Running along the Great Wall of China, jogging across the African savannah and racing through the Amazon are some of the exhilarating marathon experiences now on offer around the globe. From coastal routes in Jamaica and California to challenging courses in the blazing Sahara and freezing Polar Circle, a growing number of endurance events provide a dramatic change of scene and pace.

1. Marathon des Sables, 8–18 April 2016, Morocco

Not for the fainthearted, the legendary Marathon des Sables is one of the world’s toughest long-distance races. Laden with backpacks, competitors brave the sweltering Moroccan Sahara during a six-day ultra-marathon that covers 257km of golden dunes and stony plateaus. Over 13,000 runners have taken part in this extreme desert event since 1986 and its popularity endures today, with around 1200 men and women due at the starting line in April 2016.

Runners tackle the Marathon des Sables, MoroccoImage by tent86 on Flickr (CC 2.0)

2. Big Sur International Marathon, 24 April 2016, USA

An inspiration to writers Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac, California’s Big Sur region really delivers on scenery. Now in its 31st year, the area’s sell-out marathon follows a spectacular route along the Pacific coastline between Big Sur Station and Carmel. Starting beneath the shade of Giant Redwoods, competitors race over bridges and through rolling hills. The sparkling ocean and craggy Santa Lucia Mountains are a beautifully distracting backdrop.

3. Great Wall Marathon, 21 May 2016, China

For those who like sightseeing at speed, the Great Wall Marathon is a memorable way to see one of China’s most famous landmarks. Featuring vertiginous climbs up sections of the wall, plus trails through fields and villages, it’s a demanding, mountainous course. But although the steep gradient can reduce runners to clambering up the Great Wall’s ancient steps, the views are magnificent and villagers offer encouragement along the route.


4. Ultra Trail Marathon, 22 May 2016, England

London might be the UK’s best-known marathon, but the Lake District’s Ultra Trail Marathon is arguably its most scenic. Beginning on the shores of vast Derwentwater lake in Keswick, the challenging 50km course meanders through rugged fells and peaceful valleys. Undulating, mountainous terrain means this isn’t the race for marathon PBs, but this stamina-testing event offers a close encounter with one of England’s most wild and beautiful regions.

5. Himalayan Kingdom Marathon, 29 May 2016, Bhutan

Wedged between India and Tibet, remote Bhutan is home to sacred monasteries, Himalayan peaks and forested valleys. Competitors in the annual Himalayan Kingdom Marathon cross bridges decked in colourful Buddhist prayer flags, and race through paddy fields and farms: all at high altitude. With the course passing some of the Paro Valley’s greatest sights, including the cliff-hugging Taktsang Monastery, there’s plenty to exercise runners’ eyes and legs.

Taktsang Monastery perched on valley side, BhutanImage by Bob Witlox on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

6. Big Five Marathon, 25 June 2016, South Africa

Billed as ‘the wildest of them all’, South Africa’s Big Five Marathon offers entrants the chance to spot antelopes, giraffes and elephants as they race through the dry savannah landscape. Sandy trails and dirt tracks weave past lakes, grazing wildlife and rocky hills. Part of the course even crosses into lion country, where big cat sightings might persuade some runners to speed up.

7. Australian Outback Marathon, 30 July 2016, Australia

Established by experienced runner Mari-Mar Walton in 2010, the Outback Marathon follows private, red-earth trails through the Australian bush, past the looming sandstone monolith of Uluru. Camels and kangaroos gaze on as hundreds of athletes cover a relatively flat loop, experiencing the striking Northern Territory wilderness at an accelerated pace.

Australian Outback Marathon, Uluru, AustraliaImage by Joanna Penn on Flickr (CC 2.0)

8. Polar Circle Marathon, 29–30 October 2016, Greenland

Kitted out in hats, gloves and windproof sports gear, hardy participants in Greenland’s small-scale Polar Circle Marathon take on sub-zero temperatures and icy surfaces as they run through shimmering Arctic tundra. Bright blue skies and snow-covered trails make for an awe-inspiring marathon-scape, where runners might spot arctic foxes and musk oxen in their natural habitat.

9. Jungle Marathon, 6–15 October 2016, Brazil

When a traditional road marathon no longer cuts it in the adrenaline stakes, Brazil’s gruelling Jungle Marathon awaits. The easiest option in this eco-race through rainforest, swamps and piranha-infested rivers is to choose the one-day marathon: endurance-distance junkies can go all out with a six-stage, 254km struggle through the Amazon. Competitors catch riverboats to base camp in the Tapajós National Forest and sleep in hammocks strung between trees.

Beach in Negril, Cornwall, Jamaica

10. Reggae Marathon, 3 December 2016, Jamaica

From its ‘Pasta Party’ to a policy of blaring reggae music every mile of the race, this marathon in Negril, Jamaica is a fun-loving affair. Entrants from more around the world gather at the starting point in dawn darkness, setting off along the white-sand coastline by torchlight. Steel bands and cheering onlookers create a party atmosphere throughout the flat, looped route and once runners cross the beachside finish line, they can take a celebratory dip in the Caribbean Sea.

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

The world is flat. Or so the thinking went, until someone actually went off to circumnavigate it. You may not make such a colossal discovery during your own global journey, but what awaits you “out there” is something only you can find: your very own adventure. Who knows, you may just find a best friend, even the love of your life, along the way.

rough guide first time around world coverBut before you make your plan to travel around the world, you might need a little advice. Here’s where the Rough Guide to First-Time Around the World comes in, with tips on everything from visas and vaccinations to budgeting and packing.

Here, author Doug Lansky answers some of the most common burning questions.

1. I’ve just got three months. Is that too short to travel around the world?

Well, since the actual flight time to circumnavigate the planet is about 40 hours, no it’s not, but it is too short to try to see most of it. As long as you don’t attempt to visit too many destinations, you’re fine. In fact, you’ll likely have a far more enriching trip than someone who travels for twice as long but tries to see four times as much.

Morocco, Agadir, camel on hill above city and beach

2. I’ve got £4000 ($6160) saved up. Will that get me around the world?

No problem. You can find great deals on round-the-world tickets for about a third of that price, or even hitchhike on yachts for free. The more important question is what kind of trip do you want to take and how long do you want it to last? It’s important to figure out a daily budget that fits your comfort level, and to learn which countries offer the best value.

3. I hear a lot about “attractions”, “must-sees” and “wonders”. Is it tourist-bureau hype or is there something to it?

A bit of both. When the hype lasts long enough, it seems to become legend, or even fact. The classic is the “Wonders of the World” lists. Truth is there’s no such thing as a “must-see” and you’ll have a far more enriching trip if you personalize your journey and don’t construct it around seeing the major attractions.

Myanmar / Mandalay Region / Inwa / Yadanarsemi Pagoda

4. How do you know where to sleep each night, what to see during the day, and how to get around?

Carry a guidebook – or a digital version of one. It will cover all the sights in each town, with a short review of the best affordable accommodation, often accompanied by a helpful map (although getting a bit lost now and then is a healthy way to travel). In peak season, you may want to book accommodation a day or two ahead of time.

5. I want to make my journey alone, but I’m worried about travelling solo…

There are hundreds of thousands of travellers out there right now making solo journeys and most of them had just as many concerns as you do. Loneliness can be a problem, particularly at the beginning of a trip and during some meals, but you’ll find your stride and start meeting other travellers before long. Check out our list of great solo travel destinations for inspiration, and learn about the benefits of hitting the road alone.

China, Beijing, Yonghe Gong (Lama Temple), view of temple facade and silhouettes of people standing in an archway

6. C’mon, do I really need travel insurance?

Only if you get really sick. Or injured. Or sued for some driving accident. In short, yes.

But unless you get insurance that fits your travel plans, it won’t do much good. Which means you shouldn’t necessarily sign up for that convenient “click here for insurance” button when you buy your plane ticket online. Insurance companies rarely cover the exact same things, so you dig a little to find out if your activities and destinations are included.

7. Is taking time off going to ruin my career?

It might delay that promotion, but there’s a better chance it will improve your career prospects. Most prospective employers will find your journey an interesting topic of conversation, just make sure you’ve worked out a few life-lessons from your trip and how they might apply to the job at hand.

If you’re particularly concerned, you might see if you can plan some work-related education into your trip – such as learning a language, taking a writing course or attending cooking school. That also shows prospective employers you were cerebrally engaged during your trip and viewed it as a continuation of your education.

Italy, Eastern Tuscany, nr Borgo San Lorenzo, small red car travelling on mountain road, view from behind

8. I’ve got a smartphone. How do I use it while traveling without it costing me a small fortune?

You’re going to have to make some adjustments to your mobile usage. Exactly what depends on how long you’re staying in one spot and what you’re willing to spend for the convenience of constant connectivity. If you’re spending a couple of weeks or more in one place, it can be worth your while to pick up a local SIM card (or a cheap phone with one if your SIM is locked in). Otherwise, you’ll probably want to take a mini digital detox and shut off data roaming until you find a wi-fi hotspot.

9. Is there one thing I’m likely going to forget?

Earplugs. Hostels and cheap hotels are often located next to busy streets and nightclubs. Some buses and trains have minimal ventilation and you’ll need to keep the windows open, which lets in plenty of air but more decibels than you’d care for. And don’t forget about the snoring roommate – there’s typically one assigned to every dormitory room.

Morocco, Agadir, camel on hill above city and beach

10. I have to ask… What about travellers’ diarrhoea? What should I expect?

You should expect to get it. But if you get it checked out quickly (simple microscope analysis) you can typically get some meds at any clinic and you should be feeling fine within an hour or two. Don’t “ride it out” – total waste of a couple of days. Surprisingly, more travellers get the shits when eating from buffets (yes, even in nice hotel restaurants) than simple, cheap restaurants because so many people work with the food and all it takes is one set of unwashed hands.

rough guides first time around world coverPlan more of your first trip around the world with the Rough Guide to First-Time Around the World. Header image via Pixabay/CC0.

Plato said every dog has the soul of a philosopher. While that statement is disputable, the wave-riding canines at the Noosa Festival of Surfing are proof that some dogs, at least, have the soul of a surfer.

Thousands gathered at Queensland Australia’s Noosa Beach this week to watch The Dog Spectacular, the world’s only surfing event where dog and master compete as a team. The doggies lead the way down the beach, leaping with all paws onto the surfboards as soon they were set in the ocean ­– ready to catch a wave.

As pairs of all breeds and ages paddled out together; it was clear that this was not some adrenaline-fuelled competition but an exercise in pure, surf-loving fun.

“It’s a wonderful experience for dog and human,” said Festival Co-Founder Paul Jarratt. “It’s not really about winning or losing; it’s a celebration of all the good things we love about surfing, the ocean and environment that we are privileged to have in Noosa. I think that’s why we attract surfers and their families from all over the world, we’ve got 20 countries represented this year.”

Check out some of the images below for highlights. Special mentions to the dog in sunglasses who rode waves all on his own.

The festival will continue on until the 12th of March, and is a must for anyone planning a trip to Queensland’s aptly named Sunshine Coast.

Because it's Friday, and who doesn't want to see dogs surfing in Australia?

Posted by Rough Guides on Friday, 11 March 2016

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On Wednesday, passengers aboard an Emirates Airbus A380 endured the world’s longest non-stop commercial flight – a 17 hours 15 minute trip from Dubai to Auckland.

Covering 14,200km (8,824 miles) in a single leg, this is a jaw-dropping flight and record-breaking time hint at a new era in trade, travel and global connectivity. Of course, increased time, unlike increased distance, is not the goal here. Emirates’ is working to reduce future airtime with new technologies, critical planning and meticulous consideration of winds.

Alas, too, records are made to be broken. Later this year Emirates’ new direct route from Dubai to Panama City is expected to take 17 hours 35 minutes.

We know the airline has onboard lounges, spas and showers for those who can afford first class. But for the rest of us, here’s hoping there’re heaps of cracking films on the inflight entertainment system. Otherwise 17 hours could feel like a really, really long time.

South America has become a favoured destination for the intrepid backpacker, and while it’s impressive in the astounding diversity of its nations, there are a number of universal lessons that every traveller will learn at some point during their time here.

So whether you fell foul of altitude or accepted that you – inevitably – suck at Latino dancing, here are some of the other life-enhancing lessons you might learn from backpacking South America.

1. You never have the right clothes

Nowhere has such an erratic climate as South America: from 95% humidity along the equator, to sub-zero temperatures in the southern tip of Patagonia. Throw altitude into the mix, and it’s game over: expect weather that switches from hailstones to scorching sun within minutes.

2. You have no choice but to embrace crimes against fashion

Similar to Southeast Asia, where the backpacker uniform is unofficial, yet widely recognised, South American travellers commit their own cardinal fashion sins. While alpaca jumpers paired with leggings and flip flops might seem a comfortable, low-maintenance outfit, everyone has the same idea.

Ecuador, Otavalo, colourful textiles for sales at artisan market

3. Don’t mess with altitude

Walking at altitude hurts. The aftermath of alcohol at altitude hurts. In fact, everything at altitude hurts.

4. Any moving vehicle is a potential form of transportation

Tuk-tuks, cargo boats, transit vans without opening windows, trucks carrying gas canisters, metal sheeting or livestock: you name it, you’ll take it. Anything goes in South America and you’ll find yourself sorely disappointed when you get home and can’t just flag down a lorry on the main road.

5. You appreciate the little things in life – particularly after surviving the showers

You develop lightning-fast responses to the capricious temperament of a South American shower: a Superman-style ability to dodge scalding or freezing water.

6. Flushing toilets are a godsend

No tirar papel higiénico en el inodoro.” Oh how you’ll come to loath these sellotaped notices. You’ll to rue the day you stepped onto South American soil and left the lands of sewage pipes large enough to cope with flushed toilet paper. Worse still, it may take you a good few days to correct yourself of this practice upon returning home…oops.

Peruvian woman in traditional clothes

7. A little language goes a long way

You can try using English, but will see what a better – friendlier and cheaper – response you receive when you use the local lingo. Bueno, no?

8. You no longer underestimate the size of this continent

While a three-week mega tour hitting Lima, La Paz, Santiago, Buenos Aires and ending in Rio de Janeiro looks perfect on paper, you’ll spend most of your holiday inert on buses, planes, and airport floors. South America is huge: after some time here, you’ll understand that travelling at a leisurely pace is the more rewarding, and sensible option. (We’ve got some itineraries to help you start planning.)

9. The Four Carb Rule

Pasta and potato in your soup? Check. Spaghetti and rice in your main? Check. It’s an unwritten South American rule that all menus of the day need to offer at least four independent types of carbohydrate to be registered as a proper meal.

 10. Liquids in bags is a thing

Fresh juice from the market to take away comes in a plastic bags. Coffee to go? Yup: a warm bag of liquid with a straw. ¡Qué rico!

 11. Loose change has never felt so precious

Trying to hand over a hundred soles note to a Peruvian shop owner is like trying to dispose of a live grenade. Guarding small change with your life will lead to fewer frustrating moments in shops, and guarantee you always have the a coin for the toilet – an added (and necessary) bonus.

Tango Dancers, Buenos Aires, Argentina

 12. Latin dancing is not your forte

Let’s face it, the locals make salsa look so damn easy, but only because they’ve been putting their snake-hips into action since six-months-old. Given there’s nothing less sexy than a gringo with no rhythm, you quit while you’re ahead and turn to the pisco sours and caipirinhas for consolation.

 13. You’ve never partied properly until you’ve experienced carnival on its home turf

Whether you embrace the bare flesh and festival spirit of Rio, Brazil, or the indigenous dances and intricate costumes of Oruro, Bolivia, carnival can never again reach such spectacular heights.

 14. You get what you pay for

By paying for a cheap tour of the Amazon, or a budget Inca Trail trek, everything has a price and a consequence for those involved: whether low wages for the porters who lug your rucksack, or that jungle tour where they handle the wild animals they should be protecting. You use this power wisely, hunting for responsible agencies seeking to protect, rather than abuse, the possibilities that South America has to offer.

 15. South America isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime experience

Whether it’s the legacy of the conquistadores, civil wars, corrupt governments or natural disasters, South American people have seen their fair share of hardship. But, despite this, the welcoming nature of everyone you encounter defies all odds and proves how this complex but fascinating continent deserves your time. One visit just isn’t enough: you know you’ll be back.

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

London is celebrated for many things. And rightly so; it’s up there with the most progressive, creative and historic cities in the world. But here at Rough Guides the thing we love most about London is its marvellous eccentricities.

rough guide london coverWhile editing the latest Rough Guide to London, Greg Dickinson took note of some of the barmiest goings-ons in the city.

From the overstuffed Horniman walrus, to a lamp fuelled by Savoy sewers, to a hipster clown funeral in Dalston, these are a few of his highlights.

This philosopher didn’t want to miss meetings after he died

One of the founders of UCL (University College London), philosopher Jeremy Bentham bequeathed his fully clothed skeleton so that he could be posthumously present at board meetings of the University College Hospital governors, where he was duly recorded as “present, but not voting”.

Bentham’s Auto-Icon, topped by a wax head and wide-brimmed hat, is in “thinking and writing” pose as the philosopher requested, and can be seen in a hermetically sealed mahogany booth.

You can attend a clown’s funeral in Dalston…

Iconic nineteenth-century clown Joseph Grimaldi’s annual remembrance service, held at Holy Trinity Church in Dalston, has become a cult event among hipsters and circus performers alike.

Clowns shoes

Clowns shoes by Barney Moss via Flickr (CC-BY 2.0)

… and if you jump over his grave, a song will play

His actual grave is set back behind respectful railings at Joseph Grimaldi Park, just off Pentonville Road, but a modern memorial nearby allows a more irreverent homage. Two bronze casket shapes set into the ground, one dedicated to Grimaldi and the other Charles Dibdin, who employed him at Sadler’s Wells, lie side by side.

Against all instincts, just take the leap and dance on Grimaldi’s “grave” – the pressure of your footsteps sets off his trademark tune Hot Codlins. Less Rest in Peace than Rest in Play, it’s a fitting, and poignant, celebration of one of the world’s wisest fools.

This 90s American artist created his own Victorian home

Just to the north of Old Spitalfields Market, you can visit one of the area’s characteristic eighteenth-century terraced houses at 18 Folgate St, where the eccentric American artist Dennis Severs lived until 1999.

Eschewing all modern conveniences, Severs lived under candlelight, decorating his house as it would have been two hundred years ago. The public were invited to share in the experience, which he described as like “passing through a frame into a painting”.

Today, visitors are free to explore the candle-lit rooms, with the conceit that the resident Huguenot family has literally just popped out: during these “Silent Night” explorations, you’ll experience the smell of food, lots of clutter and the sound of horses’ hooves on the cobbled street outside.

Dennis Severs House

Denis Servers’ house by Matt Brown via Flickr (CC-BY 2.0) – modified

Brad Pitt takes on a whole new meaning in Cockney

Cockney rhyming slang is London’s very own eccentric coded language, where a word is replaced by two or more words, the last one of which rhymes with the original. For example, instead of the word “stairs” you have “apples and pears”; a piano (pronounced “pianner”) is a “Joanna”; and pinch becomes “half-inch”.

Rhyming slang is constantly evolving, too, with public figures providing rich pickings: Brad Pitt (shit), Posh & Becks (specs) and Gordon Brown (clown).

There’s a massive, overstuffed walrus at the Horniman Museum…

Pride of place in the Horniman’s gallery of curiosities goes to the splendid overstuffed Horniman Walrus (who even has his own Twitter account). The taxidermist didn’t know he was supposed to have wrinkles, so stuffed him to capacity.

Horniman Walrus

Horniman Walrus by Bex Walton via Flickr (CC-BY 2.0) – modified

There are dinosaurs that look nothing like dinosaurs in Crystal Palace

Competing with the Horniman Walrus for best-loved Victorian curiosity in south London, the dinosaurs of Crystal Palace may look like extras from a 1970s sci-fi film, but they have an illustrious place in the history of the public understanding of paleontology.

Created by animal sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins in 1854, he consulted the experts of the day, in particular Richard Owen who had coined the term “dinosaur” in 1842. Though most are wildly inaccurate according to our current understanding of dinosaur anatomy, at the time it was an ambitious project to show to the public the latest scientific discoveries.

Only… when Hawkins didn’t know how they looked – or if the scientists disagreed – he had to be a little “creative”.

Great Britain, London, Crystal Palace Park, Crystal Palace Dinosaurs (or Dinosaur Court), sculptures

There’s a place where you can stand on a box and be heard

For over 150 years, Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park has been one of London’s most popular spots for political demos. In 1872 the government licensed free assembly at Speakers’ Corner, a peculiarly English Sunday-morning tradition that continues to this day, featuring a motley assortment of ranters and hecklers.

This family at Eltham Palace adored their pet lemur so much…

… that they gave him its own bedroom.

The ring-tailed lemur, called Mah-Jongg and alive during the 1920s and 1930s, was also notorious for biting disliked male visitors. Such was his owners’ devotion to him that Mah-Jongg crops up in numerous artworks displayed in Eltham Palace, such as the mural by Mary Adshead in the billiard room in the basement, which is set out as it would have been during the Blitz, when the family, staff and visitors sheltered there.

Eltham Palace

Eltham Palace by DncnH via Flickr (CC-BY 2.0)

There’s a ‘wind-powered’ lamp near the Savoy

Don’t miss London’s last remaining Patent Sewer Ventilating Lamp, halfway down Carting Lane and historically powered by methane collected in a U-bend in the sewers below. The original lamp, erected in the 1880s, was replaced by this replica after being damaged in a traffic accident.

And some trivia for you Rough Guides fans out there – the building behind the lamp at 80 Strand is Rough Guides HQ!

rough guide london cover Explore more of London with the Rough Guide to LondonCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Header image via Pixabay/CC0.

Fancy yourself a travelling toponymist? Probably not – but this is a fun game anyway. See if you can locate each of these places from their former names.

Not feeling the love for Valentine’s day this year? Looking for an alternative to soppy mini-break destinations? We’ve picked the least romantic experiences around the world.

1. Exploring the Museum of Broken Relationships, Croatia

There’s plenty to ogle at this unique museum in Zagreb, where any amorous feeling will be shattered by illuminating stories of relationship failures and disasters. The trauma is further embellished by the display of associated artefacts. Once-treasured mementoes are now just creepy relics of pain and broken promises – a gross spectacle to be sure, but perhaps you’ll leave feeling mutually confident that yours is a love which will endure?

Exploring the Museum of Broken Relationships, Croatia

2. Getting serious sunburn, Australia

If there’s one way to set you apart from the locals, it’s getting sunburnt. As a nation of surfers and sun worshipers, beach life in Australia is par for the course. But be warned, twenty minutes in the powerful Oz sun is enough to scorch you senseless. Once burnt, you can wave goodbye to most activities, so spare your partner the task of gingerly applying aloe lotion to rupturing blisters before bedtime. It’s a total mood killer.

Getting serious sunburn, Australia

3. Celebrating Holi Festival, India

This colourful Hindu festival is celebrated every year in March to commemorate the victory of good over evil. You can expect high spirits and vibrant revelry as multi-coloured powdered paint is thrown about in joyful abandon. The sight is thrilling, but handfuls of paint smacked vigorously into the face will work its way into every orifice. Be on your guard as crowds enjoying the festivities might become overzealous, and losing your partner in the rabble is a real possibility.

Celebrating Holi Festival, India

4. Boating on the Broads, Norfolk, England

Norfolk is an ideal destination for couples looking for a slice of English countryside and navigating the waterways of the Broads by boat doesn’t get more quintessentially British. However, a narrowboat can sink in less than a minute and there are various ways of accomplishing that job with a rookie at the helm. Other snares include seasickness and cabin fever. It’s an intimate experience to say the least.

Boating on the Broads, Norfolk, England

5. Motorbiking, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City is famous for street food, bargain shopping and chaotic traffic. Motorbikes swarm like angry hornets, vying for space and jostling to squeeze through gaps in the congestion. Biking in this urban jungle is stressful to say the least and at worst, deadly. So keen motorcyclists should head for the highway between Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi instead, for memorable scenery and an open road without exhaust fumes clouding the horizon.

Motorbiking, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

6. Digging into Sichuan food, China

Powerful combinations of garlic, chilli and Sichuan peppers make this cuisine quite possibly the boldest and most pungent of chows. Originating in the South Western province of Sichuan and today available widely across China, its fiery flavour will quite literally knock your socks off. When dining out, we advise to taste tentatively, thus avoiding unappealing chilli sweats and the unmentionable after effects.

Digging into Sichuan food, China

7. A dip in Totumo’s volcanic mud bath, Colombia

Forget all notions of a spa-like experience. It’s not necessarily the slithering around with strangers in a pit of liquid mud that is most unappealing; it’s probably exiting the ‘bath’ up an awkward ladder, caked in grey, crusty mud-slime. Vigorous (and thorough) scrub-downs are available from locals for a fee after your dip in the gloopy pool, but these obliterate any mineral benefits and leave your skin unattractively raw.

A dip in Totumo's colcanic mud bath, Colombia

8. Climbing Giotto’s Bell Tower, Florence, Italy

It is 414 steps to the zenith of this stunning Gothic bell tower. Once you reach the top, the views over Florence are undoubtedly rewarding, but first must come the legwork. Even the fittest of couples will be puffing by halfway. Will you see the funny side of your red faces, as you wheeze your way up each narrow flight of steps? For those who are unsure, this magnificent edifice is best admired from below.

Climbing the Giotto’s Bell Tower, Florence, Italy

9. Stay in a haunted hotel, England

With buildings dating back to 500AD and a long gruesome history, it is no surprise that England boasts some of the most notoriously haunted dwellings in the world. The upside of staying in a haunted house? Your lodgings are likely to be of architectural and historical importance (think romantic Tudor beams and cosy firesides). Downsides include a sleepless night feeling like you’re not the only people in the room…

Stay in a haunted house/hotel, England

10. Eating deep-fried delicacies in Cambodia

Discovering local cuisine can be one of the most exciting parts of your trip, and tasting new things together a bonding experience. But how far would you go? Cambodia is notorious for its deep-fried market treats and it is not uncommon to see piles of freshly cooked snakes, frogs and bugs for sale. Whole, crispy tarantula is another treat the Western palate might find less, erm, palatable.

Eating deep-fried delicacies in Cambodia

11. Arriving at the airport

We know we will soon be feeling the hot sun on our skin, sipping a cappuccino in a local bar or breathing fresh mountain air, but negotiating airports is the ultimate bubble-buster. Queues at the check-in desk, over-the-limit luggage and flight delays… the list goes on. Return journeys are testing as you struggle to hold on to those happy memories whilst grappling luggage off a conveyer belt. The only remedy is the thought of planning your next trip together.

Arriving at the airport

12. Visiting Rome in July, Italy

Walking around this museum-like metropolis during the searing heat of summer is almost unbearable. Despite this, it is the most popular time of year for tourists to visit. Long queues in inescapable heat will cause sweating from the most peculiar places, and the challenge of eating ice-cream in such temperatures is tenfold. We can’t imagine you’ll feel up to much more than slinking into the shade for an icy (overpriced) drink.

Visiting Rome in July, Italy

13. Acclimatising to altitude, La Paz, Bolivia

Situated at over 3500m above sea level, La Paz is the highest capital in the world. The magnificence of this sprawling city however, can be overshadowed by the struggle of adjusting to the altitude. Sickness is likely to commence on the ascent journey, only subsiding once your body has regulated the lack of oxygen. On the plus side, large colonial plazas are the perfect perch to take in the city’s frenetic energy, just don’t count on being too energetic yourselves.

Acclimatising to altitude, La Paz, Bolivia

14. Taking a camel safari, Jaisalmer, India

Trekking across desert dunes and sleeping under twinkling skies, could there be a more a dreamy escape? Unfortunately, not only might dung beetles take the shine off this enchanting fantasy, there are few things less sexy than a chapped backside from the lolloping gait of your camel. Come nightfall, sharing a simple sandy hole for toilet requirements and bundling into separate sleeping bags is barely conducive to passion.

Taking a camel safari, Jaisalmer, India

15. Visiting Jagalchi Fish Market, Busan, South Korea

Markets are a fun way to discover how locals source their food and Jagalchi, the largest fish market in South Korea, is the ultimate destination for seafood lovers. The sea creatures are mostly live, available to buy and sometimes consume on the premises. You’ll see plenty of dissection, fish gutting and boiling up of live crustaceans. Avoid this excursion if even a tiny bit squeamish; overpowering odours pervade the air and you are likely to witness people scoffing squirming fish.

Visiting Jagalchi Fish Market, Busan, South Korea

16. Kayaking on Vancouver Island, Canada

For the adventurous couple, such an activity may seem like the perfect way to inject a heady dose of endorphins into your trip. But kayaking very rarely tops ‘most romantic holiday’ lists and there’s a good reason why. The icy waters of Vancouver Island may be ideal for whale spotting, but even energetic paddling won’t stave off the chill. Once this spreads to your vital organs, any chance of an impromptu steamy session afterwards is surely off the cards. Novices beware.

Kayaking on Vancouver Island, Canada

17. Shopping in the souks, Morocco

We all know that shopping with a loved one can be challenging. But have you ever tried tackling the souks of Marrakesh together? Granted, you are likely to find plenty of trinkets and affordable mementoes. But the labyrinthine network of streets and shops selling often-identical merchandise can befuddle even the most expert shopper. High temperatures, persistent merchants and feeling like you could have got a better deal elsewhere all contribute to rising tempers.

Shopping in the Souks, Morocco

18. Doing karaoke in Japan

Japanese karaoke bars offer a superior experience to those of the Western world. For intimate parties of two, it is possible to be spared the public humiliation of performing to a room of strangers thanks to the private booths on offer. Sober karaoke is generally intolerable, so helpfully (or perhaps to your detriment) many bars provide an all-you-can-drink service, meaning any preconceived inhibitions won’t linger long. Couple this with the bonus of privacy, and unbridled crooning is inevitable.

Doing karaoke in Japan

Know someone who loves to travel? Perhaps you’re after something special for the loved one in your life. Whether it’s a birthday, the festive season or you’re just feeling generous, here’s our pick of the top gifts for travellers.

GoPro HERO4 Silver

GoPros are quickly becoming an essential in many traveller’s backpacks and this model is no different. The Hero4 has so many features packed into its tiny, ultra-portable body, including image quality of 12mp, incredible 1080p HD video, an after dark setting and time lapse mode. Plus, Bluetooth and wi-fi for instant sharing and editing. The touch display makes this genius piece of kit is even more user friendly and ready to go wherever you journey takes you.

GoPro Hero4

Shure sound isolating earphones

We’ve all been on that flight where the baby just won’t stop crying. And there’s nothing worse than a hotel with paper-thin walls. That’s where sound isolating earphones come into play. These earphones block out 90% of background noise, so you are free to concentrate on your in-flight entertainment. With a reinforced cable and detachable earbuds these are the perfect, durable earphones for any intrepid traveller.

The ultimate packing checklist

It’s happened to the best of us: you’ve packed your bag, raced off to the airport, and arrived in your next destination to find you’ve forgotten your pants. So you need a little help next time? This 60-sheet pad has a list of everything you should take for any type of trip, perfect for those last-minute packing marathons. You can even list the quantity of individual pieces of clothing, so no need to lay it all out before it goes in the bag.

Knock Knock Pack This pad

Bluesmart suitcase

A a suitcase you will want to brag about, this cabin-sized bag can be controlled with your phone. Why? you ask. It features tons of tech, including location tracking, a digital lock, distance alerts and built in scales. But don’t worry if your phone runs out of charge, you can fully replenish the battery up to six times via the case’s USB port – now that really is a smart suitcase.

SurgeCube surge protector

It’s not the most exciting travel gadget of all, but it’s practical as hell and may well save your beloved smartphone or tablet from combustion. The device, with its two USB ports, will keep your electronics protected from electricity surges, spikes and generally dodgy sockets. It can also charge 40% faster than a normal USB port, so no more long waits for your phone to be fully charged again. SurgeCube also give a £10,000 Equipment Warranty away with each protector just in case anything does get damaged.

Cork globe

Whether you want to keep track of all your past trips, or you’re planning a round-the-world adventure, this small cork globe is a great addition to any traveller’s desk. You can pin your favourite pictures to their location, or map out your next trip.

Cork Globe with Rough Guides

Instax Share mobile printer

These days all your travel photos probably end up online for you to admire from anywhere in the world, but if you’re feeling a little retro, this is the gadget for you. Print any of your smartphone snaps on the go, whether it’s to send back home, to give to friends you meet around the globe or to add to your travel journal, via the Instax Share app. You can add different filters and text before printing off a high quality credit card sized image.

Tortuga travel backpack

Everyone needs a good backpack when travelling, but what if you’re only taking cabin baggage? The Tortuga cabin-sized backpack is the ultimate carry on bag, combining convenience and organisation. It’s front-loading, with mesh pockets and a 17inch padded laptop compartment.
Tortuga backpack

Jackery Mini charger

Sometimes we all need a little extra charge – especially when smartphones are notoriously quick to drain in battery. With a 3200mAh rechargeable power capacity this lipstick size portable charger packs a punch. The Jackery Mini is ultra compact, has an extremely fast charge and is available in four different colours. It’s compatible with smartphones, GoPros and even Google Glass.

Water-to-go bottle

Staying hydrated while travelling is important – especially as it helps with that pesky jet lag. Water-to-Go bottles have a clever 3-in-1 filter, which eliminates over 99.9% of bacteria – meaning you can drink safely from any non-salt water source. Each filter lasts around two months (or for 130 litres) and is easily replaceable. No more will you be buying and wasting hundreds of plastic bottles along your journey – saving the planet and saving cash, that’s a bottle we can get on board with.

A Rough Guide!

Whether you want to inspire someone’s next trip with a country or city guide, help them plan a short weekend with a pocket guide, or give them a coffee-table title to pore over for years to come, there’s nothing like the gift of the printed word. Buying for someone creative? Check out Colour the World.


Travelling is time we take to relax, to let go and to have fun. Sometimes, this means finding your inner child and just being a bit silly – and there’s no better way to do that than on some of the world’s best slides. If you’re in need of some time out and want to find your silly side, do it while squealing down one of these:

1. Arcelormittal Orbit, London, UK

Anish Kapoor’s 114-metre-tall sculpture was constructed for the London 2012 summer Olympics, but this year, it will be transformed into an enormous helter skelter. Construction is currently underway, but the tube slide, which will encircle Kapoor’s structure five times and which opens in May, will allow adrenaline junkies the opportunity to whiz from top to bottom at a speed of 15mph. The attraction, which will be the world’s longest and tallest tube slide, has been designed by Belgian artist Carsten Höller, who has incorporated glass panels to provide spectacular views of London’s skyline.

2. Human Slide, Discovery Park of America, Tennessee, USA

How many times do you get to slide down the inside of a giant leg? This particular attraction can be found at the Discovery Park of America, a science museum in Tennessee. Visitors enter the chest of the 14-metre-tall sculpture at an entrance on the first floor and, after taking in the spectacular views of the museum’s Grand Hall, can slide down to ground level through the enormous metal limb. The 12 tonne slide is almost as well-travelled as you: its parts were made in Germany, then welded together in Chicago before being shipped to the Discovery Park on flatbed trucks.

Slide in lobby at Hotel Barcelo Malaga, SpainBarcelo slide by Darren Sweeney on Flickr (license

3. Lobby Slide, Hotel Barceló Málaga, Spain

How’s this for a novel way of making an entrance? Visitors to Málaga’s Hotel Barceló Málaga can slide straight from the hotel’s first floor into the super stylish B-Lounge Bar, which is one of the Spanish city’s trendiest venues. The slide even has its own name: EDHA, a Spanish acronym for what translates as “sliding structure for daring humans”.

4. The [email protected], Changi Airport, Singapore

Singapore’s Changi Airport is famous for its fantastic amenities, which include a kinetic rain art installation, a rooftop swimming pool and a cinema. But it’s the slide which we love the most. The 12m-high structure is the tallest slide located inside an airport (admittedly there’s not much competition) and travellers who ride it can reach speeds of up to six metres a second. Just don’t try and take your luggage trolley with you.

Slide @T3 Singapore airport, Changi airportSingapore airport slide by Andrea Hale on Flickr (license)

5. Cittá del Mare waterslide, Sicily, Italy

Opening in late March, this slide is located within the grounds of the beautiful Città del Mare resort in Sicily. The slide is divided into four sections, with pools dividing each one. It’s surprisingly fast and one of the more exciting ways to enter the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean sea. Once you’ve had your adrenaline fix, we recommend nabbing one of the nearby sun loungers for a waterside view of the action.

6. Silver Towers playground, New York City, USA

This beautiful slide is the work of American artist and sculptor Tom Otterness and is part of a playground which was constructed in New York City in 2009. Otterness built his first playground structure in 2004 as part of an art competition, later selling several to private homes throughout the US. Manhattan property developer Larry Silverstein heard about the playgrounds through an art gallery and commissioned Otterness to build this one for the Silver Towers apartment complex.

Playground slide, National Arboretum Canberra, AustraliaPod Playground by Eric Fidler on Flickr (license)

7. Pod playground slide, National Arboretum Canberra, Australia

If all playgrounds looked like this, children would never want to play indoors. The intricately carved entrances to these Australian playground slides resemble giant acorns – a nod to the 94 forests of 44,000 rare trees planted in Canberra’s National Arboretum. There are two slides to choose from and although they might not be the tallest or fastest slides in the world, we certainly rank them as the most beautiful.

8. Tran Station Slide, Utrecht, the Netherlands

We all know how stressful rush hour can be, but in Utrecht, commuters can exit the train station at lightning speed – via a metal slide which leads to a beautifully landscaped public space. The slide can be found at the city’s Overvecht train station and it’s the work of Netherlands-based design firm HIK-Designers. You’ll probably be surprised to learn that it’s not the first time a slide has turbo-charged the humble commute – in 2010 Volkswagen constructed a temporary “fast line” slide alongside the escalators at Berlin’s Alexanderplatz U-Bahn station.

Slide at Reddot hotel, Taichung, TaiwanReddot Hotel by lhongchou’s photography on Flickr (license)

9. Lobby Slide at Reddot Hotel, Taichung City, Taiwan

Afraid of getting stuck in elevator? The Reddot in Tairchung, Taiwan might just be your ideal hotel, because the general manager, Steven Wu, has designed and installed a 30-metre-long tube slide which whisks guests from their hotel rooms to the reception area. The slide, which comprises 102 stainless steel panels and cost £100,000 to build, is so large that it had to be transported to the Reddot in four pieces.

10. Tube Slide, Technical University of Munich, Germany

Forget about lecture halls, libraries and auditoriums – we reckon giant tube slides should be the must-have facility for today’s universities. The two slides at the Technical University of Munich are located inside the atrium of the Math and Computer Science faculty and span four floors. This is one centre of learning where students have significantly fewer excuses for bad punctuality.

11. City Museum, St Louis, Missouri, USA

The City Museum is housed in what was once the International Shoe Company, and these enormous slides were used by workers to send shoes to different floors – the shoes would be sent down the chutes and workers on the different floors would simply pick off the ones they needed. The owners of the museum converted these chutes into slides for visitors and there are now 34 to choose from. The smallest one has a height of two metres and the tallest one spans seven floors.

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

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