A suitably reverential silence descends, broken only by munching and appreciative murmurs from the assembled masses – the hangi has finally been served. Pronounced “hungi”, this traditional Maori meal, similar to the luau prepared by the Maori people’s Polynesian kin in Hawaii, is essentially a feast cooked in an earth oven for several hours. It can’t be found on restaurant menus – but then again a hangi is not just a meal, it’s an event.

To begin, the men light a fire, and once it has burned down, specially selected river stones that don’t splinter are placed in the embers. While these are heating, a large pit is dug, perhaps two metres square and a metre and a half deep. Meanwhile the women are busy preparing lamb, pork, chicken, fish, shellfish and vegetables (particularly kumara, the New Zealand sweet potato). Traditionally these would be wrapped in leaves then arranged in baskets made of flax; these days baking foil and steel mesh are more common.

When everything is ready (the prep can take up to three hours), the hot stones are placed in the pit and covered with wet sacking. Then come the baskets of food followed by a covering of earth which serves to seal in the steam and the flavours. There’s a palpable sense of communal anticipation as hosts and guests mill around chatting and drinking, waiting for the unearthing. A couple of hours later, the baskets are disinterred, revealing fall-off-the-bone steam-smoked meat and fabulously tender vegetables with a faintly earthy flavour. A taste, and an occasion, not easily forgotten.

If you can, try to get invited to a private hangi. Alternatively, Rotorua (www.rotoruanz.com) provides the widest range of commercial hangi nights.

 

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Recent new rules have stopped teachers allowing children to have time off school for family holidays, meaning parents are now completely restricted to travelling during peak times. A campaign hosted by 38 Degrees calls for this ban to be reversed, as many believe it criminalizes those who want an “affordable family holiday”.

The campaign petition, which has been signed by almost 130,000 people, says: “I feel that most MPs in the Government had holidays with their parents when they were younger so why do they think they have the power to stop our children’s generation from enjoying the same lifestyle.”

There are many sides to this debate: travel can be a valuable source of education, but is it worth jeopardizing your child’s learning? And what about the low-season tourism industry? When we put the question to you, this is what we got:

You can join our Community debate here, or tweet @RoughGuides us using the hashtag #termtimehols.

In this article sponsored by GMHBA Insurance, two Rough Guides writers share their hard-won wisdom on travelling with children.

Travelling with children can be a bit like taking a herd of wild goats on holiday. Whether they’re your own or someone else’s, factoring a child’s needs into your travels involves a lot more than sticking on a CD full of pop music and making toilet stops.

Here two Rough Guides writers share their hard-won wisdom. First up, mum of two Hayley Spurway offers advice on travelling with toddlers, then Ross McGovern reveals how he manages to travel with older children.

Hayley Spurway’s tips for travelling with toddlers

Take your time

The greatest thing you can take – whether at the airport, sightseeing or getting from A to B – is extra time. Toddlers love to explore and don’t care for the time pressures of travel, so you’re more likely to all retain your cool if you factor the faffing, gawping, stalling, toilet stops and tantrums into your timeframe.

Book ahead

Whether you’re camping or staying in hotels, it pays to book ahead. Trying to retain the spontaneity of travel BC (Before Children) doesn’t pay off if you arrive at your destination to find you can’t bag a bed or pitch and have to hit the road again with tired, hungry toddlers melting down in the backseat.

Give them a camera

Giving toddlers their own (robust, child-friendly) camera encourages them to observe their surroundings and focus on what interests them. You might be surprised at the results from their knee-high view. Amongst pictures of feet and wheels, my three-year-old has shot flowers, animals, helicopters, boats, rocks and rabbit poo.

Be prepared for the climate

It’s simple advice, but children dressed comfortably for the weather and terrain will be happier in a new environment. With all the gear available, there’s no excuse for dressing toddlers in ski-suits four sizes too big, forgetting their gloves, or leaving them barefoot on a beach where sea urchins lurk.

Pack Pull-Ups for potty training

Planes and public transport during the potty training days can be a nightmare. As if you didn’t have enough in your hand luggage, now you’re expected to add a potty, three changes of clothes and bags of wet, stinky pants. Potty-training gurus may disagree, but if toddlers are still having lots of little accidents then I’m all for putting them back into Pull-Ups on the plane.

Be app-y

Thanks to toddler-friendly apps, there’s no need to cram a toy box into your hand luggage when travelling by plane. By all means take a book and a magic scribbler (crayons just get lost down the side of seats), but the most compact form of entertainment is a device loaded with apps and games.

Use public transport

Most toddlers love the novelty of travelling by train, bus and boat, so ditch the hire car and use public transport where possible. In Switzerland, my two-year-old would repeat the names of the metro stops as they were announced – provoking ripples of laughter and making him even more excited about boarding the train each day.

Invest in a child locator

In my experience, toddlers aren’t fans of reins, backpacks with a leash, or any infringement on their freedom. Keep tabs on them at airports, train stations and crowded attractions with a child locator. The child wears a small unit (strapped to a belt or shoe) and you keep the transmitter. If you lose your child set off the alarm and follow the sound to find them.

Keep bugs at bay

Whether you’re travelling to Paignton or Peru, antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer are handbag essentials. A wipe of the cutlery in restaurants where you’re unsure of hygiene, or a squirt of hand sanitizer when there’s no washing facilities, can zap a few germs and prevent toddlers catching some common bugs.

Don’t forget the medicine

Whether they’re out of routine, jet-lagged, or eating less healthily, kids always seem to get ill on holiday. Dampen the impact of broken nights, frayed temperaments and fevers by packing an easy-to-swallow medicine such as Calpol in the UK. Other basic ingredients in your first aid kit should include antiseptic wipes, plasters, sting treatment, and a thermometer.

Ross McGovern’s travel tips for older children

Don’t let the children pack their own rucksacks

We once went on a trip with our eight-year-old, who complained incessantly that her backpack was too heavy. The reason why? She’d brought along her entire collection of fossils “just in case”. Do let the children have input but remember to edit this heavily before departure.

Keep the activities coming

If you’re heading out on a long journey have a collection of toys to be handed out once an hour. Handheld puzzles, tiny colouring books, stickers, wordsearches and even tiny packs of Plasticine will pass the time on a long flight or car journey.

Have a number of family games ready in case of delay.

Punch-buggy and padiddle are popular, if violent, favourites for car journeys, whereas more cerebral ones like the Alphabet game are safer for air travel.

Avoid sweets

Resist the temptation to keep them going on a long journey by feeding them sweets. Pack a mixture of savoury snacks like cheese cubes, breadsticks, fruit and bagels – anything to avoid arriving in a strange city with children in the middle of a sugar rush.

Encourage them to keep a travel journal

Get your kids drawing and listing things they’ve seen and interesting foods they’ve tried. Who knows, this might also encourage them to try different foods. Collecting postcards from places you visit and asking them to write themselves a message on the back means they can reach adulthood with a library of memories all their own.

Remember the medicine

It should already be on your travelling list, but having kids along means carrying a small first aid kit is all the more vital: plasters, antihistamines and sachets of painkilling syrup can save a lot of stress later on. Antimalarials are also available in liquid form.

Brand them

If you’re going to be travelling through busy, crowded airports or transport hubs, write your mobile number on your child’s arm in biro in case they get lost.

Check your passports

Children’s passports only last five years and they have a habit of running out when you’re not looking. Allow at least four weeks to renew one. The cost of a last-minute passport is astronomical, and particularly galling if you only realise it’s necessary when already in the ferry queue at Calais. Don’t ask us how we know this. We just do.

Remember the baby wipes

Even if all your children are long out of nappies, don’t forget the baby wipes. They’re useful for washing hands, cleaning toilet seats, and wiping down restaurant tables. In the same spirit, little bottles of hand cleanser can be a lifesaver in some countries, but check the travel regulations for liquids well in advance.

Engage and involve older children

The best way to avoid a soul-destroying sulk from your teenager is to involve them in the planning of the holiday and ask them for input on what they’d like to do. You might be surprised to hear it’s not spending all day on the internet.

About GMHBA Insurance

When you need health insurance, you need a package that matches your situation as well as your budget. On GMHBA, you can find a variety of health insurance packages and extras that will ensure you are covered no matter what.

With sublime sushi, soaring skyscrapers and vending machines that churn out everything from eggs to ice cream, Tokyo is the planet’s most mind-boggling metropolis.

Wandering its neon-lit streets can easily eat up your time, and put serious pressure on your wallet. But as this round up of the free things to do in Tokyo shows, a trip to the Japanese capital needn’t be stressful or expensive.

Peek at the latest gadgets

Rising high above the gleaming department stores of Ginza, the ritziest district in Tokyo, is the sleek Sony Building. Ignore its high-end shops and restaurants and head straight for the free showroom, where you can get a sneak peek of Sony’s latest gadgets, including robots, laptops and high-definition TVs. 

Visit Tsukiji Fish Market

Unless you’re especially squeamish (or vegetarian), consider an early morning trip to Tsukiji Fish Market, which buzzes with traders and tourists from as early as 4am. It’s the world’s biggest wholesale fish market, and where most of the city’s Japanese restaurants source their sashimi.

Wander by The Imperial Palace

A short walk from Tokyo Station is the Imperial Palace, home to the current emperor of Japan. Surrounded by moats, cherry trees and solid stone walls, the palace buildings are rarely open to the public, but it costs nothing to wander through the peaceful and meticulously kept East Garden, which bursts into colour during spring.

Explore Asakusa for free

Tourists often pay a rickshaw driver to take them through Asakusa, the old entertainment district surrounding Sens?-ji, one of the city’s most important Buddhist temples. Our advice is to stay on foot, following wafts of sweet, smoky incense down towards the shrine. Alternatively, look out for the free, panda-shaped buses that cut through the district en route to the 634-metre-high Skytree building.

Get a taste for modern Japanese art

Art lovers looking for free things to do in Tokyo will be pleased to hear there’s no cost to mooch around the first-floor gallery of the glass-and-steel Spiral Building, where young Japanese artists exhibit avant-garde collections. In the adjoining café, beer and wine are both cheaper than a cup of coffee.

Prepare for disaster

The Life Safety Learning Center, run by the Tokyo Fire Department, is a free “disaster museum” educating people on what to do when the ground starts shaking. Visitors can learn first aid skills, step inside an earthquake simulator and even try to escape from a smoke-filled building.

Visit the Sumo Museum

With artefacts covering several centuries of sumo’s 2000-year-old history, the free Sumo Museum is located at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan stadium, which hosts major tournaments.

Explore Tokyo on two wheels

On Sundays, the Palace Cycling Course lends out 250 bicycles – from mountain bikes to tandems – on a first-come, first-served basis. It’s free, and visitors have until 3pm to explore a designated route running around the outside of the Imperial Palace.

See Tokyo from above

For free, Lost in Translation-style nightscapes, head up to one of the two observation decks at Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building No 1, the tallest skyscraper in Shinjuku.

Take a free guided tour

Staffed by volunteers and designed to help promote intercultural understanding, Tokyo Free Guide gives visitors the chance to take a free tour of the city, guided by a resident. The only thing guests have to cover is the guide’s expenses.

Have you got any top tips for enjoying Tokyo for free – or even on the cheap? Let us know below.

As the largest city in Québec province, there’s plenty to do in Montréal. Fill up on complimentary samples at the Jean-Talon food market and then take advantage of the city’s huge variety of free cultural and outdoor activities, from festivals to art exhibits to tango. Here’s our roundup of the best free things to do in Montréal:

Head to one of the free festivals

In many cities, festivals are a special occasion; in Montréal, they’re a way of life. And, the bonus is that most of Montréal’s festivals feature free shows and performances, from stand-up comedy at Juste pour Rire to cool cats jamming on stage at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal to the blazing lights of the International Fireworks Competition.

Learn to tango

It may take two to tango, but in Montréal it also takes no money. The perennially popular Tango Libre offers free introductory classes, in various parks in the summer and in the studio in winter. Parc Jean-Drapeau also occasionally hosts free ballroom dancing lessons.

Fill up your belly and your bags at a market

Munch on stinky wedges of Québécois cheese, olives, warm bread rolls and other local samples at Jean-Talon Market and Atwater Market.

Go back to school and study the arts

Stroll through a Neoclassical stone gate to enter McGill, Montréal’s most prestigious university, which abounds with free arts and culture. The Musée Redpath showcases a top-notch anthropological collection of Egyptian mummies and coffins, dinosaur bones and marine vertebrates, as well as ancient musical instruments. Also, the campus is peppered with sculptures, most notably Raymond Mason’s The Illuminated Crowd, portraying a mass of larger-than-life people – generally faced by an equally large crowd of tourists. You can often catch free performances at McGill’s Schulich School of Music.

Partake in an art crawl

The art itself may be pricey – but to view it? Free. Numerous art museums and galleries offer free admission, including Canada’s oldest museum, the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, with the country’s most impressive Canadian art collection. On Wednesday nights, entry is free at the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal, Canada’s first museum devoted to contemporary art.

Step into Canadian and Québécois past

Delve into Canadian and Québécois history at the Musée McCord d’Histoire Canadienne (free Wed night and first Sat of month), with First Nations items like furs, ivory carvings and beadwork; the Hôtel de Ville, where General de Gaulle stood on the second-floor balcony to make his “Vive le Québec libre!” speech; and the Musée de la Banque de Montréal, the city’s oldest bank building, with an exhibit that offers a voyeuristic glimpse into counterfeit bills.

Take a hike

Walk or pedal the leafy banks of the Lachine Canal, along a well-tended path that hugs its entire length. Our favorite trip: saunter 1km west of Vieux-Montréal to Griffintown, a revitalized industrial neighborhood with antiques, art and relaxed pubs with nicely priced beers.

Go to church

As Mark Twain once noted about Montréal: “You couldn’t throw a brick without hitting a church.” He was right – and many are free. Celebrate Sunday mass at 11am at Notre-Dame Basilica, to the sounds of a choir. Also, pop in to the eye-catching Victorian St George’s Anglican Church and the Basilique-Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde, where you can pay your respects to the wax-encased remains of St Zoticus, a patron saint of the poor – an appropriate icon on this free tour of Montréal.

Head underground

Scurry below Montréal’s surface in the Underground City (officially called RÉSO – a homophone of “réseau”, the French word for “network”), with 33km of passages that provide access to the Métro, hotels, shopping malls, offices, apartments and restaurants, plus a good smattering of cinemas and theatres. Everything is signposted, but it’s worth picking up a map of the ever-expanding system from the tourist office. Refuel at the inexpensive food courts on the lowest floor of most of the malls (also handy for public toilets).

Watch street performers

Cirque du Soleil somersaulted from the soil of Québec so it’s no surprise that Montréal’s performers and buskers are top-class. Walk through the old town and the sloping, cobbled Place Jacques-Cartier, originally built as a market in 1804, and check out musicians, mimes, caricaturists along the way. Also, many of the city’s theatres offer free performances, including the Théâtre de Verdure Parc Lafontaine in the summer.

Explore more of Montréal with the Rough Guide to Canada.

With London 2012 and memories of the summer Olympics still resonating around the world, you may be tempted to try some of the various sports and disciplines yourselves. Here’s five spots that offer top training for the next Olympic games.

Archery

The perfect place for a taste of archery is undoubtedly Sherwood Forest, legendary home of Robin Hood, where the visitor centre runs occasional summer “have a go” sessions (£2 for 5 arrows) beside the giant 800-year-old Major Oak. Nearby, at Southwell, the Sherwood Archers club offers a six-hour beginners’ course in target archery, the official Olympic version of the sport. But for the most Robin Hood-like experience, consider the Spirit of Sherwood field archery club: they hunt artificial, animal-shaped targets in the old forest itself.

Visit www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk and www.sherwoodarchers.co.uk for more information.

Outdoor table tennis

Table tennis in Britain is derisively known as ping pong, but it’s a serious sport, and making a comeback since the “Ping London” initiative set up outdoor tables all over the capital in 2010. Not all will return, but there are plenty of permanent tables in parks – there’s one in Regent’s Park, right by the tennis courts. Just bring a bat, and a ball or two.

Visit the English Table Tennis Assocation’s website to find a table near you.

Real tennis, or jeu de paume

The saddest loss from the Olympic roster is surely real tennis, aka jeu de paume, aka court tennis, a superbly eccentric combination of squash and tennis which featured only in the Olympics of 1908. The sport is alive and well, however – as it has been for five hundred years. Famously, you can play it at Hampton Court Palace, but for a more modern experience make for the gleaming Millennium Court of the Middlesex Real Tennis Club in Hendon, north London.

The Middlesex Real Tennis Club has more information.

Fencing

Fencing venues, sadly, rarely occupy the Great Halls of castles. You won’t find yourself skipping down the grand staircase so much as lunging along down the 2m-wide “piste” at a local leisure centre. Once you’re actually girded up with your mask and foil (or epée, or sabre), questions of atmosphere are forgotten, however. This is a fast and agile sport which retains more than a whiff of the danger of yesteryear. The award-winning Truro Fencing Club is one of the few with its own dedicated salle.

See www.britishfencing.com/clubs to find a fencing club near you.

Beach volleyball

Why would the Olympic Committee have voted to include beach volleyball in 1996? This is a sport in which bronzed and toned men and women in regulation-skimpy costumes dive around in golden sand, hugging and high-fiving. You can play it informally on any beach, but to try an Olympic-quality court, make for the Yellowave centre on Brighton beach. They run open sessions (for which you’ll need to be at least quite sporty), or you can just book a court with friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make The Most Of Your Time In Britain includes 500 great British experiences – find out more.

Sahara Desert, Morocco

Sleep beneath the twinkling Saharan stars, accompanied by a few irascible dromedaries. You can explore the desert as part of a tour (usually setting off from Marrakesh, and heading up and over the beautiful Atlas Mountains), and choose your level of comfort, from simple canvas tents to luxurious Berber pavilions, complete with soft beds, rugged floors and handcrafted furniture.

Corsica, France

The GR20 is a challenging trek snaking diagonally across the French island of Corsica. Depending on how much of the 180km path you choose to tackle, the hike requires stamina, and a few nights bedding down in refuges (mountain huts) or under canvas nearby. Admittedly, if you like to camp in seclusion, this might not be for you: in peak season, the refuges and accompanying camping grounds get very busy – but the walking and spectacular countryside more than compensates.

Mount Everest, Nepal

Mount Everest needs no introduction, and nor does Everest Base Camp. At 5364m, it’s the highest campsite in the world, the bedtime target for tough hikers en route to the top of the giant mountain. The landscape up here is harsh and inhospitable, but Base Camp retains a cheerful mood with its little domed tents decked with multi-coloured flags.

The Lake District, UK

The shimmering lakes and sheep-studded hills of the Lake District provide a glorious, bucolic backdrop for a slumber beneath canvas. The whole area is peppered with campsites, perfect for families, hikers and nature-lovers. Buttermere, Ambleside, Borrowdale and Grasmere are particularly gorgeous camping spots.

The Outback, Australia

Camping in Australia generally means “bushcamping” – proper back-to-basics stuff, with no amenities to speak of. However, if you do like your water running, a shower to douse yourself in and a barbecue to fire up, there are also plenty of caravan parks (aka holiday parks). Wherever you go, you’re sure to feel humbled by the enormity and breathtaking beauty of Oz’s rust-red outback.

Yellowstone National Park, USA

Yellowstone has long been a favourite camping area for visitors keen to see the world’s largest collection of geysers, including Old Faithful. There are 12 official campgrounds in the park offering basic amenities (you can reserve a pitch in advance at 5 of them), but if you’re after real solitude among the pine-clad hills, then make for the backcountry, where you’ll find smaller, quieter designated camping spots.

Wild Camping, Iceland

Not only is wild camping in Iceland a phenomenal experience, it also helps to keep more pennies in the wallet, which is a hard task in a country this pricey. Wherever you decide to pitch your tent, make sure you’ve got permission from the nearest farmhouse. The national parks – like Skaftafell and Jökulsárgljúfur – provide Scandi scenery par excellence… wildflowers, spiked mountain ridges and hulking icy glaciers.

Milford Sound, New Zealand

Rudyard Kipling waxed lyrical about Milford Sound in New Zealand’s Fiordland, dubbing it the “eighth wonder of the world”. Its beauty is not lost on the general public, so to enjoy this incredible area it’s best to camp there for a night or two. Campsites sit within the bush, which offers fantastic walking right on your “doorstep”, as well as next to trout-filled rivers (bring your rod) and glacial lakes perfect for a refreshing dip.

Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides

Scotland + camping = midges. The Isle of Harris might not be the mainland, but there are still clouds of midges in force up there. Just to warn you. However, the stunning Hebridean landscape – sandy dunes and soft sea grasses, and a rugged, mountainous interior – is irresistible for a hardy camper.

Acatenango Volcano, Guatemala

Acatenango last blew its top in 1972. That’s really not so long ago, but if you have faith in the old mountain, head on up. The ascent takes you through cultivated farmland, followed by cloud forest and then alpine forest, before finally leading you into barren volcanic landscape. You can camp en route, but if you’re feeling brave, bed down in the crater itself. Just watch for bubbling magma…

Hokkaido Island, Japan

Hokkaido Island, Japan’s most northern and remote island, feels distinctly “un-Japanese” and arguably more European (possibly thanks to the lavender, pictured). It’s not particularly touristy, instead being the preserve of Japanese city folk keen to escape the chaos of urban living for a few nights in the wilderness, surrounded by bubbling hot springs, dense forest and gleaming lakes.

Masoala National Park, Madagascar

The main attraction of a camping trip in Madagascar is undoubtedly the wildlife: from red-ruffed lemurs and goggle-eyed chameleons, not to mention the dubious-looking (but still quite cute) aye-ayes, that dwell within the varied ecosystems of Masoala National Park, you’re guaranteed a sighting of at least one exotic beast.

Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Drifting off to sleep with the sound of grunting hippos in your ears is an interesting experience, but that’s what an overnight trip to Kenya’s Masai Mara is all about. Standards of camping in the national reserve vary – from petal-flecked honeymooning pavilions to more basic “army-style” tents – but it’s the breathtaking landscape and awe-inspiring animal life that matter most here.

Gower Peninsula, Wales

The Gower Peninsula in Wales is famed for its beautiful coastline – and how better to appreciate it than from your canvas shelter overlooking the rolling waves and butterscotch sand. Surfers (surfing conditions are great round here) and families make up the majority of the camping demographic – it’s what idyllic UK holidays are made of.

Grand Canyon, USA

The South Rim of the Grand Canyon, being closest to travel links, is the most visited section, so if you want to avoid heavy camping crowds, head for the North Rim – though be aware that the tourist season here is shorter, due to less favourable weather. Dawn is a spectacular time to witness the majestic Canyon come to life: as the sun rises, the landscape shows off its fiery furnace colours.

Taman Negara, Malaysia

This swathe of tropical rainforest in Malaysia’s interior makes for a wonderful hiking and camping experience. There are masses of trails – from easy boardwalk strolls to tougher day-treks – but wherever you go, you’ll come across spectacular wildlife like monkeys, elephants, tapir and mouse deer. Less attractive are the leeches, which you’ll need to prepare yourself for. Basic campsites are scattered throughout the park, mostly next to rivers.

Swiss Alps, Switzerland

Fresh alpine air tinged with the scent of wild pine, undulating meadows cloaked with cheery wildflowers and crystal-clear, ice-cold streams trickling down mountain-sides – who could resist such a wholesome camping backdrop? The Swiss Alps have plenty of gorgeous campsites at varying altitudes, offering perfectly peaceful night-time stopovers.

Fraser Island, Australia

Fraser Island – the world’s largest sand island – is about 300km north of Brisbane and home to some incredibly beautiful beaches as well a number of dingoes. Days are filled with an invigorating concoction of swimming, fishing, walking and boating, and at night you’ll be lulled to sleep by the peaceful sounds of the great outdoors just outside your tent.

Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru

Back away from the Inca Trail: the Cordillera Huayhuash means serious Peruvian trekking. Remote and rugged, the Cordillera is part of the Andes mountain range, and comes with accordingly high altitude. Over the years, security and infrastructure here has improved to allow ambitious trekkers and campers access to this challenging and impossibly beautiful terrain.

Glastonbury, UK

This image (dating from 2005) is in no way meant to put you off from camping at Glastonbury, the world’s biggest and best green-field music festival…but it would be reckless to go without expecting a least a little British downpour at some point. Nothing can match the sight of thousands of exuberant festival-goers descending on the picturesque Vale of Avalon in Somerset in June.

It may be famed for its salt flats and Lake Titicaca, but the unsung hero of Bolivia is an experience like no other. Just over 5km from the city of Sucre, on the Altiplano’s eastern edge, you can walk among dinosaurs without the aid of CGI or a celebrity voiceover. Here, on a near-vertical wall in an old limestone quarry, sits the largest collection of dinosaur tracks in the world: five thousand footprints from scores of different species dating back almost seventy million years.

It is thought dinosaurs, chased by predators or in search of food, paused at nearby watering holes. During the rainy season the area would have flooded, creating a layer of mud and sediment that acted to preserve the footprints. Across the years the tectonic plates moved and pushed the ground upwards, creating the 100m-high limestone wall that exists today, peppered with footprints and stretching for over a kilometre.

Discovered by local cement quarry workers in 1994, the site has evolved from an informal attraction to a fully-fledged dinosaur park, replete with towering, life-size models of different dinosaurs (including the iconic tyrannosaurus), an audio-visual display and a restaurant.

But the footprints are the key to the site’s appeal. They’re viewed from a platform a safe distance away, and while you miss out on touching the markings you do get to take in the size of the prints and imagine how frightening it would have been to stand surrounded by these awesome creatures. Once your eyes have worked out what is rock face texture and what are footprints you can pick out the different shapes and sizes of footprints, follow the baby dinosaur walking alongside its parent or try and spot the trackway of the young Tyrannosaurus rex (nicknamed Johnnie Walker by the archeologists studying the site) – at more than half-a-kilometre it is the longest ever track recorded. Happy hunting.

Trucks to the Parque leave from outside the cathedral on Plaza 25 de Mayo, Sucre, several times a day.

 

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The sheer diversity of Croatia’s islands ensures that there is something for everyone in the Adriatic, regardless of whether you’re a party animal, lotus-eater, young family or a combination of all three. Jonathan Bousfield, author of The Rough Guide to Croatia, picks out his top ten.

SUSAK: THE ISLAND FOR KITE FLYERS

One for the true connoisseur of Mediterranean getaways, this small island just off the coast of its larger neighbour Lošinj is largely made up of sand, its crumbly, ochre-coloured cliffs covered in ferns, wild fennel and soaring bamboo-like grasses. Criss-crossed by footpaths, it’s a blissfully easy island to explore, and the beaches are quite simply superb. Susak is also home to the annual Air and Kite Festival, a celebration of the kite-flyer’s art that also features intimate, everybody-welcome after-parties.

RAB: THE ISLAND FOR BUCKETS AND SPADES

In a country that doesn’t have much in the way of classic sandy beaches, Rab is very much the odd island out. Most famous of its golden strands is Veli mel, a broad shallow bay that’s packed with paddling families from June to September. If splashing around with the crowd isn’t your thing, there is a sequence of wilder, uncommercialized sandy beaches lining Rab’s heavily indented northern shore. Best-known of these is Sahara, a bay reserved for naturists, although there are plenty of equally inviting coves on either side. Attitudes to clothing are fairly relaxed wherever you are, and views of the mountainous mainland only add to the raw natural feel.

SILBA:THE ISLAND FOR ARCADIANS

When it comes to sea-lapped Shangri-las with no traffic and no hotels, kidney-shaped Silba is as perfect as they come. Not only are there no cars on the island, a ban on bicycles from mid-July to late August serves to preserve the island’s pedestrian pace. Strolling along maquis-lined country lanes in search of untamed beaches is the only adrenalin sport you are likely to encounter here. Silba’s permanent population of about 300 is swelled tenfold in summer, when independent travellers from all over the country come to enjoy the island’s uniquely relaxing Arcadian vibe. Fregadon is one of the Adriatic’s best B&Bs.

 

MURTER: THE ISLAND FOR FESTIVALS

Murter’s quiet, chilled-out reputation was somewhat turned on its head by the arrival of the Garden organization in 2012. Setting up shop in a bay near the town of Tisno, the Garden is home not just to the celebrated Garden Festival itself in early July, but also a string of other events (Electric Elephant, Soundwave, Suncébeat and Stop Making Sense) that have helped turn this corner of the Adriatic into one long summertime party. And what’s more, Murter’s easy-going nature hasn’t been significantly ruffled by all this activity – the Garden site is quite secluded, and the island’s olive groves, cute ports and secretive coves remain just as charming as before.

ŠOLTA: THE ISLAND FOR HIKING AND CYCLING

Despite being the nearest island to the port of Split, Šolta remains totally absent from the package-tourist map. Small, compact and not dramatically mountainous, it’s ideal for walking and cycling, especially once you get away from the main roads. Best way to explore is to take to the little-travelled trails of the unspoiled interior, heading through half-forgotten, Kasbah-like villages of stone houses roofed with thick stone slabs. The picturesque harbour of Maslinica, a blissful blend of unspoiled fishing village and chic yachting berth, could be the Adriatic’s best-kept secret.

HVAR (1): THE ISLAND FOR HEDONISTS

From the gossip pages to the travel magazines, Hvar has long been the global media’s favourite Croatian island, a status it shows no sign of losing in 2013. Hvar Town rivals Dubrovnik in terms of its architectural glories and is equal in the glamour stakes too, with paparazzi roving the Riva to see who is transiting from luxury yacht to cocktail bar. When drinking-up time is called in the town itself, water taxis convey revellers to idyllic offshore islands, where beach-bar frolics continue until breakfast.

HVAR (2): THE ISLAND FOR FAMILIES

If Hvar Town is the celebrity magnet, the rest of the island represents the other side of the Adriatic coin. Laid back and full of charm, it remains robustly popular with those who want a piece of the Mediterranean that is family-oriented, unspoiled and affordable. Towns like Stari Grad, Jelsa and Vrboska boast a warren of old stone houses and an unhurried, fishing-village feel. Ruggedly unspoiled and pitted with a wealth of bays and coves, the island still has what it takes to enchant the seclusion-seeker.

VIS: THE ISLAND FOR FOODIES

A magnet for independent travellers and lotus-eating Zagreb folk, Vis combines unspoiled beauty with seriously good restaurants and some decidedly unique local delicacies. The local waters represent some of the richest fisheries in the Adriatic, and it’s no wonder that Vis’s restaurants offer some of the freshest lobster in the Mediterranean. In addition, establishment like Pojoda, Val and Kantun rustle up roasts and stews that are based on old-school recipes not found elsewhere. The island also boasts its very own fast-food staple in the shape of the pogača od srdele (anchovy pasty), a seriously fishy snack that will have you rushing back to the local bakery for more.

PROIZD: THE ISLAND FOR SUNBATHERS

One of the most fantastic places to sunbathe in the whole of Dalmatia, the sloping-rock beaches of Proizd island will appeal to anyone who likes the idea of spreading their towel over a dramatic geological feature. It’s actually an islet rather than island in its own right, reached by taxi boat from the port of Vela Luka on Korčula. Proizd’s “beaches” are certainly unique, consisting of stone plates shelving into turquoise waters. The island is at its most beautiful in evening, when the rocks change colour from grey to gold as the sun slowly descends. The Mediterano agency can book rooms and apartments in and around Vela Luka.

MLJET: THE ISLAND FOR ROMANTICS

Most people visit this national-park island as a day-trip from Dubrovnik, and miss out on the benefits of a longer visit. With village accommodation, nature walks and a multitude of quiet bays, it’s a great place to get romantic. The island remains blissfully unspoiled, full of bicycle-pedalling and kayak-paddling trippers during the daytime, startlingly quiet and stress-less at night. According to legend, Odysseus holed up here for seven years with the nymph Calypso, and it’s not difficult to see why he found it so hard to leave. The family-run Boutique Accommodation Mljet offer superb rooms and apartments in an old stone house.

Which is your favourite Croatian island and why?

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Thanks to the stratospheric rise of the aussie dollar, Sydney has now leapfrogged New York and London as one of the world’s most expensive cities. Almost every street seems to have a concept wine bar or Masterchef-style restaurant popping up and even scuzzy old Kings Cross has cleaned up its act.

Yet while “Sydders” can take a  shark-sized bite out of anyone’s pocket, there’s still plenty of things to do in Sydney for free that don’t involve simply lying on a beach.

1. Use the free tours

For the inside track on any city it’s hard to beat a local guiding you around, especially for free. The aptly named I’m Free Tours offers fun, three-hour walking tours accompanied by savvy locals. Look out for the guides – hard to miss thanks to their lime-green t-shirts – at Sydney Town Hall.

2. Walk the coathanger

Why pay over $200 (£130) to climb the Harbour Bridge, known affectionately locally as “the coathanger”, when you can snap up the same panoramic views for free by walking across? The 1.15km HarbourBridge walkway is best accessed from the north shore so you can keep your eyes on the Opera House as you stroll (or cycle) across.

3. Go swimming

Taking a dip in one of Sydneys thirty outdoor ocean pools is a classic Aussie experience. The water’s warm enough for year-round swimming and mercifully free of anything that will bite you (well, bar the odd hyperactive toddler). One of the most atmospheric pools is Bronte Baths (free), built in 1887, and overlooking the equally lovely Bronte Beach.

4. Challenge yourself to a coastal hike

For those of you who own a pair of hiking boots as well as thongs (flip-flops) there are two excellent coastal walks that kick off from central Sydney: Bondi to Bronte (6km) and the Manly Scenic Walkway (10km).

5. Try a botanical escape

An oasis of calm (at least when its raucous fruit bats are asleep) Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens is a perfect escape from the hectic downtown area. Also within the park is the imposingly colonial Government House (free entry), a kind of pint-sized Buckingham Palace, surrounded by manicured grounds.

6. Head to the free art galleries…

You could easily spend a day wandering around the NSW Art Gallery, whose vast collection includes Asian masterpieces as well as European Impressionist, Aboriginal and colonial works.  For free contemporary art don’t miss the newly expanded MCA or the Brett Whitley Studio.

7. …as well as the free museums

Two of the finest free museums are the National Maritime, which traces the country’s many links with the ocean and the Australian Museum, which, as well as the usual dinosaur skeletons, displays some pleasingly lethal creepy crawlies. Also free are the excellent yet often overlooked museums of the University of Sydney.  

8. Take a free bus to a free internet spot

Look out for the free shuttle bus 555 which does a useful circuit of central Sydney every 10min. For free wi-fi try Sydney’s excellent libraries, you can check in on the lastest Rough Guides content online while you’re there.

9. Hit the Rocks

Easily the most atmospheric part of Sydney, the Rocks harbourside district is where the first Europeans stepped ashore on 26 January 1788. Strolling the cobblestone streets is, of course perfectly free, though its addictive weekend market should come with a wallet health warning.

10. Free festivals

Well worth timing your visit for, January’s Sydney Festival features everything from burlesque circus to indigenous arts and kicks off with a huge free street party. Another annual fixture is the fabulous Sculpture by the Sea open-air exhibition. For other free events check out http://whatson.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au.

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