Vilnius was founded on this 48m-high hill, occupied since Neolithic times by a series of settlements. The castle today dates to the 15th century and commands 360-degree views of the city; it’s particularly atmospheric at sunset. Inside the tower there’s a branch of the National Museum of Lithuania, displaying 16th- to 18th-century armour.
Immerse yourself in traditional Lithuanian cuisine for your first meal: track down the big wooden bear and you’ll find this local institution making merry in the vaulted 16th-century cellars of a former merchant’s house. It specialises in game such as roast venison, quail with pear and cowberry, and even beaver stewed with mushrooms.
Locals know this microbrewery-pub is a great place to get a cheap, sustaining Lithuanian lunch. It also offers charismatic wooden decor, 12 varieties of beer (including lime, raspberry and caramel) and courtyard tables for the warmer months.
Start your day at this handsome, brick-vaulted creperie-bakery that stands out from the crowd on Vilnius’s busiest tourist street, mixing old-world charm with a fresh, upbeat vibe. The 9am omelette is a must, as are the savoury pancakes. The poppy-seed cake is reputedly the best on this side of town.
Eastern Europe’s largest Old Town deserves its Unesco status. The area, stretching south from the cathedral, was built in the 15th and 16th centuries, and its narrow winding streets, hidden courtyards and lavish churches retain the feel of bygone days. Spend at least the morning aimlessly wandering, starting at Pities Gatve (Castle St). Don’t miss the classical Presidential Palace, the university’s spectacular 13 courtyards and St Anne’s Church – a favourite of Napoleon.
The former headquarters of the KGB (and before them the Gestapo, Polish occupiers and Tsarist judiciary) houses a museum dedicated to thousands of Lithuanians who were killed, imprisoned or deported by the Soviet Union from WWII until the 1960s. Memorial plaques tile the outside of the building. Inside, floors cover the harsh realities of Soviet occupation.
Vilnius is an unlikely hot-air ballooning capital, and there’s no better way to see this city of spires than by sailing over it. Arrange an early flight for your last morning through the city’s ballooning centre, Oreivystes Centras, which offers hour-long saunters over the Old Town with a glass of bubbly.
The Old Town was once home to a sizeable Jewish community that was known around the world for its piety. When the city fell to the Nazis in 1941, many were murdered and today only a small population remains along with relics of the old Jewish quarter. Spend the rest of the morning exploring the area, including the Choral Synagogue, the Holocaust Museum and Tolerance Centre.
One of Eastern Europe’s most beautiful graveyards lies in this leafy suburb, a short stroll east of the centre. Those killed by Soviet special forces on 13 January 1991 are buried here; a sculpture of the Madonna cradling her son memorialises them. Another memorial honours Napoleonic soldiers who died of starvation and injuries in Vilnius while retreating from the Russian army.
The most direct is on Finnair via Helsinki from Singapore. The airport lies four miles south of central Vilnius: trains run to the central station every 30 mins. Taxis from the airport typically cost around US$10-US$15. Buses and trolleybuses run across the city and single tickets cost 80p from the driver; if you have a Vilniecio Kortele (an electronic ticket sold at kiosks). Note that much of the Old Town is pedestrianised and completely closed to traffic.
On a picturesque lane in the Old Town, Bernardinu is a charming family-owned b&b in an 18th-century townhouse. The building has been sensitively renovated, with old timber ceilings.
Narutis is a classy pad housed in a red-brick townhouse that has served as a hotel since the 16th century. Breakfast and dinner are served in a vaulted Gothic cellar, and free apples given out at reception.
Rooms are named after great cultural figures at Shakespeare, a high-end boutique hotel inside a former printing house. Tastefully eclectic decor and switched-on staff give it true distinction.
Lithuania has a long history of folk art and the tradition is thriving in the capital, where you can seek out beautiful textiles, ornaments and dolls.
Senujŭ Amatŭ Dirbtuvés: Weaving, paper-making, book-binding, leather-working and metalworking are lovingly displayed in this fantastic little shop.
Black Ceramics Centre: This workshop is dedicated to preserving and teaching the ancient art of black ceramics.
Jonas Bugailikis: A Lithuanian artist turning out all manner of weird and beautiful sculptures, ornate crosses and musical instruments. Satituva Handicrafts in amber, metal, ceramics, textiles and other materials. Great for unusual toys.
Forget expensive spas – the rich, muddy earth from the cliffs around bays such as Cala Xarraca or Aigues Blanques in the north of the island can be turned into a perfect homemade mud pack. The treatment is simple: fill a bucket with water and mix it with the mud, cover yourself all over, bake yourself in the lbizan sun for 30 minutes until dry, and then dive into the sea to wash it all off.
Ibiza Town’s fortified hilltop was first settled by the Phoenicians and later occupied by a roster of subsequent civilisations. Tranquil and atmospheric, many of its lanes are only accessible on foot and it’s possible to walk the entire ramparts in less than an hour. The area is home to several of Ibiza’s key cultural sights including the contemporary art museum, housed in an 18th-century powder store and armoury. Good restaurants throng Placa de Vila.
This Unesco-listed nature reserve of marshes, salt pans and coast encompasses a wetland habitat for 200 bird species; 16th-century defensive towers, built to protect Ibiza from pirates; and two of the island’s best sandy beaches. It’s possible to walk into the park along a trail that runs from the southern end of Platja d’en Bossa and along the coast to Platja de Salines. Between August and October, the park is home to migrating flamingos (free).
Traffic-free Placa des Parc is the bohemian heart of Ibiza Town and this popular bar-café sits right on the square. By day it’s an enjoyable place for a juice (try an orange and carrot mix), a baguette, or a tapa or three. By night it’s a relaxed bar, with inexpensive combinados (spirit and mixer) and draught beer.
The rawest, least pretentious club in Ibiza, DC-10 in the south of the island is all about the music and has a distinctly underground vibe. The door tax is modest (for Ibiza) and drinks are reasonably priced compared with other big venues. Its Circo Loco session on Mondays is one of the best in Ibiza, kicking off early in the day.
Clubs in Ibiza are notoriously pricey but plenty of the island’s beach bars have a dance vibe and resident DJs. At the southern end of Salines beach, Sa Trinxa is the island’s coolest chiringuito bar and there’s no entry fee (though the food and drinks aren’t cheap). It draws a crowd – hardcore clubbers, fashionistas, models and hippies-all soaking up the Balearic vibes.
The virtually untouched sandy bay of Benirras in northern Ibiza has high-forested cliffs and a trio of bar-restaurants. It’s a spectacular location for sunset and one that Ibiza’s boho tribe has favoured for decades. If you visit on Sunday, you’ll likely see an assembly of drummers banging out a salutation to the sun. It’s a popular spot; arrive early to get a parking space.
The islet of Es Vedra rises like a volcano from the sea off Ibiza’s southwestern tip, setting the scene for a sunset vista. The 18th-century defence tower of Torre des Savinar looks out at it, and is the perfect spot to watch the sinking sun. If the 10-minute walk uphill from Cova des Mirador doesn’t take your fancy, book a table at Es Boldado for a meal overlooking Es Vedra. The rock of Es Vedra is associated with local myths and legends.
The sunset hype over Sant Anton i’s rocky coastline has exploded in the past decade or so and the renowned chill-out bars here – including Café del Mar and Café Mambo – are now expensive and require advance dinner bookings (with a minimum spend) to reserve a space. However, you don’t have to enter the bars to enjoy the show: simply bring your own drinks and find a patch on the rocks close to your DJ of choice.
Travel from Singapore or Kuala Lumpur will require a flight to London first on British Airways or Malaysia Airlines. Then, take a connecting flight on Iberia to get to Ibiza. From Ibiza Airport, bus L10 runs to Ibiza Town, L9 heads west for Sant Antoni and L24 travels north to Santa Eularia. The island’s bus services are efficient and useful if you’re based in a town; check ibizabus.com for routes and stops. If your hotel is in the countryside or you want to explore remote beaches, the best way to get around is by hire car.
Calador offers amazing views of Es Vedra, plus sunny rooms and apartments on the southwest coast. A pool and tennis courts are framed by a garden of palms, and the tower studio has an incredible terrace.
Housed in a restored town mansion, Vara de Rey is a boho guesthouse on a tree-lined boulevard in Ibiza Town. Suites have four-poster beds, crystal chandeliers and Dalt Vila views.
Right by lovely Cala de Boix, Hostal Boix couldn’t be further from the Ibiza madness. Simple rooms and an apartment enjoy direct access to the beach, but there’s also a rambling garden and pool to lure you back to the hotel.
Self-catering: There are a couple of good food markets on the island. Try the daily Mercat Vell in Ibiza Town (9am-9.30pm May-Oct, to 6pm Nov-Apr), or the authentic farmers’ market in the northern town of San Juan (from10.30am Sun).
Eating out: Look for the menu del dia (set menu), which often costs no more than US$12 for three courses; bocadillos (sandwiches) are also cheap lunch options (around US$2.50).
Clubbing: Discounted club tickets can be bought in advance online or from bars and merchants across the island. Use the Discobus to cut transport costs.
Sun-worshipping: Consider buying your own parasol for the holiday, as they cost around US$6 to hire per day.
The quiet town of Sao Bras de Alportel lies in a valley wooded with olives, figs and almonds, but its most significant trees are the cork oaks whose bark is harvested every nine years or so – part of an industry that has helped preserve a unique landscape. Guided walks of varying lengths include visits to plantations and a traditional cork factory.
Along the western coast, you’ll find unspoiled beaches, backed by beautiful wild vegetation. The Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina protects the area, and is home to otters, wild cats and some 200 bird species. The coast also has some of Europe’s finest surf. Amado Surf Camp is one of several outfits around the village of Carrapateira offering surf and accommodation packages.
The Percurso dos Sete Vales Suspensos (Trail of the Seven Hanging Valleys) runs along the clifftops east of Carvoeiro for 31/2 miles, beginning at Praia de Vale Centianes beach, continuing past the sands at Benagil and ending at the limestone rock stacks of Praia da Marinha. The final beach is no secret, but its towering cliffs are emblematic of the Algarvian coast and make a natural backdrop for beach lounging, away from the resorts; the sand and water are perfect.
This russet-coloured, Lego-like castle has great views over Silves town from its chunky sandstone parapets. It dates mostly from the 12th-century Moorish era, with significant modern restoration. Just below it is the medieval Se (cathedral) -one of the Algarve’s most impressive examples, with a substantially unaltered Gothic interior.
A Baroque masterpiece, this church’s inside is wall-to-wall blue-and-white azulejos (painted tiles), with beautiful panels depicting the life of the Roman-era martyr St Lawrence and his grisly death-by-barbecue. The church is off the N125 highway, a mile east of Almancil town centre.
Slumbering in the shadows of its hilltop castle, this picturesque village sees few foreign visitors, but deserves to have more. The Castelo’s medieval walls, bulked up in the 17th century, look out over the nearby border with Spain and marshes that are home to flamingos. A medieval fair is held here around the last weekend in August.
The charming town of Louie is famed for its market, housed in a surprising neo-Moorish building. It’s open every day except Sunday, but on Saturdays stalls spill out onto the streets. Tastings are always on offer somewhere; look out for flame-red piri-piri chillies and homemade hot sauce, along with local ceramics (Praca da Republica; 7am-3prn Mon-Sat).
This rural restaurant six miles north of Albufeira is well worth a trip. It’s famed for serving what many consider to be the Algarve’s finest cataplana (seafood stew) – here, a delicious pork and clam combination. The bean and pork soup is a meal in itself, and the wine cellar, partly on display, is brilliant.
A good pastel de nata (custard tart) is a thing of beauty and a taste of Portugal that will long live in the memory. Pastelarias can be found all over the Algarve, but this one is a local institution in the cobblestoned historic town centre of Tavira. It serves up the best pastries, plus good soups and snacks for those on a budget.
Faro is the gateway airport for the Algarve and it’s possible to fly here from Singapore or Kuala Lumpur on KLM with one stop in Amsterdam. From the airport, shuttle services can zip you to towns across the Algarve or take you into central Faro to connect with buses and trains. The train is a handy option for tripping along the south coast, but hiring a car gives you maximum flexibility, particularly for inland travel. Major car-hire firms operate out of Faro airport.
Hidden in a quiet hill village near Louie, Casa Candelaria is an enchanting b&b in a restored traditional house. Rooms come with private patios and breakfast can be taken on the roof terrace.
Casa Vicentina is a chic and eco-conscious family-friendly retreat on the west coast. The 17-hectare property has a pool abutting a lily-pad-filled lake, and a handful of suites, some with kitchens.
Set among orange groves near Tavira, Quinta da Lua is a delight for its peace and serenity. It has bright and very stylish rooms set around a large saltwater swimming pool.
The Algarve is rich in wetlands and is an important stopover for migratory birds. Birds & Nature can organise birdwatching trips in the region.
Sagres: Raptors pass through this southwestern area on their way to Africa in the autumn. It’s also good for spotting seabirds.
Reserva Naturaldo Sapalde Castro Marim: Important winter visitors to this site in the east of the Algarve include greater flamingos, spoonbills and Caspianterns; in spring it’s busy with white storks.
Lagoa dos Salgados: Between Albufeira and Armasio de Pera, this lagoon is a popular spot for watching ducks and waders; rare species are often seen here.
Parque Natural da Ria Formosa: This park of tidal estuaries and dune islands hosts more than 20,000 birds. Special boat trips leave from Olhao and other towns in the area.
This creperie is renowned for its gourmet crêpes and galettes made from organic flours. The cappuccino-and-cream decor gives it a fresh, modern feel and the crêpes are really first-class. Where else could you savour a galette stuffed with langoustines and cheese? Wash it all down with a local cider.
Most crêperies play on the twee old-Breton style, but this one in Rennes takes an eccentric approach. Although it occupies a heritage building, its purple, green and gold furnishings, fluffy carpets and luxurious chairs make the place look more like a glam Ibizan chill-out club. Funky decor is matched by food with an experimental edge, such as crepe with marshmallows.
Run by the same family for four generations and with unusual delights such as galette with duck and snail butter, this place deserves its reputation as one of the best creperies in the quaint walled medieval town of Dinan. It also serves grilled meats and excellent ice creams. Reserve a table in advance if you can, particularly on Saturdays.
The idyllic little fishing port of Cancale, near St-Malo, is famed for its oyster beds and seafood at the Marche aux Hares. Locals sell their catch from stalls by the Pointe des Crolles lighthouse. Oysters are numbered according to size and quality: they’ll be shucked, dashed with lemon and served before your eyes – voila, one perfect lunch.
This convivial eatery is perched on a small cliff on the wave-lashed Cote Sauvage; bookings are essential for the top tables, squeezed onto a sun-trap terrace hovering above the rocky coastline. The menu is unpretentious – salads, mussels and smoked fish – and you couldn’t ask for a better spot when the sun is shining.
On day-trippers’ favourite lle d’Ouessant, Ty Korn has a ground-floor bar serving Breton black-wheat beers and an excellent restaurant upstairs where seafood is a speciality. Save room for the divine tiramisu breton – biscuit with apples, mascarpone and salted caramel sauce.
The enthralling mast-filled port town of St-Malo and its historic walled core is a beautiful spot. Peer through the windows of this lively bistro and you’ll see it’s packed with loyal regulars. The flavourful cuisine includes duck breast, lamb shanks and sea bass.
Rennes has no shortage of cooking talent yet the chef at this smart bistro is still managing to garner serious accolades. L’Atelier is a hidden institution, adeptly blending the best of high-end bistro fare with solid regional cuisine. It’s good value, too.
This restaurant in Crozon is one of the region’s top gourmet experiences, with an intimate dining room and delicious cuisine. For a more affordable option, head to the annexe nearby where you’ll find lunch from £13.50 at Le Bistrot du Mutin.
It is relatively easy to get to Brittany. From Singapore, fly Air France with one stopover in Paris. For those flying from Kuala Lumpur, Air France will fly to Amsterdam first, then Paris, before heading to Brittany.
Brittany’s bus network is broad but infrequent, meaning that having your own wheels is the best option. Expect to pay about US$90 per day for car rental from Europcar, which has pick-ups directly at Brest Bretagne Airport.
A quirky little hideaway just outside Crozon, Kastell Dinn offers accommodation in decommissioned fishing boats, a roulotte (caravan) and a traditional Breton longere, or long house.
Le Keo adds a touch of glamour to Ile d’Ouessant, with four individually decorated rooms in a coolly refurbished townhouse. One features a traditional lit clos (enclosed bed), and two have sea views.
Plume au Vent, a two-room b&b in Carnac town centre, exudes class with mellow shades, hundreds of neatly bound books, knick-knacks, and polished cement showers and sinks.
Brittany is a paradise for seafood lovers and you’ll find lobster, scallops, sea bass, turbot and mussels, as well as oysters from Cancale.
Kids will love eating crepes, ubiquitous in the region, and galettes— a traditional savoury buckwheat pancake.
Apple-rich cider is a Breton speciality, too. Pair une bolee (a stubby terracotta goblet) with a crêpe or galette and your taste buds will enter gourmet heaven.
Also on the drinks menu, you’ll find local beer Coreff; lait ribot (fermented milk); and chouchen, an aperitif of fermented honey liqueur.
Breton butter naturally goes into crêpes, galettes and the outrageously a buttery Breton cake — kouign amann.
This outstanding wine museum, in the comely village of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, belongs to the Launois family, champagne-makers since 1872. It displays a collection of century-old winery equipment. Two-hour tours run in French and English.
Nathalie and Max run scenic and insightful three-hour minibus tours (in French and English) of their vineyard in Mancy, outside Epernay, passing through local villages, getting among the vines and then finishing with a tasting back at their house. The pick-up point is in Epernay; they can also organise self-guided cycling tours.
You can try champagne anywhere but if you want to know more, Villa Bissinger near Epernay, home to the International Institute for the Wines of Champagne, runs an informative two-hour workshop (in French). Besides covering the basics such as names, producers, grape varieties and characteristics, the workshop includes a tasting of four different champagnes.
Pronounced `moom’, Mumm is a convenient tasting stop in central Reims, founded in 1827. Engaging and edifying guided tours take you through cellars filled with 25 million bottles of fine bubbly and conclude with a tasting.
The headquarters of Taittinger are an excellent place to see a clear presentation on how champagne is made. Parts of the cellars, now Unesco-listed, were 4th-century Roman stone quarries; other bits were dug by 13th-century monks. The maison is a mile southeast of central Reims .
This handsome street in the region’s champagne capital is lined with mansions and maisons de champagne. Moet & Chandon and Mercier are both based here; the tours at Moet are impressive, offering a peek into its 17-mile labyrinth of cellars
There’s a relaxed ambience at this champagne bar in Epernay, which offers tasting plates and a stash of 350 varieties of champagne in its cellar ready for sampling. The bar-bistro is kitted out with funky bottle-top tables, and plates include rillettes (pâté), regional cheese and charcuterie.
“The Champagne Cellar” is rated by locals for its champenoise cuisine – such as snail and pig’s trotter casserole, and fillet of beef in pinot noir – served in a warm, traditional atmosphere in Epernay.
This sweet dream of a chocolaterie, patisserie and tearoom is the place to come for a champenoise speciality called the ‘Baba’ – vanilla cream topped by a cork-shaped pastry flavoured with champagne.
There are no direct flights to the Champagne region, but it’s around 2’/2-3 hours’ drive from Calais and is easily reached from Paris and its airports. Trains run from Paris Gare de L’Est to Reims in less than an hour and to Epernay in about 11/2 hours (US$47). Direct trains also run between these two regional hub towns (US$15; 22-42 minutes). The best way to get to Troyes is by bus from Reims. To explore the countryside and wine-growing villages you’ll need a car: Hertz has a base in Reims and Europcar is in Epernay.
Hotel Les Comtes de Champagne is ensconced in a trio of pastel-hued 16th-century half-timbered houses in Troyes, in the south of the region. Its bright courtyard lobby and flower boxes give it a lovely feel, and there’s a 12th-century cellar.
Sitting handsomely beside the Avenue de Champagne in Epernay in grounds with an outdoor pool, La Villa Eugene is a class act. This beautiful 19th-century mansion once belonged to the Mercier family.
To sip champagne in the lap of luxury, book into Les Crayeres on the fringes of Reims. Manicured lawns sweep to this graceful château, where you can dine in Michelin-starred finery.
Blanc de Blancs: Champagne made using only chardonnay grapes. Fresh and elegant with a bouquet reminiscent of fruits such as pear and plum.
Blanc de Noirs: A full-bodied, deep golden champagne made solely with black grapes (pinot noir or pinot meunier). Often rich and refined, with great complexity and a long finish.
Rose: Pink champagne (mostly served as an aperitif), with a fresh character and summer-fruit flavours. Made by adding a small percentage of red pinot noir to white champagne.
Prestige Cuvee: Usually made with grapes from top-classed grand cru vineyards, and priced and bottled accordingly.
Millesime: Vintage champagne produced from a single crop during an exceptional year. Most champagne is non-vintage.
This scenic trail passes through a number of atmospheric old tunnels as it follows the path of a disused railway line for 81/2 miles from Coombs Road Viaduct on the outskirts of Bakewell to Topley Pike in Wye Dale. Three miles into the walk, there is a dramatic viewpoint at Monsal Head, where you can pause for refreshment at the Monsal Head Hotel.
Quaint little Eyam makes a great base for walking and cycling in the White Peak area. For an interesting short hike, follow Water Lane out of the village from the main square, then turn right and climb the hill to reach Mompesson’s Well, where supplies were left during a plague outbreak for Eyam folk by friends from other villages. To return to Eyam, retrace your steps down the lane, then take a path that leads directly to the church. The two-mile circuit takes about 11/2 hours. Eyam is famed for isolating itself during the 1665 bubonic plague.
This 46-mile trail winds through the Derbyshire countryside from Castleton to Rocester in Staffordshire, following footpaths, tracks and quiet lanes -highlights along the way include beauty spots Millers Dale and Robin Hood’s Stride. Many people walk the 26-mile section between Castleton and Matlock in one long, tiring day, but setting aside two days will make it more comfortable. Local tourist offices have a detailed leaflet with route information.
The limestone sections of the Peak District are riddled with caves and caverns, particularly around Castleton. Peak Cavern is easily reached by a pretty streamside walk from Castleton centre and has the largest natural cave entrance in England, known as the Devil’s Arse. Inside, dramatic limestone formations are lit with fibre-optic cables.
Striking Winnats Pass is a collapsed cave system, once a coral reef canyon. Sheer-sided cliffs frame a lovely green valley, footpaths abound, and it’s here that you’ll find the entrance to Speedwell Cavern – a cave reached via an eerie boat ride through flooded tunnels, emerging by a huge subterranean lake.
It’s very cool down in this magnificent natural cavern, a pleasant mile stroll southwest of Buxton, reached by descending 28 steps into an underground lair. Tours lasting 50 minutes run every 20 minutes from March to October. From the car park, a 20-minute walk leads through Grin Low Wood to Solomon’s Temple – a ruined tower with fine views over the town.
High Peak Trail is an easy, traffic-free ride through beautiful hills and farmlands following the old railway line from Cromford to Dowlow. The Pennine Bridleway is another top network, with 205 miles of trails. If you don’t have your own wheels, Peak Tours runs guided tours and the National Park Authority has three bike rental centres.
It’s actually a vintage milk float, rather than a tram, but this old contraption is still a highly entertaining way to tour the historic sights of pretty Buxton. From the Opera House, take the Wonder of the Peak tour as it trundles along at 12mph on an hour-or-so circuit of the centre. There are only eight seats, so book ahead.
Known as the ‘Palace of the Peak’, Chatsworth House has been occupied by the earls and dukes of Devonshire for centuries. Inside it’s packed with priceless paintings and period furniture; outside there are miles of grounds and ornamental gardens to explore, and kids will love the farmyard adventure playground. The stately home has starred in Pride & Prejudice on more than one occasion.
Head to London first on British Airways from Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. Matlock and Bakewell are the area’s two main transport hubs, but neither town is connected directly to London by train (you need to change at Stockport). Many National Express London-Manchester buses stop at Matlock, Bakewell and Buxton. The Peak Plus is a handy pass offering all-day travel on most High Peak buses.
*Handsome two-room b&b Stonecroft lies in an enchanting cluster of houses surrounded by majestic country. Host Julia is an award-winning chef; her packed lunches are available on request.
*In a Hope Valley village near Castleton, Samuel Fox is an enchanting inn owned by chef James Duckett. The gorgeous pastel-shaded guestrooms upstairs come with a sumptuous breakfast.
*Within rolling distance of the famed pudding shops, Rutland Arms is an aristocratic-looking old coaching inn with 33 rooms and lots of Victorian flourishes. Jane Austen is said to have stayed.
The Peak District’s famous dessert was invented following an accidental misreading of a recipe around 1820. Rich and delicious, it makes a great post-hike treat and there are two shops in Bakewell that claim to be the creator:
The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop has a quaint first-floor tearoom with exposed beams where you can sit down and try the pudding with lashings of custard, or as part of an afternoon tea.
There’s no sit-down dining in Bloomers of Bakewell, set in a 17th-century stone building. If you don’t make it here in person, it’s possible to order a Bakewell pudding online and have it posted to your door.
Walking around Narendra Bhawan is like taking a quick refresher course in the history of design. There’s a delightful confluence of elements from around the world – a hat tip to its former inhabitant’s eclectic tastes. Banarasi weaves framed and mounted on the walls play up a contrast with Art Deco’s chevron patterns, Ming vases share space with European porcelain figurines, the intricate designs of usta art, a Bikaneri specialty, fight with the delicate beauty of Portuguese tiles for your attention. Almost every corner of the hotel, once the residence of the last king of Bikaner, Narendra Singh, transports you to a different time.
Geared mostly towards a young, urban crowd, this 82-room property officially opened its doors to visitors in October 2016. Narendra Bhawan offers traditional hospitality with a cool, hip vibe. Rooms are furnished with modern conveniences, the terrace houses an infinity swimming pool, Edith, the red piano, tempts you to unleash your inner Beethoven, and a well-equipped gym calls out to fitness enthusiasts. If your idea of a perfect holiday is curling up with a book and endless cups of chai (that you don’t have to brew yourself), you will be spoilt for choice here. Sit cross-legged on the asana chairs in the lounge area or sink into the comfort of large cushions placed in designed seating areas in the corridors with sunlight streaming in through the jaali work. And don’t fret if you’ve forgotten your Kindle at home, you’ll find well-stocked bookshelves here. While deciding what to read, get acquainted with the maharaja’s family, and his dogs, through the picture frames on the shelves.
Narendra Singh’s love for animals is legendary – he once owned 500 cows and 90 dogs! In the evening, head to the terrace, done up in a pleasing combination of white and beige, with pops of blue. It’s the perfect place at which to mull over existentialism, or to think of an alternate ending for How I Met Your Mother with your toes dipped in the pool, as you take in views of the city. For those who want to explore what Bikaner has to offer (besides excellent bhujia), the hotel offers thoughtfully-curated experiences. For first-timers, the Royal Exploration is a great way to learn about the city’s 500-year history. Architecture buffs will love the Merchant Exploration trail through the winding lanes where traders lived in their grand havelis, the oldest dating back to the 17th century.
The elaborate facades of these havelis, with British, Mughal and Rajput influences, make for a visual treat. The trail ends with a Marwari lunch at one of these palaces. There are other fun outdoor options too. Grab a pair of binoculars and head to Gajner Wildlife Sanctuary, 35km away, for a chance to spot blackbuck, spotted deer, cranes and peacocks. It’s enjoyable as long as you keep your expectations real. What is very memorable though is Sundowner at the Pastures – a truly spectacular set-up designed to please all the senses.
Marvel at a fiery orange sun sinking into the sand dunes, as you swirl the wine around in your glass and nibble on ker sangri tikkis while listening to the soothing notes of the flute – it’s a pretty good way to wind up the day.
GREAT FROM: New Delhi, Jaipur, Jodhpur
GREAT FOR: A lazy, relaxed, fun vacation
WHERE TO STAY
Narendra Bhawan: Currently only two categories of rooms – the Residence and Prince – are available at the hotel. By March 2017, three more room categories in different themes and sizes are expected to be functional. The hotel is located in the midst of a residential area, so don’t expect stunning views from your balcony.
WHERE TO EAT
Meals are served at Pearls and Chiffon. Chefs Sachit Jha, Ram and Bhanwar Singh whip up dishes to suit every palate and the menu has excellent Marwari cuisine options. The bajra poori with methi ki sabzi is a great choice for breakfast and the pyaaz kachori hits the spot. The tangy tikkis made with ker sangri – a berry-bean combination unique to Rajasthan – will make your tastebuds tingle. Satiate your sweet tooth with a slice of the apricot-brandy cake or dig into the ever-popular and equally sinful chocolate lava cake with ice cream ). If you want something a little more exclusive and a lot more royal, dine in the private dining area, which can accommodate up to 10 people. Don’t bother carrying theplas or other snacks if you’re prone to late night cravings. The kitchen is open and in-room dining from a separate midnight menu is available 24 hours (from 11.30pm).
The local markets are just 10 minutes away from the hotel. You can shop for mojdis at Mahendra Jooti Corner. Pick up bhujia from Chotu Motu Joshi, one of the oldest shops in the area. Help the dying usta art by picking up souvenirs like jewellery boxes, perfume bottles, photo frames, table lamps and paintings from Azmal Hussain Usta’s shop.
CLEAN LOO GUIDE
There aren’t many clean public loos in Bikaner so it’s best to use the hotel facilities before stepping out. The drive to and from Jaipur Airport is at least five hours long, and the dhabas en route have very basic toilets. It’s best to use the loo before embarking on the long drive. Carry hand sanitiser.
For any medical emergencies, head to MN Hospital and Research Centre.
Bikaner is relatively safe, but it’s best not to wander around by yourself. Take the usual precautions.
The hotel has board games and organises movie screenings to keep kids busy and entertained, but it’s best to carry along games they enjoy. They will enjoy splashing about in the pool, too.
* The property is pet friendly, but keep in mind the presence of at least one golden retriever on the premises.
* A spa, which will offer flower-based therapies, is slated to open by July 2017.
* If forts fascinate you, pencil in a visit to Junagarh Fort, which enjoys the distinction of never having been invaded.
The loud festivities of Lunar New Year may overlook this spectacularly visual festival but the longstanding tradition of releasing floating lanterns into the sky is still gaining traction among locals from around the country and other travellers.
While the sale and release of sky lanterns are available in Pingxi throughout the year, nothing beats coming down during this particular festival to watch the mass release of sky lanterns. The tradition is generations-old and stems from villagers releasing the lanterns to warn women and children to run up the hills when the village was under attack by bandits and marauders. The lanterns are no longer used as a warning but it is a popular custom to write down a wish on the paper lanterns before sending it up to the heavens for the divine to grant them.
The Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival is set to start on 4 February and continue on over the next few weekends. Lanterns are released en masse every 20 minutes and there are also events at various venues, including Pingxi junior High, Qingtong Junior High, and Shifen Sq.
Mt It would be more convenient to stay in Taipei and make the hour-drive east to Pingxi during the day.The new Hotel PaPa Whale serves as a great base from which to explore Taipei.The boutique hotel exudes a warm, intimate charm with its minimalist style and modern facilities and amenities. The hotel is also easy to spot too with the two murals of a blue whale painted on the sides of the stark-white building (from US $55 per night; papawhale.com).
YOU ARE SLEEPING IN:
Luxury tents within a private campsite that boast extravagant amenities such as plush mattresses, pillows and linen, flush toilets, washbasins and top Cambodian botanicals Bodia Nature products. Any couple seeking an adventurous yet romantic getaway can do so through this ethereal retreat with sister company Heritage Adventures. Start off the journey with a countryside jeep tour and hidden temple visit, then settle in during sunset and enjoy welcome cocktails and cold towels. All meals are fully catered for and when night falls, the site is lit with candles and oil lamps for an experience like no other.
WHAT ARE THE ADDITIONAL DRAWS?
Tents run cheaper with higher number of bookings, so head on down with your private entourage and explore the hidden temples and archaeological wonders such as Prei Monti and Beng Mealea en route to the camp site. When daylight arrives, the group can also go on a culture tour to a nearby village in a traditional ox cart.
YOU ARE SLEEPING IN:
Safari-inspired tent suites that come with modern day spoils of air-condition, 4-poster beds, LCD television, outdoor Jacuzzi, BBQ pits, sisal carpets and complimentary Wi-Fi. Each suite is 400sqft big, with a private garden where visitors can stargaze in a hammock. The Canopi is just 45 minutes away from Singapore via a high-speed catamaran ferry and includes an activity of interest for all nature advocates and thrill-seekers. Exotic species of rainforest plants and wildlife can also be spotted during the Mangrove River Safari, these includes kingfishers, raptors, otters and even snakes.
WHAT ARE THE ADDITIONAL DRAWS?
Right out front the glamorous row of outdoor suites is the spectacular 6.3 hectares salt water Crystal Lagoon. This is Southeast Asia’s first and largest recreational sea-water body that has undergone a treatment process. Aquagliding, bumper boat, jetovator, kayaking and water tricycle are just some of the interactive water activities available. Bali also has some of the world’s best masseuse so be sure to book an in-room massage session while at it.
3. TREEHOTEL – Harads, Sweden
YOU ARE SLEEPING IN:
Thematic rooms up in the trees. Treehotel Sweden is world renowned for its incredible accommodation types that comes in the form of a Bird’s Nest, a Cabin, a Dragonfly, a Mirrorcube, a Blue Cone or a UFO. The owners were inspired by the film The Tree Lover by Jonas Selbery and, with the help of Scandinavia’s top architects, they created these aesthetically beautiful rooms that blend well with the surrounding environment. During peak seasons, travellers will also get a chance to spy the magical Aurora Borealis right above the pine forests.
WHAT ARE THE ADDITIONAL DRAWS?
Britta’s Pensionat is open for Treehotel’s guests to dine in an authentic 1930-1950s setting. There is also a restaurant, bar, sauna, relaxation area, television area and internet for all visitors to enjoy before setting foot through the breathtaking nature into the individual treerooms. Depending on the season of visit, visitors can either experience snowshoe hiking and dog sledding or kayaking and fishing. There will never be a dull moment.
YOU ARE SLEEPING IN:
Authentic safari camps nestled under magnificent and thick groves of mahogany trees. Located in the remote Nsefu section of South Luangwa National Park, Tena Tena provides extraordinary experiences for all their visiting guests. Walking safaris, game drives, cultural village tours, visitations to local market and tribal textiles are all part of the travel journey. The camp runs on solar power with a backup generator for cloudy days, and tap water runs from a borehole that is safe for drinking. Concerned travellers can put their minds to ease knowing that these eco-friendly factors are put into place.
WHAT ARE THE ADDITIONAL DRAWS?
The camp is not opened all year round due to seasonal issues, thus, exclusivity is key. Although it takes slightly more than an hour to get to the campsite from Mfuwe Airport, colourful village life and game viewing opportunities are aplenty. There are also a couple of restrictions such as the allowance of soft travel bags only, due to aircraft and other land transport regulations, so ditch those luxury suitcases and go on a genuine backpacking trip while exploring the safari plains.
YOU ARE SLEEPING IN:
Canopied pavilions atop rust-red dunes. The modern and discerning traveller will enjoy the custom-made furniture from contemporary Australian designers offering stylish lounging; bespoke Baillie Bed’ dressed in organic linens and opulent throws that hold centre stage. Glass doors open up to a timeless landscape and a spacious balcony complete with day bed and fireplace is the perfect idling area while on vacation. Each ‘tent’ is named after an explorer or pioneer who has contributed to local indigenous artworks that provides a stark contrast to the pioneering past. Being based in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park also means exceptional complimentary tour programmes, personal encounter with the Red Centre’s iconic natural attractions and intimate sharing session with fellow guests.
WHAT ARE THE ADDITIONAL DRAWS?
Longitude is able to create a fully customised special interest itinerary for those who seek something more. Head on an amazing helicopter flight over Uluru or Kata Tjuta to fully appreciate the scale and grandeur of the spectacular region or take an exhilarating Harley Davidson motorcycle tour around the base of Uluru. One may also meander through the rich red sand dunes atop a camel to watch the awe inspiring backdrop of Uluru at different times of the day.
Living volcanoes, star-lit skies and magnificent sights worthy of Hollywood; it’s all the makings of an unforgettable journey on magical, mythical islands!
Opportunities to visit live volcanoes and stare upon a starry-night sky may come only once in a lifetime and to neglect the opportunity is akin to Oscar Wilde’s description of individuals who have neglected to live a full life.
Some may gad about the importance of their futures but true souls know that life is savoured in the moment. The noted essayist once said, “To live life to the fullest is the rarest thing; most only exist and that is all”.
If we may be permitted to offer a suggestion Hawaii is such a place to return to an unparalleled oneness with nature.
While some might enjoy the tranquillity of a hot air balloon while enjoying breathtaking landscapes but the adventurous will prefer the panache and rapid tempo which comes with a burst of adrenaline that can only be fulfilled with a helicopter ride.
The moment of anticipation one goes through before take-off is truly an adventure of its own. For an electrifying experience that guarantees safety, Blue Hawaiian Helicopters is our recommendation for your first call while touring Hawaii’s mystical isles.
A curious fact while touring the skies with Blue Hawaiian is this; they are actually Hollywood’s first call when it comes to iconic scenic shots that directors use in movies. The helicopter tours company was actually involved with photography work for motion pictures like Jurassic Park, Crimson Tide, and Disney’s Pearl Harbour.
In the category of helicopter tour companies under Hawaii Magazine, the company bagged consecutive wins for Hawaii’s best 5 years in a row from 2012. The company is also certified by the Department of Defence (DOD).
Under a star-lit sky atop Hawaii’s tallest peak is one of the world’s premier locations for astronomers and star gazers to enjoy a stunning display of astronomical beauty. Maunakea, Hawaii’s tallest peak which stands at 4,207 metres is one of the world’s best sites for astronomical observation due to extremely stable atmosphere and it’s above the clouds locale.
Journeying to the site in the afternoon is recommended for first time visitors and will allow for magnificent photos of a sunset above the clouds. The red hue of the sun creates an impression that one is actually on Mars, the red planet of our solar system.
Once the sun sets, visitors may look forward to a remarkable star lit sky which is nothing short of awe-inspiring. The cherry on top of this wonderful experience is to have knowledgeable guides dictate to you about the origins and navigational tips of ancient explorers while sipping hot cocoa atop the chilly summit.
Test the limits of your courage by visiting one of Mother Nature’s most active volcanoes in Hawaii, Mount Kilauea. The name Kilauea, in the Hawai’ian tongue actually bears the meaning of” spewing” or “much spreading” in reference to the volcano’s constant outpouring of lava. The volcano has been said to be erupting on a continuous basis since 1983.
Kilauea, is also now known as the “smiling volcano” after a smiley face formed on the volcano’s east rift zone in July 2016. Satisfy your inner nerd on all things volcano when you visit the Jagger Museum situated next to the lookout point overlooking Kilauea or get the summary from the knowledgeable guides Kilauea Summit Adventures.
Get behind the scenes of all things Hollywood when you visit Kualoa ranch, the location of many television shows and Hollywood films. Whether it’s Jurassic Park, Tears of the Sun, 50 First Dates or TV specials such as Hawaii Five-O, Magnum PI and LOST, many of these scenes will appear remarkably familiar to any cinematic enthusiast or “moviephile”.
The 4,000-acre ranch features dense rainforests and broad open valleys that make for an unforgettable picturesque scene. Also included are magnificent views from beautiful white sand beaches to verdant cliff faces which are open to exploration either by hiking, an ATV or if one is feeling particularly adventurous, horseback.
Understanding that environmental protection plays a big part in its future vision, the ranch established the “Aina Pono Foundation” in 2009 which serves to help preserve the characteristics of ancient Hawaiian culture.
The sun rises everyday over our heads but it’s rare if any get to witness the beauty concealed within the House of the Sun or better known as ‘Haleakala’ by the Hawaiian locals. Native Hawaiians have lived on and cared for the land around Haleakala for over 1,000 years with important cultural sights and ‘meles’ (songs/chants) to mark the history of the landscape. Between the 1930s and 1940s, the federal government of the United States sponsored the Civilian Conservation Corp which was heavily engaged with a variety of projects at the park.
The national park is a rare and sacred landscape home to uncommon species of pollinated geraniums found nowhere else on earth. Among them are the silver geranium, many-flowered geranium, geranium hanaense, and the prized geranium arboretu-n said to be the rarest of the four. The geranium arboreum is said to be critically endangered with less than 50 individual plants populating the hills.
Visitors to Haleakala may also wish to arrive early to capture the much anticipated sunrise scenes of which draw hundreds of tourists every day. Visitors in personal or rental vehicles would need to make advance reservations ahead of time in order to make the sunrise viewings.
For a scenic view of Honolulu and an adrenaline high from hiking, the climb to the summit of Leahi, the Diamond Head State Monument of Oahu is an absolute must for those who wish to view the picturesque views of the island and enjoy the blustery winds at the top.
From the summit, unobstructed views of the entire Waikiki and the Pacific Ocean can be seen in utter detail and certainly worth its steep but short hike. The name Le’alli actually most likely comes from the Hawaiian word ‘Ahi’ which means tuna as the shape of the mountain’s ridgeline somewhat resembles the shape of a tuna’s dorsal fin.
The historic trail to the summit of Le’ahi was build back in 1908 as part of the U.S Army Coastal Artillery defence system and obtained its name as a national natural landmark back in 1968. For those planning a weekend hike on Saturday, the Kapiolani Community College Farmer’s Market meets at the base of the hill across the street from the monument’s entrance to offer locally grown food and produces.
For all things Hawaii, we recommend downloading the FREE Go Hawai’i app from the Apple iTunes Store or Google Play Store which contains vital travel information about the Hawaiian islands.