A cinematic landscape of monasteries, mountains and lakes offers a delicious slice of Anatolian life and makes for a superb culinary road trip
It was the talk of a traditional sweetshop that did it. In the Black Sea port city of Sinop, where boats have names like Masallah and Seref Kaptan, I had just finished a plate of mantı, large, soft dumplings topped with melted butter, chopped walnuts and thick, silky yoghurt. As I floated happily on a carb cloud, the waiter handed me a marzipan-style sweet (“a gift, you are our guest”) crowned with half a walnut. It was the handiwork of master confectioner Mehmet Gürbüz, whose shop, Sekerci Mehmet Gürbüz, run by his son, stands opposite the dumpling purveyor, Ornek Mantı. Mehmet himself, I was told, looks after his original wood-panelled shop in a small town called Boyabat, an hour inland.
This medieval pilgrim trail has a much lower profile than the Camino. And that’s a good thing for those who like to enjoy Norway’s beauty in solitude
We were deep in the Gudbrands valley, several hundred kilometres along St Olav’s Way in Norway, when Stig Grytting got the call. Sitting outside his 13th-century farmhouse, drinking wine and eating homemade bread, he was talking about renovations to the building when the call came. Not the voice of God, you understand, but the buzz of his mobile phone.
Moonlight paddleboarding, after-dark running, tracking wildlife … the onset of warmer evenings is ideal for venturing out at night. We shed light on great nocturnal activities
Psyched Paddleboarding runs SUP sessions and retreats in north Wales, and sometimes further afield (the west coast of Scotland, Ibiza). Now adventurers can join a two-hour guided night SUP trip (£50pp with equipment and refreshments) on Llyn Padarn, a sheltered lake in Snowdonia. The lake is surrounded by lofty peaks under a star-studded sky if you’re lucky (Snowdonia is a dark sky reserve). There are lights on the bottom of the board, and head torches are recommended. If conditions allow, it also runs a night trip in a bay in Anglesey. The next step up is an SUP overnight expedition, with an evening paddle and wild camping (from £130). Elsewhere, South West SUP runs full-moon night paddles around Plymouth (from £20).
Serene hotels, exquisite Islamic gardens and mountain hikes are just a few of the country’s stars, say our tipsters
This is a recently renovated garden on Rue Mouassine, dating back to the 16th century. It’s a perfect place to escape busy Marrakech, with an exotic range of plants and an ingenious water system created in the 11th century, fed by an aquifer. The Islamic garden is split into four sections, laid out to geometric rules established as early as the sixth century BC in the Persian gardens of Cyrus the Great. A perfect relaxing place to spend a few hours. The entrance fee is about £4 and there is small extra fee of about £2 to climb the wonderful old tower.
Enjoy ocean views from rooftop bars or just step out and get the sand between your toes. From Mazatlán to Pochutla, here are 10 charming beachside escapes
Mexico’s Pacific coast, more than 1,000 miles of it, is renowned for its beaches, as well as the resorts which have attracted Hollywood royalty. However, it’s also an area that can experience tropical storms, usually between June and December. The most recent was Hurricane Patricia, the strongest hurricane ever recorded at sea, which swept across the region at the end of October, but caused less damage than anticipated. Hotels are now operating as normal.
Well-known and deservedly popular for its jungle, coast and ancient ruins, the Yucatán peninsula can be a pricey place to stay – unless you pick one of these brilliant budget hotels and hostels
On the surface, this mid-size hotel in Cancún’s hotel zone is pretty unremarkable. The tile-floored rooms are big and clean, with terraces or balconies – though they’re not notably stylish. The restaurant is good, not gourmet. The pool is a sensible size. But set this against its glitzy, high-rise neighbours and check the rates, which are often lower than similarly appointed hotels on the mainland, 30 minutes from the water – and Beachscape starts looking pretty good. Then walk out on to the palm-shaded beach, one of the prettiest stretches in the hotel zone, and the place becomes a minor miracle.
• Doubles from $109, +52 998 891 5427, beachscape.com.mx
The Seychelles islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue may be known for their luxury resorts but there is also a great selection of family-run, more affordable guesthouses just as close to the archipelago’s famous, world-class beaches
For a room with a five-star view, Colibri is hard to beat. Nine rustic rooms – all wood and stone – ensconced amid tropical foliage that tumbles down a hillside to the turquoise waters of Baie Sainte Anne. There’s no beach but you can use the small infinity pool overlooking the bay at neighbouring B&B Chalets Cote Mer, also owned by Sylvie and Stephan, and costing about €10 more a night. You also share the waterfront creole restaurant. The owners can help with car hire but it’s a five-minute walk to a bus stop – which will take you to Praslin’s most famous beach Anse Lazio and the Unesco-protected Vallée de Mai nature reserve – and the jetty for ferries to Mahé and La Digue.
• Doubles from £112 B&B, +248 429 4200, colibrisweethome.com
From Cape Town and its peninsula to the Garden Route and the West Coast, the Western Cape is a dazzling part of South Africa, and its beachside accommodation doesn’t have to break the bank
This progressive lakeside town has gone its own way since the hippy years: we showcase its best bars, live music venues and restaurants
When 24-year-old Svante Myrick was elected mayor of Ithaca five years ago, he gave up his car. He also gave up his parking space outside City Hall, decorated the spot with benches and plants and welcomed all and sundry to use it as they pleased. For several years it was Ithaca’s smallest park.
Tour classical sites with locals and discover the guesthouses, restaurants and bars being opened by young entrepreneurs in a city buzzing with creativity
The revival of Europe’s classical capital has attracted plenty of artists, curators and digital nomads. But it’s entrepreneurial young Athenians who are opening pop-up restaurants, design collectives and guesthouses, regenerating derelict buildings in rough-around-the-edges areas such as Pangrati, Kypseli and Keramikos. Messy and unpredictable, Athens fizzes with an intense energy that burns bright into the night.
In central France, the Auvergne’s volcanic landscape offers year-round activity holidays, with peaks to climb, lakes to swim, restored farms to stay in and great value mountain cuisine
The Cantal is the rural heartland of France’s wild Auvergne region, right in the centre of the country and part of the Massif Central. Locals joke that there are more cows here than people and there certainly are not many tourists, despite a range of adventurous outdoor activities in summer and winter. Hotels and B&Bs could not be more reasonably priced, and the hearty regional cuisine – rustic rather than gourmet – comes in formidable four- or five-course bistro set menus, ideal for big appetites and small budgets. The Cantal also boasts some of the most spectacular sites in La Chaîne des Puys, the 80 or so extinct volcanoes that have just been recognised as a Unesco world heritage site.
‘Tourist hordes’ is not a phrase you’re likely to hear in Basilicata but given its rich cuisine, stunning national parks, ancient towns and great beaches, it’s hard to fathom why this seductive region remains so quiet
Imagine a region that has miles of white sand beaches on one coast, picturesque rocky bays on the other, two mountainous national parks, and one of the world’s oldest cities. Add lots of warm sunshine plus fine food and wine and you might expect the area to be a tourist mecca, busy with hotels and tour buses. However, Basilicata, the arch and instep of Italy’s boot, has all the above but – thanks admittedly to a history of poverty and difficult access – little mass tourism.
A haven for surfers and adventurers, ‘a timeless island feel pervades this often-overlooked peninsula’. Writers of the new Wild Guide Wales select the best coves and beaches, places to eat and seasonal campsites
With tiny lanes lined with wildflowers leading to empty coves and rugged cliffs, this magical, often-overlooked peninsula has a timeless island feel – some say the Llŷn is like Cornwall 50 years ago. Welsh is spoken more often than not, and sacred places abound. But it’s not stuck in the past: there’s a strong surf culture around Porth Neigwl (Hell’s Mouth), and you can taste the beginning of a good-food revolution.
The coast starts in rugged fashion on the north side with the towering peak of Yr Eifl, home of Tre’r Ceir, an iron age settlement with some of Wales’s best roundhouse remains. To the south, the coast is gentler – a string of pearly coves with tiny seasonal campsites. And at the distant tip sits Bardsey Island, glimmering across the tidal waters.
The city’s bars and music scene are among the most vibrant in the US. And with Lake Michigan beaches to relax on and two new budget flights from the UK, now is the time to go
Traditionally overshadowed by coastal powerhouses New York City and Los Angeles, Chicago is on the rise, with a record 55 million visitors in 2017 – and new direct flights from the UK with Norwegian and Wow making the US’s third-largest city more accessible. While visitors tend to congregate around the downtown and lakefront areas to admire the city’s world-renowned architecture, there’s a thriving music and bar scene that shouldn’t be missed.
The food, wine and idyllic lifestyle of this region’s villages have always appealed to Brits – and with Brexit looming they’re settling in record numbers – but that has not dimmed its thoroughly French allure
The Dordogne comes close to offering everything that travellers head to France for: beautiful chateaux, traditional French gastronomy, a bucolic landscape of vineyards, forests and rivers. Picturesque fortified villages, such as Beynac, La Roque Gageac and Eymet (site of an unexpected pre-Brexit boom for UK settlers), and charming towns such as Bergerac, Brantôme, Bourdeilles and Ribérac, have long been popular with Brits wanting to settle in France, and this is one part of the country where they have always been warmly welcomed into local communities.