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

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

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

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

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

Go on the honey tasting trail

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

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

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

Image by Lucy McGuire

Take an apitherapy tour

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

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

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

Get hands-on at an apicamp

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

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

Image by Lucy McGuire

Stay on an eco-api-friendly estate

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

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

Image by Lucy McGuire

Discover api-folklore

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

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

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

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

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

Gorge on modern creations using ancient methods

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

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

A smoke-filled pumpkin dish © Fiamma Piacentini

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

Try it all with a tasting menu

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

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

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

Churros from Paixa

Family favourites fresh from Oaxaca

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

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

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

J&G Grill

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

Influences from the USA and beyond

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

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

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

Guacamole from Anatol

Vampire ceviche and artisanal mezcal

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

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

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

Chocolate at Que Bo! © Gerrish Lopez

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

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

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

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

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

Where better to eat pizza than in the city where it was invented? Naples’ most affordable food is also its most sacred; a local saying goes “you can insult my mother but never my pizzamaker”. You can’t come to the city without trying an authentic crusty pizza, baked rapidly in a searingly hot wood-fired oven and doused in olive oil.

The archetypal Neapolitan pizza is the marinara – not, as you might think, anything to do with seafood, but topped with just tomato, garlic and basil, no cheese. The simplest toppings tend to be the best – margherita (with tomatoes and cheese), or perhaps salsiccia e friarelli (sausage and local bitter greens).

From the new Rough Guide to Naples and the Amalfi Coast, these are our top six places for the best pizza in Naples.

Acunzo

Opened by the Acunzo family in 1936, and owned by Michele and Caterina since 1964, this low-key trattoria has a bustling atmosphere and friendly staff. It’s not very well-known to tourists, and it’s definitely Vomero’s best pizza joint. Locals crowd into its spartan interior for the wonderful pizza, available in more than forty varieties, best enjoyed after a plentiful serving of fritti or their excellent parmigiana melanzane.

Acunzo, Via d. Cimarosa 60–62

Sorbillo

In business since 1935, this place has a die-hard cult following that snubs the family’s newer pizza joint a few doors down in favour of this, the original. Yes, it’s always got a mob of tourists outside, but this might be the one place that’s worth the wait. Its popularity means that it’s a scrum most nights and you may have to give your name and wait for a table. But the pizzas are great, and use the highest-quality ingredients – the best mozzarella from nearby Agerola, sweet Vesuvian tomatoes and fine olive oil: a novel idea in the pizza business.

Sorbillo, Via d. Tribunali 32  

Sorbillo ♥ by Daniela Vladimirova via Flickr (CC license)

I Decumani

Right in the heart of the Centro Storico, I Decumani is not quite as widely lauded as its better-known competitors, but definitely among the best pizzas in the city. Freshly remodelled and warmly tiled, the pizzeria has come a long way since it was a hole-in-the-wall friggitoria (still active next door). The fritti misti are a must, as are the huge, delicious pizzas. It’s also one of the few places in the Centro Storico open on Sundays.

I Decumani, Via d. Tribunali 58–61 (no website)

Da Michele

Tucked away off Corso Umberto I in the Forcella district, this is the most determinedly traditional of all the Naples pizzerias, though has now become so well-known you’ll most likely find yourself surrounded by other tourists. Da Michele serves just two varieties – marinara and margherita – for about €4. Don’t be surprised if you are shuttled to a communal, marble-topped table and seated with strangers; don’t arrive late, as they sometimes run out of dough.

Da Michele, Via Cesare Sersale 1–3 

People queuing outside Pizzeria da Michele by David McKelvey via Flickr (CC license)

Antica Pizzeria del Borgo Orefici

Down a little side street just off busy Corso Umberto, not far from the port, you can enjoy some of the city’s best pizza at this little-known joint with a handful of tables inside, and a little terrace outside. The very large pizzas more than make up for the lack of ambience; the salsiccia e friarielli is delicious.

Antica Pizzeria del Borgo Orefici, Luigi Palmieri 13 (no website)

Starita a Materdei

The Starita family has been serving pizza and fritti in the Materdei neighbourhood, uphill from the Museo Archeologico, since 1901, and along the way have created unique classics like the montarana, pizza dough that is deep-fried before being garnished with tomato and cheese then baked. For dessert, try the angioletti, deep-fried dough slathered in Nutella. It’s popular, and although the long main room seems to absorb people you may have a bit of a wait.

Starita a Materdei, Via Materdei 27–28 

Neapolitańska pizza by Henryk Rypinski via Flickr (CC license) / colour corrected

Da Ettore

In the heart of Borgo Santa Lucia, this casual and lively neighbourhood restaurant is famous for its pagnotielli – sort of pizza sandwiches stuffed to bursting with mozzarella, ham and mushrooms, or salsicce and friarelli. Above all they offer good quality and value in a neighbourhood not especially known for either.

Da Ettore, Via Santa Lucia (no website)

Pizzafest

Not a restaurant, but a festival, Pizzafest is a ten-day event held for over ten years in the Mostra d’Oltremare showground in Fuorigrotta. It celebrates Naples’ most famous gift to the world, with food stalls, demonstrations and plenty of cheesy entertainment.

Pizzafest is held over two weeks in mid September; see pizzafest.info for more information.

Explore more of Naples with the Rough Guide to Naples and the Amalfi Coast. Compare flights, find tours, book hostels and hotels for your trip, find tours and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

If the Irish didn’t invent the pub, they’ve certainly espoused its cause with great vigour. The pub retains a pivotal place in Irish society. It’s the place where stories are narrated, deals and pacts are made, jokes are told and traditional music is heard.

During the 1990s, the “Irish pub” concept (albeit with “authentic” period decor manufactured in Dublin) spread to far-flung points of the globe. Yet experiencing the real thing on its home turf to a live soundtrack of traditional music is still an unbeatable experience.

The country’s musical traditions remain essentially based on the age-old practice of passing down tunes and songs by oral transmission, from generation to generation and from friend to friend. The pub session has become its core, where the richness of the musical tradition can be experienced at first hand, and the craic (or crack) – that idiosyncratically Irish, heady combination of drink-fuelled chat, banter and fun – simply takes over.

With a pint of the black stuff in hand, here are some of the best, entirely authentic pubs to experience live music from the new Rough Guide to Ireland. It’s time to get started on a lifelong love affair with bodhráns, tin whistles, pipes and fiddles. But remember, sometimes the best sessions are the  spontaneous and uproarious affairs you never expected to find.

1. The Cobblestone, Dublin

Arguably the best traditional-music venue in Dublin, this dark, cosy, wooden-floored bar is also a fine place to sample the hoppy products of the nearby Dublin brewing company. High-quality sessions take place nightly from around 9pm, and on Sunday afternoons, while the Back Room hosts a variety of gigs.


Cobblestone by indigoMood on Flickr (CC license)

2. O’Donoghue’sDublin

The centre of the folk and traditional-music revival that began in the late 1950s, forever associated with ground-breaking balladeers the Dubliners. Nightly sessions draw a considerable crowd of tourists, while the large heated courtyard is more of a draw for locals.

3. De Barra’s, Clonakilty

This is the pick of Clon’s old-time pubs, with great live music most evenings, including a popular traditional session on Monday and an acoustic session on Tuesday.

4. Buckley’s, Killarney

Entertainment’s the name of the game in Killarney, and most bars provide regular live music, of wildly varying quality. The best is Buckley’s, a smartly refurbished traditional bar with long, sociable bench seats. Come on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the traditional sessions.

Trad music in Buckley’s Bar in Killarney by Chris Brooks on Flickr (CC license)

5. Tigh Coili, Galway City

A slow crawl through the pubs of High and Quay streets is a must in Galway City, soaking up the atmosphere of their historic interiors in winter, and the buzzy street life at their outdoor tables in summer. You’re bound to find a traditional session here, although some of the best are at Tigh Coili, a welcoming, central and sociable traditional family-run pub.

6. Reel Inn, Donegal Town

The place to come in Donegal Town for traditional music, and it’s no exaggeration to say that there’s something on here every night of the week, every day of the year. Music aside, this is a real boozer’s pub with oodles of character, and characters.

7. Madden’s, Belfast

This wonderful, unpretentious and atmospheric pub is off the beaten path but well worth seeking out. Its two large rooms (one upstairs, one downstairs) are filled with locals and as well as excellent traditional sessions there’s also set dancing.

Madden’s by jon crel on Flickr (CC license)

8. Seán Og’s, Tralee

In the market town of Tralee, two big open fires and and regular traditional music are among the draws at this friendly, dimly lit and cosy pub just off the Mall. They also offer B&B, so you can even stay overnight.

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

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.

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

The rich and varied cuisine of Andalucía is a reflection of its dramatic history. One of its signature dishes, gazpacho, was introduced by the romans in the first millennium BC, and didn’t reach its final version until peppers and tomatoes arrived in Spain following the voyages of Columbus.

Another great influence came from the Moors who changed the face of southern Spain forever with the planting of orange, olive and almond trees. They also introduced spices such as cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg and saffron plus vegetables and fruits like aubergine, spinach, quince and pomegranate.

Today, the cooking of modern Andalucía falls into mountain and coastal food. Along the coastline, fish and seafood are king; inland, rich stews, jamones (cured hams) and game are preferred. Wherever you are, however, there are few greater pleasures than joining the regulars at a local bar to wind down over a glass of fino (dry sherry from Jerez) while nibbling tapas – Andalucía’s great titbit invention.

From the new Rough Guide to Andalucía, these are the highlights no food-lover should miss.

Tapas in Seville

The city that invented tapas has some of Spain’s very best bars to sample them. It simply knocks spots off the competition: there is simply nowhere else in Andalucía – or even Spain – with such a variety of places to indulge this culinary art. El tapeo means eating “on the go” and Sevillanos do it on their feet, moving from bar to bar where they stand with a manzanilla or beer while wolfing back fistfuls of whatever tapas take their fancy. Locals tend to drink the cold, dry fino, but often change to beer in high summer. Another popular tapas partner is tinto de verano – the local version of sangría – consisting of wine mixed with lemonade and ice.

Goat’s cheese in Villaluenga del Rosario

Some 13km southwest of Grazalema, the tiny mountain village of Villaluenga del Rosario is the highest in Cádiz province. Tucked beneath a great crag, it’s a simple place, with narrow streets, flower-filled balconies and pantiled roofs, frequently enveloped by mountain mists. Come here to try the famous goat’s cheese, which can be purchased at the multi-award-winning Payoyo cheesemaker’s factory on the south side of the main road running through the village.

Jerez in the “sherry triangle”

The northwest corner of Cádiz province is sherry country, a dramatic landscape of low, rolling hills and extensive vineyards. The famous triangle of sherry towns – Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa María and Sanlúcar de Barrameda – are the main production centres of Andalucía’s great wine, but smaller places like Chipiona and even tiny Rota manage to muscle in on the action. Besides their bodegas, at many of which you can taste blends and buy some to take home, all the sherry towns make interesting places for a stopover in themselves.

Anís in Rute

Beyond a ruined Moorish castle and a Baroque church, this whitewashed town, sited picturesquely on a hill overlooked by the hazy Sierra de Rute, has few conventional attractions. Rute’s fame throughout Andalucía is based on a far more potent allure: the manufacture of a lethal anís (aniseed apéritif) with spring water from the sierra. It comes in varying strengths and can be tasted at the twenty or so small bodegas scattered around the town; Bodega Machaquito is regarded as one of the best.

Jamón in Jabugo

The mere mention of the name of Jabugo is enough to make any Spaniard’s mouth water, and once you’ve tasted what all the fuss is about it’s easy to understand why. As roadside billboards depicting smiling pigs proclaim, jamón is king in Jabugo and can be sampled at producers’ outlets in the village. The jamón ibérico or pata negra (both acorn-fed hams) that you can taste here are some of the finest in all of Spain.

Olive oil in Baena

Córdoba province’s olive oil has been prized since Roman times – and its most celebrated oil production centre is Baena. The town has its own official denominación de origen and Baena’s finest oil stands comparison with the best in Europe. With a markedly low acid content and an unfatty, concentrated flavour, the best “free run” oils produced here are far too good (and expensive) for cooking and are instead sparingly used to flavour gazpacho – in Córdoba province, salmorejo – or tasted on a morsel of bread as a tapa.

Seafood in Cádiz

Feasting on fish and crustaceans in sight of the sea is an Andaluz passion. You’ll find fresh and tasty fish served up in bars and restaurants in all coastal regions, but the atmospheric sea-locked city of Cádiz has perhaps the most valid claim to be Andalucía’s seafood capital. The old seamen’s quarter, the Barrio de la Viña, is where gaditanos make for on warmer nights to scoff fried fish and mariscos at economical marisquerías, while the city’s summer playground, the Paseo Marítimo is also lively and fun in season.

Mineral water in Lanjarón

Lanjarón has known tourism and the influence of the outside world for longer than anywhere else in the Alpujarras due to the curative powers of its spa waters which have attracted cure seekers since ancient times. These gush from seven natural springs and are sold in bottled form throughout Spain. Taste the waters straight from the mountain at the village’s spa.

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

Brittany has long been one of the jewels in France’s crown. Its beaches and holiday homes are flooded each summer by Parisians on their grandes vacances and Brits piling off cross-channel ferries. It’s easy to see why. From the rugged beauty of the northern coast to the classy beach resorts, there’s no arguing that this independently minded region is among France’s most beautiful.

But there’s more to Brittany than the campsite and coast trail. This is also one of France’s finest regions for food lovers. Come slightly out of season and you’ll find that not only can you get the windswept sands all to yourself, there’s also a veritable array of culinary delights to get stuck into.

There are world-famous oysters to slurp as you shelter your wind-whipped skin in blustery little Cancale, salted caramels to roll over your tongue as you stroll the walls of St-Malo and the second-largest food market in France to browse in the capital, Rennes. There are Michelin-starred restaurants that fuse French classics with Asian influences and South American spices, and of course, there are Breton galettes and bolées of cider at every turn.

It’s a paradise for seafood lovers

Brittany partly has the tides to thank for the abundance of seafood. The tidal range here is one of the highest in Europe. This makes the coastline perfectly suited to farming both common rock oysters (huîtres creuses) and the native flat oysters (huîtres plates), which thrive in the waters of the Baie du Mont St-Michel.

To taste them, there’s only one place to go, the undisputed oyster capital and “one-mollusc town” of Cancale. The oyster beds here stretch out almost as far as the eye can see. Oysters are shucked so frequently by seafront stalls that a mountain of shells threatens to breach the sea wall like a high tide.

Spend a few hours in one of the unpretentious seafood restaurants and you’ll soon find yourself slurping down a cool half-dozen huîtres, grappling with little brown shrimp, prying the sweet meat from lobsters’ claws and getting skilled with a toothpick as you pluck little black sea snails from their shells.

If you want to be resolutely Breton, a mug (bolée) of cider – the drier the better – is a good accompaniment. Better is a glass of frostily crisp Muscadet, made from Melon de Bourgogne in the neighbouring vineyards of Nantes. (Brittany’s historic capital becomes temporarily Breton once again as soon as oysters come into play.)

It’s the only place to settle the crêpe vs galette debate

Most visitors, however, arrive in Brittany with one thing on their mind: pancakes. Luckily there are a slew of places waiting to indulge your every batter-based fantasy – from vans selling galette-wrapped sausages smothered in mustard to little crêperies like the Crêperie du Port in Saint-Quay-Portrieux that offer cookery lessons to visitors.

Traditionally, galettes and crêpes are eaten in the same meal. Savoury buckwheat-flour galettes come first, topped with combinations like ham, egg and cheese (the “complete”). White-flour crêpes are served for dessert. Forget about nutella, if you want to embrace all things Breton, you need to drizzle your pancake with salted butter caramel sauce.

à la bretonne! by Jérôme Decq via Flickr (CC license)

It’s the original home of salted caramel

The creation of salted butter caramel (caramel beurre salé) stems back to the 1500s, when Brittany was the only part of France to be exempt from a salt tax known as the gabelle. As such, salt was liberally sprinkled in the local cuisine – a tradition that remains evident in Brittany’s famous salted butter today.

It’s thought the next step came about in the 1970s when an ingenious pâtissier decided to use salted butter to make caramel. A beautiful union was born, and today you’ll find salted caramel in everything from sauces to hard sweets.

It’s a great place to hit the market

Away from the coast, one of the other joys of Brittany is shopping in the local markets. One of the best is in the capital, Rennes, where the second-largest market second in France (after Lille) sprawls through the centre of the small city.

Trestle tables groan with local produce throughout the year. The likes of rhubarb, asparagus and scallops in spring; artichokes (around 70 percent of France’s artichokes are grown here), currants and bundles of herbs in summer; apples, rabbit and mushrooms in autumn; and cabbages, potatoes and carrots in winter.

Its Michelin-starred restaurants are refreshingly inventive

In the kitchen of the nearby restaurant La Coquerie, meanwhile, the focus shifts east. A long way east. Rennes is twinned with Sendai in Japan, and this connection is echoed in Julien Lemarié’s classy fusion menu. He uses local Breton produce in recipes inspired by his time in Tokyo and Singapore – from slow-cooked egg with star anise, confit lime and nori to oysters in a wasabi-spiked broth.

Surprising pairings also crop up elsewhere; Brittany is no place for traditionalists. Celebrated local chef Olivier Roellinger might have closed his three-Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Relais Gourmand, but his influence remains in a hotel, a spice shop, Epices Roellinger, and a cookery school, the Ecole de Cuisine Corsaire run by Emmanuel Tessier.

Roellinger’s unusual philosophy is based around the use of exotic spices – once bought to Brittany’s ports by corsairs – to enliven classic recipes. One of his most famous creations is homard Xérès et cacao: lobster spiced with Amazonian annatto seeds, Indian coriander, cacao, sherry vinegar and a hint of vanilla.

It’s the perfect place to overindulge

If this is starting to sound like a bit too much, don’t worry: Brittany does down-time well. Thanks to a law that new houses can be built no closer than 50m from coastline, rocky coves and deserted strands abound.

And if a sea breeze isn’t enough to blow away the cobwebs, you can even indulge in a weird and wonderful array of salt-water-based spa treatments at the Spa Marin du Val André.

To be honest, though, a crepe with lashings of salted butter caramel is much more restorative.

Discover more about the region on www.brittanytourism.com, a one-stop resource for all things Breton. Explore more with the Rough Guide to Brittany and NormandyCompare flightsbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Header credit:Ramen/photocuisine/Corbis. All photos in this feature copyright Eleanor Aldridge unless otherwise stated. 

Co-author of The Rough Guide to Peru and Lima resident Greg de Villiers gives us an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the city’s best restaurants. 

Beto is a big man, whose big man hands nearly swallow the spoon he’s using to ladle fish out of a beat-up blue cooler. He is famous in his area, his restaurant an unremarkable double-story hall in a not entirely savoury part of the seaside neighbourhood of Chorrillos, standing out only because of the constant flow of people that fill it every single day.

Ceviche’s the simplest thing, he reckons, and grins a big man’s grin. Fresh fish, cubed and kept cold till the last moment, red onion, plenty of lime juice, chilli and salt – he scoops as he talks, his oversized spoon turned into a precision measuring instrument by years of making this dish. A quick stir, a wedge of sweet potato on the side and it’s done. It’s perfect; acid, fire, fish and the giving crunch of onion – this is the flavour of Peru that will live in your food memory for many years.

It’s not so simple, as any foreigner who has tried making ceviche for the first time will tell you, and that’s why we come here, to this city on the edge of the Pacific. Everywhere, from a little hole-in-the-wall in the chaotic centre, to a stall in a market, to a lady with a bicycle cart on the street, to the slickest restaurants whose names are muttered and chewed on by the global food elite, there are so many amazing things to eat that even locals have no chance of trying them all.

There’s a passion for eating and a certain gastronomic democracy unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been. The taxi driver, art director and the construction magnate talk of food – eating it, making it and where to get the very tastiest – before politics, crime, football or even sex. And it’s not unlikely to find them sitting shoulder to shoulder at a little counter in a market, “because this guy, this guy’s just the best.”

Central restaurant

Currently considered comfortably among the best restaurants in the world, chef Virgilio Martinez creates impressive tasting menus that showcase the biological and geographical diversity of Peru.

Anticuchos Doña Grimanesa

Every evening, little charcoal grills are wheeled out onto street corners and parking lots all over the city to serve up one of Lima’s favourite street foods – anticuchos (slices of beef heart, marinated in cumin, garlic, dried chilli and vinegar and grilled on a skewer).

Chancho al palo, Mistura

Every September Lima hosts its most famous food festival, Mistura, which sees hundreds of thousands of visitors come flocking to sample the best dishes from all over Peru. The chancho al palo, whole barbecued pig, is one of the most popular, with queues of up to four hours at peak times.

Maido

Mitsuharu Tsumura is at the forefront of the still-developing Nikkei cuisine, a local fusion of Peruvian and Japanese food born of a large immigrant Japanese community. At Maido, Tsumura has elevated a simple meeting of cultures to fine dining, and his elaborate tasting menu is one of the unmissable culinary experiences in Lima.

Mi Peru

Another beloved huarique, Mi Peru has been serving up Lima’s best crab soup for over 40 years.

Chorrillos pier

Although the central fish market is the place for serious buyers, the small pier at Chorrillos (the district next to the trendier Barranco) is a great spot to chat to some fishermen, grab fresh fish for dinner or eat a ceviche, prepared in front of you.

Isolina, Barranco

A bright new face in Barranco, Isolina is at the forefront of a trend of quality chefs opening up more traditional, tavern-like restaurants that serve up old-school creole favourites like hearty stews, plenty of tripe dishes, or easier-going sandwiches like (pictured) fried smelt.

Astrid y Gaston Casa Moreyra

Vying with Central for the top spot of contemporary Peruvian cuisine, A&G Casa Moreyra is headed up by chef Diego Muñoz and owned by Peru’s most famous chef and restaurateur, Gaston Acurio. The décor of the restaurant changes to suit each new tasting menu, but the test kitchen (pictured) out back is where the magic all comes together.

Al Toke Pez

Chef Tomás Matsufuji turned away from the successful restaurant empire run by his family to instead open up a tiny hole-in-the-wall spot on a busy avenue to serve up some of the best, and best priced, seafood in town.

Fiesta

Fiesta, now a fine dining icon in the city, is the home of chef Hector Solis, who brought spicy, aromatic northern flavours from his hometown of Chiclayo down to Lima.

Malabar

Another great, Pedro Miguel Schiaffino has for over ten years been among those who led and defined modern Peruvian cuisine. His restaurant Malabar in San Isidro serves consistently stunning food and is simply a must-visit.

Osso

Renzo Garibaldi made meat cool in Lima, opening a trendy butchery serving the best beef in town. Recently he expanded to a restaurant, where visitors can stop by and taste the beef he ages from 30 days to several months.

Soñia’s Cevichería

Soñia’s grew up from a beachside stall selling ceviche made with fish brought in by her husband, to an expansive restaurant where the city’s wealthy queue patiently to get inside and tuck into a quality seafood menu.

Read more about Peruvian food in the Rough Guide to PeruCompare flightsbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Some sights are touristy for a good reason. They’re the ones you go to Europe to check off: a wobbly gondola on the canals of Venice, or a mandatory Eiffel Tower selfie. Europe has countless sights all worth a visit in their own right, but there’s so much more to the continent than cathedrals and beaches – and some of it’s pretty bizarre. So from plastic hammer fights in Portugal, to a night behind bars in an ex-Soviet prison, here are a few things to do in Europe you probably never considered.

1. Sleep with fishes at Sweden’s Utter Inn

In many ways, Sweden‘s Utter Inn is your archetypal Swedish house: its walls are wood-panelled and painted red, there’s a white gabled roof, and the location – propped on a little island in the middle of Lake Malaren – is classic Scandinavia. But things get slightly surreal once you look out of the window of the hotel’s solitary room. A large Baltic salmon glides past, followed by a huge shoal of smelt. These are not your average lakeside views, but then you’re not actually lakeside. The island is actually a tiny pontoon, the red house just the tip of the architectural iceberg: Utter Inn lies 3m below the surface of the lake. A night spent here is literally like living in a goldfish bowl.

2. Play for high stakes at Italy’s Il Palio

Siena’s famous bareback horse race – Il Palio – is a highly charged, death-defying dash around the boundary of the city’s majestic Piazza del Campo.  The race is held twice every summer and takes only ninety seconds. The only rule is that there are no rules: practically anything goes as riders shove each other off their mounts. The course is so treacherous, with its sharp turns and sloping, slippery surfaces that often fewer than half of the participants finish. But in any case it’s only the horse that matters – the beast that crosses the line first (even without its rider) is the winner.

speed by Giorgio Montersino (license)

3. Ponder Armageddon at the Plokštine missile base in Lithuania

It’s not often you’re invited to join a guided tour of a nuclear missile base, especially when you’re in the middle of one of northeastern Europe’s most idyllic areas of unspoilt wilderness. However, this is exactly what’s on offer at Plateliai, the rustic, timber-built village in the centre of western Lithuania’s Zemaitija National Park. It’s perversely appropriate that Soviet military planners chose this spot as the perfect place to hide a rocket base. Closed down in 1978, it’s now eerily empty of any signs that would indicate its previous purpose. Until, that is, you come to one of the silos themselves – a vast, metal-lined cylindrical pit deep enough to accommodate 22m of slender, warhead-tipped rocket. The missile itself was evacuated long ago, but peering into the abyss can still be a heart-stopping experience.

4. Get naked in France’s Cap d’Agde

Of a size and scale befitting a small town, France‘s Cap d’Agde legendary nudist resort has to be one of the world’s most unique places to stay. The resort’s sprawling campsite is generally the domain of what the French call bios: hardy souls who love their body hair as much as they hate their clothes, and are invariably the naked ones in the queue at the post office. But the bios share the Cap with a very different breed, libertines for whom being naked is a fashion statement as much as a philosophy: smooth bodies and intimate piercings are the order of the day – and sex on the beach is not necessarily a cocktail. Come evening, throngs of more adventurous debauchees congregate in the Cap’s bars, restaurants and notoriously wild swingers’ clubs for a night of uninhibited fun and frolicking.

Horizontal by Björn Lindell (license)

5. Spend a night at the cells in Latvia’s Liepa–ja prison

Being incarcerated in a foreign country is usually the stuff of holiday nightmares. Unless you want an insight into Latvian history, that is. The former naval prison in Karosta, a Russian-built port that stretches north from the seaside city of Liepāja, is now the venue for an interactive performance/tour that involves such delights as being herded at gunpoint by actors dressed as Soviet prison guards, then interrogated in Russian by KGB officers. Stay the night and things get even harder – you may find yourself mopping the floors before bedding down in one of the bare cells, only to be brutally awoken by an early morning call.

6. Lose your grip on reality in Austria

Pegging yourself as the “Museum of the Future” is, in our ever-changing world, bold. Brash, even. And that’s exactly what the Ars Electronica Centre in Linz is. Dedicated to new technology, and its influence within the realms of art, few museums on Earth have their fingers quite as firmly on the pulse. Come here for the CAVE (Cave Automatic Visual Environment). This room, measuring – cutely enough – 3m cubed, is at the cutting-edge of virtual reality; the simulation uses technology so advanced – 3D projections dance across the walls and along the floor, as you navigate through virtual solar systems and across artificial landscapes – that you feel like you’re part of the installation. 

AEC Linz by Konstantinos Dafalias (license)

7. Play with fire at Spain’s Las Fallas

Catholic Spain traditionally holds fast to old habits, synchronizing Saints’ days with ancient seasonal rites. The most famous – and noisiest – festival of all is Las Fallas: in mid-March the streets of Valencia combust in a riot of flame and firecrackers, ostensibly in celebration of St Joseph.  It’s (barely) controlled pyromania, a festival where the neighbourhood firemen are on overtime and beauty sleep is in short supply. The fallas themselves are huge satirical tableaux peopled by ninots, or allegorical figures – everyone from voluptuous harlots to Vladimir Putin – painstakingly crafted out of wood, wax, papier-mâché andcardboard. They’re exhibited during nightly street parties, before all five hundred of them literally go up in smoke at midnight every March 19.

8. Toboggan without snow in Madeira, Portugal

However you make the 560m climb up to Monte, the hillside town that hangs quietly over Madeira’s capital, Funchal, there’s only one way we recommend getting back down: toboggan. There’s no snow, of course – this is a subtropical paradise. The road becomes your black run as you hurtle towards sea level in a giant wicker basket. At first, progress is slow. Then gravity takes over, powering you to speeds of up to 48 km/hr. When you think you’re going too fast to stop (there aren’t any real brakes here), your wheezing guides will dig their rubber boots into the tarmac – giving you  the first chance to jump out, look down and admire the sparkling blue Atlantic that stretches out before you.

photo by A m o r e Caterina (license)

9. Get hitched at the Roma Bride Market in Bulgaria

While the setting – a dusty field next to a cattle market, perhaps, or a car park – couldn’t be less glamorous, the atmosphere is anything but dull. Heavily made-up girls, blinged to the nines in seductive sequined dresses and high heels, dance provocatively on car roofs, which themselves have been rigged up with speakers pumping out ear-splitting pop. Meanwhile, leather-clad boys strut and pose, eyeing up potential partners as they go. Each year, the nondescript town of Stara Zagora, some 200km southeast of the capital, Sofia, plays host to one of Europe’s more unorthodox happenings: the Bride Market, which typically attracts a couple of thousand people. Nowadays the event is more of a fair than a marketplace though – the space where the courtship process begins before anything more serious is considered.

10. Join a hammer festival in Portugal

Porto’s Festa de São João is a magnificent display of midsummer madness – one giant street party, where bands of hammer-wielding lunatics roam the town, and every available outdoor space is given over to a full night of eating, drinking and dancing to welcome in the city’s saint’s day. No one seems to know the origin of this tradition of hitting people on the head, but what was customarily a rather harmless pat with a leek has evolved into a somewhat firmer clout with a plastic hammer. Midnight sees the inevitable climax of fireworks, but the night is far from over. The emphasis shifts further west to the beach of Praia dos Ingleses, where youths challenging each other to jump over the largest flames of bonfires lit for São João.

photo by Lachlan Heasman (license)

11. Discover the Human Fish in Slovenia

Postojna‘s vast network of caves, winding 2km through cramped tunnels and otherworldly chambers, is the continent’s largest cave system, adorned with infinite stalactites, and stalagmites so massive they appear like pillars. Despite the smudged signatures etched into the craggy walls that suggest an earlier human presence in the caves – possibly as far back as the thirteenth century – this immense grotto’s most prized asset, and most famous resident, is Proteus anguinus, aka the Human Fish. The enigmatic 25cm-long, pigmentless amphibian has a peculiar snake-like appearance, with two tiny pairs of legs – hence the name – and a flat, pointed fin to propel itself through water. Almost totally blind, and with a lifespan approaching one hundred years, it can also go years without food, though it’s been known to dabble in a spot of cannibalism.

12. Attend the World Alternative Games in Wales

Bathtubbing? Wife-carrying? Combined mountain biking and beer drinking? No one does wacky quite like the Welsh, it seems, at least not like the natives of Llanwrtyd Wells. Each year, a series of bonkers events takes place that belies this small town’s sleepy appearance – indeed, with a population of just over six hundred, it can justifiably claim to be Britain’s smallest town. Conceived in 2012 as an antidote to the Olympic Games in London, it involves more than sixty madcap events. Utterly pointless, all of them, though try telling that to the legions of well-honed finger jousters, gravy wrestlers and backwards runners who descend upon the town in their hundreds (sometimes thousands) in search of fame and glory, of sorts. Perhaps the best thing about all these events is that anyone is free to participate – so what are you waiting for?


Discover more unforgettable places around the world with the new edition of Make the Most of Your Time on Earth.

 

The judges’ comments read like an appreciation of Scotland’s finest: they identify hints of caramel and honey, a whiff of campfire smoke, a smooth, buttery feel in the mouth and a peppery finish. Yet Sullivan’s Cove single malt French Oak Cask comes not from Scotland but from Tasmania. And in the World Whiskies Awards last year, it was judged the best whisky on Earth.

Surprised a small Aussie state half a world away from the Old Country could snatch the accolade from Scotland or Japan? Don’t be. The wonder is it took so long.

A sparsely populated island in the Roaring Forties, Tasmania is a sort of Scotland max. It has officially the purest air in the world – the next landmasses upwind are Patagonia and Antarctica – so some of its purest rainwater, which flows in soft mountain streams. Add highland peat bogs and a cool climate, and you have a terroir tailor-made for whisky.

Bill Lark thought so as he sat with a dram while trout fishing in the Tasmanian highlands in 1988. Puzzled by the lack of home-grown whisky, he discovered that the distilling of spirits was banned in the young colony by puritanical state governor Sir John Franklin in 1838, prompted by his wife Lady Jane’s comment that “I would prefer barley be fed to pigs than it be used to turn men into swine”.

Thanks to Bill’s legal challenge 150 years later, Lark Distilleries opened in 1992.

Since then, eight more have followed. Most are in southern Tasmania, and all are open for tastings and a yarn about whisky. Some, like Overeem or Belgrove – which distils rye harvested outside the back door – are tiny family affairs. Others, such as Sullivan’s Cove or Hellyer’s Road near Launceston, are rising international stars.

What unites them is the use of quality island ingredients and a hand-crafted approach that’s refreshing given the corporate creep of Scottish whisky. At around A$130 (£72) for a typical bottle – and over A$1000 (£580) for French Oak Cask – Tassie whiskies aren’t cheap. Given their sublime taste, however, it’s money well spent.

Find distillery locations and hours at taswhiskytrail.com. Tasmanian Whisky Tours runs day tours from Hobart to three or four distilleries. For more unforgettable experiences around the world, check out the new edition of Make the Most of Your Time on Earth

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month