In an instant, modern civilisation seems to fall away. Cow-speckled grasslands unfurl across Moldova’s low hills, and farm-hands draw water from roadside wells. As for the horse-drawn hay carts, they rattle along at a surprisingly brisk pace – and I have a sneaking suspicion they are sturdier than our little rental car…
Exploring the country time forgot
Despite budget flights from western Europe to Chişinău, travellers aren’t yet descending in droves on this little country squeezed between Romania and Ukraine. Starting from WWII, Moldova was part of the Soviet Union for five decades; the country continues to be dismissed as a gloomy throwback to that period. Certainly, modern Chişinău has its Soviet-era stalwarts – like the crumbling state circus building (Strada Circului 33) and the tanks assembled outside the Army Museum – though the city is freshened by fountain-filled parks and tree-fringed boulevards.
But if Chişinău feels anchored in the 1970s, the rest of Moldova froze in time centuries earlier. On our northbound drive, women in headscarves are stepping out into the road and waving hand-picked bouquets.
Hit me with your best shots
Digging through hundreds of images after a big trip can be a daunting task. Trust your instincts and taste. Pick a comfortable system to mark your favorite photos, whether it’s a ‘heart’ on your iPhone or by adding favorites to a custom folder. Take as many passes through your photos as needed, each time narrowing down your selections until you’ve chosen a series that tells the most compelling story. The same concept applies if you’ve moved over to your computer with a program like Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Bridge. Critically analyzing your photos in this way is great practice and essential to honing your taste and unique style.
Getting familiar with basic mobile editing tools
For many budding travel photogs, all the tools necessary for some great-looking images are right at your fingertips. The world of smartphone apps – including Snapseed, VSCO, and even Instagram – makes it easy to make standard adjustments. Start with some goals. Maybe you want to bring out a certain subject or focal point. Maybe you want to make the colors pop out a bit
Sydney is famous for its surf beaches but there are many secluded hideaway beaches dotted all around the harbour. Some are more popular than others, depending on their accessibility, but our top tips are the diminutive Lady Martins Beach at Point Piper, not far from central Sydney and tucked between the salubrious suburbs of Double Bay and Rose Bay.
On the northern side of city, head for Balmoral Beach near Mosman. It is an excellent beach for families, with a netted enclosed swimming area and large shady Moreton Bay fig trees to escape the heat. Lastly, look for Collins Beach at Manly, a long circuitous walk from the Manly ferry pier, where you may well find yourself alone for a good part of the day.
This may surprise many first-time travellers to Sydney, but autumn (March to May) is a perhaps the best time to hit the beach. Sydney is blessed with a fairly temperate climate so it can stay sunny and reasonably warm right into late May
Glen Tilt, Blair Atholl
One of Scotland’s lesser-known glens, this magnificent walk begins at the Old Bridge of Tilt, a hint of many ancient stone bridges hunkered in widescreen landscapes to come. This is Big Tree Country, populated by the tallest trees in Britain. Stay in a Scandinavian-esque woodland lodge on the Atholl Estates, which has been visited over centuries by everyone from Mary Queen of Scots to Queen Victoria.
Sandwood Bay, Sutherland
Bleak and lunar-like, this bracing hike is punctuated by glimpses of the lighthouse at Cape Wrath on the horizon. Here, at the exposed north-western tip of Scotland, the rewards are great and hard-won. Sandwood Bay is one of Britain’s most inaccessible beaches, flanked by a skyscraping sea stack – a ruin said to be haunted by the ghost of a shipwrecked seaman – and sand dunes the size of houses. It’s perfect for wild camping, if you can face carrying your gear in and out of the boggiest of moorland. Make sure you go for a pint and plate of langoustines.
Castle Tioram, Ardnamurchan
Ardnamurchan, the most westerly point of Britain, is a slender calloused finger of a peninsula pointing outward
1. Oradour-sur-Glane, France
The small village of Oradour-sur-Glane, tucked in the Limousin countryside, was the site of one of WWII’s most harrowing atrocities. On June 10, 1944, 642 of its inhabitants were massacred by the Nazi Waffen-SS. People from the village were rounded up, machine-gunned and many burned alive.
Today, the town’s crumbling buildings are a brutal reminder of that fateful day. Houses and shops lie in ruins, some retaining original details – rusting lamps, sewing machines and pots and pans.
The Centre de la Mémoire commemorates the crimes that took place with testimonials, exhibits and films shedding light on Oradour’s bloody past.
2. Imber Village, UK
In 1943, with only 47 days’ notice, the villagers of Imber in Wiltshire were evicted from their homes to allow American troops to train for the liberation of Europe. They never returned.
Villagers are said to have protested their banishment, but to no avail. Imber had been acquired by the Ministry of Defence before the war in a bid to make Salisbury plain the largest training ground in the country. To this day, the land belongs to the British Army.
1. Creating parks in Patagonia
The Parque Pumalín is not the end, but the beginning: Tompkins Conservation, which was the subject of our latest travel podcast, will continue its rewilding mission in Patagonia. But the organisation can’t do it alone and is encouraging volunteers to come to Chile or Argentina, where they can get involved in tree planting, wildlife monitoring and, sometimes, reintroducing locally extinct species.
2. Going on safari in Laos
The last remaining home for tigers in Indochina, Nam Et-Phou Louey is a hotbed of biodiversity and an unexpectedly brilliant place to go on a safari. And we’re not talking about any old safari; we’re talking about the Nam Nern Night Safari and Ecolodge, which ploughs most of its profits into local outreach programmes that educate locals about conservation and sustainability. Twice a winner at the World Responsible Tourism Awards, guests on the safari not only support admirable conservation work but also have the opportunity to spy endangered species, mingle with locals and sleep in low-impact bungalows.
3. Crashing with locals in India
For remote Himalayan communities there can be scant opportunity for employment. However, thanks to an
While the Croatian coast gets all the plaudits, the Slavonia region inland lies largely ignored. Visitors are missing out. The elegant city of Osijek in the east took a battering during the 1990s Homeland War, but today is back to something approaching its best; in its heyday during the Austro-Habsburg years a massive military fortress stood here and trams eased around the belle époque streets. The oldest part of town, Tvrđa, has undergone a massive revamp since the 1990s war ended with a flurry of cafes, restaurants and bars brightening up the area. In the rejuvenated centre, meanwhile, you can enjoy relaxed walks along the River Drava and try the local delicacy, fis paprikas, a spicy fish soup, in the riverside restaurants.
Just next door to Croatia, bijou Slovenia boasts more than just its glittering city-break starLjubljana. In the country’s east, Maribor is no longer content to play second fiddle to the capital. Its large student population is putting serious life back into the grand historic streets of its chocolate-box pretty old town. River strolls along the Drava, as well as one of Europe’s oldest synagogues and what is reputed to be the world’s oldest vine await. The best time to visit
Spring is a great time for travel, so whether it’s catching some sun, mountain hiking or delving into some history and culture – or even some last-minute snow action – here are a few ideas to get you digging out your passport. These are the cheapest places to travel in spring.
1. For a spa: Budapest, Hungary
Where better to sweat out the last vestiges of winter than a city with more than a hundred spas? Each has its own particular style, from sixteenth-century Ottoman – the best is Rudas, with a beautiful octagonal pool under a glass dome and a rooftop heated pool with a wonderful view of the Danube – to exquisite art nouveau, such as Gellert.
No visit to Budapest would be complete without stopping at neo-baroque Széchenyi, the largest of the city’s spas, where you’ll see locals combining a hot bath with a game of chess.
A ticket can cost as little as €10, and a 20-minute massage around €15. Cooling down after a steamy soak by sampling one of the many delicious craft beers on offer in the capital will only set you back around €1.50.
Afterwards, go for
Best for the historic centre: Baixa and Chiado
Lisbon’s Baixa, or ‘downtown’, is an appealing oblong of handsome buildings flanked by the squares of Rossio, Figueira and the grand riverfront Praça do Comércio. Its an impressive example of late eighteenth-century town planning in which many of its traditional shops survive. Most of its banks and offices have now been converted into hotels and guesthouses: a plethora of them have opened up in the last couple of years, so wherever you stay, you’ll be right in the thick of it. Consider adjacent Chiado, too, the chic shopping district that’s home to the famous café A Brasileira.
Feeling flush: Hotel do Chiado
Best for romance: Alfama
The city’s oldest quarter is a fascinating warren of steep, winding streets that thread their way past densely packed houses where life carries on much as it has for centuries. Heading uphill towards the castle, you’ll get some of the best views Lisbon has to offer, across the terracotta roof tiles and the cruise ships that anchor on the broad Tagus estuary. Fado restaurants and souvenir shops are moving in, but this is still an alluring
The Old Centre
If you choose to stay in the Old Centre, you’ll be a short walk from the main sights and the principal shopping and nightlife areas. Cheap hotels abound and this is the first place to start looking if money is tight, although some may find the proximity of the red light district off-putting.
On a budget: Flying Pig Downtown
This hostel is clean, large and well run by ex-travellers familiar with the needs of backpackers. It’s justifiably popular, and a very good deal, with mixed dorms, some of which have queen-sized bunks sleeping two.
No-limits luxury: Hotel de l’Europe
This elegant old-timer has plenty of fin-de-siècle charm and a central riverside location. The rooms are large and opulent, and there’s also a two-michelin-star restaurant, Bord’eau, a spa and the glamorous Freddy’s Bar.
The canal-laced streets to the west of the old centre have a number of quiet waterside hotels, though the least expensive places are concentrated along Raadhuisstraat, one of Amsterdam’s busiest streets.
A snug stay: b&nb Herengracht
This oh-so-central bed (and no breakfast) has three double rooms: subterranean bolthole, canal view or garden
Where do I start?
You’ll find it impossible not to start at La Seu, the city’s enormous, attention-grabbing sandstone cathedral, perpetually bathed in golden sunshine and dominating the centre of town.
All flying buttresses and spiky columns, it is a Gothic masterpiece – and best seen from the outside. Its exterior, rising up from the water and announcing this as a Christian-conquered city, is its most striking feature and the stone seats along the old city wall at its base are the perfect place to soak up the sun and plan your assault on the city.
You’re in the heart of the Old Town here, its narrow pedestrianized streets tangling back from the water and begging you to get out there and explore.
Next head to the Royal Palace of La Almudaina, just next door – a great example of Gothic meets Moorish architecture. See the Arab baths and the state apartments, still used by the king on occasion, before retreating to the Italianate courtyard of the Palau March, home to modern sculptures and cracking views over Palma.
Then it’s time to dive in to the city’s street life,
Appreciating the Maldives’ natural riches
Nicknames aside, the etymology of the word ‘Maldives’ refers to the remarkable geography of this scattered archipelago. The ‘garland islands’ are indeed draped like a necklace across the Indian Ocean, hanging below the teardrop-shaped earring of Sri Lanka. And this is a treasure crafted from only the finest materials: white-gold sands with a turquoise trim, diamond-clear waters and sparkling sunsets framed by a curtain of palms. Every second spent here is a pinch-me moment.
The Maldives is the world’s lowest country in terms of elevation, and therefore first in the climate change firing line, which makes its natural wonders seem all the more precious, particularly when you meet the wildlife. Keen spotters, snorkelers and scuba divers should head to the southernmost atoll, Addu (also known as Seenu), to see spinner dolphins, sea turtles, whale sharks and white terns – a striking seabird found nowhere else in the Maldives.
Addu is also home to some of the islands’ most novel landmarks – a nine-hole golf course with lagoon views, one of the longest roads in the Maldives (a whole 16km, best travelled by bike) and the nation’s tallest mountain, which
These nine diverse and dynamic countries – all featured in our Europe’s Best Trips guide – represent some of the top spots to hit the road in Europe. Discover what makes them so special and kick your trip planning into gear with our recommended road trips.
Few countries can rival Italy’s wealth of riches. Its historic cities boast iconic monuments and masterpieces at every turn, its food is imitated the world over and its landscape is a majestic patchwork of snowcapped peaks, plunging coastlines, lakes and remote valleys. And with many thrilling roads to explore, it offers plenty of epic driving.
Recommended trip: World Heritage wonders – 14 days, 870 km/540 miles
Start – Rome; finish – Venice
From Rome to Venice, this tour of Unesco World Heritage Sites takes in some of Italy’s greatest hits, including the Colosseum and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and some lesser-known treasures.
Iconic monuments, fabulous food, world-class wines – there are so many reasons to plan your very own French voyage. Whether you’re planning on cruising the corniches of the French Riviera, getting lost among the snowcapped mountains or
Many people rush through Colombo and make straight for the beaches, but linger and you’ll find a city full of history, where stately British colonial buildings jostle for space with Sri Lankan dagobas (stupas), palm-shaded parks and Dutch colonial churches. Here are 7 great ways to explore this constantly evolving city for free.
Snake charmers charm at Viharamahadevi Park
Colombo is spoilt for choice when it comes to places to chill out, but beautifully maintained Viharamahadevi Park is a city favourite. The parades of palms and fig trees are spectacular, the lawns are dotted with statues and fountains, there are views of Colombo’s colonial-era Town Hall, and there’s always the chance of catching the odd snake charmer in action. Find a shady spot and you can people-watch for hours.
Join the locals on Colombo’s favourite promenade
Whilst it might not be quite as green as it once was, Galle Face Green is still frequented by locals in search of some relaxing downtime. There’s a tacky but loveable charm to this seafront park, which is animated by bubble-blowers, bouncing beach balls and vibrant kites swooping across the sky. It’s also a great spot
Tianzifang’s bustling alleyways
Expect cheerfully decorated shop fronts and a lively atmosphere in this fun shopping area at the edge of the French Concession. Tianzifang is a network of small alleys lined with craft shops, bars and food stands. Shoppers looking for the best bargains need to come armed with a price in mind and a knack for haggling – shopkeepers here love the chase!
The Bund waterfront
Shanghai’s elegant skyline comes to life at night along the city’s glittering waterfront, The Bund. This stretch of colonial buildings delights visitors who flock here to gaze at some of China’s most impressive architectural landmarks and towering modern wonders across the river in Pudong. Don’t be put off by the crowds, however; head down in the early evening to savour the light displays before they are turned off at 10pm.
When it comes to ancient art relics, China’s collection is extensive and impressive. Shanghai Museum houses a comprehensive display of the legacy left by the advanced cultures of bygone eras, including the Ming and Qing dynasties. Bronzes, ceramics, ancient coins, jade artefacts and traditional costumes are exhibited across the museum’s four floors,
On a high in Valais
Nothing says Switzerland more than that mountain. As the train chugs from Täsch to the ritzy outdoor resort of Zermatt, the pop-up effect of the Matterhorn is surreal. The 4478m fang of rock and ice forces your gaze skywards and elicits gasps of wonder.
Closer, you say? Kein problem. The Gornergratbahn, Europe’s highest cogwheel railway, has been trundling up to Gornergrat (3089m) since 1898. At the summit, the view of the Gorner Glacier and 29 peaks rising above 4000m – including Switzerland’s highest, Dufourspitze (4634m) – opens up. Skiers, mountaineers and hardcore hikers are in their element at Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, Europe’s highest cable-car station on the Klein Matterhorn (3883m), with views reaching deep into the Swiss, French and Italian Alps.
Ever since British climber Edward Whymper made the first successful ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865 – albeit a triumph marred by rope-breaking tragedy – Zermatt has been the Holy Grail for mountaineers. Here you can tackle some of Europe’s most epic ascents: the Matterhorn, say, or Monte Rosa (4634m), with an Alpine Center guide. Hikers, meanwhile, can set out along the two-hour, 6.5km Matterhorn Glacier Trail.
Spurred on by the drive to win the title of European Capital of Culture 2023, it’s all go, whether you’re after brewery brunches or barista classes, pop-up events or elegant arcades. Here’s our guide to the city’s thriving food, beer and coffee scenes, revamped markets and galleries and historic sights.
Craft beer and Northern Monk
If Leeds could be summed up in one sniff, it would be the aromas of hops and malt. In the past five years, the city has leveraged its proud Yorkshire real-ale heritage to create one of the UK’s finest craft beer scenes. This is a city of connoisseurs, where scores of hopheads worship at dozens of bars and microbreweries.
Leading the pack is Northern Monk, beloved for its sociable taproom in a Grade II-listed mill, its inspired collaborative brews and its brewery brunches starring hop bread.
Holbeck: an unexpected wonderland
Step out of the Northern Monk taproom and you’re slap-bang in the middle of an unexpected wonderland of 19th-century industrial relics. Holbeck may have a reputation as a rough-around-the-edges place (it’s Britain’s first legal red-light zone), but it’s also a fascinating conservation area with some great pubs