We asked the Rough Guides team to name the most beautiful places in England. After much deliberation, here are the results.

The Lake District

Travel Editor Greg chose this area of natural beauty, and in particular Kirkstone Pass, as one of the most beautiful places he’s been in England. The highest mountain pass in the country, Kirkstone is a beautiful drive or cycle. There are incredible views and great hikes to be had, while the Kirkstone Pass Inn, an old coaching house dating back to the fifteenth century, is a great base for exploring the area. Some believe it’s haunted by travellers who used to pass through.

The Lake District

Bath, Somerset

Our Senior Web Developer Latn picked Bath as one of the most beautiful places in England. With its elegant Georgian architecture and that famous crescent set on a hill overlooking the Royal Victoria park, it has enchanted many a visitor – the city sees over two million tourists per year. The perfect way to unwind after all that sightseeing? A visit to the Thermae Bath Spa to soak in some of the naturally warm water that bubbles beneath the city.

Bath, Somerset

The South Downs National Park, Sussex

Our Junior Product Manager Jon chose the South Downs National Park for its 1600 square kilometres of incredible views. “It’s the countryside that says “England” to me the most.” There’s perhaps nothing more striking than the white cliffs of the Seven Sisters rising out of the deep blue ocean on England’s South Coast.

The South Downs National Park, Sussex

The Peak District

Inspiration for the likes of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, the rugged Peak District has been charming Brits for centuries with its undulating hills, windswept crags and imposing country houses. Senior Web Editor Eleanor reckons it’s one of the most beautiful places in the country, with spectacular views, excellent walking trails (including the Pennine Way) and the regal Chatsworth House among its many draws.

The Peak District

Salcombe, Devon

Travel Editor Emma chose this genteel, pastel-coloured seaside town for its proximity to some of Devon’s unspoiled, quiet sandy coves. The town describes itself as Devon’s sailing capital, and there’s no better way to see the colourful seafront than from the open blue waters of the English Channel.

Salcombe, Devon

Kimmeridge Bay, Dorset

Managing Editor Andy loves Kimmeridge Bay. Perhaps it’s the views over the ocean, or maybe the millions of years of history that lay immortalized as fossils in the cliffs of this stretch of the Jurassic Coast. Whatever it is, if you can bag yourself a stay at the Landmark Trust’s Clavell Tower you’ll have the best view over the bay.

Kimmeridge Bay, Dorset

Hampstead Heath, London

As she recently moved to London from the countryside, the capital was an obvious choice for Assistant Web Editor Lottie. Hampstead Heath in particular gets her vote, as it’s probably the only place in central London where you truly feel like you could be a hundred miles away. Plus The Spaniards Inn pub at the northern edge is one of London’s best – dating back to 1585 – and both Keats and Dickens allegedly used to drink here.

Hampstead Heath, London

Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire

This historic fishing village, staggered down a steep hill to the sea, was once a haven for smugglers. For Senior Editor Rachel, it’s hard to beat eating fish and chips by the (often wind-swept) sea here, overlooking England’s “dinosaur coast”.

Robin Hood's Bay, North Yorkshire

West Cornwall

It’s easy to understand why our Travel Editor Rebecca chose west Cornwall: long before Poldark started brooding on cliff tops, in-the-know travellers were heading to Cornwall’s stunning western reaches. The list of its merits is impressive: renowned surf, dramatic cliffs, ancient fishing villages, abandoned tin mines, mystical stone circles, windswept moorland… Some of the more attractive spots include Minack, with its open-air theatre carved out of the cliff face, and Botallack, ruined tin mines perched precariously above a raging sea.

West Cornwall

Dartmouth, Devon

Dartmouth in Devon was picked by our Editorial Assistant Freya. She says: “standing on the coastal walkway in Dartmouth looking out over the River Dart and watching the old steam train pull into Kingswear above the many different-coloured boats moored in the harbour… It will always remind me of childhood holidays, it’s beautiful.”

Dartmouth, Devon

Anita Isalska explores the frozen surface of the epic Lake Baikal in Russia. 

During Siberian winters, the mercury drops as low as minus 35ºC (minus 31ºF). Brightly painted houses in central Russia’s villages groan under the weight of snow. The surface of vast Lake Baikal freezes. But as I stand its shore, I see an adventure playground rather than an icy desert.

Hovercraft are thundering over the ice, spinning in figures of eight while bystanders cheer. A fleet of ice bikes and converted bumper cars race across the surface. Meanwhile a breeze carries the sound of chattering market vendors along with the scent of smoked fish.

At Listvyanka, one of Lake Baikal’s most picturesque villages, the number of visitors dips with the temperature. But visiting Baikal between November and March reveals the lake in all its wintry magnificence, with plenty of wild ways to experience Russia’s deep freeze.Ice skating on Lake Baikal, Russia

Baikal, Russia’s record-breaking lake

It’s impossible to describe Lake Baikal without superlatives. It’s the world’s deepest freshwater lake (at more than 1.6km) as well as the most ancient (a whopping 25 million years young). It’s a favourite summertime destination for Russians, who seize fishing rods and sunhats and clamour to Baikal’s shores.

Lake Baikal is also one of the most cherished stops on the Trans-Siberian Railway – the world’s longest railway line, its 9289 km of tracks connect Russian capital Moscow with Vladivostock in the far east. Many travellers take the Trans-Mongolian route to China instead; but whatever the route, a stop at Baikal is a highlight.

I have reached Baikal in a rattling marshrutka (minibus) from Irkutsk, the closest major city to the lake, during winter to see a different side to this 3.15 million hectare expanse.

Natural wonders of the “sacred sea”

On a dry day, frozen Baikal looks dark and glassy. Cracks spider across its surface. The shifting, cracking and resealing of icy layers create small crevices. Blades of ice prick upwards like dragon scales.

Ice cave, Lake Baikal, Russia

Where the surface is polished smooth by footfall and passing hovercraft, the ice resembles black marble. But after snowfall, pillowy snowdrifts amass on the surface. The lake looks like a cloudscape.

Russians refer to Baikal as the country’s “sacred sea”, because of both its beauty and its size. To scientists, it’s “Russia’s Galápagos”: much of the fauna here is found nowhere else on Earth.

Most famous are the bulging-eyed nerpas, Baikal seals. But there’s one endemic species you’ll smell long before you see it: the omul fish.

Omul is an economic cornerstone for this part of Russia, with crates of the succulent fish shipped across the country as a delicacy. In Listvyanka’s fish market – a social hub for this small village – omul fill the stalls. Locals and travellers amble past leather-dry omul, dangling from strings, and appraise the day’s fresh catch. But the best stuff is hot smoked: market vendors snap open tupperware boxes to reveal iridescent omul, cloaked in steam.

Venturing out onto the ice

A feast of omul and hot tea is essential in this brutal cold, especially if I want to take to the ice. Locals step out fearlessly, knowing the spring thaw is a long way off. But I tread gingerly, thinking about the yawning depths under my feet.

Ice on Lake Baikal, Russia

I’m the only one worried. Children are skidding in the snow and holding aloft diamond-shaped shards of ice, while their parents sip from thermos flasks. Before long, my nightmare of being swallowed into a gaping icy crevasse has faded and I’m negotiating the fare for a ride on a hovercraft.

Once inside, the grinning driver sets the hovercraft buzzing across the ice at speed. He turns sharply and lets the craft careen across the lake. My grip on a feeble safety handle tightens as he slams the accelerator. The icy crevasse is starting to loom in my imagination again…

After a few minutes of white-knuckle driving, the hovercraft shudders to a halt. The driver waves his passengers out, and we stand at the shore to watch the sunset. The ice glows a warm copper before darkening to navy.

The temperature plummets with the dying light; people trudge away from the ice. Music starts to trill at shoreside taverns and Sovetskoye Shampanskoye (Soviet bubbly) is being poured.

It may be a bitter Siberian winter, but between the remarkable scenery and the pop of champagne corks, hibernation is unthinkable.

Need to know:

If you’re planning a Lake Baikal excursion as part of your Trans-Siberian Railway journey, plan to stop at Irkutsk for a few days. From Irkutsk bus station, catch a marshrutka to Listvyanka village (1.5 hours). Atmospheric guesthouses in Listvyanka have double rooms from around 3000RUB (50EUR) per night. One of the best is Usadba Demidova (Ulitsa Sudzilovskogo 2) with communal lounges, sauna and breakfast with a Baikal view (3,940RUB per night). Compare flightsbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Travelling is about education: learning about the world, yourself and life in general. The lessons are endless no matter where you are in the world, so if you’ve ever been backpacking, you’ll know what we’re talking about. Here are fourteen things every backpacker learns on their first jaunt around the world:

1. You need less stuff than you think

You might leave home with three pairs of shoes and an XXL fanny pack, but after a few weeks away you’ll be permanently glued to your flip flops – and you’ll start carrying your money around in your pocket, just like everyone else on the planet. The best advice is to pack as little as possible; everything else can be picked up along the way.

2. Earplugs are a good investment

Bargain bunk beds and the warm embrace of a drunken sleep, surrounded by new friends from around the world. Ah, yes: snoozing in shared dorms is an essential part of the backpacking experience.

But wait… is somebody snoring already? Why didn’t Big Dave from Australia mention his sleep apnoea? And how are those two backpackers from the bar doing god-knows-what in a bunk that’s barely big enough for one person? Add in the nocturnal farters and pre-dawn plastic bag rustlers, and you’ve got a recipe for a pretty rough night’s sleep. Pack earplugs, and be prepared to use them.

Dorm Room, hostel, Poland, Europe

3. There’ll always be someone who’s done more

Swum to a remote beach and survived on venomous snakes that you caught with your bare hands? Smoked weed with a yogi during a solar eclipse? Been to every hostel in every country on Earth? Awesome! But there will always be someone staying at your guesthouse who’s done it all too, and then some. The solution? Find your own path and do what makes you happy, rather than engaging in the un-winnable war of one-upmanship.

4. There are good people everywhere

Despite what TV news would have you believe, there are good people everywhere. Get yourself into a spot of bother pretty much anywhere in the world and if you’re polite and respectful, there will be some good soul willing to help you out.Woman with map

5. It’s okay to get lost

See point 4, above.

6. No one wants to hear it

Your guitar, that is. Or your ukulele. The whole reason the people go travelling is to experience something new, not to listen to someone muddling through a cover of Wonderwall after a few too many local beers.

East Sussex, Brighton, Pavilion Gardens, people relaxing and playing music

7. Not everything is online (yet)

There are still amazing places that don’t have a presence online. Smart backpackers learn not to limit themselves to the restaurants, hotels and restaurants they’ve seen getting good reviews on the web, as often it’s personal recommendations that lead to the best experiences.

8. Your body copes with a lot (but not everything)

The average backpacking trip puts the human body through a lot, including long flights, sleepless nights, litres of cheap beer and tasty, exotic seafood, which is not always prepared to the same squeaky-clean standards you’re used to back home. You’ll cope with most of this stuff pretty well but there are still limits, so expect at least a few of your ‘comfort breaks’ to be rather, well… uncomfortable.

Chile, Araucania Region, hiking on Volcan Villarrica

9. If it sounds too good to be true, it is

That five baht tuk-tuk ride around Bangkok sounds cheap, but will wind up with you getting dragged around gem shops that you never wanted to visit. Likewise, the ‘free’ walking tours offered in European capitals often end up with tourists being guilt tripped into tipping the guide, or paying for a longer tour. If you want a good experience, be prepared to pay for it.

10. Banks don’t like backpackers

What happens when you call your bank to let them know about your travel plans? That’s right, they wait until you’re having a good time thousands of miles from home and then put a block on your card, saying they suspect some kind of fraudulent activity (when really it’s just you, frantically trying to book a last-minute flight).

Worse still, if you really are a victim of fraud, they’ll cut the card off completely, and then helpfully offer to post a new one out to your home address – that’s right, on the other side of the planet.

USA, Florida, Orlando, US ATM machine

11. Cheap doesn’t feel cheap for long

A beach hut for $10 a night seems like great value at first, but you’ll soon come to expect low prices and moan when they edge even a few cents higher – completely forgetting that you’d pay ten times the amount for similar digs back home.

12. There isn’t much you can’t wash in the sink

Jeans, t-shirts, and even your entire backpack – when needs must, you’ll find room for almost everything in the bathroom sink. Drying times vary.

Man hanging clothes on washing line

13. You’re incredibly lucky

In some parts of the world it’s possible to survive on next to nothing and still be relatively rich. The fact that you can afford to jet away from your home country and experience new places and cultures (even if you are surviving on a diet of noodle soup and local-brand cigarettes) puts you among the luckiest people on Earth. Appreciate it, and make every second count.

14. You can never see it all

Which is why your first backpacking trip should never, ever be your last.

Take your first trip with the Rough Guide to the First-Time Around the WorldCompare flightsbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

There’s only one way to avoid the traffic-burdened streets of Uganda’s capital, Kampala: hop on the back of a boda boda, the city’s motorcycle taxi. The motorbikes got their name from the slang term “border border”, because back in the 1960s and 70s people took motorcycle taxis as a fast, and inexpensive way to cross the Kenya–Uganda border.

Today, boda bodas are still a cheap way locals get around much of East Africa, and in Uganda, they’re essential – except, boda boda drivers are notorious for high speeds and reckless driving, which is why Walter Wanderas began running Boda Boda Tours.

When the 30-year old became a boda boda driver to pay his way through university, he had no idea it would become a profitable full time business. Keeping speeds under control, and carrying helmets for passengers drew him a loyal customer base.

Walter’s curiosity about the sites he drove past every day in Kampala inspired him to learn as much as he could about attractions like the King’s Palace, and now, with a fleet of six boda bodas, and twenty drivers, Walter’s tours have expanded to cover national parks, safaris, and mountain biking, and touring in more traditional 4x4s for the less adventurous.

Kampala, Uganda

“organized chaos, or disorganized order”

Despite Walter’s infectious smile and assurances, it was with more than a bit of trepidation that I climbed on the back of his boda boda for a tour. I hate riding motorcycles, so this was a test for both of us; just how much could he calm a nervous rider, and just how much I could trust him. He’d obviously dealt with nervous riders like me. “Don’t worry, we have a spotless record – no accidents in our entire company, and we go less than 40mph,” Walter said patiently.

As we entered a busy roundabout, I looked straight ahead, over Walter’s shoulder, before we began snaking through narrow streets in a neighbourhood that’s usually unknown to tourists. “This is what we call organized chaos, or disorganized order,” Walter said with a laugh. We parked and climbed up a flight of stairs to a local billiard bar to see one of the best views over the city. If my nerves weren’t starting to ease, a sip of Ugandan banana beer would do the trick.

By the time we’d reached the Gadaffi National Mosque I’d loosened my grip, and realised this is the best way to cover so much ground. It would have been impossible on foot or by car within one day. The mosque, built in 2006, and funded by the eponymous Libyan leader, is the second largest in Africa. The entire city, with hills set against Lake Victoria to the south, is visible from the top.

National Mosque, Kampala, Uganda

“The country’s dark past is still present”

Walter’s favourite rolex stand delivered a delicious typical street meal of warm chapatti, rolled with egg and tomato inside. Chapatti is a foundation of the Ugandan kitchen, thanks to the Indians, who first came in the late nineteenth century as labourers building the railway to Mombasa. Though expelled during Idi Amin’s rule, thankfully, many have returned, to serve up delicious, authentic dishes at the many Indian restaurants in Uganda.

I discovered the country’s dark past was still present at the end of a dirt path on the grounds of the King’s Palace. We descended into a bat-filled cave, where Idi Amin’s torture chambers still stand, three cement rooms, elevated on a platform.

The former president, who ruled from 1971–79, ensured the underground chambers were surrounded by electrified water, to execute enemies of the state. Walter explained that 200,000 prisoners were held in 10×10-ft rooms, crammed so tightly together, many died of asphyxiation. Others tried to escape, only to be electrocuted. There was an eeriness about the place.

We rode to a more peaceful spot, upon yet another of Kampala’s hills. Within 45 acres, sits Uganda’s Baha’i temple, the only one in Africa. Uganda’s Baha’i population has thrived since the end of Idi Amin’s reign, when they too were expelled.

Kampala, Uganda, Africa

“An escape from the frenetic city streets”

The day was a mixture of crowds and calm. The quiet hills offered an escape from the frenetic city streets, where we found Owino market, Africa’s largest second-hand clothing market. Mountains of colour were lorded over by scores of vendors selling clothing, shoes and electrical goods.

We finished up with a traditional Ugandan meal at a restaurant in Old Kampala. Different dishes were served on one plate, from fresh cassava and cassava bread, to pumpkin, beans, goat, and fish steamed in banana leaves. Vegetarians and carnivores are well catered for in the city.

Need to know:
Tours run for about three hours, but can go as long as six, with no extra charge. Walter tailors them to personal preferences, but we went with his most popular city tour, visiting the original seven hills of Kampala, as well as the others, which now total 23. On weekends, lounge lizards can opt for the after-dark tour of Kampala’s nightlife; the boda bodas are parked, and Walter commandeers a mini-van to cruise the city’s best bars and clubs. You can stay at the Serena Hotel Kampala.

Most travellers thinking about a weekend break in Germany overlook Hamburg and put Berlin and Munich at the top of their wish lists. Yet within Germany, the nation’s second city proves a popular draw thanks to nightlife, shopping and museums. Stuart Forster, a regular visitor to Germany, finds out what Hamburg has to offer.

Why just go for a weekend?

Because Hamburg is at its liveliest over weekends. The city has long been renowned for its nightlife. If you’re looking for a destination with a good choice of bars, clubs and live music venues you can spend a couple of days partying then depart exhausted.

You can also enjoy an intense shot of art and culture. Hamburg has a number of quality art and design museums, several of which are ranged along the Kunstmeile or ‘art mile’ close to the central station.

The U-Bahn – Hamburg’s underground railway – operates throughout the night on Fridays and Saturdays, making it easy to get around. The airport is less than 12km from the centre, a distance covered in under 25 minutes on the U-Bahn, meaning you can maximise time in the city.

What should I see in Hamburg?

To gain a perspective on the city of 1.8 million inhabitants, its waterfront is a good starting point. View Hamburg’s skyline, including the HafenCity district’s new Elbephilharmonie concert hall, and sail alongside the docks during a boat tour on the River Elbe, starting from St Pauli’s landing stages. You can also walk through the Elbtunnel to appreciate the view from across the water.

Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg, Germany, EuropeImage by Stuart Forster

For sailors returning to Germany the clock tower of St Michael’s Church is a symbol of homecoming, and the panoramas from the observation platform are particularly evocative during dusk.

If you enjoy architecture take a look at the grand, brick-built offices of the Kontorhausviertel, including the Expressionist Chilehaus. Those – along with the neo-Gothic warehouses of the Speicherstadt district – are UNESCO World Heritage Site candidates.

The Speicherstadt’s buildings now host tourist attractions including Miniatur Wunderland, where you can see the world’s largest model railway. The intricate detail, including a miniature depiction of Hamburg.

The Kunsthalle housing a collection ranging from Old German Masters to contemporary installations is arguably the pick of Hamburg’s art museums.

What should I eat?

If you’re after a snack, try a currywurst – grilled sausage smothered in ketchup, strewn with curry powder and served with pommes (French fries). Locals will tell you the popular dish was invented in their city after WWII (Berliners say the same), and you can find it in snack bars such as Edelcurry.

Fish plays a significant role in Hamburg’s traditional cuisine. Hamburger Pannfisch – fillets served in a mustard sauce – was once served to mask the pungency of old fish. Today it’s a delicacy. Try it in the timber-framed Krameramtsstuben restaurant, one of the city’s oldest buildings.

Labskaus, a fish and meat stew, coloured purple by beetroot and topped with a fried egg, is another local speciality worth looking out for.

Currywurst – Creative Commons flickrby Punctuated via photopin (license)

Where’s the party?

The heaviest concentrations of bars are in the St Pauli and St Georg districts, where you’ll find everything from shabby drinking dens to chic lounge-bars and nightclubs. Both quarters were once infamous for their red lights but are in the process of re-inventing themselves as entertainment hubs.

St Georg hosts a cluster of gay bars, including the compact Bellini Bar, where you can grab a cocktail and a dose of Europop.

To experience a pub packed with locals – and down a beer while listening to German Schlager music from an old style jukebox – head to the long-established Zum Silbersack.

Hamburg nightlife, Germany, EuropeImage by Stuart Forster

For the throb of dance beats visit the subterranean Mojo Club. The neighbouring Jazz Café opens on weekends for late live gigs.

If you can keep going until morning – or fancy an early start to your Sunday – head to the riverside Altona Fischmarkt, where bands play in the former auction houses.

Any budget-friendly accommodation?

Yes. Superbude has budget designer hotels in St Pauli and St Georg. Double rooms cost from £50. The Instant Sleep hostel has single rooms to 12-person dorms, priced from £10, including female-only accommodation and a kitchen for preparing meals.

Where can I go on a day-trip?

You could combine a trip to Hamburg with a visit to the maritime city of Kiel, 90km north, which is busiest during the Kieler Woche, a regatta combined with a city festival, held during the last week of June.

Lübeck, 60km away, was the Hanseatic League’s leading city during medieval times and is today a UNESCO World Heritage Site notable for its Gothic architecture, including the iconic Holstentor gate.

Bremen, another Hanseatic hub, lies 90km south-west of Hamburg. Its Renaissance style town hall and statue of Roland, a symbol of freedom, are listed by UNESCO and among the city’s best known sights.

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

You’ve hiked the Cinque Terre, gondola’d down Venice’s Grand Canal and got Renaissance art fatigue in Florence’s Uffizi. So what’s next? Italophile Natasha Foges picks six lesser known places that offer all the charm of Italy‘s big sights.

If you like Lake Como try… Lake Iseo

Of the six Italian Lakes, it’s Garda and Como – renowned for their heart-stopping beauty and sweeping panoramas – that hog the limelight. But between the two, serene Lake Iseo is the region’s best-kept secret. Long, sinuous and hemmed in by mountains, the lake has drama in spades, seen to best effect in autumn, when the wooded hillsides are in glorious colour and the lake is mistily atmospheric.

If you can bear to tear yourself away from the pretty lakeside villages, check out the stone-age rock carvings of the Val Camonica at the head of the lake, or drive through the Franciacorta area at the lake’s southern end, celebrated for its sparkling white wines.

Italy, Lombardy, Lake Iseo

If you like the Cinque Terre try… Ponza

The ruggedly beautiful fishing villages that comprise the fabled Cinque Terre, each a tumble of cheerily painted houses, have long enthralled tourists – and now lure millions of visitors a year. If you’re hankering for salty air, sparkling seas and pastel-hued houses – but without the crowds – plump for Ponza, a pretty island that lies off the coast between Rome and Naples. Popular among weekending Romans in summer (it’s within easy reach of the city), it sees few foreign visitors.

With few sights as such, it’s the perfect place for a laid-back holiday. There’s little to distract you from the simple pleasures of paddling in limpid waters, sunning yourself on crescent-shaped Chiaia di Luna beach and messing around in boats.

Ponza harbor with boats, ItalyPhoto credit: View at Ponza harbor / Dreamstime.com: Aalexeev

If you like Tuscany try… Umbria

Rural Tuscany’s best bits – scenic landscapes, fantastic food and wine, winsome hill towns – can also be found in next-door Umbria. If you dream of a escaping to a rustic hill-top agriturismo, spending your days contemplating the rolling hills and eating your body-weight in pasta (but not paying an arm and a leg for the privilege), Umbria is for you.

As for where to stay, try Norcia, Spello, Todi, Montefalco, Amelia, Bevagna or Narni: all picture-perfect little towns that never get overwhelmed by tourist hordes, even in the holiday month of August, when Italians head for the sea, leaving this land-locked region blissfully quiet.

Italy, Piazza Garibaldi the fulcrum of Narni

If you like Venice try… Treviso

Love Venice but not its camera-clicking crowds? For a low-key version of La Serenissima – and with not a tour group in sight – head to the city’s pint-sized neighbour, Treviso, just 40km away. The self-styled “piccola Venezia” is no mini-Venice – it lacks the showpiece sights, and its canals are pretty rather than grand – but it’s a lovely spot for a weekend away, with cobbled streets, frescoed churches and ancient waterways galore.

Crossed here and there with wrought-iron bridges – with picturesque views of still-churning waterwheels – Treviso’s canals thread its walled medieval centre, encircling the town’s rowdy fish market, which sits on its own islet. Take a seat at any of the cafés here and order a glass of local fizz: in the heart of Italy’s prosecco region, it would be rude not to.

Treviso, ItalyLuigi Cavasin/Flickr

If you like the Amalfi Coast try… Procida

There’s a lot to love about the Amalfi Coast, from its craggy mountains plunging sheer into the sea to the drama of its serpentine coast road, winding past verdant hillsides dotted with sun-bleached houses. If you’re looking for a similarly scenic spot that’s cheaper and easier to get to, try Procida, a 40-minute ferry ride from Naples. Outside August, when holidaying Italians descend en masse, this is a sleepy, unpretentious island – a far cry from the glitz of the Amalfi Coast.

The director of the film The Talented Mr Ripley, Anthony Minghella, scoured Italy for a suitably lost-in-time location to act as the fictitious Mongibello and found it here – specifically in Procida’s most picturesque corner, the Marina di Corricella, whose old-school trattorias share harbour space with fishermen mending their nets. If you tire of watching the comings and goings in the harbour, you can while away your days basking on beaches, admiring the dazzling seascapes and wandering narrow streets heady with the scent of lemons.

Procida, Italy

If you like Florence try… Urbino

A ravishing hill-town to rival any in Tuscany, Urbino also has a remarkable hoard of first-class art – if Florence’s Renaissance treasures have left you wanting more, you’re in for a treat. Though well off the tourist trail in the region of Le Marche, on the other side of the Apennines from Florence, Urbino wasn’t always a backwater: under the patronage of Renaissance poster boy Duke Federico da Montefeltro in the fifteenth century, the town flourished into a cultural capital.

The duke’s sprawling palace, worked on by some of the greatest architects and architects of the age, now holds one of Italy’s best galleries, the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche, with a fantastic collection of works by Piero della Francesca, Titian, Uccello and local-born Raphael, among others.

Palazzo Ducale rising above Urbino in Italy

Explore more of Italy with The Rough Guide to ItalyCompare flightsbook hostels or hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.  

The Croatian capital Zagreb has enjoyed the dubious honour of being underestimated twice over. Cold-shouldered by Croatia-bound travellers because it’s a landlocked city without a beach, it has also been ignored by city-breakers bound for Prague, Kraków or Budapest.

One consequences of this relative neglect is that Zagreb is one of the few European capitals sufficiently unknown to be still considered something of a discovery. And Zagreb’s new-found status as Central Europe’s surprise package is fully deserved: a preconception-challenging city that combines the gritty urban culture of northern Europe with the laidback manners of the Mediterranean south.

So what suddenly made Zagreb so hip?

Zagreb has always been a bit more arty, quirky and creative than its tourist-deluged cousins on Croatia’s coast – it’s just that Adriatic-bound travellers never paid it any attention until now.

Always home to a thriving urban scene of alternative music, edgy fashions, creative clubbing and characterful bars, Zagreb is currently enjoying something of a moment, with a sudden increase in the number of things that make a city really purr – more good places to eat, more good places to drink, and a festival-driven sense that things are happening in the arts.

The relative absence of international franchises (and the ubiquity of small, local cafés serving good strong coffee) make Zagreb something of a collector’s item among connoisseurs of Central European authenticity. The globalized bits of Zagreb (the shopping malls, the multiplex cinemas) are mostly on the outskirts, leaving the centre free to pursue its own, idiosyncratic path.

Zagreb, Croatia, Europe

What should I see?

Zagreb doesn’t so much have a must-see list of sights as a must-stroll list of squares and streets. It is one of the few European capitals that can still boast an open-air fruit and veg market bang in the centre of the city, and it’s the stalls at Dolac that provide you with an obvious base camp for further exploration.

West of here, Tkalčićeva is not only the prettiest surviving nineteenth-century street in the city but also the centre of much of its café-life. Looming above Tkalčičeva, the Upper Town (or Gornji grad) is a quiet area of quaint Baroque streets, its south-facing ridge offering sweeping views across the city.

Dežmanov prolaz, the arcade-like alley with a shake of chic boutiques and cafés, is a useful jumping-off point for woodland strolls in the ravines and ridges of the northern suburbs.

Arrived on a rainy day? The unorthodox Museum of Broken Relationships outshines the set-piece national museums and galleries in terms of ingenuity and appeal. Otherwise take a tram south across the River Sava to the Contemporary Art Museum for a chin-stroking encounter with the Croatian avant-garde.

Pumpkins at the market in Zagreb, Croatia

What should I eat?

Zagreb has gone bistro-crazy with a new generation of quick, informal eateries that conjure up fabulous fusion food by using the best local ingredients and a Mediterranean-meets-global approach to the cooking.

Bistroteka chalks up a daily menu of sandwiches, pastas, salads and main meals based on what season fare is currently stirring the chef’s creative juices; while the tiny bustling Mundaoka uses fresh local lamb, fowl and fish as the springboard for some truly international concoctions. The irresistibly sleek and swanky Dežman Bar will sort you out with a gourmet sandwich and a thick black brew supplied by local direct-trade coffee-roasters Cogito Coffee. “Life is uncertain: eat dessert first” is the motto of the Cookie Factory café, purveyor of some of the most obscenely addictive chocolate brownies in Central Europe.

Espresso coffee, Zagreb, Croatia

Where’s the party?

Most evenings begin on Tkalčićeva, the pedestrianized strip so packed with pavement-terrace bars that it looks like the epicentre of some never-ending year-round holiday. Down a pint or two of locally-brewed ruby-red lager Griška Vještica (“Witch of Grič”) at Mali Medo, before sampling a vertigo-inducing range of herb, fig, carob and even quince brandies at the impeccably well-stocked Rakhia Bar.

For early-hours moving and mingling, join the post-industrial clubbing crowd at Shock Show Industry located in a former tar factory.

Is there anything to buy?

Current talk-of-the-town is the Croatian Design Superstore, where you’ll find everything from wearable fashion to fanciful furniture, with plenty of highly original souvenir ideas strewn in-between. Check out fashion boutiques like Dioralop, Roba or I-Gle for an insight into Zagreb’s characteristically alternative, edgy sense of style.

Museum of Broken Relationships, Zagreb, Croatia

Any budget-friendly accommodation?

There’s an increasingly characterful choice in every category. Newly-opened Hostel Bureau offers a choice of dorm rooms (from €16) and private doubles (€46) in a sharply-decorated former office block with all mod-cons. Svi-Mi has a range of self-catering apartments with smart contemporary furniture (two-person studios from €65, family-size apartments from €85). For a cute and characterful downtown B&B try 4 City Windows with doubles from €62.

Getting there

There are daily flights from London Heathrow to Zagreb with British Airways and Croatia Airlines, with journey time clocking in at 2hrs 20min.

For more information about Croatia, check out the Rough Guide to CroatiaCompare flightsbook hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

Looking through the Rough Guides photography archive, one kind of shot stands out again and again: pictures captured at sunrise. Sure, there’s nothing more tempting than sleeping in until noon while you’re on holiday. But if you can bring yourself to brave the odd early morning, you’ll discover a magical world as dawn breaks. From misty views atop Victoria Peak in Hong Kong to dreamy sunrise reflections on Ko Samui in Thailand, these are some of our favourite images.

Dawn breaks over the horizon pool at The Tongsai Bay Hotel, Ko Samui, Thailand

Tongsai Bay Hotel, Ko Samui, Thailand

Morning mist on the Mae Hong Son loop, Thailand

Morning Mist on the Mae Hong Son loop, Thailand

An early morning in Hong Kong, as seen from Victoria Peak

View from Victoria Peak, China, Hong Kong

Dawn breaks over Monument Valley, Arizona, USA

Monument Valley, Arizona, USA

Sunrise reflections on Naknek Lake in Alaska’s Katmai National Park

Naknek Lake, Katmai National Park, Alaska

Spectacular colours on Playa Lucia at sunrise, Puerto Rico

Playa Lucia, Puerto Rico

Chinese fishing nets silhouetted as the sun rises, Kochi, Kerala, India

Chinese fishing nets, Cochin (Kochi), Kerala, India

A peaceful Grand Canyon, as seen from Bright Angel Point, Arizona, USA

Grand Canyon, Angel Point, Arizona, USA

Early morning cloudscape over Puerto Viejo, Limon Province, Costa Rica

Cloudscape Puerto Viejo, Limon Province, Costa Rica

Sunrise at Kazan Gorge (Cazanele Dunarii) on the Danube River, Romania

Kazan Gorge (Cazanele Dunarii), Romania

Looking out over the water at dawn, Copenhagen, Denmark

Dawn, Copenhagen, Denmark

A calm start to the day in Mariehamn, Åland, Finland

Mariehamn, Aland, Finland

Gulls circle a life guard post on South Beach, Miami

South Beach, Miami, at sunrise

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Morocco’s tourist track isn’t well-beaten, it’s been thumped flat. Ask anyone who has been and the chances are they’ll have visited some combination of Marrakesh, the Sahara Desert, the Atlas Mountains and Essaouira – and they’ll probably have a small stuffed camel and a leather purse to prove it.

These are all worthwhile destinations in their own right, but there’s a whole host of better-kept secrets to be discovered in Morocco, and Chefchaouen (often shortened to Chaouen) remains one of the most alluring of the lot.

Hidden in the Rif Mountains, half a day’s drive away from the nearest cities of Fez or Tangier, Chefchaouen is as impossible to pronounce (“shef-sha-wen”) as it is to get your head around.

Everything about it is a bit off-beat: the locals here speak Spanish, not the French or Arabic that the guidebooks prepare you for; the town has a long history of hippie-culture and hashish that is still present today; and, perhaps most extraordinary of all, the entire medina is washed in a thousand magnificent shades of blue.

Chefchaouen, Moroccophoto credit: Chaouen, Morocco via photopin (license)

Time-travelling in the medina

In The Rough Guide to Morocco we describe Chaouen’s medina as “surely the prettiest in the country”, and it’s hard to imagine anyone making a compelling argument against this.

Getting lost in the old town’s narrow and uncrowded streets is a photographer’s dream, with stray cats posing in front of ornate indigo doorways – many still wet from the morning’s lick of paint – and impossibly old men shuffling up and down blue staircases in conical hooded cloaks.

There are aspects of the old town that make you feel like you could have travelled back in time: the furn, or communal bakery, still delivers warm circular loaves of bread to locals every morning, while on market day hunched-over women descend from the mountain farms to sell vats of milk. It is only when you peek into a dark room full of kids gathered around a games console, or pass a carpet store blasting out Bruno Mars, that you will be politely reminded of the century you’re in.

Chefchaouen, Moroccophoto credit: DSCF1021 via photopin (license) / colours adjusted

Hippies and hashish

Chefchaouen is notable for the absence of serious hasslers and hustlers, but anyone wearing a backpack will still probably be asked “do you smoke hashish?” a few times a day. The Rif Mountains that surround Chaouen form the epicentre of Morocco’s kif-growing industry, creating a unique atmosphere in the medina where formal Islam and bohemian stoner cultures seem to coexist in harmony.

Chefchaouen attracted pilgrims in search of its legendary marijuana long before tour operators started to include the town in their itineraries, and even today you’re likely to see the occasional dreadlocked backpacker, joint hanging from mouth, who could well have walked all the way from Tarifa.

Chaouen, Moroccophoto credit: Chaouen via photopin (license)

Overdosing on mint teas and tagines

Unlike the more cosmopolitan cities of Fez, Casablanca and Marrakesh, Chefchaouen hasn’t seen much in the way of culinary diversification over the years.

Truth be told, you’ll be lucky to find anything that isn’t tajine or brochette (grilled meat on a stick) when it comes to hot food in the medina, washed down by the obligatory “Moroccan Whiskey” (mint tea; to be ordered without sugar if you want to travel home with all of your teeth). But there are a few spots that do stand out from the crowd.

Just off the main Plaza Outa el Hammam, La Lampe Magique Casa Aladdin offers some of the best views in town from its rooftop terrace, while Tissemlal serves traditional Moroccan dishes far superior to the other restaurants in the medina – with an open fire ablaze on cold evenings.

If you crack and can’t wait a second longer for western comforts, just outside the city walls at Plaza El Makhzen there is a cosy place to eat pizza to the sound of jazz radio (Mandala Pizzeria), with a ropey hotel a couple of doors along that serves overpriced beers to desperate Europeans.

Mint tea, Morocco

Sunset from the Spanish mosque

Wherever you are in Chefchaouen you’ll be able to turn a corner and see the bright white Spanish Mosque, perched high on a hill just east of town. Spanish colonialists started work on the mosque when they arrived in Chefchaouen in the 1920s, but it wasn’t until 2010 that they finally restored and opened the building to the public for the first time.

If your legs aren’t already broken from walking about the steep medina alleyways, it’s well worth making the 15-minute trek up to the mosque to catch the sunset. A wall just in front of the mosque acts as a perfect perching spot to watch the sun burn red over the distant mountains, often cloaked in low-lying clouds.

Once the show is over, resist the temptation to walk straight back to town and wait a few minutes for the call to prayer to erupt over the navy medina below, now lit only by the moon and a smattering of golden minarets.

Explore more of the country with the Rough Guide to Morocco. Compare flights, book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

We all know about the big European city breaks like Paris, Barcelona and Amsterdam, but what about Maribor in Slovenia, Osijek in Croatia and Cadiz in Spain? If you’ve already been to all the big boys, or just want to venture off the well-beaten tourist track, it’s time to discover some seriously unsung cities. Here, we’ve picked seven cities across Europe that we think deserve some time in the limelight.

Osijek, Croatia

While the Croatian coast gets all the plaudits, the Slavonia region inland lies largely ignored. Visitors are missing out. The elegant city of Osijek in the east took a battering during the 1990s Homeland War, but today is back to something approaching its best; in its heyday during the Austro-Habsburg years a massive military fortress stood here and trams eased around the belle époque streets. The oldest part of town, Tvrđa, has undergone a massive revamp since the 1990s war ended with a flurry of cafes, restaurants and bars brightening up the area. In the rejuvenated centre, meanwhile, you can enjoy relaxed walks along the River Drava and try the local delicacy, fis paprikas, a spicy fish soup, in the riverside restaurants.

Maribor, Slovenia

Just next door to Croatia, bijou Slovenia boasts more than just its glittering city-break star Ljubljana. In the country’s east, Maribor is no longer content to play second fiddle to the capital. Its large student population is putting serious life back into the grand historic streets of its chocolate-box pretty old town. River strolls along the Drava, as well as one of Europe’s oldest synagogues and what is reputed to be the world’s oldest vine await. The best time to visit is during the two-week Lent Festival in summer. And if you want to get out of town, nearby Maribor Pohorje offers skiing in winter and superb hiking in summer.

Slovenia, Maribor, Vodni stolp

Tartu, Estonia

These days the Estonian capital attracts a swathe of stag and hen parties, but mercifully the second city of Tartu is not similarly blighted. This vibrant student town – considered by many Estonians outside Tallinn to be the country’s true intellectual and cultural heart – offers superb nightlife without a stag night in sight. Tartu’s picturesque old town is home to all sorts of theatre, film and art happenings, as well as fittingly the country’s oldest university.

Utrecht, The Netherlands

If you love The Netherlands and you love canals, make a beeline for Utrecht. In this inland Dutch charmer you will find a web of canals lined with cafes, bars and restaurants – in parts the country’s fourth largest city is almost a dead ringer for the Dutch capital. Explore further and you’ll come across a rich volley of churches, the country’s largest university and a delightful network of cobbled lanes to get lost in.

Utrecht, The Netherlands

Cádiz, Spain

Madrid and Barcelona are mere upstarts compared to Cádiz, said to be the oldest city in Europe. This Spanish city, the country’s most densely populated, has a treasure trove of history and dramatic architecture hidden in its tight warren of streets. No wonder, given that it has been visited by everyone from the Greeks and Romans, through to the Carthaginians. Yet you’ll need to wait until night time for this balmy Andalusian charmer to really come alive. In summer you can take a bus right along to the end of the city’s main beach and lose hours wandering back popping into the myriad bars that line the sands.

Perth, Scotland

Edinburgh and increasingly Glasgow attract the lion’s share of city breakers to Scotland, but what about the country’s newest city, Perth? Although Perth was only granted city status in 2012, it served as the ancient capital of Scotland, the place where monarchs were crowned on the semi-mythical Stone of Destiny. Today there are relaxed parks and walks along the River Tay, plus the sparkling Perth Concert Hall, a millennium project. Then there’s a thriving food and drink scene, which has mushroomed in recent years with Perth becoming the first place in Scotland to be awarded Cittaslow status.

Perth, Scotland

Toruń, Poland

Forget the obvious charms of Kraków. This is the year to delve deeper into Poland‘s north to discover Toruń. Handily located between Kraków and Gdańsk, Toruń is a real looker with a riot of red brick architecture dominating its distinctive medieval old core. There are churches galore to explore, seriously cheap bars and cruises on the Vistula River. Stargazers are in good company too: Toruń was the birthplace of astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus. In short, the city offers a slice of Kraków without the crowds.

Explore more of Europe with the The Rough Guide to Europe on a BudgetCompare flightsbook hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

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