You’ve probably never heard of apitourism, or even considered “bee tourism” to be a thing. But it is, and it’s a travel trend swarming all over Slovenia.

While bee populations in countries such as the US are dwindling at an alarming rate, Slovenia is the only EU member state to have officially protected its prized bee race. They have 9600 beekeepers, around 12,500 apiaries and nearly 170,000 hive colonies.

We say ‘prized’ because the Carniolan honey bee is known for its friendly nature (they rarely sting) and hardy characteristics (they can survive sub-zero temperatures). Which explains why they sell 30,000 of their Queen Carniolan bees to European countries each year.

As the only country to certify apitourism providers, Slovenia will also host the European Green Capital in 2016. They’ll educate visitors on biodynamic and eco-friendly farming methods. Plus they’ll shine the light on the capital’s urban beekeeping and celebrate the UN movement which has declared May 20 World Bee Day.

So how can you get in on the action? Here are five ways to get up close and personal with Slovenia’s bees.

Slovenia, Ljubljana, Riverboat just before it reaches Cobblers' Bridge (Shoemakers' Bridge) from Triple Bridge direction

Go on the honey tasting trail

Thanks to its rich diversity of flora and expertise in mobile beekeeping, Slovenia produces 2400kg of honey each year.

Visit Marko Cesar, of the family-run Cesar brand, at his home near Maribor and you can sip on the country’s only sparkling chestnut honey-based wine. Elsewhere, you can sample liqueurs, mead, vinegar, beer and goats cheese, all made from honey.

Further west at the quaint Restaurant Lectar in Radovljica you can watch traditional honey bread hearts, or lectarstvo, being made; many biodynamic farmers flavour theirs with cinnamon, ginger, blueberry and chocolate.

Cesar honey & Chestnut Honey sparkling wineImage by Lucy McGuire

Take an apitherapy tour

Nineteenth-century physician Filip Terc was ridiculed for claiming that bee venom could cure arthritis. But apitherapy is now recognised by the Slovenian Beekeeper’s Association as a legitimate form of homeopathy.

You can learn about the bacteria-fighting properties of propolis and the ‘curative’ effects of royal jelly on high blood pressure on an apitherapy tour.

Those with asthma can inhale ‘healing aromas’ from the hive while anyone feeling a little weary can try honey massages, beeswax thermotherapy – claimed to boost circulation and treat skin disorders – and a nap on special beehive beds, whose vibrations are said to induce calm.

Get hands-on at an apicamp

Whether you’re a beekeeping pro or simply want to learn more about the api-industry, Slovenia offers various ‘apicamps’ on Queen breeding, the apiculture science and traditional AZ hives.

You can join lectures in honey production, bee feeding and everything from comb wiring to obtaining propolis and royal jelly. Or if you want to do some serious swotting-up, you can head to the Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association in Lukovica – home to a honey laboratory and apiculture Library.

Honeycomb, SloveniaImage by Lucy McGuire

Stay on an eco-api-friendly estate

The apitourism trend has done wonders for highlighting new forms of eco-conscious travel. And many companies like ApiRoutes are using this niche industry to shine the spotlight on an array of eco and socially conscious accommodation and tours. In the lead up to 2016 – when Ljubljana will be hailed the official Green Capital – this ‘Green Piece of Europe’ will be thrust onto the responsible stage.

If you do one thing, check out the remarkable Trnulja Estate – a 100% organic farm with charming bio-apartments and excellent green credentials. Tanja Arih Korosec, Director of AriTours, says: ‘Tourism is becoming more about sustainability and if we can [use apitourism] to encourage tourists to act in a more sustainable way, other countries will follow.”

Traditional Bee house, SloveniaImage by Lucy McGuire

Discover api-folklore

During the mid-eighteenth century, Slovenia was rich in rural folk art, which appeared on many of the country’s traditional stacked AZ bee houses – it was believed that the motifs helped the bees navigate back to their hives.

Visit the Slovenian beekeeping museum in Radovljica to see 600 of these original hand-painted panels or take an excursion to the beautiful village of Selo to meet Danijela Ambrozic, who offers traditional api-artwork workshops from her beekeeping farm.

For more information on AriTours and ApiRoutes, visit Aritours.si and Apiroutes.com. Find more travel information on the Slovenia Tourist Board site at slovenia.info. WIZZ flies from London Luton to Ljubljana from £11.49. For more information visit wizzair.com. Compare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Packing for a big trip often causes dilemmas. Should you take a large tube of toothpaste to last the trip? How many pairs of trousers to take? Should you invest in some ventilating undies? It’s all too easy to angst over your packing list – be selective and remember that you can buy most things while you’re away.

To help you, we have put together an essential kit list – it’s not exhaustive (obviously, don’t forget your passport, tickets, money and bank cards too) but these are items you’ll be truly grateful for…

1. Ear plugs

Treasure these little beauties: you’ll be worshipping their inventor every time you’re facing a sleepless night, like when you inadvertently opt to stay in the party hotel next to the mosque on a main drag during a fiesta.

2. Eye mask

The humble eye mask is at the frontline in the battle for sleep – a barrier to that aggressive first ray of tropical sun that pierces the flimsy curtains and takes a direct hit on your retina.

Dip-dyed curtain hanging in window

3. Hand sanitizer

Keep Delhi-belly at bay with antibacterial gel that doesn’t require water, especially when you’re about to eat or have just visited the toilets from hell.

4. Bags of all types

Pack your clothes into fabric bags within your rucksack and avoid being the irritating rustler in a shared dorm. If you’re heading to a wet climate, line the inside of your backpack with a bin bag to keep your belongings dry. Take spare plastic bags for your dirty laundry plus a few ziplock food bags for good measure.

5. A sarong – even for men, too

A simple piece of cloth with many functions: wear it as a skirt or as a shawl to protect you from the burning sun or when visiting religious places; it doubles as a sheet in hot weather; and it can be used as a (quick-drying) towel or to cover up after a shower or on the beach.

a sarong – backpacking checklistsarongs by Savanna Smiles on Flickr (cc license)

6. Flip-flops or waterproof sandals

These simple, light shoes will keep your feet protected when you have to shower in a grimy cubicle.

7. Walking shoes

If you’re going away for a few months and plan to do some trekking, don’t take walking boots. In hot weather, you won’t want to wear them and they’re heavy to carry. Instead, opt for lighter walking shoes that have a strong sole. Whilst they don’t offer the ankle support that boots provide, it’s a fair compromise for something you won’t use all that often.

8. Travel adaptor

Make sure you buy at least one adaptor before you leave home, as it can be hard to find the right type once you’re abroad. Get one with multiple sockets and preferably a USB port, too.

9. A mobile phone

If you have an unlocked phone, buy a local SIM card when you arrive in a new country to enjoy local rates. Smartphones can be invaluable – as well as the obvious communication benefits, you can pre-load street maps while you still have wifi. Most also have an array of travel gadgets, such as an alarm clock and compass, and there are handy apps, like the currency converter and offline language dictionaries.

Taking photo on mobile phone

10. Portable recharger

This little gem could save the day if your phone battery needs a boost while you’re out and about.

11. Neck cushion

Banish embarrassing head-lolling and sore necks on overnight flights and coach journeys. Buy a good-quality inflatable cushion that packs down flat.

12. First aid kit

A basic first-aid kit should include oral rehydration salts, plasters, water purification tablets, antiseptic cream, mosquito repellent, painkillers such as ibuprofen and – most definitely – Imodium.

13. Sewing kit

Don’t underestimate this – there’ll be times when it will be vital. Include a needle, pins, thread in several colours and safety pins. Include some string too, which can be used in many ways, for instance as a washing line or when one of your shoelaces breaks.

Padlock on bridge

14. Padlock

Many hostels provide a locker for your valuables, but you need to bring your own padlock. It’s also wise to lock your handbag in crowded places where pickpockets are active. Go for a combination lock rather than one with a key, as keys can get lost.

15. Headtorch

Besides the obvious uses on camping trips and night hikes, a headtorch is helpful if you want to read when others are trying to sleep, leaving your hands free to turn pages.

16. Waterproof trousers

Don’t be too vain to wear waterproof trousers on rainy days – they’ll keep you comfortable and dry, instead of wallowing in soggy-bottomed misery. Choose breathable fabrics to avoid getting wet on the inside.

17. A silk sleeping bag liner

Even if you’re not taking a sleeping bag, this is an absolute essential. Avoid bed bug attacks and close-contact with questionable stains on your mattress by using one of these when you check into those grotty budget hostels.

airport2

18. Penknife

There’ll be countless times when you’ll be delighted that your penknife has a knife, scissors, tweezers and – hallelujah! – a bottle-opener. Don’t forget to keep it in your checked bag though – it’ll get confiscated at the airport if you keep it in your hand luggage.

19. Travel bottles

Decant your toiletries into small plastic bottles. To save space, try to use all-in-one toiletries, such as shampoo/conditioner, shower gel/shampoo or a soap that will wash hair and clothes too.

20. A Rough Guide book

Because paper doesn’t run out of battery. Find the right guidebook for you here >

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

Spicy chiles aside, there’s no hotter dining city in North America than the capital of Mexico. Since it was first established by the Aztecs in the fourteenth century, Mexico City has sprawled in every direction, and today the metro area contains upwards of 21 million people.

As the largest Spanish-speaking city in the world, Mexico City provides a crash course for any foodie interested in learning all there is to know about Mexican cuisine, and while there are authentic, family-run food carts on seemingly every corner, it’s the city’s young, dynamic chefs that are placing the its restaurants on the world culinary map.

Gorge on modern creations using ancient methods

Any analysis of Mexico City’s exploding food scene must start with Pujol. Chef-owner Enrique Olvera’s modern Mexican creations have put him at the forefront of the North American dining scene; Pujol is one of the world’s highest-rated restaurants, and Olvera’s influence has extended beyond his native land. (He recently opened his first American restaurant, Cosme, in New York City.)

The kitchen’s ever-changing menu highlights local ingredients, and utilizes both ancient and modern techniques. For a perfect example, look no further than the restaurant’s signature offering: baby corn covered in a mayonnaise made with coffee and powdered red chicatana ants, and served in a smoke-filled pumpkin shell.

Pujol 4 - Elotitos con mayonesa de chicatana, credit Fiamma PiacentiniA smoke-filled pumpkin dish © Fiamma Piacentini

Diners revel in Pujol’s famous mole sauces; the house mole is aged, and diners are informed how old the base is at the time of their dinner. (At the time of writing, the house mole was nearing 700 days old.)

Try it all with a tasting menu

In the intoxicating San Ángel neighbourhood, Paxia offers a modernist dining experience that wouldn’t be out of place in Copenhagen or New York. Chef-owner Daniel Ovadía wows diners who think they’ve seen it all through his playful, creative take on Mexican classics.

Multi-course tasting menus often incorporate such smile-inducing dishes as a deconstructed tortilla soup, mini-wagon of mole sauce, or bite-size churros. One of the country’s most lauded young chefs, Ovadía owns numerous restaurants around the city.

Among the main attributes of the Mexico City culinary scene is how it incorporates flavours and traditions found across the country; one can easily eat their way around all of Mexico without ever leaving the city.

Churros, Paxia, Mexico City, MexicoChurros from Paixa

Family favourites fresh from Oaxaca

In a quiet corner of the ritzy Polanco neighbourhood, Guzina Oaxaca offers a contemporary take on the beloved staples of Oaxaca. Chef-owner Alex Ruiz, who first gained fame with his restaurant Casa Oaxaca in Oaxaca City, impresses hard-to-please foodies with his family recipes and hard-to-find ingredients. (Oaxacan produce and products are trucked in every week.)

Diners plow through orders of memelas (thin corn cakes), tlayudas (avocado leaf-mashed beans and cheese on a large tortilla), and little tacos wrapped in hoja santa (a popular, aromatic herb).

At the sleek, centrally-located St. Regis Mexico City, the J&G Grill offers a classy atmosphere in which to enjoy a curated selection of the international celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s greatest hits.

J&G Grill, Mexico CityJ&G Grill

When not straining their necks to spot out-of-town celebs enjoying a discreet dinner, patrons often spy the dynamic young chef Olivier Deboise Mendez manning the partially-open kitchen. The menu incorporates fresh, local ingredients into popular dishes such as piping hot mini-pizzas topped with thinly-sliced Mexican avocados, and crispy grouper served with sweet peppers, papaya, and celery.

Influences from the USA and beyond

It’s not only Mexican chefs who are leading the new wave of Mexico City gastronomy, though. Anatol’s Justin Ermini is a Connecticut native who has worked with some of America’s foremost culinary titans. The restaurant at boutique hotel Las Alcobas offers a unique, farm-to-table menu for each season.

As an outsider, Ermini balances between offering the familiar – such as fresh-made guacamole topped with crunchy, earthy chapulines (grasshoppers) – and his own take on native ingredients.

Repeat customers swear by the chef’s black bean soup; made from Chiapas black beans, the velvety soup is packed with flavour thanks to the use of duck fat and a trio of chiles: chipotle, pasilla, and chilhuacle negro.

Guacamole, Anatol, Mexico CityGuacamole from Anatol

Vampire ceviche and artisanal mezcal

Just next door at Dulce Patria, the celebrated chef Martha Ortiz celebrates her country’s cuisine (Dulce Patria translates to “sweet homeland”) by offering an incredibly colorful assortment of traditional dishes reinterpreted in a modern context.

Ortiz’s menu reads like journey through Mexico’s regional cuisines; mini tacos are packed with chilorio, a chile-pork stew from Sinaloa, while sweet dessert bites are presented on little toy handicrafts from rural regions outside of Mexico City.

For an inventive take on a familiar favourite, Ortiz’s “vampire” ceviche offers a one-two punch via its spicy flavours and cooling temperature. The stylish dining room provides an ideal locale for sampling artisanal mezcals, served with the traditional accompaniments of fresh citrus and crispy gusanos (maguey worms).

Que Bo 2, case, credit Gerrish LopezChocolate at Que Bo! © Gerrish Lopez

Visitors with a sweet tooth shouldn’t leave town without discovering Que Bo!, a diminutive chocolate café tucked away in the city’s historic centre.

A labor of love from one of North America’s best young chocolatiers, Jose Ramon Castillo, Que Bo! serves a variety of incredible confections. The young, internationally-acclaimed Castillo prides himself on using only Mexican chocolate, with no refined sugar or dairy, and everything is flavoured naturally using fresh ingredients running the gamut from coffee to grasshoppers.

Indecisive types and scene-chasers flock to to the heart of Roma, where the Mercado Roma houses little outposts of some of the city’s best restaurants all under one roof.

The hip complex offers both indoor and outdoor seating, including a living garden wall and the city’s only rooftop biergarten (serving Mexican craft brews). There’s something for everyone, from boozy popsicles and fresh seafood to meaty sandwiches and regional delights. Tiny kiosks sell everything from Mexican cookbooks to heirloom beans, making the market a fun spot for grabbing a bite with a side of education.

Featured image by Adam Goldberg. Explore more of Mexico with the Rough Guide to MexicoCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

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

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

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

2010-06-06T17-31-18 -- DSC_0722

The canals by CGP Grey via Flickr (CC license)

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

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

14138354473_73d197784a_oLondon waterbus by Markus Jalmerot via Flickr (CC license)

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

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

17022682165_2c79631655_kLittle Venice by Davide D’Amico via Flickr (CC license)

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

Make the most of your time on earth

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

 

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

Acunzo

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

Sorbillo

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)

Pizzafest

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.

Old Havana, or Habana Vieja, oozes history. There’s nowhere else quite like this living museum of Cuban culture – a city where time stopped short and you’ll find stop-and-stare images everywhere you turn.

1950s American cars in blazing colours are parked on the edge of the road. Cycle rickshaws glide swiftly through the traffic. Narrow side streets hide buildings painted in every shade of pastel. Plants tumble over the side of crumbling balconies.

The area is a photographer’s dream, but it lends itself even better to film. In our video of the week below, Roland Cadieux expertly captures its energy and colour.

“There’s a place I go to where no-one knows me, but it’s not lonely” Matt Simons’ lyrics ring out as the film begins – we can’t think of a better introduction to Cuba’s beguiling capital.


Havana, Cuba from Roland Cadieux on Vimeo.

As a travel writer you spend lots of time giving people travel tips on destinations, but also dispensing advice on how to make the whole experience run more smoothly. From a life working on the road you learn many lessons – lessons that everyone can benefit from. So join us now as we take you through nine crucial things you learn about travel as a travel writer.

1. To prepare, prepare and then prepare some more

Yes, part of the beauty of travel is being spontaneous, but the more planning you do in advance will help make sure things like travel health, money and your own safety will all take care of themselves. So many ‘travel nightmares’ come out of a lack of basic trip planning.

2. To always stay calm

This is both obvious and hard to do. The clichéd travel writer who bellows “do you know who I am?” is not going to win over hard pressed staff at airline check in who have seen all the histrionics before. Be polite (firm is ok) and calm, smile when you can and you might just find you do get given a better room, or that taxi driver might actually understand why you don’t want to pay double as you can read Greek and it isn’t a bank holiday, and that policeman may let you off with just a word of warning.

India, bombay, dabbas, mumbai, Dabbanwallah using a mobile phone to organise dabbas delivery times and places

3. The world changes fast

While it’s nice to hark back to the old days, “oh, Goa was so much cooler before the backpackers moved in”, this is actually a great thing. It means there is always a reason to go back to places rather than just say you have ‘done’ them. Most European cities have new attractions every year, but destinations like Dubai seem to transform themselves every month.

4. Free wi-fi is like gold dust

When you get the chance to get on wi-fi, whether it’s on a short bus journey or in a café, snatch it – you never know when you will next get online. Many hotels still charge for wi-fi so checking your emails coming in from the airport for free saves you racking up a steep hotel bill or mobile roaming charges.

5. A notepad and pen are essential

Free wifi and a strong phone battery are always welcome, but don’t ever totally rely on technology. Every writer knows always to have a pen and paper handy as often you cannot fire up devices on a plane and batteries tend to die just when you are taking a note of something really important.

Nepal, Bardia National Park, tourist photographing wildlife (Indian rhinoceros)

6. Take photographs and then take some more

You may well only visit a place once in your life, so snap away. In this era of quality smart phones and digital cameras there is no excuse for not taking photo after photo. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a great photographer to start with, your images will get better and will be enough to help keep your own memories warm and show friends.

7. Don’t be a stranger

It is easy to walk around in a cocoon chatting with your mates or thinking about home on the road. Yes, you will still come back with memories of Paris, but you will also have missed the great chat you could have had with the guy at the crêpe stand, or that ultra-friendly student in the Left Bank who could have told you about that cool pop-up bar. Apply the usual sensible precautions you would at home and meeting people really can make a trip.

8. The world is an incredible place

It really is. Hardened hacks can get, er, a little cynical about travel given the sheer volume of places they visit. While travel writing isn’t always the dream job people often think it is (there’s an awful lot of hard work involve, we promise!), we are still lucky. It is important to remember – and you will always enjoy a trip more if you do – that most people will just never get to visit the places you see.

Alpamayo peak in Cordilleras mountainby Fotolia: Galyna Andrushko

9. To always take a guidebook

We might be biased, but hear us out: a physical guidebook will stand by you when you have no power or signal on your mobile devices. It is also great for dipping into in the bath (and you won’t get an electric shock if you get it wet) or on a plane. Truth be told, many travel writers themselves would struggle without one.

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

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.

Bridal Veil Falls - a Niagara Escarpment plunge type waterfall in Kagawong, Great Lakes

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 KuaOne 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.

Beaver Island, Michigan, USA

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.

Rabbit island – courtesy of http://rabbitisland.orgCourtesy 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.

There’s no denying that life BC, before children, is very different from life after. Setting off on your travels with kids in tow doesn’t have to mean swapping Costa Rica for Center Parcs, you just need to be prepared and, like every good traveller, go with the flow. Here are 16 lessons you’ll learn along the way:

1. The world is your oyster

Let them catch the travel bug early. You can go anywhere and do anything, within reason.

2. They’ll remember the strangest things

Children will recall the funniest details – not the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower but the colour of the bedspread in the B&B where you stayed a single night. However random, cherish this store of mental postcards, scribbling them down in a scrapbook if you can, before they’re long forgotten.

White Horse, Uffington, Oxfordshire, people walking on hilltop

3. Whatever the distance, it’s a long way

However long the journey, however many times you’ve made it, however many times they’ve already been told, your young passengers will never tire of asking “when will we get there?”.

4. Extra time is invaluable

It will feel like your small brood has multiplied and you’re parent to quintuplets when you’re against the clock, trying to rush everyone through check-in and security at record speed. It’s stating the obvious, but get to the airport early.

5. Too much extra time is excruciating

There’s no point boarding early, however momentarily smug it makes you feel, if your seats are booked anyway – most budget airlines allocate seats these days. It just means kids having to sit longer in a confined space, strapped in, which is asking for trouble.

Italy, Lazio, Rome, Northern Rome, Piazza del Popolo, obelisk & central fountain with children playing

6. Kids are a cheap date

Children under 12 have been exempt from UK air passenger duty since May 2015 (and from May 2016 under 16s will be off the hook too) – a small saving on European flights but more significant for long-haul destinations. Even so, having to pay adult rate air fares for over-twos is a bitter pill to swallow. Before that age, the low price of travel is matched by the piddling chances of their remembering much of it, but it’s still worth making the most of those cost-free first two years.

7. They will surprise you at every turn

They’ll defy expectations – sitting still, sleeping soundly and behaving angelically through one flight, only to howl and fidget through the next.

8. You’ll be humbled

Do not judge the family floundering at check-in or struggling on board with the screeching kids. There but for the grace of God… See above.

Kids with games – travelling with children

9. Games are essential

You need more than “I spy” and “ten green bottles” in your games and songs repertoire. Audiobooks are perfect for long car journeys, of course, but other good standbys are singalongs to favourite musicals or classic albums plus edible prizes for the first person to spot a certain vehicle – purple digger or orange VW camper van anyone?

10. You’ll go to bed a lot earlier than usual

Particularly if you’re all bundled into one hotel room, it’s early nights and early starts all round. All the better for making the most of each day – just try not to reminisce about long, lazy mornings and late night cocktails. That was in a different life.

11. You have no shame

Modesty goes out the window and embarrassment thresholds leap sky high. There’s no time to worry about what people might see as you try to struggle into your swimsuit before your toddler eats another handful of sand, or what the locals think as you holler after an errant child in an otherwise perfectly peaceful village square.

South Korea, Seoul, Gwanghwamun Square, children playing in fountains

12. You’ll be able to fake fluency

You’ll nail a few basic child-related phrases – ‘acqua bollente, per favore?’ for bottle-feeders in Italia, ‘il y a one chaise haute?’ before you settle down at a French restaurant table, for example – and repeat them so many times, with such increasing confidence and nonchalance, that you’ll start to feel almost fluent.

13. You should always read the label

You may be tempted to pack a case-load of Ella’s Kitchen pouches to get through a trip with a fussy eater in tow, but no matter how large your bag, you’re always going to need to top up – and of course you and your infant would be sorely missing out if you didn’t. On Italian horsemeat paste baby food, perhaps.

14. The toilet rules all

Your itinerary (not to mention the journey itself) will be governed not by the weather, range and proximity of unmissable sights or accessibility of public transport, but by toilet breaks. Frequent, inconveniently timed, always urgent. You’ll remember the most desperate ones and their scenic locations – a pee from the old city walls in York, for instance.

Kent, Botany Bay, Broadstairs, children building sandcastles

15. Sand will get everywhere

Between their toes and in more painful spots. It will also turn up in kids’ pockets and shoes for days to come, a gritty souvenir. Brush on talc to get rid of sticky wet sand before you slather on the sun cream.

16. You should never leave home without wipes

Ever.

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

Capital of Wales since 1955, Cardiff is unrecognisable even from just a few years ago. With an exhilarating mix of heavyweight cultural sights, exciting regeneration projects – not least the revitalized Cardiff Bay – world-class sport, a prolific music scene and some seriously banging nightlife, it’s easy to see why Cardiff now ranks alongside London and Edinburgh as one of the UK’s most compelling destinations. So if you were in any doubt, here are ten great reasons to visit…

1. Cardiff cuisine is on the up

Although it’s hardly renowned as a gourmet paradise, Cardiff’s culinary landscape has improved markedly in recent times. Pick of the city centre restaurants is The Potted Pig, which occupies the vaults of an old bank, and where – yep, you guessed it – pork reigns supreme. It’s worth making the short trip out to well-heeled Pontcanna, where both The Smoke House and Fish at 85 are currently doing great things – at the latter, pick your fish from the counter and the chef will prepare it just as you like it.

2. It’s an unrivalled place to watch world-class sport

Quite simply, rugby is king here, and the natives love nothing more than shouting themselves hoarse at an international inside the magnificent Millennium stadium, and with the World Cup approaching, national hysteria will soon reach fever pitch. Welsh football is also undergoing something of a renaissance, with the national team on the verge of qualifying for the Euro 2016 tournament. But if you can’t get to a game (either rugby or football), take a Millennium Stadium tour. Cricket, too, is becoming increasingly high profile, with matches taking place at the Swalec Stadium, which recently staged the first match of the Ashes series between England and Australia.

3. Cardiff Bay is one of Europe’s best regeneration projects

Once one of the world’s busiest docks – when it was rather more romantically known as Tiger Bay – Cardiff Bay has been utterly transformed over the past decade, and the results are dazzling. From the spectacular, super-sized Wales Millennium Centre and the Welsh Assembly, to more venerable buildings like the Neo-Gothic Pierhead and the sublime little Norwegian church – which is where Roald Dahl was christened – this sparkling waterside area is an unmissable part of any Cardiff itinerary.

Cardiff Bay, Cardiff City and County, Wales

4. Great bands were born here

Any city that spawns such great bands as the Super Furry Animals and the Manic Street Preachers (ok, technically the latter are from Blackwood just up the road in the Valleys) commands respect – and Cardiff certainly takes its music seriously. For live music, the Moon Club is currently the venue of choice amongst more discerning gig-goers, while Clwb Ifor Bach has a firmly Welsh orientation. Jazz-heads, meanwhile, should make an appointment with Café Jazz. If you’re looking to buy, make a pilgrimage to Spiller’s Records, which is generally acknowledged to be the oldest record shop in the UK; there’s not much you won’t find here.

5. It has nightlife to rival – if not beat – any city in the UK

Whether you’re out for a few beers before a big game at the Millennium Stadium, or gearing up for a more full-on Friday night experience, an evening out in Cardiff is not for the feint-hearted. Cardiffians have a reputation – fully justified – for partying hard. Away from the ubiquitous chain pubs, try Buffalo, which takes on a clubby feel as the evening wears on. For a more local experience, make for Y Mochyn Du – a former gatekeeper’s lodge popular with Welsh speakers – or Gwdihw (“Owl”), a delightful, retro-style café-cum-bar offering a rich programme of alternative happenings.

Cardiff at night, Wales, UKCardiff at Night (2) by Pete Birkinshaw (license)

6. Cardiff Castle is fascinating

Plonked right in the heart of the city centre, Cardiff Castle’s most sustained period of development coincided with the arrival of the Bute family, who ruled the roost (and indeed most of Cardiff) during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There are various aspects to visiting the castle, first and foremost the apartments, occasionally kitsch but always fascinating. On a warm summer’s day, however, a stroll along the battlements and around the beautifully manicured lawns is reason enough to visit. But what really makes this place cool are the various concerts and festivals held within its grounds.

7. It is one of the UK’s most exciting TV and film locations

Unbeknown to many, Cardiff is one of the UK’s most important locations for television and film shoots, as the recent openings of the BBC Drama Village and Pinewood Studios would testify. The big-hitter is Doctor Who, hence the entertaining Doctor Who Experience, where visitors immerse themselves in a “journey through time” before encountering some of the Doctor’s many adversaries, which include, of course, the brilliant Daleks.

Dalek, Dr Who Experience, Cardiff, WalesDoctor Who Experience by Evan Moss (license)

8. You can shop in some of the UK’s most beautiful arcades

No, not the slot machine variety, but a series of beautifully renovated Edwardian-era arcades that you’ll rarely find anywhere in the UK. Each arcade – and there are half a dozen – variously conceals a host of wonderfully diverse emporia, including clothes shops, art galleries, and antique and second-hand bookshops. These are also great places to refuel, with two establishments in particular worth seeking out: The Plan (for the best coffee in town) and Madame Fromage (the best deli in town).

9. It has one of the world’s largest Transporter Bridges, and you can climb it…

Ok, it’s not exactly in Cardiff (it’s actually fifteen miles down the road in Newport), but the splendid Transporter Bridge – built in 1906 and one of just six such bridges in the world still in operation – is a must-see. From a practical point of view, the suspended gondola transports cars and passengers across the Usk River in just two minutes. Better still, and assuming that you don’t suffer vertigo, you can clamber to the top of the 177ft (that’ll be 270 steps) walkway for head-spinning views of the Severn Estuary.

Newport Transporter Bridge, Wales

10. There’s a great beach on the doorstep

Just a short train ride from the city centre, Barry Island is often much maligned, yet this is a tad unfair. Sure, it has it’s tacky amusement arcades and obligatory funfair with rickety rides – but it also boasts a neat promenade and a lovely Blue Flag beach in Whitmore Bay. And if you’re a fan of Gavin & Stacey, then you can hunt down some of the locations used during the filming of the series, including the arcade that the endearingly formidable Nessie worked in.

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

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook