If dusty fossils don’t do it for you, these strange venues offer something a little different. We’ve rounded up ten of the world’s weirdest museums.

1. Meguro Parasitological Museum, Tokyo, Japan

Those prone to squeamishness should probably avoid this Japanese museum, set up by passionate parasitologist Dr Satoru Kamegai in 1953. There are more than 60,000 specimens, along with 50,000 books on parasitology.

One particularly gruesome exhibit is the 8m-long tapeworm, handily displayed next to a length of white ribbon designed to emphasise the creature’s horrifying length.

Meguro Parasitological Museum, JapanJNTO

2. The Dog Collar Museum, Kent, England

Today’s dogs have it easy. Exhibits at this fascinating museum at Leeds Castle include a fifteenth-century collar worn by Spanish hunting dogs to protect their necks from bears. Much more elegant are the ornate gilt designs from the baroque period, and the silver collars dating back to the nineteenth century.

The museum was founded in 1977, when antique collector Gertrude Hunt presented her beloved collection of 60 dog collars to the castle. Since then, the museum has continued to expand, and there are now more than 130 exhibits, dating from the sixteenth century.

Dog collar museum, Leeds CastleLeeds Castle

3. McDonald’s Big Mac Museum, Pennsylvania, USA

Ever wondered about the origins of your Big Mac? No, neither have we – but in case you do want to know where it all began, there’s a museum just for you.

The Big Mac Museum in Pennsylvania was founded by Jim Delligatti, the franchisee who opened Western Pennsylvania’s first McDonald’s restaurant. He also created the Big Mac, an item which first went on sale in his restaurant in 1967, with a price tag of just 45 cents.

Visitors can learn all about the brand’s history and browse the collection of McDonald’s memorabilia, which includes the world’s largest (albeit plastic) Big Mac.

Big mac museum, USALaurel Highlands Visitors Bureau

4. Museum of Bread Culture, Ulm, Germany

Whether it’s a warm pretzel or deliciously dark rye bread, Germans love their dough-based produce. This museum was founded by two entrepreneurs who worked in the bakery trade before opening their first permanent exhibition in 1960.

It soon became a museum, which is now run by a charitable foundation. Visitors can check out fascinating displays of baking tools, admire bread-related art and learn about bread’s importance to food security. We’re feeling bloated just thinking about it.

Museum of bread culture, GermanyBernhard Friese

5. Sulabh International Museum of Toilets, New Delhi, India

Founded by sanitation expert Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, this museum is divided into three sections: ancient, medieval and modern. The ancient section has displays relating to the first manmade toilets (found in Pakistan in 3000 BC, if you were wondering), while the hand-painted ornate Austrian toilet bowls in the medieval section are truly breathtaking.

In the modern section you’ll find hi-tech Japanese and Korean toilets along with a replica of the world’s largest “toilet complex”, which can be found in Maharashtra in west-central India.

Toilet Museum, New Delhi, IndiaSulabh International Museum of Toilets

6. Historic Wine Tool Museum, California, USA

If you’ve always wondered what a pomace cutter is, or pondered exactly how a vine pruning knife should be used, this museum, in the grounds of California’s Buena Vista Winery, is for you.

On guided tours visitors can see an enormous selection of tools, ranging from pruning knives and shears to grape presses and wine barrel spigots. Many are hundreds of years old, so it’s a great way to learn about the history of viticulture, too. The majority of exhibits were donated by Phillippe Bérard, a world-renowned vineyard owner with a passion for antique wine tools.

Historic Wine Tool Museum-c-Historic Wine Tool Museum, CaliforniaDrew Kelly

7. Currywurst Museum, Berlin, Germany

Visiting Berlin? When you’ve been to Checkpoint Charlie and the Brandenburg Gate, head to the Currywurst Museum for the ultimate German experience. Stop by the ketchup bottled-shaped audio station to listen to currywurst-themed songs, take a selfie on the sausage sofa or learn about the dish’s key spices at the sniffing station.

There’s also a huge collection of currywurst literature to peruse, should you wish really torture your stomach.

Currywurst Museum, Berlin, GermanyCurrywurst Museum

8. The Museum Of Broken Relationships, Zagreb, Croatia

This weird and wonderful museum was set up by two Zagreb-based artists who once dated, and when they split up joked that they should create a museum to honour their relationship.

A handful of mementoes grew to an enormous collection as word spread and broken-hearted singles from around the world donated items. Notable exhibits include the “therapy instrument” (axe) used by its donator to smash the furniture of a cheating partner, and a pair of bright orange pants given to a man by his ex-girlfriend.

Zagreb - Museum of Broken RelationshipsAdrian Cinca

9. The Icelandic Phallological Museum, Reykjavík, Iceland

This definitely isn’t your average school trip museum visit. Filled with more than 200 penises and penile parts, the Icelandic Phallological Museum was founded by former teacher Sigurður Hjartarson. His interest in all things phallological started when he was a child living in rural Iceland, where pizzles – or bulls’ penises – are often used as cattle whips.

The exhibits include specimens from polar bears, seals, foxes and reindeers. There’s also a 1m-long blue whale penis, which was once apparently used as an oar for a canoe.

Phallological museum, Reykjavik, IcelandIcelandic Phallological Museum

10. Kansas Barbed Wire Museum, Kansas, USA

Did you know that barbed wire was first patented in 1874? Or that it played a crucial role during the World War I, when its high tensile strength made it a powerful deterrent against enemy tanks?

This museum has more than 2000 types of barbed wire on display, and you can brush up on your knowledge at the learning centre, where you’ll find newsletters from America’s top barbed wire appreciation clubs (yes, those are a thing) and an extensive collection of fencing tools.

Visit in May and you’ll be able to participate in the annual Barbed Wire Swap and Sell and take part in the barbed wire splicing contest. Seriously.

Barbed wire kansas, museumBarbed Wire Museum

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Tasty ‘big-ass ants’, llamas wearing woolly hats, and tiny enclaves of Welsh culture make South America a fascinating, if at times, mind boggling continent to explore. Here’s our foray into some of the more eclectic cultural treats to be found upon these shores.

1. Patagonia’s Welsh teahouses

Debuted to the world in Bruce Chatwin’s pivotal account of his travels, In Patagonia, the Welsh region of Argentina is a thoroughly un-South American segment of this continent. The tiny town of Gaiman draws many a visitor with its nostalgia-inducing scents of freshly baked scones and pots of perfectly brewed tea.

Sample these delicious delights in the numerous casas de té which line the streets and where you’ll find the cottages bearing testament to their heritage: tea towels sporting red dragons, expertly knitted tea cosies and china-laden Welsh dressers.

Welsh tea houses, Patagonia

2. Cusco’s llamas

Having acquired fame as the historic capital of the doomed Inca Empire, Cusco has since gained notoriety for other, loftier reasons. Now it claims the title of “Lamb and Llama Capital of South America”.

Wildest travel dreams are fulfilled by photo opportunities with these posing local, woolly celebrities, each sporting equally woolly hats; all for a handful of soles, of course.

Catch an even more poignant picture by snapping one of the ladies taking a taxi home with her two llamas at the end of the working day.

Llama in Cusco, Peru

3. The unusual regional delicacies

South American cuisine can be a potent assault on the taste buds and stomach. Ecuador and Colombia have a tradition of combining queso with almost everything: banana splits with cheese sprinkles and hot chocolate with floating, yellow lumps.

Further south in Peru and Bolivia, find herb-stuffed, oven-roasted guinea pig washed down with chicha (an alcoholic maize drink which traditionally uses saliva to instigate fermentation).

For more intrepid tastes there are steaming bowls of caldo de cardán (soup made from a bull’s penis) in Bolivia, platters of buchada (goat’s stomach stuffed with offal) in Brazil, and the salted and lightly toasted treat that is hormigas culonas (literally “big-ass ants”) proudly served in Santander, Colombia.

Hormigas culonas, ColombiaImage by Maximiliano Dobladez on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

4. The hamster-cheek habit

South America’s love of the coca leaf persists, all despite global controversy surrounding its consumption (yes – it is derived from the same plant that produces cocaine). But this natural stimulant is a traditional feature of life in the mountains and coca leaf chewers are instantly recognisable for the peculiar bulge protruding from their cheeks.

Used for overcoming fatigue or altitude sickness, it can be drunk as mate (coca tea) or chewed with a sprinkle of bicarbonate of soda to activate the chemicals. Be warned: it takes little time to realise it’s an acquired taste.

Coca leaves, chewing, South AmericaImage by Chris Ford on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

5. The linguistic assault of Chilean Spanish, cachai?

Those who’ve studied Spanish in any other country will feel at an immediate loss upon hearing the baffling jumble of jerga (slang) that is the Chilean dialect.

Indecipherable words are mashed together to form even more indecipherable sentences, and every ten seconds of speech will involve a complex combination of weónes, po and cachai (“mate”, “well” and “get it?”). Travelling through this linguistically challenging country is a test for even the most competent Spanish speaker.

Couples in Santiago, Chile

6. The concept of punctuality…

South Americans are infamous for their distinct approach to punctuality: schedule an appointment with a local friend and you might be surprised if they turn up within the hour (or even two or three in Brazil).

This attitude towards timekeeping has even become part of the language used here. Hora inglésa (English time) stands for being on time, and if they want to say “now,” al tiro or ahorita will do. Although bear in mind that both carry undertones of at-some-point-in-the-not-so-distant-future, so don’t be disappointed if you still have to wait.

As frustrating as it can be, you can’t deny that their time-keeping approach at least forces you to relax and take things slow.

Ipanema beach, Rio, BrazilPixabay / CC0

7. The mysterious architecture

The stoic, bulbous stone heads on Easter Island are not the only examples of laborious human vocation to have emerged from this continent. Further along the coast, the inexplicable accuracy of the geometric geoglyphs of the Nazca Lines in Peru continues to perplex archaeologists.

And, although relatively unknown in comparison with its sister-site, Machu Picchu, nearby Choquequirao remains a mysterious, barely discovered complex. Experts believe that only 30 percent of these ruins have been reclaimed from the surrounding undergrowth, and it remains to be seen what other enthralling secrets the rest of South America has yet to disclose.

Machu Picchu, Peru

8. Babies in backpacks

Intricately weaved textiles are some of the most visually striking features of life in the traditional Andean regions of South America. The ubiquitous aguayo ranks as one of the most useful: these rectangular pieces of cloth, striped in colours ranging from flamingo pink to coca leaf green, can transform into a sling-like backpack for women.

The contents? Anything from potatoes to babies.

Women weaving in Peru

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

Do you have excellent knowledge of ‘current’ affairs? Are you a pro at going with the flow? If so, our cartographer Ed Wright has devised a fiendish quiz to put you to the test. Can you take on this torrent of ten fluvial brain-teasers and make it to the other side?

Header via Pixabay/CC0

What makes a food strange? After all, plenty of people shudder at the thought of Scottish favourite haggis, while others wouldn’t touch escargots or frogs’ legs (all of them delicious, by the way).

But some of the world’s most bizarre foods really do need a strong stomach – and preferably a weak sense of smell. And perhaps a blindfold.

1. Sannakji, Korea

In this Korean dish, chefs chop the tentacles off a live octopus, then douse them in sesame oil and seeds. As the tentacles are still wriggling, the diner should bear in mind that they haven’t lost their power of suction. Chew carefully – and consider the ethics before you indulge.

2. Khash, Afghanistan

Can you imagine the smell in the kitchen after a cow’s head, feet and stomach have been boiling for hours? No, probably not. And we don’t want to either. But this is what goes into the Afghan dish, khash, and it’s one of the foulest-smelling broths ever created. It looks as bad as it smells, too.

4123687273_e74bd8a91a_bImage by fjords on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

3. Smalahove, Norway

This Norwegian name literally translates as sheep’s head – and that’s precisely what you get. Each lucky diner gets half a head that had been smoked or dried and then boiled for several hours. They usually start with the eyes and ears, and chase it with liberal quantities of akvavit – anything to take the taste away of what the Norwegians regard as a pre-Christmas treat.

4. Sea anemones, across Europe

These ethereal sea creatures that are distantly related to jellyfish and coral aren’t obvious candidates for a seafood lunch. But in the hands of the right chef – and lightly fried in a tempura-like batter – they do actually taste quite good. You can try them in Andalucía, Spain, where they’re known as ortiguillas.

5. Ikizukuri, Japan

Lovers of sashimi think nothing of scoffing raw fish in Japan. But even they might baulk at the dubious fish delicacy ikizukuri, which is filleted while it’s still alive. Not only that, but it’s served with its beating heart on the plate or, failing that, its head with the gills still moving.

singapore-314915Pixabay / CC0

6. Durian fruit, Southeast Asia

If the thick spiky husk doesn’t put you off, the stench of this Asian fruit should. Its smell is so strong that some hotels and public transport in the region have banned anyone carrying this noxious part of your five-a-day. While the flavour has a hint of almonds and is perfectly palatable, the odour has more than a hint of raw sewage.

7. Damamian, Taiwan

Pork is one of those meats that we’re always told has to be cooked thoroughly. So what were the Taiwanese were thinking when they came up with damamian? This is raw pork that’s been fermenting merrily away in a pot for 30 days and served with rice.

8. Cockscomb, Italy

Chicken feet are common in Chinese cooking, but many people don’t realise that the pointy bits on the head go into the pot too. These gelatinous growths are blanched and skinned before being braised slowly in broth. It’s not just the Chinese who love a bit of cockscomb in their dim sum: the Italians are big fans too, adding the cooked combs to an offal feast of testicles and livers. Waste not, want not, etc.

bats-65612_1280Pixabay / CC0

9. Fruit bat soup, Palau

Before Western diets became common, the people of Palau always made the most of what was freely available on this Micronesian island. That included the little fruit bat, which, as well as being a useful part of ecosystem by pollinating plants, was a big source of protein. The soup, flavoured with chilli and ginger, has since become an expensive delicacy, even if its appearance – with large chunks of floating bat – is less than appealing.

10. Bamboo worms, Thailand

As any traveller in Asia will tell you, insects aren’t a rare and bizarre food – even if the idea is a bit off-putting. They’re everywhere, which is why Thais are always plundering the bamboo shoots during the rainy season for these squiggly worm-like insects. Full of protein, they make a satisfying sizzle when dropped into hot oil.

11. Ortolan, France

Although the eating of these tiny songbirds has been banned from restaurants in France, some of the country’s top chefs, including Alain Ducasse, are asking the government to reconsider. There’s no wonder they were banned: first, these tiny birds – small enough to fit in your palm – are drowned in a vat of Armagnac before being plucked and roasted. Diners then cover their head with a napkin and chomp on the bird whole – head, bones, organs and all. Those who’ve tried it say it’s one of the most sublime things they’ve ever eaten. Hmm…

1410666863_0d07dd8032_bImage by Wrote on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

12. Surströmming, Sweden

There’s a good reason why this Swedish herring dish is usually eaten outdoors. After the fish has been salted, it’s then fermented for at least six months before being gingerly opened and eaten. The taste isn’t nearly as overpowering as the smell, thankfully.

13. Rattlesnake, USA

Deep fried, stewed, baked, skewered – there’s no end of ways of enjoying this otherwise deadly reptile. And most of the time you don’t even need to catch the slithery viper yourself – you can buy it already cleaned and ready to be cooked in the USA.

Compare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to buy travel insurance before you go. Featured image Pixabay/CC0.

Do you pride yourself on your travel knowledge of the USA? Have you marvelled at the Grand Canyon, taken a ride on a cable car in San Francisco and visited Washington DC‘s finest museums? If so, this is the quiz for you. We’ve selected eight famous sights across the USA – from mountains and monuments to towns and cities – to put you to the test. Can you name the places pictured?

*This competition is now closed*

Always wanted to be a travel writer? Well you’re in luck. Last year we ran our travel writing competition and the winner, Steph Dyson, has become one of our regular contributors. This year, we’re opening it up again to seek out the best untapped travel writing talent.

Enter the competition and you could become a Rough Guides writer, as well as bagging £2000 (approx US$2800) to spend on a trip of your choice.

Ends Soon!

The Prize:

The winner will get a £2000 (or local currency equivalent) travel voucher to spend on planning an unforgettable trip with GapYear.com, a bundle of Rough Guides books, and their winning work will be featured on RoughGuides.com.

Created by backpackers for backpackers, GapYear.com connect travellers with an unrivalled range of tours, volunteering projects and working holidays in over 100 countries around the globe.

Whether it’s rescuing endangered tigers in India or surfing deep blue waves in Morocco, they guarantee exhilarating experiences on every continent and provide dedicated support and advice throughout every step of the journey.

Last year’s winner, Steph Dyson, said: “I’d always wanted to visit Patagonia in the south of Argentina and Chile, but didn’t have the funds to take such a trip. So thanks to Rough Guides and GapYear.com, I booked onto a 34-day tour with Intrepid.”

Two runners up will also receive a bundle of Rough Guides books and will be published on RoughGuides.com.

tuk tuk in Sri Lanka

Why enter?

If you’re not sure whether you should enter your writing, here are some wise words from last year’s winner, Steph:

“Winning the competition has opened up so many opportunities with both Rough Guides and other travel writing websites.

“The feeling that other travellers are reading my writing, and hopefully being inspired to discover new places as a result, is very addictive and has certainly given me the confidence to pursue a career in writing.

“Having the chance to write for such a globally-renowned publication and work with the Rough Guides web editors has also been invaluable: the feedback and guidance I’ve been given has really helped me to develop as a writer.”

How to enter:

To enter, all you need to do is write a 500-word feature, based on a personal experience, on one of the following themes:

  • Close to home
  • The most beautiful place in the world
  • My best day on Earth

Entries should be emailed to [email protected], either as a .docx (Microsoft Word) file, or pasted into the email itself. Entries should be no more than 500 words and no less than 450 words. Applications close at 12:59 BST on the 1 May 2016.

Market in Peru, Cusco

5 tips for writing a great piece

• Have a clear idea. Can you summarise your story – its setting and its angle combined – in a line or two?

• Take special care over the opening. Stories don’t have to start smack-bang in the thick of the action by any means, but this can be a useful way to engage the reader from the off.

• Readers will turn away at the drop of a hat – keep them with you by clearing your story’s path of all obstructions (such as a dropped hat, unless it’s contributing something).

• Judiciously employ observations (local colour): combined the right way, sights, sounds and smells can spellbind.

• Use temporal and spatial markers to ensure the reader knows where (and when) they are at all times.

Read last year’s winning entry here, and the runners-up here.

Good luck!

Open to the UK, Republic of Ireland, South Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA entrants over the age of 18 only. For full Terms & Conditions see here.

Going for a spa in Iceland can feel wonderfully alien. Against a backdrop of barren moonscapes and denuded hills, the waters are so preternaturally blue, so exaggerated and preposterously warm, that a simple dip can feel borderline indecent. Venture from the capital Reykjavik as far as Reyðarfjörður in the extreme east and you’ll also find that the country hides hundreds of out-of-this-world geothermal pools and naturally-heated hot tubs.

But it first pays to know the rules. Because in Iceland, the right spa etiquette is taken deadly seriously. Here are five dos and don’ts to bear in mind.

Don’t forget to wash yourself

It may sound obvious, but unlike the rest of Europe, where most bathers make-do with a quick shower-room rinse, Icelanders have a set, strict routine when going for a dip that must be followed to the letter.

First, read the rules. They’re pinned to every changing room wall and notice-board, as well as being published in English, French, German and Danish, so you really have no excuse not to follow them.

Second, get washing. Scrub your head, armpits, feet and groin with soap beforehand, and – most importantly – do it in your birthday suit, not bathing suit. A quick rinse just won’t do, especially because most geothermal pools use freshwater and far lower levels of chlorine, even at the Blue Lagoon at Reykjanes.

And having just read the rules, you have no excuse not to get naked. You have been warned.

Iceland, Kjolur, hot pool at Hveravellir

Do get chatting to the locals

Approaching a complete stranger in a bikini may at first seem like a coquettish, brazen thing to do, but it’s OK in Iceland.

In Reykjavík, hot tubs and pools are more like social clubs where people catch up on news and discuss politics: and they’ve done so since the twelfth century when poet, scholar and politician Snorri Sturluson built the first stone hot tub outside Reykholt.

To get the best of the conversations, go to a local’s pool such as Vesturbæjarlaug, a short walk from Reykjavík city centre, or Nauthólsvík, a geothermal saltwater pool by a golden beach.

Around seven o’clock on a weekday morning, the conversation bubbles as much as the thermal waters. There is no social hierarchy, and everyone is treated like an equal.

For something more romantic, take a date to Sundhöll, built in the 1930s, it’s open late and is one of the oldest baths in the capital.

Iceland, Reykjavik, Laugardalur swimming pool

Don’t talk too loudly (or on your phone)

Icelanders don’t like tourists who make too much noise: period. Their dose of social media may well be a get-together in the spa, but they talk quietly, which can sound as soft as whale song.

The reason? Many spas and indoor pools were built in the 1960s and loud noises echo down the corridors of the indoor pools and steam rooms.

“Our bathhouses tend to venerate tradition above anything else,” says spa aficionado Birgir Þorsteinn Jóakimsson, who visits Reykjavik’s Vesturbæjarlaug every day. “Talking loudly is a nasty habit, especially at an Icelandic spa – so you won’t be popular with the locals. It’s not a circus.”

It also pays to be alert, as hawkish pool attendants may ambush you, showing you the door. They’ve been known to throw tourists out for less.

Iceland, pool outside the Blue Lagoon complex, near Grindavik

Don’t jump straight in

Those milky-blue waters are ridiculously tempting, but also feverishly hot. Draw the cool air into your lungs and take your time by testing the water temperature first to check your skin’s sensitivity to the geothermal heat.

In Reykjavík at Laugardalur Park, also known as the Valley of the Pools, the water used to hover at a white-hot 45 degrees Celcius, punishing unsuspecting dive-bombers. Such waters have since been cooled due to health and safety regulations, but with most still nudging upwards of 37 degrees, it’s an odd juxtaposition between bathing in hell, while feeling like you’re in heaven.

To maximise enjoyment, remember to swim in an anticlockwise direction. No one can really explain why, but Icelanders swim in circles from right to left, and so should you.

Summer in Germany

Do take a local’s advice

The most sacred pools are only known by the locals – and with good reason. Places like the old pool at Gamla Laugin at Fludir on the Golden Circle – supposedly the oldest in Iceland – or Seljavallalaug, a snooker-chalk blue outdoor pool secreted up a valley near Skogar, are so sybaritic you wouldn’t want to share them with anyone else either.

“Everyone has their favourite they want to keep,” says Guðrún Bjarnadottir, a spa professional working at the Blue Lagoon. “If you talk to locals – and they like you – you may get lucky. My personal favourite is somewhere in the hills north of Hveragerdi. It’s in a mystical place known as the Smoky Valley, but the exact location and directions – well – that would be telling.”

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

Letting it all hang out has never been so newsworthy. In the past year or so, we have seen an influx of over-the-top pranks at world heritage sites including Angkor Wat, Machu Picchu, and the Great Pyramids of Giza. It all culminated last summer when ten backpackers made headlines for baring all at the summit of Borneo’s Mount Kinabalu. Facing a possible prison sentence, their stunt prompted the UK government to issue a code of conduct for travellers.

As an antidote, here’s the naked truth on where to take your clothes off, legally, or just for fun. Spoiler alert: gratuitous nudity ahead!

Reveal it all in a Finnish sauna

In the depths of midwinter, Finns take off their clothes the way most of us put them on: swiftly, routinely, and often first thing in the morning.

In barely-lit, pine-clad rooms, they come at all hours of the day to socialise, catch up on news and even do business in the buff. Then they streak across the snow, before jumping into a hole cut in a frozen lake. It’s a ritual undertaken without any hint of prudish self-consciousness.

Lake in winter in Finland, EuropePixabay / CC0

As the inventors of the sauna, boasting one for every household throughout the country, tradition is firmly on the Finn’s side. Each sauna, rich with steam and moisture, has its own rules, and swimsuits are often banned for hygienic reasons. That pocket square you see hanging up on the peg? It’s your towel.

Such awkward moments can be found at Rajaportin in Tampere, the oldest sauna in the country, dating back to 1906, while the popularity of smoke saunas and ice swimming brings nudists to Kakslauttanen, on the road north to the Arctic. Best not be shy: it can squeeze in a hundred people across its three bathhouses. Proof, if needed, that the Finnish sauna retains a life that goes way beyond legend.

Drop your trunks in Germany

If a Berliner asks you to go for a walk in the Tiergarten or Mauerpark in Prenzlauer Berg, maybe its best to double-check your answer. They’re prime tanning spots – think well-done frankfurters, without the buns.

Germany’s fastidious approach to nudity leaves the mind reeling. The country has a full catalogue of opportunities for naked pursuits, from nude sunbathing on river banks to more than 300 private nudist clubs – known as the FKK, or Free Body Culture – all of which endorse a naturistic approach of sport and outdoor living.

Munich has six official urban nude zones, including two large FKK areas for naked sun-tanners on the banks of the Eisbach creek. In the capital, meanwhile, it’s perfectly legal to get your kit off on all of Berlin’s public bathing beaches, which at times can feel like being an extra in a porn film.

31 Jul 2010, Germany --- (FILE)An archive photo dated 31 July 2012 shows nudists (FKK) lying on a beach in Naunhof,Germany. Before FKK was something special with strictly seperated areas, but today, nudists lie out on beaches. One of the oldest FKK clubs in Germany is in Darmstadt. Photo: Waltraud Grubitzsch --- Image by © Waltraud Grubitzsch/dpa/Corbis

Go for a nude scrub in Istanbul

The Turkish hammam you imagine – the one flush with a gruff, moustachioed attendant mopping down a tiled washroom – still thrives in pockets of Istanbul. But close to the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya in tourist-friendly Sultanahmet, it’s possible – at a price – to experience the splendours of a soapy rubdown in far more palatial surroundings.

Such hedonism goes back to the days of Constantinople. Two Ottoman-era classics to try are Çemberlitaş Hamamı, dating back to 1584, and Cağaloğlu Hamamı, the last to be built by the empire.

Perhaps seeking to go out with a bang, it’s an extravaganza, with embroidered columns, tulip-inlaid stones, and marble ablution fountains, give plenty of distractions from having only a loin cloth covering your dignity.

Split into same-sex steam rooms, they’re both hardly racy affairs, but if Istanbul’s streets leave you a little grimy, that exfoliating, sandpaper-rough hand-mit applied by the masseuse will do just the trick. You’ll come out oily and as stewed as an onion, but primped and preened like a strutting pasha.

20 Sep 2012, Istanbul, Turkey --- Turkey, Istanbul, Interior of Haseki Hurrem Sultan Hamam --- Image by © Hans Lippert/Westend61/Corbis

Get cheeky at Burning Man in Nevada

Nude hippies have long made pilgrimages to festivals – cue Woodstock and the more hedonistic Glastonbury-goers of the 1970s. But more recently, naked ramblers have gone stark-raving nude in the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada to party at Burning Man, the annual weeklong festival of revelry all in the name of self-expression and art.

Dazzled by a white-hot sun and dust storms, nudists come prepared with fashion goggles, disco masks, and unicorn heads, making the whole affair resemble a kind of apocalyptic Mad Max-themed, techno Coachella.

None of which matters to the 70,000 who immerse themselves in nude art rituals, sun salutations, and all manner of conflagration, while anticipation builds for the burning of the giant man-shaped bonfire. This year, festivities take place from 28 August to 5 September, and whether you dress or undress to impress, it’ll always be just the right amount of wrong.

Naked man, Burning Man Festival. Nevada, USABy Marco Sanchez on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Let it all out for art’s sake in Scotland

On an overcast thundercloud grey day in Glasgow, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to take their clothes off. But at All the Young Nudes – a rock ’n’ roll drawing club – clothes-free models pose to a soundtrack of Rolling Stones, Sex Pistols and David Bowie, while students, office workers, bus drivers, grandmothers, sit sketching in concentration, supping beer and wine.

The idea is the brainchild of a former animation graduate at the Glasgow School of Art and it’s since spawned satellite nights in Edinburgh, Dundee, and, late last year, in East London. Life drawing clubs are nothing new, but this one is different: no tuition is offered, a DJ selects the playlist, and each week brings a different theme.

Previous weeks have introduced a trio of ballet dancers, a string quartert, and models posing naked with birds of prey, including a hawk and bald American eagle from the local zoo.

First-timers may be keen to bare all in the name of art, but a word of warning: it’s more popular than you’d at first think. Considering its runaway success, the club’s organisers now offer nude modelling classes to make sure those with a flair for the dramatic know how to pose properly, bits and all, in front of groups as big as a hundred.

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

If you’re a resident of Europe, it’s likely you’re happier than the rest of the world, according to the UN. Yesterday, the World Happiness Report Update 2016 revealed seven European nations in the top ten happiest countries in the world.

The report has been released in advance of World Happiness Day (March 20) and ranks 157 countries in order of their happiness index. “Increasingly, happiness is considered to be the proper measure of social progress and the goal of public policy,” read the introductory words.

This is the fourth annual report, and while in 2015 Switzerland ranked at number one, this year Denmark has taken the top spot. The United States is the 13th happiest country in the world and the UK sits at 23rd. Here is the full ranking of the happiest 30 countries around the globe.

10. Sweden

stockholm-1191953_1920Pixabay / CC0

9. Australia

Vlamingh Head Lighthouse, Western Australia

8. New Zealand

Wellington, New ZealandPixabay / CC0

7. The Netherlands

Netherlands, tulips

6. Canada

North America, Canada, Yoho National Park, The Valley of the Ten Peaks reflected in the stunning turquoise waters of Moraine Lake.

5. Finland

lake-896190_1920Pixabay / CC0

4. Norway

Lofoten islands, Norway, Europe

3. Iceland

Laki, Iceland

2. Switzerland

Switzerland, mountains – Swiss alpsPixabay / CC0

1. Denmark

Copenhagen, Denmark – happiest countries in the worldPixabay / CC0

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

Do you pride yourself on your European travel knowledge? Have you strolled the backstreets of Venice, discovered Berlin‘s best under-the-radar nightlife or island-hopped in Croatia? If so, this is the quiz for you. We’ve selected 10 famous sights across Europe – from mountains to monuments – to put you to the test. Can you name the places pictured?

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