Adventure travel

Travel

Koh Chang to Koh Kood: island-hopping around eastern Thailand

Thailand’s eastern islands offer the beauty, unspoilt beaches and personal touch missing from more touristy areas and, with accommodation from £28 a night, they’re affordable, too

The island of Koh Chang and its satellites – which include Koh Mak and Koh Kood – are the eastern-most islands in Thailand and, while they can’t really be referred to as undiscovered, they do lack the brand-name recognition of Phuket. The contrast with their better-known cousin is obvious: outside the built-up beaches on the west coast of Koh Chang, hotels and guest houses are mostly small and family-run. Infrastructure has been slow to follow demand and the islands have no commercial airport (though there are up to three flights daily from Bangkok to Trat on the mainland).

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Travel

Mountains of the moon: climbing Uganda’s highest peak

The remote Rwenzori mountains, on the Uganda/DRC border, offer treks through varied and stunning landscapes, and Africa’s third-highest summit, with none of the crowds found at Kilimanjaro

Claudius Ptolemy, the Greco-Roman mathematician, astronomer and father of geography, called the Rwenzori range the Mountains of the Moon, and I think he got it about right. Starlight beamed down on the convex glaciers surrounding our camp near Uganda’s western border, causing them to glow like resting lunar crescents.

I should have been sleeping the night before my attempt on the Rwenzori’s loftiest peak, 5,109-metre Mount Stanley’s summit, Africa’s third-highest mountain, but altitude headaches kept me awake. I thought back to a similar sleepless night at Kilimanjaro some years earlier. I remembered then feeling sure I would succeed, and when summit day came, I duly trudged along in a torchlight procession to the top, one of 50,000 climbers who attempt Kilimanjaro each year.

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Travel

Food, beaches, walks, adventure … and romance: our 10 best travel stories of 2017

Street dishes to savour, colourful coasts to relax at and cool cities to explore, it’s been another year of exploring. Here, we pick our favourite stories of the year. Warning: contains holiday romances gone wrong!

For an experience of Portugal away from the droves of tourists that go there every summer, we headed to its central coast, where the Atlantic roars into empty beaches lined with delicious seafood restaurants.

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Travel

Readers’ best travel discoveries of 2017

From a Norwegian glacier to an exotic garden in Chennai, and from vegan burgers in Warsaw to a sherry bar in Madrid, readers share their holiday highlights

Looking for a walk to complete the day before tackling the mammoth Trolltunga hike in April, we decided on the trail to Buerbreen glacier. The starting point was a 20-minute drive from our base in Odda. The walk was brilliant: three hours of streams, rickety-looking bridges, ropes and scrambling brought us to the glacier. With the added beauty of having the trail to ourselves, this was a wonderful hike seemingly bypassed by those aiming for the famous Trolltunga rock shelf nearby. We stayed at Trolltunga Studios (doubles from £70): best value and location to hit the trails in this beautiful part of Europe.
cand82

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Travel

The best travel discoveries of 2017 – chosen by Guardian writers

This year the Guardian Travel team enjoyed a Hooghly in India, meditated in Bali and hitched a wagon in the Wye valley – among other unforgettable experiences

In the summer, we drove from Naples through Campania and Calabria, then took the ferry to Sicily. Along the way, we broke the journey at fantastic agriturismi and guesthouses but the most intriguing place was EcoBelmonte, Calabria’s only albergo diffuso. This ancient, car-free village was once home to 3,000 people, now there are just 30 permanent residents but, thanks to the painstaking work of Gianfranco Suriano, who grew up there, 14 of the village houses are available for tourists to rent. Clinging to a hillside, invisible from the road but with views over the sparkling Tyrrhenian sea, the thick-walled houses are stacked on top of each other – and linked by twisting alleyways. On our meanderings, we occasionally came across one of the elderly residents, or bumped into Gianfranco’s wife Gabriella, who runs the project. Most of the time we felt like we had the place to ourselves: it was both eerie and enchanting. For relief from the scorching August heat, we drove down the hill to the beach – a long, straight stretch of pebbles shelving into clear water. Returning hot and sandy felt like stepping back in time to a magical village that’s barely changed in centuries.
From €30pppn, children €5, ecovacanzebelmonte.it
Isabel Choat

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Travel

The joy of wild winter swimming

One brave swimmer is taking a dip a day throughout December in the rivers of Surrey and Berkshire, and finding ‘the nip of the water and the zing of a swim is quite addictive’

• For a calendar of festive swims in the UK visit outdoorswimmingsociety.com

My toes sink into the mud at the edge of the river Mole at the bottom of Box Hill in Surrey. The water immediately cools my feet beyond feeling. I had hoped for a quirky swim here. Normally there are stepping stones that cross the river at this point, and I pictured myself skipping over them in my swimsuit. But the reality is quite different. After significant rain and snow melt, I should have known the river would be higher than usual. The spot – tranquil in all the photos I had looked at – was now a rushing, fast flowing river. And the colour of chocolate milkshake, rather than the clear water I’d pictured. Oh well, I have swum in worse.

I step gingerly into the unknown. I find the stepping stones under my feet and try to walk across them, but with the strong current against my legs it’s no use, so I just get in. I fumble into the water with zero grace. The water feels silty and leaves brush against my body rushing downstream.

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Travel

Travelling in the Andes: readers’ travel tips

From subtropical Colombia to Tierra del Fuego in the shadow of Antarctica, our tipsters have explored, eaten, slept and imbibed among these astonishing peaks

The Quilotoa Loop is a network of hiking paths connecting a series of indigenous Kichwa villages in the Ecuadorian Andes. Although challenging, the routes are not beyond novice trekkers. Winding through incredible valleys dotted with horses and llamas, the main loop culminates at beautiful Laguna de Quilotoa, set in the caldera of a long-extinct volcano. After two or three days’ hiking, it’s an astonishing and rewarding sight. Start your trip in the tiny village of Insinliví and you can enjoy a night of luxury before the hard work begins. Hostal Llullu Llama is one of the friendliest and best-equipped guesthouses in the Andes – there’s even a hot tub.
Dorm beds from $19, including breakfast and dinner, llullullama.com
David Ross

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Travel

10 of the best wildlife trips around the world: readers’ travel tips

Polar bears, rare wolves, aye-aye and gorillas – our readers share heart-racing encounters with the world’s wild ones

Growing up on a diet of Gerald Durrell books, it was a childhood obsession to see an aye-aye – one of the most unusual and elusive primates on the planet. And so there I was in north-east Madagascar, in the pouring rain and inky blackness, thrashing through wet undergrowth, with squadrons of mosquitoes homing in. To my astonishment, from out of the darkness the aye-aye suddenly appeared on a branch above! Like some mystical gremlin, with blazing amber eyes, radar dish ears, monstrous front teeth, a bushy black witch’s cat tail and that thin, bony finger probing the bark. To add to my enchantment, a second, much smaller aye-aye then revealed itself, tap-tapping its way along the branch behind its mother. A dream come true. I travelled independently and stayed at Aye Aye Hotel, Mananara, visiting Aye-Aye Island. Naturetrek also leads trips to northern Madagascar to look for aye-aye.
Harriet Nimmo

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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