You can’t expect to fit everything Europe has to offer into one trip and we don’t suggest you try. For those taking a big, extended trip around the continent you could join a few countries together.

Each of these itineraries could be done in two or three weeks if followed to the letter but don’t push it too hard – with so much to see and do you’re bound to get waylaid somewhere you love or stray off the suggested route.

For a complete guide to exploring the region and up-to-date recommendations of the best hotels, hostels, activities and more, buy the full guide here.

1. Britain and Ireland

Where else to begin but London (1) – one of the world’s greatest but most expensive cities. While your wallet is still intact move on to the storied grounds of Oxford (2) before heading to Snowdonia (3), where the Welsh mountains provide excellent hiking.

Soak up some history in the medieval streets of York (4), then make the trip north to stunning Edinburgh (5). Find your inner Braveheart in the Scottish Highlands (6) and fit in an unforgettable hike, climb, or ski while you’re at it.

Pop across the North Channel to Belfast (7), but be sure not to miss the nearby Giant’s Causeway – one of Europe’s great natural wonders. Grab a perfect pint of Guinness in Dublin (8), then wind down on the windswept beaches of Ireland’s West Coast (9).

2. France and Switzerland

Start in Paris (1), Europe’s most elegant capital, then venture off to the châteaux and prime vineyards of the Loire Valley (2). Move south to beautiful Bordeaux (3), which boasts bustling city life and some of Europe’s finest surfing beaches to boot.

Head south the peaks of the Pyrenees (4) before taking a trip through Southern France to the Côte d’Azur (5). Don’t miss the magic of Corsica (6), a true adventure playground, or traditional cooking in Lyon (7), the country’s gastronomic capital.

Try your luck skiing and climbing in the Alps (8), and end by relaxing riverside in laid-back Zürich (9).

3. Benelux, Germany and Austria

Kick off in Amsterdam (1) before enjoying more atmospheric canals and beautiful buildings in Bruges (2). Cologne’s (3) spectacular old town is a perfect first stop in Germany, but be sure to head north soon after for the vast port and riotous bars of Hamburg (4).

Few cities can compete with the style and youthful energy of Berlin (5), while Dresden (6) has also become a favourite backpacker hangout. Then head south to Munich (7), where Bavaria’s capital boasts everything from snowy scenery to beer-fuelled Oktoberfest.

Cross over the boarder to Austria and hit the slopes or the Mozart trail in scenic Salzburg (8), and conclude this itinerary among the palaces, museums, cafés and boulevards of Vienna (9).

4. Spain, Portugal and Morocco

Begin in the Basque capital of Bilbao (1), Spain’s friendliest city and home of the Guggenheim. Then it’s on to the city beaches, late-night bars and enchanting old town of Barcelona (2). Ibiza‘s (3) nightclubs are famous the world over, but its pockets of peace and quiet are worth the trip alone.

Gobble tapas and dance the night away in Madrid (4) before heading west for the countless port lodges of Porto (5). Cruise down the Atlantic coast to the historic Portuguese capital of Lisbon (6), then make for the region of Andalucía (7), stopping in the cities of Seville and Granada as you venture further south.

If you catch a ferry across the Straits of Gibraltar to Morocco and set course for Fez (8), explore the medieval Moroccan city of labyrinth alleys, souks and mosques. Finish up in Marrakesh (9), a colourful city with a stunning backdrop of the Atlas Mountains.

5. Italy

Start in Milan (1) for a little Prada, Gucci, and Leonardo da Vinci. Veer east to visit the world’s most beautiful city, Venice (2), then south to the foodie nirvana of Bologna (3). Glide onwards to Tuscany (4) where Florence and Siena make excellent bases to explore the region’s hill towns.

You can hardly “do” Europe and not see Rome (5), and there is truly no better place to eat pizza than in the crumbling yet attractive city of Naples (6). Experience a Roman town frozen in time at Pompeii (7), before sleeping in one of Matera’s (8) hand-carved caves.

Kick back in Sicily (9) on idyllic beaches beneath smouldering volcanoes, or enjoy the hectic pace of Palermo, one of Italy’s most in-your-face cities.

6. Central and Eastern Europe

Get going in Prague (1), a pan-European city with beer that never disappoints. Move east to Warsaw’s (2) vodka-soaked bar scenes, Old Town, palaces and parks.

Arty and atmospheric Kraków (3) shouldn’t be missed, and neither should a trip to charming cafés of L’viv (4). Leave cities behind for the majestic wilderness of Slovakia‘s Tatra Mountains (4), then head back to civilisation and immerse yourself in Budapest (6) where you’ll find two great cities in one.

Finish this itinerary up in Ljubljana (7); Slovenia’s capital is a perfectly formed pit stop between central Europe and the Adriatic if you’re eager to push on to the Balkans.

7. Scandinavia

Start in the lively lanes of beautiful Copenhagen (1), and head north to Gothenburg’s (2) elegant architecture, fantastic nightlife and fully-functioning rainforest. A visit to Oslo (3) is worth the expense, but after a while you’ll feel the pull of the Norwegian fjords (4).

The mild climate and wild scenery of the Lofoten Islands (5) should not be skipped, but neither should the reindeer, huskies and elusive Northern Lights of Lapland (6). Of course, no trip to Scandinavia would be complete without a stop in Stockholm (7).

If you’re travelling in summer, get to Gotland (8) – Sweden’s party island, buzzing with DJs and bronzed bodies on the beach.

8. Russia and the Baltic Coast

Big, brash, expensive surreal – Moscow (1) is almost a nation in itself, and well worth a visit before moving on to the jaw-dropping architecture and priceless art collections of St Petersburg (2).

Head west to Helsinki (3), the proudly Finnish love child of Russian and Swedish empires, then hop across the gulf to charming and beautifully preserved Tallinn in Estonia (4).

Latvia’s cosmopolitan Riga (5) should not be missed, and when you need your nature fix go further south to the Curonian Spit (6), a strip of sand dunes and dense forest ideal for cycling and hiking. Wind this trip down in Vilnius (7), the friendliest and perhaps even the prettiest of all Baltic capitals.

9. The Balkans

Start with a slew of cheap but delicious wine, watersports, and vitamin D on the Dalmatian coast (1), then move on to Europe’s war-scarred but most welcoming capital, Sarajevo (2).

History-steeped Dubrovnik (3) rivalled Venice in its day, and is an easy stop on the way to Budva (4), Montenegro’s star resort with unspoilt beaches and throbbing open-air bars. Head further south to Tirana (5) for charming architecture and urban exploration, before visiting the shimming shores of Ohrid’s (6) mountain-backed lake.

Be sure to check out the chilled vibe of Sofia (7), and the more upbeat buzz of Serbia’s hip capital: Belgrade (8). End this itinerary by discovering Transylvania (9) – you probably won’t find any vampires, but you will find fairytale villages, colourful festivals, and wolf tracking in the Carpathians.

10. Greece and Turkey

Begin by finding the perfect beach in Kefaloniá (1), and continue to Athens (2) for a sun set over the Parthenon. Sail first to the island of Íos (3) for partying backpackers and hippie-era charm, then on to Crete’s (4) Samarian Gorge.

Get to the Turkish mainland for a visit to the remarkably preserved temples, mosaics, and baths in Ephesus (5) before mountain biking, paragliding, or diving in Kaş (6).

Then venture east to Cappadocia’s (7) volcanic landscape and subterranean city, and wrap up among the bazaars, hammams, and surprisingly hectic nightlife in Istanbul (8).

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

From the sunny shores of Portugal to the darkest dungeons of Dracula’s castle in Transylvania, the following itineraries can be easily combined, shortened, or altered to suit your wayfaring tastes. If you’ve got wheels, wanderlust and a spot of time, here’s some adventure fuel. Start your engines: these are the best road trips in Europe.

1. From the glamour and glitz of Paris to glorious grit of Berlin

Alzette River, Luxembourg City by Wolfgang Staudt (CC license)

Leaving Paris, cruise through the gentle hills of Champagne and Reims to the quaint capital of Luxembourg City, and explore the country’s plethora of fairy-tale castles.

Trier, Germany’s oldest city, is less than an hour’s drive further north-east, where ancient Roman baths and basilicas stand marvellously intact.

Spend a night in the medieval village of Bacharacht in Riesling wine country, before wandering the riverside streets of Heidelberg. Onward to Nuremberg, and then to Leipzig for a strong dose of hot caffeine with your cold war history, classical music and cake.

Detour to Dresden, restored after ruinous bombing in WWII, before ending in one of Europe’s coolest cities: the creative paradise of Berlin.

Alternately, try starting your engines in London and taking the ferry to France, transforming this road trip into a pilgrimage between Europe’s holy trinity of artistic hubs. 

Best for: Culture vultures looking for bragging rights.
How long: 1–2 weeks.
Need to know: If you’re driving in France, you’ll legally need to keep safety equipment (a reflective vest and hazard signal). Additionally, keep spare Euros in your wallet to pay the occasional French road toll on the way.

2. Surf and sun in the Basque and beyond

Biarritz by BZ1028 (CC license)

The Basque roads beg a convertible – or better yet, a colourful camper van with surfboards strapped to the roof.

Begin in Bilbao, where the nearby villages boast some of the world’s best surf, and drive along the Atlantic to San Sebastian: watersports wonderland and foodie heaven. Then venture south through the rugged wilderness of the Pyrenees to Pamplona. Ascend onwards to the Roncesvalles Pass before looping back to the coast. Or continue along the Bay of Biscay to Saint-Jean-de-Luz.

Travellers with a little extra money lining their pockets will be happy to spend days lingering on boho beaches in Biarritz, while those looking for gargantuan swell can do no better than the surfer hangouts in Hossegor.

Finish the trip northward in Bordeaux, “the Pearl of the Aquitaine”, where café-strewn boulevards and world-class wines and are your trophies at the finish line.

Best for: Sun-seeking surfers and foodies.
How long: 1 week.
Need to know: Check seasonal surf forecasts before you go, and look into coastal campsites if you’re on a budget. 

3. The Arctic fjords from Bergen to Trondheim

Fjords Of Norway by Howard Ignatius (CC license)

Kick off in the city of Bergen, on Norway’s southwest coast, and make way past mighty fjords to Voss and the colossal Tvindefossen waterfall. Then check the world’s longest road tunnel off your to-do list, a cavernous 24.5km route under the mountains.

Catch a quick ferry across the Sognefjord and carry on to the Fjäland valleys, a land of glaciers and snowy mountain peaks, to the waterside towns of Stryn or the mountain village Videster.

Work your way northward to the well-touristed towns of Geiranger, the down the death-defying hairpin turns of Trollstigen (literally “The Troll Path”).

After the descent, ferry across the Eresfjord to Molde and Kristiansudn. For the final stretch, drive the iconic Atlantic Road with its rollercoaster style bridges, and conclude with some well-deserved downtime upon the still waters and stilted homes of Trondheim.

Best for: Thrill seekers and landscape junkies.
How long:
3–7 days
Need to know:
If you plan on road tripping during Norway’s winter months, be sure to check online ahead of time for road closures.

4. The unexplored east: Bucharest, Transylvania, Budapest, Bratislava and Vienna.

Romania by Michael Newman (CC license

Embark from Bucharest, travelling northward through the Carpithian mountains to Transylvania, and make a mandatory stop at Bran Castle (claimed to be the old stomping grounds of Dracula himself).

Take the Transfagarasan mountain road, one of the most incredibly beautiful routes in the world, towards the age-old cities and countless castles of Sibu, Brasov and Sighisoara. Then set course to the unexplored architectural gems of Timisoara.

Carry on towards the tranquil baths and hip ruin pubs of bustling Budapest, and be prepared to stay at least a few days. Depart for Bratislava – a capital full of surprises – from where it’s only an hour further to the coffeehouses and eclectic architectures of Vienna.

Best for: Anyone looking for a break from the conventional tourism of western Europe.
How long: 7–12 days.
Need to know: Exercise caution when driving through tunnels. Though the weather outside may be fine, tunnels are often slippery.

5. To Portugal and beyond

Portugal by Chris Ford (CC license)

Start in Braga, before driving south to medieval town of Guimarães, a the UNESCO world Heritage site. Then it’s onward to the breath-taking “second-city” of Porto, though it’s nothing less than first-rate.

Drive east to the vineyards and steep valleys of Penafiel and Amarante before hitting the coastal road to the vast white beaches of Figueira da Foz. From here it’s on to Peniche, Ericeira, and then Lisbon: the country’s vibrant capital that’s on course to beat out Berlin for Europe’s coolest city.

Drive south to Sagres, Arrifana and Carrapateira. After soaking in sun on the picturesque shores of the Algarve, wrap this road trip up in the Mediterranean dreamland otherwise known as Faro.

But if you’ve still got itchy feet when you reach Faro, take the ferry from Algeciras in Spain to Morocco. Imagine the satisfaction of parking your ride in the desert village of Merzouga, before exploring the Sahara – that’s right, it would feel awesome.

Best for: Beach bums and winos.
How long: 10–14 days, or longer depending how long you’d like to stay in each place.
Need to know: As Portugal is among the more affordable destinations in Western Europe, this can be an especially great trip for any travellers on a budget.

6. High altitude adventure on Germany’s Alpine Road

Neuschwanstein Castle by Howard Ignatius (CC license)

The Alpenstrasse, or Alpine Road, is your ticket to a bonafide Bavarian odyssey: a safe route through the unforgettable vistas of Germany’s high-altitude meadows, mountains, crystal-clear lakes and cosy village restaurants. Start lakeside at Lindau and head to Oberstaufen if you fancy a therapeutic beauty treatment in the country’s “capital of wellness”.

Venture eastwards to the Breitachklamm gorge, where the river Breitach cuts through verdant cliffs and colossal boulders. Carry on to the town of Füssen – famous for its unparalleled violin makers – stopping along the way at any quaint Alpine villages you please. The iconic Neuschwanstein Castle, the same structure that inspired Walt Disney to build his own version for Cinderella, isn’t far off either.

Hit slopes of Garmisch-Partenkirchen if the season’s right. Stop at Benediktbeuern on your way to the medieval town of Bad Tölz, then up through the stunning wilderness scenes of the Chiemgau Alps before ending in the regional capital of Munich. If you’re missing the mountain roads already, carry on to Salzburg and stop in the ice caves of Werfen on the way.

Best for: Outdoorsy lederhosen aficionados.
How long: 3–8 days.

7. Godly beaches and ancient highways in Greece

The view from Cape Sounion, Greece by Nikos Patsiouris (CC license)

Start in Athens take the coastal roads south through the Athenian Riviera to Sounion, situated at the tip the Attic peninsula. Watch a sunset at the Temple of Posseidon, then drive northward through mythic mountains to the fortress of Kórinthos before posting up in the legendary city of Mycenae (home of Homeric heroes).

If you’re craving a luxurious seaside stay, look no further than the resort town of Náfplio. If not, carry onwards through the unforgiving landscapes to Mystra, the cultural and political capital of Byzantium.

Feet still itching? Then it’s on to Olympia, sporting grounds of the ancients, and the mystic ruins of Delphi. Loop back towards Athens, approaching the city from the north.

Best for: Sun-worshipers, and anyone who’s ever read Homer or watched overly action-packed flicks like Troy and 300.
How long: 5–10 days, though it’s easy to trim a version of this road trip down to a long-weekend.

8. London to Edinburgh and the Highlands

Stormy Calton Hill, Edinburgh by Andy Smith (CC license)

Leave the hectic pace of England’s capital behind. Make for Oxford, home of the world’s oldest English language university, and a place of storied pubs where the likes of J.R.R Tolkien and Lewis Carrol regularly wrote and wet their whistles.

If you’ve got the time, it’s a quick drive to the cottages of the Cotswolds. If not, cruise up to Stratford-Upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s old stomping grounds.

Take the two and a half hour drive north to Manchester for a city fix and watch a football match, then head to the quirky medieval lanes of York, walled-in by the ancient romans nearly two thousand years ago.

Press on to the Lake District National Park. Drink in the scenery that inspired England’s finest romantics, before making your way past tiny villages to the majestic wonders of Edinburgh. If you’re craving the rugged comforts of the highlands go to Stirling, Inverness, or the Western Isles – worth the drive indeed.

Best for: Locals that want to feel like foreigners, and foreigners that want to feel like locals.
How long: 5–10 days.

9. The secret shores of Sicily and Calabria

Catania and Mt Etna by Bob Travis (CC license)

Hit the gas in the Sicilian capital of Palermo, the biggest historic centre in Italy after Rome and arguably the country’s most chaotic metropolis as well.

Adventure onwards along the Tyrrhenian coast to the golden sands of Cefalù – a great holiday spot for families, with a mellow medieval town centre to boot.

Get to island’s heartland for the ancient city of Enna. Surrounded by cliffs on all sides, and built atop a massive hill, you’ll feel as though you’ve walked on the set for Game of Thrones. Head south-east to the shores of the Ionian Sea and dock in Siracusa, once the most important in the western world while under ancient Greek rule with much of its historic architecture intact.

Then it’s up to Catania for a trip to molten Mount Etna, the tallest active volcano on the entire European continent.

Finish the trip in Messina, or ferry across into the Italian province of Calabria where rustic mountain villages, friendly locals, and the idyllic sands of Tropea and Pizzo await – refreshingly void of foreigners.

Best for: Anyone looking for an truly authentic Italian experience, and of course, hardcore foodies. 
How long: 
6–12 days.

 For more information about travelling through Europe, check out the Rough Guide to Europe on a Budget.

It might not be at the top of the list for great skiing destinations, but perhaps it should be. Tiny Slovenia has a surprising amount to offer in the way of winter sports, from cross-country runs to great skiing resorts – all within easy reach of the capital. Rough Guides editor Helen Abramson, a seasoned snowboarder at heart, tries her hand at racing down the Slovenian slopes on skis.

As I clip my toes into the unfamiliar bindings of cross-country skis, I can’t help but think that more of my foot should be attached to these alarmingly narrow pieces of fibreglass. Has nobody thought about what my heel will be doing? I’m picturing sweat, frustration, tears and twisted ankles, but as soon as we push off into the first track my feet appear to be perfectly safe and the gliding motion comes smoothly and easily.

I’m at the Pokljuka Plateau in the Julian Alps of Triglav National Park, Slovenia, on the busiest day for years, according to Hike&Bike guide, Grega. That is, apart from when the Biathlon World Cup makes its annual stop here in a fortnight’s time. After weeks of terrible weather, today the sky is achingly blue, diggers are out on the roads to cut through the 2m of fresh snow on the ground, and it seems as if the whole of Slovenia is determined to get onto the slopes. It’s also the school holidays, and a Sunday; it’s mayhem out there.

Recent weather has reflected that of the whole season: unpredictable. In January, rain fell in the high-altitude ski resorts, and it was too warm to make fake snow. Then in early February, thousands of trees froze and died in ice storms, and a quarter of the country’s homes were left without power. Electricity is now restored to most places, but over 40 per cent of the country’s forests – which cover around 60 per cent of the land – have been damaged by the freak conditions.

Having mastered the basics of cross-country skiing, I move on to the ski slopes of the Julian Alps. There’s no denying that by western European standards the alpine resorts of Slovenia are small. However, limitations on the number of pistes are overcome by several factors: the opportunities for beginners (excellent nursery slopes, plenty of wide blue runs and a high teaching standard), well-maintained snow parks, a smattering of challenging black runs for the more advanced, low prices (lift passes are around €30 and 0.5l of beer on the slopes is a refreshing €2.50) and last but far from least, the proximity of the resorts to the capital. You can see planes taking off and landing from the slopes of Krvavec, the second-largest resort in the country, just 10km from Ljubljana airport, and family-friendly Kranjska Gora and the smaller but higher Vogel, with its spectacular views over Lake Bohinj, both about an hour’s drive from the city centre.

After a night in the gorgeous lakeside castle town of Bled, a handy base for getting to the Julian Alps resorts, I escape to Jelka, a secluded forest lodge in Pokljuka. I wake to a burning orange glow through the window, as the sun rises for another glorious day ahead. The view from the balcony is like a fairyland, and children are lining up to begin ski classes at the button lift on the little slope next to the hotel. There are dozens of mini lifts like this around the region; where there’s a hill, there are skiers.

Gallery: The top skiing and snowboarding destinations in the world >

In Krvavec, an hour’s drive east of Pokljuka, I watch with awe as a 70-year old snowboarder takes on the smaller of the two snow parks, followed by impossibly tiny children leaping over every obstacles. I follow on tentatively, acutely aware that this is truly a nation of ski and sports enthusiasts. Per capita, Slovenia came second only to Norway in the 2014 Winter Olympics medals table, reflecting the enormous possibilities for learning to ski and snowboard here, despite the small scale of the resorts.

The attitude of everyone I meet is geared towards getting as much fun out of the alpine land as possible – Slovenia is a veritable haven for adventure-sporty types. Kravec guide Luka tells me that in summer you can wakeboard on the Zvoh reservoir on the resort’s highest peak, nearly 2000m above sea level, with breath-taking views over the valley. He also explains excitedly about a new eco-ski resort opening for the 2014/15 season with more options for advanced skiers, called 2864 – the height, in metres, of Slovenia’s highest mountain, Triglav. For now though, it’s time to plunge downhill on a snow-bike. Arms straight, lean back, keep your knees in, look where you want to go and you’re in for a thrill-seekers’ treat. More controlled than sledging (which you can also do here both day and night, of course), but just as fast. There’s so much to do in and around this national park, especially for the adrenaline-hungry, that I struggle to imagine anyone ever getting bored.

All too soon, it’s time to leave. On the way to the airport, I stop for a late lunch at Jezersek, a five-minute drive from the check-in desks, for the best meal I’ve had in weeks. It’s traditional Slovenian food at its best, with dishes such as bakala (cod paté), venison tartare, seabass with polenta and deer fillet with “hot goat” (goat’s cheese wrapped in bacon), in classy surroundings for a surprisingly reasonable price (€5 for a melt-in-your-mouth goulash) – a great way to ease yourself down from the slopes and get ready to return home.

Need to know

Getting there: Wizz Air fly from London Luton to Ljubljana three times a week from €56 return.

Getting around: Shuttle buses run from Bled to Vogel and Krvavec, but if you want to move around the different resorts with ease, you’re best off hiring a car. Most of the driving is on open roads or highways, apart from the drive to Pokljuka, which takes you up a windy mountain road.

Ski resorts:
Vogel has 22km of beginner and intermediate runs.  It’s 85km from Ljubljana and 30km from Bled. Summit: 1,535m.
Pokljuka Plateau has 20km of cross-country ski routes and is 10km east of Vogel (70km from Ljubljana).
Kranjska Gora has 30km of pistes, mostly beginner and intermediate runs with good nursery slopes ideal for children, plus a handful of black pistes and 40km of cross-country tracks. It’s a 60km-drive from Pokljuka round the outskirts of Triglav National Park (85km from Ljubljana). Summit: 1,623m.
Krvavec is 10km from Ljubljana Airport and has 30km of ski runs, with majority intermediate runs, and more black runs than the other resorts. Summit: 1,971m.
2864 Bohinj Eco Resort is due to open Dec 2014, between Bled and Vogel (75km from Ljubljana), with 47km of pistes and direct access via train from Ljubljana.

Ski passes: Prices range from €27–31.50 per day, or €140–160 for six days. You don’t need a ski pass for the cross-country skiing at Pokljuka, though hiring the equipment costs €50/day.

Explore more of Slovenia with the Rough Guides destination page for Slovenia, book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.
For more information on winter sports in Slovenia, go to www.slovenia.info, email [email protected] or call +44 (0)870 225 5305.

Heading to the slopes this season? First time on a snowboard? Look and sound like a pro with this handy guide from our expert in the Alps, Andy Tindall from Rude Chalets.

“You are goofy.” Or so says the employee in the snowboarding shop who speaks a mountain dialect you only partially understand. Fortunately, you’ve played plenty of video games and understand what goofy means: to stand on a snowboard with your right foot in front, obviously. It’s your first time on the white stuff and your encounter with the shop assistant has taught you two things: firstly, facial hair is popular in the Alps and secondly, you’re going to need a dictionary to understand the beard-muffled lingo of the mountains. So here are ten key phrases to guide you from A to steazy:

Bail: Deciding at the last moment not to commit to a trick, which often results in a bruised ego and/or a bruised behind.
Bluebird: A beautiful, cloudless day that encourages the drinking of vin chaud at lunchtime and makes skiers and snowboarders alike feel ‘stoked’.
Butter: A dairy-based condiment spread on croissants, or a type of snowboard trick performed on the ground.
Jibs: Natural and man-made features found on the side of pistes that you can incorporate into tricks.
Shredding pow: If you are ‘shredding pow’ you are carving through fresh snow like a hot knife through butter.

Steazy: A combination of the words stylish and easy. If someone says you are ‘steazy’ then you are doing it right.
Sticks and Trays: Nothing says you know what you are talking about more than using these words instead of skis and snowboards.
Stoked: A term adopted from shaggy-haired surfers meaning you feel pretty darn chuffed.
Stomp a landing: Landing nicely (instead of on you bum or face) after a trick has been performed in the air.
T**t gap: Some snowboarders make an effort at not making an effort with their appearance. At the other end of the spectrum are the boarders who get emotional if there is a space between the top of their new goggles and the rim of their helmet, otherwise known as a  ‘t**t gap’.

Now you’ve got the lingo covered you need to think about your look. Typical snowboarder attire is super-baggy snow pants and jacket. Interestingly, Shaun White, who as you know has been the most dominant force in freestyle snowboarding for the past decade , has recently taken to donning snug-fitting black leather jackets and pants.

However, Shaun wears his get-up for a half pipe run lasting sixty seconds while your outfit will need to keep you comfy for up to six hours in all conditions. Here are a handful of ways that will make you look awesome on the slopes without substituting practicality:

Goggles: As a general rule, the bigger the better as this improves your peripheral vision. Snowboarders go down the mountain sideways and therefore have a pretty sizeable blind spot. You don’t want goggles that are going to limit your field of view.

Gloves: Practicality comes first as with all snowboarding equipment. Don’t wear thin gloves in a January blizzard. However, dextrous gloves alert onlookers that you will be ‘getting air’ and ‘making grabs’ (doing jumps and grabbing your board).

Colours: There’s no hard and fast rule here. Neon is a little 2000’s and synonymous with skiers but you can still work the neon look if you have the other elements nailed.

Snowboard/boots: In this case, vanity is insanity. If you are buying your own board or boots, make sure not to select them based on appearance. Listen to the shaggy-haired expert in the shop and get a board that compliments your needs and boots that fit you comfortably.

Rudeville Jam: w/c 6th – 13th April 2014 from Rudechalets on Vimeo.

So now you look and sound like a snowboarding pro. And if you plan to spend your days drinking mulled wine in one of the après bars no one will be any the wiser. But ideally your snowboarding skills should match your look. Here’s what you need to do to walk the walk:

Lessons: You knew this was coming! Lessons will ensure you’re technically sound and that you look stylish and in control from day one. They also cost less than a round of tequila shots and are slightly less painful.

Apply yourself: While snowboarding is a sport known for its relaxed nature, you have to put in some effort. Practise what you learn from your instructor, watch quality YouTube videos and don’t fall into bad habits.

Freestyle: Nothing says seasoned snowboarder more than spinning, grabbing and being upside down. You can get freestyle lessons to help you once you are proficient at regular snowboarding. Freestyle is less dependent on good snow and many companies offer great rates on freestyle weeks at the tail end of the season when the sun is shining and the snow is more bum-impact friendly.

rudechalets™ is “the most über-fun chalet company in the Alps offering awesome accommodation in the most central locations and run by the happiest chalet chefs & hosts”. Featured image: http://jclabarca.com via Compfight cc.
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Rough Guides editor and adrenalin junkie Helen Abramson is charmed by night-skiing and scared witless by sledging in Adelboden, Switzerland.

I sit looking out over the moonlit valley ahead, dotted with the twinkling lights of Adelboden, transfixed. I am alone, in silence, surrounded by the fierce peaks of the Bernese Oberland in southern Switzerland. If I look hard enough, I can see the beams of headlights winding their way through the villages below and round snaking mountain roads, like slow-motion glow-worms. My buttocks haven’t had this much contact with a ski slope since my first days snowboarding; every now and then I ride down a little further, sit, and take in the view again.

I’m somewhat behind to be jumping on the night-skiing bandwagon, but I am at least making my debut on a World Cup run with nobody on it (late to everything, I’ve left it till almost lift-closing time to get here), perfectly clear skies, in a resort that couldn’t look prettier. It feels like cheating, somehow, to be able to feel so entirely safe, doing a sport I adore, in the heart of an immense mountain range, in the tranquillity of darkness (floodlit piste aside). 2016 will be Adelboden’s sixtieth year of hosting the Ski World Cup, when the population swells from 3600 to over 40,000 across two days. In my current remote state, it’s difficult to imagine so many people here, but it sounds like one hell of a party ­– more significant, perhaps, to locals than the races themselves.

najbo via Compfight cc

With 185km of ski slopes to explore, somewhat reluctantly the next day I agree to drag myself away for some sledging ­– another activity growing ever-more popular in winter resorts and which, again, I feel I’m rather late to be trying. It’s not that I’m totally unfamiliar with it, but this is not tobogganing as I remember­. Adelboden has seven special pistes, covering 24km, where no skiers or snowboarders are allowed. The sledges are beautifully carved wooden numbers, with well-waxed metal runners. Getting a plastic tray as a six-year-old and hurtling down a hill near my home in northwest London, directly into the busy road below, with no real concept of breaking and some interesting near-misses with drivers, is pretty far removed from this set-up.

The conditions are not ideal – there’s only a thin layer of fresh snow on the slopes, underneath which is a whole lot of ice. I’m expecting a wide, gentle run down, but I get the opposite: a terrifyingly narrow, steep path curving its way round the mountainside with dozens of hairpin 180-degree bends and a steep drop to apparent nothingness on one side. Breaking is rather tricky with the icy conditions, but I gradually build up a small degree of confidence and speed, and after being overtaken by a young girl wildly out of control and screaming for her parents I decide to follow suit. It’s immensely exhilarating, and I only somersault over the front of the sledge once, the rest of the time sure that this is the corner that will end my life.

Upon returning my sledge, I find a collection of other entertaining-looking objects designed to distract children and adults alike for a good few hours, such as airboards (inflatable boards that you lie on head first) and, unique to Adelboden, Skibocks. Invented nearly a century ago, Skibocks are just a simple wooden seat attached to a single sawn-down ski. Kids here love bombing fearlessly down the slopes on them, but I’m ashamed to say I give the lethal-looking devices a wide berth. I’ve had enough death-defying exploits for one day.

 

All this downhill action has made me hungry, and I try to contain my stomach-rumbles on the rickety cable-car that takes a group of us up to the isolated plateau of Engstligenalp, with its own skiing slopes, a tempting-looking off-piste area for snowboarders, a single hotel and Europe’s largest igloo restaurant, exclusively serving cheese fondue. Accessible only by cable-car or mule track, this 2000m-high area is a world unto its own. The igloo’s interior is decorated with flowers frozen in blocks of ice, in which some of the petals are surrounded by ink-like, swirly colour trails where the pigment has drained away in strikingly beautiful patterns.

The restaurant is cold – an obvious fact, but one I am hopelessly ill-prepared for, and as my hands seem to be keen to join the art installations, it dawns on me that after years of carrying around hand-warmers for emergency-use only, the time has finally come to give in and crack them open. Half an hour and a lot of cheese later, it seems I waited a little too long to call an emergency – the warmers are three years out of date, and entirely useless. On the plus side, the fondue is the tastiest I’ve ever eaten, and in by far the loveliest surroundings.

Images by PHOTOPRESS/Adelboden/ Christof Sonderegger

A cloud has fallen over Engstligenalp while we’ve been eating, and as we emerge from the igloo into the mist I feel a sense of peace for the second time in my few days in Adelboden – a rare treat in the hubbub that usually takes over ski trips. Eager not to lose this feeling, I return to the Bond-esque Cambrian hotel, where a crackling open fire welcomes me, and head directly to the spa for a dip in the hot outdoor pool with views of the grand peaks soaring over the snowy rooftops of the village. Sublime.

NEED TO KNOW

For more information on Switzerland visit www.MySwitzerland.com or email [email protected]. Swiss Air Lines offers up to 19 daily flights to Zurich from London Heathrow, London City, Birmingham and Manchester (from £129* return). To book, visit: www.swiss.com. The Swiss Travel System provides a dedicated range of travel passes and tickets exclusively for visitors from abroad. The Swiss Transfer Ticket covers a round-trip between the airport/Swiss border and your destination (£92 second class, £149 first class). Visit www.swisstravelsystem.co.uk for more info.
Explore more of Switzerland with the Rough Guides Snapshot Switzerland. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go. 

In 2014 Switzerland’s Graubünden region celebrates its 150th anniversary as the birthplace of winter tourism. Although much has changed since then, Neil McQuillian finds plenty of old-school luxury – and some pleasing eccentricities.

My guide John and I were about to be shown round the spectacularly sited Romantik Hotel Muottas Muragl, and had just met the manager. In the small talk preamble it transpired that she was German, not Swiss. “So,” asked John, looking her in the eye and smiling. “How did you find paradise?”

Had his tooth twinkled or was that just the snow? As a rather lounge bar sort of question, it suited this corner of Switzerland pretty well. My three-day stay in the mountainous Graubünden canton was full of I-can’t-quite-believe-this-is-happening moments: most were down to the landscape’s unrelenting beauty, but others were definitely about the place’s singular sense of style.

A case in point: sitting just shy of 2.5km above sea level, accessed by funicular and overlooking a long valley of startling natural drama, you’d think the hotel has quite enough going for it – mostly of the quiet, awe-inspiring sort (not to mention nicely understated décor). Yet, in 2013, it was decided this winter wonderland could use an injection of boogie, and Earth, Wind and Fire were drafted in to play out on the terrace, an anecdote related to me with no little relish. Obviously this was a one-off – and I was a wide-eyed newcomer to Graubünden ways – yet for now I was struggling to see how a supergroup could enhance these surroundings.

With its “plus-energy” credentials (it produces more than it consumes) this Samedan hotel is an Alpine trailblazer. Yet it can’t claim any world firsts, unlike Graubünden neighbour St Moritz, where the very concept of winter tourism began a century and a half ago this year – a fact that the region is proudly celebrating throughout 2014 . The story runs that a group of British summer tourists accepted local hotelier Johannes Badrut’s proposal to return in winter to his Engadina Kulm hotel, on the basis that if they didn’t like it, they wouldn’t pay for their journey. It’s fair to say it caught on. In fact, though you could hardly call it tourism, the region was already a popular destination for tuberculosis patients, who hoped that the pristine, dry air might ease their symptoms. It was they and their carers – craving entertainment and distraction respectively – who helped trigger the development of competitive winter sport, said to have begun with the toboggan race between the towns of Davos (who won) and St Moritz in January 1885.

That Johannes Badrut’s guests ended up staying on until the spring suggests that they weren’t short of a few bob, and St Moritz is undeniably a wealthy folks’ playground to this day. The town is of village-like proportions yet boasts (it really does) five 5-star hotels and a strip of perilously high-end boutiques. Many of its venues riff on the alpha theme: the members-only Dracula Club, founded by renowned “playboy” Gunter Sachs (once married to Brigitte Bardot); the Kulm Hotel’s Sunny Bar, where you can demonstrate your prowess by doing pull-ups on gymnastics rings; and the world’s largest whisky bar at the Waldhaus am See hotel, with one bottle that’ll cost “9000 Swiss francs a nip, once the owner opens it”, according to John.

The previous night in Pontresina, hours after my arrival in the region, I’d already sampled Graubünden chic myself: at the hotel restaurant, dinner was served by men in white tuxedos with gold epaulettes while Black’s Wonderful Life played on a white electric piano; upon returning to my room, I found that a small cloth bearing the hotel’s name had been laid on the floor by the side of my bed (I still can’t fathom why). Reading reviews online of the town’s other restaurants, one referred to a dish called canard à la presse (“only available in a very few places in Europe”) whereby duck is carved up at the table by waiting staff and served in a sauce of its own blood and marrow, these goodies squeezed out by way of a mean-looking contraption. Haute cuisine in excelsis. I’d come upon old-school standards of hospitality I didn’t realise still existed.

Yet even 150 years into the maturity of St Moritz as a high-end resort, you can still feel what got those winter sports pioneers all excited. I’d come to discover what appeal the region holds if you’re sans skis, snowboard, sleigh or jet-set salary. But watching the skaters on the frozen lake for ten minutes I wanted to get out there; down at the town’s famous bobsleigh track and Cresta toboggan run, the thing that stuck me was how simple they are: just ice compacted down in the interests of having a bit of fun. I got an itch to have a go. Perhaps it’s not so much that you become beauty-fatigued; maybe a compulsion grows to get tangled up in the landscape even more. Still though – Earth, Wind and Fire?

Yet mostly I was happy just looking and basking. St Moritz’s smiling sun symbol, celebrating the sheer heady light the resort enjoys? This spoke to me. And it was these sorts of pleasures that increased tenfold on the journey out of town. I’d ridden the famous Rhaetian railway here from Chur, but in darkness thanks to a delayed flight. On the return leg it showed me everything it’s got. One of the few railways to be UNESCO-listed (and Google Street View-ed), the scenery unspooled in all its naked glory beyond the train windows, as if casting off the ornamentation of St Moritz. It was always most impressive as the train passed out of tunnels, emerging into falling-away whiteness and jagged pines and a chaos of scrambling rock surfaces. And it costs far less than a seventy five-second ride on the bobsleigh run, for which you’ll shell out 250 Swiss francs.

The viaducts and tunnels were engineering feats that I should have been marvelling at – it was for this, not the view, that UNESCO listed it, after all – but I was most concerned with the landscape. Other passengers, not so much – a woman knitted, a teenage girl looked utterly bored, many dozed. I thought of those nineteenth-century consumptives and their companions, finding ways to pass the time once the impact of the place’s gorgeousness had worn off. I thought of Earth, Wind and Fire.

But I remained enthralled, projecting my own sense of smallness onto bricks and mortar and steel. Passing by settlements, buildings reminded me of nervous gangs of meerkats, the mountains glaring down ominously at them. Church spires looked slightly pathetic. The train itself – surely the greatest man made achievement hereabouts – seemed rather flimsy, its progress wary. Could it be that, when faced with such natural majesty, we get a little nervous – I obviously was, deep down – and that this can result in trying too hard to compete (cue elegantly eviscerated duck, in the form of canard á la presse)? On that note, I’ll be sure to take things up a notch during my next trip to the region by hitting Switzerland’s lone national park, in Graubünden’s east. Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2014, in the publicity shots it looks even more unnervingly beautiful than the areas I’d visited already.

After the “paradise” of the scenery (John was right) and the heavy luxury of the resorts, down-to-earth Chur, the canton’s capital, came as a relief. I wandered around the town that evening, nearly seeking out company at Café Fontana, where every table was taken by old folk drinking and playing cards, but ended up in the excellent Tom’s Beer Box, hearing stories from locals of the town’s day-to-day life. I did nearly try out the Alien-themed bar that belongs to H. R. Giger, a son of the town and the film’s set designer, but decided to keep back at least one slice of pleasing Alpine eccentricity for the next trip.

Neil McQuillian was a guest of Graubünden. For more information about the region, and to arrange tours of St Moritz and Chur, visit www.graubunden.com. For timetables and ticketing information related to the UNESCO World Heritage railway, go to www.rhb.ch. For accommodation in Pontresina: Hotel Walter offers double rooms from CHF 320 in summer and CHF 360 in winter. For accommodation in Chur: Romantik Hotel Stern offers double rooms from CHF 105–CHF 150 per person including breakfast buffet, and Hostel JBN offers dorm beds from CHF 43 per person and twins/doubles with shared bathroom from CHF 55 per person.

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Ski season isn’t over yet. It’s not too late to join those who’ve been galvanized into taking a winter sports break thanks to the wonderful spectacle that was the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. But if you are a complete beginner or, like me, someone who hasn’t been on the slopes since a one-off school trip twenty years ago, can skiing prowess truly be realised on a short break?

Taking lessons

I didn’t get off to the best of starts: sweating in my many thermal layers and borrowed salopettes, lifting one heavy booted foot after the other, while clutching my skis and poles, wandering around looking for Jean, a ski instructor from ESF (L’Ecole du Ski Français). In my head I thought he might be a gap year student ten years younger than me, but I was very pleased to discover (once I’d found him) that he was a seasoned professional. He informed me that I’d had all the warm up I needed and we were ready to hit the protected learner’s zone: CoolSki.

 

First off I learned how to knock the snow off each boot and clamp it toe-first into the binding of the ski. Good balance required (or, in my case, a ski instructor to grab onto).

Feeling ridiculously ungainly I shuffled to the moving walkway that takes you to the top of the gentle incline in the CoolSki area. Facing downhill in a classic beginners “snowplough” stance (keeping skis in a “V” shape, open wide at the back), I leaned forwards and set off… very slowly. After a few goes, the long buried memory of skiing came back and I found it easy to speed up and slow down, as well as change direction by shifting my weight from one leg to the other. Jean pronounced me ready for the real slopes.

Located in the French Alps between 1250 and 3250 metres, La Plagne has 225km of runs for all levels of skier. There are different resorts at different altitudes, from traditional villages to purpose built chalets and the piste hubs are Plagne Bellecote and Plagne Centre. The locals seem a little ashamed of some of the functional 70s and 80s architecture, but for me it adds to the feeling of purpose that pervades all of La Plagne. The constantly buzzing chairlifts, cable cars and gondolas that bear brightly coloured skiers ever upwards give the place an air of activity and excitement.

With my ski pass in my left pocket (it scans as you pass through the turnstile) we made our way onto the first chairlift from Plagne Centre. The lift swept us off our feet and it was nerve wracking being 40ft off the ground, but Jean chatted and pointed out the Glacier de la Chiaupe and the various runs. For the next couple of hours we skied a few of the blue runs (in France, this means easy to moderate) and took a chairlift from time to time. I took one or two tumbles and realized I’d need more lessons to learn how to get back up with any dignity. Mont Blanc and the Pierra Menta peaks form a stunning backdrop and I had to keep reminding myself to look up. It is truly exhilarating and as the morning came to an end I was hooked.

The next day we tackled a route through the trees around Plagne Aime 2000, stopping occasionally to take in the breathtaking alpine views or give my tired legs a break (I was using muscles I didn’t even know existed). Experienced groups sped past us: although the skier downhill always has priority, more skilled boarders and skiers often whoosh past a little too close for comfort – even the four-year-olds following their instructors like speedy little ducklings.

Day two also meant less snowplough and more parallel skiing. Snowploughing gets exhausting after a while and you have very little control, so I learned to take corners keeping skis parallel and hip width apart. It felt so much more graceful zigzagging down the mountainside and I was inclined to believe Jean when he said I looked like a champion. I felt like one.

WHAT TO WEAR

This is one of the most important things to know before you go – your choice of alpine attire is crucial for top skiing performance. The slopes are no place to worry about fashion over function – and while the 80s are back in, you don’t want to end up looking like this guy:

Make sure you’ve got the following for warmth and waterproofing and it’ll be plain sailing (or skiing) from here on out:

A base layer: fitted breathable long underwear, preferably made of wicking material that draws the sweat away from your skin. Ski socks are really important as they will keep your feet warm and dry.
Mid layer: a fleece jacket
Outer layer: A waterproof, insulated, breathable ski jacket and salopettes (ski pants).
Accessories: waterproof gloves, good quality goggles, ideally with polarized lenses, a warm hat, helmet and of course, sun cream (get ready for some fantastic facial tanlines).

The logistics

Getting there:
By plane La Plagne is 200km from Lyon and Geneva airports and there are private taxis and scheduled buses available for the transfer. By train Eurostar Ski Train from London, via Paris, to Aime La Plagne (return journey from Moutiers) from £149 return.

Getting around:
If you don’t want to take the ski lifts, a free shuttle bus runs between all of the La Plagne resorts every 15min.

Accommodation and Eating:
Le Cocoon is a welcoming chalet style hotel with an endearing blend of modern and rustic decor. Owner Corinne goes out of her way to make guests feel at home and the personal touches include dressing gowns and slippers in the cosy rooms, use of a beautiful open plan lounge and a huge breakfast (think fruit salad, thickly sliced ham, croissant, freshly baked bread, eggs however you want them…). The Jacuzzi on the terrace is open to a view of the snowy mountains.

Hotel Carlina is a high end hotel and restaurant that you can ski right up to. The bright and airy rooms all have a balcony or terrace and stylish bathrooms, and guests get free use of the swimming pool and spa. The latest annexe houses chic apartments and the restaurant boasts sumptuous food that isn’t as expensive as you might expect.

Le Petit Chaperon Rouge: The open log fire, wooden beams and alpine scenes on the placemats create a laidback and snug atmosphere in this traditional Savoyard restaurant. The menu has the ubiquitous raclette, as well as risotto and lamb shank and is usually busy with French and English speakers alike.

Explore more of the French Alps with the Rough Guides Snapshot for the Alps and Franche-Comté. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

It never looked this icy on TV. And it certainly never looked this steep. But then cameras have a way of warping reality: they make people look ever so slightly bigger; and they make downhill-skiing runs look a lot, lot tamer.

And Kitzbühel’s “Streif” is far from tame. A legendary downhill course that makes up one third of the Hahnenkammrennen, the most popular series of races on the skiing World Cup circuit, Streif is a challenging run in the same way that Everest is a difficult climb.

Buoyed by the bravado of a late-night gluwein, you have somehow talked yourself into giving it a crack. But now your legs are gone, and you can’t seem to shake the image of an alpine rescue team scraping you off the slopes. 3, 2, 1. And you plunge down the slope, scooping up powder in the widest snowplough the course has ever seen. The Mausefalle (Mousetrap) is swiftly negotiated – too swiftly for your liking – and you’re on your way, the rushing wind making your eyes stream as you whizz through Steilhang and down Alte Schneise. Perfect edging and exact timing is the key to success here. Most amateurs have neither, and sure enough you skitter across an icy patch, your trailing ski almost catching an edge. There isn’t time to think of the mess you’d have made if it had done.

Building up sufficient speed to carry you through Brückenschuß and Gschößwiese, a section of the course most commentators maliciously describe as “flat”, you descend on the Hausbergkante – a jump, followed by a difficult left-hand turn over a large rise in the terrain – and then its down the Rasmusleitn, to the finish line. You punch the air and wave to the imaginary crowd. Piece of cake.

The Streif run is in the resort of Kitzbühel (www.kitzbuhel.com); the most convenient airport is Munich.

 

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With 30,000km of marked trails, Norway is the true home of cross-country skiing, the original and most effective means of getting yourself across snowbound winter landscapes. And it’s easier and less daunting to learn than the more popular downhill variety (well, more popular outside Scandinavia – here, everyone is a cross-country skier from the age of 2).

As your skills develop, you’ll soon want to take on more challenging hills (both up and down) and to test yourself a little more – there are different techniques for using cross-country skis on the flat, downhill and uphill.

And once you’ve mastered the basics, a truly beautiful winter world will open up. Popular ski resorts such as Voss, to the east of Bergen, offer a plethora of cross-country tracks, which snake their way under snow-shrouded forests and round lowland hills, while the Peer Gynt Ski Region, north of Lillehammer, has over 600km of marked trails winding through pine-scented forests, alongside frozen lakes and over huge whaleback mountains.

It may sound blindingly obvious, but try to go in the depths of winter, for in this season the low angle of the midwinter sun creates beautiful pastel shades of lilac, mauve and purple on the deep, expansive folds of hard-packed powder, especially at the start and end of the day.

Ski trails are graded for difficulty and length so you won’t bite off more than you can chew, and you’ll usually find various ski hütte (huts) along the way, where you can stop for a warming loganberry juice. As your skills develop, you may even want to take on a multiday tour, staying overnight at cosy mountain lodges and discovering the high country of Scandinavia in marvellously traditional fashion.

Most cross-country ski areas offer lessons and have skis and boots available for hire. For more information on Voss, see www.visitvoss.no.

 

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As the Northern Hemisphere is getting colder in November, below the equator things are hotting up as spring gets ready to give way to summer. The cooling temperatures aren’t all bad however, as the temperature in Egypt and India becomes far more bearable, and autumn in South Korea is a sight to behold. Check out these best places to go in November.

 

Surf in Senegal

Quieter than the beaches of Morocco and with more reliable surf, Dakar, on Senegal’s west coast, offers surfers a chance to ride the days away while soaking up sunshine, unique culture, beautiful scenery, fresh seafood and awesome waves – all in one fell swoop. November is the beginning of the winter season, when the waves still start small, but have a larger range (0.5–3m) – good for surfers of all levels. If you want to learn from scratch, improve your skills or just fancy staying somewhere sociable with other surfers, you could try one of the surf camps around Dakar’s northern beaches, or hop over to one of the nearby islands for some bigger waves, such as the tiny NGor Island. Less than a kilometre away from the mainland, NGor is far enough from Dakar for some peace and quiet, but close enough that you can jump on a boat back the city for the evening, if you’re in the mood for something a bit livelier.

Six epic surfing spots >

Explore a national park in South Korea

Naejangsan National Park, in the mountains of Jeolla-do province, transforms into a burst of fiery colours in the autumn. The foliage – mostly maple trees, but also elm, ash, oak, dogwood and hornbeam, amongst others – flares up into a magnificent scene of crimson, green, yellow, and everything in between. About three hours from Seoul by bus, the park makes for a beautiful day-retreat, with waterfalls and lakes, 1880 different species of wildlife, several pagodas and temples, and an expansive peaked area ­– 76,032 square kilometres – to explore.

Party for Diwali in Jaipur, India

Jaipur, the “Pink City”, is one of the most thrilling places to celebrate Diwali, the annual Hindu festival of lights, which runs November 3–7 this year. The whole city comes out to celebrate, and you’d be hard pushed to find a dark spot on any of the streets, as you bathe in the glow of the seemingly infinite numbers of neon lights dangled over the buildings, and the fireworks exploding over your head. Tuck into some delicious, tooth-wrenching Indian sweets while you’re at it.

Ski in the French Alps

Can’t wait till Christmas? Or fancy getting to grips with some guaranteed snow on a cheap(er) ski pass and quiet slopes? The high-altitude French alpine resorts of Tignes and Les Deux Alpes start their seasons in November. With altitudes of up to 3200m, these are the first resorts to get the winter snows. But if, in these unpredictable days of European weather, that doesn’t work out, you can make your way up to the glaciers, where you can ski to your heart’s content – whatever the weather.

Celebrate Thanksgiving in NYC

The most widely celebrated American festival, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season in the US. Most people spend this day, right at the end of November, with their families, but New York offers plenty to keep travellers entertained too. There’s the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to dazzle you in the morning, a range of cafés and restaurants – such as Cornelia Street Cafe in the West Village and The Red Cat in Chelsea – offering traditional Thanksgiving meals (as well as tempting alternatives for those who’d rather opt out of the seasonally popular big bird), before you work it off with a skate round the ice rink at Bryant Park, or spend a more leisurely few hours immersed in the plethora of arts, crafts and jewellery at Union Square Holiday Market.

Learn to kitesurf, Egypt

The feeling of the wind powering your kite and hurtling you over the open ocean at breakneck speed is like no other. If you’re after the thrill and fun of kitesurfing, Hurghada, on Egypt’s Red Sea coast, is the place to try it. It barely ever rains, it’s almost always sunny and there’s plenty of wind – perfect conditions for this sport. There are also shallow areas for beginners, and, with average highs of 26°C in November, it’s an ideal place to escape the cold, late-autumnal drizzles and get to grips with a new adventure sport. Although, learning to kitesurf doesn’t come cheap; an eighteen-hour course, which will usually be split over three or four days, will set you back about £420 ($660).

Loads more Egypt trip ideas >

Round up elephants in Surin, Thailand

Ever noticed that a map of Thailand looks oddly like an elephant’s head? Perhaps it’s time you joined the hundreds of elephants marching through the city of Surin, on the border with Cambodia, as they make their annual procession on the third weekend of November towards a feast of giant proportions: the “elephant breakfast”. The following day, the elephants perform a show in the aptly named Elephant Stadium, where they re-enact battles of the past. Frankly, it would be odd if the map didn’t look like an elephant.

Melbourne Cup, Melbourne, Australia

For more than 150 years, over 110,000 spectators have come to watch “the race that stops a nation” on the first Tuesday in November, as thoroughbred horses dash round 3.2km of turf track. Don’t underestimate the popularity of the Melbourne Cup – not even the world wars stopped it from going ahead. If you don’t manage to get to the race itself, there’ll be plenty of parties going on in the city, where it’s a public holiday. Make sure to pre-book accommodation (very) well in advance.

For more travel inspiration, try our Inspire Me page. Find hostels for your November trip here and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

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