An easy entry-point for first-time visitors to Southeast Asia, the absorbing city-state of Singapore has evolved from a colonial port into a slick shrine to wealth and consumerism. With fascinating Chinese and Indian quarters, excellent museums, world-renowned restaurants and great shopping, there’s plenty here to keep you occupied for days.

But what about accommodation? Whatever kind of trip you’re planning, here’s the lowdown on where to stay in Singapore from the new Rough Guide to Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. Get your bearings first with our online guide here.

 

Little India, Lavender Street and Arab Street

Little India proper and beyond – the zone extending up to Lavender Street, reachable via Farrer Park or Lavender stations – is the best place to find budget accommodation, although hotels are hit and miss. The area around Arab Street also has a few good places to stay.

For boutique on a budget: Moon 23. A boutique-hotel experience that won’t strain your wallet, with stylishly kitted-out rooms boasting snazzy wallpaper and iPhone docks.

For flashpackers: [email protected]. A sprawling place, its size matching its ambition to be a “flashpacker” hostel taking the concept of comfort on a budget to new heights.

A photo posted by Patrice Averilla (@avelovin) on

Bras Basah Road to Rochor Road

The grid of streets between Bras Basah Road and Rochor Road has been rendered a bit sterile by redevelopment, which has also wiped out nearly all the cheap accommodation that once packed Bencoolen Street; now it’s mostly modern mid-range hotels that remain. The area remains a good choice if you can afford it, as it’s within easy walking distance of the Singapore River, Little India and the eastern end of Orchard Road.

For a memorable dorm bed: [email protected] Emily. Owned by the company behind the historic Cathay cinema at the foot of Mount Emily, the Hangout is an impressive designer guesthouse with a breezy rooftop terrace.

For industrial chic: The Big Hotel. This excellent new hotel occupies a converted office building, reflected in the lobby decor – all artfully exposed ducting and pipes.

The Colonial District

There are only a few places to stay among the grand Neoclassical buildings of the Colonial District, the area immediately north and east of the Singapore River that forms the core of downtown Singapore. If you’ve got deep pockets, however, there are two places worth seeking out.

For colonial splendour: Raffles. Colonial-era charm in spades, especially evident in the opulent lobby and the courtyards fringed by frangipani trees and palms.

For great views: Swissôtel The Stamford. Not for those with vertigo, though the views are as splendid as you’d expect from one of the tallest hotels in the world, with over a thousand rooms.

Image courtesy of Swissôtel The Stamford

Chinatown and Boat Quay

Chinatown runs a close second to Little India and Lavender Street in its selection of guesthouses, and also boasts a good many upmarket and boutique hotels. Boat Quay, right on the south bank of the Singapore River, is dominated by restaurants and bars, but has two worthwhile places to stay, including the splendid Fullerton hotel.

For a budget bed: Wink. One of the best designer hostels in town, with hi-tech capsule beds inside flower-themed rooms with colour-coded lighting to match.

For Art Deco opulence: The Fullerton. Nearly as impressive as the Raffles, with a stunning Art Deco atrium propped up on massive columns like an Egyptian temple.

Fullerton Hotel by prilfish via Flickr (CC license) – modified 

Marina Bay

Marina Bay accommodation is synonymous with modern four-and five-star affairs, all located at the rather bland Marina Centre district next to Beach Road, with the obvious exception of Marina Bay Sands.

For five-star service: Ritz-Carlton Millenia. Arguably king of the pricey hotels in Marina centre, with magnificent views across to the financial District, even from the bathrooms, where butlers will fill the bath for you.

For a night in a landmark: Marina Bay Sands. Not just one of the island’s most famous buildings but also the largest hotel in Singapore, with an astonishing 2500 rooms: stay here for the architecture and that infinity pool.

Moonset over Marina Bay Sands by Nicolas Lannuzel via Flickr (CC license)

Orchard Road

You generally pay a premium to stay in the Orchard Road shopping area, though it’s hardly the most interesting part of downtown, and now that many stores have branches across town, only the sheer modernity of the district lends it any edge.

For boutique comfort: The Quincy. A 10min, slightly uphill walk off Orchard Road, this is one of Singapore’s more endearing boutique hotels, melding contemporary aesthetics with comfort.

For a taste of a bygone era: Goodwood Park. Built on a leafy hillock and designed by the architect responsible for the Raffles, this is a genuine landmark in a cityscape characterized by transience.

Goodwood Park Hotel, Singapore (Flickr public domain)

Sentosa

Staying on Sentosa isn’t such a bad idea, especially if you have young children. On the downside, heading back to your hotel for a short break from sightseeing on the “mainland” is a bit of a drag unless you catch a cab.

For a convenient base: Hotel Michael. The main reason to stay at Resorts World is to tap into regular packages with admission to Universal Studios and so forth; Hotel Michael is more interesting than the rest.

For contemporary elegance: Mövenpick Sentosa. A splendid hotel housed partly in former British barracks dating from 1940t the most impressive rooms are the pricey onsen suites with their own large outdoor Japanese hot tub.

Image courtesy of Mövenpick Sentosa

Explore more of Singapore with the Rough Guide to Singapore or the Rough Guide to Malaysia, Singapore and BruneiCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

This feature contains affiliate links; you can find out more about why we’ve partnered with booking.com hereAll recommendations are editorially independent.

With shorter days creeping in and woolly hats coming out, there’s no denying that a change of season is on the way. What better to beat the winter blues than escaping the cold weather altogether? Here, we’ve picked 6 of the best winter sun destinations.

1. Pinar del Río, Cuba

Winter is the dry season in Cuba, and the risk of hurricanes dramatically tails off at the end of November, leaving reliably hot, mostly clear and sunny days.

Winter sun destinations abound in this fascinating country, but we’d head to Viñales in Pinar del Río, Cuba’s westernmost province. This village, a couple of hours’ drive from Havana, is set in a strikingly beautiful and serene valley, clustered with strange ancient limestone mounds. Formed 160-million years ago, they look, aptly, straight out of Jurassic Park.

Life in the village itself runs at a slow pace and retains a strongly traditional feel. A few minutes walk out of town takes you to rust-coloured fields and tobacco plantations where farmers’ wives will show you how cigars are rolled.

Around 5km north of town lie the once-indigenous dwellings of Cueva del Indio, a network of caves with an assortment of ancient carvings viewable on boat rides through the underground river.

A day-trip out to nearby undeveloped beaches of Cayo Jutias or Cayo Levisa is a must, with several kilometres of flawless white-sand beaches and calm, turquoise waters lapping at the shore.

2. Island-hopping in the Philippines

From November to April the Philippines basks in glorious weather, with typhoon season out of the way and warm but not unbearably hot, usually dry days.

The islands around El Nido and Coron in Palawan are set in blisteringly blue-turquoise waters and offer jaw-droppingly lovely jagged-edged coastlines.

The more accessible islands can be visited on day bangka boat trips, or you can venture into more remote areas on multi-day adventures in which you feast on freshly caught seafood, spend your days snorkelling through hidden coves and sunbathing on deserted beaches, as well as getting the chance to see how local fishing communities live in these isolated and undeveloped destinations.

Prepare your vocal chords, as you’ll be singing an awful lot of karaoke.

3. Kerala, India

The southern Indian state of Kerala receives more rain per year than most other Indian states, but only a couple of rainy days a month from December to February.

With winter temperatures averaging in the late twenties, this is the perfect time to explore the tree-covered mountains or get to grips with palm-lined beaches on the 550km of gorgeous coastline interspersed with rice paddies, lagoons and enchanting canal backwaters.

Explore the European-style lanes of ex-colonial Fort Cochin and marvel at the elaborate costumes and martial-art-style dancing at an all-night Kathakali performance of gods and demons.

Head to the coast and watch fisherman taking in their haul on the unspoiled beaches around Varkala, and witness rural Keralan life in magnificent surroundings on an overnight backwaters cruise in a traditional wooden barge (kettu vallam) around Kollam or Alappuzha.

Experience all this accompanied by some of the finest – and hottest – curries on the planet.

4. South Island, New Zealand

Image by dreamstime.com: Uros Ravbar / Urosr

For those determined to escape the chilled northern-hemisphere climes, New Zealand offers relatively dry, warm weather right through its summer months (December to February).

Taste the excellent wines and craft beers of the Marlborough region before soaking up rays on the beaches around Nelson, or paddle a sea kayak around the golden beaches and lush greenery of Abel Tasman National Park and jump in the deep end in Kaikoura, where you can swim among hundreds of dolphins and fur seals.

Absorb the exciting post-earthquake creativity in Christchurch and check out the wildlife bonanza of the Otago Peninsula, where albatrosses, seals, sea lions and penguins abound.

Get your thrill-seeking fix in Queenstown, where you can jump off a bridge or out of a plane. Top it all off with a visit to what Rudyard Kipling called the “eighth wonder of the world”, on a hike through the heart of Fiordland National Park to the astonishingly beautiful Milford Sound.

5. Cape Town, South Africa

For the ultimate mix of buzzing urban life and picturesque scenery, you can’t do much better than Cape Town. The city has an extraordinary location, with the renowned flat-topped massif of Table Mountain dominating the backdrop, the Atlantic Ocean sitting on its west side and the Indian Ocean to the east, where white-sand beaches are dappled with granite boulders.

Table Mountain drops sharply into the Atlantic seaboard, where you can spot whales and absorb astonishing views from spectacular coastal roads. The forested mountainous region of the Cape Peninsula stretches south in dramatic, craggy peaks for 40km (25 miles) to Cape Point.

There’s more natural splendour at the magnificent Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, plus delicious wines to be sampled at the Constantia estates, both easily accessed from the city centre; you might even make it back in time to check out the city’s pumping nightlife.

6. Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Spain

A lighthouse on Fuerteventura at sunset by Michael Caven via Flickr (CC license)

A beach-bum’s paradise ideal for short breaks from mainland Europe, Fuerteventura, the second largest of the Canary Islands, has the longest beaches in the archipelago. Less than a hundred kilometres from Africa, the island’s winter temperatures hover around a pleasant 18°C, with two or three rainy days a month.

Rugged natural beauty abounds, with large inland plains dotted with whitewashed villages and volcanic peaks jutting out over the horizon. The island remains relatively undeveloped; the main tourist resorts of Corralejo in the north and Morro Jable in the south are refreshingly low-key when compared to their equivalents on Tenerife.

Fuerteventura is popular with wind- and kite-surfers, though less so in winter. Surfers, however, are drawn here year-round, with over a dozen different breaks over the island.

A trip here wouldn’t be complete without sampling the local goat’s cheese, majorero, with a uniquely nutty flavour and smooth texture.

Get more winter travel ideas with our lists of the best places to go in November, December, January and FebruaryCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

To get the most out of travel you need to push your personal boundaries and throw yourself head first into new experiences. Whether you’re on the road for three months or three years, here’s a list of 15 things everyone should try once.

1. Fall in love

Whether it’s with a country, your own company or another person, your heart and mind are open when you’re on the road and away from the daily grind. You can be a different person when you get away from everyone who thinks they know you best.

2. Sleep under the stars

Sleeping under the wide-open night sky is like nothing else; away from the bright lights of towns and cities you can gaze at a blanket of stars and the glowing moon. True wild sleeping might mean snuggling into a bivvy bag, but a tent or a mattress in the back of a car is still an escape to the great outdoors.

3. Brave a bungee jump

Push your limits for the ultimate adrenalin rush and hurtle off a bridge, dam or tower attached to only a bungee cord. The craze that started in New Zealand in 1988 is still the ultimate adrenalin rush on every traveller’s bucket list. Go on. Take a risk. The high will keep you buzzing for weeks.

4. Go on a road trip with the roof down

The open road beckons. Ideally with your best friend at your side, a great soundtrack on the car stereo and no set time to get where you’re going.  Freedom is the USA’s Pacific Coast Highway, South Africa’s Garden Route or Ruta 40 in Argentina. Freedom is putting the roof down and feeling the wind in your hair.

5. Drink with the locals

Whether it’s vodka in Russia, rice wine in Cambodia, Guinness in Ireland, caña in Spain or rakia in Bulgaria, order what the locals are drinking and offer to buy a round. You’ll get great advice thrown in for free and some of your best travel memories will be those random nights in bars when strangers became friends.

6. Splurge

Don’t feel guilty about having some “you time” away from the snoring of your bunk buddy or the possibility of bed bugs. Even if your budget is tight, when you are weary from the road, check into a nice hotel with a bath in the en-suite, or book that swanky restaurant with linen tablecloths and actual cutlery. Relax and recharge. You deserve it.

7. Choose a meaningful memento

Probably best to avoid getting that free tattoo with your taco – and definitely don’t take natural resources such as shells – but a little memento can be a lovely reminder of your journey. Whether it’s a tacky souvenir that reminds you of a fun time, or something handcrafted you bought to support a local community, it will bring a smile to your face once you’re home.

8. Go wild

Whether you watch dolphins in New Zealand, dive with sharks in Mexico, spot elephants in Kenya or hang off the back of a jeep admiring lions in South Africa, you’re guaranteed a magical and humbling experience. Seeing a wild creature in its natural environment knocks the socks off a trip to the zoo.

9. Sky dive

Climb into a tiny rickety plane in order to jump out of it at 15,000ft? Why not. Your first jump is likely to be a tandem dive strapped to a qualified instructor, which just requires a bit of preparation and a lot of nerve. The ten or so seconds of free-fall pass in a gasp-inducing rush before the parachute is deployed and you can enjoy a gentle descent over whatever beautiful scenery you’re calling home that week.

10. Book a homestay

We all know that travel is meant to be about discovering new cultures, but all too often on the backpacking trail you end up hanging out with people just like you. Homestays have popped up everywhere from Havana to Hong Kong and they provide a genuine experience with local people – you stand a much better chance of learning the language and customs, not to mention getting a home cooked meal or two.

11. Watch the sunrise

Ideally start out when the stars are fading, as being up before anyone else stirs gives an immediate sense of adventure. Hike up a mountain, or find a peaceful spot looking east out to sea, and watch as colour saturates the sky and the sun edges over the horizon for a new day full of potential.

12. Go on a silent retreat

One of the best things about travel is having time for contemplation with no distractions or responsibilities. Quiet the mind and seek out some inner peace on a silent retreat where you can cultivate mindfulness and experience a new awakening.

13. Let loose at a local carnival

Carnival is celebrated in different incarnations all over the world, and whether you’re in New Orleans, Rio de Janeiro or Cologne, being part of the biggest party on the planet is a once-in-a-lifetime travelling experience. Nothing can prepare you for the electrifying atmosphere as the festivities peak the weekend before Lent.

14. Volunteer

Giving something back on your travels feels amazing, not least because volunteering usually means staying put and seeing a place from the inside. It’s a cliché but you really can make a difference – whether it’s community development, education, wildlife or conservation, just choose a project that speaks to you and help. It’s that simple.

15. Get lost

Quite often the best way to explore a new place is to not to know where you’re going. The winding alleys of Barcelona’s backstreets or Delhi’s Old City hold secret places your guidebook can’t tell you about, and taking the time to wander can be more rewarding than ticking off a list of must-sees.

See a picture of Skye, suspect computer enhancement. That’s just how it works until you get there. Then you cross the bridge, and slowly it dawns on you – Skye really does look like another world.

The grass really is that emerald green (that’ll be the rain), the mountains really are that sheer, the water really is that mirror-like. And, yes, the sky really is that theatrical, its clouds veering from disaster film leaden to romantic drama sun-streaked.

No surprise then that the latest film adaptation of Macbeth, starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, uses Skye as a backdrop. Here’s where you can follow in their footsteps.

For classic Skye scenery

Locals were called up to the Quiraing to appear as extras during filming here, in the scene where Macbeth is titled Thane of Cawdor, but it is the scenery that decidedly steals the show.

Arrive early (before 11am) to grab a parking spot along the single-track road between Uig and Staffin and head along the lower level path. To your left are sheer granite cliffs, exposed by a dramatic landslip that also created otherworldly rock formations including the Needle rock stack and the dramatic triple summit of the Prison.

Taking a hard left you’ll hike uphill (thousands of feet have worn it into a ladder of turf steps) for views down over the Table, a flat grassy plateau once used by locals to hide sheep from invaders. It’s a steep trail back down to road level but the shots you’ll have filled your camera with make it well worthwhile.

For a challenge

The most challenging mountain range in Britain, The Cuillin also plays a dramatic role in the film, as the site of Banquo’s assassination.

But the drama doesn’t end there, as even the most experienced of hikers will find plenty to push them in this rocky range. There are 11 munros in the ridge, the easiest of which to climb is probably Sgurr na Banachdich, for which you won’t need to use your hands.

Start from Glen Brittle Youth Hostel car park and follow the path up the south side of the stream, passing a series of waterfalls. A faint muddy path leads off to the right, ascending the moor. You’ll cross a stream and head on up the back of Coir’ an Eich on a clear path zigzagging up an extremely steep scree slope before continuing along the ridge towards the summit. You’re at 3166ft up here and the views are truly spectacular, out over the tooth of the ridge towards the sea.

Don’t set out without proper gear, food and drink, a decent map and route instructions.

For those who want to get out on the water

“I was really foremost led by [Scotland] and [its] landscape to kind of define the look of the film”, said director Justin Kurzel. And if you want to get a real feel for the views that inspired him, you have to take to the water.

Board a Bella Jane boat trip in Elgol and it’s just a 45-minute crossing to the base of the River Scavaig, which links the loch to the sea and is said to be the shortest river in Britain.

It takes just ten minutes to walk up the river to the loch, with some rock hopping involved, and here you will get some of the best views of The Cuillin. The steep-sided mountains stare down at you from all directions, reflected in water so calm it acts like a mirror.

Don’t try to cross the river (unless you are happy to get very wet), instead stick to the left-hand side of the loch and continue further, leaping from rock to rock and following the often soggy path to get a little closer to those imposing peaks.

The boat runs continuously so you can either stay an hour and a half or three hours before catching it back to Elgol. On the crossing look out for the Small Isles of Rum, Muck, Eigg and Canna, as well as plenty of seals, and puffins during the summer.

For a true taste of Scotland

Food might not be a focus of the film – but it should be one for your trip. Skye is known for its natural produce and restaurant menus across the island make good use of it (try Kinloch Lodge, the Three Chimneys and Scorry Breac for the best).

The freshest produce is found by getting out there among it, though, foraging on a day out with Skye Ghillie, aka Mitchell Partridge.

Every day with Mitch is different, but expect a spot of deer stalking through the forest (look out for snapped branches and hoof prints as signs of recent activity), plenty of picking of herbs such as wood sorrel and bog myrtle and a feast of foraged mussels on the beach, cooked in water from the loch.

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

Bolivia brims with unique and barely-visited landscapes and cultures. It offers everything from the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flats, to the Parque Nacional Madidi – one of the most biologically diverse places on earth, plus a wealth of ancient indigenous customs and traditions.

But despite this plethora of attractions, the country rarely features top of most travellers’ South American itineraries.

So could there be some truth in Bolivia’s reputation as the world’s least friendly tourist destination? In 2013, Bolivia ranked last globally for the “attitude of population towards foreign visitors”. That year the country received only 800,000 international visitors compared to 5.6 million in neighbouring Argentina.

We think this captivating country has just been misinterpreted. Here, Steph Dyson, winner of our writing competition, tells us why you need to make time for South America’s most misunderstood destination.

Image by Barnabas Kindersley (c) Dorling Kindersley

Misconception #1: given that ranking, the local people won’t be friendly

Visitors may find themselves ignored in the market, or frustrated as they struggle to be understood in basic transactions. But this unresponsiveness – sometimes bordering on rudeness – stems from the fact that many people do not speak Spanish as their native tongue.

Instead, over half of the population speaks one of the indigenous languages – Quechua or Aymara, with Spanish as a secondary language.

In addition to this language barrier, poor quality English teaching has resulted in few Bolivians being equipped with the linguistic skills to communicate with English-speaking tourists.

Unless you’ve invested time into learning key phrases, you may be met with a lack of patience, masking the warmth and kindness of the majority of the people you will encounter.

Mercado de Sucre by Cristian Ordenes via Flickr (cc license)

Misconception #2: you’re likely to get robbed

We all hear the anecdotes, or read the warnings on the travel forums. But let’s face it: we’re far more likely to share sour experiences from our trips than how safe we felt throughout.

In the de facto capital La Paz, stepping outside of the tourist hotspots or hopping onto public transport is one of the best ways of exploring the city. However, many tourists work themselves into such a frenzy that they stick to the centre and the sanitised – and ludicrously expensive – tourist transport. This starves travellers of a real insight into Bolivia.

As with all big cities in South America – and indeed across the world – due caution and awareness of your surroundings is your best protection. But locals here will often look out for you, kindly reminding you to keep your bag close or warning you of potential scams. Taking heed of this advice, as well as taking basic precautions, will increase your feeling of safety.

Bear in mind, despite perceptions, that the overall crime rating of Bolivia is actually lower than neighbouring Peru.

City view of La Paz by Jimmy Harris via Flickr (cc license)

Misconception #3: it could be difficult to travel

Tourism is underdeveloped in Bolivia – but the country rewards adventurous souls, offering the rawness lost in more seasoned tourist destinations.

Travel in the larger cities along the well-etched tourist trail is rarely difficult, with many companies now recognising the need for English-speaking staff.

In rural areas, you’ll need some grasp of Spanish, although this shouldn’t put you off. Bolivian Spanish is one of the easiest to understand due to its clarity and speed, and taking a few classes before you travel – or spending a week or two studying in stunning Sucre – will give you the best chance to get the most from your time in Bolivia.

Fundamentally, what visitors must understand is that the development of tourism is hindered by the fact that many Bolivian people cannot yet see its benefits. Few companies work with or directly profit small communities, meaning that tourism may appear an invasion into local peoples’ lives, rather than a means of earning money to support community development.

You can help to change this: take tours run by companies who promote responsible, local tourism, such as Condor Trekkers in Sucre. This will ensure your legacy is positive, helping communities to use tourism constructively for their own needs.

These tours will also guarantee a more positive reception during your travels, and give you a closer understanding of the indigenous and Andean traditions maintained by the Bolivian people.

Image by Dreamstime.com: Laumerle

So what does this mean for you?

Bolivia offers incredible rewards to travellers who ignore its past reputation. Its diverse range of landscapes is mind-blowing, and the country is packed with ancient landmarks – from the birthplace of the Inca dynasty to one of the cradles of Andean civilization.

You will discover a population who – despite what you might hear – are friendly and welcoming. Most importantly, travellers who go the extra mile will discover how hospitable Bolivians really are.

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

On the face of it, Scandinavia isn’t a very sensible place for a holiday. For one thing, it’s almost always going to be colder than the place you’re leaving behind. And when it comes to basics like food and accommodation, it’s probably more expensive too.

But if you don’t mind throwing a few warm jumpers in your backpack and paying a little extra for meals out – and honestly, it’s not that bad – you’ll be rewarded handsomely. Scandinavia is home to some of Western Europe’s wildest sights, from shimmering blue lakes and clattering herds of reindeer to snow-laden forests that look like they’ve been imported straight from Narnia.

It isn’t all fjords and pine trees, though; there are fairytale castles, Viking treasures, and gritty, pretty cities that nurture some of the world’s most exciting art and design scenes. Then there’s that green, egalitarian approach to life that will leave you thinking that – somehow – Scandinavia just works.

Ready to take the plunge? Here are 7 ideas for short breaks in Scandinavia.

1. Bergen and the fjords , Norway

Bergen looks like it was built for a photo shoot, but its beauty pales in comparison to the epic fjords nearby. You might find that the staggering views are rewarding enough (imagine soaring mountains reflected in mirror-smooth water), but otherwise there’s a whole host of adrenaline-pumping activities to keep you occupied. Anyone for paragliding?

2. Gothenburg and the west coastSweden

In the space of a couple of decades, Sweden’s second biggest city has reinvented itself as one of Europe’s coolest city break destinations. It’s still a big industrial hub with a busy port at its heart, but the focus is increasingly on tourism. Why should you go? For the super-fresh seafood, for the locally brewed beer and laidback bars, and for the car-free islands that lie just offshore, where you can swim in cool, clear waters.

Gothenburg by Göran Höglund (Kartläsarn) via Flickr (CC license)

3. SkagenDenmark

Set on a narrow spit of land with breezy beaches on both sides, Skagen is Denmark’s northernmost town – and one of its prettiest, too, with mustard-yellow houses lining the streets. Since the Nordic Impressionists arrived here more than a century ago, attracted by the big skies and soft golden light, the artists have kept on coming. Now the town is dotted with galleries, workshops and antiques shops. Cycle a few kilometres northeast of town to the sandbar called Grenen, where Denmark ends, and you can watch two separate seas sloshing together before your eyes.

Skagen by Tjark via Flickr (CC license)

4. Österlen, Sweden 

Home to rolling fields of poppies and cornflowers, rather than the usual dense pine forests, Österlen is the gorgeous chunk of land in the far southeast of Sweden. It’s one of the best parts of the country to explore by car, with farm shops and orchards sprouting up at the side of the road, and powder-fine beaches hugging the pristine coast. Head to Stenshuvud Nationalpark on a warm summer’s day, squint just a little, and you might think you’ve landed on some languid Thai island.

Nature’s own stripes by Susanne Nilsson via Flickr (CC license)

5. StockholmSweden

Sprawling across low islands that are stitched together by passenger boats and bridges, with views of soaring spires around almost every corner, Stockholm sure is a looker. But beyond the medieval lanes of the old centre, the self-proclaimed Capital of Scandinavia is a slick, forward-thinking city, home to some of the world’s coolest tech and fashion brands. It’s pricey and pretentious, sure, but there’s a reason young Swedes flock here from all four corners of the country.

6. LaplandNorway & Sweden

Wood-fired saunas, shivering forests, reindeer meat, and steaming cups of lingonberry juice: Lapland manages to roll Scandinavia’s most exotic bits into a single epic landscape. Challenging weather conditions and the area’s vast size can make exploring a slow process, but with a long weekend you’ll be able to get a decent flavour for life in the north. Watch the Northern Lights, try ice fishing, or snuggle down for a night at the Icehotel. Come back in summer when the sun reappears, nourishing the valleys with meltwater, and the possibilities for hiking are endless.

Aurora borealis by imagea.org via Flickr (CC license)

7. Copenhagen, Denmark

When it comes to art, design, fashion and food, no other Scandinavian city can compete with Copenhagen. Yes, Noma is here, but most visitors experience a more laidback version of the city, where bottles of Carlsberg are still swigged at canal-side bars, and where pushbikes – not limos – remain the favoured mode of transport. Give the famous Little Mermaid statue a miss, and instead make time for the galleries, food carts and design shops. A weekend here is barely enough to scratch the surface.

Explore more of Scandinavia with the Rough Guides to Norway, Denmark and SwedenCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Is life at home getting you down? Each day starting to feel like a track repeat? Perhaps you’re thinking about giving it all up – selling the worldly possessions you’ve accumulated in exchange for the freedom of the road?

We feel for you.

But before you actually do quit your job, sell your house or abandon your beloved family: watch this video.

If you recognise any of these 7 signs, you might just need to book your next holiday.

Southeast Asia is the quintessential backpacker destination – all noodle stands, grungy hostels and full moon parties, right? Not necessarily. There are still plenty of authentic Southeast Asian escapes. You just need to know where to find them. Start here.

1. Trek the path less followed in Umphang, Thailand

Want to trek Thailand in peace? Head to Umphang, a spectacular drive south of Mae Sot, and spend a few days walking around the Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary, spotting gibbons and giant lizards. The highlight is a dip in Tee Lor Su waterfall, a three-tiered thunderer that is at its best in November, just after the rainy season. There’s accommodation at Umphang Hill Resort, who can also take you trekking and rafting.

2. See dolphins in colonial Kratie, Cambodia

Tiny Kratie (pronounced kra-cheh) was largely unscathed by war and retains its appealing mix of French colonial and traditional Khmer buildings, strung along the Mekong river. It is also the best place to see not only some of Cambodia’s beautiful watery sunsets, but also the rare freshwater Irrawaddy dolphin. A pod lives upriver at Kampi and sightings are more or less guaranteed if you take a boat trip. Take a dip afterwards at the nearby Kampi rapids.

3. Have seafood and stunning views in Quy Nhon, Vietnam

Few tourists stop in Quy Nhon, where the main industry remains fishing and the long sandy beaches remain (largely) the preserve of the Vietnamese. During Cham rule this was an important commercial centre (and during the American War a US supply centre) and evidence of this remains in the imposing Banh It towers on a hilltop just north of town. Head up here by xe om (motorcycle taxi) for sweeping views over the unspoiled countryside before returning to town for a seafood supper.

4. See spell-binding Khmer ruins in Champasak, Laos

Champasak may be sleepy now but it was once the capital of a Lao kingdom that stretched as far as Thailand. Grand colonial-style palaces share the streets with traditional wooden houses – and even the odd buffalo. From the town’s central fountain it’s just a few miles to Wat Phou, the most bewitching Khmer ruin complex you’ll find outside Cambodia. Little restoration has taken place here, and the half-buried ruins that fill this lush river valley are an unbeatably romantic backdrop to a stroll.

5. Get haggling in Hsipaw, Myanmar (Burma)

It’s worth getting up early in the tranquil Shan town of Hsipaw (pronounced see-paw), where the atmospheric market opens as early as 3am, the shopkeepers handing over their local produce by candlelight. There are numerous monasteries surrounding the town, as well as some truly off-the-beaten-track trekking, to hot springs, waterfalls and local villages, easily arranged through Mr Charles hotel. Don’t miss the area locals jokingly call Little Bagan, where crumbling stupas sit photogenically beneath the trees.

6. Get active in Camiguin Island, Philippines

Ivory sandbars in an electric blue sea, and more volcanoes per square mile than any other island on the planet. Yes, Camigiun Island is ridiculously beautiful, and yet it has remained largely untouched by large scale tourism – so you might just find a hot spring, waterfall or offshore beach to call your own. Divers shouldn’t miss the submerged cemetery near Bonbon, which slipped into the sea following an earthquake, while the (literal) high point of any visit is the climb up active volcano Mount Hibok-Hibok.

Camiguin by jojo nicdao via Flickr (cc license)

7. Go monkey spotting in Tanjung Puting National Park, Indonesia

Want to see the orangutans in Indonesia? Avoid the worst of the crowds by heading deep into unspoiled forest in the Tanjung Puting national park for the best chance to see one in the wild. Take a boat from Kumai to the Rimba Ecolodge to sleep among the macaque monkeys and gibbons on the edge of the Sekonyer river and join a tour in search of orangutans. If you don’t see any in the wild don’t worry, tours call at Camp Leakey rehabilitation centre for close-up encounters.

8. Explore the ocean in Perhentian Besar, Malaysia

Skip livelier Perhentian Kecil in favour of its twin, the sedate Besar, or “large”, island with its roadless jungle interior and white-sand beaches. The diving is superb here, with reef sharks and turtles darting through towering underwater rock formations and around the Sugar Wreck, a wreck dive suitable for relative beginners. Hop aboard a speedboat to Three Coves Bay on the north coast for some land-based turtle spotting; the secluded beach is a favoured egg laying spot of local green and hawksbill turtles.

Perhentian Besar by Achilli Family | Journeys via Flickr (cc license)

9. Chill out on Ko Adang, Thailand

An undiscovered Thai island? Well, largely. Ko Adang sits inside Tarutao National Marine Park, which has saved it from development and kept its jungle untamed. The flat white sands of Laem Sone beach lead up to a cluster of beach bungalows, owned by the national park, while the island’s interior is criss crossed by forest trails leading to waterfalls and lookout points over the neighbouring islands.

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

Detroit has been much maligned over the last decade. The largest US city ever to file for bankruptcy, in the summer of 2013, it became the poster child for urban blight.

As industry moved out, photographers moved in, fed by an online fascination with “ruin porn”. Hundreds came to see the beauty of Detroit’s crumbling buildings and deserted roads, capturing the world’s attention while perpetuating an image that the city – and many of its residents – actually wanted to shake.

These almost eerie images have an undeniable appeal, but they will only ever represent one part of a city that has many roses among its thorns. Now, it seems like the tide is turning. Detroit’s future is starting to look brighter, and the press have begun to herald the Motor City’s rebound from the rubble.

Joerg Daiber’s tilt-shift timelapse, our video pick of the week, perfectly encapsulates this optimism, moving from “Detroit’s beautiful decay” to “the amazing city beyond it”.

It was not too long ago that Lisbon was often dismissed as the unfashionable capital of Portugal, the ‘Poor Man of Europe’. This was harsh on a city that spectacularly straddles the River Tejo with a flurry of old world architecture, rich African cultural influences and a notoriously wild nightlife scene.

Today, savvy city breakers are finally cottoning on that budget airline flights have opened up the city. Delights such as the old world streets of the Alfama and the Biarro Alto, plus one of Europe’s most impressive urban renewal projects, the Parque das Nações, await.

Why is Lisbon great for a weekend break?

Because it has never been easier nor cheaper to get to Lisbon. Gone mercifully are the days when the only ways of getting here were ridiculously expensive flights with scheduled airlines. Budget carriers now compete, on the London routes especially, making a weekend break more tempting than ever before.

Getting around Lisbon is both easy and a joy. In fact, the city is like a giant theme park for adults. Myriad little cruisers and ferries ply the river, trundling old trams rattle on up to its landmark castle and suburban trains drift off to the Atlantic beaches at Cascais and Estoril. There are funiculars too, as well as the unique Elevador de Santa Justa, an early twentieth-century lift you go up just to take a look at the view then nip back down again.

What is there to do and see?

Kicking off in the heart of the city, the Baixa is based on an easy to navigate grid system built after the devastating earthquake of 1755. The new viewing gallery at the landmark Arco Rua Augusta lets you enjoy a bird’s eye view of the area.

The Baixa and the nearby Chiado are ideal for a shopping splurge with plenty of pavement cafés on hand for respite.

Afterwards, jump on vintage Tram 28, which snakes its way from the Baixa in a screech of metal as it lurches upwards, past the city’s cathedral and towards St. George’s Castle, which opens up the finest views of the city. They have a café where you can enjoy a cold Sagres beer or milky Galao coffee as you plan your sightseeing from this lofty perch.

Further seawards there is evidence of Lisbon’s Golden Age, which came in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries when its brave explorers sailed out of the River Tejo in search of the New World.

Catch a train or tram to Belem, the historic quarter dedicated to those days. The Belem Tower is the last thing the sailors would have seen of Lisbon as the land shrunk in their wake, while the hulking Monument to the Discoveries strikes out towards the sea, with myriad cultural events breathing contemporary life back into it.

Away from the water, the Jeronimos Monastery is easily the city’s most striking building with its elegant fairytale-esque curves and the flourishes of its Manueline architecture.

The more modern face of Lisbon is on show at the Parque das Nações site, where the Expo 98 was held. It is a model of urban regeneration and home to the Oceanário, one of the largest aquariums in the world, with everything from playful otters to hulking sharks.

There are concert venues, museums and a flurry of restaurants and bars too. Visit the Pavilion of Knowledge science museum and take a ride on the cable car, which opens up the whole site.

So the nightlife is good – where should I party?

The tight, packed old lanes of the Biarro Alto attract a mixed crowd of locals and visitors, who flock to enjoy a chaotic collage of fado groups, characterful independent bars and bustling little clubs.

Walk uphill from the Praca Luís de Camoes and embark on a bar crawl. Clube da Esquina (Rua da Barroca 30) with its live DJs is a great place to take the area’s pulse and pick up flyers for one off events.

Some of the hottest action – especially later on in the night – is out in the converted warehouses of the Doca de Santo Amaro and the Doca de Alcantara, where riverside bars, clubs and restaurants tempt. K Urban Beach is a sushi bar and club rolled into one right on the water.

The more central area around Santa Apolonia is also on the up. Legendary super club Lux, ideal for a cocktail on a sink in sofa before hitting the dancefloor with the locals.

What’s for dinner?

Atlantic seafood is a highlight on many menus in the Portuguese capital. Look out, too, for delicious goat’s cheese from the Alentejo just across the river.

The old world restaurants of the Alfama are the place for simple grilled fish dishes. For a more upmarket seafood feast though – the cod baked in salt is a stunner – head to Frade dos Mares.

Fried chicken is also something of a local budget institution – try it at El Rei d’Frango.

Make sure to enjoy the seriously underrated Portuguese wines too, especially hearty reds from the Alentejo and crisp whites from the Douro Valley.

Out at Parque das Nações, Ilha Doce dishes up the type of hearty, expertly cooked food you find all over budget pleasing Lisbon. Tuck into clams in garlic and white wine or pork Alentejo style with clams and potatoes. They dish up a mean plate of sardines with water views too.

Where can I finally get some sleep?

As Lisbon’s popularity has soared so have room rates. Look out for discounted deals at business hotels at weekends, when the besuited crowd flees the city. Apartments are a good value option. The Santos River Apartments are brightly furnished with river views in increasingly hip Cais de Sodre.

If you’re looking to splash out, the new Myriad is a sleek option at Parque das Nações. This soaring five-star tower hotel offers views of the River Tejo, as well as open plan bedrooms and in-room hot tubs. They have spa too, complete with bubble jets, a steam room and a sauna with a view.

Explore more of Portugal with the Rough Guide to Portugal, or buy the Pocket Rough Guide Lisbon to explore the city in more depth. 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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