Autumn (or Fall) in New England is a breathtaking and beautiful season: the billions of leaves change from green to a rainbow of browns, reds, oranges and yellows across the fields and forests of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. At this time of year the air is cool and crisp, making it perfect for walking or cycling; the wildlife is abundant, with thousands of birds and wild moose to spot; and you can find top lobster in Maine to accompany the wine trail in Connecticut.

Here are 20 stunning pictures of New England fall foliage that showcase the region in all its colourful autumnal glory.

Smuggler’s Notch Waterfall, Vermont

 Wheeler Mountain, Vermont

 Downtown Boston, Massachusetts

 Stratton Mountain, Vermont

Picture courtesy of Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing and Discover New England

 Whiting Church, Vermont

Picture courtesy of Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing and Discover New England

Deerfield River Valley, Massachusetts

 Rocky Gorge, White Mountains, New Hampshire

Photo courtesy of New Hampshire Division of Travel & Tourism Development and Discover New England, by Ellen Edersheim

Sandy Stream Pond, Baxter State Park, Maine

Newport, Vermont

Photo courtesy of Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing and Discover New England, by Dennis Curran 

The Presidential Range, New Hampshire

Photo courtesy of New Hampshire Division of Travel & Tourism Development and Discover New England

Montpelier, Vermont

 New Hampshire

Photo courtesy of New Hampshire Division of Travel & Tourism and Discover New England

Mount Katadin, Maine

 Rockport, Maine

 Photo courtesy of Maine Office of Tourism and Discover New England

Acadia National Park, Maine

Image courtesy of Discover New England

 Cranberry harvest, Plymouth, Massachusetts

 Image courtesy of Discover Plymouth and Discover New England

French King Bridge, Massachusetts

Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Photo courtesy of New Hampshire State Parks and Discover New England

Camden Harbour, Maine

 Photo courtesy of Discover New England

Litchfield Hills, Connecticut

 Photo courtesy of Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism and Discover New England

Discover the best places to stay, eat and drink in New England with the Rough Guide to the USA. Book hostels in New England here, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Spiny Forest, Madagascar

On an island filled with weird and wonderful living things, the spiny forest has to be Madagascar‘s most unusual ecosystem. Endemic to the south of the island, the forest is distinguished by tall, virtually branchless plants with dagger-like spikes, and dumpy succulents with swollen trunks. Elegant sifaka lemurs leap from tree to tree with ease, effortlessly avoiding the lethal thorns.

Sikkim Pine Forests, India

Squeezed into a cosy nook between its neighbours Nepal, China and Bhutan, the mountainous ex-kingdom of Sikkim is India‘s greenest state; a thick carpet of pine forest covers much of this mysterious Himalayan region. Cloaked in cloud for much of the year the moist canopy is dripping with epiphytes and beautiful wild orchids. Believed to be the stomping ground of the mythical yeti, other inhabitants include cute red pandas and shy clouded leopards.

The Amazon Rainforest, South America

The granddaddy of all rainforests, the Amazon is the largest and most biodiverse tropical forest on Earth. Giant anteaters, pink dolphins and jaguars all make the trees and rivers here their home, though many of the plant and animal species are still unknown. It is culturally diverse too: home to over 300,000 indigenous people, some still uncontacted, speaking over two hundred languages. The Brazilian Amazon even has its own world-famous opera house, in the humid city of Manaus.

Green Mountain National Forest, Vermont, USA

Few natural spectacles are as striking as the Vermont fall foliage season (from mid-September to October). The air is crisp, plump apples hang heavy on the branches and maple, poplar and birch trees turn brilliant shades of crimson, amber and gold. Widely considered the region’s best area for leaf-peeping, Green Mountain National Forest is right in the heart of the action. Leaves change colour from north to south; check www.yankeefoliage.com before heading out.

Redwood National Park, USA

Next time you complain that you feel old, spare a though for the giant redwood trees of foggy northern California, which can live for over 2000 years. Redwood National Park’s Hyperion tree is also the world’s tallest. With its head firmly in the clouds, it’s bigger than many skyscrapers, at 379.1ft, and a relative teenager at between 700 and 800 years-old. Hyperion’s exact location is known only to scientists, but you can still try and hug many of the park’s other giants.

Bellavista Cloudforest, Ecuador

Damp, green, vibrant and extraordinarily beautiful, Ecuador‘s Bellavista cloudforest, high in the Western Andes, feels like the prehistoric habitat of dinosaurs. Veined by silvery waterfalls, the mountains are shrouded in heavy mist for at least part of each day, and covered in mosses, bromeliads and orchids. The forest’s primary attraction is the superb birdlife: there are well over 300 species here, including the masked trogon, tanager-finch, moustached antpitta, plate-billed mountain toucan and countless hummingbirds.

Caledonian Forest, Cairngorms National Park, Scotland

The largest mountainscape in the UK, Cairngorms National Park also contains a quarter of Scotland‘s remaining ancient Caledonian forest. Once the domain of brown bears and wolves, the native woodland was largely destroyed by climate change and hordes of Vikings, among other foes. Alpha predators no longer roam the forest, but the remaining Scots pines are home to rare red squirrels, capercaillie, beavers and ospreys.

Rainbow Eucalyptus Forest, Maui, Hawaii

It’s hard to keep your eyes on the tarmac as your cruise Maui‘s Hana Highway – all along the roadside are stunning groves of Rainbow Eucalyptus trees. As the name would suggest, the tree’s bark peels off in summer to reveal beautiful traffic-light-coloured ribbons of red, amber and green. The view is even more stunning when the tree trunks get wet from the rain, making the colours really pop.

Saguaro Cactus Forest, Saguaro National Park, USA

The largest cactus species in the USA, the unmistakable forked arms of the saguaro give it the “hands-up” appearance of a startled shopkeeper at a Wild West hold-up. Protecting part of the Sonoran Desert, Saguaro National Park is the best place to see these iconic cacti en masse. Standing up to 50ft-tall and with a lifespan of 200 years, many of the best specimens are micro-chipped against poachers.

The Black Forest, Germany

Home of the cuckoo clock and source of the celebrated Danube River, the Black Forest, stretching 170km north to south, and up to 6km east to west, is Germany‘s largest and most beautiful forest: so good they named a cake after it. The endless pine trees were once an eerie wilderness – a refuge for boars and bandits – but nowadays the region and its spa towns are much easier to visit.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Japan

West of Kyoto lies the pleasant, leafy suburb of Arashiyama. Originally a place for imperial relaxation away from the main court in central Kyoto, the palaces were later converted into Buddhist temples and monasteries. Modern-day visitors come here to explore these temples and the area’s stunning bamboo grove. A well-constructed trail meanders its way through the statuesque green trunks, which sigh and whisper in the wind.

Waipoua Forest, New Zealand

Standing tall and strong as Maori warriors, New Zealand‘s kauri trees are a sight to behold. Once felled sustainably for boat materials and gum by the Maori, the kauri suffered huge deforestation at the hands of European settlers. Waipoua is one of the country’s best-preserved pockets of kauri woodland. It’s also home to its mightiest tree, the 2000-year-old Tane Mahuta, or “God of the Forest” – a vast wall of bark 6m wide rising nearly 18m to the lowest branches, which are covered in epiphytes.

Tijuca National Park, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The mountains running southwest of Rio’s Sugar Loaf mountain are blanketed with tropical trees. This is the Parque Nacional da Tijuca, a man-made urban forest of some 120 square kilometres. The original trees here were cut down for hardwood, but the area was re-afforested between 1857 and 1870 to reduce landslides. Now home to reptiles, ocelots, howler monkeys, agoutis, three-toed sloths and myriad birdlife, many believe that Tijuca is the world’s largest urban forest.

The Sundarbans, India & Bangladesh

The muddy and mysterious tidal waterways and mudflats of the Sundarbans comprise the largest mangrove forest in the world. Slinking with ease between the tangled vegetation and labyrinthine islands, there is a large population of handsome Bengal tigers here who pay no regard for the international border between India and Bangladesh. Resolutely wild and untamed, despite being sandwiched between two of the world’s most populated countries, crocodiles, pythons and Ganges river dolphins are also resident here.

Taman Negara, Malaysia

Quite possibly the oldest rainforest in the world, a visit to Taman Negara is unforgettable. Listen to the cacophony of insect chirps, marvel at giant buttressed tree roots and peer into the understory of palms, luminous fungi, giant bamboo and odorous giant rafflesia flowers. You don’t have to go far to encounter the local wildlife either; leopards, rhinos, monkeys, Asian elephants, tapirs, mouse deer and a host of smaller creatures can be found amongst the tangled foliage.

Giant Kelp Forests, Monterey Bay, USA

A mermaid’s paradise, the giant kelp forests of California‘s Monterey Bay have an otherworldly beauty. The kelp enjoys the cool nutrient rich waters in these parts and forms an underwater cityscape for its aquatic residents, growing up to 175-feet-tall in places. Small air-filled bladders keep each frond afloat, providing rockfish, leopard sharks and sea otters with an anchor during storms, and a place to hide from predators.

West Papua Jungle, Indonesia

The jungle hereabouts is humid, muggy, dense and very hard to access; it’s easy to see why its inhabitants went completely un-contacted until the 1970s. The indigenous Korowai people give a whole new meaning to the phrase high-rise living. They have adapted to this extreme environment by building their homes over 100ft up into the treetops, well away from the forest’s vicious mosquitoes. Each house is shared by up to a dozen people and access is via a long series of spindly ladders.

Cork Oak Forests, Alentejo, Portugal

The wide, sparsely populated plains of Alentejo are dominated by vast forests of bushy cork oak trees. The crooked oaks live for up to 25 years, and every nine years their bark is stripped and harvested to make the corks we use in our wine bottles. With the advent of new bottle-corking materials, these woodlands and their resident wild cats, boar, storks and vultures are at serious risk of deforestation and habitat loss.

Azrou Cedar Forest, Morocco

The high altitude evergreen cedar forests around Azrou shelter several troupes of Barbary apes, one of the wildlife highlights of a visit to Morocco. They roam the forest Planet of the Apes-style in troupes of up to a hundred monkeys. The cedars themselves can lives for over 400 years and grow an impressive 200ft tall, with an attractive canopy of bluish needles. You’ll find a Christmassy mix of juniper, holly and fir trees growing on the forest floor.

From a deserted town to enormous sand dunes and sunset cocktails above the city, here are ten unforgettable things to see and do in Namibia.

Hike Fish River Canyon

Second only in size to America’s Grand Canyon, Namibia’s Fish River Canyon is one of Africa’s unsung wonders. Starting just south of Seeheim, it winds 161km south to Ais-Ais and plummets to depths of 550 metres. Watching the sun rise and set over its layers of sandstone and lava is epic, but fit travellers can up the adventure by attempting one of southern Africa’s greatest hikes: a 85km five-day trek along the riverbed. Talk about off the beaten track.

Explore the deserted diamond-mining town of Kolmanskop

Rise early and drive 10km east of port town Lüderitz to watch the first fingers of sunrise reach across the desert and light up the sands that have piled up high and inhabited every nook of this once-thriving town. The honey-toned beams reveal peeling wallpaper in empty kitchens, ceramic bathtubs waiting forlornly for a filling and empty picture frames dangling from unsteady nails. Pay a little more for a photography pass: it allows you to enter early and beat the tour-group crowds so you can explore this ghost town with soul in peace.

Slurp local oysters in Walvis Bay

Forget springbok steak or biltong, Namibia’s culinary highlight is its homegrown ultra-fresh oysters. Thanks to the cold Benguela current that sweeps up the coast from Antarctica, the nutrient-rich waters means these pearly beauties can be harvested in just eight months instead of the three years it takes to grow French oysters. Join a boat tour to visit the nurseries and nibble them onboard, or order a platter with a glass of chilled white wine at a dockside restaurant.

Climb Sossusvlei

Namibia’s foremost attraction doesn’t disappoint. The sand dunes inside Namib-Naukluft National Park are some of the highest in the world and seeing them light up at sunrise is a sight that shouldn’t be missed. Sossusvlei is in fact only one dune, but the name is often used to collectively describe a handful of others. The most photogenic are the 170 metre-high Dune 45 and Deadvlei, whose dried up clay basin is punctuated with the sculptural silhouettes of long-dead acacia trees.

Explore the remote Caprivi Strip

Few tourists venture northwards to visit this narrow finger of lush land that juts out into Botswana, Zambia and Angola – those that do will be rewarded. The landscape is dotted with rondavel huts, roadside stalls selling fruit, and women in colourful clothes going about their daily business. Plus, two of the region’s national parks – Mamili and Mudumu – are becoming good safari destinations.

Safari in style inside Etosha National Park

Etosha translates as “Great White Place” – an apt description for this endless pan of silvery salt-encrusted sand, which is all that remains of a large inland lake that stood here 12 million years ago. Come dry season, its southern waterholes attract elephant, giraffe, zebra, eland, blue wildebeest, thousand-strong herds of springbok, and even the endangered black rhinoceros. A handful of luxury resorts have views over the pan, so the game viewing can continue long into the night.

Meet the Himba in Kunene

The barren, mountainous landscapes of the northern Kunene region are home to the Himba people – a semi-nomadic, polygamous tribe famed for wearing ochre-stained dreads and copper-wire bracelets. A number of tour companies will run visits to traditional villages, but a more rewarding (and perhaps ethical) way to meet the Himba is to base yourself in Opuwo, a vibrant little town, and wander for more candid interaction with the locals. From here you can also organise visits to Epupa falls.

Feed cheetahs in the Kalahari

Seeing wild cheetahs on safari is unforgettable, but at times viewings are no more than a glimpse of spots. For an up-close encounter, book to stay at Bagatella Kalahari Game Ranch: attached to the property is a 12-hectare enclosure belonging to the Cheetah Conservation Fund and it’s home to three orphaned cheetahs – Etosha, Rolf and Tuono – that are being rehabilitated for release. Seated safely aboard an open-sided Jeep, you can watch their caretaker dole out the evening feed (four kilos of meat each) then enjoy a sundowner atop the famous red dunes.

Find shipwrecks on the Skeleton Coast

This otherworldly strip of coastline earned its named from the treacherous fogs and strong currents that forced many ships onto its uncharted sands. Hemmed in by the high, searing dunes of the Namib Desert and lack of fresh water many sailors perished here. Explore the rusted hulls of stranded ships, marooned whale ribs and kilometre-long stinky seal colonies.

Party on the roof in Windhoek

Namibia’s capital is a city on the move. Take in the sights while sipping a cocktail and watching the sunset at the brand-new Hilton hotel’s Skybar – a rooftop bar complete with heated infinity pool and panoramic vistas overlooking Independence Avenue and the Supreme Court. It’s the perfect way to toast your Namibian adventure.

Get more inspiration from Rough Guides here. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Arizona is peppered with sensational landscapes – deserts lacerated with zig-zagging canyons, vast brightly coloured cliffs, boulder-filled creeks, and of course, the ultimate crack in the earth: the Grand Canyon. Rough Guides editor Helen Abramson takes on the national parks of this southwest American state.

“I’ll take them!”, I cry enthusiastically to a heavily bejewelled, tie-dye-dress-clad shop assistant. I’m trying on the comfiest pair of sandals I’ve ever worn. They’re made of yoga mats, which seems entirely appropriate, as I’m in Sedona, northern Arizona, the first stop on a clockwise round trip from Phoenix, in search of all the national parks it’s humanly possible to squeeze into a week. This particular little town has an unusual appeal – it’s believed by some that energy lines converge here to create a spiritual power spot, or vortex. Shops full of crystals and gemstones abound, and there are more healers and psychics in a one-mile radius than at Glastonbury’s Green Fields. I’m not exactly sold on the vortex issue, but you can’t beat the setting. Surrounded by the dazzling boulders of Red Rock State Park, Sedona is stunning from all angles.

It’s wildfire season, and nearby Oak Creek Canyon, enclosed by dramatic red-and-white cliffs, has been ablaze for days; it’s off-limits, as is, disappointingly, the popular tourist-spot of Slide Rock, where a natural water slide runs through the creek. My boyfriend and I take the less adrenalin-fuelled and fire-free option of hiking around the impressive Bell Rock (shaped – you guessed it – like a big ringer), via a stop at the spectacularly situated Chapel of the Holy Cross, built high into Sedona’s buttes and with fantastic panoramic views from its huge glass-paned front wall.

Monument Valley: Image by Helen Abramson

We have to take a detour to drive to our next stop, Flagstaff, 30 miles north of Sedona, as the direct highway 89A route is closed due to the fires. However, on arrival we are blessed with quality breweries (try Mother Road Brewery) and good food including sublime burgers from Diablo and tender ribs from Big Foot Bar-B-Q – conveniently set in a ladies’ clothes store. This university town is a pleasant surprise; the streets are buzzing with activity, and it’s obvious that this is a lively, fun, and on-trend kind of place, which somehow manages to remain unpretentious. It’s also 7000ft (2130m) above sea level, and though the altitude isn’t all that high, we seem to go a bit light-headed after one drink and are generally a little overexcited about everything. Either that, or we just ate too much BBQ meat.

The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is only about an hour and a half’s drive from Flagstaff. Nothing prepared me for the scale of this colossal crack in the earth; pictures don’t do it justice. It’s just so incomprehensibly huge. I have to squint to see the other side, and between that and tiny, little, insignificant me are dozens of mounds and giant rocks, each one an array of different colours, layered by hundreds of millions of years of erosion into profoundly captivating patterns and waves.

Grand Canyon: Image by Helen Abramson

20 more places to make you feel insignificant >

The approach to Marble Canyon, just south of the Utah state line and where the Grand Canyon begins, is not one you’ll forget in a hurry. On one side sit the Vermilion Cliffs, intensely red and imposing, and on the other are flat plains cut with deep crevasses, where creeks run down to the Colorado River. We hike through one of these mini canyons, down Soap Creek. The route is tough; it involves a long scramble down a large boulder field, where people have left helpful little piles of stones to show the way, and a descent down a rope ladder of questionable structural integrity, over a 25ft drop.

We hear the rapids before we see them, and the roar of the Colorado River is a welcome sound after a few hours in 40-degree heat. This isn’t far from Lees Ferry, where rafting trips begin their journeys downriver, and there are little beaches you can camp on along the way. However, preferring a real bed, we stay at the Cliff Dwellers Lodge, eat succulent BBQ ribs (again) and wonderful avocado pie (it really does work), and join local fishermen as they sit round a campfire and take the mickey out of our British accents under a star-filled desert sky.

We break up the journey to Monument Valley with a stop at little-visited Canyon de Chelly, deep in the Navajo Nation (Native American-governed territory). Set into the bottom of the canyon’s sheer sandstone walls sit the sheltered remains of the homes of Ancestral Pueblo Peoples who lived here from 750 to 1300 AD. The homes are still relatively intact, and, looking at them, you can begin to envisage how this ancient tribe, who preceded the Navajo, lived, back when the floor of the canyon was filled with lush rainforest.

Petrified Forest: Image by Helen Abramson

The iconic sandstone buttes of Monument Valley, on the Arizona/Utah border, look exactly how you’d imagine. Incredible, stark and seeming to pop out of nowhere, these rocks are the American Wild West of Hollywood movies, and the sight is eerily familiar. Staying in a hut at the campsite down the road and waking up to see a sandstorm take over the valley is enough to make me realise it is indeed very real, and not a postcard come to life.

Two hundred miles south of here, in the Petrified Forest National Park, lie the remnants of a land before time. Around 225 million years ago, uprooted trees flowed downriver and were deposited and buried by sediment filled with volcanic ash. The logs turned to stone (petrified) and transformed into a multitude of colour. The cross-section of a tree ranges the whole spectrum – an astonishingly beautiful sight. The ridged mounds of sedimentary rocks that make up the landscape of the national park look almost moonlike, and with the ancient logs scattered about, it seems even more other-worldly. Another day in Arizona, another epic, unforgettable sight.

Getting around

You’ll need a car to get to and around Arizona’s national parks. We used Hertz car hire: www.hertz.com, +44 (0)843 309 30 99. If you’re heading towards Page from the Grand Canyon, note that Highway 89 is closed from the junction with 89A to Page, due to a huge pavement buckle in Feb 2013 and is estimated to reopen summer 2015. In the meantime, you’ll need to take a detour via 89T.
Explore more of Arizona with the Rough Guide to the USA. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

The third part in our Slovenia In Four Seasons feature sees Senior Web Editor Tim Chester explore the country in August. Check out our trips from the winter and the spring too.

Think of the northern Adriatic and you’d be forgiven for thinking of Italy – of Venice, Rimini, and Trieste – or Croatia, whose abundant seaside gems stretch from Rovinj to Zadar and beyond. However, you’d be missing an important 47 kilometres, which belong resolutely to Slovenia, a tiny fragment of coast wedged between its neighbours that packs in a disproportionately large number of treats.

Croatia might completely hog the waterfront in this part of the world, snatching miles and miles of stunning coastline from similarly-sized nearby countries and attracting huge numbers of visitors to match, but the Slovene Riviera – sitting pretty at the tip of the Slovene Istria in the south west of the country – is equally as beguiling.

Most visitors to this country, which has been independent since 1991, covers an area the size of Wales and numbers just a handful of million inhabitants, head straight for the capital Ljubljana or the justifiably popular Lake Bled, but I’d been told to make a beeline for the beach. So, a couple of hours after our budget plane bounced onto the tarmac we were on top of Hotel Piran in the city of the same name sipping margaritas as the sun dropped into the sea.

The drive along the top of the peninsula to Piran sets the scene: look to the right as the road crests a hill and you can see the fishing port town of Izola, beyond that the more industrial Koper, whose new developments encircle a medieval core, and in the far distance Trieste in Italy. To the left, signs point to the casinos and bars of resort town Portorož, hedges intermittently open to reveal the salt pans of Sečovlje, and in the distance Croatia squats peacefully.

We only had a long weekend to spare so we hit the ground running the following morning, exploring Piran’s cobbled streets and labyrinthine passageways with a local guide. The city dates back to medieval times but it was the Venetian Republic which really left their mark; some corners of the centre look like they’ve been airlifted from the famous watery landmark across the sea and in fact Piran is very much like Venice if you substract the crowds and the effluent.

Tartini Square is the place to get your bearings, a former inner port whose buildings and statues tell a variety of stories. Named after Giuseppe Tartini, a famouse violinist and local hero whose statue stands proud in the midst, the city’s hub is crowded with messages for anyone looking in the right place.

On one side, Casa Veneziana is a light red example of Venetian gothic architecture, an erstwhile lodging for a local girl who caught the eye of a Venetian merchant, emblazoned with the words “lasa pur dir” (“let them talk”) in response to the gossip that followed their courtship. The Municipal Palace, meanwhile, features a stone lion with wings holding an open book under its paw, the bared pages signifying the fact it was erected during peace time. The nearby 1st May square is also full of secret stories; look out for depictions of Law and Justice in front of the stone rainwater collector, and the statues holding gutters.

Elsewhere and Piran is home to eight churches, most sadly closed due to vandals and thieves, including the impressive baroque St George’s Parish Church which dates back to the 12th Century and commands awesome views. The imposing city walls and several family attractions, from the Maritime Museum to an aquarium, are also worth your time.

That afternoon we were taken by speedboat to a cluster of floating nets belonging to the Fonda Fish Farm, where thousands of Piran sea bass grow into huge healthy specimens under careful supervision. The company are aiming to nurture top quality fish and mussels and their enthusiasm was infectious.

We followed our tour with a dip in the Adriatic back at Piran’s concrete beach and ended the day at Pri Mari, a family-run Mediterranean restaurant and a Rough Guide author pick. The owners, Mara and Tomi, lavished us with fine Slovenian wines and endless thanks once they discovered we were from the book that had brought in so much business over the years, but their hospitality was exemplary before they knew who we were. Two steaks (because that’s what you order at the coast, naturally) were delectable and the place was thrumming with happy customers. Piran nightlife seems somewhat sedate but we managed to find two guitarists playing Pink Floyd to a small dancefloor and a man serving pina coladas in one corner of the port to finish things off.

The following day we drove into the hinterland in search of wine. The Karst region behind the coast is carpeted with vineyards and olive groves, interspersed with peach and cherry trees and harbouring thousands of underground caves (the Postojna and Škocjan caverns are the best known).

Before long we arrived at Korenika & Moškon, a small family-run cellar dating back to 1984. The place actually goes back much further – the family has been producing wine for ages – but the communist regime put paid to that for a while. For several hours we were plied with golden yellow and peachy Malvasia and Paderno whites and bold, interesting reds such as local pride and joy Refošk, a dark ruby and almost port-like liquid.

From here we were driven to Izola for the weekend fish festival, a lively gathering of locals and domestic tourists who descend on the port for live music, craft stalls and plenty of fried catch.

On Sunday we sped through Portorož, Slovenia’s answer to the French Riveria but without the bumper-to-bumper traffic and hordes of people selling tat laid out on bedsheets, to the Sečovlje salt pans.

A vast national park that has been producing salt for 700 years and continues to this day, it marks the border with Croatia and plays host to an abundance of wildlife. We jumped on a golf cart for a flying tour of the endless salty pools before taking a dunk in the dirt at the in-house spa. Lying caked in sea salt and mud wraps in the middle of this barren landscape, we fell into a trance like happy hippos.

Back in Piran, a final goodbye cocktail reflecting the deep orange rays of one last late summer Slovene sunset, we toasted our new discovery: 47km of criminally overlooked summer fun.

 Explore more of Slovenia with the Rough Guides destination page for Sloveniabook hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Planning a trip to Croatia and wondering which 17 things you shouldn’t miss? Always thought about Croatia for a holiday but never knew what it had to offer?

Allow us to present our favourite things to see and do in this beautiful European country.

Our green and boggy isle may be small, but one thing’s for certain: it’s home to some of the most magnificent landscapes in Europe, if not the world. Sure, our much lamented climate means you’ll likely get a soaking or three (four if you’re in Scotland), but with everything from coastal strolls to fearsome scrambles, British boots were, surely, made for some serious walking.

Hadrian’s Wall Path

From the suburbs of Newcastle to the Solway Firth, Britain’s most iconic Roman monument doubles as perhaps its most compelling long-distance path, marching some 84 miles across northern England’s most bracing and barren terrain. Sure, you’ll need some imaginative licence in places but enough stones remain unturned – and forts excavated – to project the rather ascetic lot of a second-century legionnaire, blistered feet no doubt included.

West Highland Way

As Scotland’s inaugural long-distance path, the 95-mile West Highland Way did much to raise the profile of the hiking opportunities on Glasgow’s doorstep. It’s a rites-of-passage trek that segues beautifully from city suburbs to the forests of Loch Lomond, the desolation of Rannoch Moor and the drama of Devil’s Staircase, eventually winding up near the foot of Ben Nevis: all in all, a perfect introduction to the Scottish Highlands. In high summer, though, it’s also a potentially not-so-perfect introduction to the dastardly Highland midge. Forget that repellent at your peril…

Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall

You likely won’t see any lizards on this Cornish peninsula (the name rather has its roots in the native tongue), but you will breeze through some of Britain’s most spectacular coastline, complete with exotic subtropical plants, rugged caves and exquisite coves, and an endlessly churning sea. And though it makes up a mere fraction of the marathon six-hundred-mile South West Coast Path you could happily spend days exploring its serpentine nooks and filmic crannies.

Wester Ross, Scottish Highlands

Since Monty Halls turned his back on the twenty-first century in favour of the simple life as a crofter in The Great Escape, the coast of Wester Ross has become as popular with would-be escapees as its mighty Munros have long been with hill-walkers and climbers. While both Applecross and the Loch Torridon settlements of Shieldaig and Diabaig all make great bases for some gloriously scenic and relatively easy-going sea walks, the ancient, fortress-like peaks of Torridon itself, not least the twin-pronged bulk of Liathach, the famous horns of Beinn Alligin and the gleaming, quartzite-crowned massif of Beinn Eighe, offer some of the most dramatic ascents on the British mainland.

Helvellyn, Lake District

It’s not the highest peak in the Lake District but it can still stake a claim as the most romantic, with a capital “r” or otherwise. Beloved of Wordsworth, Wainwright and generations of walkers, England’s most popular mountain is a study in contrast, its summit flat enough to land a plane and its deceptively named western arête, Striding Edge, sharp enough – terrifyingly so – to evoke the Sublime in even the most hardened scrambler.

Wessex Ridgeway

A different kind of ridge entirely from the arêtes of Lakeland, if no less steeped in history, this archaic highway has been chalking up foot traffic for centuries, threading as it does into an old Devon to Norfolk trade route. Its 137-mile course passes through some of the loveliest landscapes in southern England – think intimate woods, hidden valleys and open downlands with views that go on forever – taking in Avebury’s stone circles, the fringes of Salisbury Plain and ancient droving trails in Hardy’s Dorset, en route to the chalk giant of Cerne Abbas and the coast.

Tryfan, Snowdonia

It may slop and squelch under some of the heaviest rainfalls in Britain, but Snowdonia is hard to beat. Its serrated, slate-lined peaks cater for a range of abilities, yet it’s also home to the only mountain on the British mainland that demands scrambling as part of the main ascent: regal Tryfan. The famous north ridge route in fact pans out far less intimidatingly than its razor-like fin suggests from the ground, but once you reach the summit – and leap the five-foot gap between the iconic Adam and Eve rocks – you’ll feel like a true mountaineer.

Southern Upland Way, Borders

The Scottish Borders are perhaps still more identified with horseriding than hoofing it, but this coast-to-coast, Irish to North Sea odyssey – 212 miles in total – may one day change that. And while the dome-like hills of the Southern Uplands mightn’t match the Highlands for drama, they more than match them for sheer remoteness – chances are you’ll have your trail to yourself, even in summer. If you don’t fancy hiking the full hog, the thirty-odd-mile Moffat to Traquair stretch makes for an evocative sampler, encompassing the ancient remnants of the Ettrick Forest, St Mary’s Loch and the splendours of Traquair House.

South Downs Way

Cradling a hundred-mile swathe from the historic city of Winchester to the spectacular white cliffs of Beachy Head, this clement landscape of ancient woodland, open heath and chalky downs may lend itself more to rambling, cycling and horseriding than hardcore hiking, but its recently awarded national park status reflects a rural charm wholly distinct from Britain’s remoter corners. Tackle it from west to east to take advantage of the prevailing wind, and the psychological appeal of finishing at those vertiginous cliffs.

Stanage Edge, Peak District

A kind of Peak District Table Mountain in miniature, the four miles of gritstone cliff that make up Stanage Edge have been scaled since the nineteenth century, while the surrounding dry-stone dykes, historic buildings and emaciated moors have been sewn into England’s cultural and literary landscape for much longer. Various walks take in the famous escarpment, most conveniently setting out from the village of Hathersage. Whichever route you take, though, you’ll be rewarded by spectacular views, not to mention the haunting debris of long-abandoned millstones and the hair-raising sight of people inching up the Edge’s profusion of iconic climbs – you may even be tempted to don a hard hat yourself.

Make The Most Of Your Time In Britain includes 500 great British experiences – find out more.

From beach to mountain to fen, every corner of Ireland has something beautiful to discover. In celebration of this stunning country, here are 22 stunning pictures of Ireland.

Killarney, County Kerry

 Beara Peninsula, Cork

 Roundstone Harbour, County Galway

 Dog’s Bay, County Galway

 Dunguaire Castle, County Galway

 Kinsale Harbour, Cork

 Glendalough, County Wicklow

 Dublin

 Pine Island, Connemara

Kylemore Abbey, County Galway

 The Skellig Ring, County Kerry

 Tra Na Rossan Bay, County Donegal

 The Burren karst formations, County Clare

 The Cliffs of Moher, County Clare

 The Rock of Cashel, County Tipperary

Glenveagh National Park, County Donegal

 The Aran Islands, County Galway

 Dun Aengus, County Galway

Croagh Patrick, County Mayo

 Horn Head, County Donegal

The Skellig Islands, County Kerry

 Bantry, County Cork

Explore more of this stunning country with the Rough Guide to Ireland. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

The Grand Tour

Any well-bred young gent in the 1600s–1800s was likely to go on the Grand Tour after university. The Tour, a sort of cultural gap year, took in much of continental Europe. The usual route ran through France and Switzerland and into Italy, with a return trip taking in Germany, Holland and any other countries the young man fancied. The essential stop to complete any cultural education was Rome, still an incredible destination for anyone interested in art or history.

The Tokaido road, Japan

This ancient road, once walked every year by feudal lords and their retinues forced to pay respects to the shogunate in Edo (modern-day Tokyo), is now a high-speed train route. You can be whisked from the high-tech wonders of Tokyo to the ancient imperial capital of Kyoto – nearly 300 miles – in a couple of hours. Not bad when you consider it would take the feudal lords more like a week to complete.

Western America

In 1843 Lewis and Clark set off from St. Louis on an epic journey to find a route through the Western half of America. Vital to their success was Sacagawea, a native Shoshone woman who accompanied them and acted as interpreter and occasional guide. The route they took is today called the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, extending over 3500 miles and passing through 11 states and several national parks, including the impressive Yellowstone.

Route 6, North America

Though Route 66 is more well-known, it was Route 6 which captivated Jack Kerouac. In On the Road he wrote of his dream to travel "that one great red line across America." It didn’t quite work out, and the book records his many wanderings across the continent, but the romantic ideal of finding a road and sticking to it is still very much alive for many travellers – even if Kerouac ended up thinking it a "stupid hearthside idea."

The route to Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Perhaps one of the most-travelled journeys in the world is the Hajj. In fact, this pilgrimage can have a lot of different routes, but they all end in the same place: Mecca. As one of the five pillars of Islam, every Muslim who is able to do so must complete the Hajj at least once in their lives, leading to the world’s largest gathering of Muslim people taking place in Mecca in the month of the pilgrimage.

Southwark to Canterbury, England

Chaucer’s famous Canterbury Tales are the stories told by a group of pilgrims on the route to Canterbury cathedral. Famous tales include the Knight’s Tale, the Miller’s Tale and the (slightly saucy) Wife of Bath’s Tale. The Southwark to Canterbury route is still viable today, even 600-odd years after Chaucer wrote the Tales. The pilgrimage ends at the magnificent Canterbury Cathedral, a chance to see some of the medieval world for yourself.

Up the Mekong River, Southeast Asia

Though made famous by the Vietnam war film Apocalypse Now, the journey up the Mekong really isn’t that scary. In fact, it can be the core of a truly excellent trip – the river runs through China, Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, taking in some of the great civilisations and landscapes of East Asia on the way. Though you may not want to recreate Captain Willard’s journey, a boat trip is well worth trying.

Southern and central Africa

Doctor Livingstone spent years searching for the source of the Nile. Though he ultimately misidentified the site, he did end up exploring huge swathes of south and central Africa including the great Lake Tanganyika – it may not be the source of the Nile, but it’s still an impressive sight.

Trans-Siberian Railway, Russia

Unquestionably one of the most famous rail journeys of all time, the Trans-Siberian is also the world’s longest railway, stretching over 5700 miles from Moscow to Vladivostok. This epic route isn’t only for tourists and travellers; many Russians just use it as a way of getting from A to B. Nothing gives you a sense of the scale of this country by meeting someone on a casual trip to their grandma’s place, 3000 miles away.

Camino de Santiago, Spain

El Camino de Santiago is a major Christian pilgrimage, on which one of the most famous routes is the Camino Francés (‘French Way’). This path takes you on a month-long walk from the Pyrenees through the north of Spain to the grand Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Galicia. The experience of taking in the stunning countryside and beautiful towns of this region at a gentle pace means that even many non-pilgrims find this a fulfilling path to walk.

Antarctica

In 1910, two separate expeditions set out for the South Pole. In the end Amundsen’s Norwegian team made it there first (late 1911) with Scott’s British team reaching the Pole five weeks later. Scott and his men died on the return journey, but there is no doubt that both groups earned their place in the history of exploration, and turned the eyes of the world to this spectacular frozen continent.

Around the world

Nellie Bly was a famous reporter, who circumnavigated the globe in 1889. On her travels she met Jules Verne, author of Around the World in 80 Days in Amiens, France. He reportedly said, "if you do it in 79 days, I shall applaud with both hands. But 75 days – that would be a miracle." She made it back in 72 days, 6 hours and 11 minutes. Round-the-world plane tickets make the trip a little easier for inveterate adventurers today.

Ionian Sea, Europe

In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus wanders the world after the fall of Troy, trying to find his way home to Ithaca. There’s disagreement about the modern-day locations of some sites; at one point he’s held captive by the beautiful nymph Calypso in Ogygia, which might now be called Gozo. It could also be in the Ionian Islands, Balearic Islands or even somewhere off the East coast of America. Whichever sunny island it is, there are worse places to spend a few years.

The Silk Road, Central Asia

An ancient trade route, the Silk Road runs from Syria through central Asia, ending in eastern China, and there are even some sea routes extending it into Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia. The main overland route takes in some jaw-droppingly beautiful places whose history and culture have been shaped by the Silk Road’s trade; the beautiful, much-mythologised cities of Uzbekistan are just some of the wonders on the route.

The Galápagos Islands, South America

Although he travelled around the coast of South America and past New Zealand, Australia and South Africa on his five years aboard HMS Beagle, the most famous part of Darwin’s journey was in the Galápagos islands. Here, he noticed the small variations across species present on more than one of the islands, such as tortoises and finches. The rest is scientific history, and people still visit these stunning islands today to see the amazing range of wildlife.

The Atlantic

Though most famous for the round-the-world flight on which she went missing, Amelia Earhart completed a great many incredible journeys in her life. One of the most groundbreaking was her 1932 solo flight from Newfoundland to a small town near Denny, Northern Ireland – the first nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic by a woman. On landing, a local innocently asked her: "Have you flown far?"

Jordan, the Middle East

Gertrude Bell was a pioneering female explorer, cartographer, archeologist and diplomat. She travelled throughout the Arab world, one of the first women to do so, recording her experiences in books such as Amurath to Amurath and Syria: The Desert and the Sown. On top of this, she played a part in establishing Iraq and Jordan as self-determining nations. Follow in her footsteps by exploring the picturesque ruins along the Euphrates, visiting the ancient cities of Jordan, or learning seven languages.

Albania, Europe

Instead of the usual Grand Tour, Byron headed to the Mediterranean. He was particularly impressed by Albania – "thou rugged nurse of savage men!" – where he stayed for a time with the vicious warlord Ali Pasha. The trip inspired one of his greatest works, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, and the most famous portrait of Byron depicts him in Albanian dress. Albania today is well worth a visit, whether you visit that rugged countryside or the sophisticated capital of Tirana.

Indonesia, Asia

During his travels around Southeast Asia, Alfred Russel Wallace collected birds and insects to send back to wealthy collectors in Britain, studied natural history – oh, and came up with the idea of natural selection. In 1858, he published a revolutionary paper on evolution with Charles Darwin. He is perhaps most famous on the Indonesian island of Ternate, where he was based for several years; visitors today will easily understand what attracted him to the relaxed, green, occasionally lava-spewing island.

The Amazon, South America

The conquistador Lope de Aguirre is one of many who have tried to find El Dorado, the "City of Gold". His journey in particular is famous because it somehow wound up with him rebelling against the King of Spain, capturing Isla Margarita and eventually meeting a grisly end. Visitors today (hopefully more sane than Aguirre) can discover plenty of jaw-dropping places along the 4000-mile course of the Amazon river – perhaps even the mythical city itself.

Most visitors don’t venture beyond Tallinn, but leave Estonia’s capital behind and you’ll find a country of vast, untouched wilderness. a haven for wildlife and a place to escape from it all. Olivia Rawes gets back to basics to discover some of the wilder things to do in Estonia.

A congregation of jovial boozy stag parties cavorted along the aisle as our flight approached Tallinn. Wild yes – and with its fair share of animals – but not quite the wilderness I was seeking. Despite Tallinn’s status as a favourite stag do (bachelor party) haunt, the Estonia I was to discover had far more to offer than a boozy night out in a dinosaur outfit. In fact, it’s Estonia’s palpable wilderness, so highly prized by the locals, that draws many visitors here; it’s a country of expansive space, abundant wildlife and a sense of pristine isolation.

A quarter of Estonia is a designated nature reserve; seemingly endless stretches of bogs and meadows are interspersed with woodlands, which themselves cover half of the country and provide a haven for wolves, bears, lynxes and wild boars. Marshes and bogs envelope a quarter of the land, and are important nesting grounds and popular stop-over points for migrant birds. Combine that with a population of 1.3 million people spread across a country of 45,227 square kilometres and you begin to understand the extent of land left to its natural devices.

It was this sense of space and remoteness that first struck me when we went seal watching from Haabneeme, on Estonia’s northern coast. To the northwest, the country stretches out to meet the Baltic sea and the coastline is peppered with 1500 islands, many of which are uninhabited. One man lives alone on Aski island, while a number of mainland Estonians apply to be island guards in their holidays, staying for short stints to keep an eye on things.

Our destination was Malusi island, a protected breeding ground for seals; of the 30,000 grey seals that live in the Baltic Sea, around 300 can be found at Malusi. Drifting alone in the placid waters, the tranquillity was only interrupted by our boat’s iPod, which blasted out jolly leelo folk songs and catchy pop tunes, a bizarre yet effective way of attracting the seals. The Estonians discovered that seals loved music in the 1920s when violin-playing traders realised their boats were being followed by these curious critters. It appears that seals are not only curious but also cultured – Beethoven was a firm favourite on our trip.

But isolation and peace were not only to be found when floating alone at sea. Our next stop was Sooma, Estonia’s second largest national park, an area of rivers, brooks, bogs and woodland, that’s home to 185 species of bird including golden eagles, owls and storks, as well as a number of mammals. From a viewing tower we surveyed the park; reminiscent of an African savannah, the expanse of flat land below us stretched seemingly to the horizon, a mix of grasses and mosses in hues of rusty red, bleached beige and earthy brown, fringed on one side by tall forest. Streams cut across a landscape pockmarked with small lakes and dotted with ancient, stunted, spindly trees, that despite being 200 or so years old stretched only to waist height. Keen to explore, we donned our bog shoes; these strange pointy flippers are an essential to avoid sinking in the quagmire.

Feeling the height of fashion we waddled across the spongy wetlands bouncing on the oddly marshmallow-like mounds of earth and despite having become strangely fond of our new giant feet we swapped them for canoes to row down the slowly meandering Riisa River. The waters were low this year, restricting the canoes to rivers and streams; however, Sooma is famous for its great floods, a springtime phenomenon, where the water level rises up to four metres, creating what the Estonians refer to as the “fifth season”, when much of the park is under water, making it possible to canoe through flooded meadows and magical, waterlogged forests.

For all its pristine wilderness, Estonia is not all about the rural outdoors. Much to my relief, after a day battling bogs, rivers and seas, there was no shortage of comfort and style when it came to putting our feet up to refuel. And what better place for it than Pärnu, a favourite destination for spa retreats that has also repeatedly received the title of Estonia’s “summer capital”? A charming city of wide streets lined with pretty wooden houses, cocooned by a stretch of long, white sandy beach, which – as it was out of season – we found to be perfectly empty.  After roaming the quiet streets, we checked into Frost Boutique Hotel, a cosy yet achingly stylish place; in my room distressed-wood white-washed beams held up a lofty ceiling, plump pillows and a taupe crushed velvet bedspread transformed my bed into what felt like sleeping on a cloud, and downstairs a roaring fire and large flickering candles tricked us into whiling away the evening lounging with a glass of wine.

This sort of rustic charm meets Scando-cool seemed a theme in many of the hotels and restaurants we visited. A feeling that nature – pine wood furniture, washed-up shells, crackling fires and natural hues – was influencing the interiors. The food was a similarly intriguing mix that was inventive yet earthy, such as the intriguing basil ice cream at NOA, and ox with beetroot served with a surprisingly delicious moss at Cru. In most places we ate, what seemed to drive the meals was a pride in locally-sourced ingredients; organic produce in Estonia is not a trend but a core principle – many Estonians I spoke to still head to the forests to go mushroom foraging.

On our final day in Estonia, we returned to Tallinn to explore its UNESCO-listed old town. Set high above a medieval wall, it charms with its sloping cobbled streets, soft pastel painted buildings, red tiled rooftops, elegant spires and sweeping views across the city out to the harbour. That night, tucked away in Mull, a home restaurant decked out with kitsch style – the grandeur of candelabras and chandeliers gently offset by mismatched teacups and quirky trinkets – Tallinn felt worlds away from a stag party haunt and I realised that even in this bustling city, the sense of calmness and peace we had gained in Estonia remained.

Find out more about Estonia at visitestonia.com
Explore more of Estonia with the Rough Guide to Europe on a Budget. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

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