Walking: just putting one foot in front of the other, right? How hard can that be? Yes, a walking trip is something that anyone can do, but it is also something that needs preparation.

Hiking boots that don’t fit, a water bottle that isn’t big enough, a phone battery that never lasts – these are the things that pass from mere annoyance to sheer torture – even abject danger – on a long walk. Don’t fall into these easy-to-avoid first-timer traps – stay on track with our top hiking tips.

1. Put your best foot forward

First things first: boots. Do. Not. Scrimp. This cannot be emphasised enough. Your boots are your best friend on the trail and you need to spend some time picking them out. Get help at your local outdoor store and test out as many pairs as it takes to find a comfortable fit.

Don’t ignore the faux mountain slopes in the store, either – have a walk up and down them, jump, wiggle your toes. The most common mistake is thinking boots will stretch out – but a size too small is the surest way to a black toenail. Buy bigger if in doubt. And pick up spare laces too. If yours snap on the trail these will be worth their weight in Gore-Tex.

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2. Stick to the path

Sounds simple, but taking a “shortcut” is how most people end up lost. It may look quicker to “cut a corner”, but that corner could be hiding a swamp, thick jungle, a steep slope, anything.

Follow the signs, stick to marked routes and accept that the person who marked out the trail probably does know best.

3. Take a guide

Concerned about being alone out there? If you’re at all unsure about where you’re going, or whether you can hack it, join a group. Numerous operators (Macs Adventure, Headwater, Ramblers) offer guided group walks around the UK, Europe, the USA and further afield – and there is, after all, safety in numbers. Many also offer self-guided walking holidays, with all route notes provided.

4. Don’t descend into madness

Everything is flat on a map – but you and your muscles both know that this is far from reality. Learn to read the contours, the circular lines that join points of the same height together, on your map and you’ll be able to see the height change and prepare for – or avoid – steep ascents and descents.

Remember that contour lines closer together mean the slope is steeper, and that downhill can actually be much harder on the muscles than uphill. Reduce the number of miles you plan to walk if the terrain is steep and you’ll avoid burning thigh muscles.

5. Wrap up

Clothing is your protection against the elements and thin layers are best. Pack a microfleece (the lightest you can find), good quality waterproofs (jacket and trousers) and a hat and gloves if you’re somewhere cold or at altitude, and don’t forget the suncream and a sun hat if it’s going to be hot.

A thin scarf is great for covering up against the sun, sitting on, drying yourself off with and a number of other things that make it an essential.

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6. Stock up

If you’re walking in a remote area you’ll need to bring everything, including water and food, with you. Pack ingredients to make sandwiches (don’t forget a knife), nuts and chocolate as energy-giving snacks and a Camelbak hydration pack filled with water. Soluble vitamin C tablets can be added to water for an extra burst of energy.

7. Get in shape

Think you can walk 15 miles in one day because it takes you 20 minutes to dash to the train station each morning? Think again.

Walking for a sustained period through rough terrain is an entirely different game. So if you’ve booked the Inca Trail start with a hike in your local park and work up to build your stamina.

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8. Grab a pole

Walking poles split opinion, but most serious walkers carry one – and swear by it. A pole gives you an extra limb, one that you can use for additional balance, or simply to check out the depth of puddles or just how thick that undergrowth is.

9. Respect the mountain

How often do we hear about someone being rescued from Ben Nevis or the Rockies? Never forget that the mountain is king and cares not a jot for you, the hiker.

Always check the weather locally before heading out and don’t start ascending those peaks if it’s closing in or a storm is en route. Wrap up warm, and take a whistle and a torch, these will be invaluable if for some reason you do need to attract attention.

10. Get appy

There are dozens of apps out there for hikers, but one of our favourites is Endomondo. Tap the play button as you start walking and it will monitor how far you walk, what your elevation gain or loss is and log your route on a map. It will even tell you how much water you should drink and how many calories you’ve burned.

11. Get high safely

Some of the world’s best hikes (the Inca Trail, the Annapurna Circuit) take place at altitude and this is not something to take lightly. Altitude sickness can kill, and it may start with a simple headache or nausea. If you feel mildly hungover, short of breath even when resting, or dizzy, seek help immediately and descend as far as possible. There is no cure apart from descending, so never try to push on.

Altitude sickness can usually be avoided by acclimatising slowly, so spend a couple of days resting at altitude before walking. Drink plenty of water too and avoid alcohol too.

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12. Bring batteries

For everything. That torch, your camera, your mobile phone. Check and charge everything fully before you head out and bring spares. For your phone, which could turn out to be your lifeline, pack the MiPow Power Tube 3000. It has an integral cable and can charge your phone more than once. It will also sync with your phone, making it beep if you accidentally leave it behind.

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

Tuscany harbours the classic landscapes of Italy, familiar from a thousand Renaissance paintings, with its backdrop of medieval hill-towns, rows of cypresses, vineyards and olive groves, and artfully sited villas and farmhouses. It’s a stereotype that has long held an irresistible attraction. Nowadays Tuscany is among Italy’s wealthiest regions, but it remains predominantly rural, with great tracts of land still looking much as they did half a millennium ago.

It’s not possible to see everything that Tuscany has to offer in one trip – but this selection of the region’s highlights is a great place to start. From the new Rough Guide to Tuscany and Umbria, this is our pick of the best things to do in Tuscany.

1. Taste truffles in San Miniato

Tuscany offers plenty of opportunities for sampling this perfumed and pricey fungus. San Miniato, a brisk little agricultural town more or less equidistant between Pisa and Florence, is particularly renowned throughout Italy for the white variety.

2. Take a day-trip to Cortona

The ancient hill-town of Cortona is the major attraction on the agricultural plain of the Valdichiana, its steep streets giving an unforgettable view over Lago Trasimeno and the Valdichiana. In the wake of the film of Under the Tuscan Sun, Cortona was briefly the second most popular Italian destination for US tourists after Venice, but although it still attracts busloads of tourists nowadays, its steep little streets have not yet lost their charm.

3. Go wild in the Monti dell’Uccellina

The protected environment of the Monti dell’Uccellina is one of Italy’s last pristine stretches of coastline. The Maremma region in which it lies was long Tuscany’s forgotten corner, its coastal plains, marshes, forest-covered hills and wild, empty upland interior having been a place of exile and fear for much of the last five hundred years, but in this regional park efforts have been made to preserve these natural treasures.

4. Make a pilgrimage to La Verna

St Francis’s mountaintop retreat, still a thriving Franciscan monastery commanding wonderful views of the Apennines, is Tuscany’s major pilgrimage site. Some come here to pay homage, others to stay in the guesthouse adjoining the monks’ quarters and some merely out of curiosity. Unlike at the basilica at Assisi, however, sightseers rarely obscure the purpose of the place.

5. Get lost in The Uffizi

Italy’s finest collection of art and the world’s greatest collection of Italian Renaissance paintings in Florence has recently doubled in size. There are so many masterpieces collected here that you can only skate over the surface in a single visit – set aside at least half a day to explore.

6. Go walking in the Alpi Apuane

Famous for their marble quarries, the Alpi Apuane of Northern Tuscany are also something of a botanical wonderland, with vast forests of beech and chestnut, and a profusion of wildflowers in spring. A network of clearly marked footpaths and longer trails thread the steep forested valleys, and there are some three hundred species of birds to spot as you hike – including the golden eagle, kestrels, buzzards and sparrowhawks.

7. Visit the Piero della Francesca masterpieces in Arezzo

Exquisite Renaissance works adorn almost every place of any size in Tuscany, but the stunning fresco cycles in Arezzo by Piero della Francesca are some of the finest of the region’s riches. Only 25 people are allowed into the choir of San Francesco at a time, so to be sure of getting in at the hour you want, check the Rough Guide for details of how to book a place in advance.

8. Wander the streets of San Gimignano

San Gimignano – “delle Belle Torri” – is famed for its amazing skyline which is dominated by fifteen medieval towers. The beautifully persevered streets are a vision of medieval perfection, but visit out of season if you can; the town’s magic can be compromised in summer by huge numbers of day-trippers.

9. Be a tourist in Pisa

It might be the subject of millions of postcards, but the Campo dei Miracoli in Pisa is still worth visiting. There’s a breathtaking array of buildings here: the Leaning Tower, Italy’s signature building saved from collapse in the nick of time, the vast Romanesque cathedral, the magnificent baptistery and the Camposanto with its beautiful frescoes and impressive tombs.

10. Walk the city walls in Lucca

Lucca has some of the most handsome Romanesque buildings in Europe, but tourism here is very much a secondary consideration. Get to know the town by walking or cycling the fortifications that still completely encircle the old city – the mid-afternoon shutdown is perhaps the best time to follow the 4km circuit, which is lined with plane, lime, ilex and chestnut trees.

11. Wine down in Chianti

Some of Italy’s finest vintages are produced in these celebrated vineyards between Florence and Siena. The region can seem like a place where every aspect of life is in perfect balance: the undulating landscape is harmoniously varied; the climate for most of the year is balmy; and on top of all this there’s some serious wine tasting to get stuck into…

12. Embrace open-air art

Located 5km southeast of Capalbio is one of Italy’s oddest collections of modern art, Il Giardino dei Tarocchi (Tarot Garden), a whimsical sculpture garden of prodigious works by Niki de Saint Phalle. The brightly coloured, Gaudí-esque opus took the artist almost seventeen years to complete and the result is a truly staggering sight – sheer fun that children love and adults marvel at.

13. Sample island life on Giglio

Out in the Tuscan archipelago, Giglio is relatively unspoilt by the sort of tourist development that has infiltrated – though certainly not ruined – nearby Elba. This little jewel of an island boasts citadels, stone villages and panoramic mountain hikes, as well as beaches and watersports.

14. Hit the spa

Tuscany has some of the swankiest spa towns in all of Italy, but at Bagno Vignoni you can soak without paying a cent. This tiny and atmospheric village has a wonderful natural hot spring and Medici-era pool in place of a central piazza – sadly this is now out of bounds, but you can take a dip in the free outdoor sulphur pools nearby.

15. Go rural

Staying in Tuscany’s hill-towns obviously makes sightseeing easier, but the quality and variety of the region’s rural accommodation is outstanding. If you want to splash out, try a top-price hotel in a sublime setting such as the Castello di Velona. This twelfth-century “castle” 10km south of Montalcino is now a superb 46-room five-star hotel, set in lovely open countryside on its own hill and ringed by cypresses.

 Get the complete guide to Tuscany with the Rough Guide to Tuscany and UmbriaCompare flightsbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

So you’ve gawked at the guards of Buckingham Palace, hiked up Snowdon and hit the beach – what next? From lethal motorcycle races to mountain towns that look like something out of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, here are 8 unconventional things to do in the UK.

1. Horse about at Scotland’s Common Ridings

The Common Ridings of the Scottish border towns of Hawick, Selkirk, Jedburgh and Lauder are an equestrian extravaganza that combines the danger of Pamplona’s Fiesta de San Fermin and the drinking of Munich’s Oktoberfest. At dawn on each day of the ridings, a colourful and incredibly noisy drum and fife band marches around the streets to shake people from their sleep. It’s a signal: everyone get down to the pub – they open at 6am – and stock up on the traditional breakfast of “Curds and Cream” (rum and milk). Suitably fortified, over two hundred riders then mount their horses and gallop at breakneck speed around the ancient lanes and narrow streets of town, before heading out into the fields to race again.

By early evening, the spectators and riders stagger back into Hawick to reacquaint themselves with the town’s pubs. Stumbling out onto the street at well past midnight, you should have just enough time for an hour or two of shuteye before the fife band strikes up once more and it’s time to do it all over again.

2. Find Middle Earth in Northern Ireland

The mountains rise above the seaside town of Newcastle like green giants, with Slieve Donard the highest, almost 3000ft above the sandy strand of Dundrum Bay. Donard is just one of more than twenty peaks in County Down’s Mourne, with a dozen of them towering over 2000ft.

Conveniently grouped together in a range that is just seven miles broad and about fourteen miles long, they are surprisingly overlooked. On foot, in a landscape with no interior roads, you feel as if you have reached a magical oasis of high ground, a pure space that is part Finian’s Rainbow and part Middle Earth. This is ancient land and prehistoric cairns and stone graves – said to mark the resting place of Irish chiefs – dot the hills, peering through the mist to meet you.

3. Mountain bike on world-class trails in Wales

It’s not often that the modest mountains of Wales can compete with giants like the Alps or the Rockies, but when it comes to mountain biking, the trails that run through the craggy peaks of Snowdonia, the high moorlands of the Cambrian Mountains, and the deep, green valleys of South Wales are more than a match for their loftier counterparts. Indeed, the International Mountain Biking Association has long rated Wales as one of the planet’s top destinations.

Over the last decade or so, a series of purpose-built mountain-biking centres has been created throughout the country, providing world-class riding for everyone from rank beginner through to potential-world-cup downhiller. From easy, gently undulating trails along former rail lines that once served the heavy industry of the South Wales valleys, to the steep, rooty, rocky single tracks that run through the cloud-shadowed hills of North Wales, this is mountain biking at its finest.

_MTB1662 by Dai Williams (license)

4. Explore Britain’s most mysterious beach in Scotland

Cape Wrath is a name that epitomizes nature at its harshest, land and sea at their most unforgiving. In fact, the name Wrath denotes a “turning point” in Old Norse, and the Vikings regarded this stockade of vertical rock in the most northwesterly corner of Scotland as a milestone in their ocean-going voyages. As such, they were surely among the first travellers to come under the spell of Sandwood Bay, the Cape’s most elemental stretch of coastline.

Here blow Britain’s most remote sands, flanked by epic dunes and a slither of shimmering loch; a beach of such austere and unexpected elegance, scoured so relentlessly by the Atlantic and located in such relative isolation, that it scarcely seems part of the Scottish mainland at all. Even on the clearest of summer days, when shoals of cumuli race shadows across the foreshore, you are unlikely to encounter other visitors save for the odd sandpiper. You might not be entirely alone, though; whole galleons are said to be buried in the sand, and a cast of mermaids, ghostly pirates and grumbling sailors has filled accounts of the place for as long as people have frequented it.

5. Discover heaven on Earth in Cornwall

A disused clay pit may seem like an odd location for Britain’s very own ecological paradise, but then everything about Cornwall’s Eden Project is far from conventional. From the concept of creating a unique ecosystem that could showcase the diversity of the world’s plant life, through to the execution – a set of bulbous, alien-like, geodesic biomes wedged into the hillside of a crater – the designers have never been less than innovative.

The gigantic humid Rainforest Biome, the largest conservatory in the world, is kept at a constant temperature of 30°c. Besides housing lofty trees and creepers that scale its full 160ft height, it takes visitors on a journey through tropical agriculture from coffee growing to the banana trade, to rice production and finding a cure for leukaemia. There’s even a life-size replica of a bamboo Malaysian jungle home, and a spectacular treetop Canopy Walkway.

6. Call in the heavies at the Highland Games

Throughout Scotland, not just in the Highlands, summer signals the onset of the Highland Games, from the smallest village get-togethers to the Giant Cowal Highland Gathering in Dunoon, which draws a crowd of around 20,000. Urbanites might blanch at the idea of alfresco Scottish country dancing, but with dog trials, tractors, fudge stalls and more cute animals than you could toss a caber (tree trunk) at, the Highland Games are a guaranteed paradise for kids.

The military origins of the games are recalled in displays of muscle-power by bulky bekilted local men, from tossing the caber to hurling hammers and stones, and pitching bales of straw over a raised pole. Music and dance are also integral to the games, with pipe bands and young girls – kitted out in waistcoats, kilts and long woolly socks – performing reels and sword dances. A truly Scottish sight to behold.

7. Take bonfire night to extremes in Lewes

The first week of November sees one of the eccentric English’s most irresponsible, unruly and downright dangerous festivals – Bonfire Night. Up and down the country, human effigies are burned in back gardens and fireworks are set off – all in the name of Guy Fawkes’ foiled attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605 – but in the otherwise peaceful market town of Lewes, things are taken to extremes. Imagine a head-on collision between Halloween and Mardi Gras and you’re well on your way to picturing Bonfire Night, Lewes-style.

Throughout the evening, smoke fills the Lewes air, giving the steep and narrow streets an eerie, almost medieval feel. As the evening draws on, rowdy torch-lit processions make their way through the streets, pausing to hurl barrels of burning tar into the River Ouse before dispersing to their own part of town to stoke up their bonfires.

Forget the limp burgers of mainstream displays and lame sparklers suitable for use at home – for a real pyrotechnic party, Lewes is king.

8. Browse one of England’s oldest markets in Birmingham

There’s enough chaos and colour to rival any frenetic southeast-Asian market here, as a stroll around Birmingham’s Bull Ring markets is an overdose for the senses. The pungent aromas of fresh seafood; the jewel colours and silken textures of miles and miles of rolled fabrics; the racket from hundreds of vendors bellowing news of their latest offerings in hopes of making a sale.

Around 850 years ago Birmingham became one of the first towns in medieval England to hold a legitimate weekly market, selling wares from leather to metal to meat at a site they named the Bull Ring, and cementing the Anglo-Saxon settlement on the map for centuries to come. But while Birmingham has much-changed since medieval times, the noise, excitement and commotion of its Bull Ring markets have barely changed at all – only now you can buy almost anything from neon mobile phone cases and knock-off superhero outfits to fresh meat, fruit and veg.


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

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.

Renowned the world over for their palm-fringed beaches and spectacular scenery, the ravishing islands of Hawaii poke up from the Pacific more than two thousand miles
 off the west coast of America. There’s nowhere better to get a fix of sun, sea and surf. To help you to get the best out of your trip, this is our pick of the best best beaches in Hawaii.

Oahu

Kailua Beach
Kailua Beach County Park, which fills the colossal main curve of La’aloa Bay, is utterly gorgeous – it’s the prettiest beach on the whole island – and makes an ideal family swimming spot year-round. The soft wide sands slope down into turquoise waters much used by windsurfers and kitesurfers.

Sandy Beach
Avoiding the crowds is not at all the point at Sandy Beach, half a mile south of Kailua Beach, where the shoreline flattens out between Koko Crater and Makapu‘u Head. Kids from all over Oahu meet up here most weekends for the best body-surfing and boogie-boarding in Hawaii; Barack Obama famously remains a devotee. This is also one of the few places on the island where the waves remain high enough in summer to tempt pro surfers.

The Big Island (Hawai’i)

Hāpuna Beach
With its gentle turquoise waters, swaying palm groves, and above all its broad expanse of pristine white sand, Hāpuna Beach, just north of Waialea and a total of six miles north of Mauna Lani, has often been called the most beautiful beach in the United States.

Punalu‘u Beach
Punalu‘u beach is the largest black sand beach on the Big Island. Black sand is a finite resource, as it’s only created by molten lava exploding on contact with the sea, and at any one spot that happens very rarely. Even those beaches not destroyed by new lava usually erode away within a few years. Each time the coastline of Punalu‘u Bay gets redrawn, however, its black sand washes in again, piling up to create a new beach. At the moment it’s gorgeous, a crescent of jet-black crystals surrounding a turquoise bay and framed by a fine stand of coconut palms.

Green Sand Beach
Green sand beach, a couple of miles northeast of Ka Lae, doesn’t quite live up to its name. It is a beach, and it is greenish in a rusty-olive sort of way, but if you’re expecting a dazzling stretch of green sand backed by a coconut grove you’ll be disappointed. The only reason to venture here is if you feel like a hot, shadeless, four-mile hike along the oceanfront, with a mild natural curiosity at the end. Without great expectations, and on a rain-free day, it’s worth the effort.

Maui

Oneola Beach
Maui’s most spectacular sweep of golden sand stretches for over half a mile south of the landmark cinder cone of Pu‘u ‘Ōla‘i, just south of Mākena. There’s not a building in sight at Oneloa Beach (literally “long sand,” and widely known as Big Beach), just perfect sands and mighty surf, backed by a dry forest of kiawe and cacti.

Kanahā Beach County Park
Kanahā Beach County Park shallow, choppy turquoise waters are ideal for novice windsurfers, who come from all over the world to swirl back and forth against the backdrop of ‘Īao Valley and the West Maui mountains.

Lanai

Shipwreck Beach
Lanai’s northern shoreline, however, is more commonly known as Shipwreck Beach, because countless vessels have come to grief in these shallow, treacherous waters; the coast is littered with fragments, while two large wrecks remain stuck fast a few hundred yards offshore.

Molokai

Kepuhi Beach
Although the Kaluako‘i Resort was positioned to enable guests to enjoy the long white sands of Kepuhi Beach, located directly in front of the Kaluako‘i Hotel, it’s only safe to swim here on calm summer days. Like most of the beaches of western Molokai, however, it looks fabulous and is ideal for sunset strolls.

Pāpōhaku Beach
Pāpōhaku Beach, long of 2,5 miles, is one of Hawaii’s broadest and most impressive white-sand beaches. It’s so huge that for many years it was quarried for sand, much of which was used to build an other beach in Honolulu, on Oahu.

Kauai

‘Anini Beach
All the way along, the beach is paralleled out to sea by one of the longest reefs in the state. Coral reefs take millions of years to form, so it’s not surprising that Hawaii’s largest are in the oldest region of its oldest island. This one shields an expanse of shallow, clear turquoise water that offers some of the North Shore’s safest swimming. Snorkelers and scuba-divers explore the reef; if it’s calm enough, you can peek at the huge drop-off beyond its outer edge. Other than during winter surf, the Kauai‘s only area to avoid is around the outlet of the ‘Anini Stream at the western end, which is plagued by treacherous currents that sweep out through a gap in the reef. The inshore area is a good place to learn to windsurf, but surfing and boogie-boarding are largely precluded by the jagged coral where the waves break.

Kalalau Beach
Kalalau Valley, the largest of the Nā Pali valleys at almost a mile wide and two miles deep, is home to Kalalau beach. To access it isn’t an easy task, bathers will first have to become hikers and to borrow Kalalau trail. After 10 miles they will finally deserve to discover Kalalau’s lovely white-sand beach. The only beach along the trail to retain its sand year-round, this nonetheless varies greatly with the seasons. In winter it’s a narrow shelf little more than 100 yards long, while in summer enough sand piles up for you to round the tumbled boulders and continue west for half a mile.

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

We asked the Rough Guides team in Delhi to vote for the most beautiful places in India. After much deliberation, here are the results…

10. Chilika Lake, Odisha

Fed by fresh-water rivers and washed by the sea, this biodiversity hotspot is a wintering ground for migratory birds and home to a number of threatened aquatic species, including the Irrawaddy dolphin. A stunning place to start off our list of the most beautiful places in India.

9. Madikeri, Coorg, Karnataka

Our Delhi team voted for Madikeri as an excellent base from which to explore the lush national parks, natural beauty and gorgeous coffee plantations that abound in this scenic stretch of the Western Ghats.

8. Mawlynnong, Meghalaya

Described by one of our editors as magical, this village in the East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya is simply stunning. The surrounding areas are just as unforgettable, with natural bridges made by twisting the roots of rubber trees crossing the rivulets and streams.

7. Kumarakom Backwaters, Kerala

At number seven in the list, Kerala’s scenic backwaters, edged with coconut palms, lush green rice paddies and picturesque villages, make for a beautiful escape from hectic city life.

6. Mandu, Madhya Pradesh

One of central India’s most atmospheric monuments, this medieval ghost town is set on a scenic plateau still prowled at night by leopards and panthers.

5. Hampi, Karnataka

This vast archeological site would have been one of the largest and richest cities of its time. The design, detailing and ornamentation of the best-preserved ruins are astonishing.

4. Rann of Kutch, Gujarat

This hot and desolate landscape is reputed to be the largest salt desert in the world. Situated right on the border with Pakistan, its striking white plains call out to many of the more intrepid explorers in our team.

3. Valley of Flowers, Uttarakhand

From July to September, when its rolling alpine meadows are carpeted with wildflowers, this sprawling National Park is a bucket list destination for many in the Rough Guides office.

2. Pangong Tso, Ladakh

This icy saline lake, cradled by stark and sombre mountains 4350m above sea level, comes second in our list. We think it epitomises the breathtaking majesty of the high Himalaya.

1. Lakshadweep

Quiet lagoons, crystal-clear waters, coral reefs teeming with aquatic life and secluded white-sand beaches… The list goes on. The absolutely spectacular Lashadweep (‘100,000 islands’ – though there are actually just 36) was a unanimous choice at the top of our list for the most beautiful places in India.

Can’t decide between a city or beach break? Some of the world’s most magnificent metropolises have been blessed with pristine stretches of sand, so you can effortlessly combine architectural riches, cutting-edge cuisine and vibrant nightlife with a spot of seaside relaxation. So slap on the sun block and the shades, here’s our pick of the best urban beaches.

Havana, Cuba

On summer weekends it seems like the whole of Havana decamps to Playas del Este, a seemingly endless sweep of palm-fringed sand just 18km from the city. Santa Maria at the western end has an all-day piña colada-party vibe. If you’re prepared to walk, you might even find your own private Caribbean paradise.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Despite the high body count in summer, Banje Beach by the Old Town walls is the most famous in Dubrovnik. Just 1.5km from the city, Sveti Jakov Beach is the under-the-radar local’s favourite, a 500m-long crunchy mix of sand and small pebbles, beneath a beautiful church of the same name.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Cities don’t come more beach-centric than Rio, backed by a high-rise skyline and granite peaks. So join the bronzed Cariocas on iconic Copacabana and upmarket Ipanema for a friendly game of footvolley (you guessed it: a sport combining volleyball and football), or just admire the view over a caipirinha. The famous sands are also host spectacular New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Miami, USA

Once-seedy SoBe (South Beach) is now the stomping ground for Miami’s beautiful people, its palm-studded strip filled with chic bars, fusion restaurants and hedonistic clubs. But you can up the culture quotient with a tour of the historic Art Deco neighbourhood, or head inland to the up-and-coming Wynwood Arts District.

Barcelona, Spain

Barceloneta is one of the city’s most iconic and popular beaches. Its shabby waterfront was revitalised in the massive makeover for the 1992 Olympics and now this former fisherman’s quarter is lined with chic and cheerful tapas bars. Join the throng over a cold beer and the Catalan take on paella.

Sydney, Australia

Most visitors join the burnt backpackers and territorial surfers on Sydney‘s world-famous Bondi, but the surrounding Eastern Suburbs beaches, including Bronte, Clovelly and Coogee have a more laid-back, local vibe. Manly is the party hub of the Northern Beaches, while keen surfers should check out Freshwater, Dee Why, Curl Curl and Narrabeen.

Dubai, UAE

Better known for its soaring skyscrapers and mega-malls, the Middle East’s most flamboyant city has miles of white-sand beaches – some of them shipped in from the desert. You’ll find the designer-clad sun worshippers on Jumeirah Beach, or there’s the free stretch of sand running the length of Umm Suqeim, known as Kite Beach.

Los Angeles, USA

West LA’s Venice Beach is a people-watching paradise. Ocean Front Walk is lined with surf shops, ice cream parlours and street vendors, and a never-ending circus of stilt-walkers, jugglers and fortune-tellers play to the eclectic crowd of power walkers, cyclists, rollerbladers and skateboarders. Just don’t expect to have it to yourself.

Nice, France

More than 35 pebbly beaches – both public and private – stretch uninterrupted along Nice’s glamorous Promenade des Anglais, from the airport to the Old Port. Each beach has its own vibe but it can be worth splashing out to lounge on a private plage that comes with a few frills.

Cape Town, South Africa

Dramatic boulders divide Clifton Beaches into four small, interlinked coves. Fourth Beach is the liveliest, Third is gay-friendly, Second is the students’ hangout and First is the one for surfers. While they’re sheltered from the bitter trade winds in summer (November to March) be warned, the water is always icy in Cape Town.

Helsinki, Finland

You might not put ‘Helsinki’ and ‘beach’ in the same sentence but Finns flock to the nearest strip of sand – the 450-metre-long Hietaniemi, known as Hietsu – in summer to make the most of the ‘white nights’. Out of the (rather chilly) water, you can get active with volleyball, basketball and football.

Honolulu, Hawaii

Once a retreat for nineteenth-century Hawaiian royalty, Waikiki Beach is now chock-full of high-rise resorts, tourists and surfers. But even that can’t detract from the killer views of Diamond Head volcano. The long, rolling breaks are perfect for novice surfers, or you can ride an outrigger canoe, before watching the sunset from an oceanfront bar.

Vancouver, Canada

The city’s many beaches all come with views over the North Shore Mountains. Kitsilano (Kits) Beach is the place to see and be seen, with free tennis and basketball courts and the largest saltwater pool in Canada. The more low-key Spanish Beach is perfect for BBQs and long strolls.

Chicago, USA

Over 40km of beautiful public beaches line the Chicago shores of Lake Michigan, perfect for work (with free wi-fi), rest and play. North Avenue is one of the most popular, where you can start the day with a yoga session, play some volleyball and end with a dip in the freshwater lake.

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You’ve dug a moat, successfully sculpted a mound higher than your knees and managed to drizzle a viscous mixture of sand and salt water over the château spires (for that drippy je ne sais quoi) – then some rogue child bulldozes your beach creation back to oblivion. Well, it was never as good as it could have been, because you didn’t have a professional Sandcastle Butler to help you.

This is no joke. Oliver’s Travels, a family travel company that prides itself on the quirky, exquisite and extraordinary, is currently training the world’s first fleet of “Beach Butlers” to help families transform loose sand into their wildest dreams.

From securing a premium plot of shoreline, to concocting the perfect water-to-sand ratio, this new breed of VIP concierge will be grand masters in the art of sand-sculpting. No construction is too extreme. They’ll help you brainstorm, draft actual blueprints, find the right spot, and create something with a structural integrity you can be proud of along the beaches of the UKSpainFranceItaly and Greece.

Of course, this bespoke service does come at a cost. Prices are listed at £500 for a full day, and £300 for a half. Thankfully, Beach Butlers will also be fully trained in childcare before receiving their artisanal qualifications, so you don’t have to worry about them subjecting your youngsters to the same rigorous training that they’re probably undergoing right now.

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

Ever since the 1960s Berkeley has been synonymous with left wing politics and student protests. And while the city has stayed true to its progressive credo, it offers numerous other reasons for visitors to the Bay Area to make sure they don’t only get trapped in the albeit sublime honeypot of San Francisco. Former US resident and Rough Guides author Nick Edwards runs down the top things to do in Berkeley and explains why you should make a point of jumping on BART to the East Bay.

Beards, books and Birkenstocks

For half a century now the city has been at the forefront of anti-establishment activism and the anti-war movement, ever since the students of UC Berkeley clashed with then Governor Ronald Reagan and the National Guard during violent Vietnam protests.

The university campus, with its iconic campanile, bustling Sproul Plaza and the quieter lush grounds beyond is still the best place to start getting a feel for the place Berkeley occupies in recent American history. It also boasts most of the town’s museums.

Image courtesy of Visit California

The left-leaning atmosphere extends far beyond the confines of the campus, however, to the numerous cafés that populate the town, where earnest academics can sometimes be seen poring over weighty tomes or deep in serious discussions.

If you want to mug up and be able to join in, you won’t have to go far to find a well-stocked bookstore either. Berkeley is famous for noble establishments such as Black Oak Books, Revolution Books and Lewin’s Metaphysical Books.

Wandering the pleasantly quiet streets that fill the space between the busy commercial strips of Shattuck and Telegraph Avenues near the campus, 4th Street in West Berkeley and Solano Avenue to the north, you will lose count of bearded, besandled residents walking dogs and checking out curios in numerous quirky shops. Just try spotting a Republican placard or bumper sticker – the Grand Old Party long ago gave up even trying to field candidates here.

The cradle of California cuisine

Food activist Alice Waters really started something when she opened Chez Panisse in 1971, setting her stall out to source high-quality organic local produce for her innovative recipes.

This style of embellishing American cooking with European and ethnic touches of flair and promoting a close relationship with local farms became known as “California cuisine”, which has spread the length of the Golden State and beyond.

So if you want to feast on the likes of grilled Becker Lane Farm pork loin with roasted figs, wild fennel cakes and Early Girl tomato confit, this is the place for you. Just be prepared for a hefty bill.

Chez Panisse is still the jewel in the crown of Berkeley’s “gourmet ghetto”, a section of Shattuck Avenue lined with a number of quality restaurants and fine emporia such as Alegio chocolate shop, tucked inside Epicurious Garden along with an array of exclusive food outlets.

Top restaurants are not confined to Gourmet Ghetto though, with other notable places to eat such as Lalime’s, Revival and Gather dotted around town.

Don’t be alarmed if your budget does not stretch to such high-end cuisine though. Berkeley is also blessed with a huge number of excellent and inexpensive multicultural restaurants. You can enjoy chunky burritos at Cancun Taqueria, superb masala dosas at Vik’s Chaat Corner, or a range of authentic Indonesian recipes at Jayakarta.

Musical nooks and crannies

Good old Jonathan Richman, still occasionally to be found strumming on the university steps, named his record label Beserkley when he moved to the state in 1975, a nod to the city’s nickname of Bezerkley. Indeed the local music scene is as underground as its political one, with a variety of eclectic venues and record stores.

Ashkenaz is a quirky world music and dance centre on busy San Pablo Avenue, which is also home to the legendary Albatross Pub.

Balkan Dancing via photopin (license)

Meanwhile, Freight and Salvage provides a classic coffee house setting for hearts-on-their-sleeve singer-songwriters and La Peña Cultural Center showcases Latin and folk, as well as encouraging cultural activism.

Perhaps the best example of Berkeley’s musical credibility is the uncompromisingly alternative 924 Gilman club, a haven of hardcore and experimental acts that helped launch the likes of Green Day and Sleater-Kinney.

Immediately south of the campus, Telegraph Avenue is a riot of stalls selling tie-dye clothes, political stickers and jewellery in the shape of peace symbols.

It also contains a string of cheap cafés, takeaway joints and two major record shops in the shape of Rasputin Music and the original location of even more iconic Amoeba Records, where there was never any need for a vinyl comeback because it never went out of fashion. Half a block behind it, People’s Park is another site of sixties dissent and still a community-controlled urban space.

The green, green hills above

It’s not all urbanisation in Berkeley though. In fact, the higher you go up the dramatic, verdant hills that rise abruptly to the east, the more you find yourself amidst some surprisingly sublime natural surroundings.

You can start this ascent from the beautifully landscaped thirty acres of the university’s Botanical Garden, featuring a dazzling array of plant and cactus species.

Alternatively, a more northerly route out of town takes you via the exquisite Berkeley Rose Garden and the grey basalt lump known as Indian Rock, so named in honour of the local Ohlone tribe, to the uppermost ridge that gives onto the semi-wilderness of Tilden Park.

Here an impressive expanse of over two thousand acres encompasses thick woodland, numerous trails and delightful Lake Anza, perfect for a soothing dip in the warmer months.

Finally, don’t miss the opportunity to pick a spot somewhere along Grizzly Peak Boulevard, where you can gaze back west across Berkeley and the Bay to the gleaming skyscrapers of San Francisco, the elegant span of the Golden Gate Bridge and the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean beyond.

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Hippies need not be confined to San Francisco‘s Summer of Love. There are enclaves all over the world where peace and love are rife.

1. Goa, India

It may be known as a party hotspot today, but Goa used to be firmly off the beaten track. The relaxed local culture, delicious cuisine and endless white-sand beaches have always attracted chilled-out travellers in need of a break, with an optional side of spiritual exploration. Whether or not you’re interested in the nightlife, luckily there’s still much of the old, laidback Goa in evidence for the independent-minded traveller today.

2. Negril, Jamaica

This gorgeous beach may be over-developed in some places now, but it goes on for so indulgently long (it’s around four miles end to end) that you only need to wander a bit further to find yourself some peace and quiet. If you’re feeling particularly active you can join in the watersports on offer, but you may find your schedule is soon pretty packed with sunbathing, walking and, if you’re that way inclined, some meditating.

3. Glastonbury, England

Hear Glastonbury and you think of the festival. Of course, anyone can find their inner happy hippy at this world-famous music and arts festival, especially over in the Green Fields, but this is a year-round destination. It’s at the heart of the “Isle of Avalon”, an area rich in myths and Arthurian legends which attracts Pagans, Wiccans and all manner of New-Agers. Head up to Glastonbury Tor for ley-lines and gorgeous views, or wander along the hippy-tastic High Street.

4. Cape Maclear, Malawi

Diving, kayaking, walking, snorkelling… there’s plenty to do in Cape Maclear, but you may be content just lazing lakeside in a hammock, drinking in the stunning view of Africa’s third-largest, second-deepest lake. The area’s stayed pretty rustic despite its popularity with backpackers from around the world, and it’s a truly chilled, calm place to while away some time.

5. Kathmandu, Nepal

Nepal has had many troubles to contend with, not least the 2015 earthquake, but it’s always attracted spiritually curious travellers and probably always will. After all, there’s nowhere in the world quite like it – a truly awe-inspiring natural setting with a view across the Himalayas, a city full of treasures with a kind and welcoming population, and a key site in both Buddhism and Hindusim. It’s also the perfect base for continuing your spiritual exploration, with treks to Pokhara and onwards to the Himalayas.

6. Dahab, Egypt

Diving in the clear waters of the Gulf of Aqaba; sharing shisha with friends in the evening; sleeping under the stars in Bedouin tents… The laidback pace of life makes Dahab a great place to sit back, relax and enjoy your environment. Though unrest in the region has resulted in fewer visitors lately, there’s little doubt they’ll find their way back soon enough.

7. Panajachel, Guatemala

During the sixties the lakeside Guatemalan town of Panajachel was so popular with itinerant hippies (mostly wandering down the continent from the US) that it became known as ‘Gringotenango’. As the civil war intensified visitor numbers dropped, but from the mid-nineties travellers started coming back in search of relaxation, stunning views of Lago de Atitlán and… well, what else do you need?

8. Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand

Just above Ko Samui in the Gulf of Thailand is this small island, a classic stop on the Hippy Trail. Somewhere between 1983 and 1993 (no one seems sure of the exact date, or particularly bothered) a few travellers started playing music on the beach during the full moon, and year on year the event grew and attracted more visitors. The rest (hard partying, day-glo, chemically-enhanced) is history.

9. Siargao, Philippines

For real seclusion, head to Siargao Island in the Philippines. If it’s peace and quiet that you’re after, though, maybe avoid September – the island became famous after word spread among the world’s surfers that there’s a break so good they called it “Cloud 9”, and the Siargao Cup global surfing competition is now held there annually. For the rest of the year it’s sedate and beautiful, a perfect place to find some zen.

10. Dali, China

A low-key city by Erhai Lake, Dali has long been a popular stop for backpackers and hippies. It’s still not overwhelmed by tourism, despite its gorgeous surroundings and intriguing traditional architecture (the Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple are a well-known symbol of the city), which means it’s still a great place to find a bit of calm.

11. Eugene, Oregon, USA

Where Portland is hipster, Eugene is resolutely hippy. It’s the place to go for all your tie-dyeing needs, not to mention New Age philosophy, communal living and herbal remedies. There’s a lot to attract any type of traveller, but to get the most out of the city’s gorgeous natural setting and strong artistic community you should absolutely embrace your inner hippy.

12. Jericoacoara, Brazil

Known for its dazzlingly white beach and impressive sand dunes, Brazil’s beautiful Jericoacoara has been pulling in hippies and surfers for years. It’s a great spot for windsurfing, as well, and of course for walking, sunbathing and any other chilled-out beach activity you can think of. It’s also a national park, so it’s reasonably safe from development for now.

13. The Cyclades, Greece

Mykonos has always been a traditional stop on the Hippy Trail, but today is perhaps a bit overdeveloped and party-focused for some tastes. Luckily, there are other destinations in this group of gorgeous Greek islands. Keep going to Andros, for instance, and you’ll find peace, quiet and stunning walks. If you’re really after isolation, though, aim for Anafi. It’s the last ferry stop, and the perfect place for some reflection and relaxation.

14. Lamu, Kenya

The small island of Lamu has long been a prime spot for hippy travellers, and though there have been security concerns recently, it’s not hard to see the attraction. There’s not much to do other than take in the gorgeous medieval town, take leisurely dhow rides to nearby islands, and just chill out, man…

15. California, USA

California is in many ways the perfect place to find your hippy self. The most hardcore of hippies can chill out in accepting, alternative San Francisco; those who still love a bit of luxury can head to LA to dabble in meditation and organic green juices; literary hippies can go all Dharma Bums and scale the Matterhorn; and anyone at all can find a bit of inner peace wandering the stunning Yosemite National park.

16. Christiania, Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen is a pretty perfect city for hippy-minded individuals: great cycling, lots of greenery, good food and a thriving music scene. If you really want to get into the hippy lifestyle, though, you need to head to Christiania. This colourful city-within-a-city has been a commune since 1971, and is showing no signs of slowing down. It’s autonomous and self-governing, to an extent, and a fascinating place to see a long-term social experiment in action.

17. Byron Bay, Australia

Byron Bay means one thing: surfing. It’s famous for its long, sandy beach and a local life so laidback it’s almost horizontal. If you feel like even this New Agey, chilled out surfer town isn’t quite hippy enough for you, head to nearby Nimbin for colourful murals, dreadlocks and tie-dye galore. Nimbin also happens to be known as the marijuana capital of Australia, even holding a “Mardi Grass” festival in May.

18. Chefchaouen, Morocco

Morocco has long been known as a destination for travellers who want to get off the beaten track. Marrakesh and Fez are the obvious places to go, but the travelling hippies of the world have long-preferred Chefchaouen. It’s cheap, cheerful and full of open-air markets and beautiful pale blue buildings. What’s not to like?

19. Istanbul, Turkey

The only city in the world to sit on two continents, Istanbul has long intrigued and enticed independent travellers. The “gateway to Asia” was a key point on the Hippy Trail of the sixties, a fork in the road from where some would head back into Europe and others would look onwards to India, Thailand, and Vietnam. Today it retains its independent vibe, attracting hippies, hedonists, artists and romantics from all around the world.

20. Gili Islands, Indonesia

These secluded islands off Lombok in Indonesia are pretty perfect if you want to get away from it all. Backpackers and hippies started heading there in the seventies and eighties, and now the islands are an established destination. They’re perfect for diving, lounging on the beach, and simply doing nothing at all.

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