on Amazon.

Photos by Alastair Humphreys

Photos don’t do justice to some places on Earth – you just have to go and see them. From the ancient pyramids and the Taj Mahal to the Golden Rock and the Colca Canyon, some sights are too stupendous to appreciate on screen. Get your bucket list at the ready, these are 22 natural and man-made wonders you need to see to believe.

1. The ultramarine sea and sheer cliffs of Shipwreck Bay, Zákynthos

Greece, Ionian Islands, Zakynthos, ultramarine sea and sheer cliffs at Shipwreck Bay

2. The Pyramids at Giza in Egypt

The Pyramids at Giza in EgyptDreamstime.com: Dan Breckwoldt / Danbreckwoldt

3. The Wave in Arizona

The Wave, Coyote Buttes, Arizona, USADreamstime.com: Csongor Tari / Cstari

4. The floating grass Uros Islands in southern Peru

peru0000, Uros Islands, floating grass Islands., Southern Peru.

5. The Erg Chebbi dunes in Morocco

Morocco, Erg Chebbi dunes

6. Tongariro National Park, New Zealand 

Tongariro National Park, New ZealandDreamstime.com: Dmitry Pichugin / Dmitryp

7. The Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National Park, Australia

Australia, Western Australia, The Pinnacles Desert, Nambung National Park

8. The Atrium of the Burj Al Arab in Dubai

Atrium, Burj Al Arab, Dubai, UAE

9. Peru’s Colca Canyon

Peru, Arequipa, Colca Canyon and River, view of terraces spread across the hillsides

10. The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland

Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

11. Cholla cacti in Joshua Tree National Park, California

USA, California, Joshua Tree National Park, Cholla cactus set against blue sky with mountain backdrop

12. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef from the sky

Great Barrier Reef from the sky, AustraliaDreamstime.com: Bin Zhou / Dropu

13. Ganghwa’s dolmens, South Korea

Ganghwa Dolmen, Bugeun-ri, Hajeom-myeon, Korea

14. The gentle curve of Wave Rock, Western Australia

Australia, Western Australia, Hyden, Wave Rock

15. The colours of Yellowstone‘s Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone, USADreamstime.com: Derekteo

16. The ancient city of Machu Picchu in Peru

Ancient city of Machu Picchu (Peru).Dreamstime.com: Jarnogz

17. Parque Nacional del Teide in Tenerife

Spain, Canary Islands, Tenerife, Parque Nacional del Teide, crags of La Caldera de Las Canadas

18. The tufa rock formations at Mono Lake in California

USA, California, Mono Lake, tufa rock formations near Navy Beach in Owens Valley at dusk

19. The magical Golden Rock in Myanmar

Myanmar / South east Myanmar / Kyaiktiyo / Golden Rock

20. India‘s mesmerising Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal, IndiaPhotolibrary: Corbis

21. The unforgettable approach to Petra in Jordan

Jordan, Petra, view of monastery facade

22. The icy expanses of Lake Baikal, Siberia

Lake Baikal, SiberiaDreamstime.com: Dshamanov

Anthony Bourdain controversially characterised Glasgow as somewhere to go ‘’for a beer and a beating” in his TV show Parts Unknown. Bourdain poked good-natured fun at the city’s notoriety, where the drinking culture looms large and the language is colourful; it’s a rep that Glasgow has battled with for decades. However, Bourdain also represented its lesser-known highlights: its charms and culinary delights. This is the side of the city you need to discover – Claire Boyle shares her insider’s guide.

Why should I visit now?

Fresh from a year dominating the news cycle for hosting the Commonwealth Games, experiencing a historical political referendum and witnessing the devastating fire in one of its architectural feats, the Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow is as much the “dear green place” as it has ever been.

Go for the West-End Festival. Stay in the bohemian West End and picnic in the Botanic Gardens, sourcing treats from one of several delis on Byres Road (Kember & Jones , Peckham’s), then follow it up with Shakespeare al fresco or A Play, A Pie and A Pint.

What should I see?

Easily walkable from a West End base are the Victorian architecture, tenements, Gothic Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis. Visit The People’s Palace, the museum for Glaswegians, and the Gallery of Modern Art; where New York has MOMA, Glasgow has GOMA, and the infamous statue outside of Wellington with a traffic cone atop his head.

The gothic Glasgow Cathedral

Go to the new Zaha Hadid designed Riverside Museum to discover more about Glasgow’s industrial history. Follow it up with a trip to nearby Crabshakk in revitalised Finnieston – seafood on the west coast of Scotland should not be missed. Finish the day with drinks at Chinaski’s, named for Charles Bukowski’s popular protagonist.

Don’t miss Salvador Dali’s Christ of Saint John of the Cross at Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum and the Art Nouveau legacies by Charles Rennie Mackintosh throughout the city (the Hunterian Museum on the Glasgow University campus has reassembled The Mackintosh House; House for an Art Lover is worth the suburban trip; take afternoon tea in the renowned Willow Tea Rooms; receive a student-led tour of the Glasgow School of Art while it undergoes restoration).

Where do only the locals know about?

Cakes at Bakery47, GlasgowCourtesy of Bakery47 on Instagram

Venture to the South Side of the city (5–10 minutes by train from Glasgow Central) and go to bakery47 for incredible homemade cakes before a performance at the Tramway or Citizens theatres.

For non-theatre lovers, Glasgow has a popular and diverse music scene, with live bands at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut every night. Go for laughs at The Stand, Glasgow’s popular comedy club, or have a quieter evening at the arthouse cinema.

Wander the cobblestone lanes of Hillhead for boutiques and quirky restaurants and bars, as well as nearby Otago Lane for the curious institutions, Tchai Ovna tea house and Voltaire and Rousseau secondhand bookshop.

Where are the best places to stay and eat?

Glasgow has a range of hotels and hostels to suit every budget. Staying central or in the West End provides easy access to attractions and to the Glasgow Subway , or “Clockwork Orange” – a circuit of which takes only 24 minutes.

Two of our favourites are The Brunswick, a small, independent designer hotel and the Alamo Guesthouse, a good-value, family-run boarding house next to Kelvingrove Park.

Brunch at Tribeca, The Hyndland Fox, or Cafe Gandolfi and dine at The Ubiquitous Chip, Rogano, or Stravaigin; these restaurants will dispel the stereotype that Glasgow only caters deep fried pizzas and Irn Bru (although these can be sourced, if desired). One of the best things to eat in Glasgow is curry; try Mother India ’s Cafe, Koolba, or The Wee Curry Shop.

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

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