Hippies need not be confined to San Francisco‘s Summer of Love. There are enclaves all over the world where peace and love are rife.

1. Goa, India

It may be known as a party hotspot today, but Goa used to be firmly off the beaten track. The relaxed local culture, delicious cuisine and endless white-sand beaches have always attracted chilled-out travellers in need of a break, with an optional side of spiritual exploration. Whether or not you’re interested in the nightlife, luckily there’s still much of the old, laidback Goa in evidence for the independent-minded traveller today.

Goa, India

2. Negril, Jamaica

This gorgeous beach may be over-developed in some places now, but it goes on for so indulgently long (it’s around four miles end to end) that you only need to wander a bit further to find yourself some peace and quiet. If you’re feeling particularly active you can join in the watersports on offer, but you may find your schedule is soon pretty packed with sunbathing, walking and, if you’re that way inclined, some meditating.

Negril, Jamaica

3. Glastonbury, England

Hear Glastonbury and you think of the festival. Of course, anyone can find their inner happy hippy at this world-famous music and arts festival, especially over in the Green Fields, but this is a year-round destination. It’s at the heart of the “Isle of Avalon”, an area rich in myths and Arthurian legends which attracts Pagans, Wiccans and all manner of New-Agers. Head up to Glastonbury Tor for ley-lines and gorgeous views, or wander along the hippy-tastic High Street.

Glastonbury, England

4. Cape Maclear, Malawi

Diving, kayaking, walking, snorkelling… there’s plenty to do in Cape Maclear, but you may be content just lazing lakeside in a hammock, drinking in the stunning view of Africa’s third-largest, second-deepest lake. The area’s stayed pretty rustic despite its popularity with backpackers from around the world, and it’s a truly chilled, calm place to while away some time.

Cape Maclear, Malawi

5. Kathmandu, Nepal

Nepal has had many troubles to contend with, not least the 2015 earthquake, but it’s always attracted spiritually curious travellers and probably always will. After all, there’s nowhere in the world quite like it – a truly awe-inspiring natural setting with a view across the Himalayas, a city full of treasures with a kind and welcoming population, and a key site in both Buddhism and Hindusim. It’s also the perfect base for continuing your spiritual exploration, with treks to Pokhara and onwards to the Himalayas.

Kathmandu, Nepal

6. Dahab, Egypt

Diving in the clear waters of the Gulf of Aqaba; sharing shisha with friends in the evening; sleeping under the stars in Bedouin tents… The laidback pace of life makes Dahab a great place to sit back, relax and enjoy your environment. Though unrest in the region has resulted in fewer visitors lately, there’s little doubt they’ll find their way back soon enough.

Dahab, Egypt

7. Panajachel, Guatemala

During the sixties the lakeside Guatemalan town of Panajachel was so popular with itinerant hippies (mostly wandering down the continent from the US) that it became known as ‘Gringotenango’. As the civil war intensified visitor numbers dropped, but from the mid-nineties travellers started coming back in search of relaxation, stunning views of Lago de Atitlán and… well, what else do you need?

Panajachel, Guatemala

8. Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand

Just above Ko Samui in the Gulf of Thailand is this small island, a classic stop on the Hippy Trail. Somewhere between 1983 and 1993 (no one seems sure of the exact date, or particularly bothered) a few travellers started playing music on the beach during the full moon, and year on year the event grew and attracted more visitors. The rest (hard partying, day-glo, chemically-enhanced) is history.

Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand

9. Siargao, Philippines

For real seclusion, head to Siargao Island in the Philippines. If it’s peace and quiet that you’re after, though, maybe avoid September – the island became famous after word spread among the world’s surfers that there’s a break so good they called it “Cloud 9”, and the Siargao Cup global surfing competition is now held there annually. For the rest of the year it’s sedate and beautiful, a perfect place to find some zen.

Siargao, Philippines

10. Dali, China

A low-key city by Erhai Lake, Dali has long been a popular stop for backpackers and hippies. It’s still not overwhelmed by tourism, despite its gorgeous surroundings and intriguing traditional architecture (the Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple are a well-known symbol of the city), which means it’s still a great place to find a bit of calm.

Dali, China

11. Eugene, Oregon, USA

Where Portland is hipster, Eugene is resolutely hippy. It’s the place to go for all your tie-dyeing needs, not to mention New Age philosophy, communal living and herbal remedies. There’s a lot to attract any type of traveller, but to get the most out of the city’s gorgeous natural setting and strong artistic community you should absolutely embrace your inner hippy.

Eugene, Oregon, USA

12. Jericoacoara, Brazil

Known for its dazzlingly white beach and impressive sand dunes, Brazil’s beautiful Jericoacoara has been pulling in hippies and surfers for years. It’s a great spot for windsurfing, as well, and of course for walking, sunbathing and any other chilled-out beach activity you can think of. It’s also a national park, so it’s reasonably safe from development for now.

Jericoacoara, Brazil

13. The Cyclades, Greece

Mykonos has always been a traditional stop on the Hippy Trail, but today is perhaps a bit overdeveloped and party-focused for some tastes. Luckily, there are other destinations in this group of gorgeous Greek islands. Keep going to Andros, for instance, and you’ll find peace, quiet and stunning walks. If you’re really after isolation, though, aim for Anafi. It’s the last ferry stop, and the perfect place for some reflection and relaxation.

The Cyclades, Greece

14. Lamu, Kenya

The small island of Lamu has long been a prime spot for hippy travellers, and though there have been security concerns recently, it’s not hard to see the attraction. There’s not much to do other than take in the gorgeous medieval town, take leisurely dhow rides to nearby islands, and just chill out, man…

Lamu, Kenya

15. California, USA

California is in many ways the perfect place to find your hippy self. The most hardcore of hippies can chill out in accepting, alternative San Francisco; those who still love a bit of luxury can head to LA to dabble in meditation and organic green juices; literary hippies can go all Dharma Bums and scale the Matterhorn; and anyone at all can find a bit of inner peace wandering the stunning Yosemite National park.

California, USA

16. Christiania, Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen is a pretty perfect city for hippy-minded individuals: great cycling, lots of greenery, good food and a thriving music scene. If you really want to get into the hippy lifestyle, though, you need to head to Christiania. This colourful city-within-a-city has been a commune since 1971, and is showing no signs of slowing down. It’s autonomous and self-governing, to an extent, and a fascinating place to see a long-term social experiment in action.

Christiania, Copenhagen, Denmark

17. Byron Bay, Australia

Byron Bay means one thing: surfing. It’s famous for its long, sandy beach and a local life so laidback it’s almost horizontal. If you feel like even this New Agey, chilled out surfer town isn’t quite hippy enough for you, head to nearby Nimbin for colourful murals, dreadlocks and tie-dye galore. Nimbin also happens to be known as the marijuana capital of Australia, even holding a “Mardi Grass” festival in May.

Byron Bay, Australia

18. Chefchaouen, Morocco

Morocco has long been known as a destination for travellers who want to get off the beaten track. Marrakesh and Fez are the obvious places to go, but the travelling hippies of the world have long-preferred Chefchaouen. It’s cheap, cheerful and full of open-air markets and beautiful pale blue buildings. What’s not to like?

Chefchaouen, Morocco

19. Istanbul, Turkey

The only city in the world to sit on two continents, Istanbul has long intrigued and enticed independent travellers. The “gateway to Asia” was a key point on the Hippy Trail of the sixties, a fork in the road from where some would head back into Europe and others would look onwards to India, Thailand, and Vietnam. Today it retains its independent vibe, attracting hippies, hedonists, artists and romantics from all around the world.

Istanbul, Turkey

20. Gili Islands, Indonesia

These secluded islands off Lombok in Indonesia are pretty perfect if you want to get away from it all. Backpackers and hippies started heading there in the seventies and eighties, and now the islands are an established destination. They’re perfect for diving, lounging on the beach, and simply doing nothing at all.

Gili Islands, Indonesia

Forget about high-tech travel, a new trend sees tourists forgo internet access, phones and gadgets. After a weekend spent shunning all-things digital in Somerset, Lottie Gross shares what she learned about life and travel on her first (and hopefully not last) digital detox.

I’m a self-confessed digital-druggie, digitally distracted for 17 hours a day. Every waking moment – because I’m yet to master the somnolent status update – is spent glued to some sort of technology. I have an iPhone, iPad and a Macbook Pro (because one Apple product is never enough) and I carry a spare lithium battery for recharging – God forbid any of them run out of juice.

We live in a world where we’re constantly connected, always online, digging through data and endlessly downloading. We’re bombarded by an unrelenting torrent of information, made available on the internet and at our fingertips on laptops, smartphones and now even TVs.

We’ve become reliant on it: we can’t get around without Citymapper, won’t order cabs without apps like Uber, and if your restaurant doesn’t have more than three stars on our peer-review app, forget it. It sounds so destructive, so noxious. But the truth is, I love it.

Woman on mountain on phone, digital detox

But I’m beginning to wonder: rather than being empowered, am I becoming digitally-impaired? What am I missing as I walk that 300 metres from office to Underground, eyes down on my phone? A smile with a stranger? The love of my life? Who knows?

So in a willpower challenge, and kind of social experiment, two friends and I took to the Somerset countryside to have a digital detox. No TV (gasp!), no phone (shock!) and certainly no internet (surely not?!). How would I cope travelling like this for three days?

Lesson 1: travelling without tech isn’t that hard (and is quite fun)

We decided to “go dark” just outside the M25 – just after the satnav got us lost near Heathrow Airport. The universe was already telling us to disconnect from the world and look up.

Three hours later we successfully navigated with our AA road map through the country lanes near Taunton, and just 30 minutes from the motorway we arrived at the Bumblebee Barn in Halse.

The key was in the door, wifi switched off and the hot tub was warming up. Our excitable but lovely landlady, Tammy, even assured us our phones wouldn’t get signal even if we did try to turn them on. This was to be our disconnected home for the next three nights.

Bumble Bee Barn, HalseImage courtesy of Classic Cottages

Our AA roadmap became a lifeline over the next few days as we took a 25-mile jaunt to the quaint seaside town of Porlock, and we got well acquainted with the local area using an OS map to guide us along little-trodden footpaths. Without GPS to guide us we found an immense sense of satisfaction in reaching our destination – even if the pub in the next village was closed when we finally arrived.

Lesson 2: people are far more interesting in person

After three hours in the car with no radio to entertain, I was worried we’d run out of conversation before we even arrived. As it turns out, my friends are pretty interesting people, and right from the beginning we learned more about each other than we ever would in our Facebook feeds and Twitter timelines.Porlock beach, Somerset, England, UK

Instead of staring at a TV or avoiding eye contact through our laptops, we took three-hour breakfasts sipping tea and putting the world to rights. We debated politics, work and love and embraced the few silences that fell in between. Without technology to distract us, we were all fully present in every conversation – a refreshing and empowering feeling.

Lesson 3: connections aren’t only made online

I’ve made new friends through Twitter and kept in touch with old ones on Facebook. But it’s not just through social media and the internet that people are connected.

On a breezy spring afternoon we followed the black lines on our OS map up to the village of Milverton. We saw few other walkers and it felt like we had the green expanse of the Somerset countryside to ourselves – until we met Derrick. A kilometre from the village we took a path along the side of a hill and came across the most perfectly-poised bench for a five-minute mull over the surrounding natural beauty. On the back of this bench, a plaque read:

Who expressed a wish to be remembered in this way

And so we sat in silence, admiring the rolling hills and farm fields, listening to the wind in our ears and remembering Derrick, a man we’d never known.

Digital Detox, Somerset

Lesson 4: without technology there is no boredom

Among the hiking boots and waterproof jackets, I packed a number of board games, three different books and a pack of playing cards. We were bound to get bored and need some form of entertainment.

But not a single one of those board games made it out of the bag, and I only read a couple of chapters of my book. We spent the weekend walking, talking, cooking, eating and, of course, hot-tubbing – there was no time for boredom. We embraced every moment there was, whether it was looking out over the ocean on a sunny afternoon or listening for the sound of owls at dusk on Halse Farm.

After two days of tech-free fun, I realised: I’m only ever bored when I’m scrolling aimlessly, either on my laptop, tablet or phone.

Without tech there would be no time for boredom because we’d be doing other things. Rather than obsessing over the World Wide Web, we’d be looking up and appreciating the real world for what it is, enjoying all it has to offer.

Lottie stayed in the Bumble Bee Barn in Halse village, Somerset. You can book this little retreat through Classic Cottages here.

Looking through the Rough Guides photography archive, one kind of shot stands out again and again: pictures captured at sunrise. Sure, there’s nothing more tempting than sleeping in until noon while you’re on holiday. But if you can bring yourself to brave the odd early morning, you’ll discover a magical world as dawn breaks. From misty views atop Victoria Peak in Hong Kong to dreamy sunrise reflections on Ko Samui in Thailand, these are some of our favourite images.

Dawn breaks over the horizon pool at The Tongsai Bay Hotel, Ko Samui, Thailand

Tongsai Bay Hotel, Ko Samui, Thailand

Morning mist on the Mae Hong Son loop, Thailand

Morning Mist on the Mae Hong Son loop, Thailand

An early morning in Hong Kong, as seen from Victoria Peak

View from Victoria Peak, China, Hong Kong

Dawn breaks over Monument Valley, Arizona, USA

Monument Valley, Arizona, USA

Sunrise reflections on Naknek Lake in Alaska’s Katmai National Park

Naknek Lake, Katmai National Park, Alaska

Spectacular colours on Playa Lucia at sunrise, Puerto Rico

Playa Lucia, Puerto Rico

Chinese fishing nets silhouetted as the sun rises, Kochi, Kerala, India

Chinese fishing nets, Cochin (Kochi), Kerala, India

A peaceful Grand Canyon, as seen from Bright Angel Point, Arizona, USA

Grand Canyon, Angel Point, Arizona, USA

Early morning cloudscape over Puerto Viejo, Limon Province, Costa Rica

Cloudscape Puerto Viejo, Limon Province, Costa Rica

Sunrise at Kazan Gorge (Cazanele Dunarii) on the Danube River, Romania

Kazan Gorge (Cazanele Dunarii), Romania

Looking out over the water at dawn, Copenhagen, Denmark

Dawn, Copenhagen, Denmark

A calm start to the day in Mariehamn, Åland, Finland

Mariehamn, Aland, Finland

Gulls circle a life guard post on South Beach, Miami

South Beach, Miami, at sunrise

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Tasmania has shaken off its reputation as a sleepy backwater. Australia’s smallest state is buzzing with art, nurturing an exciting foodie scene and cutting the ribbon on new hiking trails – all against a backdrop of rich history and remarkable wildlife. Here, Anita Isalska gives ten reasons why you should give in to the island’s lure. 

1. To be awed and appalled at MONA in Hobart

A ferry ride up the peaceful Derwent River doesn’t seem like the obvious start to explore your dark side. But in the subterranean galleries of Tasmania’s Museum of Old and New Art you’ll find some of the most confronting creations in Australia. Passion, death and decay are explored in unflinching detail in this controversial museum in the northern suburbs of Tasmania’s capital, Hobart. Test your limits with maggot ridden installations, X-rated sculptures and obese automobiles, all from the private collections of arty eccentric David Walsh.

Australia, Tasmania, view of Hobart from Mount Wellington

2. To raft the Franklin River

Quicken your pulse in Tasmania’s wild west on a white water rafting adventure. In this glacier carved terrain, thick with Huon pine forests, experienced guides will navigate you down the frothing Franklin River. You’ll stop to cook on open fires and pitch a tent under the stars. There’s nothing like being part of a crew paddling a raft through the Franklin’s thunderous rapids to instil a lasting respect for Tasmania’s formidable wilderness.

3. To meet Tasmanian devils

Tas’ most famous critter is most often experienced through its nocturnal scream. But Tasmanian devils can be seen up close at sanctuaries across the state, like Bonorong. Don’t be fooled by their puppy-like appearance and lolloping gait. Time your visit for feeding time and you’ll see these marsupials screech, squabble and chomp straight through wallaby bones. On a more serious note, make sure you spare some time to learn about the devastating facial tumour disease threatening these Tassie natives.

Tasmanian devil sign

4. To feast your way around Bruny Island

Mainland Aussies flock to the annual Taste Festival in Hobart. But you can undertake a year-round gastronomic extravaganza on Bruny Island, an easy day-trip by ferry from Hobart. Start by slurping fresh oysters at Get Shucked, before perusing the unctuous delights of Bruny Island Cheese Company. You’ll want a bottle or two to accompany those garlic-marinated, vine leaf-wrapped delights, so stop for pinot noir at Bruny Island Premium Wines. Finish off with jams and ice creams at the berry farm.

5. To explore the wilderness at Cradle Mountain

The silhouette of Cradle Mountain, reflected in mirror-clear Dove Lake, is one of Tasmania’s greatest natural icons. Lace up your hiking boots in Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park and discover Pencil Pine Falls or the neck-craning Ballroom Forest. Some are easy wooden walking trails that spiral around picnic spots like Wombat Pool; others vertiginous hikes that require experience. For hardened adventurers, there’s the six-day Overland Track.

Dove Lake. Cradle Mountain. Tasmania. Australia. : Stock Photo View similar imagesMore from this photographerDownload comp Caption:Dawn reflections on calm fresh water lake. Mist over mountain peak. Dove Lake. Cradle Mountians. Tasmania. Australia. Dove Lake. Cradle Mountain. Tasmania. Australia.

6. To pace the brand-new Three Capes Track

One of Australia’s most hotly-tipped new attractions for 2015 is the Three Capes Track. Due to open in November 2015, this 82km coastal trail promises a touch of luxury for bushwalkers. Instead of stooping under the weight of your camping gear, you’ll be able to bed down in furnished huts at three different spots along the track and make use of on-site cooking facilities. That leaves more time to focus on what’s really important: jaw-dislocatingly good views of Australia’s tallest sea cliffs.

7. To see pint-sized penguins in Bicheno

Each night at dusk, a parade of little penguins pops out of the waters of Bicheno Bay and waddles ashore to their burrows. A guided walk is the best way to admire these dainty seabirds without disturbing them. They’ll hop between your legs, preen their inky black coats and jab their beaks at toes (don’t wear open-toed shoes).

8. To admire gorge-ous views near Launceston

Stomach-plummeting views await at Cataract Gorge, just 15 minutes’ drive from Tasmania’s second city, Launceston. Tiptoe over the suspension bridge or enjoy a bird’s-eye view of forested hillsides from the longest single-span chairlift in the southern hemisphere. Picnic spots are scattered around the gorge’s First Basin (and stalked by curious peacocks), ideal for you to soak up some rays and the tranquil atmosphere.

Australia, Tasmania, Launceston, Cataract Gorge,

9. To explore dark history at Port Arthur

Two centuries ago, a ticket to Australia was a terrible fate. The most harrowing final destination was Tasmania’s Port Arthur, one of Australia’s 11 penal colony sites. Port Arthur was thought inescapable: only a narrow band of land, Eaglehawk Neck, connected it to the rest of the island, and this was fiercely guarded by dogs. Today, Port Arthur has been conserved as an open-air museum. You can explore the former prison wings and convict-built chapel, board a boat to the lonely graveyards on Isle of the Dead and linger for a ghost tour if you dare.

10. To bliss out at Wineglass Bay

There’s an unforgettable reward for taking a steep forested trail on the Freycinet Peninsula on Tasmania’s east coast. At the Wineglass Bay overlook, you’ll see a perfect arc of sand glowing against the vibrant turquoise of the Tasman Sea. Cool off from all that bushwalking with a dip or kayaking trip, or simply gaze out over the dusky pink granite boulders dappled with lichen, one of Tasmania’s most surreally beautiful sights.

Explore more of Tasmania with the Rough Guide to Australia or our Tasmania Snapshot. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. Compare flightsbook hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

If you’re after some rejuvenation on your next break but still fancy a bit of an adventure, there are a whole host of alternative therapies offered around the world. From snail facials to a spot of sauna whipping, you can invigorate your body and soul with a smorgasbord of weird but wonderful wellness treatments. Here we’ve rounded up ten of the best.

Soak in sake in Japan

Sake isn’t just the steamy accompaniment to a plate of tempura. This fermented rice drink is also a tonic for the skin. In Hakone’Yunessun Spa, an enormous cask drips sake straight into a pool. Believers swear that a soak prevents age spots forming, and others get a kick out of the heady fumes. Not to your taste? Take the plunge in Yunessun’s coffee, red wine or green tea baths instead.

Get whipped in a Russian banya

The grime you acquire riding the Trans-Siberian Railway won’t steam itself out. In a Russian banya (steam room) birch twigs and leaves are bundled up and moistened with hot water, then swished against the skin in between steaming sessions. Light whipping with branches is thought to encourage circulation, so banyas are especially popular in Siberia where temperatures dip below -35°C. Plenty of hostels and hotels have them on site; check out Belka on the shores of Lake Baikal.

Russian banya

Enter the deep freeze in Finland

Scandinavians are known for indulging in (or enduring) a plunge into ice-topped lakes in between sauna visits. But cryotherapy turns the temperature gauge even lower… right down to -110°C. Less than three minutes in the chill chamber at Finland’s Haikko Spa is all it takes, and if the promised benefits of pain relief and glowing skin don’t appear, the feeling of sheer exhilaration – that you survived – should suffice.

Relax with a pinch of salt in Poland

Wieliczka Caves are an eye-boggling series of subterranean grottoes, 90 minutes from Krakow, and today they’re bedecked with glitzy chandeliers and intricate statues – all carved out of salt. Hundreds of years ago, locals noticed a lower incidence of lung disease in salt mine workers which began a vogue for salt cave pampering; supposed benefits include improvements to asthma and allergies. Descend 135m down into Wieliczka’s Lake Wessel Chamber to try for yourself.

Wieliczka salt mine, PolandImage courtesy of Wieliczka Salt Mine

Be buffed by Lithuania’s mermaid amber

When you spy the glint of amber on Baltic beaches, don’t dismiss it as hardened tree resin. Amber has a powerful place in Lithuanian legend, infusing it with ritual significance when worn as jewellery or used in beauty products. Lithuanian folk tales tell of a mermaid queen, Jūratė, and how her passionate affair with a mortal enraged the thunder god Perkūnas, who then smashed her amber palace to pieces. You can be scrubbed, polished and wrapped in the tragic siren’s amber in spas across Lithuania, like Vanagupe in Palanga, a seaside town in the northwest.

Bathe like an emperor in Rome

Modern spas owe a great deal to the Roman Empire. Cleansing with oils, scraping off dirt with a strigil, and alternating between a caldarium (steam room) and frigidarium (cold plunge bath) remain the blueprint for modern wellness rituals. Imperial baths (thermae) were much more than spas though: lingering amid clouds of fragrant steam was the perfect atmosphere for gossiping, poetry recitals and a round of political debate. Wellness centres across Rome still offer this timeless experience; visit Rome Cavalieri.

Bottle of rose and marigold bath oil, on folded towel

Cook like an egg in a Korean kiln

Consider yourself a sauna connoisseur? A Korean han-jeung-mak might test your limits. In between steam rooms and a punishing round of exfoliation, break a sweat in the ‘kiln sauna’ – alarmingly similar to an oven in appearance, this intensely heated dome uses burning wood and charcoal to heat the room, the style of which has barely changed style in 500 years. Eggs are a popular in-spa snack in Korea; you might spot a bowl of them inside the kiln, slow-cooking (just like you). Public bathhouses (jjimjilbang) around Korea have kiln rooms; try Dragonhillspa in Seoul.

Enjoy a snail’s pace across your face in Japan

How far would you go to get bright, clear skin? Centuries ago, geisha used uguisu no fun (nightingale droppings) to remove makeup and polish their skin. Nightingale faeces still makes its way into some beauty treatments and products, but the new vogue in Japan is for snails slithering across the skin. Brave the moisturising properties of molluscs at Clinical-Salon Ci:z.Labo in Tokyo (17F Ebisu Prime Square Plaza, 1-1-40 Hiro’o, Shibuya-ku).

Brown Garden Snail (Helix aspersa), side view

Experience blind massage in China

The heightened tactile senses of blind masseurs are thought especially effective at targeting aches and pains. The number of blind massage therapists exploded with the foundation of the Chinese Massage Association of Blind Practitioners nearly 20 years ago. Around 100,000 are now thought to practise throughout China; take a local recommendation if you can, or ask a taxi driver to look out for mangren anmo. Be aware that massage parlours with pink or blue lights might be offering a different ‘treatment’ altogether.

Get some reptile therapy in Israel

If you thought fish pedicures were a little tame, what about a few dozen snakes writhing over your skin? At Ada Barak’s Carnivorous Plant Farm in Israel (Talmei El’azar), snakes are released to crawl over the shoulders, neck and scalp of a patient (or victim). The snakes’ rhythmic movements are thought to be highly therapeutic. After surviving a faceful of snakes, routine treatments like waxing will never phase you again.

Tim Chester joins a group of friends for a restorative mini-break at the historic New Inn in Peasenhall in the heart of Suffolk. 

It’s easy to fall into a reverie at the New Inn. Between the crackling log fire, the huge sofas and the sedative aftereffect of an immense feast at the late medieval hall’s huge trestle table, you can find yourself slipping away into daydreams.

Under wide wooden beams and with a hefty history folder in your lap, thoughts are conjured of the thousands of weary travellers who must have laid their heads between these walls in the half millennium since it became an inn in 1478.

Every inch of the New Inn has a story to tell, and the Landmark Trust – who took over the property in 1971 – regales visitors with tales of fifteenth century abbots, horses and mules stabled in the courtyard, and strangers sharing beds upstairs while hosts brew ale in the basement.

On a chilly evening with a glass of robust red in hand you can almost hear the echoes of conviviality dating back 500 years. On second thoughts, it might just be a baby mewing.

New Inn, Suffolk, Landmark Trust property

As epic meanderings go we hadn’t come far – home was just three hours on the train away in London – but we were nevertheless in need of some hospitality and R&R, and the New Inn delivered in spades.

Like all the best rental homes, the New Inn is somewhere you could spend your entire trip: reading, dozing, chucking another log into the stove, preparing huge meals of ham, eggs and cheese from the local Emmett’s deli, or, as one quote on their website brilliantly has it, “spending hours studying the beautiful carpentry of the building’s oak frame.”

However, there’s plenty to be done in the area including a host of simple pleasures that have been enjoyed for time immemorial: tramping through crusty brown fields under a wide, bright blue sky; capturing images of dewy sparkles on deep furrows; dodging the peacocks who strut through the village of Peasenhall like they own the place.

Suffolk countryside, England

The area holds as many historic secrets as the building, much of them deep underground. The sunken village of Dunwich, “Britain’s Atlantis”, and Sutton Hoo, a 225 acre estate of ancient Anglo-Saxon burial mounds, are both short drives away and will fire the imagination.

The Martello Tower, meanwhile, is another Landmark Trust property on the beach at Aldeburgh that was originally built to repel Napoleon but has now been invaded by a sculpture created by Antony Gormley. The Scallop sculpture, a tribute to Benjamin Britten, and Framlington Castle, which was once the refuge of Mary Tudor, are other sights worth a detour.

More recently, a madcap inventor has been paying homage to the history of arcade machines by building a series of bizarre contraptions that are collected halfway along Southwold Pier – a truly British display of eccentricity.

Aldeburgh, Suffolk, England

The pier has plenty of other attractions, including a more modern collection of shoot-em-ups, any number of ways to lose a pile of 2p pieces, and a rather odd depiction of George Orwell, who grew up here when he was known as plain old Eric Blair and before he left for Burma and the travels that would inspire his first novel, Burmese Days (which he actually completed here).

Southwold itself demands at least half a day, a quaint warren of windy streets harbouring boutiques, foodie shops and friendly pubs, and walks along the beach and to nearby Walberswick for fish and chips at the huge Anchor pub are great ways to while away an afternoon.

Before long, though, you’ll feel the pull of the New Inn and find yourself heading home, with a boot full of local produce and Adnams ale from the town’s brewery shop, to fire up the hearth and settle in to a Chaucerian bacchanal under the oak beams – or perhaps just a good book.

Explore more of England with the Rough Guide to BritainCompare flightsbook hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

It may be the UK’s next City of Culture, but that hasn’t stopped Hull from being voted the least romantic destination in the UK. The annual “Destination Romance Report” from Hotels.com saw a not insubstantial fifth of the Brits polled vote for the Yorkshire city as lacking in the romance department. And we’d have to agree – though Hull is slowly on the up, it’s still far from the place you want to be whisking your loved one to for a weekend.

Top in the romance stakes was London – conversely (and perhaps showing us Brits for the fickle nation we are), the capital was also voted the third least romantic city. Which says it all, really: what’s romantic for one person might not be for another.

Ultimately, when it comes to romance, it’s about the person you’re with and how the place makes you feel as much as anything else – after all, great company can make even the dreariest of towns sparkle a little.

London by night, London skyline, England

But the report did get us thinking. On what criteria should you judge whether a city is romantic or not? We came up with five factors:

  1. An impressive setting
  2. Plenty of places in which to do very little
  3. Great places to stay
  4. Atmospheric places to eat and drink
  5. Well suited to independent exploration

Do you agree? What do you think of the results? Does Hull leave you cold and London light your fire?

If you’re looking for more romance, we recently picked 20 impossibly romantic places around the world.

Surrounded by the dwarfing Sierra de Catorce mountain range, Rough Guides writer Alasdair Baverstock indulges in some hallucinogenic Mexican cactus for an eye-opening experience.

The cactus beside me was quite audibly breathing. Its expansions and contractions were sure signs of its survival in this desert. In fact, looking around at the abandoned silver mine everything was breathing. The creeper vines clinging to the dilapidated furnace chimney, the rock on which I was sitting, the very ground itself was sucking deeply and greedily on the air. Or so the hallucinogen coursing through my system was telling me.

Five hours north of Mexico City, Real de Catorce is an abandoned silver mining town nestled in an eighty mile-long massif in San Luis Potosí state. The industry has all gone. Mexico’s largest silver deposits were exhausted fifty years ago. Now the town survives on peyote tourism, which sees travellers come to experience a plant with hallucinogenic properties, grown in the desert nearby.

After five miles of cobbled mountain road and a two kilometre tunnel, we arrived in the town. Alpine in its constitution, Real de Catorce’s whitewashed houses, soaring church spire and cobbled streets are a world apart from the Spanish imperialism which built the state capital, San Luis Potosí.

Real de Catorce, San Luis Potosí, Mexico, North AmericaImage by Alasdair Baverstock

The guides were immediately upon us, asking, “you’re after the medicine?” as soon as we arrived. Local touts charge £10 (US$16) a head. “We go in my jeep, collect the medicine and then go to a safe place for the effects,” one promised. Ten minutes later we were doing just that, perched precariously on the 4×4’s roof as we tackled the terrifying road down out of the mountains.

Peyote is a cactus which grows around the roots of other desert shrubs. It is a squat and fleshy plant, soft enough to be harvested with a credit card, its texture that of broccoli stem. Its sale for consumption is illegal, although the Mexican authorities tend to look the other way if one has come to the source to experience it. Visitors can walk away from the desert with whatever they can hold in their stomachs.

Sitting in a circle on the desert floor, each with two plants (a decent dose we were informed), we raised a stumbling toast to a new experience and began the arduous process of swallowing the peyote. Extremely bitter and acrid, the plant should be cleaned of the cotton-like strands that sprout from its centre, as well as any sand particles that may still be hanging on. Ten minutes and twenty mouth rinsings later, we were on our way.

Peyote, Real de Catorce, Mexico, North America

“You guys taken the medicine?”, the petrol station attendant grinned knowingly at me.
“Yes. Have you?”
“Not today, but sometimes I’ll eat a little bit. Makes you feel nice”.

The hallucinogen takes perhaps an hour to kick in, during which time we made our way back up towards the mountain town, stopping at its abandoned mine for a tour.

Entering the area I could feel my mind begin to trip. Sounds were more intense; the rustle of the trees was fizzing in at me from all directions. The eagles hunting the vast skies were heart-racingly beautiful; the bridge across the gorge was an astonishing feat of engineering; the shared benevolence of all living things in the region had soaked me in its light.

Suddenly the simple fact of the world’s existence and my own within it was an amazing fact. Perhaps the only fact. That’s the sort of hallucinogen peyote is. It’s possible to see life’s panorama more widely.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in Real de Catorce, shopping for dulce de leche desserts and silver jewellery mined and made in the mountains around us.

Silver shops, Real de Catorce, San Luis Potosí, Mexico, North AmericaImage by Alasdair Baverstock

Sitting down with the group – a civil engineer with his girlfriend, my friend Tim and I – we talked about what we were feeling. “It comes in waves”, said the girlfriend, “you think you’re coming down but then a wave breaks in your mind. It washes over you and you’re in deep again.”

“You feel very connected to things”, said Tim, “part of something bigger”. We all agreed.

Lunch was delicious: pozole, a long-stewed Mexican pork soup filled with corn, juices and local vegetables. It felt like enough food for the entire day, let alone lunch. By this time we had entered the second part of a peyote trip: an unshakable inner peace; a calm appreciation of everything around you. This lasts the majority of the trip, a delightful further eight hours.

I offered to give the couple a ride back into town on our way back to Mexico City. We sat in the car and enjoyed the drive as the mountains changed into desert, the skies turned from blue to rosy pink and the cobbled track turned into tarmac motorway. We were content, happy and relaxed.

Saying our farewells at the bus station, we watched the setting sun cast multi-coloured shadows over the mountain range in the distance. They melded into the crowd shoving around the bus terminal. I looked at the humanity and I looked at myself and I looked at the bare earth. Part of something bigger.

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

While researching the new Rough Guide to Myanmar (Burma), Jo James discovered the Tanintharyi Division – a blissful corner of the country that has only recently opened up to travellers.

As we coasted downhill towards the village I tried, briefly and unsuccessfully, to suppress a grin. The road ahead curved along a soft sweep of sand. The village, San Hlan – a few rows of wooden huts topped with shaggy palm-frond roofs – ran right down to the water’s translucent edge. Teak fishing boats the colour of dark chocolate bobbed in the bay, primary coloured flags fluttering from bow and stern. Just beyond, the Andaman Sea stretched to the horizon, a sheet of silky blue. Try not smiling with that kind of view.

I was just outside the town of Dawei in Myanmar’s southern Tanintharyi Division, researching the new Rough Guide to Myanmar. Until recently Tanintharyi was a rather tricky place to visit. Foreign travellers were restricted to flying in and out of the three main cities (Dawei, Myeik and Kawthoung), and day trips to places like San Hlan were impossible unless you were in possession of a sheaf of permits from Yangon or Naypyidaw. Tantalising rumours of the Myeik Archipelago’s islands leaked from the visitors who made it that far – along with James Bond-esque tales of island military bases, crony-owned casinos and semi-aquatic sea gypsies – but there was little information about the mainland beyond.

Beach at Dawei in Myanmar’s southern Tanintharyi Division, Burma Copyright, Jo JamesImage by Jo James

Late in 2013 the travel restrictions were relaxed, and it’s now possible to travel as far south as Myeik overland. (Between Myeik and Kawthoung it’s still necessary to fly or take one of the boats that thread through the edge of the archipelago, passing palm-edged islands and scaring up shoals of flying fish – a rare instance of official restrictions being anything other than an annoyance.)

While the Myeik Archipelago may be Tanintharyi’s main draw, the coastline around Dawei is the surprise star. With a motorbike, a full tank of petrol and a sense of adventure you’re free to beach-hunt at will. Fishing villages spill right down to the gloriously clear water at San Hlan and elsewhere, a lone golden stupa looks out over the Andaman Sea at Shin Maw, and dirt tracks lead to gorgeous stretches of sand everywhere. Save for the fishermen, there’s seldom another person in sight.

Fishing village in Dawei in Myanmar’s southern Tanintharyi Division, Burma Copyright, Jo JamesImage by Jo James

The region’s tourist industry is still in its infancy. Thirty minutes’ drive north of Dawei, Maungmagan Beach is the only spot on the coast that’s even remotely prepared for visitors, with one government ‘resort’ and the charming Coconut Guesthouse near its dark sand beach – oddly one of the less attractive in the area. Dawei itself is the most convenient base for exploring the beaches south of Maungmagan. Fortunately the small town has plenty of decent accommodation and a pleasing lack of sights – there’s little to distract you from getting out to the coast.

The only shadow on the sunlit horizon is the question of how long Dawei’s alluringly undeveloped shoreline will remain intact. Just a few hundred miles north of Phuket, the area will be catnip for hotel developers. While I was in San Hlan the fishermen told stories of mysterious businessmen who were already busy buying up swathes of the coastline for a pittance, in preparation for a future property boom.

Dawei in Myanmar’s southern Tanintharyi Division, BurmaImage by Jo James

The Myanmar government also has grand plans for Dawei, with a vast deep-sea port planned for the ridiculously long Nabule Beach. I rode out to there during my visit to see the project site. A wide, sandy track led to the isolated shoreline, and a series of ambitious signs stood in front of scrubby deserted lots, proclaiming things like “LNG Terminal – 35 Acres” and “Main Port 2km”. However, in 2013 the lead developer was booted off the development, and while there is a chance that it will be resuscitated, the port is in limbo for the time being.

Where the access road met the shore, a lone flagpole stood with the Myanmar flag whipping in the wind. Six fishermen were building a bamboo raft in preparation for a festival a few days later. The villagers would gather on the beach to push the raft, decked with tinsel and carrying a Buddha statue, into the waves to protect their boats for another year. While Dawei’s days as a beautiful backwater may be numbered, for now the area is still home for the fishing communities who have lived here for generations – as well as a handful of grinning travellers.

The Rough Guide to Myanmar (Burma) will be released in February 2015, but you can buy the Rough Guides Snapshot Myanmar (Burma) here, and you can explore Burma in depth with this immersive guide.

Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

With 7500 kilometres of coastline to explore, good beaches in India aren’t hard to come by. From the party sands of Goa to the bustle of Marine Drive in Mumbai, here are some of the best beaches in India. 

Chakratirth Beach, Gujarat

The larger Chakratirth Beach, overlooked by a high bound, is a little to the west, just outside the city walls. In many ways this is the most attractive beach and usually deserted, making it the best option for an undisturbed swim, especially for female travellers.

Chowpatty Beach, Mumbai

Situated at the top of Marine Drive, Chowpatty Beach is a Mumbai institution. On evenings and weekends, Mumbaikars gather here in large numbers – not to swim (the sea is foul) but to wander, sit on the sand, munch kulfi and bhel puri, get their ears cleaned and gaze across the bay while the kids ride a pony or rusty Ferris wheel.

Indian, Mumbai, Chowpatty Beach, people on the beach at sunsetChowpatty beach, Mumbai

Anjuna Beach, North Goa

The vibe is much nicer at the south end of Anjuna Beach as opposed to the north, where a pretty and more sheltered cove accommodates a mostly twenty-something tourist crowd. A constant trance soundtrack thumps from the shacks behind it cranking up to become proper parties after dark, when bars Curlie’s and neighbouring Shiva Valley take turns to max their sound systems, hosting international DJs through the season. Chai ladies and food stallholders sit in wait on the sands, just like for the raves of old, but the party generally grinds to a halt at 10pm sharp.

Morjim, North Goa

Morjim beach itself is dramatic and well worth a walk, especially in the early morning, when you’ll see teams of fishermen hauling giant hand nets from the surf. The spit at its southern end, opposite Chapora Fort, is also a great birding hotspot.

Mandrem, North Goa

From the far side of the creek bounding the edge of Ashwem, a magnificent and largely empty beach stretches north towards Arambol – the last unspoilt stretch of the north Goan coast. Olive Ridley marine turtles nest on the quietest patches, and you’re more than likely to catch a glimpse of one of the white-bellied fish eagles that live in the casuarina trees – their last stronghold in the north of Goa.

India, Goa, Arambol BeachArambol, North Goa

Arambol, North Goa

Arambol’s main drag is a winding road lined cheek-by-jowl with clothes and bedspread stalls, travel agents, internet cafes and souvenir shops selling tourist knick-knacks. The lane bends downhill to the main beach – dotted with wooden outriggers and one of the most picturesque in south India. The best view of it is from the crucifix and small Parasurama shrine on the hilltop to the north, when is an especially serene spot at sunset. After dark, when the Hula-Hoopers, fire juggles and bhajan singers have turned homewards, the candles and fairy lights of the shacks illuminate the beachfront to magical effect.

Palolem, South Goa

With the gradual spread of package tourism down the coast, Palolem, a ninety-minute drive south of Margao along the main highway, is Gao’s most happening beach, attracting droves of sun seekers from November through March. Set against a backdrop of forest-cloaked hills, its bay is spectacular, though the crowds can feel overwhelming in the high season.

Marine Parade, Odisha

In the west end of town, along Marine Parade, the atmosphere is more akin to a British Victorian holiday resort. This stretch is very much the domain of the domestic tourist industry and the beach is much cleaner here. It’s a pleasant place to stroll and becomes highly animated after sunset when the nightly souvenir market gets going. Local fishermen patrol the beach as lifeguards; recognisable by their triangular straw hats and dhotis, they wade with their punters into the surf and literally hold their hands to keep them on their feet – the undertow claims victims every year, so weak swimmers should be careful.

Gopalpur-On-Sea, Southern Odisha

Having once been a lively place, today, the only time you’re likely to encounter much action is during festivals and holidays, when the village is temporarily inundated with Bengali holiday-makers. For the rest of the year, its desultory collection of seafront hotels stands idle, left to the odd backpacker and armies of industrious fishermen (katias) hauling in hand nets on Gopalpur’’s endless coast to unwind and enjoy the warm sea breezes, this is an appealing a place as any. Sunbathing on the beach will quickly make you the centre of attention, but its uncrowded sands, punctuated by coconut groves, sleepy lagoons and tiny creeks, makes a good setting for a rejuvenating walk.

The Marina, Chennai

One of the longest city beaches in the world, the Marina (Kamaraj Salai) stretches five kilometres from the harbour at the southeastern corner of George Town to near San Thome Cathedral. Today the beach itself is a sociable stretch, people by idle paddlers, picnickers and pony-riders; every afternoon crowds gather around the beach market. Although, its location, just a little downstream from the port, which belches out waste and smelly fumes, combined with its function as the toilet for the fishing community, detract somewhat from its natural beauty.

Benaulim, South Goa

An ideal first place if you’ve just arrived in the region is Benaulim, six kilometres west of the state’s second city, Margao. The most traveller-friendly resort in the area, Benaulim stands slap in the middle of a spectacular 25km stretch of pure white sand. Although increasingly carved up by Mumbai timeshare companies, low-cost accommodation here is plentiful and of a consistently high standard.

India, Goa, Benaulim, hand-net fishers hauling in their catchBenaulim, South Goa

Lighthouse Beach, Kovalam

The largest and most developed cove at Kovalam, known for obvious reasons as Lighthouse Beach, is where most foreign tourists congregate. Lined by a paved esplanade, its seafront of shops and hotels extend along the full length of the bay, overlooked by the eponymous lighthouse at the southern end. You can scale the 142 spiral steps and twelve ladder rungs to the observation platform for a fine view.

Kovalam Beach, Kovalam

Kovalam beach, the third of the coves, is dominated from on high by the angular chalets of the five-star Leela Kempinski. Coach-loads of excited Keralan day-trippers descend here on weekends, but at other it times offers a peaceful alternative to the beach further south.

Papa Nashini, Varkala

Known in Malayalam as Papa Nashini (“sin-destroyer”), Varkala’s beautiful white-sand beach has long been associated with ancestor worship. Devotees come here after praying at the ancient Janardhana Swamy Temple on the hill to the south, then perform mortuary rituals on the beach, directed by specialist pujaris (priests). The best time to watch the rites is in the early morning, just after sunrise. And note that it’s best to keep your camera in your bag.

Varkala beach and cliffs. Kerala, South India.Varkala beach, Kerala

Papanasam Beach, Varkala

Backed by sheer red laterite cliffs, Varkala’s coastline is imposingly scenic and the beach relatively relaxing – although its religious assocations do ensure that attitudes to public nudity (especially female) are less liberal than other coastal resorts in India. Western sun-worshippers are supposed to keep to the northern end (away from the main puja area reserved for the funeral rites) where they are serviced by a nonstop parade of local “hallo-pineapple-coconut?” vendors. Sea otters can also occasionally be spotted playing on the cliffs by the sea.

Cherai Beach, Kochi, Kerala

The closest beach to Kochi worth the effort of getting to is Cherai, 25km north on Vypeen Island. A 3km strip of golden sand and thumping surf, it’s sandwiched on a narrow strip of land between the sea and a very pretty backwater area of glassy lagoons. Chunky granite sea defences prevent the waves from engulfing the ribbon of fishing villages that subsist along this strip. Nowhere, however, is the sand more than a few metres wide at high tide, and the undertow can get quite strong. Even so, Cherai is gaining in popularity each year, and a row of small resorts and guesthouses has sprung up to accommodate the trickle of mainly foreign travellers who find their way up here from Fort Cochin.

India, Goa, Benaulim, wooden fishing boat with flower garland around the bow on Benaulim BeachBenaulim, South Goa

Ullal, Mangalore

If you’re looking to escape the city for a few hours, then head out to the village of Ullal, where a long sandy beach stretches for kilometres, backed by wispy fir trees. It’s a deservedly popular place for a stroll, particularly in the evening when Mangaloreans come out to watch the sunset, but a strong undertow makes swimming difficult, and at times unsafe. You might be better off using the pool at the Summer Sands Beach Resort, immediately behind the beach.

Kudlee Beach, Karnataka

This wonderful 1km-long sweep of golden-white sand sheltered by a pair of steep-sided promontories is now punctuated by around fifteen restaurants-cum-hut ventures and one proper hotel. This is the longest and broadest of Gokarna’s beaches, and with decent surf too, though the water can be dangerous.

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

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