Adventure travel

Travel

A cycling tour of the Balkans: two wheels, three countries, four days

Our writer and his friends recapture their youth and the joy of cycling, with a challenging trip taking in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro

Rocking my bike from side to side, I crested the final rise and the landscape opened out before me. A high-altitude meadow freckled with cows rolled down into a shallow bowl surrounded by savagely contorted, parallel slabs of limestone sticking straight up from the earth. Beyond was 2,523-metre Bobotov Kuk, the highest point in Montenegro’s wondrous Unesco-listed Durmitor national park. Behind me were yet more staggering views, across glacial lakes to rows of mountain peaks, deep river gorges and pine forests populated by wild cats, bears and wolves.

Continue reading…

Travel

Water worlds: top 10 marine adventure holidays worldwide

Ahead of the BBC’s new David Attenborough series Planet Blue II, we pick 10 trips that explore the oceans, from diving the Pacific’s ‘underwater Serengeti’ to reef conservation in Belize and kayaking in Komodo

For world-class diving sites you can reach on a budget airline, try the Azores archipelago. The seamounts (volcanic underwater elevations) have barred hogfish and stingrays on the seabed, and devil rays and skipjack tuna closer to the surface, plus dolphins, turtles and whales to spot on the boat there and back. Divers can swim with 10-metre whale sharks off the coast of Santa Maria island, and with blue sharks around the Condor seamount, 10 miles from Faial island. The Rosais reef, off the western tip of São Jorge, is a more accessible place to find a wide variety of sealife, including octopus and huge schools of pelagic fish, and there is the Dusky Grouper Passageway off Corvo, where divers are often followed by the eponymous big, friendly fish. Caves and shipwrecks complete the package.
More information at dive.visitazores.com. Ryanair flies from Stansted to Ponta Delgada from about £45 return. Dive Worldwide offers group and tailor-made eight-day trips from May to October from £1,045 including flights

Continue reading…

Travel

Great outdoor activities in Colorado: readers’ tips

Readers suggest ways to enjoy Colorado’s magnificent mountains, valleys, forests and lakes – on two legs, two wheels, soaking in hot springs and even dangling from a cliff

Strawberry Hot Springs in the Rockies mixes very hot natural spring water with ice-cold runoff from melted snow. There are a number of pools at different temperatures, including (for the brave) an all-cold pool. The rustic design is very peaceful and attracts locals and tourists. One local said: “After dark you can tell who’s from out of town because they’re the ones wearing swimsuits!”
• Adult from $15, child (3-17, daylight hours only) from $8, strawberryhotsprings.com
Flabberghast

Continue reading…

Travel

Canada’s Haida Gwaii archipelago: kayaking to the edge of the world

These remote islands, 100km off British Columbia, are home to one of the oldest traceable populations on Earth, yet they are still fighting to save their environment and ancient culture

Early morning and a group of eight river otters in the bay eye us with nonchalant curiosity as we pack the kayaks. As we paddle off into the Pacific, our bows cut through reflections of mountain peaks and impenetrable rainforest. Two dolphin fins slice the mirror. When we round a cape, a west coast fog blurs the horizon and erases the shore, leaving only sea and sky, just as it was before Raven Child, as the Haida myth tells, dropped a black pebble into the ocean and created these 200 islands.

Continue reading…

Travel

‘The hospitality drew me back’: the joy of the Caucasus

Explorer Levison Wood’s trip over the Caucasus mountains took him 2,600 miles through six countries – with a warm welcome at every stop and barely a western tourist in sight

I spent three months crossing the Caucasus from Europe to Asia. My 2,600-mile journey started in Sochi, Russia, and took me through Chechnya, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia to Iran. Unlike my previous adventures (walking the length of the Nile, the Himalayas and the Americas), this trip wasn’t all on foot. I travelled the way locals do, walking, riding, taking donkey carts and hitchhiking. The hitchhiking was a reminder of my first visit to the region, as a 22-year-old backpacker along the Silk Road.

Continue reading…

Travel

Great canoe and kayak trips around the world: readers’ travel tips

Sea kayaking off Mallaig is a very different experience to gliding down a river in tropical Nicaragua but our tipsters have encountered wonderful scenery on all these adventures

Ometepe island, in Lake Nicaragua, must be one of the few places in the world where you can kayak between two volcanoes. After a fairly strenuous paddle across the lake (or a tow by motor boat if you’re feeling less energetic), you enter the calm estuary of the rio Istian, dissecting the unusual island’s narrow isthmus. Spend a peaceful couple of hours drifting through the swamp spotting caiman, turtles and howler monkeys, accompanied by birds including hawks, herons and jacanas. The most popular kayak tour operator in the area is Caballito’s Mar ($22.50pp), based in Mérida on the island.
cr7364

Continue reading…

Photography

Rowing in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland – in pictures

Coastal rowing in small traditional skiffs is undergoing a revival in Scotland. Photographer Murdo MacLeod joins a community club on an expedition to explore the islands off Lewis and Harris

We are not a rampaging clan but a community rowing club come to reacquaint ourselves with our coastal environment and heritage on a four-day tour off the coast of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides. Our fleet comprised 40 rowers and sailors in five skiffs, a one-man row boat, a 10-metre dipping lugsail and two safety craft.

Continue reading…

Travel

10 great wilderness cabins and campsites in Canada: readers’ tips

Whether it’s backcountry camping, huts for post-hike relaxation or a hot tub and luxury cabin after a day in a canoe, our tipsters know some great stays

Simply one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited: remote, barely known, a hidden gem, this is Lake Atlin. The view from the deck of the cabin is so stunning you can only stand and stare in awe at the lake dotted with forested islands, lined with wild beaches, backed by the vast mountains, snow fields and glaciers of Alaska and the Yukon – all reflected in the water. These cabins, set on an unspoilt alpine mountainside, have spring water, logs, barbecue supplied and canoes for rent. Follow lake or mountain trails and sleep like never before in the silence of the wilderness.
From C$79 (around £50) a night, sleeps two, additional person £7.50, glacierviewcabins.ca
heather

Continue reading…

Travel

Cousteau country: scuba diving in Papua New Guinea

With a new film about Jacques Cousteau to be released, the Walindi Plantation Resort, the dive centre and institute he inspired, is still the first word in marine conservation. Plus: 5 more Cousteau divespots

The moments before a dive are often awkward. I waddle across the stern of the boat, laden with heavy gear, my feet stupid with rubbery fins. A swell threatens to topple me. A lone eagle, seeking amusement, soars across from the jungled volcanic shore of New Britain, one of Papua New Guinea’s outlying islands. Then I step out towards the sea.

Continue reading…

Travel

Cottage with class: a short break on Ireland’s Donegal coast

A renovated traditional stone homestead with its own beach is the first in a new collection of holiday lets that make idyllic bases for exploring elemental Ireland

High summer in the north-west nook of Ireland and guess what? It was raining. Seriously wet Atlantic rain that persisted through the night and bounced rhythmically off the corrugated roof of our traditional Donegal stone cottage. You’d think it would be like trying to sleep inside a tin can. But the 200-year-old building had recently been renovated and the roof was impressively insulated; the downpours sounded almost muted, like a jazz drummer playing with brushes.

Continue reading…

Travel

The ultimate hike: three tasters of Canada’s Great Trail

The world’s longest trail, ready this year, traverses the entire country. It’s a busy path, our intrepid writer is told, so there shouldn’t be bears …

When I was a teenager, I met someone who had done the Pennine Way long-distance footpath. And I gazed with awe on him. After all, 267 miles seemed a heroic achievement, requiring several bars of Kendal mint cake and the courage to face aggressive sheep dogs. I recall that man as I step out, for the first time, on Canada’s new long-distance footpath, The Great Trail (aka Trans Canada Trail). I am not at the start, or the finish, but somewhere in between, on a path that is a mind-boggling 15,000 miles (24,000km) in length, by far the longest footpath in the world. If you were to chop this distance into a series of satisfying 20-mile-long day walks, there would be sufficient for two years.

Continue reading…

Travel

10 of the best views, festivals and events for the US total solar eclipse

Planning a trip in search of totality on 21 August in the US? Our guide provides advice on vantage points and events along the Oregon-to-South Carolina viewing corridor, plus tips on places to stay

Total solar eclipses are often dismissed as merely a fleeting period of darkness in the day but they’re actually a short, spectacular view of the sun’s ice-white corona. As the moon completely blocks the sun for a few minutes, that pulsing corona – the sun’s usually invisible outer atmosphere – appears. For these few precious minutes, the sun, moon, Earth (and you) are aligned, and it’s safe to remove eclipse glasses – and see one of the most stunning sights of your life.

Continue reading…

Travel

Scotland’s rocky road: a journey to the edge of Lewis – a photo essay

Photographer Murdo MacLeod makes one of the world’s most spectacular and remote road trips, taking in wild landscapes, ancient ruins and enduring traditions on his way to west Lewis in the Outer Hebrides

The road to west Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, starting with the A858 in Carloway and passing near the standing stones at Calanais, is probably the longest dead-end in Britain. As it runs into the B8011, and its unclassified extension, plus side turns, it snakes across rocky moors, past scenic sea lochs and on to wonderful white-sand beaches. There’s a diversion to visit the island of Great Bernera and the reconstructed Iron Age huts at Bostadh, before heading to the end of the road at Mealasta.

This landscape was part of a very ancient mountain range, once as high as the Himalayas. This has been eroded by time, and more recently ground smooth by vast sheets of ice leaving the muscular bare hill and beaches of Uig.

Continue reading…

Travel

Serene summer in Finland’s centenary national park

The Nordic country’s newly opened Hossa national park has all the wilderness an adventure traveller – or a bear – could desire

In a hide two miles from the Russian border in Finland’s Suomussalmi region, we watch and wait. For centuries, the European brown bear has been pushed by deforestation into increasingly remote areas, to do what a bear proverbially does in woods. Luckily, in Finland, where 76% of the land mass is dense forest, a bear doesn’t have to go very far for a little private time.

Continue reading…

Travel

Just chillin’: welcome to Iceland’s wild, wild Westfjords

Iceland’s popularity with tourists doesn’t mean that solitude is hard to find. Head west to its fjords and splendid isolation and nature are close at hand

There were no boats in the bay, no ships on the horizon. Underneath my feet was black sand that stretched a few hundred metres either side. The mountains of Deilir and Öskubakur were behind me and together we took in the sea view from Skálavík bay in Iceland’s Westfjords. The Denmark Strait was the water we watched and many miles north lay the east coast of Greenland.

Skálavík’s population is zero, the last residents having admitted defeat in 1964 in the face of weather that demanded more than a snug fleece and a decent pair of boots. Even in its pomp, in the 1890s, only 100 people toughed it out trying to make a living from the sea and the land. Now there are just hiking trails, plus a smattering of summer holiday homes and static caravans that sustain against the elements, courtesy of fences that rise above window level. Swings, a pushchair and toys on a porch or in a garden provided an eerie touch: a sort of presence amid absence.

Continue reading…

Travel

In praise of cycling (very slowly) around the world

Cycling the globe in 80 days may be a noble ambition, but doing it in 18 months – stopping to take in the views and talk to people along the way – is just as rewarding

When Mark Beaumont announced that he intended to break the world record by cycling around the globe in 80 days, I anticipated a slew of messages from my friends and family along the lines of “If he can do it in 80 days, why is it going to take you 18 months?” and “Where will you be in 80 days time, Kent?”

For I, too, have recently embarked on an around-the-world bike ride. It will take me at least 18 months – through Europe to Turkey and Iran and India, then on through Myanmar to south-east Asia. Next, it’s a flight to North America then down through the Americas all the way to Santiago de Chile, then home. If Mark succeeds, he will have cycled around the world in the time it takes me to get through Europe. He would lap me almost seven times.

Continue reading…

Travel

Getting Bleaker: penguins, pens and finding inspiration in the Falkland Islands

In search of solitude, Nell Stevens headed for the isolation of Bleaker Island to finish her first book but what she discovered changed her plans – for the better

If you could go anywhere in the world, anywhere at all, where would you go? It was a game I played as a child: close your eyes, spin the globe, stop it with a finger. Wherever I happened to be pointing, I imagined, would one day be my home. I plotted out futures for myself in Greenland, Mongolia, Hawaii: snow, mountains, waves. After a year studying fiction at Boston University, I was given the opportunity to go anywhere in the world for up to three months to focus on writing a novel.

In my student apartment, I opened Google Maps and zoomed all the way out. My gaze fell on the southernmost tip of South America, pointing like an arrowhead towards Antarctica, and then, hovering off the coast, the Falkland Islands.

Continue reading…

Travel

Croatia’s remotest island

After canoeing round deserted coves and spearfishing with the lighthouse keeper, Kevin Rushby is tempted to stay on beautiful Lastovo island forever

Mladin, keeper of the lighthouse, was outside his cottage, cleaning his speargun. It was a beautiful scene: rocky headlands and blue sea, deep and mysterious. Mladin pointed to the bay below. “In spring, I’ve seen dolphins herd thousands of fish in there and then go crazy eating them.”

The lighthouse, Struga, sits on cliffs at the end of a narrow peninsula that curves around the bay, almost separated from the rest of the island by a deep, dark sea-filled gorge.

Continue reading…

Travel

The elusive American wilderness: in search of my own private Idaho

Off-trail amid towering mountains, engulfed in freezing fog and stepping over fresh bear tracks, our writer finally finds America in the raw

In 1901, the pioneering environmentalist John Muir sat down to write a compendium of America’s wildernesses, places he had learned to love and also helped preserve as the world’s first national parks. “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people,” he wrote, “are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity …”

Continue reading…