Travel

Travel

Top 10 last-minute half-term holiday deals

Looking for a family break but no time to browse? Our pick of late deals in Europe and further afield will ease the way to a February escape

Cyprus is one of the most popular winter sun destinations in Europe. In February it won’t be hot and the sea temperature will be a bracing 16C-17C but it’s a lot warmer than northern Europe and in many ways more pleasant without the summer crowds. Base yourself in Paphos and think of this as a sunny city break, rather than a week on the beach. The harbour city, in the west of the island, has a wealth of Greco-Roman and medieval sites including the Kato Paphos Archaeological Park, a fortress, and an old town that was revamped for the city’s stint as joint European Capital of Culture in 2017. Stay at the beachfront Amphora Hotel and Suites, which has views of the harbour and a pool and is within walking distance of the castle and other sights.
£428pp for seven nights’ B&B including return flights departing Gatwick 11 February for 7 nights, book through onthebeach.co.uk

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Travel

From Georgia to Grimsby: campaign seeks to save Europe’s neglected heritage sites

An initiative led by Europa Nostra has shortlisted at-risk cultural landmarks and aims protect seven of the most endangered

An aerial cableway in Georgia, a modernist monument in Bulgaria and an ice factory in Grimsby, are among 12 heritage sites that have been shortlisted by a campaign that is highlighting Europe’s most at-risk cultural monuments.

Heritage federation Europa Nostra, which works with Unesco and the EU, lobbies to protect cultural and natural heritage across the continent and represents national and local heritage groups. The shortlist is part of its 7 Most Endangered initiative that will lead to monuments receiving exposure, as well as guidance from Europa Nostra experts about preservation.

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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

Five fantastic mind, body and soul festivals for 2018

Relax, restore and reset yourself at these festivals that feature yoga classes, spa treatments, healthy food, live music – and, yes, occasionally, a little alcohol

Launched last year, Soul Circus offers a programme of yoga and pilates, plus live music, DJs, healthy food supplied by local farmers and thought-provoking talks. There’ll be classes from aerial to blindfold yoga, workshops on topics such as the science of happiness, and the chance to chill in the spa with holistic treatments and lakeside hot tubs. It’s held at picturesque Elmore Court near Gloucester, and the gardens and woodlands are the setting for light shows and parties held long into the night.
17-19 August, tickets £189, soulcircus.yoga

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Music

Where to party in 2018: a clubbing, nightlife and festival guide

Fill your ears and your year with the sweetest beats at the best music and clubbing events – from Berlin and Reykjavik to New Orleans and Cape Town

The start of the year sees the return of CTM Berlin (26 Jan-4 Feb), the “festival for adventurous music and art”. This year the event, across venues in the city – from Berghain to the Kraftwerk building – features artists from the sincere German techno producer Recondite to Peruvian electronic-pysch band Dengue Dengue Dengue – is on the theme of Turmoil – expect artistic responses to a growing sense of global instability. Berlin will be absolutely freezing this month, so those seeking a vitamin D-fuelled party (and can afford the short notice flights) should head to Goat (26-28 Jan), a boutique festival in Goa, India, with a lineup including Horse Meat Disco and Moxie. January also means the start of Laneway Festival (27 Jan-11 Feb), which starts in Singapore, before touring cities across Australia with a lineup including Bonobo, The Internet and Wolf Alice.

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Travel

Passing panorama: New Zealand’s glory from a train window

Thirty years after the TranzAlpine was launched, Susan Grossman boards one of the world’s most scenic trains at Christchurch, before completing her trip on North Island’s Northern Explorer

It’s 8.15am on the dot and with one mellow toot the TranzAlpine passenger train is off on its journey from Christchuch to Greymouth. As we rattle through the flat and fertile Canterbury plains we are soon climbing up steep gorges in the foothills of the Southern Alps, the backbone of South Island. Below, I can see the startling blue water of the Waimakariri river valley. Pink and blue lupins line the tracks along with rows of pines.

The railway covers 223km, tracking its way over four viaducts and through 16 tunnels, taking four and a half hours to Greymouth on the west coast – a tad faster than the stage coaches that took two days to get food across to gold prospectors in 1866. The stage coach was once known as “The Perishable” because of the fruit and vegetables it used to transport along the way.

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Travel

Mysuru, India, city guide: what to see, plus the best yoga centres, hotels and restaurants

Famed for ashtanga yoga, wellbeing is a way of life in this magical south Indian city – and fantastic markets, food and architecture all add to the allure

Mysuru (formerly known as Mysore; it was renamed in 2014) has hovered under the tourist radar for years and is often overlooked in favour of southern cousins such as Kochi and Puducherry. But the former royal capital of the erstwhile eponymous princely state is a slow-reveal pleasure, a place of culture, eccentricity, architecture, beauty and manners; a gently pious, highly literate and quietly arresting city, connected to nature and imbued with the sacred.

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Travel

10 of the best UK winter escapes

A good way to break up the winter is with a few days in the countryside. We’ve picked stays across Britain, from cosy B&Bs to stylish holiday homes, many with seasonal offers

The Bell Inn is an independent hotel in a Grade II-listed building that has been family-owned since 1782. Its classic country house interiors – fireplaces, flagstone floors and stylish bedrooms – are complemented by a restaurant that prides itself in locally sourced food. A “winter warmer” deal including dinner and breakfast is £64.50pp.
• Doubles from £99 B&B, bellinn-newforest.co.uk

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Travel

Five gorgeous short hikes in Europe

The ‘man who hiked the world’ is an Instagrammer from London who travels the globe in search of great walking routes. Here he picks his favourites in Europe, all under five hours

• Tell us about your favourite easy hikes in Europe in the comments below

Each of these five short hikes is an introduction to a stunning part of Europe away from well-trodden hiking trails. All the walks can be completed in a few hours and the paths are well signposted.

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Travel

Take the kids to … the Ragged School Museum, east London

Once a school that provided a free education for destitute children, a row of 19th century warehouses is now a free museum giving visitors a chance to step back in time – and into the classroom – for a strict Victorian lesson

In 1877 Dr Thomas Barnardo opened the Copperfield Road Free School, the largest of three ragged schools (charitable institutions that offered the poorest children a free education) in a row of three warehouses on Regent’s Canal in Tower Hamlets. Now an underfunded, independent museum (opened in 1990), a small exhibition offers an insight into how tough life was in east London in the late 1800s, but the highlight is one of the original classrooms where visitors can attend a lesson led by an actor in Victorian costume. The museum is in the second phase of applying for a lottery grant, which will allow it to make vital repairs to the largest of the three warehouses, though the aim is to retain the authentic atmosphere of the building.

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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

Spirited away: on the bourbon trail in Kentucky

In cities from Lexington to Louisville, previously abandoned distilleries are getting a fresh taste of success in the birthplace of bourbon

When I met Mark and Donnie at a roadside cafe in Kentucky, they were sporting bike leathers, tattoos and badges that hinted at involvement in military campaigns. Normally, I’d find a pair of grizzled guys riding Harleys pretty intimidating but these ones had Minnesotan accents. “Oh my gorrrrd, you’re driving down I-64?” asked Mike, in an unexpectedly high register. “You’ve gotta gooor drink whiskey!”

The pair were in the middle of a three-week ride to Gettysburg and they had already blazed through several of Kentucky’s best-known distilleries – Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey – on their path east. “We only put 100 miles on yesterday, because we had so many places to stop,” grinned Donnie. “Our saddlebags are full already.”

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Travel

Make it a Muji holiday: lifestyle brand to open two hotels in China

Japanese homeware company Muji plans to extend its minimal design concept into the hospitality sector with the launch of hotels in Beijing and Shenzhen

It’s a lifestyle brand known for its minimal stationery, clothing and homeware, but now Japanese store Muji is taking a step into hospitality – with the opening of two hotels in China.

Related: Shenzhen’s new V&A-approved culture centre to showcase city’s artistic side

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Travel

Taos, New Mexico: a road trip of highs and pueblos

Snowboarders love the unpisted gullies of Taos, in New Mexico. Off the slopes, the region’s adobe villages offer an insight into Native American culture and a chance to support local communities, as our writer discovers on a road trip

In the biting cold of the dark, incense-scented St Jerome chapel, tour guide Francisco Velarde, or “Flying Hawk” in his native Tiwa language, is explaining his people’s history to a small audience of tourists huddled in pews in their ski jackets. His ancestors, the “red willow people”, have lived here in Taos Pueblo for 1,000 years, he says, making it one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the US; an unusually successful revolt made them the only tribe to never be displaced on to a reservation. It’s a fascinating history, especially from the mouth of this passionate, streetwise student, part of Native American hiphop group Po.10.Cee, which has 27 albums to its name.

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Photography

Win a trip to West Greenland in our 2018 travel photography competition

Our 2018 competition gives readers the chance to win a fantastic nine-night holiday for one to West Greenland with Wild Photography Holidays – and see the photos from the trip published in Guardian Travel

Guardian Travel’s monthly readers’ photography competition is an opportunity for you to share your journeys around the world, and for us to showcase your work in a monthly online gallery.

The winner of each month’s competition (who must be a UK resident) will receive a £200 voucher to be redeemed against a stay at one of i-escape’s 1,500 boutique properties worldwide.

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Travel

The appy wanderer: smartphone walking in our cities’ green spaces

Go Jauntly is a new walking app that uses photographs rather than maps to guide users on routes around woods and byways. We put it to the test in south London

The business of social walking is setting off into a largely unexplored area of navigation. A community-based group in the wooded hinterlands of south-east London has developed a system in which the conventional map of coloured lines and contour patterns has been replaced by photographs of the way ahead.

An app created for the purpose leads walkers from starting point to finish by means of a chain of photos, each image taking over from where the previous one leaves off. This means that in a stroll of, say, two hours, there will be between 20 and 40 guiding pictures. The group is called Go Jauntly and it is run by Hana Sutch and Steve Johnson, both of whom have careers in interactive design; more importantly, both have young children, whose energy and curiosity they wanted to channel into an exploration of the outdoor world.

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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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