Best places to spend Christmas

We asked our social media followers to tell us their favourite destinations for a Christmas holiday – here are the results.

1. England

There are some truly atmospheric corners of England to visit at this time of year and plenty of things to do, from country escapes in The New Forest to Christmas markets in Manchester. Thanks to @Burley_Manor and @travelred for their votes on Twitter.

2. New Zealand

On Twitter, @Kellie_Rooke chose New Zealand as her preferred Christmas destination. She recommends the country for “a BBQ near the beach, sun shining and Sauvignon Blanc in hand”. We think that sounds pretty perfect.

3. Barbados

On Twitter, @vickeblueyes was one of those voting for a sunny part of the world for this festive season. She recommends you kick back and relax on the beach with a glass of Mount Gay rum, getting that much-needed Vitamin D from the glorious sunshine.

4. Germany

For an ultra-Christmassy break, @marykingtweets recommends Berchtesgaden in Bavaria, Germany. Here you’ll find fantastic mountain scenery and a brilliant Christmas market.

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Journeys in South America

The four-day hike between Cusco and Machu Picchu, a spell-binding mountain trek into the Inca past, needs no introduction.

Although just one of the Inca trails you can follow across the Andes, what makes this 33km route so popular is the unrivalled reward of Machu Picchu at its end. The most famous ruins in South America are a place that – no matter how jaded you are – stop you in your tracks.

 

2. Carretera Austral, Chile

To see the wettest, greenest and wildest part of Chile, head to Northern Patagonia where the Carretera Austral, the partially paved, partly dirt-and-gravel “Southern Highway”, stretches for 1240km from Puerto Montt to tiny Villa O’Higgins.

The rounding ice-fields, vast glaciers and jagged fjords along this spectacular highway are most easily visited with your own wheels, but most are reachable by public transport; all you need is a bit of time and some organizational skills, since not all buses run daily.

3. Death Road, Bolivia

One of the most popular trips in Bolivia, and some travellers’ sole reason for crossing the border, is a chance to hurtle down the

Favourite stories of the year about travelling

As the year comes to a close, we’ve been looking back over our favourite features of 2016. We published around five hundred articles and photo stories this year, working with contributors from around the world.

Here, we’ve collected our favourites. A huge thanks to our brilliant team of writers, photographers and editors and – of course – you, our readers, without whom this wouldn’t have been possible. Here’s to another great year of travel.

 

Meet the 80-year-old explorer who just won’t stop exploring

In February, we spoke to Robin Hanbury-Tenison, who’s still embarking on fascinating expeditions around the world at the age of 80.

He’s been awarded the Patron’s Gold Medal by the Royal Geographic Society and is currently undertaking eight challenges in an effort to raise £80,000 for Survival International.

 

Longread: Riding the Ghan through Australia’s red centre

Join Shafik Meghji, co-author of The Rough Guide to Australia, on one of the world’s great railway journeys, from Darwin to Adelaide. “It felt a bit like taking the Orient Express across Mars”, he said of the experience.

 

It turns out we’re not the only ones addicted to travel,

UNESCO heritage list

Each year, UNESCO adds a slew of new sites to its World Heritage List, which this yearincluded a cave complex and an entire archipelago. But there’s another list that’s far less talked about. Its contents don’t feature on travellers’ bucket lists and there’s little coverage in the media when it’s updated. Yet it’s just as – if not more – important than its counterpart.

The UNESCO Intangible Heritage List is an inventory of some of the world’s greatest traditions and traditional practices, from copper craftsmanship in Azerbaijan to the summer solstice festivals in the Pyrenees. We reported on last year’s newest inscriptions, and last week the 2016 list was updated.

Here are this year’s new additions:

1. Bisalhães black pottery manufacturing process, Portugal
2. Chapei Dang Veng (a two-stringed guitar), Cambodia
3. Cossack’s songs of Dnipropetrovsk in Ukraine
4. Ma’di bowl lyre music and dance in Uganda
5. Almezmar, drumming and dancing with sticks, Saudi Arabia
6. Argungu international fishing and cultural festival, Nigeria
7. Beer culture in Belgium

8. Bhojpuri folk songs in Mauritius
9. The Carnival of El Callao, a festive representation of a memory and cultural identity in Venezuela
10. The Carnival of Granville, France
11. Charrería – an equestrian tradition in Mexico
12. The culture of Jeju Haenyeo (women

Inland Croatia

Falling to Serbian forces on November 18, 1991, Vukovar remained under occupation until 1998. In the meantime the restorers have been busy and, a quarter of a century after the siege, the town is at last beginning to resemble its charming old self.

Vukovar is an important symbol of resistance to Croats, and memorial tourism is deeply embedded in the fabric of the place. However it’s also it’s also the kind of town where you can laze beside the river, go cycling in parks, dine on catfish, and marvel at one of Europe’s most compelling prehistoric sites.

Vukovar is best treated as a double date with the historic fortress town of Ilok, 30 kilometres downriver, where you’ll find the best of the local wines and some great B&Bs. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Vukovar and Ilok.

 

Where exactly is it?

Vukovar lies in the green, agriculturally-rich southeast of Croatia, about as far away from the tourist-swarmed Adriatic coast as you can get. The nearest city is Osijek, a Baroque jewel 40km to the north; you can either fly to Osijek or catch a bus from Croatian capital Zagreb (5hr 30min), or from Novi Sad in Serbia (2hr 30min).

What should

Costa Rica to Thailand Guide

Sweden’s Treehotel, built by some of the country’s finest architects, takes the humble treehouse to new levels. Its six, strikingly modern “treerooms” range from the futuristic glass Mirrorcube to the alien-like UFO. And if a night here wasn’t unforgettable enough, there’s even a sauna suspended from the pines.

2. Tree House Lodge, Costa Rica

In 10 acres behind Punta Uva beach in the province of Limón lies a treehouse that owners Edsart Besier & Pamela Rodriguez promise will take you back to your childhood. Surrounded by a tropical garden and accessed via a wooden suspension bridge, it’s the perfect place to unwind.

 

3. Garden Village, Slovenia

A short walk from the banks of Slovenia’s famous Lake Bled, Garden Village is a fairytale come to life. Neat rows of luxury glamping tents are staggered down the hillside, while six treehouses hide in the woods alongside, connected by wooden platforms and short suspension bridges. Romantic escapes don’t come much better than this.

4. Chewton Glen, England

You’ll find the ultimate in treehouse luxury at Chewton Glen in the New Forest. Four luxury treehouse cabins are squirrelled away in a wooded valley here and the extras are fittingly decadent: spa

When you come in Morocco

These are all worthwhile destinations in their own right, but there’s a whole host of better-kept secrets to be discovered in Morocco, and Chefchaouen (often shortened to Chaouen) remains one of the most alluring of the lot.

Hidden in the Rif Mountains, half a day’s drive away from the nearest cities of Fez or Tangier, Chefchaouen is as impossible to pronounce (“shef-sha-wen”) as it is to get your head around.

Everything about it is a bit off-beat: the locals here speak Spanish, not the French or Arabic that the guidebooks prepare you for; the town has a long history of hippie-culture and hashish that is still present today; and, perhaps most extraordinary of all, the entire medina is washed in a thousand magnificent shades of blue.

 

Time-travelling in the medina

In The Rough Guide to Morocco we describe Chaouen’s medina as “surely the prettiest in the country”, and it’s hard to imagine anyone making a compelling argument against this.

Getting lost in the old town’s narrow and uncrowded streets is a photographer’s dream, with stray cats posing in front of ornate indigo doorways – many still wet from the morning’s lick of paint – and impossibly old men shuffling up and down blue staircases in conical hooded

Japan Guide Travelling

With its tech-centric entertainment, ancient temples, lightning fast rail system and traditional art forms, Japan offers a fascinating mix of the new and the old. Between rural Hokkaido and the tropical islands of Okinawa, you’re bound to find something to embrace as a curious backpacker. And with the following insider tips, backpacking Japan can be both memorable and affordable.

1. Skip the train

Rail passes can be pricey and often completely unnecessary given the cheap deals offered by airlines, ferries, and buses. Low-cost carriers like Vanilla Air or Peach can whisk you to another major city for as little as ¥3000 one way.

Overnight ferries – such as the Sunflower, which runs from Osaka to Beppu – give travellers tatami mat sleeping space and the chance to party with locals on deck (just be sure to bring an eye-mask and earplugs if you actually want to sleep). Similarly, overnight buses crisscross the country at highly discounted rates.

 

2. Or buy discounted train tickets

If riding the shinkansen is a non-negotiable part of your Japan experience, opt for deals like the Puratto Kodama. This one-way ticket saves you ¥4000 off the regular

Travellers embark on journeys

While missed flights and lost luggage won’t make the headlines, some stories are a little more entertaining. From badly photoshopped holiday snaps to 47-year-long layovers, these are the silly travel stories that we’ll be giggling over long into 2017.

 

1. The man who x-rayed himself

Ah, border crossings. A bit boring once you’ve done enough of them, but bewildering the first time you try.

Spare a thought, then, for this man attempting to cross the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Although he’s asked to put his bag through the x-ray machine, he seems to misunderstand and ends up putting his whole body through the scanner – much to the surprise of security staff on the other side.

 

2. The woman who photoshopped herself to China

Kenyan travel fan Sevelyn Gat became an internet sensation back in March 2016 when badly photoshopped images of her “travelling” began attracting thousands of likes on Facebook. Unable to afford a trip to Asia, she’d superimposed herself onto images of famous Chinese sights like the Great Wall – with hilarious consequences.

Sevelyn had the last laugh, though; a sympathetic Kenyan businessman later decided to fund her real-life trip to China.

Solo travelling guide

Ask anyone who’s ever travelled solo, and they probably wouldn’t want to adventure any other way. It might be daunting at first, and it’s certainly simpler for some people than it is for others. But spending time alone on the road is among the most rewarding travel experiences out there.

Whether it’s a long trip around the world or a habit of solitary weekend jaunts, here are 10 things everybody learns while travelling alone:

1. You always return home with lots of new friends

Ever noticed that you’re more likely to ask one person for directions than you are to ask a group of people? Solos are more approachable, plain and simple. Lone travellers learn that the benefits of this are twofold: not only will other travellers feel far more comfortable introducing themselves to you, but it’s actually easier for you to strike up conversation with others as well.

 

2. You can engage with locals on a level that only solo travellers can

You know that local folks are more open, and definitely more curious, when it’s only you walking into that hole-in-the-wall café, or sampling the pungent flavours of that roadside food stall. From a heartfelt conversation on a rickety train, to suddenly

Eastern Europe

Bulgarian capital Sofia will only ever earn a “well-it’s-OK-I-suppose” rating on your list of travel highlights. It’s second city Plovdiv that inspires the superlatives, with its enchanting blend of Roman remains, Ottoman-era mosques, stately Levantine houses and fresco-filled churches.

There’s a bohemian nightlife district in the cobbled Kapana quarter, and a host of cultural festivals – the city will be European Capital of Culture in 2019 and is already gearing itself up for the experience.

 

For brilliant beaches: the Curonian Spit, Lithuania

People say that the Baltic Sea is too cold for a beach holiday, and they’re almost always right. However it is home to some of Europe’s most unique landscapes, most notably the stark dune-scape of the Curonian Spit (called Neringa in Lithuanian).

Deep forest and never-ending beaches characterize this narrow strip of land just off the coast, although it is the huge, shifting dunes above the fishing village of Nida that make an unforgettable impression.

For a break from the crowds: Tartu, Estonia

Estonia’s second city Tartu is one of those European gems that will have you scratching your head as to why it’s not on everybody else’s bucket list. The leafy university city offers Neo-classical architecture, cute neighbourhoods and cult drinking

First travelling in oman

Poised between the glitzy excess of the Emirates and the rigid conservatism of Saudi Arabia, Oman provides a winning introduction to the Middle East. Politically stable, and packing in a huge range of landscapes from rugged desert and turtle-nesting beaches to misty green mountains, you’ll find off-road adventures, winter sun and old-fashioned Arabian hospitality. Andy Turner introduces what not to miss on a first trip to the sultanate.

 

Make the most of Muscat

Snaking for 30km along the Gulf coastline, it’s hard to tell where the Omani capital, Muscat, begins and ends, yet among its sprawling apartments and fast freeways are several architectural gems worth seeking out.

First on any itinerary has to be the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, whose stunning latticework dome glints in the sun by day and is beautifully lit come nightfall. Inside the main hall, which can cram in 20,000 worshippers, is a gargantuan Swarovski crystal chandelier suspended above what seems like acres of hand-woven Persian carpet (now inevitably trumped by a slightly larger carpet in Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed mosque).

 

Portraits of Sultan Qaboos, Oman’s supreme ruler, gaze down at you across the country (the humblest shop is likely to have a framed photograph of the dear leader). Your best chance of catching a glimpse

How to find amazing destinations around the world

The most surreal places on Earth aren’t just spell-bindingly beautiful, but possess the power to transport you into a fantastical reality. Here, Phoebe Lowndes picks 14 of the world’s most awe-inspiring destinations. You have to see these places to believe them.

 

1. Marfa, Texas

This small desert city in America’s Southwest is gathering notoriety for championing contemporary art and culture. In this unlikely location, you’ll find historic architecture juxtaposed with minimalist sculpture in a vast expanse of arid desert. Tales of paranormal phenomena are also rife, with UFO sightings and unexplained incidences of eerie lights – known worldwide as the ‘Marfa Lights’ – witnessed with surprising regularity to this day. Marfa is charming, mythical and altogether unmissable.

2. The ‘Devil’s throat’, Iguazú Falls, Argentina

Eleanor Roosevelt famously exclaimed “Poor Niagara” upon laying eyes on Iguazú Falls, and it would be hard to disagree. Dare to lean even a tiny bit over the rail on the jutting viewing platform at the heart of the Falls, known as ‘the Devil’s throat’, and you will be rewarded with a surreal and breathtaking rush. As water surges underfoot, the sensation of being swept away (although safely stationed) is nerve-tingling. The sound is roaring and intense; it shakes you to

How to enjoy on travelling

Is your passport is groaning under the weight of international ink? Do your friends forget which country you’re in? If you recognise any of these signs, you’ve been bitten hard by the travel bug in 2016.

 

1. There’s a big hole in your bank account

A long weekend away or a carefully planned backpacking trip might seem budget-friendly to begin with, but once you’ve been tempted by a tour of the Galápagos Islands or a week in Iceland searching for the Northern Lights things start to add up.

What was once a well-fed bank account is now a shadow of its former self. Its demise may have been inversely proportional to your growing happiness, but you’re starting to wonder whether you might need to find a cheaper passion – well, for the next few months at least.

2. Your kitchen is bare

Thanks to all the time you’ve spent on the road, your kitchen has seen better times. At least you’ve got enough miniature bottles of spirits pilfered from airlines and hotel rooms to keep you going for a while.

 

3. You need a new passport – again

Those celebratory stamps at Machu Picchu and Ushuaia are starting to look like a costly use of space. You still carry your ink-cluttered passport with pride, but you’re starting to resent the irritating

Around the world fro travelling

The festive period is upon us again, and with so many celebrations it can be hard to keep up the pace. Luckily, there are some pretty inventive hangover cures out there to help you make it through to the new year. We’ve compiled some of the most interesting from around the world to ensure that you have a fighting chance the next day…

 

1. Leche de tigre (tiger’s milk), Peru

Your Peruvian hangover cure comes with a side of ceviche – leche de tigre is the marinade used to cure the fish. You might drink it from the bowl after you’ve finished eating or sip it from a glass on the side, but either way, the combination of lime, onion, chilli, garlic and fresh coriander will be sure to blow away those cobwebs.

 

2. Shakshuka, Tunisia

This delicious mixture of red peppers, harissa, tomatoes and eggs is thought to have originated in Tunisia, but is incredibly popular across North Africa and parts of the Middle East. Served with fresh, crusty bread, it’ll put your regular breakfast to shame.

 

3. Ostrich egg omelette, South Africa

Got a group of hungover friends? You’ll want to embrace a South African hangover cure and whip up an ostrich egg omlette.

Golden Triangle

The Golden Triangle is the route between Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, and is named for the almost-equilateral triangle that the three cities make when plotted on a map. Starting in the capital, Delhi, and taking in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, it’s India’s most well-trodden tourist track. Why “Golden”? Well, for the extraordinary religious and historical sights that the three stops offer.

 

What are the highlights?

Most people start in Delhi, where the majority of international flights arrive. While you could spend weeks exploring the city’s sights, from the museums of the Mughal Red Fortto the towering Qutb Minar and the British Raj-era India Gate, the best way to get a feel for the capital’s dynamism is by walking through its streets and bazaars. Two of the most vibrant are Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi and New Delhi’s Paharganj.

The magnificent Taj Mahal is, unsurprisingly, Agra’s premier sight, and nothing can really prepare you for the sheer scale and regal splendour of the structure up close. Try to time your visit with sunrise or sunset, when the Taj is at its most majestic. Nearby Agra Fort is also well worth a visit; from its walls, you can spot the Taj Mahal

Find the best place for travelling in South America

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Instead, over half of the population speaks one of the indigenous languages

Beautiful places in India

We asked the Rough Guides team in Delhi to vote for the most beautiful places in India. After much deliberation, here are the results…

 

10. Chilika Lake, Odisha

Fed by fresh-water rivers and washed by the sea, this biodiversity hotspot is a wintering ground for migratory birds and home to a number of threatened aquatic species, including the Irrawaddy dolphin. A stunning place to start off our list of the most beautiful places in India.

9. Madikeri, Coorg, Karnataka

Our Delhi team voted for Madikeri as an excellent base from which to explore the lush national parks, natural beauty and gorgeous coffee plantations that abound in this scenic stretch of the Western Ghats.

8. Mawlynnong, Meghalaya

Described by one of our editors as magical, this village in the East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya is simply stunning. The surrounding areas are just as unforgettable, with natural bridges made by twisting the roots of rubber trees crossing the rivulets and streams.

7. Kumarakom Backwaters, Kerala

At number seven in the list, Kerala’s scenic backwaters, edged with coconut palms, lush green rice paddies and picturesque villages, make for a beautiful escape from hectic city life.

Travel

Student on travelling

Travel is the best form of procrastination and as a student, with those long holidays full of faraway deadlines, it’s almost inevitable you’re going to want to get away. Flights are cheaper than ever before, so there’s no excuse whatever your budget. Whatever our preference, here are some of the best places to spend your student breaks.

 

For beaches: Albania

The beaches of the rugged Albanian Riviera are picture perfect, nestled in secluded coves and lapped by crystal clear-waters. The coastline is dotted with traditional villages, and there are budget hotels and restaurants by the dozen.

Travellers inevitably find themselves staying longer than planned, whiling away their days on the beach with an ice-cold beer in hand – after all, this is one of the cheapest places in Europe to enjoy a lager (or two).

 

For nightlife: Madrid, Spain

With everything starting so late (don’t expect lunch till about 4pm and dinner certainly not before 9pm), you’ll find yourself partying here until sunrise – at least.

The Spanish capital is home to scores of wild bars, pubs and clubs catering to all musical tastes where you can dance your socks off as you knock down some potent drinks.

You’ll probably find yourself in a café eating churros

Learn before you go backpacking

That’s when paranoia sets in, and the unfamiliarity of your surroundings can make your trip feel like an ordeal worthy of Odysseus. Fret not: everyone needs a helping hand from time to time. Here are five skills that’ll help you on your way.

 

1. Understand the rules of the road

The first is simple: there are no rules. You yell stop, the traffic continues regardless, and a truck held together with no more than a hope and a prayer, thunders towards you as if involved in a Mad Max death race.

From Africa and India to Southeast Asia, it’s almost a contractual obligation. If you glare forebodingly at the truck driver, he’s still going to come for you. If you boldly walk on, you might get mowed down.

That may be a teensy exaggeration, but consider this: according to the latest WHO report, some of the most popular countries to travel to in 2016 are the most dangerous in which to be a pedestrian. There were 24,896 fatalities from road accidents in Iran, for instance, while in Thailand the number of road deaths hit 24,237. Other traveller hotspots such as Vietnam, Oman, Brazil, and South Africa are equally as foolhardy.

It’s Wacky Races logic out there,