It may not feature on top of everyone’s British city bucket list, but it’s time to see this East Midlands city in a new light. Nottingham boasts a slew of new attractions for 2016, a recently expanded tram network and a burgeoning independent arts scene.

Plus, in the year when the stalwart British fashion designer Sir Paul Smith turns seventy, the city’s en-vogue Creative Quarter is home to an increasing array of interesting galleries and boutiques.

On Friday February 5, Nottingham also hosts its annual Light Night, drawing inspiration from Paris’ Nuit Blanche to open up the nighttime city to people of all ages with free events and light installations.

Nottingham Light Night by Hamish Foxley on Flickr (CC 2.0 license)

“Light Night aims to build a more culturally enlightened community by reclaiming the streets for all,” says Sharon Scaniglia, Arts Officer for Nottingham City Council.

With that in mind, here’s how best to spend a weekend in Nottingham.

Why go now?

Nottingham has just been named as a UNESCO City of Literature and is planning a book festival for autumn reflecting the literary legacy of Lord Bryon, D. H. Lawrence and Alan Sillitoe (who all lived in or near Nottingham at some point during their lives) amongst others.

The wider region hosts the second season of the Grand Tour art trail from March, reimagining the aristocratic grand tours of the eighteenth century, including work by Sir Peter Blake at The Harley Gallery, Welbeck. The flagship exhibition features large-scale pieces by Turner Prize-winning artist Simon Starling at Nottingham Contemporary.

“The rise of new galleries, such as Backlit and One Thoresby Street, reflect the evolution of the modern city as a hub for the lace industry to culture,” says Irene Aristizabal, Head of Exhibitions, Nottingham Contemporary.

Credit: Experience Nottinghamshire

Okay, so where should I hang out?

The Creative Quarter is the place to find independent shops, street art and lustrous facial hair. Based around the former lace factories of the Victorian-architecture Hockley district, it has come of age in recent years.

Look out for cool shops in the colourful courtyard of Cobden Chambers, affordable vintage clothes at Cow and sourdough bread treats at the Ugly Bread Bakery amongst others.

The new National Videogame Arcade, which is the world’s first permanent space to celebrate video games culture, hosts the annual GameCity Festival in October. With galleries and exhibitions to document the history of British gaming from 1951 onwards, it highlights how gaming has outgrown the music and film industries, and attracted more female gamers.

“The revolution happened a long time ago,” says Development Manager Laura Browne, “but we’re only just shaking off the preconceptions.”

Credit: Experience Nottinghamshire

How about the hidden highlights?

The Malt Cross is one of Nottingham’s famous old music halls and, thanks to a £1.38m Heritage Lottery Fund grant, has been restored to its nineteenth-century glory as a glass-domed café-bar. This has also opened up the space below the building, tapping into the honeycomb-like labyrinth of caves built into the sandstone. Other caves form part of the wider Nottingham Cave Trail, a three-mile walk through some 500-plus medieval caverns under the city. You can download the app here.

Finally, if you can’t leave Nottingham without a lace-themed souvenir, then Debbie Bryan is a gift shop and tearooms with regular craft events.

I’m getting peckish. Where to eat?

Baresca is a new tapas joint with tasty small plates and Oaks is the best place for a wood-fired brunch of giant sausages, served with chunky chips and homemade coleslaw. For dinner, try The Loom. It extends back to a cool bar and dining area with a stage for an American jazz-bar vibe. We tucked into a sharing plate of cold cuts followed by braised beef with mashed potato while the barman mixed whisky cocktails.

For a few drinks, the Kean’s Head, located near the Galleries of Justice, is a popular meeting spot to start the evening over local ales from the Castle Rock Brewery, while Bodega is a stalwart for live music. The Hockley Arts Club is the latest cool opening with three floors of cocktails, food and music. Ask the staff to shine ultra-violet light on the hidden menu page to reveal secret cocktails in season.

Credit: Experience Nottinghamshire

I’m sold. Where am I staying?

The newly refurbished Lace Market Hotel is a stylishly property with comfy beds and artwork-strewn walls. Eggs Benedict for breakfast will set you up for a day of exploring.

Explore more of Nottingham with the Rough Guide to England or The East Midlands Rough Guides SnapshotCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Blame Frances Mayes. Ever since she penned Under the Tuscan Sun twenty years ago the region has seen an unstoppable influx of English and American tourists descend on the area, which has left neighbouring regions, with just as much to offer, decidedly in the shade.

Emilia-Romagna, home to an officially designated ‘Food Valley’, the majority of Italy‘s high performance auto industry and a host of charming, historic towns, is one such region that has to shout louder than its popular neighbour to attract tourist dollars.

The flipside of that, however, means fewer crowds and a better chance to grab a slice of authentic northern Italian life. Here are a few highlights of Emilia-Romagna.

Pork lovers rejoice

As with most Italian regions, Emilia-Romagna earns its place on the foodie map via certain specialties. Filled pasta is one, with anolini (little ravioli-like discs, stuffed with truffles and mushrooms) being a particular stand-out, while another attraction is the region’s wealth of pork products.

No meal here is truly complete without some choice cold cuts. Parma ham is perhaps the most famous, but that’s just the tip of the proverbial porcine iceberg. Culatello di Zibello is one of the rarer kinds. It’s produced in the lowlands of Colorno, where the thick fog wafting from the River Po creates the ideal environment for these hams to mature. They’re hung in dark, humid cellars, with expert staff regularly brushing off mould and testing their quality by simply tapping them with a hammer.

Al Vèdel is one of only fourteen Culatello producers in the world, where you may also be introduced to the strange delights of sparkling red wine. The local Lambrusco is chosen for its refreshing qualities complementing the rich pork cuts. It’s complex and takes a while to adjust your palette accordingly, but is light years away from the cheap and cheerful supermarket plonk we may associate with Lambrusco outside of Italy.

The perfect accompaniment to these cuts are some Gnocchi Fritti – great, puffy pockets of fried bread, usually stuffed at the table with whatever meats and cheeses you can lay your hands on.

Palatial Parma

Parma was an important Roman trading post – and later a major staging town for pilgrims, which explains the grandeur of the city’s architecture. Today it’s the region’s main cultural hub. You can practically hear the ghosts of Verdi and Toscanini echoing around the pedestrianised streets of the Old City.

Make time to explore the Teatro Farnese, an extraordinary complex of buildings, crowned by the Baroque masterpiece that is the Villa Farnese Theatre. This vast, wood-panelled ‘coliseum’ was built in 1611 for epic royal celebrations and is still used for classical music performances today.

Fast cars meet slow food in Modena

Modena pairs fast cars with slow food. Lamborghini, Maserati and Ferrrari all craft their automobiles here. The futuristic Enzo Ferrari Museum gives you a glimpse into the man behind the motor, and you can take a tour to zip around the region’s essential foodie pitstops.

In pole position on the province’s grid of gourmands sits Massimo Bottura, the triple Michelin starred chef behind the wheel at Osteria Francescana, which is currently ranked second in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

A visit to a traditional balsamic vinegar producer is a must. Take a tour of Villa Bianca‘s vineyards, carefully irrigated by robots, to get a glimpse of the 12-year-plus artisanal process. They mature the vinegar using strictly controlled methods, siphoning the sweet stuff between barrels of varying woods and sizes, all with a reverence usually reserved for wine.

There’s more to the city’s urbanity than food and cars though. Modena’s reputation as a hotbed of intellectualism and radical ideas is showcased by the often sold-out evening events at the Philosophy Festival on Piazza Giuseppe Mazzini. At the nearby Piazza Grande, it’s worth reflecting on the shimmering photo wall showing the faces of hundreds of Partisans who helped overthrow Fascism.

Comacchio: Emilia-Romagna’s answer to Venice

Okay, there’s only one Venice, but the sleepy estuary town of Comacchio on the Po Delta gives it a run for its money, with its maze of canals, stylised bridges and pastel-fronted buildings.

The entire town owes its livelihood to the humble eel, a history which is documented to surprisingly fascinating effect at the Eel Pickling Factory and Museum. Here you can see the ingenious nets and traps used to land eels over the centuries, who make an annual pilgrimage all the way from the Sargasso Sea to Comacchio, and the cavernous fireplaces used to roast them prior to pickling.

Sophia Loren became the slippery beast’s unlikely ambassador in the 1950s, after she starred as an eel fisherwoman in the film La Donna Del Fiume, with her face adorning the tins to this day. Drop into one of the many canal-side restaurants to sample local delicacies like “Donkey’s Beak” (eel soup served with grilled polenta).

The pleasures of Piacenza

When James Boswell came through Piacenza on his 1765 Grand Tour of Italy, he noted that the name literally translates as “pleasant abode, certainly a good omen.” Today the biggest town on the banks of the Po River is known for producing the largest amount of DOP and DOC cured meats, cheeses and wines in all of Italy.

Expect to sample a hefty portion of these at Taverna In, a modest-looking osteria in the shadow of the town theatre, designed by Lotario Tomba, the architect behind Milan’s famous La Scala opera house.

The town’s centrepiece is the Piazza dei Cavalli, dominated by bronze horse statues, the symbol of the powerful Farnese family who ruled the region during the sixteenth century, and the Gothic Palace, which has a distinctly Venetian feel.

Explore more of this region with the Rough Guides Snapshot to Emilia-RomagnaCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

The USA is practically bursting with amusement parks, from the sprawling and city-sized to the off-beat and unexpectedly endearing. Cotton candy and corn dogs, kiddie rides and coasters – here are the best theme parks in America.

Six Flags Magic Mountain, California

Magic Mountain boasts the world record for most roller coasters in a single amusement park, clocking in with a whopping 19, plus heaps of other rides. Thrills deserving of mention include Superman (launching you backwards from 0 to 100 miles per hour in seven seconds) and Tatsu (the tallest, fastest, longest flying roller coaster in the world).

Six Flags Magic Mountain by Jeff Turner on Flickr (license)

Cedar Point, Ohio

Though only two coasters short of Magic Mountain’s record, Cedar Point can still brag about its 72 other rides. A long stretch of sandy swimming beach along Lake Erie and array of attractions catering to all ages have kept this park an American favourite since its opening in 1870.

Walt Disney World, Florida

What list of amusement parks could go without mentioning Disney World? Indeed, the complex really is a world unto itself, with four gigantic theme parks, two top-notch waterparks, nonstop entertainment and 28 different Disney resorts suited to a variety of tastes and budgets.

From the cheery nostalgia of Magic Kingdom to the looping coasters of Hollywood Studios, Disney World’s immensity doesn’t just warrant a day trip, but a whole holiday.

Magic Kingdom by Jeff Krause on Flickr (license)

Dollywood, Tennessee

Few places put such a charming spin on celebrity cultism as Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s very own amusement park. Built in her Great Smoky Mountains homeland, the park draws its inspiration from the history and culture of East Tennessee.

An impressive breadth of rides, award-winning shows and festivals, a full-size steam train and the world’s fastest wooden roller coaster keep more than three million guests a season steadily rolling in.

Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, Florida

Universal Studios used to have an unspoken reputation as secondary to Disney, though by all means still a brilliant park. However since the opening of Islands of Adventure, particularly the recently expanded and incredibly detailed Wizarding World of Harry Potter, they just might be the best in the country.

A replica of the Hogwarts Express now connects the two parks. Both are bursting full of attractions, ranging from cutting-edge coasters on Marvel Superhero Island to whimsical ride-alongs in the land of Dr. Seuss.

Diagon Alley by Jeff Krause on Flickr (license)

Knoebels, Pennsylvania

Founded in 1926, Knoebels is a classic American amusement park running the types of nostalgic attractions and mighty wooden coasters you’d happily relive every summer. But above all, Knoebels should be praised for its prices. General admittance is free, and rides range from $1.25 ­to a maximum of $3 per person.

The park’s rather famous freshly-baked apple dumplings with ice cream also deserve special mention, as well as its dogs-allowed policy.

Pacific Park, Santa Monica, California

Though the thought that Pacific Park’s whirring rides are supported by a wooden pier alone might feel a little death-defying, the oceanfront ambience here will have you feeling California carefree.

There are only thirteen rides but remember: you’re in Santa Monica. Stroll through the gorgeous Venice Canals Walkway to Venice Beach, where Californian bodybuilders pump iron under the sun, skateboards and surfers showcase their skills, and all manner of bric-a-brac sellers, psychics and ragtag performers set up along the boardwalk. Welcome to people-watching paradise.

Pacific Park by Jim Sheaffer on Flickr (license)

Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, Indiana

The automatic two-parks-for-the-price-of-one-ticket is a huge draw here. Holiday World consistently wins awards for being the cleanest park in America, and it boasts some top-notch rides too.

Neighbouring Splashin’ Safari is home to the two longest water coasters on Earth, and it provides a refreshing relief after a hot summer morning spent in the sun. Plus, the thoughtful inclusion of free parking, sunscreen, wifi, all-day soft drinks and refreshments with the purchase of your entry ticket adds bonus value for your tourist buck.

Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York City

During the first half of the twentieth century Coney Island was a resort attracting the wealthy, home to grand hotels and extravagant carousels. Though no longer in its heyday, the East Coast atmosphere of the place is tough to beat.

Romantic old rides (three of which are protected NYC historic landmarks) look over 2.5 miles of white-sand beach and a lively boardwalk. Mid-century signage still adorns classic carnival games and stalls dishing out grade-A American comfort foods. New coasters are also in the works, and classic events such as Nathan’s Famous frankfurters Hot Dog Eating Contest and The Mermaid Parade continue their legacy each year.

Coney Island Boardwalk by Augie Ray on Flickr (license

Legoland, California

A great park for younger children, a day at Legoland provides a nice change of pace from the unbearable wait times of America’s most popular parks.

The nature of the park itself inspires kiddie creativity, and the success of 2014’s Lego Movie has breathed new life into the place. That said, those looking for an adrenaline fix may be left wanting.

Explore more of America with the Rough Guide to the USA. Compare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. Cover image from: Pixabay/CC0

It’s safe to say, most people’s preconceptions of Hull aren’t brilliant. In the past it has been named Britain’s worst city and the least romantic place in the UK. But Kingston upon Hull, to use its proper name, has come into its own in recent years.

Designated the UK City of Culture for 2017, Hull is finally showcasing to the world what a vibrant and intriguing place it really is. With exhibitions and celebrations all over the city this year, culminating in the September Freedom Festival, there’s plenty to interest every visitor. But even without all these special events, it remains a brilliant weekend away.

Here are just a few reasons to love this misunderstood city.

1. Its historical charm will surprise you

You might expect to see industrial factories and high-rise concrete blocks throughout Hull, but while much of the city was flattened by bombing during the blitz, some of its oldest streets remain.

Head to the Old Town, where cobbled roads are lined with charming old houses and visit the 700-year-old Holy Trinity Church for some typically British Gothic architecture.

The Victorian indoor marketplace and shopping arcade also evokes a past age; there are a handful of vendors still inside selling fresh fish and coffee, and the shops range from electronics to a quirky old joke store.

Shopping arcade by Lottie Gross

2. It’s full of cosy drinking holes

There’s nothing better than, after a long day of exploring, settling into a comfortable corner with a good old pint of English ale. Fortunately, there is plenty of opportunity for this in Hull.

Try the Lion & Key whose walls and ceiling are colourfully covered in beer mats, the Minerva, which is steeped in maritime history, and Ye Olde Black Boy, whose facade was painted pink for the Freedom Festival to signify that “colour doesn’t matter”, for local ales and snug seating.

The seventeenth century George Hotel has a lovely, wood-panelled bar, and just outside you can find what’s purported to be the smallest window in the world.

Need something to soak up that hangover? Look out for patties on any pub, restaurant or take-away menu. These deliciously deep-fried discs of mashed potato seasoned with sage are the perfect cure to the morning after your historic pub crawl. Try a pattie butty – yes, that’s two slices of bread with a pattie in the middle – if you need a carb overload. For something a little more upmarket, but equally comforting, try 1884 Dock Street Kitchen’s Sunday roasts.

3. There are brilliant museums – and they’re free

From street life and art to geology and archaeology, Hull’s free museums cover it all. There’s something for all ages, whether it’s climbing atop old trams and trains, or delving into the city’s maritime history.

Head to The Hull and East Riding Museum to travel through time: you’ll walk through a reconstructed iron age village, explore Roman bathhouses and see ancient Viking artefacts.

One of the city’s more poignant exhibitions is Wilberforce House, once the home of William Wilberforce who helped abolish slavery in the nineteenth-century British Empire. His pretty Georgian house in Hull’s Old Town High Street is now a museum about slavery, with films and interactive displays, as well as the work of Wilberforce himself.

If you’re looking for something a bit more hands on, hop aboard the Arctic Corsair (located behind the Streetlife Museum) for a guided tour of the city’s last remaining sidewinder fishing trawler – one of the most important vessels in the city’s deep sea fishing fleet.

The Streetlife Museum by Lottie Gross

4. It’s played home to some of Britain’s greatest figures

Poet Philip Larkin is one of Hull’s most famous exports, but there’s a whole host of big names that have grown up or settled in Hull. William Wilberforce – the man who helped abolish slavery in the UK – lived in Hull and his old home, a creaky, red-brick house, is now a museum dedicated to the fight against slavery.

There’s an entire book, titled The Famous Side of Hull, published by locals listing all the celebrities from the area, and even a hall of fame in Spin It Records inside the market building.

Wilberforce House by Lottie Gross

5. The city knows how to throw a party

The Freedom Festival is the highlight of the Hull calendar – a long weekend of performance arts, installations, street food and some seriously impressive fireworks.

The festival name hails from the link between William Wilberforce and Hull, but – according to the festival website – it’s as much about freedom of the people as it is about “exploring local, national and international representations of freedom, independence of spirit and creative expression.”

The Deep and the Humber by Lottie Gross

6. It’s going to be City of Culture 2017

We’ve long championed Hull as a travel destination – but in 2017 the city will be given a real change to shine as the UK’s Capital of Culture.

There’ll be something to see or do every day of 2017, and millions of pounds of investment flowing into the city.

7. It’s not that unromantic after all

We challenge anyone to stand in the tip of The Deep, watch the sun turn the sky a fiery orange as it sets over the Humber, and not feel even just a little wooed.

A photo posted by Lottie Gross (@lortusfleur) on


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

Few regions of the world have been as idealized and mythologized as California – and yet it seldom fails to live up to the hype. The glamour, surf beaches and near-endless sun of the Southern California coast are rightly celebrated, with Los Angeles, the second-most populous city in the US (after New York), at their heart.

The city itself is a frenetic collection of highways, coastline, seedy suburbs, high-gloss neighbourhoods and extreme lifestyles – all hemmed in by sandy beaches and snowcapped mountains rising above 10,000ft.

The area you decide to stay can have a big impact on your trip, so here’s our guide on where to stay in LA from the latest Rough Guide to California.

Downtown

Downtown, the historic heart of LA, has experienced something of a renaissance. Graceful old banks and hotels have been turned into apartments. The $2.5-billion shopping and entertainment complex, LA Live, has brought cinemas, upper-end hotels, numerous restaurants and clubs.

It remains a diverse neighbourhood however, with, in the space of a few blocks, adobe buildings and Mexican market stalls, skid row (one of the highest concentrations of homeless people in the US), avant-garde art galleries and high-rise corporate towers.

Accommodation here ranges from basic beds to plush hotels. But bear in mind that while Downtown is the hub of the MTA networks and public transport, getting to the beaches isn’t simple.

For a bargain: Jerry’s Motel. This hip, remodelled motel offers neat, stylish rooms and free parking just outside Downtown.

For sporty types: Los Angeles Athletic Club. The top three floors of this exclusive club make up a hotel with 72 nicely furnished rooms; a real bonus is free use of the club’s gym, plus a whirlpool and sauna.

Downtown LA / Pixabay / CC0

Hollywood

Ever since movies and their stars became international symbols of the good life, Hollywood has been a magnet to millions of tourists and an equal number of hopefuls drawn by the prospect of riches and glory.

In reality, this was a densely populated, low-income residential neighbourhood, and movie stars actually spent little time here – leaving as soon as they could afford to for the privacy of the hills or coast.
Things have brightened up in the past few years, with the construction of new tourist plazas and shopping malls.

The contrasting qualities of freshly polished nostalgia, corporate hype and deep-set seediness today make Hollywood one of LA’s most diverse areas – and one of its best spots for bar-hopping and clubbing.

For a quirky stay: Hollywood Bed & Breakfast. This B&B is set in a 1912 home that looks a little like something out of Dr. Seuss. It’s close to all the action with four cosy rooms and a small pool.

For modern simplicity: Magic Castle Hotel. Justly popular hotel boasting rooms and suites in a neat, modern style – with heated pool and free soda, candy and cookies 24 hours a day.

Hollywood / Pixabay / CC0

West LA

What is loosely called the Westside of Los Angeles begins immediately beyond Hollywood in West LA – which contains some of the city’s most expensive neighbourhoods.

Bordered by the Santa Monica Mountains to the north, the Santa Monica Freeway to the south, Hollywood to the east and the beach cities the west, this swath of the city best embodies the stylish images that Los Angeles projects to the outside world.

Highlights include the restaurants and boutiques of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, and the outstanding Getty Center, positioned high above the LA basin.

For Midwestern kitsch: Farmer’s Daughter. Conveniently located across from (naturally) the Farmers’ Market, this is a handsome boutique property with elements of “country styled” Midwestern kitsch.

For unbridled luxury: Bel-Air. The poshest hotel in LA bar none, built in 1946 and now owned by the Sultan of Brunei, in a lushly overgrown canyon and themed like an Arabian oasis.

Rodeo Drive / Pixabay / CC0

Santa Monica, Venice and Malibu

For many Angelenos, Santa Monica represents the impossible dream – a low-key, tolerant beachside town with a relaxed air and easy access to the rest of the city.

Set along a white-sand beach and home to some of LA’s finest stores, restaurants and galleries, this small community is friendly and liberal – a compact, accessible bastion of oceanside charm.

Immediately south lies quirky Venice, where you’ll find an eccentric mix of skaters, street acts, buskers and more. Gentrification has had an impact, but there’s still an edgy feel in some areas.

Malibu, to the north, has long been immortalised in surfing movies and is perfect for soaking up beach culture, with its ramshackle surf shops and fast-food stands along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH).

For a bed back from the beach: Ambrose. The best choice for inland Santa Monica, with Arts and Crafts-styled decor and boutique rooms.

For a romantic getaway: Channel Road Inn. The B&B rooms here are nestled in lower Santa Monica Canyon (northwest of the city of Santa Monica), with ocean views, a hot tub and free bike rentals.

The south bay

Head south of LAX and you’ll come to an eight-mile strip of enticing beach towns – Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach, part of the region known as the South Bay – which are quieter, smaller and more insular than the Westside beach communities.

Manhattan Beach is a likeable place with a healthy, well-to-do air. Hermosa Beach retains a lingering bohemian feel of the Sixties and Seventies in certain spots. Redondo Beach is less inviting than its relaxed neighbours with condos and hotels lining the beachfront, and the yacht-lined King’s Harbor off limits to curious visitors.

For the height of luxury: The Beach House. Two-room suites with fireplaces, wet bars, balconies, hot tubs, stereos and refrigerators. Many rooms overlook the ocean.

For ocean views: Portofino Hotel & Yacht Club. The best choices at this suite-hotel by the ocean have hot tubs and nice views over the elite playground of King Harbor.

Los Angeles beach / Pixabay / CC0

Orange County

For most visitors Orange County means Disneyland (even though it only exists on roughly one square mile of land, it continues to dominate the area) and you should only look at staying here if you’re heading to the park or travelling along the coast.

For a surfer’s paradise: Huntington Surf Inn. Right on the beach and close to the pier, with nine simple but super cool rooms featuring a pop-art theme based on Southern California beach and surfing culture. Lots of pro surfers really do stay here.

For oceanside luxury: Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel. A stunning Ritz-Carlton, this one is perhaps the best in town for its oceanside beauty (on the cliffs overlooking the sea around Dana Point). Rooms and suites are chock-full of luxury.

Dana Point Sunset / Pixabay / CC0

Explore more of Los Angeles with the Rough Guide to California or the Rough Guide to the USA.

This feature contains affiliate links; you can find out more about why we’ve partnered with booking.com here. All recommendations are editorially independent and taken from the Rough Guide to California. 

Croatia is one of Europe’s rising tourist stars. This remarkable Adriatic country of 1244 islands, bear and wild boar inhabited forests and world-class vineyards is so much more than just a beach destination. To make sure you hit the ground running in this complex and diverse nation, follow our top ten Croatia travel tips.

1. Be picky

Avoid the temptation to cram too much of this geographically challenging country in to your first visit. If you only have a week split it between the capital, Zagreb, for a night or two and spend the rest of the time exploring the famous Adriatic coast. Longer trips allow rewarding forays further afield, where gems like the UNESCO listed Plitvice Lakes, the castles of the Zagorje and the Slavonian vineyards await.

2. Don’t only go to Dubrovnik

Yes Games of Thrones star Dubrovnik is every bit Lord Byron’s ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, but also tempting on the coast is Split, the country’s second largest city, whose city centre is remarkably a UNESCO site, the spectacular Roman Diocletian’s Palace.

Further north the old Roman hub of Zadar and early Croatian city Šibenik are lively hubs just emerging from the bitter 1990s war, where the cafes are less filled with tourists.

The same goes for the city of Pula in the northwest of the Croatian littoral, which boasts a UNESCO listed Roman amphitheatre.

3. Don’t let the bugs bite

From late spring into autumn mosquitoes are a nuisance throughout much of the country so find a good repellent that your skin does not react to. Light colours help. Avoid wearing fragrances too. Tics are a more pressing problem as they can cause serious illness so wear thick socks and cover up your legs when hiking. A simple tic remover is a good investment, especially if you may be trekking in rural areas.

4. Get the best beds

Spare beds can be hard to come by in summer especially in the most popular islands – like Hvar and Brač – and Dubrovnik. Booking ahead makes sense, but if you do get caught short look out for the sobe signs, which are essentially advertising rooms in locals’ homes. As well as being cheap, staying at a sobe can be a great way to meet Croats. If they are full, owners will often point you in the direction of another nearby.

5. Drink up

Of the big domestic brands Karlovacko is the favourite beer of many Croats and justifiably so. Croatia’s wines are seriously underrated abroad, at least in part due to the relatively small production and high domestic demand. Look out for the mighty Dingac red and the dry Posip white, both from Dalmatia. Istria is renowned for its Malvasija (great with seafood), while the Dubrovnik region’s own Malvasia is on the rise too.

6. Health matters

You should always take out decent travel insurance, even for a weekend break. If you’re an EU resident, be sure to pack a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This entitles you to a basic level of state health care in Croatia. It won’t cover you for repatriation, ongoing medical treatment and non-urgent treatment though, which is where good travel insurance comes in. The emergency ambulance number in Croatia is 112.

7. Get active

Croatia may be famed as a sea and sun destination, but getting active is the best way to discover its wilder corners. Paklenica National Park offers superb hiking and climbing, while in the islands the walk to the highest point, Vidova Gora on Brač, offers remarkable views. For rafting the Cetina River tempts, while windsurfers should head to Korčula and paragliders to Mount Ucka.

8. Eat well

Croats are justifiably proud of the fine organic produce their country conjures up in such abundance and many will refer to the processed food in supermarkets witheringly as ‘cat food’. Wherever you are, a local market is never far away, so shop local to put together a mouth-watering picnic bursting with fresh flavour.

9. Talk to the locals

Be very careful when discussing the Homeland War, which ravaged the country as it became independent from Yugoslavia in the 1990s, with a local. Do a little bit of research before your trip and hold back any too hastily formed views. Then when a Croat does decide to open up a little about those defining years, your knowledge and interest may help you gain an insight into the country well beyond the tourist sheen, which adds a totally different dimension to your trip.

10. Savour the seafood

Croatia’s seafood is truly world class. A bounty of fishy delights are hauled daily from the Adriatic, the cleanest corner of the Mediterranean. Even if you’re timid about bones and shells no trip to the coast is complete without a seafood feast. The best value way of sampling a range of delights is to order the riblja plata, a mixed platter of fish and shellfish, which is usually plenty for two to share.

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

Situated at the northern and southern extremes of this long, thin country, Vietnam’s two main cities lie over a thousand kilometres apart.

Southern Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), formerly Saigon, was the US base during the Vietnam War and since the country’s unification has transformed into a thoroughly modern, thriving metropolis. The somewhat less modern capital, Hanoi, runs at a noisier pace, with its lively Old Quarter full of winding lanes.

Yet both cities can at times seem hyperactive, and you’ll need your wits about you to navigate their astonishingly hectic traffic. Can’t choose which one to visit? Here’s our lowdown on how they differ.

Which is best for culture?

Neither city is short of museums, temples, pagodas and impressive colonial architecture. Both have a cathedral too – relics of the French occupation – and highly entertaining traditional water-puppet shows.

HCMC has several more theme parks than Hanoi, so if rollercoasters are your thing, head south. If you’re more at home in a gallery than doing loop-the-loops, Hanoi will be a better bet, as it pips the post for both fine and contemporary art.

People from Hanoi are known for sometimes being more standoffish than their southern counterparts, with more traditional values and formal manners.

HCMC, more influenced by foreign cultures than Hanoi – particularly American and French – has a more spontaneous and open feel to it. Innovation is king and young trendsetters lead the way, alongside thriving tech-minded entrepreneurs and booming businesses.

Which is best for food?

You won’t struggle to find cheap, local culinary delights in either Hanoi or HCMC – street food is ubiquitous and, on the whole, mouth-watering in both cities. Hanoi is the home of pho (noodle soup), Vietnam’s national dish, which you can get on just about any street corner for as little as a dollar.

The street food in HCMC is just as readily available as up north, but tends to be slightly sweeter. Fantastic smells waft through the side streets of both these foodie-heaven cities, and there’s a lot more to tempt your palate than just banh mi (filled baguettes) and pho.

Café culture, a hangover from the French, permeates both cities too; in HCMC the coffee is sweeter and not quite as punchy as the equivalent brews in Hanoi.

Both cities have an astounding array of international cuisine, though HCMC just about trumps Hanoi on the breadth and quality of choices, as well as for upmarket restaurants.

What about nightlife?

The Vietnamese government is cracking down on venues opening after midnight, so several establishments close earlier than they used to.

HCMC has managed to retain far more late-night options than its northern sister, though a handful of Hanoi bars still manage to stay open until the last punter leaves (or passes out). The narrow streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter come to life at night, with thousands of locals and tourists alike flooding the alleyways, consuming cheap drinks on tiny plastic stools while snacking on steaming plates of barbequed pork and fried chicken feet.

Many of the bars in HCMC have live music at the weekend, and it’s certainly the place to be for classy cocktail lounges. If you’re looking for a refined evening out, or for a club with air conditioning where you can party till the small hours, HCMC is your best bet.

For cheap booze and backpacker vibe, though the area around De Tham in HCMC is great, Hanoi has far more going for it for the laidback, on-a-shoestring traveller. If you didn’t pack your smart shoes, Hanoi is where you want to be.

Where should I shop?

Hanoi has the superior choice of crafts, silk accessories and handmade goods. Craftsmen specialize in wood-and stone-carvings, embroideries and lacquerware, the finest of which are on sale at the southern end of the Old Quarter.

HCMC offers a plethora of cheap souvenir options, such as at Ben Thanh market, or for upmarket boutiques try Dong Khoi. The southern city is also the king of the malls, with vast, modern air-conditioned edifices housing copious brand and designer shops – ideal for cooling off from the humid urban heat.

Where should I go to relax?

Hanoi has developed rapidly in recent years, with new skyscrapers hastily transforming the city’s skyline outside of the Old Quarter. Both cities have populations of around eight million, but people are more crammed into the smaller HCMC. That said, the pedestrianized streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter can get so packed with people that during peak hours it can be difficult to move at all, and the city’s ceaseless noise can be too much for some.

Traffic in both cities is continuously hectic, with countless hooting scooters zipping about in a seemingly insane manner. The newer, wider streets of HCMC at least allow for more movement, but everything is relative ­– don’t expect a walk through town to be a peaceful meander.

In Hanoi you can at least cool down, with average temperatures dropping to 17°C in January, while temperatures in HCMC never fall below the high twenties. Mix that with high humidity and you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a sweat on whenever you go.

To escape the southern heat, the green, tree-shaded lawns of HCMC’s Cong Vien Van Hoa Park, once a colonial sporting complex, is a popular downtime spot, as is the city’s Botanical Garden.

Though small, Hoan Kiem Lake is the heart of Hanoi for its residents, and a charming place to take a moment away from the chaotic city streets and watch elderly locals quietly enjoying games of chess and mahjong.

Which is best base for day-trips?

Ha Long Bay, a dreamy seascape of jagged limestone rocks jutting out over calm waters, is Vietnam’s number one tourist attraction and can be visited in a day-trip from Hanoi. Be warned though, it’s a hefty journey, at around four hours each way.

Under two hour’s drive from HCMC, the Cu Chi Tunnels are a top option for a day-trip. The tunnels were used by the Viet Cong army during the Vietnam War, and visitors can see the wince-inducing booby traps set for the American soldiers, as well as take a smothering look for themselves inside the tunnels. Tours are best booked with a travel agency around Pham Ngu Lao (roughly 180,000 VND).

So which one should I go to?

Naturally, this depends what you’re looking for. Hanoi errs on the more historical, less glitzy side, allowing visitors a glimpse of traditional Vietnamese culture as well as giving ample opportunities to see the best of the country’s artistic and creative offerings while appreciating the low-key street life.

HCMC, as the commercial centre of the country, inevitably has more investment, fancier hotels, smarter restaurants and an exclusive nightlife scene.

However, both these metropolises have excellent museums and cultural sights, plenty of tranquil places to unwind, superb food and day-trips to some of Vietnam’s most interesting locations. Take your pick!

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

A dazzling oasis where forty million people a year let their hair down, Las Vegas has made a fine art of indulging its visitors’ every appetite. From its ever-changing architecture to cascading chocolate fountains, adrenaline-pumping zip lines and jaw-dropping stage shows, everything is built to thrill.

The Strip is where the real action is, a visual feast where each mega-casino vies to outdo the next with some outlandish theme, be it an Egyptian pyramid (Luxor), a Roman extravaganza (Caesars Palace), a fairytale castle (Excalibur) or a European city (Paris and the Venetian).

From the new Pocket Rough Guide to Las Vegas by Greg Ward, we’ve picked 15 unmissable things to do on The Strip – get the full guide to start planning your trip.

1. Marvel at the Bellagio

This is Las Vegas at its most luxurious, an Italianate marble extravaganza with its own eight-acre lake. Head to Jean Philippe Patisserie to enjoy morning pastries while admiring the world’s largest chocolate fountain, check out the Conservatory (part greenhouse, part camp and colourful fantasyland), and be sure to watch the mesmerising jets of the fountains after sundown.

2. Go all out on a Las Vegas buffet

The all-you-can-eat buffet is one tradition Las Vegas will never let go. For the ultimate in indulgence, head for Caesars Palace and buy a “Buffet of Buffets” pass, valid for 24 hours at all Caesars’ properties. Start with the Bacchanal Buffet, which epitomizes decadent Las Vegas excess.

3. See the Flamingo’s classic kitsch

Okay, so the Flamingo these days is more Donny Osmond than Bugsy Siegel, but the original Strip resort still holds plenty of kitsch. From its superb neon sign and the Strip-facing patio of Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, to its trademark real-life flamingoes in the free Wildlife Habitat, there’s a lot to like about the Flamingo.

4. Hit the shops

Shopping now ranks among the principal reasons that people visit Las Vegas, and most people do almost all of their shopping on the Strip itself. Their prime destination is the amazing Forum at Caesars Palace, where a false sky cycles hourly between day and night, followed by the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian, complete with operatic gondoliers plying the waters of the Grand Canal, and Miracle Mile at Planet Hollywood.

5. Explore the Luxor pyramid

Inside the sloping, monolithic walls of the Luxor lie two interesting exhibits. Enter the Egyptian pyramid through the paws of the Sphinx to see Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, the world’s only permanent exhibition of items salvaged from the Titanic, and the gruesome but uplifting Bodies…the Exhibition.

6.  Solve a murder

At CSI The Experience at the MGM Grand you can put your razor-sharp forensic skills to the test investigating, and almost certainly solving, fictional murder mysteries. A hugely enjoyable interactive adventure, this is perhaps the most enjoyable family attraction in Las Vegas.

7. Ride the Big Apple Coaster

Shake things up with a loop around the Manhattan skyline on New York–New York’s Big Apple Coaster. The little yellow cabs that loop and race around its skyscraper towers speed at 67mph, plunge over 200ft and roll like a jet fighter – this is a serious thrill ride no theme-park fan should miss.

8. Get the Eiffel Tower Experience

Ride into the skies atop Las Vegas’s own miniature version of Paris and look down on the rest of the Strip. The observation platform is perfectly poised to look north and south along the busiest stretch, as well as west, and down, to the fountains of Bellagio.

9. Catch a show

The old-style feathers-and-sequins revues have been supplanted by a never-ending stream of jaw-droppingly lavish shows by the Cirque du Soleil, plus the likes of the postmodern Blue Man Group and more.

10. Take a spin on the High Roller

At 550ft high the Las Vegas High Roller is the world’s largest observation wheel, and commands tremendous views over the city. The long-range panoramas are particularly spectacular, though intervening buildings mean it doesn’t offer ground-level views of the Strip.

11. Dine out

You could eat a great meal in a different restaurant on The Strip every night. Two of our favourites include Thomas Keller’s French bistro Bouchon at the Venetian, where the menu at is every bit as special as the setting, and Scarpetta at the Cosmopolitan, where you watch the Bellagio fountains as you savour Scott Conant’s wonderful contemporary take on Italian cuisine.

12. Watch a volcano erupt

Once the sun’s gone down, take your place outside the Mirage. The artificial volcano at Steve Wynn’s first Strip venture erupts at hourly intervals, on the hour, after dark.

13. Cross the drawbridge into Excalibur

If things haven’t been kitsch enough yet, stroll through this bizarre Arthurian castle-casino. Built in 1990, it remains the most visible reminder of the era when Las Vegas briefly re-invented itself as a vast children’s playground – although with its jam-packed, multi-coloured turrets it doesn’t so much look like a castle, as like a child’s drawing of a castle.

14. See Big Elvis

Head for the no-cover Piano Bar in Harrah’s, where the hunka-hunka love that is Pete Vallee, Las Vegas’s biggest and best-loved Elvis impersonator. His King-like voice, mastery of Elvis’s repertoire and easy audience rapport make this the best free show in town.

15. Spot crocodiles and sharks at Mandalay Bay

In keeping with Las Vegas’s emphasis on immediate thrills, the Shark Reef aquarium focuses almost exclusively on dangerous marine predators, prowling through tanks designed to resemble a decaying ancient Mayan temple that’s sinking into the sea.

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

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

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

2. British Airways i360, Brighton, UK

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

3. Louvre Abu Dhabi, UAE

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

4. Independence Plaza, Space Centre, Houston, USA

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

5. Omaka Aviation Centre, New Zealand

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

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

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

7. Museo Nacional del Perú de Pachacámac, Peru

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

8. Movie Animation Park Studios, Malaysia

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

9. Chaplin Museum: The Modern Times Museum, Switzerland

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

Photo © Enrico Romanzi

10. Mont Blanc Skyway, Courmayeur, Italy

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

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

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In search of somewhere a little more adventurous and lot less travelled than the famous backwaters of Kerala? Head to the Godavari Delta on the eastern coast of Andhra Pradesh, where you’ll find a rich area for exploration says Nick Edwards, co-author of The Rough Guide to India.

The mighty Godavari, second only in length to the Ganges, traverses central India from its source near the holy city of Nasik in the Western Ghats, finally issuing in the Bay of Bengal after its almost 1500km journey. As it widens and then divides into several distinct mouths, not only does it create a highly fertile basin but it also offers a number of delightful hideaways that are only just opening up as tourist destinations.

So far such visitors as do make it here are almost exclusively domestic tourists, meaning that it’s a great place to get an authentic experience of being the only foreigner for miles around.

Drop anchor at Rajahmundry

The best base to start investigating this fascinating region is Rajahmundry, which sprawls along the east bank of the river just at the point where it makes its first major split into the mouths that constitute the vast estuary.

Although Rajahmundry is a good eighty kilometres from the coast, the river is so wide at this point that it takes five to ten minutes to cross by road or train. It’s well connected, lying on the main east coast transport route, roughly halfway between the  better known cities of Vijayawada and Vishakapatnam.

Godavari by Venkataramesh Kommoju via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The city itself is busy in a typically Indian way and doesn’t offer any particular attractions but is far from unpleasant, with plenty of greenery and a lively riverfront. As you would expect for the last major town on India’s second holiest river, this area is lined with all sorts of temples, shrines and bathing ghats, making it a splendid spot to take in Hindu practices at work.

As many of the places that are worth visiting are quite difficult or impossible to access under your own steam, Rajahmundry is also the place to organise a tour with a dedicated agency such as Konaseema Tourism.

Head for the hills upriver

One excellent tour that is well worth considering is the trip north up the main trunk of the Godavari to the hills of Papikondalu. This can be done as a lengthy day-trip but it’s far better to make it into an overnight stay.

Having been transported some 50km by road along the west bank of the narrowing river to a small jetty at Polavaram, you board a double-decker motor boat and are fed a typically South Indian breakfast of idli, vada, sambar and coconut chutney. This vessel then chugs upstream at a sedate pace, as the river snakes through a mixture of agricultural and wooded land, fringed with more thickly forested hills.

The trip is very much geared towards locals, with speakers blaring out extremely loud music, ranging from devotional temple chants, through Bollywood hits to Indian reggae (yes, reggae not raga), interspersed with a rapid rap-style Telugu commentary. There are a couple of stops, one for puja at a small riverside Shiva temple and later a quiet Ramakrishna hermitage. A tasty veg lunch is also provided on board.

If you choose to stay overnight, there’s a choice between the very basic Kolluru Bamboo Huts, only accessible by boat, and a slightly more comfortable hotel at Bhadrachalam, which has an impressive Sri Rama temple and is connected by road, so the tour can actually be used as a means of transport, much like the famous Kollam to Alleppey trip in Kerala.

There’s is no doubt the more romantic option is to stay at Kolluru. The huts certainly have no frills, or even doors, but the location on a hillock between the Godavari and a picturesque side stream, surrounded by the high Papikondalu Hills, is exquisite. Try local specialities such as bamboo chicken, where small chunks of meat are roasted over coals in a thick hollowed-out section of bamboo, and take in the unforgettable night sky.

Explore Konaseema and Koringa

The other rewarding areas to explore are to the south and east of Rajahmundry.

Konaseema is the palm-rich region in the flat delta of large islands created by the seven mouths of the Godavari, dotted with grassy marshes, fishing boats and small motorised ferries. Fairly upmarket waterfront resorts are beginning to appear, mainly around the villages of Dindi and Razole, both of which are accessible by bus.

There are also the early signs of houseboats becoming available, although there is nothing like the choice of Kerala yet. This is the part of Andhra Pradesh where the purest form of Telugu is spoken and its vibrant cultural heritage is evidenced in colourful festivals at the many temples, such as Sankranti in January.

Konaseema – Coconut trees by { pranav } via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Finally, occupying a large swathe of coastline just north of the main mouth of the river, between the small Union Territory of Yanam, an old French colony, and the busy port of Kakinada, lies the Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary. The area is densely packed with mangrove swamps, second only in surface area to the Sunderbans, and a host of other water-loving plants, shrubs and trees.

There’s a boardwalk set up through the muddy groves and a tiny jetty for boat trips when the tide allows, plus a concrete viewing platform for a splendid overview. Among the birdlife you can spot here is the ubiquitous egret, the open-billed stork, kingfishers and even the Brahminy kite, while the elusive otter is the most notable resident mammal. The surrounding bay is also a major breeding ground for the Olive Ridley turtle.

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