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7 Great Ways to Explore Colombo for Free

 Colombo is more than just a gateway to the resorts and surf breaks of Sri Lanka’s south coast. Despite the noise and crowds, this is a city of vibrant colours and rich culture, offering fascinating insights into the national psyche of Sri Lanka.

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 10 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

Best Place to Visit Iceland in Summer

 Iceland is famous for majestic glaciers and snow-covered houses, for the Northern Lights and blue-lit ice caves. Visit in summer, though, and it can feel like a different country.

While there are still plenty of icy natural wonders, you can also party with the locals at summer festivals, hike across flower-strewn moorland and soak in hot springs under the midnight sun. Here are our picks of the best places to experience summer in Iceland.

To get off the tourist trail: the West Fjords

Summer is the perfect time to hike through the stunning Icelandic scenery, and if you can camp, so much the better (and cheaper). Dynjandi is a particularly good spot to pitch up – the waterfall may not be as famous as Gullfoss, but it still attracts plenty of visitors. Stay the night and you may well get the thunderous falls, glittering in the early-morning sun, all to yourself.

For a more remote West Fjords experience head to Hornstrandir, right on the edge of the Arctic Circle and barely accessible out of summer. This peninsula in Iceland’s far

The Best Area to Stay in Amsterdam

 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.

Grachtengordel West

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,

Advances in Drone Technology Make Aerial Photography More Accessible

It used to be the case that aerial landscape photographs were only available to those who were willing to shell out top dollar to rent a helicopter and provide a host of expensive photography equipment. Today that is no longer the case. Drones are becoming more popular all the time for both professional and individual use, providing a much less expensive alternative and opening up a whole new world to people and companies that couldn’t previously afford to capture life from a bird’s eye view.

Technological innovation has led to artistic innovation. When it comes to showcasing the natural beauty of any environment, aerial photography has proven itself to be an incredibly useful tool. Constant advances in photographic and video drone technology have encouraged the development of less prohibitively expensive equipment, meaning that travel and tourism bureaus and individual businesses wishing to create eye catching marketing content can both stand to benefit. Individual artists can now afford to make use of these revolutionary techniques as well.

The quality of digital footage captured from aerial drones has been increasing steadily as well. As drones are created with more precision and the ability to hover in place

The 7 Best Cocktail Bars in Rotterdam

Suicide Club

Step aside Manhattan, this is how rooftop cocktail bars are done. Take the Groot Handelsgebouw service elevator to the eighth floor and exit into the bustle of the kitchen. Don’t fret – you’re in the right place. As bar staff flit past in signature Jasna Rokegem dresses, join the al fresco beau monde for a cabana cocktail among the greenery of the Suicide Club’s (thesuicideclub.nl) rooftop. With vistas right across the city, drinkers should feel on top of the world.

Dr.

Like America’s Prohibition-era speakeasies, this clandestine bar is only open to those in the know. Dripping in crystal glass decadence and with a luxurious rosewood bar, bartenders in white apothecary attire create medicinal concoctions to ease ailments of all kinds, including melancholy, heartbreak or simply thirst. The Dr.’s (drrotterdam.com) menu switches regularly, but get past the introductory punch and you’ll be prescribed a maximum of three great cocktails.

The Stirr

The Stirr (thestirr.nl) is an award-winning drinking den that mixes the past and the present as exposed brick and darkly varnished saloon bar stools side next to diamond cage lights and DJs spinning vinyl. There isn’t a cocktail menu, but the

Best Places for Vegetarians in Belgrade

Radost Fina Kuhinjica

Radost Fina Kuhinjica is usually the first choice for vegetarians, due to its attractive location beneath the Kalemegdan Fortress, cozy setting in a ground-floor apartment and the original menu that will make even your die-hard meat-eating friends think twice. At Radost they always try new recipes as a daily menu, but the evergreen dishes to definitely taste are the starter platter with baba ganoush, hummus and freshly baked pita bread, vegan burgers in either beetroot or shiitake variation, as well as Radost ramen soup. Don’t be in a hurry, because the cakes are more than worth waiting for.

Mayka

Located in one of the most beautiful and historical streets in Belgrade, Kosančićev venac, the restaurant’s name is a play on the Serbian word for ‘mother’. Mayka’s (facebook.com/maykabeograd) menu consists of vegetarian dishes from various national cuisines that are made at ordinary homes, evoking the smell and the warmth of mum’s kitchen. In a stylish interior you can order samosas, curry, meals made of seitan and dhal, pizzas, spicy lemonade or Indian sweets. However, the signature dish that sublimes the restaurant’s philosophy is Mayka goulash, an authentic version of stew made with seitan,

7 Coolest Bars to Drink at in Porto

Miradouro Ignez

If you were to pick a place in Porto to kick back with a beer and sigh ‘ahhh, this is the life’, Miradouro Ignez (facebook.com/miradouroignez) would be it. Tucked behind the Jardim do Palácio de Cristal on a deck overlooking Porto’s red-tiled rooftops, this casual bar lets you turn your chair towards the sunlit city as the day’s final rays beam down the Douro River.

Capela Incomum

Venture off the bustling Cedofeita shopping strip down a cobbled backstreet to find a 19th-century chapel converted into the trendy Capela Incomum (facebook.com/capelaincomum) wine bar. On the ground floor, small tables surround an engraved wooden altar set against blush pink walls, while a cosy upstairs area features additional seating. Pair one of the 70-odd wines on offer with a platter of Portuguese cheeses and cured meats.

BOP

True to its name, BOP (bop.pt) is the place to bop along to your favourite tunes while enjoying a wine, single-origin pour-over coffee or BOP’s own tap beer. The bar is lined with a collection of more than 2500 records and patrons are invited to spin a vinyl on one of the communal record players

Best Coastal Hikes in Sicily

Whether you’re looking for a single day hike or a whole vacation’s worth of walking, you’ll find it here. To avoid heat, crowds and high prices, come in spring (April–June) or early autumn (September–October).

Stromboli, Aeolian Islands

Start/End: Stromboli town | Length: 8km | Duration: five to six hours | Difficulty: moderate-demanding

For sheer excitement, nothing compares to Stromboli. Sicily’s showiest volcanic island has been lighting up the Mediterranean for millennia, spewing out showers of red-hot rock with remarkable regularity since the age of Odysseus.

Set off a couple of hours before sunset for the spectacularly scenic trek (guide required) to Stromboli’s 924m summit. Climbing through a landscape of yellow broom and wild capers, the trail eventually opens onto bare slopes of black volcanic rock, revealing fabulous vistas of Stromboli town, the sparkling sea and the volcanic islet of Strombolicchio below, and a zigzag line of fellow hikers slogging steadily towards the summit above.

Round the last bend and emerge into a surreal panorama of smouldering craters framed by the setting sun. For the next hour you’re treated to full-on views of Stromboli’s pyrotechnics from a perfect vantage point

Exploring Norway’s north on the Nordlandsbanen

A journey on the Nordlandsbanen will allow you to experience fascinating tales of the past, to be stirred by the power of nature, and to taste the fresh flavours of the region.

The journey

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

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

Then, coasting out of a tunnel, the ground falls away to one side, and suddenly a 100m-high waterfall appears. Plummeting into

Where to go in April for Food and Drink

Bike amid burgeoning vines in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand

Hawke’s Bay is the larder of New Zealand: apples, figs, peaches, squashes and, most notably, grapes. Hugging the east coast of the North Island, this is the country’s oldest wine-growing region, and in April the grapes are being plucked: 4700 hectares of vineyards harvesting 45,000 tonnes of fruit. The serried vines begin to glow russet and gold under the autumn sun too.

Still reasonably warm and dry, this is a great time to explore by bicycle. Hawke’s Bay has New Zealand’s biggest network of gentle cycle paths, many of which link wine estates, cafes and cellar doors. Try the flat, off-road 22-mile (36 km) Wineries Ride, which navigates the grape-growing heartland of Bridge Pa, Gimblett Gravels and Ngatarawa Triangle. Napier, with its art deco architecture and Saturday Urban Food Market, makes a good base.

  • Trip plan: Enjoy the historic streets and fine eats of Napier and Hastings. Then follow a couple of easy cycle trails – perhaps one along the coast, another between wine estates.
  • Need to know: There are flights to Hawke’s Bay daily from Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch.

Discover bazaars, ancient

Sweden’s Road Trip

In a country lauded for its stewardship of the environment (Swedenranks first and third in the world respectively in the most recently published Global Green Economy Index and Environmental Performance Index), the west coast is a showcase of sensitive development.

Stretching north from Gothenburg to the Norwegian border, the region features pine forests framing fjord-like lakes, charming coastal towns and, of course, a vast archipelago of 8000 islands, islets and skerries, whose distinctive Bohus granite glows orangey-pink in the rising and setting sun.

In summer, that sun shines for 18 hours a day at this latitude, giving you plenty of time to explore what Bohuslän has to offer; better still, the E6 motorway, which runs parallel to the coast for about 100 miles, forms the backbone of a readymade route for independent travellers. The only decision that remains is what to see along the way.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

First stop: Marstrand – find the perfect place to drop anchor

Calculate the total value of the yachts gliding to and fro in Marstrand’s gästhamn (guest harbour) and you’d probably end up with a figure that dwarfs some

a 7 Regional Guide to Europe’s Best Road Trips

1. Italy

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.

2. France

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 tasting your way aroundChampagne’s hallowed vineyards, this is a nation that’s full of unforgettable routes that will plunge you straight into France’s heart and soul. There’s a trip for everyone here: family travellers, history buffs, culinary connoisseurs and outdoors adventurers. Buckle up and bon voyage – you’re in

Top 7 Things to do in Tasmania on Winter

Tasmania is stunning at any time of the year but if you are planning a winter getaway this year then here are a few of our suggestions to add to your itinerary.

DARK MOFO

Dark Mofo has grown beyond belief since it’s launch two years ago drawing huge crowds to check out it’s public art installations as well as live music, a nude swim and gallery events at MONA. This festival alone is worth making the trip down here for alone, full lineup for 2015 is announced soon.

SNOW ON BEN LOMOND

Ben Lomond is famous for the Jacobs Later road sneaking up the back of the mountain, in winter the mountain transforms into a snow field with plenty of options for skiing. You might not find the facilities or volume of runs available on mainland mountains but it’s still plenty of fun to play around on.

RUSSELL FALLS IN FLOOD

Russle Falls on Mt Field after a bit of snow is absolutely pounding, the noise coming from the falls alone is almost deafening. If you have only seen these falls in summer when it’s a bit of a trickle it’s worth coming

Getting Cheap Flights To Tasmania

Tasmania has always been just that little bit harder to get to than many other destinations in Australia. Being an Island has it’s benefits but flights can be one of the more expensive elements of an Tasmanian holiday. With that in mind here are our tips on how to score cheap flights to Tasmania.

JOIN THE MAILING LISTS

One of the best ways to score cheap flights is to be on the airlines mailing lists. Every few months most airlines will run snap seat sales where you can get sub $100 flights. These sails are usually announced via email or social media and are designed to sell seats quickly so it’s worth not hitting the spam button on these emails.

Some things to take into account with these seats especially with Virgin and Jetstar is you will get charged steep credit card fees and also things like checked baggage all cost extra. These flights also often come with specific date ranges often around off-peak times so it’s worth making sure you can do the things you want to do here in those times.

WAIT FOR MARKETING CAMPAIGNS

Tourism Tasmania runs two marketing campaigns

9 Best Places to Camp Around the World

There are few more rewarding feelings than pitching your tent and spending the night beneath the stars. Whether you want to escape to a remote mountainside or find an idyllic coastal campsite, there are some spectacular locations to discover. From New Zealand to Finland, this is our pick of the best places to camp around the globe.

1. Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand

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

2. Devon, England

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

3. Loch Lomond & The Trossachs, Scotland

The scattered peaks, valleys and villages of the Trossachs – often called the Highlands in miniature –

7 Best UNESCO Sites in Europe

The scenery is exceptionally diverse too, with white-sand beaches, ancient forests and dramatic fjords just a hop and a skip away from one another. Here are some of Europe’s best UNESCO sites.

1. Acropolis, Athens, Greece

Located on a rocky hill, the Acropolis of Athens is the greatest architectural and artistic complex of Ancient Greece. The first fortifications date back to the thirteenth century, although it wasn’t until the fifth century that the sanctuary reached its peak.

Following the Athenians’ victory over the Persians, the city’s influential statesman Pericles rebuilt the citadel, commissioning some of Greece’s most prominent architects and sculptors. Phidias was charged with the construction of the Parthenon, the temple dedicated to the patron of the city – the goddess Athena.

2. Venice, Italy

With its network of picturesque canals and waterways, Venice is an astounding architectural masterpiece whose buildings contain some of the world’s greatest works of art. Founded in the fifth century, it was once a major maritime power that influenced the development of architecture across the city’s trading stations, from the nearby Dalmatian Coast to Asia Minor.

Venice’s harmonious integration with the surrounding natural environment and its

6 Great Places to Visit by Train in Europe

There are few better ways to see Europe than by rail. Budget flights might abound, but nothing can match the experience of travelling by train. Forget about tedious airport transfers and unsociable departure times, by rail you’ll get glorious views, spacious seats and – best of all – the ability to hop off a train right in the centre of a new city.

Whether you’re planning an epic rail tour or just looking for a weekend break, this is our pick of the best places to visit by train in Europe.

For foodies: Lyon

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

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

For nightlife: Budapest

Looking to get ruined? No, we’re not condoning bachelor party excesses, but embracing one

Most Beautiful Mosques in The World

1. Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca, Morocco

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

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

2. Aqsunqur Mosque, Cairo, Egypt

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

3. Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey

Soaring high above the heart of Istanbul at the meeting point

The 7 Best Road Trips in Europe

1. From the glamour and glitz of Paris to the glorious grit of Berlin

Leaving Paris, cruise through the gentle hills of Champagne and Reims to the quaint capital of Luxembourg City, and explore the country’s plethora of fairy-tale castles.

Trier, Germany’s oldest city, is less than an hour’s drive further north-east, where ancient Roman baths and basilicas stand marvellously intact.

Spend a night in the medieval village of Bacharach in Riesling wine country, before wandering the riverside streets of Heidelberg. Onward to Nuremberg, and then to Leipzigfor a strong dose of hot caffeine with your Cold War history, classical music and cake.

Best for: Culture vultures looking for bragging rights.
How long: 1–2 weeks.
Insider tip: If you’re driving in France, you’ll legally need to keep safety equipment (a reflective vest and hazard signal). Additionally, keep spare Euros in your wallet to pay the occasional French road toll on the way.

2. Surf and sun in the Basque and beyond

 

The Basque roads beg a convertible – or better yet, a colourful camper van with surfboards strapped to the roof.

Begin in

Best 7 Backpacks For Travellers

Buying the wrong bag is one of the easiest travel mistakes to make – and one of the hardest to put up with. To save you from packing pain while on the road we’ve done the heavy lifting for you. Here’s our pick of the best backpacks currently on the market for travellers.

1. The all-rounder: Osprey Sojourn 80

There’s no need to sacrifice flexibility for capacity, Osprey’s Sojourn 80 has a massive 80 litres of space for your stuff but can still be carried as a backpack as well as wheeled along as a trolley. The wheels are sturdy enough to withstand being bashed up and down steps or slung around by baggage handlers, and the straps are adjustable and made with a trampoline-style mesh for comfort. We also like the multiple zipped internal compartments and the robust handles both top and side for grabbing the bag quickly. A great all-rounder that would suit longer trips.

2. The ultimate cabin bag: North Face Rolling Thunder Roller 19

Looking for a cabin bag? The Rolling Thunder Roller 19 is designed to meet all European hand luggage requirements and is light on materials to leave your

The Little Visited Treasures of South India

India is undoubtedly a beautiful country. It presents such an array of interesting scenes and stunning landscapes, taking pictures is irresistible. But this vast country also poses great challenges for photographers: there are so many people, such enormous sights, such a long, rich history – how do you portray this through a lens?

On my most recent trip in central South India, I was faced with such challenges. The journey I took – overland from Hyderabad, through Karnataka and on to Goa – was overflowing with photogenic moments and mind-boggling historical sights.

Once a Muslim stronghold in a predominantly Hindu country, this area of the Deccan plateau is littered with stunning mausoleums, mosques, minarets and forts whose stories simply cannot be communicated through images alone. There are tales of love, life, war and loss to discover through the architectural wonders here; if some believe a picture paints a thousand words, it must be said that in India it only tells half the story.

Here’s the story behind some of South India’s underrated places:

1. Hyderabad

Arriving in Hyderabad – the capital of India’s newest state, Telangana – on the weekend is perhaps one of the