Many of the popular island destinations in this part of the world boast golf course resorts and beautiful beaches, but Bermuda has so much more than the standard things to see and do. While many of the activities can be enjoyed year round, Bermuda’s sub-tropical climate means that May to September is when the island is liveliest, so here are ten of our favourite things to do in Bermuda beyond the resorts.

Get your bearings from above

To really get a sense of where you are – a low lying paradise in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean – a trip up Gibb’s Hill lighthouse is the place for the best views of this 21 square mile archipelago, as well as a unique place for lunch. The oldest cast iron lighthouse in the world started sending its beacon out to ships in 1846 to help reduce the number of wrecked ships scattered on Bermuda’s ocean floors.

Jump inside the ocean playground

With so much of Bermuda’s life extending beyond the land, it’s only fitting that getting in, on, or under the ocean is a must. This clear blue underwater world is full of colourful fish and beautiful coral reefs – the reefs that often caused the shipwrecks in the first place. The 300 shipwrecks surrounding the island are very popular with divers, but you don’t have to be a diver to enjoy them; some are in shallow waters, so can still be appreciated by snorkelers, and the fish and reefs can be easily reached from shore in places like Tobacco Bay.

Go whale watching and glowworm spotting

Although it’s possible to see whales and worms from shore, a boat excursion is much more likely to provide an unforgettable sighting and is a great reason to get out on the water.  March and April are the months to see humpback whales on their annual migration from warm southern waters, while the glowworms’ flashy mating ritual happens from May to October.

Walk underwater with the wildlife

Hartley’s Undersea Walk is a unique and unmissable experience and has amazed everyone from the seasoned diver to the cynical teenager. Ever seen a wild angelfish swim through a hoop? Well Greg Hartley will introduce you to Diana, who can do just that. You can also meet Charles the Hogfish, Jack the Grouper and many more using a specially designed helmet that allows you to walk on the seabed without need for an oxygen tank or any diving experience.

Take a light-hearted history lesson

History was never as entertaining as it is in the World Heritage Site of St.George’s, where from May to September a historical re-enactment takes place in Kings square. The amusing performance led by the town crier sees an eighteenth century wench receiving her (somewhat sexist) punishment for gossiping and nagging her husband: a chilly dunking in the harbour.

Pay your respects at St. Peters Church

The oldest Anglican Church outside the British Isles, you enter this historic building on some wide steps, opening to its cool cedar interior. Be sure to pay respects, as it’s a working Christian church – and has been continuously for the last 400 years – and remember that you are likely walking over some long-deceased bodies buried underneath the main structure. Queen Elizabeth II herself visited during her Diamond Jubilee and granted it the title “Their Majesties’ Chappell”

Witness traditional dance with the Gombeys

You’ll hear them before you see them; a heart-pounding drumbeat pierced by whistles and finally a burst of wild and colourful fringes, feathers and fancy footwork. These masked-folk dance troupes represent a tradition passed down through families and date back to the dark slave times.

Catch the buzz at market nights

Market nights are a seasonal treat in St. Georges, Hamilton, and Dockyard for tourists and locals alike. Stall tables are laden with local handicrafts and the wealth of Bermuda’s talented artists present their work, which is inspired by the beauty that surrounds them daily. Music plays, children’s faces are painted, and it’s a likely place for the traditional Gombeys to make an appearance.

Go underground in the caves

The Crystal and Fantasy caves were discovered over a century ago by a couple of boys looking for their lost cricket ball. Stalactites, stalagmites and an underground lake make this an intriguing peek into the belly of the island.

Peer into the past at the Maritime Museum

The nineteenth century Royal Naval Dockyard offers many attractions including the Maritime Museum. The Commissioner’s House Slavery Exhibit is an officially Designated UNESCO Slave Route Project, while other displays and maritime artefacts offer a glimpse into the history that shaped this place.

”Swizzle in; swagger out” of the pub

The motto of Bermuda’s oldest and most famous pub hints at the experience awaiting those who enter. Established 1932 in a seventeenth century roadhouse, the Swizzle Inn at Baileys Bay is a cheerful jumble of business cards and graffiti garnished walls. The home of the islands’ unofficial national drink, the Rum Swizzle, also serves the best nachos on the island.

Finally, relax on the beach

Of course, no visit to Bermuda would be complete without some beach time, especially after the exhausting array of activities on offer above. The sugar-soft pink beaches that rim the island are a major attraction, and Horseshoe bay with its lifeguards and beach facilities is the most popular for people watching, swimming and an overall great beach day.

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Local Paulistano Juan Cifrian scouts out the best places to watch the 2014 World Cup in São Paulo, Brazil.

Football fans from far and wide will be out in numbers throughout the World Cup, and bars in São Paulo will respond with a slew of specials, especially during the Brazilian national team’s matches, when many are offering an open bar and food for a flat fee. Most places will open one hour before the day’s first game, but don’t waver until then – once you’re set on a bar, try calling ahead to lock in your seat. Here are my pick of the best places to watch the World Cup in São Paulo, Brazil

FOR PUB-LOVERS: The Blue Pub

São Paulo’s more upmarket pubs tend to deviate from the usual down-and-dirty watering holes, but The Blue Pub manages to strike the perfect balance between the two thanks to the distinct spaces you can choose from, all of which are equipped with TVs. It stays packed, too, owing to its popular happy hours, delicious pub grub and prime location within crawling distance of the Trianon-MASP metro station on Avenida Paulista. This authenticity does come with the usual drawbacks, though – the tight quarters can induce claustrophobia, and getting a refill during a match rivals the intensity of the action on the pitch.

FOR SERIOUS FANS: Artilheiros

At just a stone’s throw from the madness of Vila Madalena’s main drag lies Artilheiros, a football-themed bar that draws a more refined crowd of fans; they still don their team’s colours but are more interested in the football than the party scene. Occupying a single room flanked by white-washed walls and club team kits and scarves, Artilheiros aims for comfort and convenience. The atmosphere is relaxed, the space fills with natural light in the afternoons and almost every spot in the bar has a good vantage point of one of the four 50-inch screens.

FOR MICROBREWERY BUFFS: Les 3 Brasseurs

With France having defeated Brazil in three straight World Cup encounters (1986, 1998 and 2002), it stands to reason that city residents have surrendered to the allure of this high-end French brewery’s first Brazilian outpost, in trendy Itaim Bibi. All of Les 3 Brasseurs’s (The Three Brewers) signature bières are brewed onsite, and four of the five can be sampled in the Le Palette (tasting). Choose your favourite and go for the jugular with the 5-litre triton – a trophy-shaped tub with multiple self-serve taps tailor-made for copious amounts of communal drinking. As for your viewing pleasure, the cushy booths up front are all equipped with their own LCD screen, but for the best game atmosphere, try the bigger tables and TV out back.

FOR THE SÃO PAULO EXPERIENCE: Vale do Anhangabaú

This sprawling, oft-neglected valley in the heart of downtown SP will be right in the heart of the action come World Cup time, now that it’s been tapped as the official venue for São Paulo’s Fan Fest. Throngs of jubilant fans, hooligans, foreigners and general partygoers will pack in like sardines alongside each other during the matches, and if it’s anything like the city’s 24-hour Virada Cultural festival, you’ll want to exercise extra caution, especially if you’re bringing any valuables along. As if the official FIFA label, Centro location and proximity to the metro weren’t reason enough to cause a virtual gridlock of pedestrian traffic, there will be musical performances from the likes of axé queen Claudia Leitte, too. If that still sounds like your cup of tea, don’t forget to arrive early and travel light.

FOR SIDEWALK CHATTER: Mercearia São Pedro

Who needs the World Cup when you have a regular, carefree crowd that spills out into the streets from open to close? That’s what Mercearia São Pedro is probably asking itself, but with the constant hum of this popular boteco (shop) drowning out the sound of everything short of the beer bucket refills, who’s listening? Order a bucket of your own inside, where you can peruse the used books and VHS tapes for sale or rent, and get nostalgic over the classic movie posters displayed high on the walls while you wait for the next match to start. Just don’t sweat the wait for a table too much – the action is just as good outside.

FOR FULL IMMERSION: Your local boteco

The build-up is over, the stadiums are ready and the town is finally amped up. Brazilian flags are hanging high at the shopping malls, bakeries and neighbourhood botecos, big-screen TVs are being installed and the country is set to come to a grinding halt during the Brazil games. Before the moment passes, do yourself a favour and get a real feel for the passion at your local boteco. The floors may be a tad dirty and the TV a bit fuzzy, but the beer stays ice-cold in the same plastic container, a refill still comes out with a simple mais um!, and all eyes will be dead set on the TV. I’ll be stopping by my corner neighbourhood boteco, Kina da Vila, quite often for the espetos (grilled meat on a stick), the cerveja, the fried mandioca (manioc root) and the friendly, familiar faces. Who’s coming with me?

FOR THE STREET CROWD: Posto 6

Inspired by Rio de Janeiro’s eponymous lifeguard post on Ipanema Beach, this homage to the “Cidade Maravilhosa” anchors a quarter of bohemian Vila Madalena’s booziest crossroads. Posto 6 projects its jumbo-sized television image onto the facade opposite, making its sidewalk seating prime real estate for big-time football viewing. If you happen upon a table, try the sizzling picanha na chapa (rump steak) with a creamy chopp (draft beer) for the full monty. Otherwise, carve out some standing room on the sidewalk and grab a can off one of the street vendors who’ll be lurking close by.

Explore more of South America with the Rough Guide to South America on a Budget. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

So how exactly did the Croatian coast become Europe’s favourite festival-going riviera? Much of the credit must go to the Zadar-based Garden organisation, who organised the first ever Garden Festival back in 2006. The Garden’s combination of niche music, small numbers, blissfully unspoiled beaches and slightly bonkers boat parties laid down the template for events elsewhere. Today, The Garden Festival is still going strong, and the Garden site at Tisno remains buzzing throughout the summer with a string of associated events.

Numerous other festivals up and down the coast have taken up the creative baton; Hideout at Zrće, Outlook in Pula, and Unknown outside Rovinj are just three of the most successful. If the Adriatic festival boom does have a downside then it is simply that most of these events are marketed towards young Brits, and you won’t necessarily meet many Croats there other than the ones working behind the bar. If you want to hang out with people you haven’t already met down at the students’ union, then head instead for the kind of indie-rock events (Zagreb’s InMusic, or Šibenik’s SuperUho) that are well patronized by locals, or visit a fun-for-all-the-family urban festival like Varaždin’s Špancirfest. Here, in chronological order, are ten of my top festival recommendations for summer 2014.

For, Hvar, June 19-22

If the island town of Hvar increasingly enjoys a chic, boutique-tourism profile, then For, with its 2500-ticket limit, is the festival for chic, boutique people. This year’s outing consists of four nights of live music at the Veneranda Club followed by four early mornings of DJ-induced thrills and chills at Carpe Diem Beach, a short boat journey off-shore. The impressively strong line-up, headed by Californian rock sisterhood Haim, also includes Neneh Cherry, Darkside and Klaxons. Mark Ronson and Erol Alkan are among those lugging their record boxes to the beach.

InMusic Festival, Lake Jarun, Zagreb June 23-25

Recent years have seen InMusic in danger of falling victim to over-hype; rated somewhat ridiculously by National Geographic Traveler as one of the top three festivals in the world, and puffed-up by the Huffington Post as the “Woodstock of the twenty first century”. What’s great about InMusic is that it is nowhere near being either of these things: it’s a medium-sized indie festival on the outskirts of Zagreb: small enough for the lakeside site to be easily manageable, large enough to attract 2014 headliners The Black Keys, The Pixies, Foals, Bombay Bicycle Club and MGMT. InMusic’s capital-city location ensures that you can spend your days enjoying an urban break, your nights staggering carefree around the grassy shores of Jarun.

Electric Elephant, Tisno, July 10-14

If the Garden Festival is the godfather of Adriatic festivals then Electric Elephant is the groovy uncle. Crucial to its success is the music: a well-curated mix of eclectic, old-school and cutting-edge dance sounds that appeals to music obsessives as well as the party crowd. Based at the Garden’s summer HQ in Tisno, Electric Elephant follows hard on the heels of this year’s Garden Festival: two-week tickets covering both events are a steal at €150 (£120/$200). The enclosed bay in which the Garden site is located creates a unique community-festival atmosphere; the town of Tisno with its stone houses and fishing boats is only a short walk away. This year you can see the likes of Tom Findlay (Groove Armada), Simian Mobile Disco (Dj set), Derrick May, Francois K and many more.

The Garden Festival by Heather Shuker

Seasplash, Fort Punta Christo, Pula, July 17-21 

This long-standing celebration of reggae culture is the first of this summer’s festivals to take place at Punta Christo, the Habsburg-era naval fort that also hosts Outlook (see below) and Dimensions (on the same site in August). This year’s Seasplash is set to be a dub-lover’s delight, with a host of local and international sound systems, plus live sets from Asian Dub Foundation and Gentleman’s Dub Club. With Weekend tickets costing a reasonable E49, and cheaper day tickets relatively easy to get hold of, this is one of the Adriatic’s more accessible festivals.

Ethno Ambient, Solin, Split, July 18-19

Despite a 17-year track record Ethno Ambient remains the rough diamond of the World Music calendar. Offering two nights of international music beside a ruined amphitheatre in the ancient Roman city of Solin, it certainly enjoys a unique setting. This year’s line up features amazing acoustic-electronic fusionists Greekadelia; Irish ethno-folk veterans Kila; and Kries, the Croatian ethno-rock-beat-electro group who have done so much to stimulate the local scene.

Outlook Festival by Marc Sethi

Lost Theory, Deringaj, near Gračac, July 22-28

Located in a beautifully unspoilt corner of the Lika (described with some accuracy as the ‘Croatian outback’ by the festival website), this celebration of far-out, experimental, electronic dance music features the kind of acts that even long-term denizens of the psychodelisphere will have trouble pronouncing, never mind remembering. You can also watch films in the Culture Dome; or chill with nature in the Dub Forest. Lost Theory’s other main other main attributes are ecological consciousness, community spirit, and a lot more facilities for families and children than you will find elsewhere.

Super Uho, Šibenik, August 3-5

If there’s one festival that has the Croatian press agog with interest in 2014 it’s Super Uho (Super Ear), the boutique indie festival set to take place on the Šibenik waterfront. Headlined by The National (whose love affair with the Croatian audience goes back to their early, pre-fame days), Super Uho is in many ways a riposte to Terraneo, the alt-rock festival that put Šibenik on the map between 2011 and 2013 only to be cancelled by its mysterious new owners in 2014. Super Uho is organized by Terraneo’s original co-founder, Mate Škugor, and is named after Žedno Uho (Thirsty Ear), the cutting-edge music festival Škugor runs in Zagreb. What will make Super Uho special is the relatively intimate scale of the event and the history-soaked Mediterranean-city location.

Špancirfest, Varaždin, August 22-31

There’s nothing quite like arriving at a destination where the whole town is out on the tiles; and in Varaždin the party goes on for well over a week. What began as a festival of street entertainment has grown to become the biggest single summer event in the this area of Croatia; with clowns, jugglers and children’s theatre shows taking over the town centre during the day; live music on open-air stages at night. As a family-oriented festival with a touch of party-hard nocturnal energy, Špancirfest is unique, and fully deserves the inland detour.

Unknown Festival, sourced by Maouris Music

Outlook, Fort Punta Christo, Pula. Sept 3-7 

In its seventh year it’s already an institutional pillar of the Croatian festival scene, Outlook is a fantastic treat for fans of reggae, jungle, dub, dubstep and beyond, with stages set up in the former bastions and moats of the Punta Christo naval fort. One key to Outlook’s success is the way it mixes sound-system culture with the kind of live acts that long-term fans of the genre are eager to see – Busta Rhymes, Barrington Levy, Jah Shaka and the incomparable Horace Andy are just some of this year’s living legends. Ms Lauryn Hill will be performing just down the road in Pula’s Roman arena on Outlook’s opening night.

Unknown, Rovinj, September 8-12 

Offering a perfect blend of the mellow and the motivational, Unknown in many ways represents the perfect end-of-summer party. This year’s festival is a typically shrewd piece of eclectic programming, aimed at kind of music lover who wants to witness a live performance by one kind of band before dancing to a DJ spinning a completely different genre. On-stage acts include Chic, Churches, London Grammar; DJ sets are provided by Disclosure, DJ Harvey, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and many more.

Featured image: Electric Elephant by Heather Shuker. Explore more of Croatia with the Rough Guide to CroatiaBook hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

It was around 3pm on the Saturday that I had the first Brighton moment. We were upstairs in a local boozer, watching a woman in her underwear recreate the lift scene in Dirty Dancing. ‘(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life’ blasted through a laptop while a gaggle of half cut women raised jugs of white wine in the air to cheer her on. Three unfortunate men were holding her skywards, paying penance for their decision to sit front and centre at a stand up gig, while the rest of the pub convulsed in laughter. Gloriously wild and chaotic, it was an archetypal Brighton scene.

We  were in town for The Great Escape music conference and festival, one of the world’s best gatherings of new bands and East Sussex’s decent riposte to SXSW, but we ended up witnessing a host of other attractions. May is party time for the city, as the Brighton Festival, Brighton Fringe, and Artists Open House events vie for your attention in a place already brimming with nooks, crannies, and a classic pier to explore.

So while the semi-naked show, entitled Am I Right Ladies? and created by rising comic Luisa Omielan of What Would Beyonce Do? fame, was a worthy pit stop, we were soon back out into Brighton’s high winds looking for the next kick.

The Great Escape swamps the city with bands, cramming over 400 gigs into 35 pubs, churches and subterranean sweatboxes across the centre, all accessible with a wristband costing around a quarter of a standard weekender.

We couldn’t get into many of the shows we wanted to see – Future Islands, Jon Hopkins and other hyped acts were one-in-one-out and the wind was hooting and howling too much for us to stay in the queues – so we ended up experiencing the pleasant surprises for which the festival is known. We caught a number of buzz bands, from Glass Animals’ hypnotic Alt J-goes-trip-hop to Brooklyn trio Wet’s seductive Alpines-esque pop to Charl XCX. The electropop teen behind mega hits for Icona Pop (and forthcoming tracks for Britney Spears), is now going through a punk phase, and spent her Corn Exchange set channeling the spirit of the Runaways.

Charli XCX at The Great Escape.  Photo: Milo Belgrove

We were laying our hats at the excellent Nineteen B&B a pebble’s toss from the beach, where owner Mark makes you feel right at home. A cosy, friendly treat of a place, they offer breakfast in bed and supercharge your day with free Bloody Marys or Champagne on the side.

Each morning was spent exploring the idiosyncratic centre, wandering past the intriguing Royal Pavilion, losing ourselves in The Lanes’ twisted passageways and making friends among the Peter Blake artworks in the Art Republic shop, fuelled by bacon and egg cupcake bites from Café Coho, before hitting the gigs from around midday.

Photo: Visitbrighton.com

TarO & JirO were perhaps the oddest proposition we saw. Comprising two guitars, one electronic bass drum, and all manner of needless noodling, the Japanese duo blasted any hangovers away at the Japan Rising show. We nearly choked on our free sushi during their reworking of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.

As the weekend continued the epic gigs stacked up: Clean Bandit’s alchemy of strings and dance bangers proved why they earnt their recent Number One while Fat White Family’s two shows combined frantic punk, bass so loud it shifted ribcages in the front half of the audience, and de rigeur nudity from frontman Lias Saoudi. He recently labelled Alex Turner a “moron” and this weekend’s performances confirmed him as a demented genius.

Clean Bandit at The Great Escape. Photo: Julie Edwards

Sadly the embarrassment of things going on meant we couldn’t see it all – I’ll never know what The Barry Experience at the Hobgoblin was like – but we did make time for negronis and margaritas at Twisted Lemon, the city’s most fun cocktail bar, and squeezed in a great feed at 64 Degrees.

Based around an open kitchen at which the chefs take centre stage and 6 Music blasts out, the popular restaurant offers food that excels beyond its modest menu. Small sharing plates came and went amid a flurry of waiters and Rioja, with beer battered broccoli, scallops with lemongrass puree and a cauliflower dish all surprising and irresistable.

As we joined the huddle of music industry bods and journalists at the station for the hour long ride back to London, stuffed full of food and ale and a couple of decibels less perceptive, we realised we hadn’t even made it onto the pier. Next time Brighton…

Photo: Visitbrighton.com. Featured image: Mike Burnell

We stayed at the recently refurbished Nineteen B&B on Broad Street, which offers a variety of rooms, one with a hot tub, and breakfast in bed including that all important Bloody Mary.

Characterised by rolling views of green countryside and English pubs, hotels and shops, a trip to the Cotswolds shows off a delightfully relaxed side of Britain. It’s the perfect place to simmer down the pace of life and get close to nature, but it’s not just bracing country walks on offer. From kid-friendly farm centres to quirky theatres to the UK’s only crocodile zoo, here are ten great things to do in the Cotswolds. 

GO ANTIQUE SHOPPING IN BURFORD

Known as the ‘gateway to the Cotswolds’ and mentioned in the Domesday book, the town of Burford is a postcard-perfect entry point. For food or accommodation try The Lamb Inn (not to be confused with the Crawley venue mentioned below), with its snug fire in the front area, or The Bay Tree. The local architecture is stunning, plus it’s a rich place for antique hunting. Start at the Burford Antique Centre and Gateway Antiques, both found on the Burford Roundabout, plus venues such as The George on the main high street.

GO TO THE UK’S ONLY CROCODILE ZOO

The sleepy, leafy village of Crawley, found in the heart of David Cameron’s home constituency, doesn’t seem like an obvious location for the country’s only crocodile zoo. Yet Crocodiles Of The World opens every Saturday and Sunday here from 10am-5pm. It’s home to over 80 crocs, boasting a glass underwater viewing section and opportunities to handle some of the baby animals. It’s a fairly small set-up so doesn’t take long to enjoy – The Lamb Inn nearby offers a charming stop-off for lunch and the town of Witney, featuring shopping centres and a cinema, is a short drive up the road.

CATCH A SHOW AT ONE OF BRITAIN’S SMALLEST THEATRES

A hub of inclusive artistry, the Theatre in market town Chipping Norton is a pleasure to visit, whatever happens to be showing there. Opened by former Dr Who actor Tom Baker in 1975, with 213 seats the theatre is one of the smallest and most charming in the country. A wide variety of plays are shown as well as films, comedy gigs and live music, while their non-starry Christmas pantomime is a Cotswolds institution. They also put on affordable workshops and hold art exhibitions in the building, so check the website for what’s on.

GET COSY AT A COUNTRY PUB

The Cotswolds is swimming in fantastic country inns perfect for sunny Sunday lunches in gardens or cosy winter sessions. Many of these are the only eating and drinking venues in Oxfordshire’s plethora of charming villages, such as The Royal Oak in Ramsden (try the smoked haddock “smokies” dish) and The Plough in neighbouring Finstock. Go to the latter on Christmas Eve and you’ve got a good chance of catching the Finstock Mummers: a group of local men who act out a traffic-stopping comedic seasonal tale in the street out front. Be sure to try some local real ales. Offerings from Hook Norton Brewery are wonderful and most pubs will have special local guest beers.

STROLL THE GROUNDS AT BLENHEIM PALACE

Picture-perfect in the summer, bracingly beautiful in the autumn and unforgettably atmospheric in the pouring rain, a walk in the grounds of Blenheim Palace always feels special. Tourists usually head near the palace where there are exhibitions, a butterfly house, eateries, a maze and the lovely Formal Garden. It’s a great destination, but much of the joy of Blenheim is taking a walk on the outskirts of the estate. From the centre of Combe village take Park Road and park in the layby at Combe Lodge. Go through the “kissing gate” and turn either right or left for a touch more than an hour’s walk round the grounds.

DISCOVER THE MAIZE MAZE

Boasting over four miles of path and shaped as a dragon and a wizard in past years, the ‘maize maze’ at Hidcote Manor Farm is a memorable day out. Every summer the venue opens an eight-acre maze in a different shape, with customers walking around bearing flags and attempting to find their way out. Created by American horticulturist Major Lawrence Johnston, the farm is worth a visit even when the maze isn’t up and running, with its secret gardens and beautiful picnic spots.

SAMPLE FARM LIFE

A taste of farm life is essential for anyone wanting insight into the Cotswolds and Cotswold Farm Park, run by farmer and TV presenter Adam Henson, offers just that. It’s a working farm where guests can see rare cattle breeds plus it has a conservation area, viewing tower and a barn where you can touch some of the animals. There are further child-friendly activities such as driving electric tractors and a zip wire.

MEET ANIMALS AT COTSWOLD WILDLIFE PARK

A cut above many of the UK’s zoo-style venues and found two miles south of Burford, this park showcases some incredible creatures as well as the Cotswold’s natural green beauty. Strolling around the park feels at times like perusing the grounds of a stately home rather than a zoo. There are big cats, camels, penguins, rhinos and the usual creepy crawlies you’d expect, plus a kid-friendly children’s farmyard and adventure playground. Another popular activity for kids is the brass rubbing in the park’s manor house.

SEE NAGS TRADING AT THE STOW ON THE WOLD HORSE FAIR

Another picturesque Cotswold market town, Gloucester’s Stow On The Wold is worth visiting for an afternoon with no particular plan. The market square found in the centre of town is a great starting point from which to explore the inviting pubs, pretty streets with endearingly quirky shops and restaurants. However, plan your timing well and you could experience one of the area’s most impressive spectacles: the horse fair. Taking place twice a year, the event is a huge meet and greet for the travelling community, with many heading to the town from all over the country to buy and sell horses. It takes place on the nearest Thursdays to May 12 and October 24 each year.

GET CLOSE TO NATURE ON A CORNBURY PARK WALK

While the Cotswolds boasts many fantastic farms and park areas geared up for tourists, enjoying the simple pleasures of a country walk there is just as enjoyable. One of the most beautiful such walks takes you through the 1700-acre grounds of Cornbury Park that surround the manor that’s home to Lord and Lady Rotherwick. A stroll from the village of Finstock through the grounds to Charlbury takes in views of deer and the river, with a wealth of country pubs in the latter town where you reward yourself with lunch.

To explore more of the Cotswolds and surrounding areas, use the Rough Guide to BritainBook hostels for your trip and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

The whole world loves a party, and a good one provides a great excuse to travel. Here’s a whole twelve months of some of the more interesting ways people celebrate during festivals around the world.

January: World Buskers Festival, Christchurch, New Zealand

Clever street performers: they head to the southern hemisphere this month, where they can perform al fresco in midsummer. The ten-day congregation of singers, dancers, jugglers and more – one of the largest in the world, with 300,000 attendees – has been held in Christchurch since 1993.

February: Sapporo Snow Festival, Japan

Wrap up to visit this city that once hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics. For a week in early February, Sapporo’s open spaces are turned over to massive ice and snow sculptures, from temples to animals to mazes. Two hundred million people attend, almost all of them Japanese.

March: St. Patrick’s Day, Georgia, USA

You thought St. Patrick’s Day was an Irish thing? Silly you: the free-wheeling southern city of Savannah (almost completely lacking in an Irish population) has adopted the fest so fully that it’s the largest party here. Green fountains: check; green beer: of course. Plus it’s drawn out over a full two weeks.

April: Vappu, Finland

Put on your ylioppilaslakki! That’s a white hat all Finnish students get when they graduate high school and it’s traditional wear for the start of summer. Starting near sundown on the last day of April and carrying through the whole next day, Vappu is celebrated all over Scandinavia, but for Finns, it’s one of the biggest national holidays. If you’re lacking a Finnish hat, any funny one will do, along with goofy sunglasses and overalls.

May: Bun Bang Fai, Yasothorn, Thailand

This three-day Buddhist festival in Thailand starts with an all-night party of trancey mor lam music (a traditional Lao form of song). The second day has a cross-dressing, phallus-themed parade. So by the third day, you’ll be all softened up for the giant rockets, hand-built and hoisted onto bamboo towers by teams of inebriated men. They’re not kidding about the “bang”.

June: Fez Festival of World Sacred Music, Morocco

This annual gathering draws nerdy ethnomusicologists and spinning hippies for concerts held in the courtyards of many-centuries-old houses in the storied medina. Master sitar players, passionate flamenco guitarists and Morocco’s own Gnawa troupes put attendees in a trance.

July: International Folk Art Market, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Global shoppers, get your credit cards ready. This four-day outdoor market brings artisans and their handicrafts from some 60 countries, and the scene at the tents, with Kyrgyz felt workers next to Haitian painters, is like the ultimate global bazaar. On the last day, entrance is cheaper, and vendors are ready to make amazing deals.

August: Mount Hagen Cultural Show, Papua New Guinea

This weeklong singsing – a powwow South Pacific-style – gathers over 100 tribes from PNG to display their traditional dress and dance. Expect to be dazzled by feathers, face paint, rattles and drums. The tribe that gets the most applause from the audience wins the festival, with bragging rights as well as cash.

September: Guérewol, In-Gall, Niger

Beauty pageants needn’t be just for the ladies. In Niger, the Wodaabe people convene this annual matchmaking fest, where men sport elaborate makeup, beads, feathers and embroidered clothing. Line dances last for days, as women assess potential mates for stamina and grace.

October: Fantasy Fest, Florida

At the end of October, Key West, the last in the string of islands that stretches south from Florida, plays host to one of the wildest fancy dress free-for-alls on Earth. Fantasy Fest is a music- and rum-fuelled party marathon that reaches its zenith with a massive themed costume parade. The Captain Morgan Fantasy Fest procession consists of brilliant bands, outlandish dancing groups, and dazzling floats – some blaring music or breathing “fire”, some sporting elaborately realized pink elephants and other creatures of fantasy.

November: Day of the Dead, Guatemala

Mexico’s celebration of this feast day is the best known, but in fact, it’s celebrated throughout Latin America. In Guatemala, families fly giant round kites, painted with faces of loved ones, and eat a fiambre, an elaborate cold salad of up to fifty ingredients, from vegetables to cheese to meat.

December: Christmas, Philippines

So it’s not exactly as offbeat as the rest, but pair a majority-Catholic population with the end of the rice harvest, and you get Christmas food and festivities like nowhere else. Look for puto bumbong, sweet purple sticky rice in bamboo tubes, and star-shaped paper lanterns calles paroles. The best are in San Fernando City, the so-called Christmas Capital of the Philippines. The season starts December 16 (though anticipation starts in September) and carries well into January.

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Cape Town has been crowned World Design Capital 2014 – a celebration of a city that has used design as a tool to reinvent themselves and improve the lives of its residents. Meera Dattani went to discover what Cape Town has done to deserve this title.

You hear the word “design” and an image forms in your mind, perhaps of futuristic buildings, avant-garde fashion or inventive home interiors, but design comes in many guises. Cape Town is enjoying the accolade of World Design Capital 2014 this year, and it’s doing so with a seriously creative, community-minded approach. This is definitely not just about looking the part.

“It’s about design of course, but also about how design can improve people’s lives,” explains our Coffeebeans Routes guide Michael Letlala as we embark on a World Design Capital tour. With around 450 projects recognised in the official programme, the diversity is overwhelming. Our first stop is Oranjezicht City Farm, a patch of green in an affluent suburb in the heart of Cape Town. Showing us around is Kurt Ackermann, one of the founding volunteers, who tells us how this land was donated to the neighbourhood by the Van Breda family, and used as a bowling green before he and others transformed it into a community garden.

Image courtesy of Oranjezicht City Farm

“Neighbours here didn’t always know each other,” he explains. “It’s easy to see how – you live behind walls, your kids go to different schools, it happens.” Creating a space where people could grow food and get together has reaped huge rewards – local children love the wormery and learning about food consumption and waste, and every Saturday there’s a farmers’ market where people can buy fresh vegetables and fruit, drink coffee and read the papers – there’s even free WiFi.

Resembling a kitchen garden, it’s an example of design with purpose, and as it’s on higher ground, the city views aren’t bad either. Scattered about are several African hardwood benches, some with a dedication plaque, the work of a local designer Liam Mooney. “Our goal is to draw everyone together,” says Kurt. “One of our volunteers used to be homeless, another is an ex-law student who fell on hard times. We’re using design to deal with problems – it looks nice, it’s fun and addresses an issue.”

It’s a similar story in Langa township in the deprived Cape Flats area on the outskirts of the city. Langa is Cape Town’s oldest township, one of many created for black people in the 1920s. Here, behind the demolished cooling towers of the Athlone Power Station, another WDC project is taking shape. Social enterprise project IKhaya Le Langa, spearheaded by Londoner Tony Elvin from its headquarters in a former primary school, is rebranding the “Langa Quarter” as a place for people to enjoy art, live jazz, coffee or a beer. “Technically speaking, Langa is the centre of Cape Town,” says Tony, “but there’s no movement towards the Flats when it comes to development.”

Change looks imminent though. The project has been trying to make Langa the site for a permanent World Design Capital pavilion. “Watch this space!” says Tony. Langa is already part of the Maboneng Township Arts Experience, where township homes are transformed into galleries. People can book a short tour along the “TAG” (township art galleries) path and plans are afoot to add the area to Cape Town’s hop-on, hop-off bus route.

All sorts of gems have been unearthed here. “I found an incredible coffee brewer, an ex ‘bad boy’” says Tony. “Langa’s all about rough diamonds which need a shine.” Walking about, there’s an abundance of graffiti, bold in both colour and statement. Michael highlights a few and tell us there are plans for an annual graffiti competition. “There’s an anti-gentrification argument but this is a suburb which needs fixing,” adds Tony. “Gentrification isn’t always bad. In these communities, local people don’t leave – it’s the perfect type of gentrification.”

A world away from Langa, in the centre of Cape Town on Loop Street, is Stable, a space set up by designer Aidan Bennetts. Open since August 2013, it brings local designers’ works into one place. It’s about as un-intimidating as a design shop can be: there’s plenty to admire, prices aren’t sky-high for the most part and the variety is immense. “It’s been a long time coming,” says Aidan. “There’s no big plan either, just creating opportunities for designers.”

Already, there are 72 designers in the “stable” and collaborations are happening as a result. Some, such as Iga Kububa whose innovative handbags catch my eye, had never exhibited before, while on the upper level is a lounger chair, a one-off creation by an architect who by chance asked if he could showcase it – a hotelier has since placed an order for 20.

If it’s ever seemed that it’s too easy for the meaning of these accolades, be it city of culture, sport or design, to get lost in the publicity, it feels very real here. In Woodstock, a district long celebrated for its creative output, the Woodstock Exchange and Old Biscuit Mill are home to interesting stores, galleries and restaurants. Even history isn’t exempt. Visitors to the District Six Museum, which honours those evicted by force under the Group Areas Act, a new heritage tour led by ex-residents, artists and writers, uses innovative ways to visit 14 sights depicting forgotten neighbourhood life.

“Cape Town’s a laboratory for design now” says Michael as we drive out of Woodstock. And that’s how it feels – an exciting experiment with still much to discover.

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Joyous fans, unmistakeable yellow shirts, jogo bonito (“beautiful game”) – Brazilian football evokes many images, but the country’s relationship with the sport is far more complex than the clichés suggest, say the authors of new book Brazil Inside Out. Here’s a quick history.

“The English invented it, the Brazilians perfected it”

In Brazil, that old saying could well prove true. Fable has it that in 1894 Charles Miller, the São Paulo-born son of a Scottish rail engineer, returned from his schooling in England with a football tucked under his arm and went on to ignite Brazil’s infatuation with the sport. Miller soon started organising matches of this strange new game, as did another son of British immigrants, Oscar Cox, who founded Brazil’s first club, Fluminense, in 1902.

In the early days football was the exclusive pursuit of privileged Anglo-Brazilians, who did their best to prevent the mainly non-white lower classes from playing or even watching it. But by 1910 makeshift pitches had sprung up and informal games were taking place across Brazil.

Initially the official clubs insisted that players were amateurs, which largely ruled out black players from poorer backgrounds. Mixed-race players who managed to join them were subjected to racist abuse; Fluminense’s nickname, pó de arroz (rice powder), comes from a mixed-race player, Carlos Alberto, who whitened his skin with rice powder before matches. It was not until Vasco da Gama starting picking players because of their ability rather than their race that the elite’s grip on the sport began to loosen.

The seleção

A 2-0 victory by a team of São Paulo and Rio’s best players over a visiting Exeter City in 1914 is generally considered Brazil’s first international match, but it was not until 1938, when the seleção (national team) reached the World Cup semi-finals, that the power of football as a unifying national force was fully realised.

Brazil’s rising importance as a footballing power was recognised in 1950, when it staged the first World Cup after the Second World War. It didn’t end well. On 16 July 1950, some 200,000 spectators crowded into the newly-built Rio Estádio do Maracanã, expecting to see the seleção beat Uruguay in the final – but the underdogs won 2-1, sparking tears, heart attacks and even some suicides among Brazilian fans.

It was not until the 1958 tournament in Sweden that the seleção’s hour arrived. Their victory owed much to the arrival of a new star. Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé, was only 17 at the time, but scored two goals in Brazil’s 5-2 victory over the hosts in the final.

Brazil went on to win again in 1962, but it is the dazzling team of 1970 that is widely considered the greatest of all time. Jairzinho, Rivelino, Tostão and, of course, Pelé inspired the seleção to a third victory, the footage of which – broadcast in colour around the world for the first time – helped to cement the iconic status of the team in yellow shirts.

The seleção of the 1982 World Cup – featuring the likes of Zico, Sócrates and Falcão – gained almost as much adulation, although it was knocked out in the second round by the more defensive and pragmatic Italians. Brazil went on to win the 1994 and 2002 World Cups, though never with quite the same attacking verve.

Brands and protests

In the meantime “Brazilian football” became a brand – used to sell everything from sporting goods to holidays – and thousands of Brazilian footballers have been exported to play in foreign leagues.

It has also made fortunes and political careers. During Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-85), giant stadiums were built in an attempt to bolster support. Corruption scandals, rigged matches and bribed referees in the domestic leagues are common, and many clubs and federa­tions have been run by the same officials, known as cartolas (“top hats”) for decades. Politicians still make donations to local teams in exchange for votes.

However, football is also a way of challenging the status quo. During a match in Paris in 1978, for example, TV cameras could not help but show the giant banners unfurled by Brazil supporters in the crowd calling for an amnesty for political prisoners. Several players have been prominent activists, notably Sócrates, an outspoken pro-democracy campaigner during the military dictatorship.

Last year, as Brazil hosted the Confederations Cup, hundreds of thousands of people poured onto the streets to protest about growing inequality, corruption and poor public services. Broken government promises that public money would not be used to pay for expensive new stadiums and infrastructure for the 2014 World Cup meant public anger was also directed at FIFA and the football establishment. Many of the players even – belatedly – threw their support behind the protests.

Brazilians will still cheer on the seleção when the World Cup kicks off in June, but the recent protests show that their support is not unconditional.

Learn the lingo

Countless football terms have entered popular usage in Brazil:

·   Deu zero a zero = nothing happened (literally, it was 0-0)
·   Pisar na bola = to make a mistake (literally, to tread on the ball)
·   Driblar = to evade or get round
·   Show de bola = a brilliant or clever answer, performance, etc (literally, a display of skill with the ball)
·   Aos 45’ do Segundo tempo = at the eleventh hour (literally, at the 45th minute of the second half)

Brazil Inside Out by Jan Rocha and Francis McDonagh is published by the Latin America Bureau/Practical Action Publishing on 29 May. Shafik Meghji and Matthew Terdre wrote the football chapter.
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This week saw Hindus in India and across the world celebrating the Holi Festival of Colours. It marks the beginning of spring and celebrates the legend of Holika and Prahlad in a mass party where participants throw powder in all colours of the rainbow at each other (something said to be started by Krishna as a young boy when he threw coloured water over the gopis (milkmaids). The result is pretty messy but incredibly photogenic, so here are some of our favourite photos from India during Holi Festival 2014.

A Hindu priest throws coloured powder over worshippers at the Radha Krishna temple in Kolkata, West Bengal:

One reveller poses for a photo in Bhubaneswar, Orissa:

Dancing in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh:

Covered in metallic paint, these Indian men pose for photographs in Siliguri, West Bengal:

Indian children spray coloured water in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh:

Crowds are sprayed with water and powder at the Swaminarayan Temple at Kalupur in AhmedabadGujarat:

Yellow powder shrouds those celebrating in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh:

Breaking tradition, widows living in Vrindavan – who are usually seen as outcasts and forced to refrain from celebrating Holi – celebrate the festival at Meera Sahabhagini Sadan ashram for the first time:

This Indian man poses for a photo in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh:

Pink powder is thrown at celebrations in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh:

May is the perfect time to travel in the northern hemisphere. With the weather warming up, fewer tourists and lower prices than the peak summer months, the beaches of the Caribbean and the Med are prime targets, but there’s plenty going on elsewhere. From New Orleans jazz to a whale shark festival in Australia, here are our suggestions for the best places to visit in May.

Hike the Inca Trail, Peru

May is one of the best months to visit Peru and especially Machu Picchu – the rainy season has ended, but the valleys are still green and lush and the big crowds don’t arrive until June. Hiking the Inca Trail is the best way to see the “Lost City of the Incas”, though you’ll still need to plan ahead for a May visit; no more than 500 people (including support staff) per day are allowed on the trail, so you need to get permits months in advance. Anyone moderately fit can handle the route – most guided walks cover just 26 miles (42km) in four days, though there are some steep sections and you’ll be sleeping at over 3000 metres. Still, few sights in the world can match that first glimpse of the mist-shrouded ruins at dawn.

Meet bushrangers and whale sharks in Western Australia

May is the beginning of winter, or the dry season, in most of Western Australia, with long days of sunshine and clear blue skies. It’s a fun time to visit the northern coast, where the annual Whaleshark Festival in Exmouth marks the return of these gentle marine giants to Ningaloo Reef. Parties, live music and a float parade are enhanced by discounted tours to see the whale sharks themselves as they bask over the reef. Further south, the Moondyne Festival celebrates the life of Moondyne Joe, Western Australia’s legendary bushranger who had an uncanny ability to slip out of his prison cell. Held annually on the first Sunday in May, you’ll witness reenactments of Joe and his gang running around town robbing stores, as well as plenty of coppers, spirited floozies and swaggies.

Celebrate crickets, crossbows and candles in Tuscany and Umbria, Italy

Tuscany is another hugely popular summer destination best experienced in May, before things really start getting busy. The weather is perfect, and the region hosts a series of whimsical, raucous festivals with roots in the distant past. In Florence, the attention (briefly) moves off the Renaissance and onto real live crickets at the Festa del Grillo in Cascine Park, where vendors sell the jumpy bugs in decorated cages before they are released, en masse, into the grass. The Middle Ages are recreated at several crossbow festivals and competitions, the best of which are the Giostra dell’Archidado in gorgeous Cortona, and the Balestro del Girifalco in Massa Marittima. Across in equally enticing Umbria, the Corso dei Ceri in Gubbio is one of Italy’s most spectacular and oldest festivals, where competing teams from the city’s three districts race up the mountain carrying 9m-high wooden “candles”.

Explore Crete without the crowds, Greece

Part of Greece, the island of Crete is a beguiling destination, virtually a country apart basking in the eastern Mediterranean. May is a great time to visit if you want to avoid the crowds; you can expect discounted room rates and warm, comfortable days and cool evenings, with more rain in the first half of the month. For the longest sandy beaches head to the north coast, or hike the spectacular Samariá Gorge in the south.  You should also spend a few days soaking up Crete’s incredibly rich culture, the Minoan palaces of Knossos and Phaistos, old towns like Chaniá and the poignant Arkadi Monastery.

Sample Czech beer and classical concerts in Prague, Czech Republic

One of Europe’s most beautiful cities all year round, Prague truly dazzles in May when its gardens and hanging baskets are full of blooms, its magnolia trees blossom and the tantalising Prague Spring Music Festival delivers three weeks of high-quality symphony, opera and chamber concerts. Attending one of them is the best way to appreciate the magnificent Smetana Hall, inside the Municipal House. If all that culture wears you down, you can take solace at the Czech Beer Festival, seventeen days of sampling seventy brands of Czech beer, hearty food from Czech chefs, butchers and bakers and live music every day – rock, not classical.

Be a beach bum in the Bahamas

May is the best time of the year to visit the Caribbean, especially the Bahamas. Around this time rates start to drop, the weather is still good, the water is warm and there is no chance of a hurricane. It’s hot, but not yet the burning heat of summer and, more importantly, humidity is low and there are virtually no bugs or mozzies. Basically, it’s perfect beach weather, with islands such as Eleuthera prime hunting ground for idyllic strips of sand: Pink Sands Beach on nearby Harbour Island is one of the most spectacular beaches in the world.

Binge on the arts in Brighton, UK

Brighton’s beaches may not be in the same league as the Bahamas, but the trendy seaside town springs to life in May for its annual arts festival, one of England’s largest. The Brighton Fringe Festival and the Great Escape (Europe’s leading festival for new music) run at the same time, adding to the artsy atmosphere, and you can even peek inside over two hundred normally closed venues, houses and studios owned by local artists thanks to the Artists Open House concept, which runs at weekends throughout the festival.

Jive at the New Orleans Jazz Fest, USA

New Orleans is a fabulous city to visit any time, but early May is especially good for two reasons: it’s warm and sunny, but not humid and sticky as in the peak summer months; and Jazz Fest, a ten-day cultural extravaganza which takes place every year April–May, is at its height. In addition to a huge array of live performances in genres that range from jazz and blues to R&B, folk, rock and rap, the festival also includes the Louisiana Heritage Fair, featuring Cajun cuisine and arts and crafts from around the region.

Soak up the sun in Morocco

Just before the onset of the country’s sweltering summer heat waves, May is an ideal month to explore Morocco. Though the Mediterranean coast is warm enough to sunbathe on, cities like Marrakesh and Essaouira enjoy warm spring days and refreshingly cool nights, while temperatures in the Sahara are still tolerable. Alternatively, head to El-Kelaâ M’Gouna, a small town in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, for the Rose Festival. Three days of traditional song, dance, sword-fighting, feasting and even a beauty pageant of sorts celebrate the end of the rose harvest season in the nearby Vallée des Roses – a region blanketed in pink flowers every spring.

Pixabay / CC0

Tackle a trek in Nepal

If you’ve ever wanted to trek the Himalayas, May is one of the better months to do it. June’s rains have yet to pick-up and visibility from the altitudes you’ve endeavoured to climb is usually clear. Some of the tourist hotspots do get busy this month, but that’s all the more reason to veer off the beaten path. Buddha’s birthday falls around mid-May and while it is celebrated across Nepal, each region and minority group often has it’s own special way of celebrating – allowing for a completely unique cultural experience wherever you decide to venture.

This feature was updated in March 2016.

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