Thinking about taking the dog on holiday? Or perhaps you’re going travelling and don’t want to leave the pooch behind? Check out our simple guide to taking your dog to Europe.

Had I known how easy it would be to travel with the dog, and how simple it is to get a pet passport, my dog would be far better travelled. After two months on the road with our kelpie, he’ll never be excluded from European travels again. Unfazed by the long ferry journeys and van travel, he was in his element on the road: roaming miles of beaches, cooling off in the sea and making hundreds of friends to play with.

The only downsides of travelling with this dog were his scavenging skills and embarrassing habit of stealing frisbees from French naturists. On the upside – as well as him, and us, having more fun – he also provided extra security for the campervan filled with our worldly belongings. I won’t be taking him on long-haul trips or city breaks but if you’re planning a dog-friendly trip – preferably travelling by ferry or Eurotunnel – why not forego kennel costs and the worry of leaving Rover in someone else’s care? Here are a few things to consider.

GETTING A PET PASSPORT

On the Pet Travel Scheme, dogs can travel between all EU-listed countries using a DEFRA-approved Pet Passport. As long as your dog is up to date with vaccinations and is micro-chipped, all you need is a trip to the vet for a health check and rabies jab. The vet will then provide you with all the necessary documentation, and your dog is permitted to leave the UK 21 days after the jab. (If you are travelling anywhere outside of the EU, the process is a little more complicated as your dog will need a blood test taken at least 30 days after the rabies vaccination.) Before leaving I also ensured the dog’s collar was fitted with a well-secured tag showing my name and phone number (including international dialling code).

Photo credit: Hayley Spurway

LEAVING THE UK

Wherever you decide to travel with your dog, you must depart from (and return to) the UK on an authorised route with an approved transport company. Eurotunnel and plenty of ferry companies welcome dogs onboard, as do several air routes. The cost of transporting your dog by ferry depends on if a kennel is required and the length of the crossing, but expect to pay anything from £16.50 to £50 each way. On the Eurotunnel it costs £15 each way for dogs to travel.

DOG-FRIENDLY EUROPE

Before leaving, do some research into how dog-friendly the areas are that you intend to visit. Most beaches, parks and nature reserves across Europe are well marked if they do not allow dogs, or require you have them on leads. When we followed the coast from the southern tip of Spain to Brittany, the most dog-friendly areas – with quiet beaches and the fewest dog bans – were in southwest Portugal and northwest Spain. In busier areas around the Algarve and from Lisbon up much of the coast of Portugal, and in the south of France, many beaches don’t allow dogs in summer.

Photo credit: Hayley Spurway

DAY-TO-DAY DOG CARE

The key to you and your dog enjoying a holiday together is ensuring they’re is well cared for, which can take a little more attention and planning when you’re in hot climes and away from home. Firstly, keep them cool; plenty of water, regular dips in the sea or streams, and a small beach tent are the best ways of ensuring your dog doesn’t overheat. It’s also wise to take a good supply of your usual dog food, as dogs can be susceptible to changes in diet, and ensure your dog only eats what you feed him. It’s important that the pooch has a comfortable, well-ventilated place to stay – not usually a problem if you’ve got accommodation, but if travelling in campervan it can take a little more thought. If in a van, have plenty of ventilation, reflective window covers and curtains, so the interior stays cool even on the hottest days. Finally, as well as taking regular stops and making sure your dog is well exercised, pack plenty of poop bags, a spare collar, a dog brush and a couple of blankets or towels.

COMING BACK INTO THE UK

Current regulations stipulate that your dog must have received vet-administered tapeworm treatment between 24 and 120 hours before arriving back into the UK. If you do not have your pet passport updated with proof of the correct treatment, or your microchip can’t be scanned, you jeopardise your dog’s re-entry to the country. Brittany Ferries supplies a list of vets close to its ports, but it can be easier (and cheaper) to find a local vet in a town you are passing through a few days before leaving. If you are concerned about getting your dog treated (or your language skills to make an appointment), you can use a third party (for a fee) to arrange the correct treatment.

All photographs courtesy of Hayley Spurway. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Join an elephant patrol in Indonesia

Wildlife lovers have plenty of reasons to head up to Gunung Leuser, but for many the big draw is the chance to see one of the world’s rarest animals, the orang-utan, whose existence is threatened by the continued felling of its habitat. There are only three places to stay, but you’re free to explore the jungle by boat, foot, or on the back of one of the seven elephants who are used to patrol the area and deter loggers. Whether you see an orang-utan or not, it’s a world few get to experience.

Meet a moose in Algonquin, Canada

Just four hours from Toronto, by direct train, and you’re in 7600 square kilometres of maple hills, forests, rocky ridges, spruce bogs, and thousands of lakes and streams. There are plenty of activities all year round, from dog-sledding exhibitions in the winter to canoe trips in the summer, and Algonquin is one of the best places in the world to hear a wolf howling, or see moose and beaver from the comfort of your canoe.

Come face to face with alligators, Florida

Considered one of the most important wetlands in the world, the Everglades is a vast sodden expanse at the southernmost tip of Florida. You’ll be convinced grasses in the water are snakes and you’ll probably jump the first time your foot hits a branch underwater, but the sensation will quickly become less noticeable as the magnificent wildlife monopolises your attention – plus there’s a great lunch of fresh seafood and locally grown salad to look forward to once you return to dry land.

Track bears in British Columbia

On a Great Bear Nature Tour on the northwest coast of British Columbia, you’ll have an excellent chance of witnessing the grizzly bear’s natural feeding frenzy. Tours are based at Great Bear Lodge, a small floating cabin in Smith Inlet and, from late August to October, bears are drawn to the salmon-spawning streams. There may be as many as thirty bears at any one time, and this is also the best time of year to see the beguilingly cute cubs.

Watch the zebra migration, Botswana

For millennia one of the largest wildlife migrations in Southern Africa was the return from the Botswana saltpans to the Boteti River, but because of drought the river has not run since 1991 and the last pool dried up in 1995. To combat this, a camp called Meno a Kwena has built pumps that fill three water holes in the river bed. Sleeping in tents at night and studying tracks in the morning, the elevated position of the camp affords a great view of the thousands of animals which come to the pool to drink.

Visit Tembe Elephant Park, South Africa

For centuries elephants roamed freely across Maputuland, the region that straddles the border of South Africa and Mozambique, but their numbers collapsed during the Mozambique civil war. Now, after twenty years, the Tembe Elephant park is thriving, and close encounters are not uncommon for visitors. The safari camp’s facilities are standard for South Africa, but what sets Tembe apart are the thrilling game drive in the experienced hands of local guides.

See the rare sitatunga deer, Zambia

The best time and place to spot a sitatunga, Africa’s elusive swamp-dwelling deer, is at dawn and up a tree – more specifically the Fibwe tree hide in Kasanka Park. As the morning mists clear across the papyrus swamps below the hide, visitors watch the sitatunga taking to the water early to avoid leopards and other predators. Yet the water also has dangers, and some visitors to the hide can spot the snouts of crocodiles floating log-like amid the reeds.

Save the chimpanzees, South Africa

You can drop in for an hour-long tour or stay for a week or more at the Jane Goodall Chimpanzee Eden, helping to monitor behaviour or record the sounds the chimpanzees make when communicating. Experts reckon our closest relative will be extinct within their natural habitats in as little as a decade, so spend some time here and help prevent this from happening.

Track wild dogs in the Limpopo, South Africa

The Endangered Wildlife Trust is a non-profit organization in the Limpopo region that has worked to ensure wild dogs’ survival for over three decades. One of their successes has been to show farmers that wild dog-tracking is a viable form of ecotourism that can protect the dogs while benefiting local communities. During the day guests are led by a trained conservationist on 4WD tours that allow them to observe the dogs roaming in their natural habitat and nights are spent in the thatched Little Muck Lodge.

Track red foxes in Vålådalen Nature Reserve, Sweden

From the Vålådalen mountain station at the foot of Ottfjället, two Swedish biologists run shoeing tours through the hilly, pristine forests of the Vålådalen nature reserve. Covering 6-10km a day and camping out at night, you’ll investigate tracks of red fox, moose, reindeer, otter, and mountain hare and learn about survival techniques in the wild.

Become a game ranger in South Africa

Few jobs have as romantic an image as being a game ranger. If you’ve got a few weeks or more to spare, then stay at a former farmhouse at Kwa Madwala Game Reserve, looking out over a small lake with resident hippos and crocodiles and see if you’ve got what it takes to be a ranger: tracking lions and hyenas on foot, tagging and releasing birds of prey, or counting antelope populations from a microlight.

Walk with the Chacma baboons, South Africa

Most of us would imagine that going for a stroll among baboons would be about as sane as going for a swim with a crocodile – yet the charity Baboon Matters propose just this. They believe that if people develop a better understanding of baboons then they will be less likely to consider them as pests, and so they take tourists up into the hills where they can observe around thirty individuals, who, far from aggressive, regard their visitors with curiosity or just carry on as if you weren’t there.

Join the Sami Reindeer Migration, Norway

The unique opportunity offered by Norwegian tour operator Turgleder is definitely not a made-for-tourism experience. The Sami use one or two snowmobiles to carry equipment but otherwise their technique for herding reindeer has not changed for centuries, so expect to eat and sleep like them in their lavvus (Sami tipis), cook over an open fire, and go ice-fishing for food.

Wake up with meerkats, South Africa

Meerkats are normally shy creatures, yet thanks to Grant McIlrath (know as “Meerkat Man”) there is a spot just outside Oudsthoorn where an insight into their world is possible. The meerkats are used to McIlrath and so if you drive out with him before dawn you’ll have the opportunity to see the meerkats bobbing up and down, sunning themselves and foraging for food – all before your stomach has rumbled for breakfast.

Track cheetahs on foot, Namibia

Based on the 223-square-kilometre Okonjima guest farm, Africat funds a programme to rescue cheetahs captured by farmers. They then care for them with a view to possible reintroduction to the wild. Guests stay in luxurious thatched chalets, and thanks to the radio collars used to monitor the shy and endangered big cats, the cheetahs are easy to find. In some places the guides will even take you to around ten metres to watch a pair of cheetahs devour a kill.

Meet mountain gorillas, Rwanda

Finding a mountain gorilla in the wild takes patience and skill as there are only about 680 left in the world, yet one of the best places to have a go is the Parc National des Volcans in the far northwest of Rwanda. This is home to half of the entire population of mountain gorillas and Rwanda Ecotours organise trips to see the gorillas, so all you need to do is decide between a one-day trek or a six-day hike.

Go dog-sledding in Svalbard, Norway

In Arctic conditions it’s difficult to get quickly from A to B without some form of assisted transport, yet the noise and air pollution caused by snowmobiles hardly does the fragile environment any favours. Dog-sledding, instead, is the answer – a green, viable alternative which allows you the chance to protect the Arctic wilderness while keeping an eye out for polar bears, seals, polar foxes and the northern lights.

See wildlife in Gabon

The jungles in Gabon not only have the highest diversity of tree and bird species anywhere in Africa but are also where wildlife of the equatorial rainforests tumbles out onto its Atlantic beaches: you’re just as likely to see hippos playing in the surf as you are elephants and buffalo roaming along the beach or humpback whales cavorting offshore.

Koala spotting, Brisbane

One of the best places to spot koalas is in the eucalyptus forest surrounding Brisbane. The only catch is that these animals are notoriously shy and very well camouflaged – so if you’re with a guide who knows their hangouts your odds of seeing one will be much improved. They’ll soon have you peering through binoculars, looking for freshly stripped branches and tell-tale claw marks, and with luck you’ll spot the culprit diligently chomping its way through the forest canopy or dozing way up above.

Watch wildlife in bed, Sri Lanka

The Heritance Kandalama lies surrounded by thickly forested hills and a shimmering lake, looking as if it is on the verge of being reclaimed by the forces of nature. So seamlessly does it blend into the rock face into which it is built that you can hardly see it from the other side of the lake. There’s plenty of wildlife to see and guests can take part in a nocturnal snake hike – although if you’d rather see snakes during the day you can check out the hotel’s own animal rehabilitation centre.

The Pembrokeshire Coast Path fringes Britain’s only coastal national park, which has resisted the onslaught of the twenty-first century in all but a few hotspots such as Tenby and St David’s (and even these remain remarkably lovely). Get out and stride along part of the 186-mile trail and you’ll soon appreciate this evocative and spectacular edge of Wales.

Long golden surf beaches easily rival those of California; the clear green seas are the habitat of seals, whales, dolphins, sharks and, in summer, exotic species such as sunfish and even seahorses. Further offshore, you’ll spot islands that are home to internationally important seabird colonies. You can wander atop the highest sea cliffs in Wales, bent into dramatic folds by ancient earth movements; and in the hamlets, harbours and villages you pass through along the way, there are plenty of charming pubs and restaurants at which to refuel.

This variety is one of the best things about the coast path, which offers something for everyone – and not just in summer. The off-season can provide the thrilling spectacle of mighty Atlantic storms dashing thirty-foot waves against the sea cliffs as you fight your way along an exhilaratingly wind-lashed beach, whilst the next day the sun could be glittering in a clear blue sky with seabirds wheeling and screeching overhead. Take time out from your hike to relax and enjoy views across the Atlantic, which, other than the occasional lighthouse dotting the horizon, have remained unchanged since St Patrick sailed from Whitesands Beach to Ireland.

To walk the full length of the path takes up to two weeks and, surprisingly, involves more ascent than climbing Mount Everest, but even just a half-day outing along the trail is worth the effort and acts as a reminder that Britain boasts some of the finest coastline in the world.

For more info, go to www.pcnpa.org.uk.

 

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If you’re after a spectacular panorama of the Australian Outback, there’s an alternative to scaling Uluru. Not only does Kings Canyon offer those same spellbinding vistas, but a climb here respects the wishes of the local indigenous population. Rough Guides writer Ben Lerwill strapped on his hiking boots to conquer the canyon rim. 

The morning is still cold and dark when we walk out to the vehicle. It’s central Australia’s way of telling us we shouldn’t be outside yet. But Nigel’s pick-up splutters to life and the headlight beams reveal that the outback bushland is still there, spinifex grass being tousled by the pre-dawn wind. He begins driving, and within ten minutes we’ve parked up at the foot of Kings Canyon.

The canyon rim is just a shape a few hundred feet above us, a black mass in the dim light. But I’ve been here before, more than a decade ago, and I know about the views that are up there. “The first bit of the walk’s the hardest,” says Nigel, as around us and above us the sky starts to show signs of paling. “We should start climbing.”

Kings Canyon doesn’t draw the hype and attention that it might do. Relatively few international visitors arrive in Australia with the express intention of visiting it, but it has the knack of making a marked impression on those that do. Certainly the explorer Ernest Giles, the first white man to clap eyes on the feature, was taken aback when he passed this way in 1872 and saw a mountain range looming out of the surrounding flatness. He christened the focal point of this remarkable landmark after Fieldon King, the chief sponsor of his expedition, and today what the canyon lacks in terms of a rightful apostrophe it gains through an appropriately regal title.

Naturally, even Ernest Giles was late to the party. The canyon, and the range it forms part of, now fall within the protected Watarrka National Park. It covers an area that has been of cultural importance to local Aboriginal groups for tens of thousands of years – Kings Canyon shares this importance with a potent natural attraction just three-and-a-half hours to its southwest: Uluru. For walkers, that’s broadly where similarities between the two end: climb Uluru and you’re contravening a request to keep your hiking boots to yourself, climb Kings Canyon and the journey is more about connecting than conquering.

There are five hundred rocky, uneven steps up to the shelf of the canyon. By the time Nigel and I reach the summit plateau, 270 metres up, morning has emerged in a fuzzy half-light. Within fifteen minutes, the day’s first sunlight spills over the horizon, casting the cliffs in a lambent orange and revealing the scale of the canyon itself. Sheer walls of sandstone look down onto a green creek bed far below. This early in the day, the whole cavernous scene is soundtracked only by birdsong.

The rim walk is a 6km undertaking; although some refer to the initial climb as Heartbreak Hill, it’s really not that bad. And while the whole experience is largely about the grandstand panoramas, it’s the close-at-hand details along the route that underline the majesty of Kings Canyon’s hushed, age-old presence. The ancient marine fossils embedded into the sandstone. The hulking, beehive-like domes standing as improbable remnants of rock erosion. The shaded cliff-top chasm known as the “Garden of Eden”, full of streams and lush cycads.

It’s a walk that in many ways can last as long as you’d like it to. If you linger at the more stupefying lookouts, stopping to consider the feet that have walked these red buttresses and crags in times gone by, it can take a pleasant three to four hours.

When Nigel and I finish – and to complete the rim walk you have to make a reluctant descent from the plateau and return to the real world – the full heat of the day is pounding down on the outback.

Unseen across the plains somewhere, Uluru is being hit by the same sun. A day later I’m there. There’s nowhere, and nothing, like Uluru. When you’re close enough to see it, it’s like a drug – it keeps drawing you in. Before sunset, at the base of one of its faces, I watch a park ranger shutting a barrier, closing off the walking track to the top. Someone berates him, saying that a few climbers are still up there. He shrugs. “If they can walk up that,” he gestures, “then they can get over the barrier.”

A large board next to us is headed “PLEASE DON’T CLIMB”. I ask the ranger how many people go up Uluru these days. “It’s still more than 25 percent of total visitors,” he tells me. I’m surprised, and must look it. “Yeah,” he continues. “But it’s a certain type of person, you know? What gets me is that if you really want to walk on something, you’ve got Kata Tjuta 25 minutes away and Kings Canyon not far off. Beautiful, both of them. Why on Earth would you feel the need to climb Uluru too?”

Photographs courtesy of Kings Canyon Resort (www.kingscanyonresort.com.au). The resort has accommodation ranging from camping to deluxe spa rooms. 

Britz (www.britz.com.au) offers campervan hire from 11 locations across Australia with a choice of 9 vehicle types, ranging from 2- to 6-berths and including 3 types of 4WD. Prices start from A$54/day for a 2-berth based on a 7-day hire. Book 120 days in advance for a 5% discount.

You can explore more of the Australian Outback with the Rough Guide to AustraliaBook hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Skip back a few millennia and we were all arboreal primates. We’ll never know for sure what those ancestors of ours looked like. But in Tsitsikamma National Park, you can discover the primate within by swinging through the canopy – 30m up.

In fact, whizzing is a better word, for instead of bombing through the forest on the end of a vine, Tarzan-style, you’re strapped into a high-tech harness and sent careering along a steel cable that’s strung between two trees. But you can yodel as much as you want.

Each cable slide – there’s a circuit of eleven – leads to a timber platform high up in a mighty outeniqua forest. Here, as you catch your breath, a guide sorts out your karabiner clips, gives you a few nature notes and gets you ready for the next slide.

The platforms and slides may stir up childhood memories of monkeying around in tree houses, but in fact they’re state of the art. Cleverly engineered using tensile forces, leverage and rubber blocks instead of bolts to keep the trees as pristine as possible, the whole circuit is based on a system designed by ecologists working in the Costa Rican rainforest. They used their cables to collect specimens and data. Trust the adventure-mad South Africans to use theirs just for fun.

The longest and steepest slides are the best: with a good shove, you can hurtle along at up to 50km/h, hyped with excitement. But on the gentler ones, there’s more time to enjoy the scenery: the light and shade playing on the foliage above, the intricate forms of the giant ferns below, the passing birds and staring monkeys. Or you can just soak up the rich, unfamiliar smells – the musty whiff of decaying vegetation mixed with the damp freshness of new growth – and the heart-pounding sensation of exploring a new domain.

A Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour is available via Stormsriver Adventures (www.stormsriver.com).

 

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If the skies are clear on your first day in Cape Town, drop everything and head straight for Table Mountain. It’s an ecological marvel, and a powerful icon for the entire African continent. What’s more, the views from the top are unmissable – as long as the celebrated “tablecloth” of cloud stays away.

For Capetonians, Table Mountain is a backdrop and an anchor, both physically and spiritually. Close to the South African coast, it was one of the beacons that Nelson Mandela and his fellow inmates fixed upon during their incarceration on Robben Island, just offshore.

The mountain’s famous plateau is part of a short upland chain that stretches from Signal Hill, just west of the city centre, to Cape Point, where a lighthouse marks the meeting of the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic. The obvious, and most popular, route to the top is to take the aerial cableway – a sizeable cable car that, thrillingly, gently rotates on the ascent. But if you’d rather work a little harder, you can tackle one of the hiking trails that snake their way up the cliffs.

Visit in the South African spring or summer and the fynbos vegetation, unique to the Cape, will be in full bloom. You’ll see plenty of pretty daisies and heathers in the tussocky wilderness, while proteas, sundews and watsonias add splashes of red, white and pink. Botanists have identified over 1470 plant species on the mountain – there’s more floral diversity here than in the entire United Kingdom. The wildlife scores top marks for entertainment value, too. Stars of the show are the dassies, placid creatures that look a bit like monster guinea pigs and are more than happy to pose for photos.

And then there’s that view. You may only be a thousand metres up, but gaze out over the city to the ocean beyond and you’ll feel on top of the world.

To make the most of the mountain, book a place on one of Hoerikwaggo Trails’ guided hikes (www.hoerikwaggotrails.com).

 

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First, be glad that it rains so much in Scotland. Without the rain the rivers here wouldn’t run – the Livet, the Fiddich, the Spey. Without the rain the glens wouldn’t be green and the barley wouldn’t grow tall and plump.

Be glad it’s damp here in Scotland. Peat needs a few centuries sitting in a bog to come out right. Then a breeze, and a wee bit of sun, to dry it. You burn it, with that delicious reek – the aroma – to dry the malted barley. Earth, wind and fire.

And be glad it’s cold here too. Whisky was being made in these hills for centuries before refrigeration. Cool water to condense the spirit. After all, if you’re going to leave liquid sitting around in wooden barrels for ten or more years, you don’t want it too warm. The evaporation – “the angels’ share” – is bad enough. Still, it makes the idea of “taking the air” in Speyside rather more appealing.

And if it weren’t cold and wet and damp, you wouldn’t appreciate being beside that roaring fire and feeling the taste for something to warm the cockles. Here’s a heavy glass for that dram, that measure. How much? More than a splash, not quite a full pour. Look at the colour of it: old gold. Taste it with your nose first; a whisky expert is called a “noser” rather than a “taster”. Single malts have all sorts of smells and subtleties and flavours: grass, biscuits, vanilla, some sweet dried fruit, a bit of peat smoke. Drinking it is just the final act.

Aye, with a wee splash of water. The spirit overpowers your tastebuds otherwise. A drop, to soften it, unlock the flavours. Not sacrilege – the secret. Water. Is it still raining? Let me pour you another.

Speyside’s Malt Whisky Trail (www.maltwhiskytrail.com) points you in the direction of seven working distilleries offering guided tours.

 

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It’s one of the ultimate travel goals: how to well and truly get away from it all. Here’s ten trips, selected by the writers and editors at Rough Guides, that offer true isolation and recuperation. Share your own below.

Sleep out in a remote bothy

Britain may be one of the most crowded islands on earth, but it’s nevertheless still possible to trek for days through some truly remote areas, mainly in the north of Scotland and the Welsh hills. Scattered across these moors and valleys are old stone bothies, once lived in by farm workers and estate staff. Nowadays they lie empty except for a supply of firewood, awaiting the next walkers keen to rest and warm themselves at the end of a long day’s ramble.

The Mountain Bothy Association maintains around a hundred of them across the British Isles. They are very simple places: no water, perhaps a wood-burning stove and at best a platform upon which to roll out a mat to sleep. There’s no booking system, no room key and no charge – you simply turn up, sleep the night, tidy up and move on.

Bothies are only to be used for short stays and are too small for groups any larger than six. The Mountain Bothy Association (www.mountainbothies.org.uk) offers members details of where the various huts are located.

Get out into the wilds of Scotland at Alladale

On a clear day, standing on top of Glen Alladale, you can see the east and west coasts of Scotland. This is the narrowest point in Britain and also one of its most remote: an hour and a half from Inverness, itself the northernmost city in the UK. But then, you don’t come to stay in the lodge and cottages of the 93-square-kilometre Glen Alladale Wilderness Reserve for the nightlife.

Wildlife, however, is another matter. You can watch (or catch) salmon as they swim and leap their way upstream to spawn. The sky is patrolled by buzzards, peregrine falcons, ospreys and even golden eagles. And amid the heather and pine-covered terrain, along with the many deer, there are wild boars, pine martens, otters and a couple of elk.

For more information on rates and activities see www.alladale.com.

Get away from the trail in Alaska

The whole point of walking in the designated wilderness area of Alaska’s Denali National Park is that you can make it up as you go along. Unlike the smooth, well-managed paths around the park’s entrance area, the backcountry has no managed trails, so you have to rely on good old-fashioned navigation and nous.

Occasionally you’ll come across “social trails” of footprints where others have gone before you, but to limit your impact on the fragile ecosystem it’s best to avoid these and forge your own route; negotiating the boggy tundra, traversing ridgelines and following the many rivers in this spectacular heartland of Alaska – home to wolves, Dall sheep, moose, caribou and bears.

The challenge of negotiating your way across the trackless tundra, camping out in the wild and pitting your wits against Alaska’s elements requires determination, flexibility and ingenuity, but your reward is hiking in true wilderness with only wild animals and wildflowers for company.

Reservations (only available one day in advance) are made at the Backcountry Information Center at the park’s Riley Creek entrance area. For a checklist of equipment and advice on low-impact hiking in Denali see alaska.org/denali/advice-denali-backcountry.htm.

Explore the Commander Islands, Russia

When people talk about the edge of the world, they’re probably thinking of places like this. Sailing among the seventeen treeless Commander Islands in the icy Bering sea, where the only settlement has a population of 750 people, is a journey into an extreme wilderness of volcanic plateaux and legendary summer fogs which can blanket out all around for miles.

This wilderness is far from empty though. Around 200,000 northern fur seals spend their summer here to mate and give birth and a million sea birds, including fulmars, guillemots, puffins and kittiwakes form huge colonies atop the coastal cliffs.

Dr Vladimir Sevostianov, a marine biologist with more than 25 years’ experience of fieldwork in the region, leads two-week trips to discover the islands by sea and on foot. One day you might be bathing in a hot spring, the next following migrating whales or training your binoculars on colonies of sea birds on the cliffs above. Guests stay in simple cabins in Nickolskoe, the only town on the islands, or on board the research vessel, part-funded through tourist fees. As time is also spent meeting the local Aleut people you’ll leave with some insight into the culture of those who make this inhospitable place their home.

For more on the people, art and fauna of the Commander Islands see home.comcast.net/~mishkabear/island.

Discover the island of Olkhon, Russia

When Lake Baikal freezes over, it’s possible to drive from the mainland 12km over the ice to Olkhon, one of the world’s largest lakebound islands. As you reach it (with a sense of relief that you didn’t sink into the icy depths) you’ll see the road’s edge coloured with wooden poles tacked with fluttering ribbons: shamanic totems where it’s customary to stop and make an offering of a few coins.

Jack Sheremetoff – a native of the nearby city of Irkutsk, where you can stay at his Baikaler Hostel – takes visitors from the hostel to explore this island, where you’ll peer over precipitous cliffs and shine your torch into icicle-filled caves. Accommodation is in the wooden home of one of Jack’s friends, where instead of running water there is a banya (a Russian sauna) to get clean. Dinners include omul, the salmon-like fish found only in these waters.

Three-night or four-night tours start from Irkutsk, a major stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway, five days’ travel from Moscow. For more on Baikaler Hostel as well as tour details see www.baikaler.com.

Take the road least travelled in Bhutan

If any country in the world can lay claim to the word unique, it’s the Himalayan mountain kingdom of Bhutan. Where every other government in the world views economic growth, measured via Gross Domestic Product (GDP), as the indicator of its success, this landlocked region nestled between Tibet, Nepal and the Indian state of Sikkim has declared that its yardstick is GNH, or Gross National Happiness.

Tourists are welcome as part of groups (or escorted individuals) and account for its second-largest industry – but they are still few and far between. All tourism must be approved by the government as being environmentally and socially sustainable, and as such the idyllic landscape – scattered villages surrounded by terraced paddy fields, soaring snow-covered peaks and stone mountain fortresses with foreboding iron doors – remains almost untouched by industrialization. The close familial bonds, religious devotion expressed publicly in an endless array of colourful festivals, and the shifting of the seasons all still define daily life for most of the people you’ll encounter.

Bhutan also has some of the best trekking in the world, from short visits to the villages in the sacred Bumthang Valley to the awesome Lunana Snowman trek – a 28-day high-altitude trek into the most inaccessible parts of the country, home to yaks, yeti legends and the vast mountain of Gangkar Punsum. Head off into the beautiful hills and you’ll probably come across more yaks than fellow walkers.

If you’re planning a trip, the national tourism website of Bhutan is a good place to start: www.tourism.gov.bt.

Visit Maria Island, Tasmania

“No cars, no shops, no worries” was how the flyer for Maria Island National Park read a few years ago. But it forgot to mention no people. If part of the park’s appeal is casting yourself adrift on an island that has barely changed since Europeans first waded through its aquamarine shallows around 250 years ago, another is that most tourists haven’t yet cottoned on that it’s there.

Because it’s 14km offshore – and only accessible by a small ferry – Maria (pronounced “Ma-rye-a”) remains a hauntingly beautiful Treasure Island while the much-lauded Freycinet National Park just up the coast is besieged by coach tours. And it is the isolation that saw it swing from convict sink of the British Empire to Victorian health retreat, preserving the wildlife in the eucalyptus rainforest and making it Tasmania’s very own Noah’s Ark for endangered species.

Take to any number of paths and Forester kangaroo, pademelons and Bennetts wallabies can be seen bouncing away into the bush. Cape Barren geese, a breed near extinction in the 1950s, trim the grass by the jetty – just one from a spotter’s book of rare birdlife – while in a marine park you can see dolphins, seals or even whales in season. Of course, you can also just loaf about on some spectacular sands such as Reidle Beach, the sort of improbably perfect arc you ache to tell friends about. Or on second thoughts, maybe not.

Maria Island Walk (www.mariaislandwalk.com.au provides four-day luxury treks on the island from October to April.

Walk the wild Tarkine, Tasmania

The little known Tarkine region in the remote northwest of Tasmania is almost certainly the next big thing in Australian wilderness. In 2004 the Worldwide Fund for Nature described the state’s last frontier as “a world beyond human memory, a living link to the primeval supercontinent of Gondwana”. Three years later Australian TV’s Channel Nine called it “the last unknown wilderness in Australia”.

Only on foot do you appreciate the epic quality of the Tarkine. To traverse the southern hemisphere’s largest temperate rainforest, camping beneath moss-bearded myrtles and bathing in waterfalls of chilled spring water, is to timewarp into a world of myth forged when mankind was just a glint in evolution’s eye. To hike 30km up its empty coastline is to be humbled, whether by evidence of tens of thousands of years of Aboriginal existence or by waves that travel unopposed from Patagonia.

Everyone loves a travel secret. Yet after a moratorium on logging was lifted in 2003, the Tarkine is “still wild, still threatened”, as the conservation slogan puts it. This may be one secret to shout about.

Tarkine Trails (www.tarkinetrails.com.au  operates the six-day Rainforest Track and five-day Wild Coast trip from November to April.

Experience New Zealand’s best wilderness lodges

Tucked away in the middle of the 27,000-square-kilometre New Zealand World Heritage Area, 300km from Queenstown, Lake Moeraki Lodge is one of the great places to get away from it all. The light, airy rooms have views out to the surrounding rainforest, while four more luxurious suites overlook the churning rapids of the Moeraki River. From here you can kayak through orchid-filled rainforests, go on nocturnal hikes to look for glow-worms or make the short trek to Robinson Crusoe beach, a suitably deserted stretch of tree-fringed sand.

The lodge is one of two established by the former director of New Zealand’s Royal Forest and Bird Society – the other, Arthur’s Pass Wilderness Lodge, is 130km from Christchurch. Perched between the Waimakariri River Valley and the Southern Alps, the accommodation here has panoramas that are hard to beat. During the day guests can have a picnic on mountain meadows carpeted in subalpine flowers, or trek to the many waterfalls that cascade down Mount Arthur. The lodge even has a working merino-wool sheep farm, and depending on the time of year you can help out with the lambing, weaning or shearing.

Both lodges are open Aug–May; for rates, reservations and activities see www.wildernesslodge.co.nz.

Visit an uninhabited Solomon Island

The Solomon Islands is one of the least-visited nations in the world: as a consequence there is barely any tourism infrastructure and what exists is basic. But those adventurous enough to visit this scattering of tropical islands are guaranteed a memorable trip: with hardly anyone else around you can paddle in dug-out canoes, hike through virgin rainforest, dive some of the most spectacular reefs in the world and stay in simple village guesthouses, such as those built on stilts above the waters of the world’s longest lagoon, Marovo. Conservation organizations, such as WWF, have been working with village landowners to encourage them to start small tourism enterprises based around these activities, rather than give way to foreign logging companies intent on taking valuable and rare timber.

One of the islands under threat, Tetepare, is the largest uninhabited island in the South Pacific. Over 150 years ago its residents fled, for reasons unknown, but their descendants continue to visit the island to hunt and fish. Rare skinks, turtles and birds nest on this safe haven, where, so far, the loggers have not been welcome. Small numbers of hardy tourists can visit and stay overnight in a handful of simple palm-and-wood chalets, with visitor fees used to create jobs and provide improved healthcare for Solomon Islanders. You must be accompanied by a guide at all times, who will come across with you in the boat.

You can help the island’s wardens (who are also the resident chefs, making simple fish and rice suppers for guests) with scientific research like counting coconut crabs or monitoring turtles; snorkel over giant clams and coral gardens or hike through one of Earth’s last untouched island wildernesses. If you like your experiences removed from urban life, then this may be the perfect getaway.

For directions from Honiara, reservations, a list of what to bring and prices see www.tetepare.org.

Where do you head when you want to get away from it all? Share your top tips below.

 

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Camping in the UK can be a gruelling affair, what with the high chance of rain and often low temperatures – not to mention the rocket science-like fiasco of constructing your nylon home for the night. So, we’ve teamed up with Forest Holidays to offer you a night off (actually, four nights off) to enjoy the freedoms of the forest without the effort.

From bike rides and pony trekking in Yorkshire to zip wires and walking trails in Cornwall, there’s so much to see and do in the UK’s beautiful countryside. If you want to win a four-night stay in a luxury forest cabin – complete with hot tub and panoramic forest view – at any one of the eight spectacular Forest Holidays sites in England and Scotland, follow the instructions below.

How to enter

For your chance to win, all you have to do is log in or sign up to the Rough Guides Community and write your answer to the question, “What is your worst camping disaster?”, posted here, in no more than 80 words.

The prize is for a four-night mid-week stay (Monday to Friday) for up to four people at any Forest Holidays location in the UK. The prize does not include travel costs, meals, spending money or any incidental expenses and it must be taken by 31 October 2014, excluding all school holidays and bank holidays (see Terms & Conditions for specific dates). All dates and locations are subject to availability. The winner will be chosen at random and will be notified by email by 31 December 2013. See a full list of Terms & Conditions here.

Special offer for Rough Guides readers: Save 10% on cabins at Forest Holidays for holidays in 2014. Simply quote ROUGH13 when booking at www.forestholidays.co.uk (0845 130 8223). Offer expires 31 December 2013. Forest Holidays’ timber and glass cabins come in a variety of sizes suitable for families, couples and groups of friends (from one to four bedrooms).

The country’s traditional attractions – Warsaw’s lively old town and Kraków’s gorgeous squares – are worthwhile stops, but it’s easy to forget that there is another Poland, a genuine wilderness of high (and often snowbound) peaks, populated by lynx and bears. The Tatras Mountains are as beautiful as any national park in Europe, and their numerous trails – from vertiginous ridge-walks to forested rambles – are enormously popular with the locals, who troop here in their thousands in summer. The hamlet of Kuźnice, just south of the resort of Zakopane, has a cable car that climbs to almost 2000m above sea level (it feels a lot higher); from here, the very heart of the Tatras, marked trails for walkers of all abilities pick their way among the pinnacles.

Zakopane is around 3hr by train or bus from Kraków.

 

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