From South Asia’s most inspiring writers speaking in Jaipur to literary heavyweights entertaining crowds at Hay, book festivals are now a truly international affair. Bibliophiles can get their cultural fix across continents and throughout the year, taking their pick between huge extravaganzas and intimate gatherings. Here are some of the highlights in 2016:

1. Zee Jaipur Literature Festival, India

Billed as the ‘largest free literary festival on Earth’, Jaipur is a blockbuster among book festivals. Directed by William Dalrymple and hosted in an ornate heritage hotel, Diggi Palace, the 2016 festival features Sunjeev Sahota, Margaret Atwood and Man Booker Prize winner Marlon James.
January 21–25

2. Hay Festival Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

Cartagena’s brightly painted buildings and cobbled streets offer a radically different backdrop to Hay’s UK-base on the edge of the Brecon Beacons, but the line-up in Colombia is no less stellar. In 2016, speakers will include Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, director Stephen Frears and writer Lionel Shriver. Talks and concerts are hosted in the city’s splendid Teatro Adolfo Mejia and on the historic Plaza de la Aduana.
January 28–31

3. Tokyo International Literary Festival, Japan

Featuring plenty of homegrown talent plus big-name writers from around the world, including Tash Aw, Jeffery Eugenides and David Mitchell, Tokyo’s annual festival offers a small but thoughtful programme. Panel events staged in city theatres and cafés debate love stories and showcase contemporary Asian writing, while Granta magazine will launch a special Japan issue.
Feb 28–Mar 9

4. Port Eliot Festival, England

Self-styled as a ‘creative festival’, Port Eliot’s programme covers food, music and art as well as words. But its imaginative literary events and spectacular setting on the ancient Port Eliot estate make it distinctive among the UK’s many book-oriented festivals. Journalists, poets and novelists perform to laid-back crowds on the ‘Bowling Green’ stage and in the estate’s walled garden. Festival-goers can also take a dip in the River Tiddy or watch bands play in one of Cornwall’s oldest churches.
July 28–31

5. Paraty International Literary Festival (FLIP), Brazil

Forest-clad mountains, pristine coastline and colonial buildings make Paraty a hard-to-beat backdrop for a literary festival. Listen to highbrow guest authors speak in round-table discussions, then while away the afternoon on an unspoiled beach. Running since 2003, FLIP is firmly established on the international literary circuit with past headliners including Julian Barnes and Don DeLillo. Film screenings, exhibitions and plays give it a broad, vibrant focus.
June 29–July 3

6. Sydney Writers’ Festival, Australia

If book readings on Bondi Beach appeal to you, head to Sydney in May. With other venues including heritage wharves, the Opera House and the Blue Mountains, the city’s annual festival is a scenic celebration of the written word. A jam-packed programme features over 400 international writers and events are attended by 80,000 avid readers each year. Programme details go live in March.
16–22 May 2016 

Image © Prudence Upton

7. Edinburgh International Book Festival, Scotland

Every August, Edinburgh’s tranquil Charlotte Square Gardens transform into a huge tented village dedicated to all things literary. Founded in 1983, the city’s book festival hosts around 800 speakers a year, from bestselling authors to debut novelists and performance poets. Children’s workshops and storytelling sessions entertain fledgling bookworms, while grown-ups can be inspired by Nobel Prize winning scientists and writers. Line-up announced in June.
August 13–29

8. Berlin International Literature Festival, Germany

City museums, theatres and cultural institutes host an impressively global programme during Berlin’s ten-day annual literature festival. Founded in 2001, the festival enters its sixteenth year next September and will feature a cast of writers from most continents, performing readings and speaking in panel events.
September 7–17

9. Brooklyn Book Festival, USA

Since this hip New York borough is home to so many prize-winning writers (from Paul Auster to Jhumpa Lahiri), it’s no surprise that it’s also the location of New York’s largest free literary festival. The Brooklyn Book Festival, which takes place in a Downtown park, features authors from over twenty countries in conversation and panel discussions. Past speakers include Salman Rushdie and Joyce Carol Oates, and the festival’s ‘Children’s Day’ celebrates literature for under-11s. Programme details are released from January onwards.
September 17–18

Brooklyn Book Festival by Betty Tsang on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

10. Irrawaddy Literary Festival, Myanmar

Now programming its fourth annual instalment, the Mandalay-based Irrawaddy Literary Festival is an inspiring platform for writers from Myanmar and beyond. The not-for-profit festival’s distinguished patron, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, is also its headline speaker. She will speak at the serene Mandalay Hill Resort alongside international novelists and historians, as well as over a hundred of Myanmar’s leading authors. If you need to stretch your legs between events, wander to the grand Royal Palace, or explore Mandalay Hill’s monasteries and pagodas.
November

Explore more of the world in 2016 with the Rough Guide to 2016Compare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Today Ethiopia is celebrating Christmas. Following the Julian calendar, this East African, Orthodox Christian nation celebrates Christmas on the 7th January each year.

In Lalibela, one of the holiest sites in Ethiopia, tens of thousands of pilgrims gather for mass in the town’s 12 rock-hewn churches. All through the night there’s chanting, singing, swaying and praying – an evocative sight if you’re lucky enough to witness it.

Photographer Karoki Lewis travelled to Lalibela for Christmas, and here he shares his best pictures of the spectacular event.

Pilgrims gather on Christmas eve for the all-night Christmas celebrations at the Bet Maryam (Church of the Virgin Mary), Lalibela, Ethiopia

Pilgrims visit Bet Giyorgis, the Church of St George

Young pilgrims wearing Ethiopian national dress

Pilgrims celebrate the end of their 43 day fast, drinking the local honey based liquor tej

Pilgrims arrive from all over Ethiopia (some having walked for 4-5 weeks)

Priest and deacons line up for King David’s dance, the final ritual at the Bet Maryam

Priest and deacons get ready to dance in Bet Maryam

Pilgrims light candles to the new born Jesus

A pilgrim waits for Christmas day in Lalibela

Priests and deacons wearing white Shemas (shawls) and cloaks perform ritual dances

Pilgrims gather on Christmas eve

Pilgrims carry candles during celebrations

Pilgrim reading bible in the courtyard of Bet Maryam

Priests and Deacons in the courtyard of Bet Maryam

Pilgrims camp out near the churches of Lalibela

These tukuls become temporary homes for the pilgrims

Priest holds a 12th century bronze cross inside Bet Danaghel

Young priests sing and chant

Bet Maryam (Church of the Virgin Mary)

Priest with wooden cross and 500-year-old canvas painting in Bet Golgotha

Pilgrims at the Bet Gabriel

All images © Karoki Lewis 2016. Explore more of Ethiopia with the Rough Guide to Ethiopia. Compare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Want to travel somewhere new this year? There’s plenty to discover in 2016. Take a look at these new attractions opening around the globe for inspiration for your next trip.

1. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Hollywood, USA

On April 7 2016, Universal Studios Hollywood will mark the much-anticipated opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. With its cobblestone streets and quaint alleyways, the attraction will transport visitors to the wondrous world of Harry Potter. Hogsmeade will be a hive of activity with pubs packed with eager customers and a train conductor welcoming “passengers”. On a thrilling three-dimensional, high definition ride guests will wear Quidditch-style 3D goggles as they are immersed in the life of Harry and his friends, swooshing along an elevated track.

2. British Airways i360, Brighton, UK

Created by the same architects of the London Eye, this new attraction (opening in summer 2016) will be the world’s first vertical cable car and the world’s tallest moving observation tower. The circular viewing pod cruises slowly up to a height of 162m, allowing visitors to soak in the views of the seaside town of Brighton, the South Downs and the Sussex coastline.

3. Louvre Abu Dhabi, UAE

Set to open at the end of this year on Saadiyat Island, this state-of-the-art museum was born from an intergovernmental agreement between the UAE and France in 2007. It will comprise 9200 square metres of art galleries, housing a permanent art collection, themed temporary exhibitions and loan pieces from institutions all over the world, including Leonardo da Vinci’s La belle ferronnière, currently in the Musée du Louvre in Paris.

4. Independence Plaza, Space Centre, Houston, USA

In late January 2016 the first Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, NASA 905, and the shuttle replica Independence will go on display in Houston’s Space Centre. NASA 905 played a pivotal role in the orbiter’s development, carrying space shuttles 223 times and amassing a total of 11,017 flight hours. The fuselage of the plane and the inside of the shuttle will house interactive learning spaces with artefacts and exhibits that trace the shuttle programme and provide an insight into the history of the shuttle era. It will be the world’s only replica of its kind, mounted on a shuttle carrier aircraft, with the public able to enter both.

5. Omaka Aviation Centre, New Zealand

Located five kilometres from the centre of Blenheim on New Zealand’s South Island, the Omaka Aviation Centre brings history to life with Sir Peter Jackson’s WWI aviation collection. Summer 2016 will see the opening of a new WWII hangar exhibition, with theatrical lighting to illuminate the exhibits. Visitors will go on a geographical and historical journey as they walk through the exhibition. The world’s only flyable Mk1 Avro Anson twin-engine bomber will be on display, while a Yakovlev Yak-3 will be parked on a snow-graded airstrip at the edge of a bombed out city.

6. Kynren: An Epic Tale of England, Durham, UK

This new live action night show launches in July 2016 at Auckland Castle in County Durham. With a cast and crew of 1000 volunteers on a 7.5 acre stage, this is open-air theatre on a gargantuan scale. The storytelling journey will span 2000 years, with each 90-minute show travelling through different time periods, including the Roman Times and the Industrial Revolution. Performances run from July through the summer, and organisers hope the site will later be turned into a permanent theme park.

7. Museo Nacional del Perú de Pachacámac, Peru

About 40km southeast of Lima is the site of Pachacamac, one of the most important archeological complexes of the Peruvian coast. Established around AD200, in Pre-Inca and Inca times it was an important pilgrimage site, with 17 pyramids, palaces, plazas and temples identified so far. The new museum will showcase locally discovered relics along with pieces currently on display at two museums in Lima.

8. Movie Animation Park Studios, Malaysia

Asia’s first and largest animation theme park is set to open in the state of Perak in northern Malaysia. Spanning an area of 52 acres, the park will feature all manner of fun, from rides to stunt shows. There will be 40 attractions across six thematic zones – with areas dedicated to Casper The Friendly Ghost and The Smurfs. Look out for The Magamind Megadrop, the country’s tallest drop tower over 20 storeys high.

9. Chaplin Museum: The Modern Times Museum, Switzerland

Charlie Chaplin fans will delight at the opening of this new museum in the star’s former home, the Manoir de Ban in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland. Chaplin spent the last 25 years of his life at the house, and died here in 1977. Visitors will be completely immersed in Chaplin’s world: “His soul, his spirit, is still here … so people will meet him, people will encounter him, people will hear his voice, will see his movies, will hear his music,” said Director Yves Durand when speaking of the new museum that is due to open in April 2016.

Photo © Enrico Romanzi

10. Mont Blanc Skyway, Courmayeur, Italy

Officially opened last summer, winter 2015/16 is the first ski season for the Mont Blanc Skyway, a rotating glass-fronted cable car offering spectacular 360° views of the Western Alps’ highest peaks. At a height of 3466m, the circular terrace at the top station is the closest point accessible by public transport to the summit of Mont Blanc. Free ride skiers can head on some of the Alps’ most exciting off-piste routes, while in summer visitors have access to the Saussurea alpine botanical garden.

Featured image © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. HARRY POTTER, characters, names and related indicia are trademarks of and © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Harry Potter Publishing Rights © JKR. (s15) © 2015 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Get more holiday inspiration for 2016 with the Rough Guide to 2016Compare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

The best places to spend Christmas – as voted by you

We asked our social media followers to tell us their favourite destinations for a Christmas holiday – here are the results.

England

There are some truly atmospheric corners of England worth visiting for festive celebrations. For a countryside escape, head to the The New Forest, while the creative city of Manchester has some colourful Christmas markets. Thanks to @Burley_Manor and @travelred for their votes on Twitter.

New Zealand

Rough Guides Twitter follower @Kellie_Rooke chose New Zealand as her preferred Christmas destination. She reccommends "A BBQ near the beach, sun shinning and Sauvignon Blanc in hand." We think that sounds pretty perfect.

Barbados

Twitter follower @vickeblueyes opted for a sunnier part of the world for this festive season. She recommends you kick back and relax on the beach with a glass of Mount Gay rum, getting that much-needed Vitamin D from the glorious sunshine.

Germany

For an ultra-Christmassy break, @marykingtweets chose Berchtesgaden in Bavaria, Germany. She says there’s stunning scenery – thanks to the surrounding alpine mountains – and a brilliant festive market.

Brazil

Twitter follower @dianaguerra thinks there’s no better place to spend Christmas than in Brazil. "There’s nothing like a Santa wearing shorts getting a tan," she says. Spend the day sculpting sandmen (rather than snowmen) on Ipanema beach in Rio.

India

Whether you want to spend your holiday in an ashram in Kerala or gorging on curry in Rajasthan, both @Diana_Jarvis and @RosieThomas told us on Twitter they’d spend it in India.

Poland

Twitter follower @porsz_mfl recommended Karków in Poland as a top Christmas destination. It’ll be chilly, but the festive market, where local artisans present their wares, is great for picking up a few last-minute presents and there’s no better way to warm up than with swig of traditional wódka.

Cuba

"Escape the rain and head for Cuba" says @Trubikini on Twitter. With its average temperatures sitting around 22°C (71°F) in December, Havana makes an excellent getaway if you’d rather spend Christmas roasting yourself on the beach rather than a turkey in the oven.

Swedish Lapland

On Twitter, @bearandblair chose Lapland and said: "Gotta go FULL festive in Swedish Lapland – dog sledding, northern lights and IceHotel IceBar cocktails." We’re sold.

Morocco

One of our followers suggested eschewing all tradition and heading into the Moroccan desert. Take to a camel on Christmas Eve and trek into the Sahara to enjoy a bonfire and Berber traditions among the dunes.

Beyond the mystical sounds of gamelan and the intricate craft of batik, Bali boasts a world of subcultures often overlooked by visitors. The art makes bold statements, nightlife sometimes involves a new tattoo, and music is anything but serene.

On an island where locals are often denied entry from bars and clubs, an experience off the typical tourist trail is both vital and enlightening. Kick-start your journey into Indonesia‘s underground with this alternative list of things to do on the Island of Gods.

Get weird at Black Market

What do pet snakes, drunk tarot readers, homeless artists, punk hairdressers, organic grocers, and the police have in common? They’ve all appeared at Black Market Bali.

This unpredictable art event pops up where and whenever it pleases, welcoming whoever wants to set up. With no schedule or restrictions, it tends to unfold like some chaotic hybrid between a circus and a garage sale. Buy, sell, browse, perform or party to a backdrop of live music, quirky vendors and rice fields.
Jl. Basangkasa No. 88, Seminyak

Skate the pool at Pretty Poison

When a venue in Bali says it’s having a pool party, you can usually bet on gaggles of the scantily clad and sunburnt swaying to last year’s top forty. But not at Pretty Poison. Here the pool stays drained for skateboarders to party in day and night.

Live music, skate competitions, dance parties, open-air movie screenings, art shows and tattoo nights all go down surrounded by Canggu’s tranquil rice paddies. Rambunctious skaters respectfully wait for their turn to shred the pool, while onlookers mingle, dance and get inked.

Most importantly, Pretty Poison one of the few venues remaining on the island that attracts a roughly equal mix of Indonesians and foreigners.
Short Cut Road, Jl. Subak, Canggu

A video posted by @prettypoison___ on

Tune into the contemporary at Ghostbird + Swoon

Run by a young Balinese woman and and her American partner, Ghostbird + Swoon doubles as an art gallery and curatorial space for experimental fashion. Their manifesto? “‘We seek beauty. Not the thoughtless, fleeting kind. But the ugly kind that takes time, mistakes, intelligence, obsessive reflection and mad skills to cultivate.“ The space features works by contemporary artists, often Indonesian women, with exhibitions examining themes such as female identity in regional society, and the artistic potential of junk. Engage with the thought-provoking work here and you’re sure to gain a nuanced understanding of this vast, complex country. Jl. Danau Tamblingan No. 75, Sanur

 

Rock out at Twice Bar

It’s no secret that Kuta, Bali‘s commercial centre, is a little trashy – especially after dark. Developers and binge-drinking foreigners have transformed the area into a mishmash of uninspired nightclubs, sleazy bars and tourist traps. But in the midst of all the debauchery, one venue is worth your time: Twice Bar, founded by members of popular Balinese punk band Superman is Dead. The frenetic sound of Indonesian punk rock keeps most foreigners away, but if you’re looking to begin an off-beat Balinese night out, this is the place to be. Heavy music is an important part of Indonesian culture – Napalm Death is the President’s favourite band, after all. Enjoy cheap arak (the palm sap equivalent of moonshine), adrenaline-fueled shows, an in-bar tattoo parlour and friendly Anarcho-Indonesian company. Jl. Popies II, Kuta

A video posted by Nugra dadee (@nug412) on

Take shelter at Revolver Espresso

Hidden down nameless a Seminyak backstreet, the original Revolver Espresso isn’t easy to find but is worth the hunt – they serve the best coffee on the island. Inside, you might think you’ve wandered into a trendy East London warehouse, with high ceilings and chipped white paint on rough brick walls.

But there’s enough comfy seating and vintage bric-a-brac to keep this industrial space feeling cosy. The shop has become famous for its premium beans, carefully sourced from around the world, roasted in-house, and brewed to perfection.

With fun tunes always spinning on vinyl, and delicious food to boot –try the poached eggs on mashed avocado, homemade relish and sourdough toast – it’s an ideal place to escape the island heat or wait-out the rain.
Jl. Kayu Aya, Gang 51, Seminyak

Iced Revolver shot by Jonathan Ooi (CC license)

Buy a taco and get a free tattoo at The Temple of Enthusiasm

Lifestyle brand Deus Ex Machina makes bespoke café racer-inspired motorcycles, artisanal surfboards, skateboards, clothing and more. Since the opening of their flagship, The Temple of Enthusiasm, the once sleepy village of Canggu has transformed into into the island’s most happening area.

Whether you’re in it for the Temple’s hip concept store, art gallery, bar, restaurant, half-pipe, farmers markets, movie nights, high-speed dress-up drag races, live music, longboard competitions or Taco Tattuesdays (free tattoo with the purchase of your taco) – this bona fide Bali institution is an absolute must.
Jalan Batu Mejan No. 8, Canggu

Surf, snack, and drink a cold one at Batu Bolong Beach

A steep, black-sand beach with waves perfect for longboarding brings beginners and tattooed, retro-looking surfers to Batu Bolong.

Factor in a bustling Hindu temple, Balinese family gatherings, Indonesian street food, unbeatable sunsets and Old Man’s – a tiki bar-style beer garden that gets wild on Wednesday nights – and you’ll discover the atmosphere of this beach is tough to beat.
Jl. Pantai Batu Bolong, Canggu

Batu Bolong sunset by bruno kvot (CC license)

Kick back at a late-night goreng stall

Whether you’re wrapping up after a hard day of surfing, exploring or doing a whole lot of nothing, there’s no better place to unwind than at at one of Bali’s many roadside late-night goreng tents.

Pass on the cutlery (though it’s not usually on offer) and use your hands to tuck into fried chicken or tempeh (a soy product sort of like tofu), served with a side of mouth-watering sambal (spicy chili sauce), white rice and a single lettuce leaf.

Their ramshackle, bare-bones atmosphere is the perfect complement to the intense flavours served up, and locals are always happy to chat. This really is Balinese nightlife at its finest.

Bali street food by steve deeves (CC license)

Explore more of the Bali coastline with The Rough Guide to Bali & LombokCompare flightsbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Bobby’s mullet blows in the wind as he pilots his dinky motorcycle down Copenhagen‘s cobbled backstreets. Wobbling past kebab shops and contemporary design stores on his way to work, he looks like a living relic from a bygone era: the 1980s.

A turtleneck peeks out from beneath his blue denim jacket, which perfectly matches the wash of his jeans, and a Freddie Mercury-esque moustache conceals his upper lip. This getup is, in part, why he’s often referred to as “Retro Bobby”.

But it’s his unconventional barbershop that’s truly earned him his retro reputation – the perfect place to unleash your inner-child, or your inner-geek. Ruben og Bobby is a basement world crammed with vintage video games, hulking pinball and arcade machines, classic consoles and old-school toys. Thoughtfully posed action figures are stuffed on shelves, curated in self-evident categories such as Ninja Turtles, He-Man, Pokémon and Power Rangers.

Image provided by Ruben og Bobby

Though Bobby’s own hair is – to put it mildly – bold, he’s a skilled barber capable of all kinds of cuts, from the 90s bowl to the latest in disheveled-chic. In a tiny room behind the salon’s front desk, there sits a single barber’s chair in front of a mirror and a first-generation Nintendo for customers to play during their snip. Beat the high score and receive a 20% discount off the price.

Customers pay for their new doos in Danish Krone, Bitcoins or cool retro stuff – because Bobby also accepts trade-ins for his goods and services. Though his business model might not conquer the world, in Copenhagen Ruben og Bobby works. But why?

Image provided by Ruben og Bobby

He has created something much more than a barbershop or vintage toy store. The space functions as both an interactive museum and art installation of sorts – a nostalgic homage to a time of chunky plastic, ground-breaking creativity and experimental design left behind in our race towards a more virtual future.

The shop is a refuge from Copenhagen’s crowded hotspots and a worthwhile place to hang, whether you’re due for a trim, looking to buy or just feel like playing some vintage games. With special events like 8-bit music parties and arcade tournaments it’s a social environment too – so don’t be surprised if you end up befriending a bunch of Danish locals, including Retro Bobby himself.

Retro Bobby

from Copenhagers on Vimeo.

Ruben og Bobby is located at Bjelkes Alle 7a in Nørrebro, Copenhagen‘s hippest and most multicultural neighbourhood. To book a haircut, and for more on the shop, check out rubenogbobby.squarespace.com. Explore more of the city with the Pocket Rough Guide CopenhagenCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

There’s more to see in Canada’s most populated province than ice hockey, forests and freely flowing maple syrup – and some of it’s pretty weird. From the world’s largest Elvis Presley festival, to axe throwing ranges in Toronto, here are just a few things you didn’t know you could do in Ontario.

1. Drink Dead Elephant Ale while gazing at a dead elephant

On September 15, 1885 Jumbo the Elephant of the PT Barnum circus, the world’s first animal celebrity, was hit by a train and killed in St Thomas, Ontario. It made global headlines. Jumbo’s skeleton is on display at the New York Museum of Natural History and his ashes are interred at Tuft’s University. Thankfully, none of these remains are distilled in the Railway Brewing Company’s tribute. They boast a hoppy IPA in honour of Jumbo, dubbed Dead Elephant Ale, and an enormous statue of the deceased animal in front of their business. Cheers?

2. Lace up your blue suede shoes for the biggest Elvis Festival on Earth

Situated on the unlikely banks of Georgian Bay, the ski resort town of Collingwood hosts an Elvis-fest to end all Elvis-fests every summer. Impersonators with greasy pompadours and overwhelming sideburns flock here from around the globe with hopes of being crowned the next King of Rock ‘N’ Roll. Every venue in downtown Collingwood, plus the nearby hot spot of Blue Mountain resort, is practically crawling with Elvises. Whether the impersonators are bang on, or hilariously missing the mark, they’re a lot of fun to gawk at.

Collingwood Elvis Festival by Jay Morrison (CC license)

3. Trim a few years off of your life with Dangerous Dan’s “Colossal Colon Clogger”

If gorging on local fast-food is your idea of a holiday then don’t miss Dangerous Dan’s, named after owner James’ grandfather, a wrestler notorious for his unhealthy diet. The Toronto restaurant is famous for its “Quadruple ‘C’ Combo” – a 24oz burger served with a quarter pound of cheese, a quarter pound of bacon, two fried eggs, a side of poutine and a large milkshake. Be sure to leave room for a Double D cup dessert to hammer the final nail in your food coma coffin. Eat at your own risk.

4. Get sleepy in a tepee on Manitoulin Island

On beautiful Manitoulin Island’s M’Chigeeng Reserve lies a forest ringed campground with tepees, wigwams and a native longhouse. Here, at the Great Spirit Circle Trail, glampers can get back to nature in a luxury-enhanced tepees. Whether you want to hike, canoe, forage on a medicine walk or take on a horseback tour into the Manitoulin wilderness, this is a wonderful way to learn a bit about the rich cultures of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples.

5. Channel your inner lumberjack

The West Coast Lumberjacks didn’t win Canada’s Got Talent for nothing. Showcasing thrilling exhibitions of wood wizardry such as log rolling, chainsaw carving and axe throwing, they keep all audiences enthralled with superhuman skills. Catch a performance at Wonderland Amusement Park just outside of Toronto during the summer months, or at the Ontario Lumberjack Competition at Brechin in June. Feeling inspired? Channel your inner lumberjack at BATL, Toronto’s very own axe throwing range.

Axe throwing at BATL by Tibor Kovacs (CC license)

6. Retrace the footsteps of a prepubescent Justin Bieber in his hometown of Stratford

150km east of Toronto is the pretty little theatre town of Stratford, the site of Justin Bieber’s nativity. Yes, musical superstar Bieber’s talent was birthed and nurtured in this very place. For hardcore ‘Beliebers’, sitting on the steps of the Avon Theatre, where Justin used to busk, will no doubt be a holy pilgrimage of sorts. This self-guided tour also features the pizza parlour where Bieber has been known to give autographs and the City Hall where he recorded his first song.

7. Relax with a restorative ‘Stitch n’ Bitch’

Nothing is more therapeutic than the intricate needlework involved in knitting and crocheting. Except, perhaps, getting everything off your chest while you’re at it. The Knit Café in Toronto’s hip west-end not only offers drop-in sessions for beginners up to advanced students but is a great hang-out, with “Stich n’ Bitch meetups every Tuesday. By far, the most relaxing part of any session is the chat.

8. Break bread with Old Order Mennonites in St. Jacob’s Country

North of Toronto is a stunning rural area where farms are nestled among undulating hills. This countryside is home to twenty different sects of Mennonites, and on any given day you can see these farmers’ traditional horse-drawn buggies trundling along the roads. The village of St Jacob’s is home to St Jacob’s Mennonite Church, where there is a potluck supper open to visitors every Sunday at 5:30pm; a perfect opportunity to learn about the locals residents, many of whom still eschew the conveniences of modern technology, electricity included.

Ontario Mennonites by Zhu (CC license)

Explore more of Canada with the Rough Guide to CanadaCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. Lynn stayed with the Westin Trillium House Hotel, Blue Mountain, prices from $159 (low season) and $199 (high season). 

It’s that time of year again: Edinburgh has taken off its Festival face and the Fringe has finally petered out of our social media feeds. After a month-long celebration of all things arts, culture and creativity, the city can go back to sleep. Or can it?

It’s not all about the Fringe in Scotland’s capital – there are eleven other major festivals throughout the year, so here are just a few reasons why you should head to Edinburgh outside of Fringe season.

1. The Fringe is just a fraction of the action

Art, film, food, fashion, tradition, music… The list goes on. Alongside the Fringe, Edinburgh is home to the world’s longest continually run film festival (June), a science festival (April), a jazz festival (July), a multicultural mela (August) and a storytelling festival (October).

While the Fringe has over 3000 shows in more than 300 venues, that’s just a fraction of the action: each year Edinburgh sees over 25,000 artists come from over seventy countries to put on upwards of 45,000 performances.


A couple dances on the street at July’s Mardis Gras 

2. There’s something for everyone, no matter when you go

Once you’ve picked your festival flavour, perhaps it’s literature or film, prepare to be baffled by the huge variety of different acts and events on offer.

The International Jazz Festival (which runs for ten days every July) has music to suit all tastes – the 2015 line-up saw everything from a very traditional Frank Sinatra centenary concert to a raucous performance from Swing, Latin and ska inspired Rumba de Bodas that saw teenage boys keeping up with pensioners on the dance floor.

3. Some of Edinburgh’s festival venues are an attraction in their own right

Throughout the various festivals you can rock out in a seventeenth-century church on the Royal Mile, listen to music in the famous velvet-draped Spiegeltent in St Andrew’s Square or see plays in the dissection room at Summerhall, a near-hundred-year-old former veterinary school.

Spiegeltent, courtesy of Edinburgh Festivals

Summerhall is one of the city’s most atmospheric venues: it plays host to art exhibitions, gigs and plays in spaces left unchanged since its days as the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. Old, rusted chains hang eerily from the ceiling of one sinister room and in another, the old anatomy lecture theatre, the audience take up seats in the original chairs students once sat in.

4. The city knows how to party (there’s gin on tap!)

When the performances, gigs and film screenings are over, the fun doesn’t have to end. Edinburgh has a drinking den for every party-goer.

The Jazz Bar on Chambers Street has live music into the early hours, where some of the festival artists come to jam after their sets finish elsewhere. And for a truly debaucherous end to a night, wind up in Fingers for impromptu, booze-fuelled singing (read: wailing) sessions around the piano.

Summerhall, courtesy of Edinburgh Festivals

If you’ve been at a Summerhall event, pop next door to the Royal Dick pub, where craft beers from Barney’s Beer (whose brewery is also part of the complex) are brew of choice and there’s Pickering’s Gin piped directly from the distillery to the bar.

5. It’s more affordable

A trip to Edinburgh doesn’t have to cost the earth – there are accommodation options for all budgets and it’s far cheaper outside the Fringe (when prices can be double or more the usual rate).

Simple but effective low budget, boutique CODE Hostel – named for its use of numerical codes rather than keys – has clean and cosy dorm beds from just £25 per night and a shared kitchen for scrimping on dinner if you need to.

At the other end of the spectrum, The Witchery on the Royal Mile has indulgent suites furnished with antiques and oak panelling, plus complimentary champagne.

6. The food alone is worth a trip

And we’re not talking about battered Mars bars. Dinner time in Scotland’s capital doesn’t have to mean just haggis, neeps and tatties – though that is Scottish comfort food at its best. Edinburgh knows how to cook: it’s home to a delicious quintet of Michelin starred restaurants among its hundreds of other excellent establishments.

For something a little unusual, dead northwest of the city centre to Leith and sit at a communal table at V Deep, where famous comedian Hardeep Kohli is responsible for thinking up a Scottish-Indian fusion menu. Think “Bubble and Sikh” instead of bubble and squeak and spicy haggis pakoras. Plus an astonishing selection of craft beer to wash it all down with.

If you don’t mind the wait at El Cartel, try one (or a few) of their 50 different tequilas and mezcals along with some sublime Mexican food. The flat-iron steak tacos are divine.

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Thousands of people. Truckloads of tomatoes. The world’s biggest food fight. In case you didn’t realise, this is Grade A bucket list material.

In the last week of August in the in the Valencian town of Buñol, cheering crowds assemble around a tall greased pole erected in the Plaza del Pueblo. A hoofed leg of pork adorns the pole’s top – a prize to whoever grabs it first.

Frenzied celebrants climb on each other to reach it, stacking to become a teetering human-tepee. Feet slip on sweaty heads, and clinging hands reluctantly slide back down the slippery pole. When someone snags the meat a water cannon fires high into the air, signalling the start of all out tomato warfare: La Tomatina.

Now in it 70th year, the Spanish festival of La Tomatina draws roughly 20,000 participants annually. More than 120,000 tonnes of tomatoes are spilled through the plaza, turning Buñol’s historic cobblestones into a sea of red as participants chuck, splash, and slide in fragrant tomato pulp.

Of course, there are some rules: all tomatoes must be mushed before chucked, always make way for the tomato-dump-trucks, and only tomato-projectiles allowed. Beyond that, just about anything goes.

By the end of the battle everyone is stained red from head to toe. A happy parade of tomato warriors march down towards the nearby river to rinse off and rejuvenate, in preparation for the long night of colossal paella and freely-flowing drink ahead.

All things considered, it’s no wonder La Tomatina has become the stuff of legend.

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Say Senegal or mention West Africa and misinformed mutterings of ebola start to spread quicker than the virus itself. Sitting on the western shoulder of Africa, Senegal is frequently overlooked by travellers – but for little good reason.

While the excellent birding and beaching in The Gambia – the country that slices Senegal’s coastline in two – attract thousands of tourists on organised tours and package holidays, Senegal simmers in the African sun with stretches of often-empty beaches (around 500km of them, in fact), with few tourists to be seen.

And it’s not just about the coastline. There are near-untouched deserts, steamy cities and some fascinating islands with captivating stories to tell. So if you’ve got no idea what to expect, let us tell you a few things you didn’t know about Senegal…

Senegalese coastline © Lottie Gross 2015

1. The Senegalese seriously know how to bake

Waking to the waft of pastry in the morning or sighting women carrying bundles of freshly-baked baguettes after breakfast is something you’d associate with a holiday in France. But this isn’t France, it’s Senegal, and the bakeries fill the early morning air with the tantalising smell of pastry and bread. A legacy left by the French, warm croissants and pains au chocolat make up the breakfast spreads in many a hotel or resort, as well as Senegalese homes. Baguettes are served with almost every meal, and patisseries showcasing impressive-looking cakes will have your mouth watering as you stroll past.

2. You can camp under a sky full of stars in the desert

Lodge de Lompoul sits in the middle of the Senegalese desert and it’s a world away from the big, brash city of Dakar. As the sun sets, crack open a cool Flag (West African lager), sit back, relax and watch the dunes turn from yellow to orange before they’re silhouetted against the night’s sky.

Lodge de Lompoul © Lottie Gross 2015

Three hours north of the capital, the small village of Lompoul sits on the edge of a desert of the same name. This smattering of huts and concrete and corrugated iron structures is a gateway to a strangely empty patch of yellow sand dunes in the middle of the forested landscape that backs the Senegalese coastline.

Leave your vehicle in Lompoul and jump into the camp’s 4×4 truck to traverse the steeply undulating, foliage-clad dunes – an exhilarating adventure in itself – before arriving at your luxury tent to spend a night in the wild.

3. Senegal’s natural attractions include a vivid pink lake

Blue, crystal-clear waters are beautiful, but what about bright pink? Thanks to its high salt content (up to forty per cent in places) caused by an algae called dunaliella salina, Lake Retba looks more like cloudy pink lemonade than a refreshing cool-blue pool. Don’t try swimming in it though: the salt is terrible for your skin, and the workers who gather the mineral have to cover themselves in shea butter before jumping in. It’s brighter at certain times of year (the dry season, mainly) and is made even more striking where parts of its banks are made up of bright-white salt.

The lake is a hive of activity all year round: men dig for salt under the water and women in brightly-coloured dresses carry buckets full of it on their heads from the waters to the metres-high mounds on the shore.

The Pink Lake © Lottie Gross 2015

4. The country is a twitcher’s paradise

The Gambia gets most of the attention for birdwatching in West Africa, but Senegal also has its own haven for hundreds of winged creatures. The Parc National de la Langue de Barbarie, at the southern end of a long, thin, sandy peninsula near the border with Mauritania, is a reserve for over 160 different species of birds, from all kinds of terns and gulls to pelicans and pink flamingoes. Hire a pirogue (traditional canoe) and glide through the calm waters all afternoon for some excellent ornithological observation.

5. You can visit an island made from millions of shells

In the south of Senegal, a hundred kilometres from Dakar, Ile de Fadiouth is one of Senegal’s many little islands, set in the ocean between a peninsula and a warren of lush mangroves. But it’s not like the others that dot the Atlantic coastline here – this one is made of shells. The streets are paved with them, the houses decorated with them and the adjoining mini island, housing only the Christian-Muslim cemetery, is entirely made up of them. Take a stroll to the top of the highest mound of shells in the cemetery for a glorious view over the mangroves and azure waters.

Ile de Fadiouth – © Lottie Gross 2015

6. Senegal hosts a famous jazz festival

Each year in May, the sleepy city of Saint Louis becomes overrun with strumming, scatting and singing musicians, ready to set the jazz standard high. The world-renowned Saint Louis Jazz festival has seen some of the biggest names in jazz take to the main stage in the city centre, and plenty of smaller acts performing in various venues around the city. Restaurants, hotels and bars are abuzz with musical excitement at this time of year; walk down the streets and you’ll hear jazz on every corner, whether it’s blaring out from a shop soundsystem or a jam session in someone’s back garden.

7. You can spot enormous baobabs over 1200 years old

Baobabs are everywhere in Senegal: from the national coat of arms to the city centres and the arid countryside. They’re peculiar-looking trees with fat trunks – that can grow up to 25 metres in circumference – and short stubby branches, and they can live for well over a thousand years. They’re a symbol of wisdom and longevity, the fruit is used to make a sweet, deep-red juice drink called bui and the bark makes strong rope. Whether they look as if they’re bursting from the tarmac of a busy city road, or they’re just standing silhouetted against a burning red sunset, baobabs are a bizarrely beautiful sight to be seen throughout the country.

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