From the white, snowy tops of the Himalayas, to the greenery of Kerala and then the sands of Goa, India is a hugely diverse, intense but addictive country. It has deserts, rainforests, rural settlements and big cosmopolitan cities – some will love it, and a few will hate it, but with such variety there is pretty much something for everyone.

Here’s a selection of photos from our Things Not to Miss gallery for India, with music by Aruna Sairam, taken from the Rough Guide to the Music of India.

Music: Sarahanabhava, Aruna Sairam – Rough Guide to the Music of India
Available from worldmusic.net >

By now we all know what’s on the Croatia bucket list – the Plitvice Lakes National Park, Dubrovnik’s medieval walls, and at least one of Croatia’s growing roster of music festivals. However there’s a lot more to Croatia than meets the eye, so it’s well worth planning a few detours to take in some of the country’s contemporary architecture, offbeat attractions and unforeseen cultural connections.

Heartbreak House: Zagreb’s Museum of Broken Relationships

For a voyage into the more tumescent recesses of the human psyche, there are few better starting points than Zagreb’s Museum of Broken Relationships ­– a travelling art installation that became a permanently grounded museum in 2010. Based on mementoes donated by the public, it’s a compelling and unique museum of wistful memory and raw emotion, with exhibits ranging from garden gnomes to prosthetic limbs. Each is accompanied by a text explaining why it was so significant to the donor – some are touching, others quite kinky; and quite a few belong to the obsessive world of a David Lynch movie.

Adriatic Modernism: stay in the Hotel Lone

Throughout the 1960s and 70s the Adriatic coast experienced a boom in contemporary architecture, and there are signs that Croatia’s modernist traditions are making a comeback. Looming out of the trees above Lone Bay, just outside the chic Istrian resort of Rovinj, the amoeba-shaped Hotel Lone was designed by Zagreb architects 3LHD, and filled with furnishings, textiles and artworks supplied by Croatia’s leading creatives. Completed in 2011, it’s a rare example of a new Adriatic hotel that functions as both luxury accommodation and complete work of art. If you can’t afford a room, peek inside the circular lobby to see Ivana Franke’s geometric installation Room for Running Ghosts, or the textile wall-hangings knocked up by Zagreb fashion designers I-GLE.

Meet the ancestors (I): Krapina Neanderthal Museum

The discovery of Neanderthal bones near Krapina in 1899 puts this small north-Croatian town firmly on the European prehistory map. However, it took until 2010 for Krapina to get the museum it deserved – an ambitious, ultra-modern, hillside-hugging structure that is little short of a museum of life, the universe and everything. Visitors ascend a spiral pathway, confronting stages in the earth’s development from big bangs onwards. And as a tour de force in evolutionary theory, the museum seems guaranteed to send creationists squealing for the exits. The most entertaining aspects of the museum are devoted to the Neanderthals themselves – a film featuring human actors in prosthetic masks re-creates a day in the life of a Neanderthal tribe, and the display culminates in a diorama featuring startlingly lifelike Neanderthal dummies.

Meet the Ancestors (II): Varaždin Cemetery

Few European cemeteries are as restful and meditative as the city graveyard in Varaždin, a minor horticultural masterpiece that was very much the life’s work of park keeper Hermann Haller (1875-1953). A serious student of European graveyards, Haller came to the conclusion that cemeteries should be life-enhancing public parks, rather than the sombre preserve of wreath-laying mourners. He accordingly planted row upon row of conifers, carefully sculpted into stately green pillars that towered over the graves themselves – thereby providing “quiet and harmonious hiding places” for the deceased, as Haller himself explained. It’s also something of an outdoor art gallery too, with a wealth of fine funerary sculpture in amongst the greenery.

The medieval meets the modern: Novigrad Lapidarium

If there was a league table for outstanding small museums of the world then Novigrad’s Lapidarium would surely end up somewhere in the top ten. Designed by Rijeka-based architects Randić and Turato, the innovative structure consists of two black-box exhibition spaces enclosed within a glass pavilion. The exhibits feature some fabulous examples of stone carving taken from Novigrad’s medieval churches. Animated gryphons, strutting peacocks and swooning cypresses exemplify the lust for beauty in early Croatian art.

Adriatic Icons: Orson Welles

Head for the Joker shopping centre, northeast of central Split, and you’ll come face to face with a bolero-wearing bronze sculpture of Hollywood director Orson Welles. The statue was designed by Welles’s long-time companion, Croatian-born actress and sculptor Oja Kodar, who he met while shooting gloomy central European exteriors for his adaptation of Kafka’s The Trial in Zagreb in 1961. Croatia became a second home to Welles, who acted in local-made films (including the partisan war epic Battle on the Neretva in 1969), had a holiday villa at Primošten, and – according to local lore – was an eager follower of Hajduk Split football team.

Twenty-first century townscapes: The Sea Organ and Greeting to the Sun

This wave-powered musical instrument, which also serves as vantage point from which to observe the sunset, will soon lull you into a state of Adriatic bliss. Located on the seafront promenade in Zadar the organ consists of a broad stone stairway descending towards the sea. Wave action pushes air through a series of underwater pipes and up through niches cut into the steps, producing a selection of mellow musical notes. The organ’s architect, Nikola Bašić, also designed the Greeting to the Sun just up the seafront – a huge disk paved with light-sensitive tiles, which accumulate solar power during the daytime and radiate a seemingly random sequence of coloured lights at night. It’s absolutely hypnotic and enormously popular with tourists of all ages, who can spend hours here basking in the Greeting’s mood-enhancing glow.

Industrial Design Classics: the Rijeka Torpedo

It was the 19th-century naval yards of Rijeka that gave birth to the world’s first torpedo, built for the Austro-Hungarian navy by pioneering Croatian engineer Ivan Blaž Lupis and his English colleague Robert Whitehead. To see a surviving example however, you have to go to Split, where a surprisingly anonymous corner of the Maritime Museum plays host to one of Croatian engineering’s greatest triumphs. Looking like something out of a Jules Verne novel, this sleek cigar-shaped relic possesses an undeniably seductive aura.

Vampire Folklore: Jure Grando

Express an interest in vampires in today’s Croatia and you’ll probably be told that you’ve come to the wrong country – and yet belief in the supernatural creatures was widespread here until a couple of centuries ago. Europe’s first documented case of vampirism took place in the Istrian village of Kringa in the 1670s, when the nocturnal bed-hopping adventures of recently-deceased Jure Grando (and the subsequent stake-through-the-heart action taken by locals) was recorded for posterity by Slovenian chronicler J.J. Valvasor. Surprisingly, little has been made of this vampire heritage so far, save for a small Jure Grando museum in the centre of Kringa; the next-door Caffe-Bar Vampir is more welcoming than it sounds.

An Adriatic Rock Garden: Dubrovnik’s Orsula Park

For an open-air concert experience with a difference, head 3km east of Dubrovnik to find Orsula Park, a dramatically sloping area of shrubs and pathways commanding a famously jaw-dropping view of the walled city and its port. The park’s amphitheatre-style bank of seating is pressed into use each summer during the Mali Glazbeni Festival (Little Music Festival), a season of concerts that attracts many of the big local names in rock, rap and world music. Live gigs under the stars don’t come much better than this.

America goes all out for 4th of July celebrations. Sure, people are remembering that historic declaration on the fourth of July, 1776, but they’re also ready to enjoy a three-day weekend right in the middle of the summer. That usually means barbecues, parades, free concerts and fireworks. Whether you celebrate in a big city or a small town, you’ll get a true taste of what the Fourth means in these ten places.

Washington, D.C.

It’s as if the National Mall – the three-kilometre-long lawn at the city’s heart – was built for fireworks displays, and this one has perhaps the biggest budget in the country. During the day you can watch grand military parades (including the army’s Old Guard Fife & Drum Corps in historic regalia) and graze at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.

New York City

The legendary fireworks over Manhattan are set off from barges on the Hudson River as the famous skyline stands in silhouette under the show. Head to West Side Highway, which will be closed off to make way for crowds of spectators in the midtown area, or the waterfront around Battery Park City for spectacular views of the action. For VIP treatment, you can hop a cruise boat to eat, drink and dance the night away. During the day, don’t miss the hot dog eating contest at Coney Island, which is pure Americana though almost always won by a Japanese contestant.

Philadelphia

For the best historic surrounds, America’s birth place can’t be beaten. Visit the Liberty Bell or Independence Hall, and once you’ve done your homework, hit the food vendors at the seven-block-long Party on the Parkway. Fireworks go off over the Philadelphia Museum of Art, while the country’s largest free concert features an eclectic mix of pop artists (this year it includes John Mayer, Neo and Philly locals The Roots).

Boston

Another grand old American city with a grand old tradition: Boston anchors its celebration with a Boston Pops performance, culminating in a rendition of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” complete with cannons, church bells and of course fireworks exploding over the Charles River.

Marblehead, Massachusetts

This scenic coastal town just north of Boston offers a truly small-town American experience with flair. The daytime Marblehead Festival of Arts, which runs the whole weekend, sets the tone for creativity, at events like a sand sculpture contest and the Horribles Parade, a New England satirical tradition that features kids and pets in decorated wagons and bikes. Fireworks light up the bay after.

Addison, Texas

Just 20km from Dallas, this community of 15,000 is better known as “Kaboom! Town”, as its massive fireworks budget rivals that of major metropolises, and over half a million people come to watch the sky explode in color every year. Because of the vast crowds it’s best to park out of town and walk to see the display.

Bristol, Rhode Island

This small seaport claims the longest-running Fourth of July celebrations in the country, with a parade running every year since 1785. The place is so dedicated to the holiday that the center stripe down its main streets is painted red, white and blue, and the buildup to the Independence Day starts three weeks earlier, on Flag Day, with a whole series of pageants, parades and concerts—so you can get in the spirit of the Fourth before the big day arrives.

 Key Biscayne, Florida

Just across the water from Miami, the town’s parade is a huge event, and the oldest of its kind in southern Florida—it’s been going for 54 years, and participants are motivated by the $1,000 prize for the best float. The parade shows off the community pride, and the fireworks are world class. (In fact, you can even cheat and watch them from Miami Beach.)

Las Vegas

Who says you have to honor history with old traditions? The party capital of the West celebrates with just a bit more glitz than usual, with a performance and fireworks by the Las Vegas Philharmonic, while clubs host big-name DJs, drink specials and even topless pool parties. For more wholesome fun, head to nearby Boulder City for its Damboree, where you’ll find thrill rides, games and a pie-eating contest.

Madrid, New Mexico

This reclaimed ghost town, south of Santa Fe, stretches their parade along the main drag, and back again, just to make the festivities last 15 minutes. Madroids, as locals call themselves, roll up with whatever they’ve got: a fire truck, bicycles, old Cadillacs, a llama or two. This event may not be worth flying in for, but it’s typical of the celebratory spirit found in even the tiniest American towns on the Fourth of July—no matter where you land, you’ll find something special.

Zora O’Neill blogs at rovinggastronome.com and you can follow her on Twitter on @zora.

For ten days each year, during the middle of July, the usually conservative city of Calgary loses its collective head (or finds a new cover for it, at least). Virtually everyone turns out in white Stetsons, bolo ties, blue jeans and hand-tooled boots.

Indeed, everything seems, well, more western – which for a city like Calgary means shifting gears into serious cowboy overdrive. It’s all a signal that the self-proclaimed “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” – the Calgary Stampede – has begun.

For Canada’s rural folk – who often live on isolated farms or in tiny communities – this is the opportunity to bring their culture into the big city and really let rip. For the half-million visitors from elsewhere, it’s a chance to witness the ultimate Wild West carnival, said to be North America’s roughest rodeo.

Many activities, both kitschy and quite serious, vie for your attention. The main event is the daily rodeo competition, featuring the likes of bronco and bull riding, wild-pony racing, calf-roping, steer-wrestling and barrel-racing. But what sets the Stampede apart from other rodeos is the presence of the ludicrously dangerous, hugely exciting, chuck-wagon races: several teams of horsemen pack a stove and tent into these covered wagons, then hurtle around the dirt track at breakneck speeds.

The non-rodeo action takes place at the festival’s focal point, Stampede Park. Top attractions include a First Nations tepee village where you can try traditional foods; the satisfyingly obscure World Blacksmith Competition; and an Agricultural Building that’s home to many a handsome cow and bull.

Finish each day with a dash of Stampede nightlife, yet another world unto itself. The drinking, gambling and partying at various bars and mega-cabarets goes on into the small hours, sustained by a seemingly endless supply of barbecued meat and baked beans.

Plan at least a year in advance for the annual Stampede: see www.calgarystampede.com.

 

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It’s the most prestigious polo club tournament in the world. But unlike similar sporting events elsewhere, there’s no snobbery involved in the invitations. Turn up at the ground in Buenos Aires’ leafy Palermo district, hand over less cash than you’d spend on a beer in an upmarket London pub, and you’ll find a seat in the stands.

Finding a seat in the saddle is more challenging. Many of the players of the Argentine clubs that participate in the Open share the same surname (the Heguy and Merlos families are particularly well represented), and there’s no doubt that this is a rich man’s sport. Individual ponies can sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and players use fresh mounts for each of the game’s eight or more chukkas.

When the game begins and the tempo picks up, you get a sense of why they’re needed. The noise is terrific as the horses’ hooves pound the turf, turning up little puffs of dust as each foot slams into the ground, and the bulging muscles of their legs and rumps heave beneath their glistening coats. Astride them, the players seem almost to float as they whip their sticks around in dexterous circles and, leaning impossibly far from the saddle, clip the ball with backhand swipes that should surely dislocate their joints. Galloping flank to flank, they scorch along, pressing one horse against the other, piling its entire weight on that of the opponent, trying to push it out of the way – yet still, incredibly, the riders don’t fall off.

The crowd, meanwhile, cheers and chats, and natters on its mobile phones. It’s a mellow bunch of spectators of all ages, gently enjoying a sporting afternoon in the sun. And foreigners – fear not. You don’t need to be a polo aficionado to enjoy this game. You don’t even need to understand the rules. Any layman can see: in these men and horses, breeding and skill have come together to create a match of breathtaking bravado and beauty.

The Argentine Open takes place in Palermo, Buenos Aires, in Nov/Dec. See www.aapolo.com (Spanish only).

 

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A new green initiative has been launched in the Brecon Beacons. The Eco Travel Network was established by local researchers and business owners to offer a pool of electric vehicles to visitors who want to explore the region while keeping their carbon footprint low. These Renault Twizys carry two people and run on batteries that can be topped up at a number of local charging points.

Rough Guides sent two writers to unearth the best of the Brecon Beacons by quadricycle. Here Rachel Mills seeks out the region’s most eco-friendly initiatives and activities. Read Tim Chester’s foodie exploration here.

The Brecon Beacons in mid-Wales conjures visions of scenic countryside peppered with villages and market towns. The gentle wilderness of this National Park covers 520 square miles and the rolling hills, craggy peaks and hidden waterfalls are a paradise for devotees of the great outdoors.

A growing number of people are feeling a prickling of conscience over the environmental impact of their holiday choices and as more tourists embrace sustainable holidays and staycations, green initiatives are popping up across the Brecon Beacons. Businesses and attractions are blazing an eco-friendly trail by turning to renewable sources for energy; wood chips, solar panels and ground- and air-source heat pumps are all the rage. A recent campaign to reduce light pollution means that the National Park has become the fifth international dark sky reserve in the world. The stars haven’t shone so brightly in years.

We pick up our Twizy, called “Tracy”, from Westview Guesthouse, a few miles outside Hay-on-Wye. Owner Ian is incredibly helpful, giving us a hand with the roof rack, showing us how to drive and charge the vehicle and supplying us with maps and advice. Tracy can do 50mph, but driven flat out at this speed the battery will only last for 30 to 35 miles. Driven at 30mph, on the other hand, she can do 45 miles in winter and well over 50 miles in summer.

Hay-on-Wye

We drive into town and park to explore the cute narrow streets packed with bookshops, pubs and tearooms. The town straddles the border with England and is most famous for the Hay Festival of literature and the arts (read more about it on Rough Guides), but the weekend we’re here sees the first Hay Bike Fest with an expo and food stalls in the castle grounds. This very green themed festival aims to get locals and visitors on their bikes and exploring the trails and lanes in and around town.

Brecon Cathedral

Founded by the Normans in 1093, this intimate cathedral is set in a walled close north of the town centre. The vaulted ceiling is outstanding and there are small fascinating historic exhibits as you wander around. The cathedral is proud of its military connections and faded regimental Colours are on display, alongside poignant memorial plaques to the fallen. We recharge the Twizy and ourselves at the adjacent licensed Pilgrims Tea Rooms, where the home-cooked food is locally sourced and often organic.

Then it’s onto the pretty market town of Llandovery and The Castle Hotel. We take the scenic route along the back lanes, which means stopping for sheep as they are herded along, and pulling over for the odd tractor. The weather is not kind and I can’t deny the wind and rain has a bit of a dampening effect! I’d recommend sticking to main roads unless it’s a lovely day; back lane hills can be pretty steep and going up tends to drain the battery – and the lack of windows mean that any puddles splash the person in the back seat! On the plus side, Tracy raises a smile and provokes a chat wherever we go.

The Castle

We are the first Twizy to visit here and the friendly staff go out of their way to help with charging the vehicle and making us feel at home. Parts of the building date back to the 16th Century and the charming rooms, complete with creaky floorboards, are full of character. Tasty cookies, Myddfai Trading Company bath products, wi-fi and a flat screen television are a bonus. The delectable daily specials in the restaurant depend on seasonal and local produce (some from their own farm); try seared Welsh lamb and caper terrine (£6.50) followed by whole chargrilled lemon sole with lemon, caper and rosemary sauce (£18.50).

Myddfai Community Hall & Visitor Centre

Rural regeneration is the name of the game here; a development grant from the Big Lottery SOS programme and support from their close neighbour, the Prince of Wales, means that this tiny community has been able to create an energy efficient community hall and holistic trading company at the heart of their village.

Run by local volunteers, the little café here offers a simple, tasty menu ideal for walkers and cyclists dropping in for a light lunch (jacket potatoes, soup or sandwiches are all around £4). Walls are decorated with information boards about local history and folklore, including the Physicians of Myddfai and the Lady of the Lake.

Explore Rachel’s highlights from the Brecon Beacons by hovering over the blue dots below:

Stargazing

The park’s visitor centre (Libanus, Brecon, Powys, LD3 8ER; open daily; 01874 623366) is a great place for viewing the night sky, gathering information and attending lectures. Dark skies are promoted at regular star gazing events throughout the year. Dark Sky Wales is a guide group who offer nighttime sessions to enthusiastic stargazers and astronomers.

Dolaucothi Gold Mines

The most archeologically significant property owned by the National Trust in Wales, Dolaucothi is both a geological and biological Site of Special Scientific Interest. For tourists the interest lies in the mines that were used during the Roman era and again during the Industrial age in the nineteenth century. We explore the yard buildings and then don safety helmets to take a guided underground Roman tour.

Gorge Walking

A spectacular route through the heart of the Brecon Beacons takes us to the remote Clyngwyn Farm Bunkhouse, where we plug Tracy into the mains and meet up with Dave from Adventure Britain. Completely out of my comfort zone, I confess to not really knowing what gorge walking is. It turns out to mean getting very wet by throwing yourself into rapids and clambering behind waterfalls (as if the back seat of the Twizy wasn’t adventure enough). All this and a final 20ft leap of faith into a deep pool. I would never manage any of it but for our knowledgeable, funny and dependent guide who along the way tells us about the geology and wildlife of the gorge.

Penderyn Distillery

After all that activity, a stiff drink is needed. Producing just one cask of whisky a day, this award-winning distillery takes advantage of the natural Brecon spring water to create some of the finest malt whisky in the world. There’s a small exhibit about why a group of friends became Wales’ first distillers in more than a century, including information about their unique “Faraday Still”. A short tour leads to the bar!

The Felin Fach Griffin

This inn just off the main road is the antithesis of the chain hotel. Each room is individually decorated, cosy and spotlessly clean. Downstairs in the restaurant, the thoughtful menu uses produce from their organic kitchen garden out back, or from suppliers local to the Welsh borders. Congenial staff at the bar serve up ales from nearby breweries and can tell you about the wines on their extensive list; we choose hot chocolate and thaw out by the log fire on a squishy sofa. We have a top quality meal while Tracy recharges in the car park for the journey home.

Need to know

  • Dark Sky Wales provide all the necessary equipment and prices start from £100 for groups of up to 25 people; get in touch with Allan Trow (07403 402114; [email protected]).
  • Penderyn Distillery (Penderyn, CF44 9JW; visitor centre open daily, 9.30–5pm; £6 entrance fee includes a tour and tasting).
  • The Eco Travel Network offers a variety of itineraries in the region – check their site for more information.

Read about Tim Chester’s encounter with the Twizy >

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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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was the original musical prodigy, an eighteenth-century pop idol whose fame took him to Vienna, Prague and the capitals of Europe, and in the years since his death he has become an industry. No Mozart connection, however slight, is ignored. There are Mozart views to savour, Mozart chocolates to devour and any amount of Mozart kitsch to consume. Brushing all that aside, however, the music remains. And there is no better place to hear it than in Mozart’s beautiful, Baroque home town.

Mozart was the Salzburg-born son of a court musician who swiftly recognized his son’s musical ability – junior gave his first performance before the court of Prince-Archbishop Sigismund Graf von Schrattenbach, amid the splendour of the Salzburg Residenz, at the tender age of six. These days, the best opportunity for serious fans to hear Mozart in Salzburg is during the annual Mozartwoche (Mozart Week), which takes place at the Mozarteum and the Festspielhaus around the time of the composer’s birthday (January 27), and which each year focuses on a particular aspect of the composer’s work.

You can hear his music in glorious historic surroundings at any time of the year. Much the most luxurious are the candlelit Mozart dinner concerts in the hall of the Stiftskeller St Peter restaurant in St Peter monastery, where you eat food prepared according to recipes from the 1900s while opera singers in eighteenth-century costume perform arias and duets from Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro and The Magic Flute. Occasional dinner concerts are also held in the mighty medieval fortress that towers above the city. But if you’re in more reflective mood, the Mozart Requiem is regularly performed at the Kollegienkirche, the university church whose Baroque magnificence matches in stone the splendour of Mozart’s genius.

Mozartwoche (www.mozarteum.at); Fortress concerts (www.mozartfestival.at); dinner concerts at Stiftskeller St Peter & Mozart Requiem at the Kollegienkirche (www.salzburg-concerts.com).

 

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Chinatown, San Francisco

Ethnic enclaves exist throughout the world, bringing a beguiling slice of foreign lands to many countries. The largest Asian community outside of Asia, San Francisco’s Chinatown is a bigger draw than the Golden Gate Bridge. Within the USA’s highest population density west of Manhattan, the district has had a big influence. The famous dim sum teahouses are popular for their bite-sized morsels, while moon-cakes, pastries filled with bean paste and egg, are a delicious staple of the district’s Autumn Moon Festival.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Nothing says Gallic imperialism quite like a frog curry on the banks of the Mekong. Phnom Penh has been Cambodia’s capital since French colonization. It’s is a stark blend of Khmer and French architecture, with Riviera-style mansions lining the wide and manic boulevards. One great preserve of the French Protectorate are the boulangeries, where the fresh baguettes are a unique and welcome luxury in south-east Asia.

Colonia Tovar, Venezuela

Just an hour from Caracas, Colonia Tovar would look more at home beneath the Eiger than beside the Caribbean. This Black Forest village, founded by Bavarian immigrants in 1843, still speaks a colonial form of German and preserves Old Country traditions. Weekenders come to gawk at the bizarre spectacle and to sample the authentic sausage, strudel and locally-brewed beer, which receives extra attention during the annual Oktoberfest.

Little Italy, New York

A six-block stretch along Mulberry St in Lower Manhattan, New York’s Little Italy is the cradle of Italian-American culture in the United States. Established by nineteenth century immigrants, by 1920 the district’s community was 400,000 strong. Visitors come for the food, particularly in mid-September, when the 11-day festival of San Gennaro, Sicily’s patron saint, sees parades, parties and the all-important cannoli-eating contest.

Liberdade, Sao Paolo

An influx of east asians at the turn of the twentieth century left São Paolo with the highest density of Japanese residents outside Japan. The district of Liberdade is the world’s biggest ‘Japantown’. A nine-metre high torii (shinto arch) marks the entrance to a cosplay and manga mecca, where a weekly street fair offers a unique hybrid cuisine, and a Japanese-language bookshop sells fish beside the fiction.

Little India, Singapore

Mixing the mutinous anarchy of India with the sterile order of Singapore has resulted in the best of both worlds on the humid island state. One of the city’s most attractive and colourful sectors, Little India is bursting with open-fronted sweet shops, chai houses and authentic curry restaurants, where you’ll be expected to make like the locals and eat with your hands in the traditional style.

Christiania, Denmark

A long-standing bastion of hippie ideology, central Copenhagen’s Christiania has been a counter-culture commune since the abandoned military barracks was occupied in 1971. The 35-acre area is home to a thousand-strong community, not strictly an ethnic enclave but a popular attraction for visitors during the long Scandinavian summer days, who come to enjoy the atmosphere, live music, and special herbs sold in the world’s only open cannabis market.

Thames Town, Shanghai

Having written the textbook on western knock-offs, China went one step further with its bizarre ‘One City, Nine Towns’ housing initiative. Local Shanghai government built Thames Town, a suburb of the country’s financial capital resembling an English village, replete with mock-Tudor, Victorian red-brick houses and red phone boxes. Only the mandarin script, intense humidity and suspiciously unfaded appearance suggest you aren’t in Blighty.

Simla, India

A summer capital built by the British in the Himalayan foothills of Himchal Pradesh to escape the heat of the plains below, Simla (or Shimla as it was then known), looks rather more like Chester than Chandigarh. Check out the Downton-esque Viceregal Lodge, wander the mock tudor-lined ‘Ridge’, and ride the toy train that ferried imperialists to and from this surreal monument to the British Raj.

Chubut, Argentina

“Patagonia seemed like the ideal place” to found an outpost of Welsh values, according to one of the original 153 settlers that stepped off the boat in Argentina’s Chubut province in 1865. Gaiman, the cultural centre of ‘Y Wladfa’ or ‘The Colony’, attracts tourists with its Welsh protestant chapels, tea rooms serving astronomically-priced cream teas and its annual cultural festival, ‘Eisteddfod de Chubut’, every October.

Planning a trip to Thailand? Or perhaps just dreaming of those beaches and that food? Either way, allow us to offer our 20 essential things to see and do in this spectacular country:

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