The days might be getting noticeably shorter and the crowds might be dispersing – but that doesn’t mean summer in Europe is coming to close. There’s still plenty of sun to be found if you know where to look. Whether you’re after balmy beaches or a relaxed city break, this is our pick of the best places for late summer sun in Europe.

Crete, Greece

Crete’s summers are long and warm, and there’s nothing better than kicking back at a beachside taverna and enjoying the last of the sun’s rays over plates of meze. For a glimpse of the island’s past, Crete’s Venetian and Turkish buildings are best-preserved in Chania; stroll around the narrow streets of the Old Town before taking a seat at a waterfront restaurant to enjoy the view of its lighthouse, one of the oldest in the world.

Switzerland

Warm days and cool nights make the end of summer the perfect time to go hiking in the Swiss mountains. You won’t be disappointed by the country’s enchanting scenery, with its fairytale-green hills, placid lakes and craggy mountains. Outside of high season you can be more flexible with your itinerary, so buy a Swiss Pass and head out to explore the towns.

Budapest, Hungary

Late summer is one of the best times to visit Budapest, when the usually crowded streets become calmer, giving you the opportunity to make the most of the city’s cafés and bars. Before it gets too cold to brave, take a dip in the luxurious thermal Széchenyi Baths; you can even play chess on a floating board.

Cornwall, England

For the picture-perfect streets of its small seaside towns, stunning views out to sea and warmer climate than much of England, Cornwall is one of the best places to enjoy the last of England’s summer. For a unique theatre experience, try to catch a show at the open-air Minack Theatre, which juts out over the ocean. You’ll find beachside restaurants armed with blankets and heaters for when the sun goes down and the temperature drops.

Barcelona, Spain

There’s so much to see and do in Barcelona, and the searing heat of Spain’s mid-summer can make it difficult to appreciate. Less intense temperatures later in the year make sightseeing more pleasant; experience Gaudi’s dreamy yet slightly barmy Park Güell, walk around the Gothic quarter and hike to the top of Montjuïc. La Rambla is one of the most famous streets in Europe, and rightly so – stop at one of its restaurants and feed on the bustling energy of a city that parties late into the night.

Gran Canaria, the Canary Islands

If you’re hoping for a beach holiday, look no further than Gran Canaria. Away from the built-up holiday resorts, you’ll find long stretches of sandy beaches. From the desert south to inland subtropical forests, the landscape is spectacular – and if you just want to lie on a beach with a book, this is the perfect place.

Tuscany, Italy

Tuscany’s tall towers, striking towns and vast vineyards make it endlessly compelling. It’s one of the world’s most popular destinations year-round, but head for a late summer getaway and you’ll still be able to enjoy the pool in the balmy midday sun. From San Gimignano’s stunning skyline to Siena’s unique Piazza, there are fascinating historical towns aplenty.

Zadar, Croatia

The beautiful, largely unspoilt old city of Zadar is less busy than much of Croatia’s Dalmatian coast, and just as worth a visit for its marble streets and Roman and Venetian ruins. Head to the quay as the sun goes down and you’ll find that locals and visitors alike flock to watch one of the best sunset views in Europe, accompanied by the ethereal sounds of the Sea Organ and the mesmerising light display of the Greeting to the Sun, both created by Croatian architect Nikola Baši.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Without the hordes of tourists on their summer holidays, the roads aren’t quite so mad in Amsterdam, so embrace the cliché and hire a bike like the locals. Amble along the backstreets with no particular aim in mind and you’ll find the canals twinkling in the late summer sun. The events and festival calendar of the Dutch capital remains packed late into September, a highlight of which is the city’s Fringe Festival.

Provence, France

Fields of sunflowers and lavender; vineyards that stretch as far as the eye can see; rustic cottages peppering the landscape; Provence is captivating. It would be easy to just sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery, but if you’re feeling more active, take a day-trip to Arles for its Roman amphitheatre and forum, or mix with locals at markets no longer heaving with holidaymakers; and you can’t leave without sampling the region’s wonderful wines.

Lake Como, Italy

Milan locals flock to Lake Como in the summer months for the lake’s cooling respite from the heat of the sun. In late summer, it’s still warm and bright but not as hot, so miss the main tourist rush and enjoy the Italian lake at a more leisurely pace, from lying on a beach and absorbing the last of the summer’s rays, to exploring traditional lakeside villages.

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

Staying the night in a treehouse – everyone’s favourite childhood fantasy – has now become a reality. Treehouse hotels have sprung up around the world, with mystical woodland hideaways now found everywhere everywhere from Costa Rica to Thailand. Here are 8 of our favourites.

1. Treehotel, Sweden

Sweden’s Treehotel, built by some of the country’s finest architects, takes the humble treehouse to new levels. Its six, strikingly modern “treerooms” range from the futuristic glass Mirrorcube to the alien-like UFO. And if a night here wasn’t unforgettable enough, there’s even a sauna suspended from the pines.

Image credits: Peter Lundstrom, WDO – www.treehotel.se (top, right and featured image); Fredrik Broman, Human Spectra – www.treehotel.se (left)

2. Tree House Lodge, Costa Rica 

In 10 acres behind Punta Uva beach in the province of Limón lies a treehouse that owners Edsart Besier & Pamela Rodriguez promise will take you back to your childhood. Surrounded by a tropical garden and accessed via a wooden suspension bridge, it’s the perfect place to unwind.

Image courtesy of Tree House Lodge Costa Rica

3. Garden Village, Slovenia

A short walk from the banks of Slovenia’s famous Lake Bled, Garden Village is a fairytale come to life. Neat rows of luxury glamping tents are staggered down the hillside, while six treehouses hide in the woods alongside, connected by wooden platforms and short suspension bridges. Romantic escapes don’t come much better than this.

Image credits: Garden Village / Jost Gantar (top); Jonathan Smith / Dorling Kindersley (left); Tim Draper / Rough Guides (right)

4. Chewton Glen, England

You’ll find the ultimate in treehouse luxury at Chewton Glen in the New Forest. Four luxury treehouse cabins are squirrelled away in a wooded valley here and the extras are fittingly decadent: spa treatments, golf buggies to take you to the main hotel and gourmet hampers delivered through a secret hatch.

Images courtesy of Chewton Glen

5. Tongabezi Lodge, Zambia

It’s hard to imagine waking up to the crashing of Victoria Falls. but when you stay at Tongabezi Lodge’s Tree House, this becomes a reality. Hidden away on the banks of the Zambezi river, along the cliff face past the pool, this ground-level treehouse offers a tranquil situated away from the main lodge. Staying here is a way to “experience the beauty and majesty of Zambia without setting a foot outside”, they say.

Image courtesy of Tongabezi Safari Lodge – www.tongabezi.com

6. Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica, Peru

Deep in the Peruvian Rainforest, a stay at Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica plunges you into jungle life. Set within a 17,000 hectare private reserve, this luxury resort offers the likes of spa treatments, jungle treks and bird watching expeditions. Best of all, however, is their Canopy Tree House – although at 90-ft above the jungle floor, a night here is not for the faint hearted.

Images courtesy of Inkaterra Reserva Amazónica

7. Milandes Treehouse, France

Ever wondered what it would be like to have your own private castle? Well now you can find out with a night at Milandes Treehouse. This extravagant construction has been built in the style of a traditional French châteaux, and as you admire the panoramic views you are guaranteed to feel like royalty.

Image courtesy of www.canopyandstars.co.uk 

8. Free Spirit Spheres, Canada

The gently rocking Free Spirit Spheres on Vancouver Island in Canada might look childlike, but these treehouses are strictly for adults only. The experience is designed to conjure mystery, magic and a connection with the forest – maybe even thoughts of elves and fairies, they say.

Image credits: Free Spirit Spheres by Kyle Greenberg via Flickr (CC license) [top]; Treehouses 2010 by chillbay via Flickr (CC license) [left and right, with small crop]

Say Senegal or mention West Africa and misinformed mutterings of ebola start to spread quicker than the virus itself. Sitting on the western shoulder of Africa, Senegal is frequently overlooked by travellers – but for little good reason.

While the excellent birding and beaching in The Gambia – the country that slices Senegal’s coastline in two – attract thousands of tourists on organised tours and package holidays, Senegal simmers in the African sun with stretches of often-empty beaches (around 500km of them, in fact), with few tourists to be seen.

And it’s not just about the coastline. There are near-untouched deserts, steamy cities and some fascinating islands with captivating stories to tell. So if you’ve got no idea what to expect, let us tell you a few things you didn’t know about Senegal…

Senegalese coastline © Lottie Gross 2015

1. The Senegalese seriously know how to bake

Waking to the waft of pastry in the morning or sighting women carrying bundles of freshly-baked baguettes after breakfast is something you’d associate with a holiday in France. But this isn’t France, it’s Senegal, and the bakeries fill the early morning air with the tantalising smell of pastry and bread. A legacy left by the French, warm croissants and pains au chocolat make up the breakfast spreads in many a hotel or resort, as well as Senegalese homes. Baguettes are served with almost every meal, and patisseries showcasing impressive-looking cakes will have your mouth watering as you stroll past.

2. You can camp under a sky full of stars in the desert

Lodge de Lompoul sits in the middle of the Senegalese desert and it’s a world away from the big, brash city of Dakar. As the sun sets, crack open a cool Flag (West African lager), sit back, relax and watch the dunes turn from yellow to orange before they’re silhouetted against the night’s sky.

Lodge de Lompoul © Lottie Gross 2015

Three hours north of the capital, the small village of Lompoul sits on the edge of a desert of the same name. This smattering of huts and concrete and corrugated iron structures is a gateway to a strangely empty patch of yellow sand dunes in the middle of the forested landscape that backs the Senegalese coastline.

Leave your vehicle in Lompoul and jump into the camp’s 4×4 truck to traverse the steeply undulating, foliage-clad dunes – an exhilarating adventure in itself – before arriving at your luxury tent to spend a night in the wild.

3. Senegal’s natural attractions include a vivid pink lake

Blue, crystal-clear waters are beautiful, but what about bright pink? Thanks to its high salt content (up to forty per cent in places) caused by an algae called dunaliella salina, Lake Retba looks more like cloudy pink lemonade than a refreshing cool-blue pool. Don’t try swimming in it though: the salt is terrible for your skin, and the workers who gather the mineral have to cover themselves in shea butter before jumping in. It’s brighter at certain times of year (the dry season, mainly) and is made even more striking where parts of its banks are made up of bright-white salt.

The lake is a hive of activity all year round: men dig for salt under the water and women in brightly-coloured dresses carry buckets full of it on their heads from the waters to the metres-high mounds on the shore.

The Pink Lake © Lottie Gross 2015

4. The country is a twitcher’s paradise

The Gambia gets most of the attention for birdwatching in West Africa, but Senegal also has its own haven for hundreds of winged creatures. The Parc National de la Langue de Barbarie, at the southern end of a long, thin, sandy peninsula near the border with Mauritania, is a reserve for over 160 different species of birds, from all kinds of terns and gulls to pelicans and pink flamingoes. Hire a pirogue (traditional canoe) and glide through the calm waters all afternoon for some excellent ornithological observation.

5. You can visit an island made from millions of shells

In the south of Senegal, a hundred kilometres from Dakar, Ile de Fadiouth is one of Senegal’s many little islands, set in the ocean between a peninsula and a warren of lush mangroves. But it’s not like the others that dot the Atlantic coastline here – this one is made of shells. The streets are paved with them, the houses decorated with them and the adjoining mini island, housing only the Christian-Muslim cemetery, is entirely made up of them. Take a stroll to the top of the highest mound of shells in the cemetery for a glorious view over the mangroves and azure waters.

Ile de Fadiouth – © Lottie Gross 2015

6. Senegal hosts a famous jazz festival

Each year in May, the sleepy city of Saint Louis becomes overrun with strumming, scatting and singing musicians, ready to set the jazz standard high. The world-renowned Saint Louis Jazz festival has seen some of the biggest names in jazz take to the main stage in the city centre, and plenty of smaller acts performing in various venues around the city. Restaurants, hotels and bars are abuzz with musical excitement at this time of year; walk down the streets and you’ll hear jazz on every corner, whether it’s blaring out from a shop soundsystem or a jam session in someone’s back garden.

7. You can spot enormous baobabs over 1200 years old

Baobabs are everywhere in Senegal: from the national coat of arms to the city centres and the arid countryside. They’re peculiar-looking trees with fat trunks – that can grow up to 25 metres in circumference – and short stubby branches, and they can live for well over a thousand years. They’re a symbol of wisdom and longevity, the fruit is used to make a sweet, deep-red juice drink called bui and the bark makes strong rope. Whether they look as if they’re bursting from the tarmac of a busy city road, or they’re just standing silhouetted against a burning red sunset, baobabs are a bizarrely beautiful sight to be seen throughout the country.

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

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 is widely misunderstood. 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 couldn’t be emphasized enough if we wrote it in neon and underlined it three times. 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 – have a walk up and down them, jump, wiggle your toes. The most common mistake is thinking boots will stretch out and 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.

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 really 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 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.

6. Stock up

If you’re walking in a remote area you’ll need to bring everything, including water and food, with you. Pack bread, ham and cheese 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 every day? 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.

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. Not a bad thing to have to hand if stray dogs approach either.

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. 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.

12. 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 acclimatizing slowly, so spend a couple of days resting at altitude before walking. Drink plenty of water too and avoid alcohol too.

Compare flightsbook hostels and hotels for your trip, find tours 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.

The fabled Pacific Crest Trail guides adventuresome hikers from the borders of Mexico to Canada, blazing across the deserts, mountain ranges and dense forests that make up America’s breathtaking Western States (California, Oregon, and Washington). It usually takes five months for thru-hikers to complete, but you’re about to make the 4286km journey in less than three minutes.

This film’s creator, Halfway Anywhere, says he quit his job to make the trip after “finally realizing that what you grow up thinking you are supposed to do and what you can actually do are two entirely different things”.

When you see the stunning clips in this video, you might just want to do the same:

The Great Lakes comprise the largest body of fresh water on the planet and more than 35,000 islands are found in the water system. Not all are inhabited and some aren’t much more than a single rock jutting out of the lake with a lighthouse on it – but the inhabited ones provide the perfect opportunity for a weekend getaway. Here’s our list of the best islands in the Great Lakes.

Lake Huron: Manitoulin Island for First Nations Tourism

Manitoulin is largely undiscovered territory for modern travellers because it’s difficult to get to without a car or boat, but it’s totally worth the effort. Six small reserves with names like Kagawong, M’Chigeeng and Sheguiandah dot the shores of this island and are the best places to find out more about Canada’s First Nations people.

Canada’s most famous First Nations theatre group, De-Ba-Jeh-Mu-Jig (meaning “storyteller”), are based in Wikwemikong and do performances of native legends during summer.

The island is also unique for the small reddish hawberries that grow wild along its shores. Early settlers ate the berries in winter as a last-remaining food source – today, residents born on Manitoulin refer to themselves as “haweaters” as if it’s some secret club.

Lake Ontario: the Thousand Islands for history

This isn’t just one island, but an archipelago of 1864 dots of land straddling the Canada-US border on the north-eastern exit of Lake Ontario into the St Lawrence River. The islands span fifty miles from the lake into the river, with dozens of waterfront towns (and even some cities) and restaurants.

The Thousand Islands have a rich history – they were a battleground for the War of 1812, an early 1900s playground for the rich and famous, and have always been a hub of maritime activity. This history is celebrated in the many museums, castles and mansions across the islands. If you’re looking for a hands-on experience, take part in one of the re-enactments or living history demonstrations that overtake Sackets Harbor Battlefield during the summer.

One of the Thousand Islands by Benson Kua (license)

Lake Michigan: Beaver Island for hunting and fishing

Beaver Island’s history is unique: it began as a strong Mormon settlement with 300 followers of the Strangite sect, the Mormons who chose to follow James Strang instead of Brigham Young. The Strangites weren’t necessarily welcomed, and after Strang’s death in 1856, mobs from nearby communities drove the settlers off the island. So then the Irish fisherman came – earning Beaver Island the nickname “America’s Emerald Isle”. They were quickly followed by droves of outdoor-loving tourists and now the island is a hotspot for fishing and hunting.

The Beaver Island Wildlife Club has been active for more than 70 years working to preserve and maintain the wildlife and its habitat. In addition to many available deer, wild turkey, and small game for hunting, the island is known for excellent fly-fishing and a robust supply of smallmouth bass, carp, and walleye.

Lake Erie: South Bass Island for late-night revellers

Party-lovers rejoice: you have your place in the Great Lakes, too. South Bass Island is home to one of Lake Erie’s largest entertainment destinations, the town of Put-in-Bay. Beer Barrel Saloon claims to have the longest uninterrupted bar in the world, seating 160 people on its stools, and the Round House has great live bands daily. There’s a reason it’s called the “Key West of Lake Erie,” and it’s not just because of the sun-kissed sands.

Courtesy of www.rabbitisland.org

Lake Superior: Rabbit Island for artists

This small island once belonged to a Swedish fisherman but was recently purchased by New Yorker, Rob Gorski, and turned into a thriving artists’ colony. Gorski, an emergency room doctor, found the island on CraigsList. At the time, it only held the remains of a cabin, but Gorski saw more. Now the island has a shelter, a kitchen, and a sauna, and attracts artists from across the world to live in the wild wooded space and let Lake Superior’s moods influence their art.

Gorski hopes to eventually open an office and studio space in nearby Calumet, Michigan, to showcase the work of the island’s artists for locals and visitors interested in the robust art scene in the Upper Peninsula.

Explore of this area with the Rough Guides Great Lakes SnapshotCompare flightsbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

If Peru’s Sacred Valley wasn’t epic enough already, now you can sleep in transparent capsules suspended 300metres from one of its towering cliff faces. With a panoramic view overlooking the mystical Andes, the rapids of Rio Urubamba and the Sacred Valley itself, Skylodge (bookable through Airbnb) is not only the world’s first hanging lodge: it might just be the coolest bedroom ever.

Each of the three futuristic-looking capsule suites is handcrafted of aerospace aluminium and weather-resistant polycarbonate complete with four beds (sleeping up to 8 people), solar powered lights, a dining area and a private bathroom. And yes, even the view from the loo is utterly breathtaking: get ready to lord over the old Inca Empire from your eco-toilette throne.

But if you want to sleep extreme, then you’ve got to be extreme. To reach your capsule’s cushy beds and feather down pillows, you’ll have to climb a 400m-high steel ladder, or opt to hike a mountain trail and zip-line over chasms instead.

As the night sky emerges, thank the countless twinkling stars above you that Natura Vive, the young entrepreneurs behind Skylodge, engineered it so well that you’ve managed to stay calm while dangling off the edge of a cliff.

After breakfast the next morning, you’ll rappel and zip-line back down to solid ground. You’ll also have some serious bragging rights.

All photos in this piece courtesy of Airbnb. Explore more of Peru with the Rough Guide to PeruCompare flightsbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

Of Slovenia’s many show caves, none has quite the pulling power of Postojna, located in the heart of the country’s beguiling Karst region. And, at more than 20km long, it is Europe’s most expansive cave system.

Writing about Postojna in the seventeenth century, the great Slovene polymath Janez Vajkard Valvasor remarked: “in some places you see terrifying heights, elsewhere everything is in columns so strangely shaped as to seem like some creepy-crawly, snake or other animal in front of one”, an apt description for this immense grotto – a jungle of impossibly shaped stalactites and stalagmites, gothic columns and translucent stone draperies, all the result of millions of years of erosion of the permeable limestone surface by rainwater.

Although Postojna has been Slovenia’s most emblematic tourist draw since Emperor Franz Josef I set foot here in 1819, the smudged signatures etched into the craggy walls suggest an earlier human presence in the caves, possibly as far back as the thirteenth century.

Visiting the cave first entails a 2km-long ride through narrow tunnels on the open-topped cave train – a somewhat more sophisticated version of the hand-pushed wagons used in the nineteenth century – before you emerge into vast chambers of formations and colours.

Among them are the Beautiful Cave, which takes its name from the many lustrous features on display; the Spaghetti Hall, so-called because of its thousands of dripping, needle-like formations; and the Winter Chamber, which is home to a beast of a stalagmite called “Brilliant”, on account of its dazzling snow-white colour.

As these pictures show, there are few other caves that can match Postojna’s scale and wonder.

photo credit: Postojna Cave via photopin (license)

photo credit: Jonathan Smith (c) Dorling Kindersley

photo credit: Jonathan Smith (c) Dorling Kindersley

photo credit: Postojna Cave via photopin (license)

photo credit: Souvenir shop inside the cave via photopin (license)

photo credit: 2011_07_07_Postojna-Cave_044 via photopin (license)

photo credit: Postojna Cave Park via photopin (license)

photo credit: Postojna Cave via photopin (license)

photo credit: Postojnska Jama 2 via photopin (license)

photo credit: The Concert Hall via photopin (license)

photo credit: Linda Whitwam (c) Dorling Kindersley

photo credit: Postojna Cave via photopin (license)

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

Keith Drew sees Britain’s Somerset in a different light from behind the wheel of a six-man motorhome.

Cotton-budded wisps of mist hung lazily above the water, the early morning sunlight glinting off the pools. Freshly brewed tea in hand, we settled down in chairs outside our motorhome to survey the reedbeds in front of us, looking for signs of life. There was nobody else around.

Dried bulrushes crackled in the breeze. Suddenly, a huge bird, perhaps startled by the silence, took flight from the water’s edge, angling up over us and only just clearing our overhead cab.

We had spent the last few days exploring a wildly scenic region of limestone gorges, rolling hills and now vast open marshland – wildlife-rich landscapes that took on a cinematic quality through the widescreen windows of a monster motorhome.

But this wasn’t California or Canada. This was somewhere far closer to home. This was Somerset.

Or more specifically, this was Westhay Moor National Nature Reserve in the Somerset Levels, a curious patchwork of rivers, rhynes, drains and ditches. This highly distinctive landscape is at its most evocative around the old peat workings of the Avalon Marshes, which have been carefully converted into a series of terrific nature reserves. Westhay was just the start.

At Shapwick Heath, we saw marsh harriers hunting around the reserve’s lakes, gracefully arcing back and forth in search of prey. At Ham Wall, we heard the “boom” of a bittern, brought back from near extinction in the mid-1990s. Further south, in Swell Wood, we spotted spikey-feathered heron chicks (“tiny pterodactyls”, according to our seven-year old) at one of the biggest heronries in the UK.

“This part of the county rewards patient exploration”

I’d grown up in north Somerset, but I soon discovered that this part of the county rewards patient exploration. We spent long days pottering around Hamstone villages and ambling along forgotten back roads – when you’re driving a house on wheels that is nearly 23 feet long and over 10 feet high, you certainly don’t rush.

Every now and then, as the novelty of riding up high with a bird’s-eye view over the hedges started to wane, we would pull over to light up the hob for a quick cup of tea or to make an occasional on-board loo stop.

Our aptly named Fiat Grande had more living space than my first flat, and any worries that our family of five would go stir crazy all holed up together vanished quicker than it took for the kids to decide who was sleeping on the top bunk.

Image courtesy of Bunk Campers

The convenience of ferrying around our own living quarters (complete with oven, fridge, freezer and shower) was matched by a freedom to explore and a happy balance of outdoor life and creature comfort.

One night, we parked up alone in an apple orchard in what can quite accurately be described as the middle of nowhere. Another, we squeezed amongst a field full of tents in the back garden of a village pub. Both nights, the kids played outside until darkness fell, and when the drizzle descended and the wind started whipping the canvas around us, we just flicked on our diesel heater and cranked the temperature up to a toasty twenty degrees.

“Craggy limestone cliffs tower 500ft above the snaking road”

We drove through Cheddar Gorge, the largest in Britain, where craggy limestone cliffs tower 500ft above the snaking road and Billy goats skitter about its upper ledges.

We stopped in Glastonbury, an intriguing little place built on a history of tall tales and religious lore and – outside of June, when the area is besieged by wellie-wearing festivalgoers – a quietly alternative town, predominantly populated by New Age mystics.

We nosed around the spectacular ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, the cradle of Christianity in the UK and the supposed final resting place of King Arthur and Guinevere, and peered through a thick fog of incense into shops bearing names such as Natural Earthling and The Wonky Broomstick.

But it was in the far western corner of Somerset, where the strikingly scenic national park of Exmoor tips over into Devon, that we experienced our defining “motorhome moment”.

We’d been told that nearly everyone has one at some point during their first road trip, where you suddenly feel that this is how you want to see the world and you do a few speculative sums and start trying to convince yourself that you might just about be able to afford a motorhome of your own.

After trundling along the dramatic coastal route, where the UK’s highest sea cliffs plunge down to the Bristol Channel, we had cut inland to a very different landscape of open moors that are home to Exmoor ponies and herds of red deer.

Pulling over for a cup of tea – there was clearly a running theme to our holiday – we looked up through the side window just in time to see a majestic stag, knee deep in heather, standing on the crest of the hill in front of us, his antlers silhouetted against the blue sky behind.

He paused for a couple of seconds and was gone. It was only a moment, but it was the moment.

Bunk Campers have depots in Dublin, Belfast, Edinburgh and near Gatwick Airport. Campervan hire starts from £35 per day for a two-berth “Roadie” and includes unlimited mileage and a comprehensive kitchen kit; bedding, outdoor table and chairs, and GPS can be hired at additional cost. Renting a six-berth Fiat Grande for four nights costs £775 in peak season. Compare flightsbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

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