Brightest attractions for the coming year

The newly opened visitor centre at Patrick Pearse’s Cottage lies in the heart of the Gaeltacht area where Irish is still a vibrant, living language in use by the locals. As well as paying tribute to one of the key figures of the country’s revolutionary history, it celebrates the local history and cultural impact of the native language. Set in the middle of an incredible windswept landscape, it’s a chance for visitors to experience an often hidden part of Ireland.

Go back to the source of the world’s favourite pick-me-up

ithin sight of the countryside’s magnificent hills and mountains.

Get a taste of the future as the world’s first

by exploring the Coffee Route. El Salvador’s dense coffee forests are opening up to tourism and are full of exciting opportunities for extreme sports, wildlife spotting and a chance to cultivate the beans themselves, all w3D printing restaurant (foodink.io) embarks on a world tour this year after a successful pop-up in London. Combining fine dining with the latest in technology, the results are visually stunning gourmet feasts. If you can’t book in for a full meal, you can visit during the day to taste the snacks and learn how the printers work.

If hiking the Bernese Alps isn’t enough of an adrenaline rush for you, it’s time to tackle Schilthorn Mountain’s new Thrill Walk. You’ll need nerves of steel to cross the tightrope with nothing but a net between you and a drop of nearly 3000 metres, but you’ll be rewarded with priceless views and stunning photos from the observation deck.

The world’s biggest Lego store (lego.com) is now open in Leicester Square and is a must-see for young and young-at-heart travellers. Covering a whopping 914 square metres over two floors, it’s a huge treasure trove for fans of the building bricks that have sparked a love of construction and creativity for decades.

Travel resolutions

Next time you’re stuffing a pair of impractical shoes and a bumper-size shampoo into your bag, stop to consider the feelings of future you: the one sporting a sweaty back patch and a face riddled with regret. The ‘I’ll manage’ attitude dissipates in a flurry of expletives as you drag your luggage up a broken escalator, straining your bicep and stubbing a toe in the process. Worth it? Not so much.

Stick to it: Downsize: restricting suitcase volume soon hinders overpackers. Prioritise: it’s OK to take three paperbacks if you’re willing to forgo the laptop. Enlist a ruthless packing buddy who won’t give in to the words ‘but I neeeeeed it!’.

 

Take better pictures

Sick of returning home from a trip with thousands of hastily snapped images that you’ll never have the time to sift through and edit, let alone share? Whether you’re shooting for social media, an online portfolio or the family album, investing a little time and effort can take your creations from amateur to incredible.

Stick to it: Read up on how to take a decent smartphone snap; enrol on a photography course; join a photographer’s meetup while you’re on the road; or take a tour that combines travel and tuition.

 

Stop putting it off

Family, finances, your career… even fear. There are plenty of factors that prevent people from travelling – but when valid reasons become comfortable alternatives to taking a risk, it’s time for a reality check. You have one life on this planet. Stop making excuses and start making plans.

Stick to it: Whether you long for a round-the-world extravaganza or simply a weekend away, it’s not going to land on your lap. Identify your true barriers to travel and tackle them head on. Strapped for cash? Start saving. Option paralysis? Consult the experts. Worried what your boss will think? Propose a trip that will boost your résumé.

Amazing year for travel

Two museums dedicated to the iconic French designer are opening in Paris and Marrakesh.

When a trip involves Marrakesh or Paris, two of my favourite cities, I’m always excited. But add Yves St Laurent to the mix – the man who introduced ‘le tuxedo’ for women and whose influence on the catwalk today is still undeniable – and I’m storming the departure gates. This year two new museums are opening, celebrating the designer’s incredible legacy. His former Paris atelier, which is being refurbished to its former glory, allows visitors the opportunity to get a sense of his work process, while also immersing themselves in the city of haute couture. Or take a trip to Morocco to drink in the electric blue of the designer’s Jardin Majorelle, which he bequeathed to Marrakesh, and where the new museum will display his work. But why not make both pilgrimages? I know I will.

So much of St Petersburg’s allure lies in its wealth of history. But for me, New Holland Island, with its focus on public space and the arts, is a perfect addition to Russia’s cultural capital. The project seems poised to bring a burst of modernity to the historic city, providing a place for locals and travellers to go skating, visit food carts or even see a concert – the perfect way to kick back after a long visit to the Hermitage. Strolling onto the formerly restricted naval island will not only provide an interesting insight into the city’s past, but also a glimpse of its future.

As I’m a devoted follower of Prince’s music, the opening of his Minnesota estate Paisley Park is one of the most exciting new developments in travel for 2017. Fans of the iconic performer will no doubt be aware of the unique spirit and impressive output of His Royal Purpleness, who used the 65,000 square-foot complex as his creative sanctuary. From recording a string of hit records and feature films to the manufacturing of clothing for upcoming tours, everything was done on site either personally or under the watchful eye of the industrious perfectionist. Following his death, Paisley Park has grown to represent sheer creativity and artistic opportunity. The idea of getting a first-hand look at the inner sanctum of one of music’s most enigmatic characters will no doubt excite and inspire many travellers and music fans alike.

Ultimate romantic honeymoon

From cruising across turquoise lagoons to hiking otherworldly coastlines, exploring ancient temples and well, just doing nothing at all, these island escapes offer something for everyone. Find your perfect slice of honeymoon paradise.

This chunk of France, afloat in the Mediterranean, deserves its monicker: L’île de Beauté. The rumpled, maquis-cloaked interior – where you can easily forget the world – tumbles to perfect golden crescents, some touristy, some seemingly unfound. There’s wildness if you want it (the hiking is some of Europe’s best), but also fine food and indulgent retreats, not least Domaine de Murtoli (murtoli.com) – possibly the continent’s most romantic hideaway.

Why pick one island when you can have 30? That’s about how many specks of wonderful white sand make up this Indian Ocean archipelago. Among them is Ibo, home to the 16th-century Portuguese trading settlement of Ilha de Moçambique – a must-see. After a dose of culture here, sail between the islands – remote Vamizi, luxe Quilalea – stopping off on nameless cayes for lobster barbecues en route.

Huahine, a 40-minute flight from Tahiti, is Polynesia at its most sublime (and that’s quite a feat). Slopes of tropical abundance sink into eye-searingly blue lagoons; there’s culture aplenty, including the highest density of marae (temples) in the territory; and opportunities abound for snorkelling, horse riding, surfing or doing nothing at all.

This tiny speck of pines on Ontario’s Kawawaymog Lake can only be reached by canoe, and is ideal for two. There’s a cosy cabin with a second-floor deck and outdoor dining table ideally placed for sunset; a floating sauna bobs in the shallows. Other than that, it’s you and the wilderness.

The reason of family travel

Travel has never been so kid-friendly. Long gone are the days when in-flight entertainment was limited to one communal screen, museums hid all their fascinating wares behind glass, and dining out at fancy restaurants was an adult-only affair.

The experience of travelling as a child has dramatically improved in the last 30 years. Here are five reasons we’re envious of today’s young explorers.

Travel has never been so kid-friendly. Long gone are the days when in-flight entertainment was limited to one communal screen, museums hid all their fascinating wares behind glass, and dining out at fancy restaurants was an adult-only affair.

The experience of travelling as a child has dramatically improved in the last 30 years. Here are five reasons we’re envious of today’s young explorers.

Travel has never been so kid-friendly. Long gone are the days when in-flight entertainment was limited to one communal screen, museums hid all their fascinating wares behind glass, and dining out at fancy restaurants was an adult-only affair.

The experience of travelling as a child has dramatically improved in the last 30 years. Here are five reasons we’re envious of today’s young explorers.

The dream honeymoon

With these top ten budget-friendly getaways you can count your pennies without compromising on all the once-in-a-lifetime experiences, dynamic culture and delicious cuisine you could want for your first adventure as newlyweds.

 

Morocco

Arabian exoticism, fragrant spices – and lovely low prices. Morocco’s hard to beat for bargain romance. Marrakesh, Fez and Essaouira offer time-warp medinas chock-full of character and cheap cafes. Eschew your sense of direction to get lost in the maze-like souqs – the shopping possibilities are plentiful, with everything from carpets to babouches to be snapped up. Converted riads (traditional courtyard houses) offer accommodation with oodles of atmosphere; some are pricey but many are astonishingly reasonable, enabling palace-like stays on a pauper’s budget.

 

India

Long-favoured by the impecunious, India has become more expensive – but, mostly, it’s still amazingly cheap. For instance, opulent Palace On Wheels trains might be dear, but even budget ’mooners can afford first-class on India Rail – a Delhi-Udaipur overnighter costs around US$20 second-class, and only US$10 more in first-class sleeper.

 

Vietnam

You could get by for less than US$10 a day in Vietnam and still eat like a king – it’s street-food heaven. Make sure to sample the city’s signature dishes: beef pho, bun cha (barbecued pork with rice noodles) and chow a bánh mì (baguette) as you wander. A mid-range trip won’t break the bank either, but will buy more characterful guesthouses, a better Halong Bay cruise and memorable experiences (a cookery class, a cycle around Hoi An) with change left for a beach stay on beautiful Phu Quoc Island.

 

Portugal

Portugal is liberating. The little anxieties – is that cafe too posh for us? Can we afford another coffee? – don’t exist here. Even in fancier establishments, espressos usually cost less than US$1, beers no more than US$2. You find yourself ordering a second pastel de nata (divine Portuguese custard tart) – well, why not? There are cute casas and converted farmhouses oozing charm for under US$100 a night, too.

The worlds best spice markets

Rahba Kedima, also known as Spice Square, is the obvious place to head to for brash, bright and brilliant flavourings when in Marrakesh. The mixed spices for flavouring fish and meat are a must for adventurous cooks, while you can also snap up anise, mace and fresh cinnamon for a snip of the cost back home. If you want good saffron, don’t buy the ground stuff – ask to see the fresh strands. It can get pricey, so make sure you shop around before parting with your cash.

Try before you buy: take a break from the busy crowds at Café des Epices. The mint tea here is particularly good.

 

Long Bien Market, Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi’s labyrinthine Old Quarter is home to a wide variety of spice stalls. But for something a lot more visceral, set your alarm for 4am and head to Long Bien Market on the banks of the Red River. This pre-dawn, wholesale spot is the place to buy the freshest mint, lemongrass, cinnamon, coriander and ginger. This is a working market, meaning tourists are few and far between, so be respectful when taking pictures.

Try before you buy: vendors selling steaming bowls of pho (noodle soup) are easy to find. All use fresh spices and herbs, perfect for a pep up after an early start.

 

Grand Bazaar, Tehran, Iran

Tehran’s Grand Bazaar can feel like a daunting warren, especially as the day wears on and business becomes frantic. While its carpet shops and mosques are alluring, it’s the spice lanes that are the most evocative. You can buy spices, nuts and dried fruit by the weight or pre-bagged. The best deal is on saffron, which owing to its abundance is much cheaper here than in western countries.

Try before you buy: take a break from the chaos at Moslem Restaurant, a bazaar institution serving tah chin – rice cakes with saffron and chicken.

 

Benito Juarez market, Oaxaca, Mexico

Oaxaca’s oldest market is sprawled over an entire block in the centre of the city. While tourists flock here, this remains a busy, working market, selling a huge array of produce. Dive in and you’ll find a mind-boggling variety of dried chilli peppers in all shapes and sizes, including ancho and chilhuacle. You can also buy ready-made mole paste, a fiery chilli concoction used to create the best Mexican dishes. Just be sure to check import restrictions in your home country before you buy a suitcase load of the latter.

Step into the real life Jungle Book

Exploring the life of the writer who almost single-handedly conjured the popular image of ‘British India’, we look at the legacy of the Raj in other locations close to his heart: from the magnificent architecture of Mumbai – where he was born in 1865 – to the hill station of Shimla, former summer capital and colonialist playground, in the foothills of the Himalayas.

 

Where to find Kipling’s jungle

We all know Kipling’s jungle. Whether you first encountered it in the pages of his short stories, or found it in Disney’s adaptation, you are no doubt familiar with its steamy layers of leaves, its sun-warmed pools, its ancient temples overrun by monkeys and creeping vines.

It is the living backdrop for a cast of animal characters whose names are as familiar to us as childhood toys – from the sleepy brown sloth bear Baloo to the fearsome tiger Shere Khan; the panther Bagheera, his voice ‘soft as wild honey’, and the quixotic python Kaa. And of course it is home to Mowgli, the orphaned man-cub raised by wolves.

With the possible exception of a resident wolf-boy, the jungle 
so vividly described in Kipling’s fiction does indeed exist – but it was not a place the writer knew himself. Although he spent most of his twenties in India, he never visited the central region where his stories were set, and only began writing them after he had moved to Vermont in 1892. Kipling borrowed his jungle from a fellow Britisher – a district officer who published a contemporary account of his years spent living in the Satpura Range, and enlivened it with his own imagination.

Satpura National Park, in the modern-day state of Madhya Pradesh, derives its name from the same set of sprawling hills. The landscape that surrounds it echoes the one conjured in The Jungle Book – dense forest is edged by small hamlets like Nayapura, where villagers live in simple mud huts, colourful saris hanging from home-made washing lines. Subsistence farmers tend fields of rice and maize, and collect the fruits of the forest to make a little extra money.

Taking the ultimate travel plunge

India packs a lot into a massive space, and you’ll never have time to see it all on one trip. Think about what interests you, what you like doing and how much time you have, and tailor your trip accordingly. Be realistic about how much you can fit in. Rather than trying to see the whole country, you may get more out of your trip if you concentrate on the south of the country, or on the north. However, internal flights are plentiful and inexpensive so you can hop from north to south if you want a taste of both worlds. The itineraries section at the front of Lonely Planet’s guidebooks to India can be a great help, but here are some possible itineraries to get the ball rolling.

The classics: The most popular India tour is the all-time classic Golden Triangle. If time is short this is a fantastic introduction to three of India’s top destinations, Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, and you can squeeze it into a week if you don’t mind moving every couple of days. Start in Delhi, with sights such as Humayun’s Tomb and the Red Fort, before hitting Agra and touring the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri. Then it’s on to Jaipur to explore the Pink City and the fort at Amber, before returning to Delhi’s wonderful bazaars for a final shopping spree before you fly home.

Religious sites: If it’s temples you’re after, you’ll find them everywhere, but in north and central India, you’ll be truly spoiled for choice. There’s the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the erotically carved edifices of Khajuraho, Konark’s rock-carved Sun Temple, and cohorts of exquisitely hewn milk-white-marble Jain temples in Rajasthan and Gujarat. Temples in the south are something else again, with towering, statue-covered gopuram towers; there are stunning examples at Hampi, Madurai, Tiruchirappalli and Tiruvannamalai, and exquisitely decorated temple caves at Ajanta and Ellora, and Elephanta Island near Mumbai.

Mughal magic: Fans of Islamic architecture will find some spectacular monuments in Delhi, home to the Red Fort, the mosques and minarets of the Qutb Minar complex and Humuyan’s Tomb. Nearby you can revel in more graceful Mughal splendour at Fatehpur Sikri and Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, before exploring Rajasthan’s captivating collection of Mughal forts, including Jaisalmer, the very vision of an Arabian Nights desert fortress.

Beaches & waterways: Head south to enjoy India’s finest beaches. Munch bhelpuri (puffed rice, noodles, green mango and a tangy sauce) on Mumbai’s Girgaum Chowpatty beach before drifting south to the sand and sun in Goa. Take your pick of the Goan beaches – Arambol, Vagator, and Palolem are top spots – or try the black sand beaches of Kovalam and Varkala in Kerala, as well as lesser-known, golden sand in the north of the state. Kerala is also famous for its meandering backwaters, where you can hire a houseboat or a canoe and let the world glide gently by. Similarly serene is beautiful Dal lake in Srinagar in Kashmir, where – depending on the security situation –you can watch the mountains rise out of the mist from the walnut windowframe of a traditional wooden houseboat.

Wildlife encounters: Your best chances of spotting a tiger are in the national parks of Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan, but there are national reserves all over India where you can track down wildlife as exotic as lions (Sasan Gir, Gujarat), wild asses (Little Rann, Gujarat), one-horned rhinos (Assam) and wild elephants (Wayanad, Kerala), as well as abundant birdlife (Bharatpur, Rajasthan). Not quite wildlife, but certainly wild, are camel treks through the desert from Jaisalmer or Bikaner in Rajasthan.

Exploring the capitals eclectic

Delhi’s onion-layered history is mirrored deliciously in its diverse and dynamic cuisine. Cosmopolitan Delhi-ites crave fine food like plants crave sunshine, and the city’s food scene trots the globe. From tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurants to fine dining and quirky cafes, this really is a city with something to please everyone. Here are some eateries in the Indian capital that reflect its eclectic personality.

 

Cafe culture with a twist at Cafe Lota

The leafy cul-de-sac beside the Crafts Museum at Pragati Maidan has been reinvented as an indoor-outdoor eatery, and a calm retreat from the city crush. A huge hit with Delhi’s arty set, Cafe Lota (Crafts Museum, Gate No 2, Bhairon Marg) charms with an innovative menu of regional Indian flavours and surprise twists on traditional favourites. Reserving ahead will allow faster access to some of the capital’s tastiest food. Otherwise, you may have a long wait for your crunchy palak patta chaat (spicy spinach salad), apple cinnamon jalebi, or filtered coffee.

 

Continental creations at Le Bistro Du Parc

When Delhi-ites crave European flavours, they head to Le Bistro Du Parc (lebistroduparc.com) in Defence Colony. Capturing just the right Parisian mood, this little piece of La Belle France serves fine French fare, with a live jazz  soundtrack on Wednesdays and Fridays. Tucked into a tree-lined corner of Moolchand Flyover Market, it’s a great, pocket-friendly alternative to the pricey European restaurants in Delhi’s five-star hotels. Oh, and did we mention the food is outstanding?

 

Old city wonders at Lakhori

In earshot of the muezzin’s call from the iconic Jama Masjid, Lakhori (havelidharampura.com/lakhori), is cosily housed inside Haveli Dharampura, a handsomely restored 200-year-old traditional mansion that doubles as an upscale hotel. Hidden away in an atmospheric alley, you’ll find all the street-food that you wistfully passed by as you walked the streets of Old Delhi, served up as high-tea most afternoons. Weekends are reserved for a spot of Mughal-mania, with a heady mix of kebabs, curries, and classical Kathak dances.

 

Fruit flavours at Jain Coffee House

A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it neighbourhood haunt for over half a century, the Jain Coffee House is an Old Delhi institution. Inside, an archaic coffee machine coughs, hisses, and streams coffee into Styrofoam cups for a quick pick-me-up, but most are here for the seasonal fruit sandwiches. Imagine soft white bread slathered with fresh butter, jam or marmalade, and topped with cottage cheese and fresh fruit – mango, pineapple, sapodilla, apple, grapes, pomegranate – serving up a burst of flavours and textures.