A Guide to Moscow’s Park Life

 Gorky Park

Moscow’s park revolution started with the famous Gorky Park. It was the first of the city parks to receive private investment, turning it into the number-one weekend spot for thousands of Muscovites. Full of lush green, artsy flowerbeds and thought-provoking sculptures, it was also the first to feature drinking fountains, never before seen in the city.

There are very few things you can’t do in Gorky Park. Rollerblading, skateboarding and cycling, beach volleyball, yoga and fitness classes, electric cars and boat rentals, parkour – you name it. All summer long, dancing sessions are held in the evenings on the specially equipped embankment. There’s an open-air movie theatre called Pioner, pop-up screens for special events, music festivals and futuristic playgrounds. The cutting-edge Garage Museum of Contemporary Art hosts temporary exhibitions.

Vorobyovy Gory

Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills) is connected to Gorky Park by the Moscow river and its long embankment, meaning you can spend a relaxing day in the area walking both of the parks and enjoying what they have to offer. This nature reserve covers the hills below the grandMoscow State University; the observation deck on the top offers a beautiful view over half of the city. Not as well equipped as its neighbour, Vorobyovy Gory is a great retreat for those who want to enjoy some fresh air and listen to birdsong (there are bird-spotting routes throughout the park). You can do a little bit of hiking here, or try skating and cycling. When the snow covers the hills, the downhill skiing season starts, even though the main slope is neither high nor long.

VDNKh

The VDNKh (aka the All-Russia Exhibition Centre) wasn’t, in fact, a park when it was conceived in 1935. This vast area hosted the first all-Soviet exhibition, showcasing the country’s agricultural achievements in pavilions dedicated to each of the Soviet republics. Now it’s a favorite among museum-hoppers, families, active young people and picky shoppers. It’s also a marvel of Soviet architecture; you can spend days here and never see all of it.

The museums and shopping pavilions sell traditional Russian crafts, foods and even plants, while old-style vending machines have typical Soviet lemonades. The complex includes a zip-line, an oceanarium, a contact zoo, a bonsai greenhouse and a horse-riding rink. In summer, look out for water-gun battles and flashmobs; in winter, there’s a gigantic, 20,000-sq-m ice rink. Check the website for details and curious walking tours.

Aptekarsky Ogorod

Moscow State University’s Aptekarsky Ogorod (Apothecaries’ Garden) isn’t exactly a park, but more of a large fenced garden that became really popular in the last couple of years thanks to its active social media (check out their Instagram account) featuring stunning pictures of rare plants. Apart from the main outdoor area, there are greenhouses that envelop you in tropical heat even in winter. Many kinds of orchids, carnivorous greens, water lilies and lotus flowers, succulents and herbs can be found here. The garden often holds seasonal exhibitions and offers a variety of classes and tours – or you can just come to meet the resident ‘flower cats’.

Izmaylovo

If you’d like to forget the city buzz for a while, Izmaylovo (izmailovsky-park.ru) is Moscow’s nearest recreational forest area. Apart from the large park smelling divinely of pine trees and fresh wood, there’s also a faux Kremlin in Izmaylovo – a colourful set of old-style buildings hosting the largest permanent Russian crafts market in the city. You can find anything your heart desires here: souvenirs, handmade and vintage items, including a whole flea market section with clothes, coins, manuscripts, WWII relics and more.

Sokolniki

Sokolniki took after Gorky Park and developed into a great outdoor retreat within the city limits. It covers a larger territory and makes you feel like you’re in a real forest, but with cycling paths and good infrastructure. It’s a family-oriented park offering lots of the same fun activities as the more central Gorky. Among the things that stand out are vibrant seasonal festivals, small amusement parks and an open-air swimming pool, while multiple ice-skating rinks, snow slides and an ice sculpture garden appear in winter.

Kolomenskoe Museum-Reserve

If the VDNKh is a Soviet-era museum, the Kolomenskoe Museum-Reserve will show you the lifestyle of Russians from hundreds of years ago. It’s a huge nature reserve with ancient churches (the Ascension Church was built in the 16th century), old estates (like Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich’s favourite residence or Peter the Great’s little wooden hut) and museums. The architectural ensemble of the park is a classic example of traditional Russian style, which you won’t often see in the city.

The Voznesensky garden, located inside the park, is one of the oldest in Moscow (a couple of local oaks are over 400 years old); you can pick fruit from its apple trees during the harvest. There’s food and a range of activities available, including historical re-enactment festivals in the warmer months. While the museums and exhibitions charge entry fees, park admission is free (along with some ghost stories).

Solo Travel in Thailand

 Must-see destinations

For a frenetic introduction to Thailand, head straight to Bangkok where the neon lights and market stalls of Khao San Road still serve as the country’s main backpacker hangout. Slurp noodles, sip local beer and visit the gilded Grand Palace and Wat Pho’s giant gold reclining Buddha with your new friends.

For impressive Thai temples, head to Ayutthaya in the north, the country’s ancient capital now scattered with temples in varying stages of decay. The brooding red-brick ruins are best viewed at sunset, when the golden light makes this atmospheric city a photographer’s dream.

If you’re after something a little more laidback, Kanchanaburi is the spot for you. You can take a train along the famous Death Railway, built by prisoners of war during World War II, see the Bridge over the River Kwai and swim at the tumbling seven-tiered Erawan Falls.

Ko Pha Ngan is where the sands of Hat Rin see up to 30,000 people arrive each month for the famous full moon parties. The party starts at dusk, when thousands of lamps are lit, and continues through the night, with dancing, fire twirling and, of course, drinking.

If you want to get to know the locals, head to Chiang Mai, the jumping off point for numerous guided multi-day treks and short walks in the country’s remote north. Here you can visit small local communities, but be mindful of concerns around tribal tourism.

Getting around

A journey by tuk tuk is an essential Thai travel experience and you’re sure to use these noisy, fume-cloaked but very fun vehicles to get around, especially in Bangkok. Fares are the same no matter the number of passengers so team up with one or two (three is the safe maximum) other travellers to save money. Agree the fare before setting out (expect to pay 100-150 baht for short Bangkok hops) and be sure to have the right money ready on arrival.

Solo travellers can make good use of the motorcycle taxis that ply all common routes in both major towns and more off-the-beaten-track parts. These only seat one passenger and are no good if you’ve got luggage, but short journeys across town or the island can be good value (as low as 20 baht).

Thailand is a sizeable country and distances between large towns can be great (it’s 700km from Bangkok to Chiang Mai). An overnight bus or train is a good way of getting from A to B while also saving the cost of a hostel.

The overnight trains are operated by the State Railway of Thailand and run on four useful routes out of Bangkok, including services to Ayutthaya, to Chiang Mai and to Surat Thani (a jumping off point for many of the southern islands).

Second-class berths are the best bet for solo travellers, with the communal comfortable seats converting into fully flat curtained-off beds come nightfall.

First-class cabins are set up for two so only book these if you’re happy sharing with a stranger. Bring snacks and drinks and settle in for a long journey.

Don’t fancy the long journey alone? There are plenty of internal flights, with Bangkok Airways, Air Asia, Nok Air (Thai Airways’ budget arm) and Thai Lion Air all offering daily Bangkok-Chiang Mai flights with a flight time of 1hr 15min. Flying also means not having to go back to Bangkok – trains and buses use the capital as a hub meaning you will keep ending up back there.

Where to eat

Eating alone in Thailand doesn’t need to mean a table for one. The best food is often found at the local night market, where mobile kitchens sell noodles, fried rice, sticky rice cakes, pancakes and fresh juices, and seating is communal and lively.

Almost every large town will have street stalls selling noodles day and night, so you can fill up without even sitting down.

Many hostels have cafés or restaurants, where you won’t stand out as a solo diner and may even meet fellow travellers in search of dining companions. Most travellers love nothing more than discussing where they’ve been or are going over a bowl of noodles or a beer.

How to meet people

If you want to meet people, sticking to the main backpacker destinations (including those listed above) is the best bet. Stay in hostels rather than hotels – choose to stay in a dorm so you’ll be sharing with other people and not holed up alone.

In Bangkok stay on or near the Khao San Road for the best chance of impromptu Singhas with your new friends – NapPark is a good choice, with its communal tamarind-shaded courtyard and TV room.

In Chiang Mai, Diva Guesthouse has six­-bed dorms and a sociable café on the ground floor, while Kanchanaburi’s Jolly Frog has a communal atmosphere and hammocks in the central, leafy garden.

Group activities are a great way to make friends fast. You can try everything, from day trips to Thai cookery courses. If you want an insight into Thailand through food, in Bangkok try Helping Hands or the vegetarian May Kaidee, and in Chiang Mai the Thai Cookery School.

For more of an adventure, take a zipline tour through the rainforest near Chiang Mai withFlight of the Gibbon or learn to scuba dive with The Dive Academy on Koh Samui.

Best Places To Go in Spring

 Ōsaka, Japan

With the natural phenomenon known as hanami (cherry blossom), spring in Japan is simply stunning. Head to Ōsaka, one of our top 10 cities for 2017, in early April to see the city’s castle rise high above a sea of petals, or walk through the Expo 70 Commemorative Park beneath a canopy of pink.

Alentejo, Portugal

After years of economic crisis, Portugal is finally on the up. Spring is a beautiful time of year for the Rota Vicentina, a network of walking trails on the west coast of Portugal’s Alentejo region. There’s an inland route – the Historical Way – for the sea-scraping Fishermen’s Trail cliff-top paths stunning ocean views shrubs and flowers are aromatic beyond belief and the native storks should be returning from their winter holidays around now too.

New Orleans, USA

Mardi Gras isn’t the only reason to make a trip down south. Louisiana’s capital is just as enchanting when things have quietened down. Take your time soaking up the faded beauty of the French Quarter’s backstreets before heading to Frenchmen Street for a night of live jazz and cocktails.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Amsterdam really comes to life in the spring, as cafés and bars spread out over the cobbled streets. Get to know the city’s ins and outs in a canal-boat ride, or take a trip to the unforgettable Keukenhof , 25km out of town, where tulips bloom in spectacular colours from late-March to mid-May.

The Wye Valley, Wales

This Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has never wanted for visitors, and for good reason. The river itself is fantastic for canoeing and kayaking, while your inner twitcher will rejoice at the sight of the gorgeously flecked goshawk engaging in its so-called ‘sky dance’, a mate-attracting display of flying prowess that is a spring (and late-winter) phenomenon.

The Romantic Road, Germany

Travelled on foot, by bike or car, the scenic 400km Romantische Strasse from Würzburg to Füssen takes in medieval walled towns, traditional villages with half-timbered houses, vineyards and the fairytale castle of Neuschwanstein. This picture perfect route through Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg was created to attract visitors after WWII – more than sixty years later it’s hugely popular and often overrun by the summer months.

Cornwall, England

Cornwall has plenty of activities to help burn off all the delicious seasonal food available, like a wander among blooming flowers on the moors, or a dip in the sea if you’re brave (or mad). If there are a few spring storms, all the better – the waves make for an incredibly dramatic scene.

Barcelona, Spain

Looking like a kids’ lego experiment, the spanking new Disseny Hub arts centre in Barcelona brings four museums under one roof and is set to open its doors this . After all that culture grab a burger at Makamaka, a beach where Hawaii meets Catalonia.

The Loire Valley, France

The Loire’s sleepy villages are just shaking off their winter chill around now, while out in the vineyards buds are starting to burst and wildflowers are cropping up along the riverside. Whether you’re in search of the most memorable cuvée or the most magnificent château, spring a great time to come.

6 Great Places to Visit by Train in Europe

For foodies: Lyon

France’s gourmet capital has never been more accessible, with a direct Eurostar link toLondon and TGV connections that will whisk you to Paris or Marseille in under two hours.

Compact and instantly likeable, the city is perfect for getting to grips with in a weekend. Stroll the old streets of Vieux Lyon, test your adventurous palate with local specialties such as tablier de sapeur (breaded tripe), then hit up the hip Croix-Rousse district for super-cool coffee bars and cocktails.

Do: Shop at the city’s famous indoor market, the Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse. It’s the ideal place to pick up a train picnic.

Stay: Stylish mini-chain Mama Shelter have opened their latest outpost here, offering boutique design at budget-friendly prices – including iMacs in all the rooms.

For nightlife: Budapest

Looking to get ruined? No, we’re not condoning bachelor party excesses, but embracing one of Budapest’s most famous attractions, the ruin bar.

These rambling bars have taken over abandoned buildings in the city’s seventh district, filling their dilapidated interiors with quirky decor, murals, art installations and more. You won’t find another night out in Europe quite like it.

As for getting there, direct rail links put you in easy reach of Vienna’s more sedate charms or the chilled-out Croatian coast via Zagreb.

Do: Take a bath. Budapest has long been known for its magnificent thermal pools; Gellért and Széchenyi baths are two of the best.

Stay: The sleek but affordable Soho Boutique Hotel is perfectly located for Budapest’s two train stations, and the best of the city’s nightlife.

For the journey: the Scottish Highlands

For more than 140 years, the Caledonian Sleeper Highland Route has run from London to Scotland’s far north, calling in at Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William.

It’s undeniably one of the most spectacular journeys in Europe, passing through some of the Highlands’ most glorious landscapes, be they carpeted with snow in winter or dotted with wildflowers come spring.

Do: Allow yourself at least three days to explore Scotland’s rugged beauty. The adventurous can use “outdoor capital” Fort William as a base to climb Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest peak.

Stay: Splash out on a night at Inverlochy Castle, one of Scotland’s most luxurious hotels on the site of a thirteenth-century fortress.

For sun and sightseeing: Seville

Approaching Spain by train, most travellers make a beeline for Barcelona or Madrid. But those who venture further south are handsomely rewarded.

It’s just a two-and-a-half hour journey from Madrid to the Andalucían capital, one of the country’s most enchanting cities. With its Moorish architecture, majestic cathedral and narrow, atmospheric streets, Seville is a joy to wander – especially in June and July when there’s an average of 12 hours sunshine a day.

Do: Go on a tapas tour, either planning your own route or joining an organised group.

Stay: The small but welcoming Hotel Alminar is ideally located for sightseeing; it’s right by the cathedral and has a roof terrace perfect for summer evenings.

For romance: Venice

Picture Venice and a train is probably the last image that comes to mind. Yet with direct links to Florence, Milan, Munich and more, rail is both a convenient and quick way to reach the city.

The station sits right on the Grand Canal, mere meters from the vaporetti and water taxis that will take you anywhere in the city. There no better way to crank up the romance than cruising beneath the Rialto Bridge, past some of the city’s finest palazzo and on to the famous landing stage at San Marco.

Do: Explore the other islands in the lagoon. The Lido’s beaches are great for sunny afternoons, while Murano is (unsurprisingly) the best place to pick up Murano glass souvenirs.

Stay: Boutique hotel Ca’ Pisani in Dorsoduro offers four-star service away from the crowds across the Grand Canal.

For an autumn or winter break: Munich

The Bavarian capital comes alive once temperatures begin to fall. First there’s the legendary Oktoberfest, which actually takes place at the end of September, and sees funfairs, beer tents and unbridled merriment overtake the city.

A few months on, as November draws to a close, the first signs of Christmas start to appear. Munich’s Weihnachtsmärkte is one the best in Germany, with hundreds of stalls radiating out from Marienplatz.

Do: Even if you’re not in Munich over Oktoberfest, make sure to visit the famous Hofbräuhaus for a stein.

Stay: Save your money for beer and glühwein by staying at the funky Wombats City Hostel(dorms and private rooms available).

The Most Beautiful Mosques in The World

1. Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca, Morocco

Morocco’s largest city, Casablanca sees relatively few foreign visitors despite its absorbing array of sights ranging from medieval souks to Art Nouveau mansions, strung out along an attractively windswept expanse of Atlantic coastline.

Few who visit, however, pass up the chance to explore the city’s landmark Hassan II Mosque. Completed in 1993, the mosque stands on an oceanfront promontory, its enormous minaret (the world’s tallest, at 210m) soaring above the coast like an enormous Islamic lighthouse, while the cavernous interior glows with the magical colours of blue marble mosaics, lustrous tilework and enormous pendant chandeliers.

2. Aqsunqur Mosque, Cairo, Egypt

Old Cairo is a virtual museum of mosques, with dozens of historic shrines dotted around the twisting, time-warped alleyways of the medieval centre. Amongst the finest is the stately Aqsunqur Mosque, completed in 1347. Rising above Bab al-Wazir Street, the building’s fortress-like walls are capped with minarets and intricately carved domes, while inside stands the mosque’s magnificent Mecca-facing eastern wall, entirely covered in a luminous array of azure tiles.

3. Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey

Soaring high above the heart of Istanbul at the meeting point of Europe and Asia, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (completed in 1616, also known as the Blue Mosque) is generally reckoned the crowning example of Ottoman architecture, with a quartet of needle-thin minarets pointing dramatically skywards and a sumptuously red-carpeted interior smothered in delicate tilework blossoming with thousands of stylized blue tulips.

4. Masjed-e Jameh, Isfahan, Iran

If it were almost anywhere else in the world, Isfahan’s great Naghsh-e Jahan Square would be teeming with tourists. Present-day political and practical realities mean that those who make it to Iran can enjoy an authentically foreigner-free taste of the world’s most perfectly preserved Islamic architectural set-piece.

The square is home to not one but two of the planet’s most stunning mosques, the Shah and the Jameh (Masjed-e Jameh) mosques. The Jameh Mosque is the larger and the older of the two, dating back to pre-Islamic Zoroastrian times and has been rebuilt continuously over the centuries to produce the stunning complex you see today, with three stupendously huge, blue-tiled porticoes rising around a vast courtyard, and mirror-perfect reflections in the ablutions pool between.

5. Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, Syria

One of the world’s oldest and most revered Islamic shrines, Damascus’s Umayyad Mosque dates back to 715, less than a century after the Muslim faith first burst spectacularly into the world. The monumental building itself reflects the changing times in which it was built, adorned with Classical Roman-style Corinthian columns and Byzantine-style mosaics alongside the first of the great congregational courtyards which subsequently became the norm throughout the Islamic world.

6. Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Looming above the approach roads to Abu Dhabi like a vast wedding cake – with minarets – the Sheikh Zayed Mosque (completed 2007) offers a gigantic monument to the Muslim faith in a region now better known for its seven-star hotels, record-breaking skyscrapers and palm-shaped artificial islands.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Abu Dhabi’s shiny new mega-mosque boasts its own string of record-breaking attractions: the world’s largest carpet lives here, along with the planet’s largest marble mosaic. Although it’s the serene beauty of the overall conception, with vast expanses of lustrous marble and myriad dazzling domes shining snowy white in the fierce Gulf sunlight, which really lingers in the memory.

7. Jama Masjid, Delhi, India

A majestic monument to India’s great Mughal rulers, rising in stately splendour above the tangled labyrinth of hectic streets at the very heart of Old Delhi. Commissioned by Shah Jahan, creator of the Taj Mahal, the Jama Masjid remains an unequalled symbol of Islamic architecture in a largely Hindu country, with soaring minarets, delicate marble domes and a vast prayer hall – as well as peerless views across the teeming melée of the old city from its vast courtyard, raised high above the streets below.

6 Great Alternative UK City Breaks

1. Belfast, Northern Ireland

Belfast rarely makes the cut on UK weekend getaway lists, but there’s plenty to lure you toNorthern Ireland’s port-side capital for a 48-hour minibreak. On these lanes you can get educated at the Titanic Museum, stretch the legs along the ancient walls of Londonderry, or wet (or drench) your whistle in the pubs along Great Victoria and Donegall streets.

If the hubbub of the city overwhelms, Belfast is a good springboard to explore the rest of the region; the mountains of Mourne and the Giant’s Causeway are within easy reach. Just be sure to pack for any weather you could possibly imagine. This is a “four seasons in a day” kind of place.

2. St Davids, Wales

To the untrained eye, St Davids could be mistaken for yet another tiny Welsh town. But locals will be quick to tell you that this is as much of a city as London or Manchester, thanks to its handsome cathedral where Wales’s patron saint, St David, is buried.

Beyond a mooch around the cathedral and posting a cryptic status update saying “I’m in the UK’s smallest city. Where am I?”, there’s not a great deal else to do here. Try the Pebbles Espresso Bar and Gallery for a caffeine hit while looking at world-class photography, or escape to the country into nearby Pembrokeshire National Park.

3. Canterbury, England

OK – Canterbury can’t really be described as a “hidden gem”. High-speed Javelin trains hurl visitors from London to the Garden of England in their thousands every year. But, so long as you can overlook the selfie-stick wielding mob, the car-free centre and creaking lopsided Tudor coaching inns might well transport you back to a simpler time.

Most of Canterbury’s modern-day pilgrims come here for the city’s rich history, and few will miss its blockbuster sight: the cathedral. When you need refuelling, make a beeline to the Goods Shed farmers’ market for organic picnic fodder or, upstairs, to the excellent restaurant.

4. Stirling, Scotland

Touted as the “Gateway to the Highlands”, Scotland’s smallest city offers a charming mini city break as part of a longer trip in the region. The comparisons between Stirling andEdinburgh are hard to ignore, with its omnipresent castle, the ankle-knackering cobbled streets and the studenty atmosphere. Only it’s far more manageable to explore in a day or two, and the university grounds are among the most elegant in the country.

During a city break here, you could head to the Smith Arty Gallery and the Macrobert Arts Centre for a dash of culture, or spend your wilting Scottish banknotes in the shops of the Thistle Marshes or the bijou boutiques of the Stirling Arcade.

5. Sheffield, England

Once upon a time Sheffield was best known as a producer of steel. These days, it’s better known as being a city break steal (sorry). For consecutive years it has been voted Tripadvisor’s cheapest place for a UK city break, which shouldn’t be sniffed at when you calculate just how much a weekend in London or Edinburgh can set you back.

While the postcards of Sheffield might not offer that chocolate-box appeal, there’s something soul-cleansing about peeking between two blackened stone buildings to see the Peak District National Park looming in the near horizon. During your weekend here check out some of the recent additions to the city, like the Winter Garden glass house and the Millennium Galleries, and head down Division Street for indy shops and a lively night out.

6. Durham, England

Rolling into Durham after a long journey from Kings Cross is about as close as you can get to experiencing the journey made by Harry Potter and friends. Indeed, the centre has a distinctly cut-off feel to it, with an atmosphere much closer to Cambridge than Carlisle thanks to its oft-gown-cloaked student population.

Compact and consciously cute, Durham is a good option for a low-stress city break in the far north, with its charming old inn accommodation, winding café-lined streets and circular river walk.

8 The Best Places to Camp Around The World

1. Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand

You can’t talk about camping without waxing lyrical about New Zealand’s out-of-this-world landscapes. Mount Cook (or Aoraki to the Maori) is the country’s highest mountain and the entire surrounding rugged region is the South Island’s finest outdoor playground. Views from the campgrounds here are simply staggering.

2. Devon, England

The southwest of England feels a million miles from the rest of the UK. The campsites on Dartmoor and Exmoor are fantastic places to pitch a tent, while you’ll find spots with unbeatable vistas along the craggy cliffs that sweep down to the Atlantic on the north Devon coast. Come in autumn, when you can watch a huge red sun dip slowly over the horizon.

3. Loch Lomond & The Trossachs, Scotland

The scattered peaks, valleys and villages of the Trossachs – often called the Highlands in miniature – make an incredibly scenic backdrop for a camping trip. Amid these romantic lochs and glens you’ll find everything from sprawling caravan parks to remote wild camping spots; be sure to read the Outdoor Access Code before you go.

4. The Alps, France

The dominion of skiers in the winter months, the Alps transform as the snow thaws. Once the balmy spring weather arrives, so do hikers and campers. You’ll find beautifully fresh alpine air and quaint villages nestled in the foothills. It’s a magical place to camp, made all the more special by the glittering night sky above.

5. Hossa National Park, Finland

Finland’s newest national park (set to open in June 2017) is in the wild northeast of the country, a rugged landscape of rivers, lakes and old-growth spruce forests. Finland welcomes wild campers and the park is dotted with remote lean-to shelters and rustic cabins, all with spots for campfires.

6. Skåne, Sweden

Long bright summer days pass delightfully slowly in Sweden’s most southerly region. Gentle countryside backs the coastline and there are many tranquil places to camp near Skåne’s beaches, lakes or forests. As in much of Scandinavia, wild camping is positively encouraged under Allemansrätt, the “right to roam”.

7. Zion National Park, Utah, USA

Zion is one of the most spectacular parks in the Southwest, with its red sandstone cliffs, rugged plateaus and forested canyons. Watchmen and South are the established campgrounds, but if you really want to get away from the crowds you can get a permit to overnight at one of the otherworldly wilderness campsites in the park’s interior.

8. Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Vancouver Island’s mind-blowingly diverse ecosystem gets ever more wild as you head north. Pacific Rim National Park and the West Coast Trail are spectacular places to set up camp – you might catch sight of orcas breaching offshore, sea otters playing in the shallows or brant geese flying overhead.

Where to Find the World’s Best Wi-Fi

Dream landmarks with wi-fi

Awesome – you finally made it to your bucket list destination! But the internet has demands: ‘Pics or it didn’t happen’. On top of that, sharing video of your trip as it happens is more popular than ever, thanks to real-time services like Snapchat Live Story and spread to Facebook Live, Instagram Stories and WhatsApp Status. If you’ve got no service when you’re ready to broadcast, you’re out of luck.

Don’t worry though. These top picks of picturesque architectural wonders have outdoor wi-fi for immediate sharing ­– the Eiffel Towerand Cathédrale Notre Dame in Paris; the Taj Mahal in India; theSydney Opera House in Australia; and Petra, the city carved out of stone in Jordan.

Wi-fi from . . . phone booths

Now that most people use their own phone and wi-fi device, what to with the hundreds of public telephone booths? In New York, public phones have been upgraded with ‘LinkNYC’ tablets for maps, browsing the net, and travel information. Fast free wi-fi will be offered at 7500 converted payphones (‘Links’) across the city, creating the largest network of high-speed hotspots in the world.

Similarly, many of those iconic red telephone boxes in the UK have been converted to phone repair shops and charging stations and will offer (tiny) mobile work spaces to rent, complete with power, a printer and wi-fi. In Australia, wi-fi access at converted phone booths comes at a price and only to certain customers.

World’s highest hookup

Saying ‘Guess where I am?’ live from Mount Everest in Nepal must earn even more bragging rights. If you’re on your way up, you’re in luck – wi-fi being trialled at the base camp of the highest mountain on Earth to share your adventure with the world. Two notable runners up areJapan’s iconic Mt Fuji (which has hotspots dotted around it) and the sacred mountain of Girnar Hill, a well travelled Jain and Hindu pilgrimage site in India that has wi-fi on its walking trails.

Widest wi-fi options

Travel-friendly Japan shares the bandwidth bounty with visitors like no other country, whether you’re zipping on a bullet train, in a club, or crane spotting along an icy ravine. Tokyo has consistently ranked in the top three of many lists for fastest wi-fi cities in the world in recent years. Tokyoites were early adopters of consuming most of their media on mobile devices, and they naturally expect blazing speeds. They have the infrastructure to back it up.

Local trains often provide wi-fi with a quick email signup, and the usual wi-fi suspects are here with cafes, restaurants, thousands of convenience stores, hostels and tourist offices all giving away free access. Prepaid SIM cards for travellers with gigabytes of data are little surprise but having them available at the ubiquitous convenience stores makes for another easy way to get online.

Battery-powered portables

Tools like the ‘MiFi’ or ‘wi-fi egg’ (for its goose-egg dimensions) are rechargeable-battery operated devices will give you (and your friends) wi-fi wherever you can get a mobile signal. That means internet on your laptop or tablet on a ferry ride, isolated ocean cliffs or remote ryokan(traditional Japanese inn), if you really need it. You can pick up and drop off a wi-fi egg from international airports; and plenty of hosts of sharing economy accommodation, such as AirBnB, provide a wi-fi egg because they don’t have landline internet to offer.

These devices are also increasingly popular in Korea and China, and are now available in France, Canada and the USA. Plans can cover a whole region so, for example, you can rent the one device and never be without wi-fi for a big Europe trip.

The most innovative internet cafes

While internet cafes have edged into obscurity throughout much of the world (other than high-intensity gamer dens), Japan continues to find innovative ways to keep this category going. The country boasts large internet cafes that double as manga libraries where you can peruse the comic library by the hour while drinking unlimited free refreshments.

Another popular use is renting private computer booths to sleep in, lying on thin mats. There are even on-site showers for rent. You have to get in quick on weekends when revellers who miss the last train home crash in an internet booth.

 Posting pics from planes and trains

A growing number of airlines offer free wi-fi on board, letting you plan last minute trip details, and chat to neglected friends. Free wi-fi is on flights by JAL, Emirates, JetBlue, Norwegian, Turkish Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines and Nok Air. Some such as Air China and Qantas only offer wi-fi on domestic flights, and China Air doesn’t allow phones to be used. If you need to continue online, there is a cheeky app, WiFox, that maps wi-fi passwords used in airport lounges around the world.

Wi-fi is getting added to public transport around the world. The London Underground, Toronto and New York subway systems have free wi-fi, but only at the stations. Cities like Buenos Aires and Hong Konghave wi-fi access from the comfort of your train seat.

Discover Morocco’s Floral Festival

Fruit trees teeter over the trail, laden with figs, dates and oranges. Barley and alfalfa sprout from the orange earth, watered by channels beside the path. Pomegranates dangle from overhanging branches. But the women aren’t here to pick fruit; they’re here to harvest something more fragrant.

‘Can you smell them?’ asks Ait Khouya Aicha, as she pads into a meadow fringed by walnut trees, and heads for a tangle of shrubs. She pulls down a branch: it’s covered by flowers from trunk to tip, shocking pink against the deep-green leaves.

‘These are the roses of the Asif M’Goun River,’ she says, cradling a blossom in her hand. ‘They are famous around the world. But to understand why, you must smell them.’ Pulling on thick gloves, she snips off the flower and breathes in the scent. The perfume is heady and sweet, with notes of honey and treacle.

‘The fragrance is best in the morning, but we must work quickly,’ she says, dropping the flower into a robe gathered around her waist known as a tachtate. ‘The sun will burn the petals, and then the perfume will be ruined.’

Within half an hour, Aicha and her companions have stripped the bushes of blossoms and four sacks have been filled to the brim. They head back to the village, sharing round a bag of dates and nuts for breakfast. Twenty minutes later, they arrive at a backstreet garage that doubles as the village’s rose co-operative, where owner Ahmid Mansouri inspects the blossoms, weighs them on battered scales, and adds them to a heap covering the concrete floor.

‘These are good roses,’ he says, puffing on a crooked roll-up. ‘But last week we were harvesting twice as many. Next week they will be gone. And that means one thing. It is time for the Festival of the Roses to begin.’

No-one is sure how roses first came to this remote corner of Morocco, high in the Atlas Mountains, six hours’ drive southeast of Marrakesh. According to legend, they were carried here centuries ago by a Berber merchant from Damascus; the species that grows here is Rosa damascena, the Damask rose, which originates from ancient Syria and has been celebrated for centuries for its intense perfume.

However they arrived, the M’Goun Valley – or the Vallée des Roses, as it’s known in Morocco – has become famous for its flowers. Every year during the main growing season between April and mid-May, the valley produces between 3000 and 4000 tonnes of wild roses. They’re everywhere: sprouting up from the hedgerows, blooming along stone walls, tangling the borders between farmers’ fields. Each day before dawn, women gather the roses by hand, and sell them to co-operatives dotted along the valley. Some are bought by local distilleries to make rose water, soaps and pot-pourri, but the majority are bought by big French perfume houses, for whom the M’Goun roses command a special cachet.

It’s an intensive – and expensive – business: around four tonnes of fresh petals, or 1.6 million flowers, are required to make a single litre of rose oil, and with each litre fetching around 12,000 euros (£10,000), the rewards are obvious. But with intense competition from other rose-growing areas, especially in Turkey and Bulgaria, the M’Goun Valley needs to find ways to catch the noses of overseas buyers – and that’s where the Festival des Roses comes in.

It’s the day before the festival, and all along the Asif M’Goun, people are preparing for the party. Halfway along the valley lies the village of Hdida, a cluster of terracotta houses framed by crimson peaks and the blue thread of the river. It’s a hive of activity: girls sit cross-legged on the steps, stringing roses into bracelets, necklaces and heart-shaped garlands, while women stick labels onto rose water bottles and pack dried petals into canvas sacks. On the streets, farmers load crates of flowers onto the backs of battered trucks, before puttering off for town with a crack of the exhaust and a cloud of black smoke, waving to children peeking from gateways as they rattle past.

Everyone in the village has a task to do, and Naima Mansouri is no exception. Head shrouded in a pink jellaba, hands traced with henna tattoos, she’s making pot-pourri for the festival. She packs canvas bags with dried petals, tying each one with ribbon and adding a sticker for the village co-op. At the back of the room, petal-filled baskets are piled against the wall, and a copper still glints in the shadows.

‘This year has been good,’ says Naima. ‘The roses have grown well and we have plenty to sell. And this year we began distilling our own rose water,’ she adds, pointing to the still. ‘Would you like to see where the flowers are dried?’

She climbs up to the rooftop where a carpet of petals is scattered across the concrete, drying in the sunshine. In the distance, the M’Goun River snakes along the valley, a strand of silver-blue in a sea of red rock. Along the horizon, mountains loom, glowing like coals in the afternoon light.

 

Exploring Norway’s north on the Nordlandsbanen

The journey

Though perhaps less well-known than the Oslo-Bergen train ride, the Nordlandsbanen, which stretches northwards for 729km between regal Trondheim and spirited Bodø, could certainly lay claim to being the more unique route. As well as being Norway’s longest train line, it also crosses the Arctic Circle, one of the few railways in the world to do so.

An efficient service and spacious, comfortable trains make it a delightfully sedate way to make the ten-hour journey, but it’s the huge diversity of scenery that’s most appealing. Gently rolling, emerald-green fields rest under huge skies, and Norwegian flags whip proudly over the pillar-box red hytter (cabins) dotted haphazardly over the hillsides. Moments later, the train will track its way through dense woodland, a wall of pine trees on either side of the train breaking just long enough to snatch a two-second-long postcard of mist haunting the treetops in a shadowy forest beyond.

Then, coasting out of a tunnel, the ground falls away to one side, and suddenly a 100m-high waterfall appears. Plummeting into a churning white froth below, the roaring deluge plays out silently on the other side of the train window. Such spellbinding scenes speed past repeatedly, and then evaporate into the distance, only to be replaced by another a few moments later.

Highlights of the Nordlandsbanen

All aboard at Trondheim

Before you board the train in Trondheim, take some time to explore the picture-postcard pretty city itself. The compact centre is relatively flat and easy to explore on foot or by bike. Marvel at the mighty Nidaros Domkirke, an ornate Gothic cathedral built on the burial ground of the much-revered Viking King Olav II, then linger as you cross over the quaint Old Town Bridge for views of the 18th-century waterside warehouses.

Floral arrangements by the 18th-century warehouses in Trondheim © Gemma Graham / Lonely Planet

Trondheim’s old-world charm continues at Baklandet Skydsstasjon. Owner Gurli serves up hearty, homemade fare such as super-fresh fish soup and silky-smooth blueberry cheesecake. Wash it down with that most Nordic of spirits, the potent, herby aquavit: there are 111 varieties to choose from here. Meanwhile, across town, sleek Mathall Trondheim (mathalltrondheim.no) – part store, part bar-restaurant – offers a more modern take on classic Norwegian cuisine, serving up a variety of smørbrød and a good selection of craft beer.

Verdal for Stiklestad and The Golden Road of Inderøy

After a little less than two hours on the train from Trondheim, alight at Verdal for Stiklestad, the location of the famous battle of 1030 that saw the demise of King (later Saint) Olav. It’s now home to the Stiklestad National Cultural Centre, which hosts a variety of events throughout the year, and the 11th-century Stiklestad Church. This ancient place of worship was reputedly built over the stone on which Olav is said to have died.

Verdal (or alternatively Steinkjer, the next stop along) also makes a good jumping off point to explore The Golden Road – a route through traditionally agricultural Inderøy – which brings together a collective of sustainable culinary, cultural and artistic attractions, such as farm shops, restaurants and art workshops.

Swing by Nils Aas Kunstverksted (nils-aas-kunstverksted.no), a workshop and gallery dedicated to one of Norway’s most celebrated artists. Aas’ famous statue of King Haakon VII stands near the Royal Palace in Oslo, but a collection of his pieces is also on display in a small sculpture garden just a few minutes’ stroll from the workshop.

The highlight of the road, though, is the aquavit tasting experience at Berg Gård (berg-gaard.no), a working farm with its own distillery. Book ahead to get rosy-cheeked while tasting this fiery spirit, flavoured with herbs and spices such as caraway, cardamom and anise, as the owner explains the artistry and innovation involved in creating it.

Must-see Mosjøen

A further three-hour train-glide north brings you to diminutive Mosjøen, nestled in the imposing Vefsnfjord and surrounded by wooded peaks. The oldest part of the town, Sjøgata, is almost an open-air museum in its own right: saved from demolition in the 1960s, the beautifully-preserved 19th-century wooden buildings tell the tale of a historically prosperous town, of hardy fishermen and thriving sawmills, a story echoed at the small but informative Jakobsensbrygga Warehouse museum.

Nowadays in Mosjøen the main industry is aluminium, and a factory hums somewhat incongruously amid its pristine surroundings. Nevertheless, the surrounding hills of the Helgeland region beckon visitors to explore. Hike up the 818m-high Øyfjellet for spectacular views of the town and beyond.

The town makes for a scenic spot to overnight and break up the journey to Bodø. With its cosy nooks and unique, one-room museum, Fru Haugans Hotel, northern Norway’s oldest inn, has occupied a peaceful spot on the Vefsna river since 1794.

Blink and you’ll miss it: crossing the Arctic Circle

From Mosjøen the landscape seems to change in preparation for the Arctic Circle crossing, as lush trees give way to the rolling, rocky terrain and barren peaks of the Saltfjellet mountain range.

With no defining geographical features to signal your passage across The Circle and into the chilly wilds of Arctic north, you may have to use your imagination. But keep an eye out for the two large pyramidal cairns either side of the tracks, and Polarsirkelsenteret, a visitor centre visible some distance from the train line, to indicate that You Were Here.

Last stop Bodø for street art, sky-gazing and the Saltstraumen

The final stop on the line, Bodø is a proud and lively cultural hub, with the world-class concert venue, Stormen (stormen.no), and an impressive clutch of murals painted all over the city by international street artists. One particular gem is After School by Rustam Qbic, a heart-warming homage to the aurora borealis that ensures the Northern Lights are always on show in Bodø.

The best free things to do in Delhi

When visiting India’s historic capital, it’s worth paying out for big-hitting sights such as the Red Fort and Qutb Minar, but don’t overlook the abundant free sights and experiences in this fascinating city.  Take your pick from verdant parkland, centuries-old monuments, mysticism and faith, colonial pomp and circumstance and exploring contemporary Indian culture and the arts.

Keeping the faith at the Bahai House of Worship

This lotus-shaped temple was conceived and created by architect Furiburz Sabha in the suburbs of South Delhi, close to the burgeoning commercial district of Nehru Place.  In step with the tenets of the Bahai religion, the house of worship is open to all and everyone is invited to worship according to their own customs. Reflected in nine encircling pools, the gleaming marble structure is set in expansive gardens that teem with visitors, yet it retains a peaceful air of prayer and contemplation. Dusk finds the monument painted in surreal colours by floodlights as the sun sinks over the cityscape.

Soulful stirrings at the Nizamuddin Auliya shrine

You can step back seven centuries at the shrine of Delhi’s most beloved Sufi mystic. Every Thursday evening, singers fill the air with soulfulqawwalis (spiritual songs) honouring both the Sufi mystic Hazrat Khwaja Syed Nizamuddin Auliya and his disciple, the poet Amir Khusrao, also buried here. A warren of narrow streets lined with hawkers, mendicant holy men and snack stands leads to the shrine, which is a riot of colours, fragrant with heady incense and sweet-smelling rose petals.  Irrespective of faith, gender, or age, the Nizamuddin Dargah is one of Delhi’s most emotive and stimulating spots.

Calm green spaces and crumbling mausoleums

The Lodi Gardens, formerly Lady Willingdon Park, are one of the city’s favourite green spaces, visited by neighbourhood residents for daily constitutionals, and a favourite spot for canoodling couples and picnicking families. Sitting pretty in the heart of New Delhi, these sprawling but well-tended acres are criss-crossed with tree-lined walking and jogging paths. Between the flowerbeds are crumbling medieval monuments – mosques, tombs, and ceremonial bridges harking back to vanished Afghan dynasties – lending the park a romantic demeanour; unsurprisingly, it’s a favourite spot for romantic selfies.

Pomp and circumstance, Indian style

Despite only being introduced a decade ago, the splendid ceremony held once a week at the Rashtrapati Bhavan (President’s Estate) is reminiscent of the richest excesses of India’s colonial history. Highlights of this public show of military precision include an equestrian display by the President’s Body Guard – an elite mounted unit founded in 1773 to escort and protect the British governor-general, and later the presidents of independent India –and a foot drill by the Army Guard Battalion, selected from one of India’s infantry regiments every three years on rotation. There’s no fee but spectators are required to present photo IDs at the point of entry. Drills take place on Saturdays at 8am (15th March to 14th August), 9am (15th August-14th November) or 10am (15th November-14th March).

Cultural synergy at Habitat World

After all the history, take a moment to explore Delhi’s contemporary culture. Part of the landmark India Habitat Centre, Habitat World was founded to promote synergies between cultural institutions and artistically minded individuals, and there’s always something interesting to see. This is where Delhi’s arty and scholarly set can be found admiring modern artworks at the Visual Arts Gallery, sitting in on academic presentations at the Stein auditorium or encouraging amateur performers in the centre’s public amphitheatre. If you work up an appetite, you can fall back on the popular All American Diner.

Raj resonance at Delhi’s Coronation Park

Almost forgotten, Delhi’s calm Coronation Park was created to mark the centenary of the 1911 Delhi Durbar, a grand assembly of Indian royal families hosted by Viceroy Lord Hardinge. A major event on the colonial calendar, durbars honoured the ascension of a new monarch to the British throne, which also enshrined the king or queen as sovereign ruler of India. These grand occasions were marked by processions, elephant parades, polo tournaments and parties, but today, the parade ground slumbers quietly, except for the occasional cricket match between locals, or when promenading couples stroll by. In the heart of the 60-acre park is a stone column, marking the spot where King George V anointed Delhi as the new capital of British India, and five statues of the kings and viceroys who once ruled India, now quietly fading into history.

Secret Valleys of the Sichuan Himalaya

The national park was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2006 as a giant panda sanctuary, and the area is stacked with traditional Tibetan history and culture, yet it sees just a small fraction of the visitors that Sichuan’s more popular Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong national parks do.

Though your chances of spotting those elusive pandas in the wild are slim, Four Sisters Mountain’s unspoilt landscapes, wide-open views and insight into local culture are the real reasons to come. Each of the valleys offers a different experience, so pick and choose your favourite, or – even better – leave yourself time to explore them all.

Haizi Valley

The toughest and steepest walk of the three valleys, Haizi Valley also presents the most stunning panoramas of the surrounding mountains and, for strong walkers, a string of deep blue lakes to reflect the snowy peaks. Despite the long uphill walk from the valley floor at 3200m to the turn into Haizi Valley proper, Yaomei Feng (‘Youngest Sister Peak’) still towers impressively at 6250m above her three older siblings and the viewpoints far below. Along the walk, look out for strings of prayer flags fluttering in the wind and take time to stop and admire the panoramas that open up above each of the four small lakes that dot the valley.

Horsemen hire out mounts to Big Lake about halfway up the valley, so even those not keen on a steep hike can hitch a ride this far. Even if you push up the entire 19km valley to the Twin Lakes at 4600m, you’re still far below the enticing summits of Yaomei Feng and her three smaller sisters.

Changping Valley

Just beyond the small tourist village of Rilong, Changping Valley is the middle way between the heights of Haizi Valley and the managed experience of Shuangqiao Valley. Directly at the foot of the Four Sisters massif, Changping Valley offers more closed-in forest trails than sweeping panoramas, but be sure to continue at least to the Muluozi viewpoint for an up-close view of the sisters from below. A short boardwalk starts at the ruins of a Lama monastery, but quickly reverts back to dirt trails after just a few kilometres.

Visitors who’d rather skip the initial five-kilometre road walk from Rilong to the monastery ruins can catch a shuttle bus from the ticket office at the entrance of the valley. It’s also possible to combine Changping with more remote destinations: multi-day treks lead to destinations as close as Bipeng Valley just outside the national park boundary, or as far as the Chengdu Plain near Dujiangyan.

Shuangqiao Valley

The longest of the three hikes at Four Sisters Mountain, Shuangqiao Valley is also the most accessible, with a boardwalk path and bus transfers between the entrance gate and the end of the valley. Though the walk is easy, the views never fall short. Burbling streams, glaciated peaks, pristine ponds and Buddhist stupas that line that path throughout. Even with the comparative crowds that come to this easiest hike of the Four Sisters, it isn’t hard to find a moment of peace in such a lovely natural setting. As the landscape transitions from larch forest at the top of the trek down to grasslands at the bottom, the viewpoints like those at White Lake and Hunter’s Peak offer not-to-be-missed looks back at the mountains that ring the upper end of Shuangqiao Valley.

Outside of peak season (May to October), some lower sections of the boardwalk may be closed, so while visitors can still enjoy the mountain vistas they may end up doing more through a bus window than originally expected.

6 Tips For Tackling Your First Bike Tour

Save the date and start planning

Deciding to go really is the hardest part. Setting the date (and having a rough idea of duration) helps concrete your trip, giving you a deadline to work towards. First-timers should head off during the warmer months and – unless you’re keen to channel Sir Ranulph Fiennes – pick an easy route for the first week or two. Training before your tour helps, but it’s not imperative – you’ll get fit on the road.

For tried-and-tested planning tips check out bike touring blogs and websites such as Travelling Two (travellingtwo.com) and Facebook’sBicycle Touring and Bikepacking page.

Buy the right kit

Invest in the essentials: a good free-standing tent, a decent touring bike, waterproof panniers (bike bags) and a cooking stove. Opt for a sturdy, steel-framed touring bike with steel front and rear racks to hold your panniers. Your bags should be hard-wearing as they’ll carry everything you need such as the tent, stove, sleeping bag and mat, electronics and clothing.

Every gram and inch counts. Opt for lightweight gear and use dry bags to compress your clothes. Resist the urge to overdo it and blow your budget on gear that might not last; real kit gems such as baby wipes, mosquito spray and chlorine tablets often cost virtually nothing.

Plan the right route for you

Wherever you’re planning to cycle, consider ditching main roads as they’re busy and often uninspiring. Countries such as the Netherlandsare renowned for their flat and bike-friendly trails, while thrill-seekers tend to make a beeline for the likes of Tajikistan and Patagonia.

Tap into regional resources and infrastructure such as Europe’s Eurovelo bike routes (eurovelo.org/routes) which offer excellent off-road rides. The USA’s Adventure Cycling Association (adventurecycling.org) and England’s Sustrans network (sustrans.org.uk) print terrific maps with alternative routes and amenity lists.

Avoid unnecessary detours

Once upon a time a wrinkled, dog-eared, hard-copy map was the ultimate bike tour companion. Now, it’s a reliable GPS or navigation app. Opt for a durable and multi-use GPS product designed with adventurers in mind.

Smartphones are also a fantastic option if you’re likely to have regular access to electricity and the internet. You can download maps that don’t just show you the best roads, but the best off-the-beaten-track routes for cycle touring. The Maps.me app is detailed, easy to use and now shows the route elevation on the bike option in most countries.

Create a budget and start saving

Bike tours can cost very little; if you’re willing to live on rice and porridge and wild-camp at every opportunity, then a budget of a few US dollars a day is achievable.

Visas, hotel stays and restaurant visits add up, but if you’re hoping for a happy medium (a lean food budget and plenty of low-cost or free accommodation with occasional splurges) then expect to spend about $15-$20 USD a day depending on the country. Factor in travel insurance and emergency money for bike repairs and kit replacements.Set your own personal goals

World cyclist Jonathan Kambsgaro-Bennett (jkbsbikeride.com) says the question he gets asked most is how far he pedals in a day. His answer? ‘It depends on the hills, the wind, the road and about a million other things… Especially the wind.’

Setting daily distances can be tough but having a rough idea of what you want (and are able) to achieve will help you plot an itinerary. Many bike tourers average between 60km and 80km per day, depending on conditions, while those just starting out may aim for much less. Besides the weather and quality of the roads, your personal goals should also influence the decisions you make along the way – and will often push you to keep going.

Become a camping pro

Pitching a tent in the wild after a long day in the saddle can be stressful. Fortunately, fatigue often overrides fear – and the more you do it, the easier it gets. Some places welcome wild camping as long as you’re out of sight (Scotland, Iran, Japan) while others forbid it which makes a stealthy camp much tougher (Switzerland, Australia and the USA) – it’s worth being aware of the laws wherever you choose to cycle.

While a nice, secluded, flat piece of turf near a river is the goal, anything can make a fine camp spot and the key to overriding those initial fears is to keep well hidden and off private property, or to simply ask the landowners for permission to camp. Locals are often keen to help – and if you have their blessings, you’ll sleep like a baby. Check out world cyclist Tom Allen’s top tips on how to wild camp.