Big Sur, California

Dizzying views of the Pacific Ocean are awarded at every bend of the 90-mile stretch of craggy coastal road between California’s Carmel and San Simeon. Rent a convertible and hit the highway in true Californian style. This is a sparsely populated region, so for it’s ideal for romancers seeking seclusion. Don’t miss the stunning McWay Falls and Pfeiffer Beach.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Rising out of the Nevada desert like the emerald city of Oz, fabulous Las Vegas flaunts its reputation as a destination for high rollers and thrill seekers. Notions of romance are vast and varied in this neon Mecca, so clasp hands and take your pick from gondola rides in the Venetian, a spin on the high-flying SlotZilla zipline or a late-night stroll along The Strip to the spectacular Fountains of the Bellagio.

Stowe, Vermont

Frank Sinatra crooned over moonlight in Vermont, but autumn in this New England state is the real showstopper. As the weather turns chilly, the landscape, which is thickly carpeted in forest, erupts into riotous shades of amber and gold – a spectacle of colour to make any pair of autumn-lovers swoon. Stowe is particularly picturesque, a classic American town with friendly locals and a backdrop of rolling hills.

Nantucket, Massachusetts

It’s a two-hour ferry from mainland Massachusetts to the beachy isle of Nantucket, where long stretches of sandy shore and wild heathland will certainly bowl you over. Inland, dreamy clapboarded houses – many still standing strong after 150 years – line the charming cobbled streets into Nantucket Town. Pick up supplies from a local deli, rent bicycles and pedal your way to the iconic lighthouse at Brant Point for a picnic in the dunes.

New York City

New York City is arguably the ultimate city destination. Home to some of the world’s most venerated galleries and museums, even the most discerning culture vulture will be awed. The iconic skyline, bursting with recognizable landmarks, will delight city wanderers hunting photo opportunities. And for foodies planning a memorable meal? Dine under the arches of The Grand Central Oyster Bar, a city institution opened over a century ago, which boasts a whispering gallery famous for hushed propositions.

Crested Butte, The Rockies, Colorado

Outdoorsy couples seeking activity and alpine summer air should head to Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. From June through August the meadows and forests of Crested Butte are blanketed in colourful arrays of wild flowers. Bike through woodland trails into a rugged wilderness of snow-capped peaks, or hike the 12-mile distance to Aspen and spend the night in one of the town’s luxury lodges – balcony hot tubs are, of course, de rigueur.

New Orleans, Louisiana

Colonised by France, briefly ruled by the Spanish and bought by the US in 1803, The Big Easy embraces cultural fusion like no other city in America. Perhaps best known for its music scene, and arguably as the hometown of jazz and blues, New Orleans is imbued with a spirit of festivity. Come nightfall the seductive French Quarter buzzes with romance. Think balcony dinners, red-hot Creole cuisine and buskers playing nightlong on street corners.

Kauai, Hawaii

Tropical island life doesn’t get more laid-back than Kauai. The palm-dotted beaches of this most northerly Hawaiian Island, famous for its surf and remarkable volcanic landscapes, offers pure paradise for any duo searching for a tranquil escape. Test the waters of Kiahuna beach – best for beginner surfers – or if catching waves isn’t your thing, head to Ha’ena on the northern shore, where trails through the State Park will lead you to ancient Hawaiian sites.

Fairbanks to Anchorage, Alaska

Begin your trip by taking in the ethereal spectacle of the aurora borealis, best observed from the skies above Fairbanks during winter months. Here, temperatures can drop to heart-aching sub zero levels, but the Northern Lights (and a cuddle or two) will surely set frozen pulses racing and leave you starry-eyed. Next, ride the rails south from Fairbanks to Anchorage in a glass-topped train, the ideal vantage point to soak up that dramatic scenery in comfort.

Portland, Oregon

Artsy and vibrant with outstanding green spaces, Portland is the ultimate hangout city. Having planted itself on the map as a haven for keen cyclists and coffee lovers, there’s now a burgeoning street food scene and commitment to craft beer, with more local breweries than any city in the world. Spend an evening bar hopping and banish any resulting hangover with a trip to the enchanting Multnomah Falls, where a gentle amble leads you to the cascading waterfall and fairy-tale bridge crossing.

Thailand is ripe for trekking. From its dripping, pristine rainforests to its towering, mist-enveloped mountains, there is a landscape that just begs you to get out on two feet and explore.

But the real joy of trekking in Thailand here is nothing to do with the scenery, it’s the people that make every step count, from the remote hill tribes barely touched by the outside world to the local guides whose unbridled passion and enthusiasm will lead you to a deeper understanding of this fascinating country.

We’ve picked six of our favourite treks, led by some of Thailand’s most experienced and passionate guides. Lace up those hiking boots and go trekking in Thailand on your trip.

1. Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son

An ancient trade route once saw the pristine forests of Thailand’s northern hinterlands busy with merchants. Today it is just trekkers who make their way through the forest-covered hills and misty mountains of Mae Hong Son, traversing some of Thailand’s most remote natural areas. You’ll start in Chiang Mai and spend between six and eight hours a day trekking, over ridges, down into lush valleys and up onto mountain peaks.

You’ll visit Huay Hee Karen village, staying in a traditional home and learning about how the tribe live in harmony with their land. The trek winds up orchid-clad slopes before you spend the night in Ban Huai Tong Kaw, where ritual singers and sword dancers will entertain you. Challenging terrain, river crossings that get your boots wet and a greater understanding of this off-the-beaten-track area are all guaranteed.

Duration: 8 days with World Expeditions.

2. Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai

When it comes to truly understanding a culture, slow travel is best – and this laidback trek through northern Thailand is certainly that. You’ll trek from homestay to homestay, hosted by local people and gaining a real insight into village life. Your trek begins in Baan Tha Sob Van in the Chiang Kham District and ends at the northern capital of Chiang Mai. In the Thai Lue community of Baan Tha Sob Van you’ll spend a day with the locals in the fields, before heading west to Ban Dok Bua, an organic farming community that aims to be entirely self-sufficient.

From here you’ll trek through the lush Doi Luang National Park to Ban Maena, a Lahu ethnic minority community in Chiang Dao District, where you’ll stay in a simple thatched hut guest camp and head out for walks in the forest with the villagers, birdwatching and farming, before finishing up in Chiang Mai. An unbeatable option for those who really want to discover Thailand and its people.

Duration: 10 days. Departures with Village Ways from October-May.

3. Sri Phang Nga National Park, Khao Lak

Trekking needn’t mean slumming it. Luxurious boutique resort The Sarojin, in the midst of the national parks on the island of Khao Lak, specialises in local adventures. Their Extreme Trekking Adventure, which covers 8km of wild terrain in Sri Phang Nga National Park, one of Thailand’s largest national parks and set up to protect one of the country’s last remaining blocks of pristine rainforest. You’ll hike past cascading waterfalls, swim through parts of the jungle that are impossible to cross on foot and navigate your way through the untamed undergrowth using a bamboo cane.

Duration:3–4 hours. Departs daily with The Sarojin.

4. Khao Pom, Ko Samui

Sure, you could just sit on the beach and soak up the idyllic atmosphere of Thailand’s most popular island. Or you could explore a place few visitors do: the jungle mountain of Khao Pom. This verdant wilderness is criss-crossed by lush trails, from the mangroves of the coast to the 635-metre-high peak at the island’s centre. Head out with Samui Trekking from Maenam on the “avocado trail” and you’ll wind your way uphill through the vegetation until it gives way to views out over the island and the Gulf of Thailand beyond – a view few visitors to this popular island ever see.

Duration:4–5 hours. Departs daily with Samui Trekking.

4. The jungle in Kanchanaburi

The Karen, with their long, ringed necks, may be Thailand’s most well-known tribe, but few visitors get to discover much about their traditional way of life. Join this two-day trek into the jungle around Kanchanaburi and you’ll be the exception, staying with the tribe in the Karen village of Nong Bang, sleeping in a bamboo hut, preparing dinner with the locals and watching a traditional Karen cultural dance. The next day you’ll ride a bamboo raft before boarding the infamous Death Railway back over the River Kwai into Kanchanaburi.

Duration: 2 days. Departures daily with Good Times Travel at 7am from Kanchanburi, Bangkok.

6. Pang Mapha, northern Thailand

This circular trek is a great introduction to village life in northern Thailand, staying in two very different villages and visiting several more. You’ll trek through farmland and teak forest, learning about bush food and medicinal plants as you go, before walking through rice fields and valleys to reach Ban Pha Mon, home to a Lahu tribe and – for one night – you. You’ll help with the cooking and can even have a Lahu massage.

A three-hour trek the next day takes you to the Karen village of Ban Muang Pam, where the local shaman will teach you about traditional medicine – or you can challenge the locals to a game of football. Before returning to Chiang Mai you’ll take a bamboo raft into the 1666-metre deep Tham Lod cave, dripping with stalactites and the clear waters of the Nam Lang River.

Duration: 5 days. Departures with G Adventures, every second Saturday.

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

It has often had to play second fiddle to its southern neighbour, but Northern Ireland offers a diversity of attractions that frequently confounds first-time visitors. Rejuvenated and irrepressible, Belfast now rivals any of the UK’s capital cities, but in addition, the country manifests superb natural heritage – including one of the world’s great coastal road trips – remarkable cultural treasures, outdoor activities in abundance, and an increasingly vibrant food and music scene.

1. Belfast is a city reborn

Barely recognizable from the battle-scarred city of the 1970s and 80s, Belfast is today a bona fide city-break destination, no question. Stately Victorian buildings and a rich industrial heritage hark back to the city’s glorious past, but really, it’s the revitalized restaurant scene, some rocking nightlife and a raft of excellent festivals that all serve to confirm Belfast’s welcome renaissance.

Belfast Town Hall on a sunny day by mariusz kluzniak on Flickr (license)

2. There are superb hikes to be had

Northern Ireland boasts numerous low-lying mountain ranges, but it’s the rugged Mournes in County Down that draws the lion’s share of hikers. Its highest peak – Slieve Donard – only tops 850m, but this is often testing terrain; and who needs the Great Wall of China when you’ve got the Mourne Wall, a 22-mile long dry stone wall which traverses some fifteen summits. No less fabulous, if somewhat less demanding, are the Sperrin Mountains in County Tyrone, a sparse expanse of wild, undulating moorland.

3. The Causeway Coastal Route is one of Europe’s most spectacular road trips

Stretching for some 120 miles between Belfast and Derry, this fabulous road trip has few rivals anywhere on the continent. Unsurprisingly, most people make a beeline for the Giant’s Causeway (Northern Ireland’s only designated World Heritage Site), with its stupendous black basalt columns. But there are diversions aplenty enroute, among them Rathlin Island, which harbours some incredible wildlife, and Portstewart, lined with a glorious two-mile sweep of golden sand.

4. The Titanic Quarter is now a highlight of Belfast’s regenerated docklands

It was, of course, from Belfast in 1912 that the Titanic set sail, and the ill-fated ship is commemorated in truly spectacular style at the all-new Titanic Quarter in the city’s regenerated docklands area. Comprising, among other things, a media centre and a scientific discovery centre, its focal point is Titanic Belfast, a thrilling and engaging interactive museum.

Titanic, Belfast by Metro Centric on Flickr (license)

5. It’s finally time to big-up the country’s cuisine

Northern Ireland’s culinary scene has taken a while to get going, but it’s certainly making amends now. In Belfast, two restaurants have recently gained a Michelin star, namely Ox, and Eipic at Deane’s, whose sumptuous menu offers dishes such as scallop with clementine and hazelnut brown butter. And don’t leave without trying the Ulster Fry, widely acknowledged to be a superior version of the great English fry-up.

6. Northern Ireland boasts two of the UK’s finest open-air museums

Two particularly fine outdoor museums are the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum just outside Belfast, which displays some thirty buildings transplanted here from around the country, and the Ulster American Folk Park, near Omagh, which brilliantly relays the historically close links between Northern Ireland and the United States. Here, too, a splendid array of vernacular architecture has been transferred from its original setting.

7. The music scene rocks

The north can certainly rival the south when it comes to musical talent. In days of yore, the leading lights were Van Morrison and the Undertones (the latter famously championed by the late John Peel), while in the 90s, it was the turn of indie-heroes Ash, from Down, and the Divine Comedy from Enniskillen. Hot on the scene right now are Two Door Cinema Club from Bangor. If you fancy attending a gig, drop in at Belfast’s iconic Limelight Complex, or there’s Open House, a unique, year-round series of gigs at various venues around the city.

8. Northern Ireland offers wonderful outdoor activities

Whether it’s mountain biking in the Davagh Forest or angling on Lough Earne, there’s loads to do here. Golfers won’t feel short-changed either, with dozens of fabulous courses to hack around, including Royal Portrush (which will stage the British Open in 2019) in Antrim, and the sublime Royal County Down course in Newcastle; indeed, Northern Ireland currently boasts one of the world’s great sporting superstars in Rory Mcllroy. Big cheers, too, for the national football team, which has just qualified for Euro 2016 in France, its first major finals since 1986.

9. Derry’s medieval walls are among the finest in Europe

Neatly positioned within a bend of the River Foyle, Derry’s medieval walls are among the best-preserved anywhere in Europe, their survival all the more remarkable having withstood three major military sieges. Enclosed within the mile-long circuit is the original medieval street layout, itself spotted with a cluster of eminently enjoyable attractions, the pick of which are the Tower Museum and the Verbal Arts Centre.

10. It has the largest lake in the British Isles

To the surprise of many, Northern Ireland ranks the largest lake in the British Isles. Lough Neagh is just to the west of Belfast but actually bordering five of the country’s six counties. Its tranquil waterways and secluded bays provide ample opportunity for boating, fishing, walking and cycling; a great way to get a handle on the lake is to tackle the 113-mile long Loughshore Trail – but don’t worry, it’s almost completely flat.

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

Few countries in Asia boasts such dramatic natural diversity and such a range of hiking opportunities as Japan. Mountains make up two thirds of the country, with beaches fringing the coast and the balmy southern islands.

There are active volcanoes to tackle, epic long-distance pilgrimage routes once smoothed by the feet of emperors, and steep hikes that take you from the beach to lofty peaks thousands of metres above the sea.

Japan is well set up for hikers, with the ultra-efficient rail network making getting around the country a breeze, and a handy system where you can forward bags for little cost between hotels. Here are seven of our favourite places to go hiking in Japan.

1. Shikoku Henro

This is an essential pilgrimage for those with an interest in the roles that tradition and religion play within Japanese culture. This island adventure is both a fascinating physical and spiritual journey, which is undertaken by many religiously-minded Japanese, as well as overseas hikers.

You will need plenty of time on the smallest of Japan’s main islands, Shikoku. If you want to conquer the whole route – taking in a whopping 88 temples in the process – you are going to have to hike for over 1000km. You can do it in just over a month, but most devotees allow closer to two. Savvy hikers and pilgrims alike can use public transport to cut out some of the sections and skip a few temples too.

2. Kumano Kodo

Another pilgrimage route, the Kumano Kodō is so highly rated that its temples have been placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Battling across the thickly wooded slopes in the Kii Peninsula on Japan’s main island of Honshū was a task emperors themselves used to often undertake. There are three main routes, all are challenging but rewarding. A large part of the fun is staying in traditional ryokans (inns) en route where your nightly feast will be preceded by an onsen (communal hot spring bath).

3. Mount Fuji

One of the world’s most famous mountains does not disappoint. It is Japan’s most iconic peak, unmissable on any bullet train trip south of TokyoIt is a 3776m-high volcanic monster, famous for often being capped with a dusting of snow, which isn’t ideal for hikers – note that it’s only open for trekking between July and mid-September.

Fuji can be tackled in a day trip, though altitude sickness can be an issue even when you do an overnight in the area, so going easy on your body is advised.

4. Japan Alps

Honshu’s most impressive mountain scenery comes in the form of the deeply dramatic Japan Alps. There are myriad options for getting your boots on here. Relatively gentle hikes are can be found in in the Kamikochi Valley, though you can also use the valley as a staging point for tackling more serious ascents, such as Yarigatake (3180m) and Hotakadake (3190m). The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route uses a mixture of walking and public transport to cover a swathe of the finest scenery in the Alps.

5. Nakasendo Trail

A route with serious heritage, which has been walked since the eighth century, this ancient highway from Kyoto through what are now Shiga, Gifu and Nagano Prefectures culminates in Tokyo’s predecessor, Edo.

Venture on it today and you are following in the footsteps of the Tokugawa Shoguns (Japanese military chiefs), who used it to travel through the mountains on their military campaigns. It would take them around three weeks to cover the 533km distance, which was split into 67 stages.

Today you can take on the various stretches of it that survive, using public transport to link sections. En route you, stop at charmingly-preserved old towns, where weary travellers could rest up and enjoy a bed for the night before moving on, such as Tsumago and Narai.

20120829-DSC_0031 by inefekt69 on Flickr (license)

6. Daibutsu Hiking Course

This popular three kilometre hiking trail opens up a short, but scenic landscape of temples and mountains and can be tackled in between one and two hours. To really get the most out of the area, extend this walk with a detour to the cave-shrine dedicated to the goddess Zeniarai Benten, known as the ‘Money-Washing Benten’. This goddess was said to be associated with good fortune, music and water.

7. Yakushima

The UNESCO World Heritage listed island of Yakushima is worth visiting whether you are a hiker or not. Its beaches are lovely, as are its onsen, which are ideal after a tough hike.

The biggest challenge is taking on the towering 1935m high mountain of Miyanoura-dake, which is southern Japan’s highest peak. The island actually boasts six mountain peaks over 1800m. Make sure to fill in a form with your route on it before heading out; this safety system has saved many lives on the island over the years.

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

South America is blessed with some of the most astonishing landscapes on earth. This dynamic continent has enthralled travellers for centuries with its array of natural wonders, ancient ruins and modern metropolises. It holds some of the world’s most impressive beaches, most fascinating cultures and most thrilling adventure activities.

But one of the greatest joys of exploring South America is just travelling itself. From the Rough Guide to South America on a Budget, we’ve picked six of of the most impressive routes to kick-start your trip planning…

1. The Inca Trail, Peru

The four-day hike between Cusco and Machu Picchu, a spell-binding mountain trek into the Inca past, needs no introduction.

Although just one of the Inca trails you can follow across the Andes, what makes this 33km route so popular is the unrivalled reward of Machu Picchu at its end. The most famous ruins in South America are a place that – no matter how jaded you are – stop you in your tracks.

 Image by Dreamstime.com: Jarnogz

2. Carretera Austral, Chile

To see the wettest, greenest and wildest part of Chile, head to Northern Patagonia where the Carretera Austral, the partially paved, partly dirt-and-gravel “Southern Highway”, stretches for 1240km from Puerto Montt to tiny Villa O’Higgins.

The rounding ice-fields, vast glaciers and jagged fjords along this spectacular highway are most easily visited with your own wheels, but most are reachable by public transport; all you need is a bit of time and some organizational skills, since not all buses run daily.

3. Death Road, Bolivia

One of the most popular trips in Bolivia, and some travellers’ sole reason for crossing the border, is a chance to hurtle down the infamous Death Road. This hair-raising adventure involves a 3500m descent along the old road from La Paz to Coroico in the Yungas.

Be careful when planning a trip, though – cyclists have been killed or seriously injured on this rough, narrow track chiselled out of near-vertical mountainsides, and you must choose a tour operator with great care.

The Bolivian Death Road by Matthew Straubmuller via Flickr (CC license)

4. Ruta 40, Argentina

The legendary Ruta 40 (or RN40) runs from the top to the bottom of Argentina, following the line of the Andes all the way to the far south from the border with Bolivia. It covers 5000km and 11 provinces, crosses 18 important rivers on 236 bridges, and connects 13 great lakes and salt flats, 20 national parks and hundreds of communities. There’s little wonder it’s one of the most famous attractions in the country.

If you haven’t got your own wheels, head to the section between El Calafate/El Chaltén and Bariloche. Long popular with backpackers, with much of this route is paved and buses run its length almost daily in season – but it still retains a sense of isolation thanks to the endless pampas scrubland, interrupted only by the occasional tiny settlement or estancia.

Atardecer en la Ruta 40 by Juan Carlos Martins via Flickr (CC license)

5. Serra Verde Railway, Brazil

The Serra Verde Express is one of the most scenic train journeys in Brazil. This enchanting ride winds around mountainsides, slips through tunnels and traverses one of the largest Atlantic Forest reserves in the country.

In fact, it’s one of our top reasons to visit Brazil’s overlooked southern states. Make sure to sit on the left-hand side of the train for the best views (or on the right if you’re not good with heights).

Serra Verde Express by Henri Bergius via Flickr (CC license)

6. The Circuit, Torres del Paine, Chile

The great massif contained within the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, with the sheer granite towers of Las Torres to the east, and the multicoloured Los Cuernos to the west, is one of Patagonia’s most jaw-dropping sights. The park offers incomparable opportunities for backcountry hiking, as well as animal spotting; you are likely to see guanacos – wild relatives of llamas – and ñandú or rhea (like a small ostrich).

To best soak up the charms and wildlife of this rugged landscape, embark on “The Circuit” – a seven- to ten-day hike. An extended version of the popular “W”, this route that leads you around the back of the Torres, giving you some respite from the inevitable crowds.

Explore more of South America with the Rough Guide to South America on a BudgetCompare flights, find tours, book hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

You can’t expect to fit everything Southeast Asia has to offer into one trip – or two or three or four, to be fair – and we don’t suggest you try. So, to help you start planning, we’ve put together 8 ideas for your Southeast Asia itinerary from The Rough Guide to Southeast Asia on a Budget.

For those taking a big, extended trip around the continent you could join a few together, but remember that the distances you’ll be covering can be vast. Plus, there’s lots to discover off the beaten track.

For a complete guide to exploring the region and up-to-date recommendations of the best hotels, hostels, activities and more, buy the full guide here.

1. Vietnam

Start in colonial streets of Hanoi (1), the country’s historical, political and cultural capital. Go for a sail around the famed natural wonders of Ha Long Bay (2), before heading to the northern hills to the ethnic minority villages orbiting Sa Pa (3).

Take the train down to imperial architecture of Hué (4), make a day-trip to the DMZ, then move south to charming Hoi An (5). Nha Trang (6) is Vietnam‘s pre-eminent beach party town, whereas Mui Ne (7) offers great water-sports and sandy coasts with a more laidback vibe.

Da Lat (8) is your gateway to the Central Highlands, but if you’re still craving sea and sand the island of Phy Quoc (9) is a haven for beach bums and divers. Float down lush canals in the Mekong Delta (10), and finish your trip in bustling Ho Chi Minh City (11).

2. Myanmar

Kick off in Yangon (1) for street markets and the glorious Shwedagon Paya, then go to Mawlamyine (2), Myanmar‘s third largest city. Catch a boat to Hpa-an (3) before visiting one of the holiest Buddhist sites in the country, Kyaiktiyo (4).

Kalaw (5) is a perfect base for treks to ethnic-minority villages, and traditional life at Inle Lake (6) shouldn’t be missed either. Watch the sunset over Mandalay (7), then soar in a hot-air balloon over the awe-inspiring temples of Bagan (8).

Stroll the botanical gardens at Pyin Oo Lwin (9) before taking the train ride across the Goteik viaduct to Hsipaw (10), an increasingly popular trekking base.

3. Laos and Cambodia

Begin with the unmissable two-day trip down the Mekong River from Houayxai to Luang Prabang (1), the city of golden spires. Then its off to the stunning natural playground of Vang Vieng (2), before venturing to the country’s quaint capital, Vientiane (3).

Enjoy the pretty French-colonial lanes of Savannakhet (4) and explore the Khmer ruins of Wat Phou near Champasak (5). Set course towards Si Phan Don (6) to chill out for a few days in one of the four thousand islands scattered across the Mekong River. Catch a mini-bus to Cambodia for river dolphin watching in Kratie (7), or laze riverside in relaxed Kampot (8).

An easy bus ride takes you from Phnom Penh (9) to  Siem Reap, where the world-famous temples of Angkor (10) beg to be explored. But if you’re feeling a little travel-worn afterwards there’s no better place to kick back than the beach resort and offshore islands of Sihanoukville (11).


4. Bangkok and Northern Thailand

After immersing yourself in Bangkok, Thailand’s frenetic and thriving capital, chill-out among the rafthouses and waterfalls of Kanchanaburi (2).

Rent a bicycle to explore the ancient ruins of Ayutthaya (3) and then make for the elegant temple remains in Sukhothai (4). To break free of the tourist route head to isolated Umphang (5), where the surrounding mountains are perfect for trekking.

Chaing Mai (6) is always a backpacking favourite, but an amble through the arty night markets and excellent live-music bars of Pai (7) shouldn’t be missed either.

5. Thailand’s Beaches and Islands

Commence among the old-world charms of Thailand‘s Phetchaburi (1), then take a trip to the paradisiacal islands of Ko Tao (2) and Ko Pha Ngan (3) for raging moon parties or a detox.

Trek through the jungle in Khao Sok National Park (4) ­– one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet – and as you move further south, consider a stop in the slightly ugly tourist village of Ko Phi Phi (5) for undeniably fun all-night parties, snorkelling and diving.

Continue south to the relaxed island getaway of Ko Lanta (6), before winding this itinerary down in the pockets of paradise still remaining in Ko Lipe (7) and the stunning Ko Tarutai National Marine Park nearby.

6. Singapore and Malaysia

Singapore (1) is an easy introduction to Southeast Asia with its array of tourist-friendly pleasures. But move on to Melaka (2) for a fascinating mix of cultures and an ideal first stop in Malaysia.

Kuala Lumpur (3) is a must, and the cooling heights of the Cameron Highlands (4) will provide refuge after the bustle. Relax on the beaches of the Perhentian Islands (5) then make for the rainforests of Taman Negara National Park (6), before catching a ride on the jungle railway to Kota Bharu.

Attractive Kuching (7) is an ideal base for visits to the Iban longhouses, and a journey along the 560km Batang Rajang (8) river into the heart of Sarawak is unforgettable.

Nature and adventure buffs alike will love Gunung Mulu National Park (9), Kinabalu National Park (10) and the wildlife outside of Sandakan (11). Finish this itinerary among the teeming marine life of Pulau Sipadan (12), one of the top dive sties in the world.

7. Indonesia

There’s plenty to discover by starting in Sumatra’s Bukit Lawang and Danau Toba (1), the famous orang-utan centre, soaring volcanoes and island retreats among them.

Take time to explore Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta (2), before moving on to Java cultural heart: Yogyakarta (3), the best base for the temples of Borobudur and Prambanan. Take a pre-dawn hike up to the crater rim of still-smoking Gunung Bromo (4), adventure the many wonders of Hindu Bali and hop over the Lombok (6) and the Gili Islands for adventures in paradise.

Enjoy close encouters with Komodo dragons in Komodo and Rinca (7) before heading to the mountainous landscapes of fertile Flores (8). Finish up on Sulawesi, immersed in the flamboyant festivals and fascinating culture of Tanah Toraja (9).

8. The Philippines

Start by soaking up the compelling energy of Manila (1), a convenient gateway to some of the country’s more inaccessible areas.

Check out the shipwrecks and prehistoric landscapes of Palawan (2), before you pass through Cebu city (3) on your way to Camiguin (4), a small volcanic island home to a bohemian arts scene and some amazing adventure activities. 

Surfers flock to the acclaimed reef breaks of Siargao (5), while the captivating sunsets and limited electricity at both Malapascua and Bantayan (6) typifies island living at its best.

Boracay (7) also shouldn’t be missed, home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and nightlife rivalling Manila. Conclude this itinerary in the cool mountain villages of the Igorot tribes in the Cordillera (8), nestled among jaw-dropping rice-terrace scenery.

Featured image by Lee Aik Soon.

Despite the name, Bregenzerwald’s KäseStrasse (Cheese Street) in Austria’s Vorarlberg region is not a marked route along a specific road. Instead it denotes an association of cheese-related industries – around 200 partners in all – that are united in cultivating, maintaining and promoting the highest standards of regional cheese production.

Visitors can gain insights about cheese and other regional food production via operations that range from dairies, farms and private cheese makers to butchers, bakers and museums. And by far the best way to explore the area is by hiking.

Vorarlberg, Austria by Andreas Theis via Flickr (CC license)

Bregenzerwald is a splendid rural landscape in itself, dotted with lush Alpine meadows, picturesque farms and traditional wooden-shingled farmhouses. The “route” spans an area of around 100km, with each venue marked by the distinctive KäseStrasse logo.

As you explore, you’re likely to come across everything from the Alpine Dairy Farming Museum in Hittisau, where you can see a 300-year-old dairy kitchen and learn about cheese-making and milk processing (guided tours available), to romantic mountain inns (hütte). There are also some surprisingly modern spots, such as the Käsekeller Lingenau, demonstrating how cheese is matured, and KäseMolke Metzler, which produces natural remedies and cosmetics from whey.

Cheese, cheese, cheese by Trishhhh via Flickr (CC license

Then, of course, there are the fantastic restaurants (gasthöfe), where you can sample dishes like the delicious macaroni cheeseesque concoction Käseknopfel. To be registered in the association, each restaurant has to have at least five different cheese dishes on its menu, and use a minimum of five Bregenzerwald cheeses.

In terms of when to visit, the summer is of course best for warm weather. But the region’s KäseHerbst season (the “fifth season”), from mid-September to the end of October, is a popular time to host traditional festivals.

Culture vultures may also be delighted to learn that the region hosts two excellent annual music events: an Opera Festival in Bregenz, and the Schubertiade, which takes place in the charming village of Schwarzenberg.

For tours of the Farming Museum in Hittisau, contact hittisau.at. The Bregenz Opera Festival (bregenzerfestspiele.com) takes place in July/Aug (dates vary each year), while Schwarzenberg’s two-part Schubertiad (schubertiade.at) runs just before and afterwards, usually in June and Sept. Discover more unforgettable places around the world with the new edition of Make the Most of Your Time on Earth.

See a picture of Skye, suspect computer enhancement. That’s just how it works until you get there. Then you cross the bridge, and slowly it dawns on you – Skye really does look like another world.

The grass really is that emerald green (that’ll be the rain), the mountains really are that sheer, the water really is that mirror-like. And, yes, the sky really is that theatrical, its clouds veering from disaster film leaden to romantic drama sun-streaked.

No surprise then that the latest film adaptation of Macbeth, starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, uses Skye as a backdrop. Here’s where you can follow in their footsteps.

For classic Skye scenery

Locals were called up to the Quiraing to appear as extras during filming here, in the scene where Macbeth is titled Thane of Cawdor, but it is the scenery that decidedly steals the show.

Arrive early (before 11am) to grab a parking spot along the single-track road between Uig and Staffin and head along the lower level path. To your left are sheer granite cliffs, exposed by a dramatic landslip that also created otherworldly rock formations including the Needle rock stack and the dramatic triple summit of the Prison.

Taking a hard left you’ll hike uphill (thousands of feet have worn it into a ladder of turf steps) for views down over the Table, a flat grassy plateau once used by locals to hide sheep from invaders. It’s a steep trail back down to road level but the shots you’ll have filled your camera with make it well worthwhile.

For a challenge

The most challenging mountain range in Britain, The Cuillin also plays a dramatic role in the film, as the site of Banquo’s assassination.

But the drama doesn’t end there, as even the most experienced of hikers will find plenty to push them in this rocky range. There are 11 munros in the ridge, the easiest of which to climb is probably Sgurr na Banachdich, for which you won’t need to use your hands.

Start from Glen Brittle Youth Hostel car park and follow the path up the south side of the stream, passing a series of waterfalls. A faint muddy path leads off to the right, ascending the moor. You’ll cross a stream and head on up the back of Coir’ an Eich on a clear path zigzagging up an extremely steep scree slope before continuing along the ridge towards the summit. You’re at 3166ft up here and the views are truly spectacular, out over the tooth of the ridge towards the sea.

Don’t set out without proper gear, food and drink, a decent map and route instructions.

For those who want to get out on the water

“I was really foremost led by [Scotland] and [its] landscape to kind of define the look of the film”, said director Justin Kurzel. And if you want to get a real feel for the views that inspired him, you have to take to the water.

Board a Bella Jane boat trip in Elgol and it’s just a 45-minute crossing to the base of the River Scavaig, which links the loch to the sea and is said to be the shortest river in Britain.

It takes just ten minutes to walk up the river to the loch, with some rock hopping involved, and here you will get some of the best views of The Cuillin. The steep-sided mountains stare down at you from all directions, reflected in water so calm it acts like a mirror.

Don’t try to cross the river (unless you are happy to get very wet), instead stick to the left-hand side of the loch and continue further, leaping from rock to rock and following the often soggy path to get a little closer to those imposing peaks.

The boat runs continuously so you can either stay an hour and a half or three hours before catching it back to Elgol. On the crossing look out for the Small Isles of Rum, Muck, Eigg and Canna, as well as plenty of seals, and puffins during the summer.

For a true taste of Scotland

Food might not be a focus of the film – but it should be one for your trip. Skye is known for its natural produce and restaurant menus across the island make good use of it (try Kinloch Lodge, the Three Chimneys and Scorry Breac for the best).

The freshest produce is found by getting out there among it, though, foraging on a day out with Skye Ghillie, aka Mitchell Partridge.

Every day with Mitch is different, but expect a spot of deer stalking through the forest (look out for snapped branches and hoof prints as signs of recent activity), plenty of picking of herbs such as wood sorrel and bog myrtle and a feast of foraged mussels on the beach, cooked in water from the loch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Collingwood Elvis Festival by Jay Morrison (CC license)

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

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

4. Get sleepy in a tepee on Manitoulin Island

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

5. Channel your inner lumberjack

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

Axe throwing at BATL by Tibor Kovacs (CC license)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ontario Mennonites by Zhu (CC license)

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

The world’s longest glass-bottomed walkway opened in China‘s Hunan province last week, after the old wooden panels of the Haohan Qiao suspension bridge were replaced with transparent glass frames.

Towering 180 meters over a scenic canyon in Shiniuzhai Geopark, the structure is billed as a walk for thrill-seekers and nature buffs alike.

But is it safe? Though the first batch of tourists on site said they could feel the bridge wobbling beneath them, the 11 engineers who built the Haohan Qiao swear by the bridge’s solidity. Each glass frame is 24mm thick and 25 times stronger than your average window pane. Engineers even installed thin steel beams to ensure that if the glass were to shatter, walkers wouldn’t actually fall through.

But if you’re walking for the bragging rights, remember that this is just the latest of China’s increasingly popular glass-bottomed tourist attractions.

An even longer and taller glass-bottomed bridge is set to open in Hunan’s Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon later this year (measuring an extreme 300 meters high and 430 meters long). Here’s hoping that one feels a little less wobbly.

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