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The Ultimate Svalbard Expedition

SVALBARD

D D R OR JO J F DF E D O F O IE W L & Nordaustlandet

80° NORTH a lv ø y

Barentsburg

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RFJ

May – September 2018

South Cape

CALL 0203 131 2562

OR VISIT YOUR PREFERRED TRAVEL AGENT hurtigruten.co.uk

10 DAYS FULL BOARD

MS SPITSBERGEN FROM

£5,279pp

Map Route

(18 departures Mon – Sat, 18 departures Thu – Tue) © Trym Ivar Bergsmo

RN

Map Route

Spitsbergen & Polar Bears – An Arctic Adventure

STO

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£6,687pp

Edgeøya

V7545

88888 / 88888

© Shirley Gilbert

JO

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© Ørjan Bertelsen

SVALBARD Long yearbyen

RD

FROM

Departing 14, 22 and 30 June 2018 © Arnau Ferrer

ra h a M it

Ny-Ålesund

12 DAYS FULL BOARD

MS SPITSBERGEN

The Complete Spitsbergen Expedition

MONACO GLACIER NORTH WEST SPITSBERGEN NATIONAL PARK KING’S GLACIER

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D R O D FJ OR S J S O SF R K NG O K

© Dominic Barrington

© Shutterbird

Explorer voyages Summer 2018

Moffen

Map Route

Departing 16 and 26 July 2018

6 DAYS FULL BOARD

MS NORDSTJERNEN FROM

£1,139pp

Terms and conditions: From prices quoted are in GBP and are per person, based on full occupancy of an inside two-berth cabin. Single supplements apply. New bookings only. Cabins and excursions are subject to availability. Hurtigruten operates a flexible pricing system and prices are capacity controlled, correct at time of booking. Not included: travel insurance, luggage handling, international flights, optional excursions or optional gratuities. Flights booked with Hurtigruten are ATOL protected (ATOL 3584), economy, and include all current taxes and charges. All itineraries are subject to change due to local conditions. These are natural habitats and wildlife sightings are not guaranteed. See website for full itineraries. Full booking terms and conditions available online at www.hurtigruten.co.uk

© Roy Mangersnes

Svalbard’s pristine landscapes and rare wildlife make for a destination that is dramatically different

REMOTE AND RAW


Upfront

Get hot in Spain

Discover why you should be visiting Picos de Europa National Park in 2018

THE TEAM What have they been up to this month?

PHOEBE SMITH ♦ EDITOR ♦ Howling with the Swedish wolves – just a two-hour drive from Stockholm... SEE PAGE 50

Welcome

THINGS 5 WE LEARNED THIS ISSUE:

The nights may be drawing in as we approach the year’s end (unless you’re reading this in the southern hemisphere!), but it’s the perfect excuse to nestle beside a log fire and get planning 2018’s travels. We thought we’d help (or possibly hinder) your schemes by publishing our annual Hot List of places that have hit our radar (p24), whether it’s new flights or trains, fresh routes, or a local anniversary to celebrate. We have other enticing ideas, too. Being this time of year, we felt it apt to feature Christmas Island (p70). There were no sightings of Santa or his elves, but I reckon a few of us will want to visit to see its incredible crabs. Yes, seriously! Then we go in search of wolves in Sweden (p50) before learning to tango in Argentina (p96). If you feel it’s your friends or family who need travel inspiration, don’t forget the wonderful present of a Wanderlust subscription for Christmas (or even New Year). It is the gift that keeps on giving.

Cover image Perito Moreno Glacier, Patagonia © Galina Barskaya/Dreamstime This page Alamy; 4CornersImages

Seasons greetings,

Lyn Hughes Editor-In-Chief/Co-founder

1 2 3 4 5

Russia is one of the great lungs of the world, being home to a quarter of the planet’s trees; p18 Christmas Island is home to an estimated 45 million red crabs; p70

TOM HAWKER ♦ PRODUCTION EDITOR ♦ Going underground in London... but not with Paul Weller SEE PAGE 85

The London Underground first used gas-lit, coal-driven wooden trains. We hope they had insurance; p85 In West Timor, the animist villagers of Boti apologise to the trees before cutting them down; p118 Paddington Bear originally hailed not from Peru but ‘darkest Africa’… until author Michael Bond was told the continent didn’t have any bears; p24

FREE

BOOK

GARETH CLARK ♦ SUB-EDITOR/WRITER ♦ Saying goodbye to cabin fever by glimpsing the future of in-flight travel SEE PAGE 12

RHODRI ANDREWS ♦ ASSISTANT EDITOR ♦ Finding his fortune and future travels (maybe) in a cup of Turkish coffee SEE PAGE 16

WORTH £20 WITH OUR EXCITING CHRISTMAS SUBSCRIPTION OFFER* SEE P94 FOR DETAILS

* Terms and conditions apply

Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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This issue

This issue was brought to you in part by… GET IN TOUCH

Subscriptions: 01753 620426, subs@wanderlust.co.uk Advertising: 020 3771 7203, sales@wanderlust.co.uk General enquiries: 01753 620426, info@wanderlust.co.uk WRITE TO US AT: 1 Leworth Place, Mellor Walk, Windsor SL4 1EB, UK Fax 01753 620474 Web www.wanderlust.co.uk ♦ Twitter @wanderlustmag ♦ Instagram @wanderlustmag ♦ Facebook www.facebook.com/wanderlusttravelmagazine

THE TEAM

Lyn Hughes Editor-in-Chief & Co-founder Phoebe Smith Editor Graham Berridge Art Director Tom Hawker Production Editor Gareth Clark Sub-Editor/Writer Rhodri Andrews Assistant Editor Mike Wright Art Editor Peter Moore Associate Web Editor Hazel Plush Associate Web Editor Ellie Kinsella Website Intern Adam Lloyds Commercial Manager (adam.lloyds@wanderlust.co.uk) Simon Bryson Senior Sales Executive Anthony Bennett Senior Sales Executive Nathan Inns Senior Sales Executive Hannah Bray Head of Events Simon Chubb Technology Director John Innes Publishing Director (john.innes@wanderlust.co.uk) Sue Spoor Subscriptions Manager Pauline Moore Accounts Assistant Mark Carwardine & Paul Goldstein Contributing Editors Zöe Office dog In memory of co-founder & publisher Paul Morrison © Wanderlust Publications Ltd, 2017, ISSN 1351-4733 Published by Wanderlust Publications Ltd, 1 Leworth Place, Windsor SL4 1EB. All rights are reserved. Reproduction in any manner, in whole or in part, is strictly forbidden without the prior written consent of the publishers. No responsibility for incorrect information can be accepted. Views expressed in articles are those of the authors, and not necessarily the publishers. Wanderlust is a registered trademark. US DISTRIBUTION Wanderlust, ISSN 1351-4733, is published monthly except Dec/Jan and Jul/Aug combined issues and is distributed in the USA by Pitney Bowes International Mailing Services Inc as mailing agent. Periodicals postage paid at Kearny, NJ and additional mailing offices. CONTRIBUTIONS & WORK EXPERIENCE For details please go to www.wanderlust.co.uk/aboutus CUSTOM PUBLISHING & CREATIVE SOLUTIONS Looking for high-impact travel content? Wanderlust Travel Media produces customer magazines, supplements and digital content for travel companies and organisations. For details, see www.wanderlusttravelmedia.com. LICENSING & SYNDICATION ENQUIRIES ♦ Bruce Sawford, Bruce Sawford Licensing (Bruce@BruceSawfordLicensing.com) Printing Wyndeham Roche, Victoria Business Park Roche, St Austell, Cornwall PL26 8LX Newstrade distribution Marketforce (UK) Ltd: 0203 787 9001 Circulation marketing Intermedia Brand Marketing Ltd: 01293 312001 Footnotes maps Digital Mapping: 02920 912192 Office camera Nikon D80 Video camera Sony DCR-SR72 Office binoculars Swarovski EL 8x32s

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STEVE WINTER

Marcus has been interested in Sweden’s wildernesses for as long as he can remember. He has long championed the country’s wildlife, such as moose, lynx and wolverine, which often fall below many travellers’ radars. His mission is to bring Sweden’s fauna to the forefront of visits, and he took Wanderlust editor Phoebe Smith out to show exactly what lies in store for those who seek it, including howling alongside Sweden’s native wolves – p50

Even though she grew up in the American Midwest, Joy has been fascinated by Turkish cooking from an early age. Now, with her book, Tree of Life, she helps us explore the country’s obsession with coffee (p16)

Steve’s never strayed far from the frontline of travel’s great wildlife experiences; whether being stalked by jaguars in India to tracking snow leopards in sub-zero temperatures. As you’ll see in the amazing new photo book Remembering Rhinos (which raises money to help protect the horned wonders), he’s honed his craft in capturing the ideal wildlife portrait – turn to p88 where he shares his tips

Mountain, desert, ocean or jungle… which are you? Forest and mountain. First great travel experience? Cycling my way through Laos and Vietnam. Favourite journey? Cycling and camping out in the Peruvian mountains for two months with two friends. Top five places worldwide? Sundborn, Dalarna County, Sweden; Swedish Lapland; the Lofoten Islands, Norway; Sumatra, Indonesia; Laos. Passport stamp you’re proudest of? I am not proud of any stamps, because nowadays it’s pretty easy to travel anywhere in the world. Passport stamp you’d most like to have? Tibet. Guilty travel pleasure? Graffiti painting.

Cookbook author

Mountain, desert, ocean or jungle… which are you? My house in Baja Sur, Mexico, is framed by desert, sea and mountains – so those three! First great travel experience? When I was ten years old, my family and I stayed in a cabin on a cedar lake in Wisconsin, where every night we watched the northern lights. Favourite journey? Travelling with my co-author Angie Brenner to the festival of whirling dervishes in Konya, Turkey, and strolling the cave houses of Goreme Valley in Cappadocia. Top five places worldwide? Yosemite NP, USA; Cabo Pulmo, Mexico; Turkey’s Aegean/Med coastline; Botswana; Kyoto, Japan. Passport stamp you’re proudest of? Ecuador. Passport stamp you’d most like to have? Morocco, so Angie and I can learn recipes from locals. Guilty travel pleasure? Relaxing in a hammam (Turkish bath) wherever I travel – a sublime treat!

Photographer

Mountain, desert, ocean or jungle… which are you? I am blue water with palm trees and jungle coming up to the beach. First great travel experience? Working in an orphanage in central Mexico for a summer. Favourite journey? Traversing the whole length of the Irrawaddy River. Top five places worldwide? Beautiful beach on an island somewhere; India; Cuba; Brazil; and home (rural Indiana, USA)! Passport stamp you’re proudest of? All of them. Passport stamp you’d most like to have? The next one! Guilty travel pleasure? Foods I crave at the time – for example, it could be tamari sauce, cinnamon or sugar, among others.

Wanderlust Mission Statement

PEFC Certified This product is from sustainably managed forests and controlled sources

Please recycle this magazine

JOY STOCKE

Swedish wolf-howling guide

www.pefc.co.uk

Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

Wanderlust aims to inform and inspire all your travel adventures. We strive to bring you the most trusted and reliable information in the world. That’s why we are always upfront about whether our writers have travelled independently or with a tour company. When a tour operator has been used we always try to use those who’ve scored a minimum satisfaction rating of 85% from readers in our annual awards and we never guarantee positive coverage. Responsible and sustainable travel is at the heart of everything we do.

Phoebe Smith; Steve Winter

Official partner of the FCO’s Know Before You Go Campaign

MARCUS ELDH


CONTENTS

Issue 182 December 2017/January 2018

360˚ – NEED TO KNOW

nder 6Viewfi 12GoNeednowto know this month... 14 Drink this... 165 minutes with... Simon Reeve 18 Know your… Hossa NP 20Winter warmers 22

A crowd of cranes, flashing fireflies and a colourful market scene... Why airline cabin fever may be a thing of the past Head to Brazil’s north-east for beachside treats in colonial Recife Predict your future and lovelife with a mug of Turkish coffee The telly traveller hits the road in Russia Finland’s new wilds mark the country’s centenary Blow those icy cobwebs away by visiting these hotspots

▲ Cover story

24Wanderlust Travel Hot List

Want to be in the travel know for 2018? Check out these must-visit destinations, from ‘new’ Maya ruins in Mexico to rediscovering Tunisia, to trekking the next ‘Great Walk’ in New Zealand

▲ S p Indonesia ecial feature

118

WIN!

TRAVEL MASTERCLASS

82The masterclass expert: London 85Instant Underground 88Take better travel photos Travel clinic 90Traveller’s 92gilets guide to… down

Nervy about protecting your flights after recent news headlines? With our guide, you needn’t be... It’s 155 years since the Tube made its first journey beneath the capital Animal close-ups can be tricky, so our top snapper shares tips on the perfect wildlife portrait Dr Jane on how to avoid, and react to, painful jellyfish stings Things are looking ‘down’! Keep your core warm and arms free with these gilets

14

A weeklong hiking trip to Norway, p62

It’s not all about Bali. Leave the blissed-out masses to their sun salutes and island-hop the Nusa Tenggara archipelago instead, soaking up rugged shores and rich cultures the slow way…

141

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“Wander streets overlooked by Recife’s sugar-boom buildings and relax in palm-shaded grand gardens.”

San Francisco, p141 “For many, the Golden Gate Bridge is San Francisco’s true icon, linking the city with not just northern California but the larger travel world, too.”

GILETS Gear review, p92 It keeps your core warm and your arms free. Meet the cosy traveller’s lifelong friend: the humble gilet...

96

Recife, p14 “Tango rhythms permeate the geography and history of Buenos Aires, and in many ways I felt as if I was missing the pulse of the place, a step out of time with the locals.” Chris Moss

Buenos Aires, p96

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Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018


EMERALD JOY... Thailand Green Excellence Award winners, p85 FEATURES FEATURES

Sweden’s wolves Sydney 50Beyond 24

WeSouth go in search New Wales of Scandinavia’s wilder by howling isn’t just about Oz’s mostside famous city the wolves deep, dark woods –with there’s a worldinofthe epic coastlines, great– just a couple of hours’ drive outside Stockholm. wilderness and wine-rich valleys to explore too PLUS Other wolf-spotting places around the world India Discover the last great habitat Christmas Island Christmas of the Asian lion in Gujarat PLUS: has Our early, asmust-see new flights open up this guide tocome India’s other species festivelyPhilippines named island,Leave its impressively behind thevast bustle nationalofpark andfor some red crabs… Manila the 45 rawmillion splendour of rural Time tovertiginous tango The 2/4 beat of tango Luzon, exploring rice paddies, doesn’t just course through volcanoes Buenos cliff-hanging graves and spluttering Aires’ clubs, it’s in theEast streets, too – many named Tanzania Africa isn’t just known after dancehall icons. to truly the for the Big FiveSo, – head toget theunder Mahale skin of the for city,itsyou to stepwild in time… Mountains starneed attraction: chimps

82 70 98 96 116

FROM THE ROAD

POCKET GUIDES

112Your story

Reader Dineke ten Hove becomes a celebrity in China, and reader Michael Harrison on how to overstay your welcome... with results Readers’ pictures Your super snaps, including soaking up the mountains and lakes of New Zealand, hang-gliding over a Rio de Janeiro beach, gazing into Mount Vesuvius’ steaming cone and trekking Budapest Letters In our mailbag: not leaving for your travels without insurance; spying Finland’s secret treasures; staying the night in Borneo’s longhouses; taking time out on a city break in Trieste; and much, much more...

114

116

24 hours: 137First Taipei, Taiwan

Take advantage of new direct flights to spy temples, street food and palaces before turning your sights to the mountains and parks beyond

break: La Rochelle, 139Short France

The port city has more than just maritime history, with easy cycle routes that thread its medieval roots and nearby islands

141Travel icon: San Francisco, USA

This liberal west-coast city has seen cultural rebellion and a tech boom shape its recent present – and the 85-year-old Golden Gate Bridge, has stood through it all

50 Sweden, p50

“Breaking the silence with a piercing cry, it happened. A single howl permeated through the darkness. But it didn’t stop with one; another joined in, then another, then another...” Phoebe Smith

London, p85 La Rochelle, p139

“Around its outskirts billowed broccoli-top forests that cloaked the volcano’s flanks and chocolate-brown fields ripe with strawberries and tomato vines.” Mark Stratton

118

Taipei, p137

70 Christmas Island, p70

“Red crabs were everywhere I looked. These bright-scarlet crustaceans were a constant presence: scuttling across roads, sliding along beaches.” Martin Symington

TALKING HEADS Simon Reeve, p18 “Russia exists on a scale we can’t comprehend, and there were so many snippets of it that I loved.”

Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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FIREFLY FRENZY Matsuyama, Japan

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Photographer: Tim Flach When it comes to endangered species, we travellers often focus on the big ’uns: giant panda, lowland gorillas, Bengal tigers… It’s the smaller creatures that we often forget, even if their displays can make for some of travel’s great spectacles. These dancing fireflies (actually beetles, not flies), flickering in the forests near Matsuyama on Shikoku island, are perfectly captured here by snapper Tim Flach, as part of his Endangered project. Locals are captivated by them on cool summer nights, while legend paints them as the souls of slain warriors. Sadly, pesticides are killing off their main food source – river snails – leading to fewer nights like this, making them all the more worth cherishing. Endangered (Abrams, £50) by Tim Flach and text by Jonathan Baillie is out now.


BEAUTIFUL BURDEN Guatemala

Photographer: Mihaela Noroc Learning about people from different walks of life is often the best thing about travel. Mihaela Noroc would clearly agree, as her image of a lady in the Guatemalan highlands of Chichicastenango reveals much about the region. The subject’s clothes are hand-crocheted, as is typical there, while the bundle of kaleidoscopic cloth perched atop her head is packed with wares, ready to sell at the town’s market. Noroc’s concept to photograph women in their own environment across 50 countries is a remarkable reminder at the planet’s human diversity – and further fuel to the ambition to see it for yourself. The Atlas of Beauty: Women of the World in 500 Portraits (Particular Books, £21) by Mihaela Noroc is out now.


360Ëš Viewfinder


CRANE CLUSTER India

Photographer: Axel Gomille Hordes of wildlife make for some of travel’s great highlights: think charging wildebeest across the Masai Mara, the candyfloss hues of Andean flamingos or the tree-hugging monarch butterflies of Mexico. At heart it’s a survival tactic, but it still leads to some spectacular scenes, such as these greyand-black demoiselle cranes, snapped here by Axel Gomille in India. The birds huddle together like this to detect potential dangers and ward off predators, but the sight of their collective monochrome mass is one of the remarkable sights of the feathered world. Wild India (Papadakis, £30) by Axel Gomille is out now.


360Ëš Viewfinder


12 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW THIS MONTH...

Blue skies ahead

Ignore predictions of cramped flights and no entertainment – the future promises a whole new look for air cabins

Your winter essentials: chilling with Simon Reeve; getting a caffeine hit in Turkey; exploring Finland’s newest park; and escapes to thaw your bones…

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■ Tr a v e l I s s u e s

Air travel is changing for the better

Forget gloomy headlines about less legroom and extra charges, a revolution is in the air – literally – as the in-flight cabin experience joins the 21st century...

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rammed in like sardines. No in-flight entertainment. Fees for using headphones and blankets. Despairing headlines have filled our news feeds recently with tales of how we’re getting less value for our money when it comes to flying. But this only tells part of the story. In fact, according to experts, it’s less reduction and more ‘revolution’, with airlines now starting to tailor on-board features to their passengers. “Airlines are ploughing a lot of resources into cabin innovation,” says Nadejda Popova of market research company Euromonitor International. “For example, Lufthansa is setting aside over £1bn to personalise their cabins, and Emirates has recruited a chief information officer to focus on transformation.” Leading the charge is Air France’s new sister carrier, Joon. Dubbed a ‘millennial’ airline, it will deliberately target 18-to-35 year olds, with each seat equipped with USB sockets for in-flight phone charging, and flight attendants decked out in trainers,

a polo shirt and a gilet. But it’s not just age-specific features that are being added. The flight cabin has long been a creative battleground for airlines hoping their unique additions result in packed planes. JetBlue’s new Airspace cabins have hand luggage-only passengers in mind with its larger storage bins, and the likes of American Airlines will soon introduce smartphone and tablet holders, as more airlines move towards streaming in-plane entertainment in place of the small screens and poor definition of in-built devices. Qantas has even trialled virtual reality headsets on its flights, which can also be used to calm nervy passengers. So, with all these airlines making these mile-high twists, will we see even more in the future? “This is just the start,” adds Nadejda. “We’ve seen Emirates introduce premium economy class and I think we’ll see airlines diversify past their usual market niche.” With so many transformations on the horizon, personality is the new buzzword for airlines, and we can’t wait. It seems cabin fever may soon be a thing of the past.

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Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

Dreamstime

‘Qantas has trialled virtual reality headsets on its flights, which can help to calm nervy passengers’


360˚ Need to Know

■ The Nitty Gritty

Changing cabins Here’s five changes airlines are making for the better...

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New seating Innovative seating ideas range from Qatar Airways’ mooted fourseat cabins in business class to Air New Zealand’s Economy Skycouch, where rows of three seats fold out into a sofa to sleep or relax on. Standing seats These have been mooted for years, but airline VivaColombia is the latest to resurrect standing as a more affordable alternative for budget holidaymakers. HD entertainment Some airlines are ditching in-flight screens, but JetBlue are doing the opposite: upgrading to HD, with access to live TV and an impressive array of films. More legroom (less cost) Yes, you read that right. Low-cost Indian airline SpiceJet is introducing ‘tourist-class’ seating, where seats are wider and have more legroom for passengers. Interior design Airlines are integrating features of the destinations they serve. Hawaiian Airlines’ fabrics are inspired by its traditional bark cloth, Thai Airways has teak wood and rattan laced throughout its cabins, and Icelandair even has aurora-style mood lighting.

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■ Online Reader Poll How much would you sacrifice in terms of comfort, food and amenities for a cheaper flight? 12% I’d bin everything! 11% None, I like my comforts

37% It’s all about balance

40% Everything on short haul

Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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360˚ Need to Know

Recife’s heart

All roads lead to Marco Zero Square at the historic old town of Recife Antigo

■ New Routes

GO NOW...

Why go?

With the cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo to the south and the Amazon in the west, few travellers reach Brazil’s north-east. But with Air Europa launching flights from London Gatwick, the colonial heritage of coastal Recife – virtually the continent’s most easterly point – can get the attention it deserves. Recife’s heritage is a result of the Portuguese and Dutch pursuit of sugar in the 16th and 17th century, with palladian, neoclassical and

baroque façades decorating the centre. The cobbled streets of seafront island Recife Antigo are lined with a clutch of churches and museums. Local rhythms such as frevo help conjure the buzz, culminating in its carnival (usually Feb). Venture south to Santo Antônio and São José for fine churches, especially the gilded Capela Dourada in the former. Wander streets overlooked by sugar-boom buildings and relax in palmshaded grand gardens.

■ FILM

Take a peek at neighbouring Olinda, founded in 1537 and one of Brazil’s best-preserved colonial towns. Its UNESCO-listed historic hilltop centre has an ornate church on almost every corner, while galleries, museums and artisanal workshops linger under red-tiled roofs. Proof that Brazil’s north is every bit as sweet to visit as its south.

Where to stay?

The Vivaz Boutique Hotel (vivazboutiquehotel.com) is

close to the city’s Mangrove Park; doubles from BRL145 pn (£35).

Get there now!

Air Europa will fly from London Gatwick to Recife via Madrid, Spain, twice a week from 20 Dec. From £606 return; aireuropa.com

Or how about this...

EasyJet will launch flights from Southampton to Geneva thrice-weekly from 14 Dec. From £48 return; easyjet.com

■ DVD

3 SEE THIS...

■ GEAR

4 BUY THIS...

5WATCH THIS...

A documentary on pioneering primatologist Dr Jane Goodall would be exciting enough in itself, without the rediscovery of archive material that shines a light on her early studies and fight to be taken seriously. As you’d imagine, it’s a fascinating cinematic portrait of a conservation legend and the subjects that helped propel her to fame.

There’s nothing more cosy in colder climes than snuggling into a fleece, and Patagonia’s Better Sweater is a classic. And it gets better – not only does it feel good on your skin but it’s certified Fair Trade, too, with the extra money going to workers’ funds that pay for healthcare, day centres, water filters and cash bonuses. So we can feel nice – twice!

A billion Hindus can’t be wrong? The engaging Sue Perkins heads off in search of the source of the holy Ganges – and to come to terms with her dad’s death. Her 2,400km pilgrimage along the Mother Goddess sees her get altitude sickness in the Himalaya and experience rituals rooted in the river’s power. And if you’re quick, you can still catch it on iPlayer for free.

Jane

In UK cinemas from 24 November

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Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

Patagonia Better Sweater

From £80, patagonia.co.uk

The Ganges with Sue Perkins

Out now, £20 (also iPlayer)

Dreamstime; BBC Woldwide/Folk Films; National Geographic Creative/ Hugo van Lawick

2

Colonial Recife now moves to its own beat


Promotional feature The age of empires

(clockwise from this) Exploring the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum before relaxing at the Hotel Scapolatiello

Reap the riches of Campania Nowhere does Roman history quite like Campania in south-west Italy, and Andante Travels are experts in helping you unravel its fascinating past

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or pure drama, many travellers would argue that the sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum are among the most compelling of Roman sites. Both were swallowed by lava and ash during the devastating Vesuvius eruption of 79 AD, yet wandering their preserved ruins today often provokes more questions than answers. Experts are invaluable in visiting sites like these, where the history has a life of its own. Thankfully, small group tour operator Andante Travels has the answer: its Pompeii, Herculaneum & Classical Campania trip offers the chance to explore with a specialist guide in tow, allowing this storied land to come alive, while in the relaxed company of similarly minded travellers.

Window into the past

Few places in Europe, let alone Italy, can match Campania for its history. Sculptures, temples and intricate frescoes grace street corners, while museums hold the legacies of artists like the master painter Caravaggio.

But before the Romans ruled here, the ancient Greeks colonised the area (around 600 BC), with the remains of the ancient city of Paestum the best-surviving relic of this era. Its trio of colonnaded temples are among the finest of their kind in the world, and in its namesake museum lies the Tomb of the Diver, the only known frescoed tomb from this period. Pompeii is your next stop. Frozen in time following Vesuvius’ cataclysmic eruption, its burial beneath volcanic debris meant that it wasn’t discovered until 1748. Even today you can admire the city’s scale, strolling its vast urban centre of bathhouses, bars and brothels. New sites are still being found, with a set of villas among the latest additions. Nearby in Naples, many Roman artefacts are housed in its museums, and neighbouring Pozzuoli boasts a well-preserved amphitheatre. But below its pavements lies the Piscina Mirabilis, a cavernous former Roman cistern (for storing water) that now resembles more of a subterranean cathedral – and to which Andante Travels has exclusive access to.

For more information, visit www.andantetravels.co.uk

Discover more archaeological sites – the villas and baths of Stabiae –before exploring Pompeii’s ‘little sister’, Herculaneum. Buried at a greater depth than its sibling, the houses here are near complete and offer an insight into Roman life – and all under the shadow of its destroyer, Mount Vesuvius. Climb up to its crater on your final day, admiring views across the Bay of Naples and a marvellous empire that the Romans once called their own.

Expert insight

When wandering history rich places such as Campania, a great guide can be your passport to the past. And Andante Travels’ experience of organising expert-led and all-inclusive group tours to sites across six continents means they can ensure their adventures aren’t stuffy lessons; free time to relax and explore are built into your trip, while the guide’s local expertise also extends to the best local food and wines, too – something Italy isn’t short of. So take a trip through time to the Roman Empire’s most moving legacy. You’ll feel its humbling, devastating power like never before.

the world leader in archaeological travel


360˚ Need to Know

TRADITIONAL TURKISH COFFEE

■ World Food

DRINK THIS...

Two servings 1 tbsp ground coffee ½-1 tsp sugar 148ml water Equipment needed: 1 cezve (a traditional Turkish pot with a long handle that protects the user from the heat of the stove, or similar) 2 demitasse cups (small coffee cups, or similar)

METHOD

Coffee spells love and fortune in Turkey

W

e all love a good cup of coffee, but in Turkey the drink is more an inseparable part of local life. From the moment the beloved bean first arrived in the 16th century, coffee ceremonies were intrinsic to the Ottoman court, and this soon percolated down to street level. Even today, the ritual of Turkish coffee is one that travellers seek out. Wander into any coffee house in Istanbul and it feels like something from another age. First, the beans are roasted and ground, then boiled with sugar in a copper pot (known as a cezve), and then finally served with a glass of water. It’s less technique than tradition, and one that’s even been recognised by UNESCO. But above all, coffee has a social purpose here. Chatting over a cup is still the meeting

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Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

of choice on the streets of the capital. It’s so ingrained in local life that it’s become a part of the language: the Turkish word for breakfast (kahvalti) translates as ‘before coffee’ while brown (kahverengi) is ‘the colour of coffee’. Coffee is even a part of the language of love in Turkey, so take care when accepting a cup. At a gathering prior to a wedding, the groom’s parents judge the bride-to-be’s brewing skills. It’s a game of roulette for the men, too. Instead of sugar, his future wife might serve his coffee with salt instead, as a masculinity test. Even after it’s finished, coffee still has a role to play here, as a way of telling fortunes – a larger pile of grounds, for example, is said to indicate prosperity. But as adventurers, you should hope for the outline of a plane; this is said to mean a future of travel. So drink up!

Tree of Life: Turkish Home Cooking (Burgess Lea Press, £20) by Joy E. Stocke and Angie Brenner. Out now.

Jason Varney

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top tip

Water is traditionally served with Turkish coffee, both as a way of cleansing your palate and helping you rinse any unfiltered pieces of coffee from your mouth.

1. Combine the ground coffee, water and sugar (adjust according to taste) in the cezve and then place the pot over  a medium-high heat. 2. Stir occasionally until the top of the coffee begins to foam up. When this starts to happen, turn the heat down (or remove from the burner) and stir. 3. Continue to place the cezve over a low heat (without stirring) until the top foams once more. 4. Finally, take the pot off the heat before it reaches a boil and pour into the demitasse cups, letting the grounds sink to the bottom of the cup. Be sure to serve immediately, preferably alongside a sweet, such as baklava, and a glass of water to cleanse the palate and for refreshment. 5. To finish your coffee the traditional Turkish way, place the saucer over the cup and turn it upside down. Wait a few minutes before removing the cup to reveal your fortune in the pattern left by the coffee dregs.


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What’s HOT for 2018 T

here are so many amazing wildlife destinations to experience, and it can be tough to know where to start, and so our Rainbow Tours Destination Experts have handpicked four of the most exciting for exceptional sights and unforgettable nature encounters next year…

1. MEXICO Baja California, the world’s secondlongest peninsula, offers a seemingly unlimited supply of amazing experiences. Swim with whale sharks in the Sea of Cortez; snorkel or kayak in Loreto Bay National Park; or simply observe stunning sunsets on the sandy beaches, Margarita in hand! Drawing comparisons to the Galapagos archipelago, the variety of wildlife is astonishing – from Hammerhead sharks to Blue-footed boobies!

2. UGANDA

4. ARGENTINA

Visitors to ‘the Pearl of Africa’ can enjoy an unparalleled variety of wildlife adventures. Discover awe-inspiring gorilla tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest; spot abundant big game in Queen Elizabeth National Park; watch chimpanzees in Kibale Forest, and take in some of the continent’s finest scenery. Our experienced guides ensure truly memorable wildlife holidays in this spectacular destination.

With Norwegian Air launching the first low-cost long-haul flight to Buenos Aires in February, what better time to plan an Argentinian adventure? There’s plenty to do in the cosmopolitan city, where you can enjoy fantastic steak and sample the finest Argentinian wines. We also love a trip out to Iguazu Falls and the Ibera Wetlands in the north-east where you can experience the magnificent thundering waterfalls and search for an array of wildlife, from capybaras to caiman – you might even get a chance to spot the elusive puma.

3. MADAGASCAR From 30 September to 17 October 2018, join us for a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience on our exclusive small group tour with leading Madagascar experts Daniel Austin and Hilary Bradt, as well as Wanderlust Guide of the Year nominee Harry Rakotosalama. You’ll have the opportunity to see some of the world’s rarest wildlife and explore an array of remarkable places on this compellingly unique island.

Get in touch with our Travel Specialists for more information about visiting these incredible destinations. www.rainbowtours.co.uk 020 3588 6115


SIMON REEVE FREEZES UP

For his latest TV show, Simon Reeve travels east to west across Russia, painting a remarkably rounded view of an often controversial nation. He tells us why -25ºC temperatures and escaping the clutches of the secret police were worth it to explore an oft-beautiful, nuanced country that matters more to us than we might care to admit...

Your programme marks 100 years since the Russian Revolution. How different is the country now to back then? One of the reasons many Russians love Putin is because he has made them a bit richer and given them some freedom [compared with the Soviet era]. Yet in some key areas, it felt that things stayed the same, with an all-powerful Tsar back in charge. It almost feels like Russians are condemned to be under the control of strong leaders. But they’ve preserved much of the preRevolution history and architecture, so you get to see and understand much more about Russia and its history by travelling across it.

planet’s trees. The Russian boreal forest is one of the great lungs of the world. Whether it’s for political or environmental reasons, Russia matters and we need to know more about it and engage with it more.

Is it a country that you can only really understand by visiting? I’m a huge believer in the value of travel. You can’t ignore the story of Putin when you’re travelling across Russia because he’s so central to it now. However, he’s not the whole story. Russia’s the largest country in the world. It exists on a scale we can’t comprehend, and there were so many snippets of it that I loved, not least that it’s home to a quarter of the

Did you encounter any issues while filming the series? We had a taste of what it can be like to be independent or an ‘opponent’ in Russia. We were harassed endlessly in the far east by the Federal Security Service (FSB), the

‘Whether it’s for political or for environmental reasons, Russia matters and we need to know more about it and engage with it more’

successors to the KGB, and detained several times. Your first introduction to Russia is its eastern wilds of Kamchatka... Kamchatka is utterly extraordinary and it feels, and is, a world away from the big Russian cities in the west. It’s one of the last great wildernesses left on the planet. It’s a land of ice and fire – that’s one of the first things I say about it, and it’s bloody true. What else took your breath away? Lake Baikal was majestic. It was more of a sea than a lake! I really loved the Republic of Dagestan, which is a Russian republic nestled high up in the Caucasus that has a very distinct cultural flavour. We had a guide who was able to take us into the mountains of Dagestan and parts of the country that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office probably wouldn’t suggest you go to. Were you surprised by how diverse it is? There are scores of ethnic groups in Russia; rich cultures that haven’t been diluted completely by decades of communism. We went to indigenous villages in the far east in Yakutia [known as the Sakha Republic] and Kamchatka. We also visited Tuva, where they have a very distinct culture built largely around Shamanism and throat-singing. The country isn’t known for its wildlife but did you manage to find any? We met Alexander Batalov, who owns an eco-lodge out in the Siberian forest. I’d recommend that. He has a pristine habitat, which he’s preserving with the help of tourism money for the Siberian (Amur) tigers, the largest big cats on the planet. They can grow, from tip to tail, to half the length of a London bus. They are mammoth beasts and Russia’s doing pretty well in protecting them, but they still need help. I’d suggest people creep around trying to find them, but only in organised groups – unless you want to be nibbled on. Simon Reeve’s latest three-part series, Russia with Simon Reeve, is currently available on the BBC iPlayer.

Craig Hastings, BBC

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■ Five Minutes With...


360˚ Need to Know

8 UK

■ What’s On

EVENTS BRISTOL WILDERNESS LECTURES

Bristol, 13 Dec 2017 & 24 Jan 2018 www.wildernesslectures.com Chemistry Theatre, Bristol University. 7.30pm. From £9.50. Visit the website to book. Epic adventurer Felicity Aston (13 Dec) recalls her feats of endurance on the White Continent, including becoming the first person to ski solo across Antarctica; and Steve Berry (24 Jan 2018) tells the story of the unexplained tracks that he discovered in the Himalaya mountains.

DESTINATIONS 2018

Manchester, 18–21 Jan 2018 London, 1–4 Feb 2018 www.destinationsshow.com EventCity, Manchester / Olympia, London. Manchester from £8.30; London from £11 (under-12s free). Book online or call 0844 412 4627. Wanderlust subscribers receive two free tickets (look out for them in our February issue); non-subscribers will get a discount. Mingle with specialist tour operators, sample world foods and visit the Wanderlust Travel Photo of the Year exhibition at the UK’s biggest travel show. Be captivated by interviews with Timothy West, Rick Stein and others at the Stanfords Travel Writers Festival, plus hear a host of presentations, talks and panel sessions with a number of travel experts.

GLOBETROTTERS CLUB

Chester, 20 Jan 2018 www.chesterglobetrotters.co.uk Grosvenor Museum, Chester, CH1 2DD. Doors open at 1pm. £3. To book tickets, email chesterbranch@globetrotters.co.uk Trisha King shares tales and photos from her trip visiting local communities in Gujarat and Anna Manning and Howard Jennings pair up to describe how sharing a tandem allowed them to explore deeper in the countries of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

ADVENTURE TRAVEL SHOW

London, 20-21 Jan 2018 www.adventureshow.com Olympia, London, W14 8UX. Weekend £15 (£12 advance); day £10 (£8 advance) – not including seminars. Book online or call 0871 230 7159 for ticket details. Special offer for Wanderlust readers: Discount code ‘WANDER’ will provide £10 weekend tickets and £5 day tickets. Offer expires at midnight on 19 January. The UK’s leading event for adventure travel returns for another year, featuring over 100 talks, a multitude of chances to chat to exhibiting tour operators and travel experts, and an evening’s entertainment thanks to the Adventure Travel Film Festival. Wanderlust will be returning, too, with our ever-popular writing, photography and filmmaking seminars, offering invaluable advice on boosting your skills. If you’re going to be heading along, make sure you say hello!

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■ Read This...

In search of new (and old) horizons

This month’s bookshelf is on the hunt for the authentic, the lost and the bizarre…

L

ong before he was ‘TV’s Levison Wood’, the star was on his wanders. Eastern Horizons (£20, Hodder & Stoughton) recounts Wood’s gap-year adventures on the Silk Road in 2004, revealing a restless search for the authentic in his vagabond trek through Russia, Iran and the ’Stans. Isambard Wilkinson is on a similarly resolute hunt for the real Pakistan. Travels in a Dervish Cloak (£20, Eland) tries to unravel the political and social complexities that helped turn the country into the ‘War on Terror’s’ frontline – but also what remains of the old, mystical land of travel lore. The US of A’s been getting some bad press of its own recently. In the run up to last year‘s election, Geoff Steward took a career break to

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go on a US road trip In Search of Nice Americans (£13, Biteback Publishing) and a bit of hope in a dark world. Elsewhere, travel journo Paul Gogarty wrangles a career of eccentric characters and amusing situations into an A-to-Z of quirky humanity. Alaskan Lonely Hearts Club (£10, Signal) is warm, easily digestible and often eye-opening. A pair of hefty travel anthologies round things off. The Great Horizon (£25, Sandstone) profiles 50 of travel’s big hitters and lessersung heroes. Meanwhile, the paperback edition of House of Snow (£15, Head of Zeus) – corralling some fabulous literature on Nepal – gives you another chance to help earthquake relief projects in the country. Charity begins at the bookshop.

■ The Big Debate

Would you pay to visit a site that was once free?

With the news that visitors will soon be charged €3 (£2.70) to see Rome’s now free-to-enter Pantheon, we ask: would you pay to visit a formerly free site?

YES

Lynda Higgs, Wanderlust reader “The sad fact is that the very locations that illicit wanderlust in any serious traveller are often also huge tourist attractions. It therefore makes sense to charge a small fee, so long as it goes towards maintaining and restoring these sites. Certainly, in the case of the Pantheon, I absolutely would pay; €3 is negligible and would hopefully help reduce the damage that is caused by ever-increasing crowds of visitors at a beautiful historic site.”

NO

Jon Keen, Wanderlust reader “I won’t visit York Minster now because they charge an admission fee, even though I have great memories of it. For example, I spent some quiet time there on the morning I got married. I’ve been countless times before and I’ve always donated generously to its upkeep when it was free. But now its whole character is different and I won’t pay tourist rates, especially while other cathedrals of a similar size, such as Durham, manage on visitor donations.” Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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360˚ Need to Know

Eye of the taiga

■ Instant Expert

KNOW YOUR… HOSSA NATIONAL PARK

Celebrate 100 years of Finnish independence by visiting the wild boreal forest trails and prehistoric rock paintings of their newest national park

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n impressive two-thirds of Finland is coated with lush pine and spruce. It’s a wilderness both Finns and travellers love to escape to, whether winter skiing, hiking in the summer or foraging for berries. This wild boreal forest even covers capital Helsinki, home to 12 forested nature reserves. So, Finland has celebrated 2017, the 100th year of its independence, by crowning a new national park: Hossa. Lying close to the Russian border, this area was an old hunting ground for the Sami people and derives its name from their word ‘huossa’, which appropriately means ‘a place far away’.

What can I see there?

Swathes of primeval forest pooled by limpid blue lakes form much of this vast wilderness.

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Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

It’s one that’s easily navigable by a 90km network of walking trails, which thread alpine meadows, fringe banks and esker ridges left by melting glaciers millennia ago. It’s not just hikers who reap its wonders; kayakers can paddle its glistening waters, including Julma-Olkky canyon lake. Even by Finnish standards, Hossa is remote; but while you’re unlikely to see any other travellers, you will be joined by much wilder company. Reindeer are the most likely suspects, but moose, brown bears and wolves also roam here.

Is it just about wild vistas? No. Long before hikers trod Hossa’s trails, many prehistoric people called it home. The best-known remnants of the park’s Stone Age legacy lie daubed on the rocks

fringing Lake Somerjarvi. The Varikallio rock paintings are thought to be at least 3,500 years old and can now be accessed yearround via a new metal walkaway; they also prove to be a beguiling pit stop on the 8km circular Varikallion Kaarros Trail.

Where else can I celebrate?

Mark the centenary like a Finn: outdoors. If you’re on a short break in Helsinki, head to Nuuksio National Park, where you can roam the valleys and birch forests among moose, foxes and flying squirrels. Elsewhere, the lakes and hills of Koli NP have long fuelled painters’ brushes while Lapland’s PallasYllastunturi NP affords a fine Arctic adventure. The Finns even have a word for your right to roam: ‘jokamiehenoikeus’. So, it’d be rude not to take full advantage, wouldn’t it?

Alamy

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Hossa’s boreal forest and waters offer trekkers a remarkable Finnish wander


www.germany.travel

Enjoy the heavenly pleasures of a German Christmas Market... where children delight in their turns on the merry-go-round, the aromas of mulled wine and roasted almonds waft through the air and shining eyes compete with the brightness of candle-lights, this is when you know you’re in Germany. Find the best Christmas Markets at: www.germany.travel/christmas

Frankfurt Christmas Market, Germany Š iStcok

_magical


360˚ Need to Know

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■ Be Inspired

ESCAPE THE WINTER CHILL

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inter is coming. But that doesn’t mean you have to begrudgingly accept the chilly weather or pack yourself off to another Christmas market. Embrace it as a season of opportunity and the ideal time to bag some warmer climes, especially those where it’s too hot to do anything active at other times of the year. You’re not short of options, either, from epic rail rides and blue-sky trekking to exploring some hidden corners crowd-free. It’s time to banish those winter blues...

Picky Traveller

Know when you want to travel but don’t know where? Got an activity you long to try but not sure how? Try Wanderlust’s Trip Finder: mytripfinder.co.uk

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Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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1. Thailand

Combine beach and jungle

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2. South Africa & Swaziland All aboard the Shongololo!

Winter means ‘dry season’ in Thailand, so it’s the ideal time to hop on Sovereign Luxury Travel’s Thailand Jungle Safari and Beach trip. Split your time between the golden sands of Phuket and the forested interior of Khao Lak, where you’ll stay on a floating tented camp. Seek out gibbons and tigers on jungle safaris across Khao Sok National Park, then drop down to finish among the palm-fringed beaches of Thailand’s idyllic southern tip. Who: Sovereign Luxury Travel (01293 765003; sovereign.com) When: Year round How long: 7 nights How much: From £1,825 (2018; incl flights)

Forget chilly commutes on a thrilling rail adventure with Planet Rail’s South Africa and the Shongololo Express tour. Board in Pretoria, spy the ‘Big Five’ in Kruger NP and slice through Swaziland and its vast Ezulwini Valley. Emerge the other side to admire the wildlife-filled St Lucia Wetland Park, tour the cities of Bloemfontein and Durban, then wind along the Garden Route before rolling into Cape Town. Who: Planet Rail (01347 825292; planetrail.co.uk) When: 1 Feb 2018 How long: 17 days How much: From £4,595 (excl flights)

David Lefranc; St Helena Tourism; Paul Spierenburg

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3. Saudi Arabia

Explore the hidden Middle East Heat up your winter on Steppes Travel’s Saudi Arabia – Behind the Veil group tour. Expert Peter Harrigan unravels this enigma of the Middle East, visiting Mecca-gateway Jeddah, the ancient Nabataean city of Madain Saleh and the icons of Sakaka, before finishing in capital Riyadh and the mud houses of 18th-century oasis Diriyah. Who: Steppes Travel (01285 601753; steppestravel.com) When: 18 Feb, 2 Nov 2018 How long: 11 days How much: From £5,795 (excl flights)

4. St Helena (UK)

Fly-drive one of the UK’s remotest outposts The new flights to St Helena are Christmas come early. Join Discover the World on its Discover St Helena – Fly-In tour and selfdrive the island, spying whale sharks (peak sightings are Jan to Feb) offshore, visiting Napoleon’s former home and bagging island-wide views from Diana’s Peak NP. Who: Discover the World (01737 218802; discover-the-world.co.uk) When: Year round How long: 7 nights How much: From £2,450 (incl flights)

5. Guatemala Defrost amid Maya ruins

Its warm days (20–25°C) make winter the perfect time to see the Best of Guatemala with Llama Travel. Wander the cobbles of colonial Antigua and the shoreside villages and markets of Lake Atitlán. Wrap up your journey among the iconic Tikal ruins, then soak up vistas from atop the temples of the lesser-known ancient site of Yaxha. Who: Llama Travel (020 7263 3000; llamatravel.com) When: Selected dates, Jan–Mar & Oct–Nov 2018 How long: 9 days How much: From £1,599 (incl flights)

6. Sri Lanka

See the Teardrop Isle by train Switch from morning delays to mist-clad mountains and Explore Sri Lanka by Rail with Ffestiniog Travel. Pass rice paddies and jungle villages on the wood-panelled Viceroy Special train, pit-stopping at the temples of Kandy,

elephants of Minneriya NP and fantastic rock-topped Sigiriya fort. Who: Ffestiniog Travel (01766 772030; ffestiniogtravel.com) When: 28 Feb 2018 How long: 12 days How much: From £4,445 (incl flights)

7. Maldives

Warm waters and local life Dodge the beach resorts and dip into the real Maldives on All Points East’s Hidden Maldives trip, wandering the cobbles of capital Malé, seeing how eco-initiatives protect the reefs off Villimale Island, and island-hopping offshore. That said, there’s lots of time to snorkel its coral atolls, too... Who: All Points East (023 9225 8859; allpointseast.com) When: 27 Jan 2018 How long: 6 days How much: From £1,900 (incl flights)

ANTARCTICA

& SOUTH GEORGIA

FREE return flights *

Ex. London, UK

8. Taiwan

Go off the radar in the off-season Have a wild winter and join Selective Asia’s Taiwander trip. Explore Taipei’s lush doorstep, including the volcanic forests of Yangmingshan NP, the tea hills of Pinglin and the marble gorge of Taroko. Trace the historic Walami Trail, then finish in the sunrise glow of the rugged Alishan National Scenic Area. Who: Selective Asia (01273 670001; selectiveasia.com) When: Year round How long: 11 days How much: From £3,175 (excl flights)

9. Spain

Spend Christmas in the Canaries Walk off those winter blues with Sherpa Expeditions on the warm Southern Trails of La Gomera trip in the Canary Islands. Trace coastal cliffs above San Sebastián, pit-stop at sleepy hamlets under the gaze of the pyramidal Roque de Agando peak and trek up to Garajonay for some views. Who: Sherpa Expeditions (0800 008 7741; sherpaexpeditions.com) When: Daily How long: 8 days How much: From £720 (excl flights)

Only 54 Guests • Expert Guides Daily Excursions • Wildlife Encounters Zodiac Cruises • Adventure Activities

ORDER YOUR FREE 2018.19 EXPEDITION GUIDE info@auroraexpeditions.co.uk www.auroraexpeditions.com.au/ antarctica-fly-free-packages

MORE ONLINE Have these amazing winter escapes got you thinking? Want to see more top trip options? Then go to wanderlust.co.uk/182

* conditions apply


TRAVEL

HOT LIST

2018

New flights. New walking trails. New experiences. Here are the destinations you will add to your travel wishlist for 2018


African heights

A group of trekkers relax and take in the sunset on Kilimanjaro’s Shira Plateau


RUSSIA

WHY IT’S HOT… Follow in the footsteps of TV favourite Simon Reeve – and dodge the World Cup fans While it’s true that Russia divides travellers, what can’t be debated is its beauty, whether cruising the rivers and canals of St Petersburg or squinting through your billowing breath in the icy forests of Siberia. When we spoke to Simon Reeve (see p18) about his new Russia travel documentary, he expressed a similar thought, and we reckon many of those watching will feel the same. It’s no coincidence that the indigenous fringes of Russia’s forested east loomed large in Reeves’ series opener, and there’s no better way to escape

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the rush of football fans as Russia hosts this year’s World Cup. The volcanic wilds of Kamchatka are a chance to tread nature at its rawest, whether hiking up to the acid lakes and puffing fumaroles of Mutnovsky (2,322m) or spying brown bears on the shores of Bystraya River. Siberia’s Lake Baikal is another water to take the breath away. The world’s deepest freshwater lake is worth a chilly dip. Trek its shores to reveal glowering monasteries or circle it on the Circum-Baikal train (pictured), a feat of engineering belligerence. Then head into the far south-east and Durminskoye Reserve (close to the end of the Trans-Siberian rail route), where rare sightings of the country’s few remaining Siberian tigers still tempt visitors.

Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

Previous spread Dreamstime This spread Dreamstime; 4cornersImages


TRAVEL WHY IT’S HOT… Remembering Nelson Mandela in the Eastern Cape A century ago, the man who went on to change the face of modern South Africa, was born in the green valleys of the Eastern Cape. Few attractions mark Nelson Mandela’s early years in the village of Qunu, just the modest museum 100 metres from the home he later built and retired to. But as Madiba’s 100th birthday sees the world cast a gaze over his legacy, many will look to his home province – and it’s about time. The region has long been overlooked, and not just by travellers. This was the heartland of the fight against apartheid yet remains largely

undeveloped. For visitors, however, this is part of its appeal, and in the spartan wilds of the Karoo desert or among the reserves and scenic trails of the lush, cool Amatola mountains, it is possible to glimpse a virgin wild. Meanwhile, in Addo Elephant National Park (pictured), the region also has one of the great wildlife reserves. When it was established in 1931, just 11 elephants lived there; today more than 550 roam South Africa’s third-largest park. Whether you’re spotting wildlife wonders, road-tripping the scenic coastal Garden Route from Port Elizabeth or winding the Karoo into the foothills of the neighbouring Drakensberg Range, visitors will quickly discover that the Eastern Cape is full of icons. Just remember to spare a thought for the most famous of all.

HOT LIST

2018

SOUTH AFRICA

Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018


TRAVEL ⊳

PATAGONIA, CHILE

Alamy

WHY IT’S HOT… Get your motor running… on the Route of Parks This coming year sees the final leg of a journey that began over 40 years ago with Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet building a 1,200km road through Patagonia. In the decades since, work by private conservationists to create, and then donate, a park to Chile has been coupled with over 40,000 sq km of land being set aside to create five new national parks. The exciting part for travellers comes when you learn that the Carretera Austral is the basis for a new road trip running through what is now the

Patagonia National Parks Network, a 2,400km stretch that skewers 17 national parks between Hornopirén and the Beagle Channel. This ‘Route of Parks’ steers through some of the most dramatic land on Earth, and even though much is still to be built, the bulk of the road (albeit little more than dirt track in parts) is in place. It also offers the opportunity to divert into Argentine Patagonia – providing you get your bureaucratic ducks in a row well beforehand – to gaze up at sights such as the Perito Moreno Glacier. But don't miss Pumalín NP, where the incredible story of the Tompkins, buying up farmland across 20 years to create their own park, unfolded. Trekking through its verdant rainforest today is a reminder that sometimes the good guys do win. ⊳

HOT LIST

2018

Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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TRAVEL

HOT

‘DARKEST’ PERU

WHY IT’S HOT… Come face to snout with Paddington’s cousins

LIST

This year sees the 60th anniversary of Paddington Bear, the late-Michael Bond’s accident-prone Peruvian protagonist. And while there’s little about this ever so English creation that recalls the wilds of the Andes (he originally came from ‘Darkest Africa’ until Bond’s publisher’s advised that the continent had no bears), any excuse to seek out the real thing in the cloud forests and páramo of the Andean highlands is welcome. Paddington’s loose progenitor, the spectacled bear (or oso de Andino; pictured), is South America’s only native ursine. Sixty years ago, when Bond started writing, they were more common in Peru; today as few as 6,000 of these shy, reclusive creatures may roam the Northern Andes, with the diverse Chappari Ecological Reserve up in Peru’s remote north-western point probably your best chance of spotting one in the wild. Combine with a trip to Peru’s rocky south and treks among the plummeting Colca Canyon, where you can spy giant hummingbirds busying over cactus flowers and yet another Peruvian icon, the Andean condor, circling the clifftops in which they lays their eggs overhead. Just don’t forget your marmalade sandwiches...

2018

SCOTLAND

Alamy

WHY IT’S HOT… Scotland’s wild west is within easier reach From heathered highlands and glassy lochs to remote windswept isles where the only sound is the breeze gusting through rocky crag, few countries do ‘middle of nowhere’ quite as poetically as Scotland. It’s just getting there that’s the issue, which is why the renovation of the Caledonian Sleeper, linking London with Scotland’s northerly tips (Fort William, Inverness, Aberdeen) is welcome, putting its remote western coast and islands within more comfortable reach. From Inverness, grab a barge down the Caledonian Canal (pictured) to glide through lochs and waterways under the gaze of medieval castles and stern-looking Munros, or simply escape for the largely car-less wilds of the Knoydart Peninsula. The service’s westerly tendrils also offer connections to the new ferries linking Skye and the Western Isles, putting 100-plus islands of wind-blasted archipelago within an easy hop; make your way past the barren peaks of Harris, and the causeways that link its southern reaches, to the golden sands of Barra. But for pure drama – and joy – you can simply head to the wild green canvas of Skye’s Trotternish Peninsula, where walks pinch the 30km edge of this wide open expanse offering unrivalled views of the majestic Cuillin range. ⊲ Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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A unique selection of dedicated wildlife cruises Small ship wildlife cruising offers access to some of the world’s most remote and inaccessible regions and Naturetrek’s range of exclusive wildlife charters offers the only cruises that are focused solely on the wildlife. Destinations include: Alaska • Antarctica • Baja California • Brazil • Canada Galápagos • India • Indonesia • Maldives • Monterey Bay Spitsbergen • Solomon Islands • Scotland

Visit Portugal in the shoulder season and you’ll have stunning scenery, attractive cities, blissful beaches and quiet coastal walks virtually all to yourself. Choose an active break for a new way to explore. 10 trips to choose from, prices start from £799*

01962 733051

*Price is based per adult on the Walking in the Eastern Algarve holiday, trip code: WIA, 8 days including economy flights from London. Price is correct at time of going to print.

www.naturetrek.co.uk

Call: 01252 888 967 Visit: explore.co.uk/portugal

DISCOVER THE AZORES AND MADEIRA EUROPE, BUT NOT AS YOU KNOW IT

Experience the magic of the Azores the Artisan way on an adventure across volcanic peaks, crater lakes and the Atlantic ocean. Tour the seas in search of marine life, tick snorkelling with dolphins off your bucket list, experience the island’s natural wonders and explore picturesque Azorean towns. IN ASSOCIATION WITH

32 | Wanderlust March 2011

Our holidays to Madeira transport you to a world bursting with flora and fauna, incredible landscapes, wildlife and traditional Portuguese cultures. You’ll experience the famed botanical gardens, explore the island’s levadas, and journey through stunning volcanic settings.

Call 01670 333 543 or visit us online at artisantravel.co.uk or email info@artisantravel.co.uk


TRAVEL

HOT LIST

2018

PORTUGAL

Dreamstime

WHY IT’S HOT… Moorish marvels, river escapes and the end of the word minus the crowds Over 7.1 million of us flocked to Portugal last year. Whether riding funiculars and trams up the steep cobbles of Lisbon’s baroque streets, ravishing your taste buds in Porto’s bustling Mercado do Bolhão or strolling the neoclassic gates and Moorish flourishes of Faro, budget flights have

packed these stops with weekenders. Which is why travellers are searching for alternatives. Head west to the overlooked hilltop town of Sintra (pictured), a glimpse into how things were before the crowds arrived. Perched in the forested rises of the Sintra Mountains, the town’s historic centre is exquisite, its palace all Arabesque flourishes and fairytale charm, while the surrounding hills reveal fortresses, operatic villas and the hikable Sintra-Cascais Nature Park.

To the east, the Douro River sheers through the Romanesque streets of Porto and offers an obvious escape, winding red-cheeked vineyards (with port tastings aplenty) as river cruises bob all the way to the Spanish border. Lastly, just along the coast from Faro lies Sagres, its wind-battered cliffs pocked with hidden caves and coves. Wander its historic fortress and soak up the end of the world vibe at the Cape St Vincent, Europe’s south-westerly tip and utterly crowd-free. ⊳ Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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Who will you meet along the way? Tailor-made holidays & adventures in Borneo, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, & Vietnam. Experience the real Asia, your way‌

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TRAVEL

HOT

SOUTH KOREA

WHY IT’S HOT… High-speed rail open up the rugged north-east

LIST

When it comes to traversing north to south, South Korea’s rail network is arguably faster than flying. But it does have some blind spots, which is why the new 70-minute bullet train route from capital Seoul to Pyeongchang in time for 2018’s Winter Olympics is so promising for travellers, opening up the region. South Korea’s vast, rugged north-eastern province of Gangwon has never been a priority. Yet its muscular topography, war relics and wide, empty shores beg more attention. Little-visited Odaesan (pictured) is perhaps the pick of the four big national parks here. Stroll its gentle slopes, stumbling across quiet temples amid yew tree forests. Those looking for more of a challenge may prefer Seoraksen, however, for hikes up exposed crags that top 1,700m in places. The coast is long, empty and hides the odd surprise. Jeongdongjin’s train station even spills onto the shore, where beached naval craft (including a North Korean sub) remind you how close you are to the DMZ. These all lie in the shadow of its most bizarre sight: a huge cruiseship-shaped hotel dangling off the edge of the cliffs. It’s quite a sight, though perhaps the less said about the nearby ‘Penis Park’, the better.

2018

TUNISIA

Dreamstime

WHY IT’S HOT… Rediscovering everything that made it great in the first place Back in July, the UK’s Foreign Office lifted most of its travel restrictions on Tunisia. The previous two years had seen UK tourism there drop by 90%, with those ancient cities, Roman ruins and otherworldly wilds quietly falling off travel agendas. At less than three hours’ flight from London, there are few more ‘exotic’ short breaks than Tunis. Start here, wending the capital’s Frenchcolonial flourishes before heading to Sidi Bou Said (20km away; pictured) for a softer vision of Tunisia’s past, its white walls, trimmed with oceanblue, recalling the hues of the Bay of Tunis below. Nearby, the ruins of the port city of Carthage offer a glimpse into antiquity, though those staying longer might prefer El Djem’s impressive take on Rome’s Colosseum, to the south. Few realise just how wild Tunisia can be, from its blushing-pink salt lakes to vast dune seas. North of the capital, UNESCO-listed Ichkeul NP is the last-remaining of a chain of wetlands that once extended across North Africa. Thousands of species of birds migrate through every year, its brackish waters a shimmer of rouge as flocks of greater flamingos hot-step its shallows in autumn, jostling for space among white storks and cattle egrets. Heaven. ⊲ Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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THE WONDERS OF

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Day 1: Depart UK

Fly with Qantas / Emirates from your most convenient airport: London Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle or Glasgow.

to tour the famous wine region of the Barossa Valley, or possibly visit Kangaroo Island, with its unique native wildlife and unspoilt wilderness.

Days 2-4: Singapore

Day 10: The Ghan

Enjoy a city tour including Merlion Park, Marina Bay, Thian Hock Keng Temple and the fabulous orchid gardens. As an alternative, you may choose to stop in Dubai at no extra cost.

Days 5-7: Melbourne Visit Captain Cook’s cottage, Victoria Markets, Federation Square, the MCG and the waterside suburbs of St. Kilda and Port Melbourne. Enjoy two Freedom Days in Melbourne. Perhaps take an optional excursion to further explore the Great Ocean Road, or take a trip to Phillip Island to view the Fairy Penguin Parade.

Days 8-9: Adelaide We take a sightseeing tour of the city’s historic buildings and attractive parks and gardens. Our Freedom Day gives us an opportunity Service Rating:

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Experience one of the world’s most iconic rail journeys. Covering 1,555 kilometres, we pass golden wheat fields, vast sheep stations, rugged mountain ranges, salt lakes and the contrasting landscapes of the fiery red earth and the cobalt blue skies. Whilst on board, all our meals are included as are a wide selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

Days 11-12: Alice Springs Visit the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the School of the Air, and the Old Telegraph Station. On our Freedom Day, take an optional hot air balloon trip over the outback landscapes or an excursion to the Western MacDonnell Ranges.

Day 13: Uluru (Ayers Rock) Journey along the scenic Stuart and Lasseter Highways to the icon of Australia’s

INCLUDED WITH DISTANT JOURNEYS + All scheduled flights

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outback - Uluru. We enjoy a refreshing glass of sparkling wine and witness the changing colours as the sun sets. There is a further chance to explore the rock in the morning, before visiting the impressive Olgas.

Days 14-17: Cairns & The Great Barrier Reef Snorkel in the sheltered coral lagoon and view the reef from the semi-submersible reef viewer or underwater observatory. Lunch is included. Optional tours on our Freedom Days in Cairns include a scenic railway journey to Kuranda, and a day trip to the nearby World Heritage listed Daintree Rainforest. Days 18-21: Sydney A morning’s tour includes the beautiful waterside suburbs of Bondi Beach, Double Bay and Rushcutters Bay. We continue to the city centre and Hyde Park, Parliament House and the Royal Botanical Gardens.

DEPARTURE DATES

STOPOVER OFFER

PRICE PER PERSON

19 Jan 2018

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£4,995

16 Mar 2018

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£4,745

27 Apr 2018

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03 Aug 2018

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£4,995

07 Sep 2018

£29PP

£5,195

05 Oct 2018

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£5,295

02 Nov 2018

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25 Jan 2019

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£29PP

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Terms and conditions: Special offer is £29pp in twin / double room, £58 for single occupancy and is subject to the availability of flights and accommodation. The saving of up to £632 per couple is on the price of the homebound stopover. Several departure dates in early 2018 have a slightly altered itinerary. Feefo rating correct on 10th October 2017. For full booking conditions, please request a brochure or visit www.distantjourneys.co.uk

The tour finale is a fabulous luncheon cruise with amazing views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Why not use your Freedom Days in Sydney to visit the spectacular World Heritage listed Blue Mountains? They are a perfect example of native Australian bushland, with gum trees, majestic peaks and deep gorges stretching as far as the eye can see.

Day 22: Arrive UK We arrive into your chosen airport; London Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle or Glasgow bringing an end to our incredible adventure.

If you book a tour departing from September 2018, by the 30th November 2017 you will enjoy a two night homebound stopover in Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok or Dubai for only £29 per person. (£58 for single occupancy)

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TRAVEL

HOT LIST

2018

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Dreamstime

WHY IT’S HOT… The first ever direct flights to Australia from the UK are here!

For years, getting to Australia in less than 40 bleary-eyed hours felt like a win. But 2018 is serving up a brave new world, as Qantas launches its first direct route this March, linking London and Perth in just 17 hours.

Though many will have their eye on connecting flights to Sydney and Cairns, Western Australia’s wild coast and scorched interior are the real prize here. This is a rugged, half-finished land ripped straight from God’s sketchbook. In exploring the spires of the Pinnacles of Nambung NP (pictured) or the beehive-like sandstone of Bungle Bungle Range, it seems for all the world like they were etched into the land in some manic fit, while natural wonders like Kimberley’s

Horizontal Falls defy belief, let alone gravity. The wildlife’s just as compelling. Wrinkle your nose at the quokka of Rottnest (a short ferry ride from Perth), then swim alongside whale sharks in the coral seas of Ningaloo. Meanwhile, just outside Perth, the Bibbulmun Track winds 1,000km of some of the best coastal walking on the planet to Albany. There really is nowhere else like it – though perhaps the most amazing thing is that it’s still a surprise to many. ⊳ Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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Real Americas Real Adventure

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Sandboarding at Great Sand Dunes National Park Half day biking trip in beautiful Telluride Incredible hiking trails and natural vistas White-water rafting in Aspen Hike the Maroon Bells in Aspen National parks and monuments: Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde and Rocky Mountain • Plus, professional tour leader and specialist guides, private transport in a custom-designed vehicle and all hotel accommodation

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TRAVEL

HOT LIST

2018

COLORADO, USA

Dreamstime

WHY IT’S HOT… Hit the heights of Denver and beyond with new direct flights from the UK Colorado has long been the outdoorsy state with a liberal vibe. Of course, a sense of freedom comes easily when you have huge skies and cloud-scraping mountains to remind you just how small your troubles are. But until recently, this revelation came with a hefty price tag and long hauls, which is why new direct flights (budget and premium) connecting London and Denver are now opening up this state to first-time visitors. The ‘Mile-High City’ is a good place to start, and a handy beer trail guides you through Denver’s bubbling microbreweries and LoHi street food scene. But you don’t come here for a city break, and most visitors soon find their way into Rocky Mountain NP for a real high, its peaks riddled with hikes winding crystalline lakes and forests patrolled by black bears and moose. Away from the trails, history and scenery collide in the ancient rock-carved city of Mesa Verde and the faded promise of gold-rush era ghost towns. Then plunge into the 800m depths of Black Canyon for trails dangling over the Gunnison River, or scramble for footing on the golden rises of Great Sand Dunes NP, as you realise just how diverse Colorado’s landscape really is.

SOUTH ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND

MEXICO

WHY IT’S HOT… Hike the islands’ next great walk

WHY IT’S HOT… A freshly rediscovered Maya city opens its doors – away from the clouds

New Zealand isn’t short of amazing trails, with its Tongariro Alpine Crossing widely hailed as one of the world’s great day walks. But the South Island’s latest addition offers travellers not just a chance to stroll amid the alpine ridges and coastal forests of the Paparoa National Park (pictured) in the mountainous north-west, but shines a light on a region looking to revitalise itself. The 65km Paparoa Trail fords the limestone karst between Blackball in the south and Punakaiki on the coast, following the old mining trails that were lifelines in the region’s gold-rush era. Taking two-to-three days to complete, it weaves beech and podocarp forests, trickling creeks and unique birdlife, passing still-intact 1930s miners’ huts before rising into the Southern Alps. But at its midpoint, hikers can veer off on the 10.8km Pike29 Memorial Track to the site of a mining disaster that saw the loss of 29 miners in 2010. The hope is that when this trail opens fully in spring of 2019 (though older parts of the track can be walked in the meantime), it may finally offer some peace to a shattered area that’s been criminally overlooked by travellers.

There are few more-imagination firing sights in travel than the crumbling glory of a lost city. Back in 1995, archaeologists stumbled upon Ichkabal, a vast Maya complex in the south of Mexico’s Quintana Roo State. The site consists of five main pyramids – some over 40m high – yet it went undiscovered in the forests of Bacalar for centuries and somehow remained remarkably intact. This year sees it finally open to visitors. Even after 23 years of pondering, intrigue surrounds the city. Evidence suggests it was occupied between 1000 BC and AD 320, when it was suddenly, mysteriously abandoned at the end of the Classic Maya period. But in a state best known for its coastal resorts, the site is quite a find. Some 10 million visitors a year descend on Quintana Roo’s northern shores, flooding the plush sands and cenotes of Cancun and the Riviera Maya. By comparison, barely 100,000 find their way south to the forested fringes of Bacalar. With Ichkabal’s opening pencilled in for some time this year, you may just get one of the world’s newest (and oldest) wonders practically to yourself. ⊳

Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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TRAVEL

HOT LIST

2018

MOROCCO

Dreamstime

WHY IT’S HOT… Three icons for the price of one Anyone who’s ever visited Morocco knows getting around can be slow-going. Piling into a grand taxi (having failed to bag a last-minute train ticket) for a long, winding journey along narrow mountain roads eats up the day. So the arrival of Africa’s first high-speed rail network, linking Casablanca

(via Rabat) to Tangier in just two hours, offers a fresh twist on a short break, letting travellers tour the north Atlantic coast in one long weekend. Start in Tangier, a city reborn following its post-Bohemian slide into notoriety. Boutiques now pepper its old colonial neighbourhood, while the mosques of its labyrinthine medina recall an era long before you could spy Jagger et al sprawled, pupils-wide, in louche cafes. From there, a side trip to the whitewashed houses and

cobbles of Chaouen in the Rif mountains offers a break from the hustle, before continuing on to the gardens and ancient kasbah of Rabat (pictured). Outside the city, the necropolis of Chellah takes you around crumbling 2nd-century ruins now patrolled by nesting storks, before pressing on to Casablanca and its old medina. Its haze of pedlars, shrines and Moorish architecture hides the beautiful waterside Hassan II mosque – a sight fit to crown any long weekend. ⊳ Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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FIND YOUR PERFECT TRIP FOR 2018!

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THE BALTICS

WHY IT’S HOT… Celebrate 100 years of the Baltic States! Back in 1918, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia were in the midst of a messy break up. Not the kind that leads to drunken lovelorn texts, but rather the sort that involves fending off wartime German occupation and the admiring glances of a newly Socialist Russian Republic. But in that brief moment of freedom they declared independence; and while it didn’t last long, for the Baltic States this was Year One. A century on, they intend to celebrate! For those travelling outside of the various national days, it’s just a good excuse to explore one of Europe’s wildest corners. From the medieval cobbles of Estonian capital Tallinn (pictured), make for the ‘bogland’ of Soomaa NP, where its forests shiver with brown bears, wolves and tales of witches. To the south, Latvia’s art nouveau capital Riga lies within striking distance of Gaujas NP, a vast stretch of forest best explored by kayak along its serpentine river. Finish in Lithuania, leaving the baroque streets of Vilnius behind for the trails of Trakai Historical NP and its 14th-century castle, perched on an island in the wide, glassy waters of Lake Galve. If you ever needed a reason to celebrate freedom, it’s landscapes like these.

TRAVEL

HOT LIST

2018

ST HELENA, UK

iStockphoto

WHY IT’S HOT… One of Britain’s remotest islands just got a whole lot closer Napoleon buffs, rejoice! Good things come to those who wait… and wait. Having completed its £285m airport back in 2016, flights to the British colony of St Helena have been a long time coming, but South Africa’s Airlink will finally fly from Johannesburg via Namibia. What once took five days aboard an old Royal Mail ship now takes just six hours. Vive la différence! Plenty will want to tick off one of the world’s remotest territories, where French emperor Napoleon lived out his post-Waterloo days in exile – his old homes and (empty) grave are worth the visit alone. Elsewhere, capital Jamestown (pictured) lies wedged between two narrow ridges, with a clamber up Jacob’s Ladder rewarding with views over its colourful Georgian buildings. From there, wander down to coke-black beaches, splash alongside whale sharks offshore and even meet the island’s 186-year-old tortoise. Best of all, a new connection will also run to neighbouring Ascension Island, where you can hike up into its mini ‘cloud forest’, which was transformed from a barren rise back in the 1800s thanks to one of Charles Darwin’s boldest projects. Why wait? ⊳ Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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DISCOVER DENVER

Celebrating

30 years

Image credit: Visit Denver

Walking, Trekking & Adventure

20 New Adventures for 2018 • Walking safaris in Malawi, South Africa & Swaziland • Wildlife & cultural holidays in South America

Denver, Colorado is a world class city and the gateway to some of the most fascinating National Parks that the USA has to offer. With new low-cost non-stop flights from London Gatwick on Norwegian and London Heathrow on United there really has never been a better time to fly! Contact the USA specialists for more details.

anderlust_Denver_128x89_Dec17.indd 1

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27/10/2017 10:30


TRAVEL

HOT LIST

2018

PICOS DE EUROPA NATIONAL PARK, SPAIN

Dreamstime

WHY IT’S HOT… Europe’s first national park turns 100

To the returning conquistadors, Northern Spain’s Picos were a first glimpse of home on the horizon; to devoted locals, its Covadonga cave shrine is where the Asturian king made a stand against the Moors, regarded as the first blood in the Christian

reconquest of Spain. To everyone else, they’re just breathtaking. Little wonder that Spain made them Europe’s first national park 100 years ago. A feathery green canvas wraps the spine of the three limestone massifs that make up Picos de Europa NP. Below, beech forests smother the horizon, hiding lakes, Palaeolithic caves and Iberian wolves. Never mind a single century, it’s a scene 300 million years in the making, and one that makes today’s hikers the beneficiaries.

To the south, the 12km Cares Gorges route weaves a dramatic line, plunging well over a kilometre in places. For something more challenging, the two-day Jermoso Traverse extends its route across the south-western shoulder of the Central massif (mountain huts are available) before rising up on the Pico de la Padierna (2,300m), with fine views out across the Cantabrian mountains as sharp-eyed griffon vultures circle overhead. ⊳

Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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TAILOR-MADE TOURS Of INDOCHINA The combined highlights of Cambodia, Laos & Vietnam make for an exhilarating tour. Travel through ancient cities & fabulous scenery, meet friendly locals and indulge in some of the region’s most delicious food. find out more on our website, or contact us directly to discuss a tailor-made itinerary.

020 7720 9285 info@bambootravel.co.uk Wanderlust Readers’ Travel Awards: Top Tour Operator Gold Winner for 2017

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TANZANIA

WHY IT’S HOT… Discover a fresh way to summit Kilimanjaro Kilimanjaro (5,895m), Africa’s largest mountain, is one of travel’s great teases. The world’s highest trekking peak lures some 50,000 to attempt its summit every year, and each plucky contender is met with that view: an imperious frosted cone rising above the dusty plains and umbrella-like acacia, almost within reach. For those tempted, there are a half-dozen traditional routes up, each spanning around six or seven days (to acclimatise to the altitude) and usually with teams of porters in tow. But ambitious climbers are now able to join new tours up the mountain’s ‘North Face’ in 2018. This alternative route takes seven nights and combines parts of well-known hikes like the cloud forests of Umbwe, before diverting across the lunar-like expanse of the Shira plateau. From there, hikers round the northern circuit before breaking off. But reaching the summit in daylight is the big lure: you descend into Reusch Crater, passing chunks of huge glacier sprouting from the rock like errant wisdom teeth, before brushing your fingers along the ‘Roof of Africa’. But the beauty of this mountain is that there is no right way; and no matter how you reach the top, you’ll never forget the journey.

TRAVEL

HOT LIST

2018

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA

Alamy

WHY IT’S HOT… Discover the Buenos Aires’ barrios on a budget

With a raft of budget airlines picking Europe’s short-haul destinations clean, 2017 saw the dawn of a new era: the low-cost long-haul, with flights across the Atlantic going for less than £60. A year on, this ethos has extended south, with new direct routes from London to Buenos Aires starting from £600 return in February 2018 (around £300 less than the closest alternative), bringing the barrios (neighbourhoods), deltas and dance halls of the Argentine capital a quickstep closer. From the sweeping necropolises of La Recoleta and Chacherita to the gauchos and street food (so much meat!) of the Mataderos and the beautiful lyric theatre of Teatro Colón (pictured), Buenos Aires wears its passion on its sleeve. Its chaos is liberating, but incentive enough to want to explore further, with boat trips on the lush Parana Delta, a vast expanse of sub-tropical islands rich in birdlife, lying in sight of the city. Of course, if you want to put all that money you've saved to really good use, you can wander even further afield: think about trips on to the wineries of Mendoza, hanging with the gauchos at the Pampas’ estancias (ranches) or experiencing the crashing falls of Iguazu. Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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Sweden

Where the wild things are

The chance to listen to wild wolves howl is only two hours away from Stockholm


The cal of e A wealth of wildlife lies on the doorstep of Sweden’s capital, with wolf-howling trips and a stay in the ‘planet’s most primitive hotel’ revealing a hidden natural world… WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHS PHOEBE SMITH


Sweden Hut for the trees

Inside one of the charcoal huts where visitors sleep at Kolarbyn Eco-lodge where (right) the huts blend in to the trees

the far north. I knew about the reindeer up in Lapland already, and the Sami tribes who herd them, but the idea that I could expect encounters with not one but three key species – wolf, moose and beaver – within an easy drive from Stockholm was too tantalising a prospect to resist, and so I left the airport and pointed my car resolutely west to an area known as Vastmanland.

A cabin in the woods

Spindly Scots pine trees pointed up to the slightly overcast sky, funnelling me along the die-straight highway as I left the outskirts of the city behind. Every few yards I’d spy a pretty pocket of water surrounded by woodland. More than half of the country is made up of forests, and there’s close to 100,000 lakes pockmarking its landscape – a fact I had to remind myself as I pulled over for the umpteenth time to get a photograph of yet another ‘trees reflected in the water’ scene. Not that I didn’t have good reason to be closely regarding the tree trunks: very soon I would be making my bed for the next couple of nights somewhere in between them. I was to stay at Kolarbyn, Sweden’s ‘most primitive hotel’ and the perfect place for wildlife encounters. “There are no showers but feel free to bathe in the lake. There’s no electric but you will have candles, and you can build a fire inside your hut to keep it toasty, though you will need to cut and collect your own firewood,” said owner Malin Bruce as she showed me to ‘Kristina’, the name carved into the door of my little two-bed wooden shelter. Built out of wood cut from the surrounding ⊲

‘Spindly Scots pine trees pointed to the overcast sky, funnelling me along the die-straight highway as I left the outskirts of the city behind’

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Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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ilence – so quiet I could hear the rise and fall of the person’s shoulders next to me as they took in slow and steady breaths. As we waited we looked at each other’s faces expectantly – watching, hoping – and then it came. “Arh-Wooooh! Arh-Wooooh!” The howl of a Eurasian wolf filled the air and echoed between our enchanted smiles. It repeated its cry four bewitching times, and then all was silent once more. “So…” I said, breaking the stillness, “what are the chances that we might actually hear a real one on our visit?” I directed my question to wolf-watching guide Marcus Eldh as he switched off the recording we’d been listening to and picked up his coffee. It was a strange start to a Thursday evening. Taking a two-hour flight to Stockholm, followed by a two-hour drive into the woods near the little-talked-of town of Skinnskatteberg, only to sit indoors listening to recordings of Canis lupus calling out to the night. It wasn’t quite the wild experience I expected, but then this was just the start. Sweden is synonymous with many things: mouthwatering cinnamon buns (aka kanelbullar), the coffee, cake and chat ritual otherwise known as fika, Ikea… to name a few. Wolves, and indeed wildlife in general, are not yet one of them, but Marcus was hoping that he could change all that, starting with our little group of seven. I’d been lured here – as my fellow travellers had – with the promise of a wilder side to Scandinavia that wasn’t


Sweden

‘Gliding through the water in near silence, we waved to a local ⊳ trees and coated with a layer of moss, the 12 small cabins here are all designed to make you feel close to the woodland – a concept made clear as I wandered to the nearby well to collect water and startled a pair of roe deer, who, rather than running off, stopped to watch me. As dusk fell and, I noted, the Kolarbyn staff strategically ‘discarded’ handily cut sizes of kindling, I headed into the woods with our guide in search of the first of my three species: moose. Arriving at a lake, he took out an antler and passed it around. I ran my fingers over the paddle – it was longer than my forearm and felt cool against my skin. “They grow up to an inch per day,” he explained, “and they develop extra points around the edges depending on their age. Right now, they will be starting to shed some of the velvet that coats the antlers as they grow, it gets really itchy, so look on the trees for scratch marks.” We spent a happy hour meandering through the woodland, watching lines of worker ants transporting food to nests and listening to the owls hoot as the sun sank lower, but the reality is that it’s much harder to see moose on foot.

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“But we can certainly see the signs of them,” explained our guide. He gestured at some droppings – a cluster of small brown pellets stacked in a pleasing pile – then pointed at a tree where an indentation had been cleaved into the bark by an irritated moose. Brimming with excitement, we headed to our little people-mover, also known as ‘the moving hide’. Binoculars were dished out and eyes kept peeled as we wound our way through the woodland roads. There were a few false sightings at first (guilty as charged) but, shortly after, we found one. On the edge of a newly planted copse of pines, the unmistakably long snout of a female protruded from the fir needles, sniffing and snorting. We watched while she nonchalantly mooched her way around, unperturbed by the sound of cameras being clicked every time she did. Over the next hour we saw two more females, a bull with a small but nevertheless impressive set of antlers and, to everyone’s delight – by the light of our headlights – a mother and calf who stared right back at us.


Sweden

Mist moose

Spotting the resident moose in Sweden takes a keen eye and patience (left) our guide shows us an antler and tells us what signs indicate that moose are in the area

kayaker as she paddled past and watched the sky turn crimson’ That night, at Kolarbyn, I may have only managed to build a modest fire to heat the hut but the memories of locking eyes with a moose kept me warm until sunrise.

Phoebe Smith; Wild Sweden/ Lars_Gabrielsson

Dammed if you do…

By mid-morning, while picking some chanterelle mushrooms that had sprouted behind my hut, I mused at how easy it was to adapt to the hunter-gatherer life at Kolarbyn. Things were slower, of course. From the moment I decided I wanted a cup of tea to actually drinking it, I would have to source and cut the firewood, collect some water, build the fire, light the fire, tend the fire, then boil the water. It could take around 40 minutes, but I can honestly say that no other place has forced me to really slow down in quite the same way. So, by the time my guide came to pick me up to go on an unhurried beaver safari, I was already well in step with the pace. To spot these little furry forest fellers, we headed to Karmansbo, a tiny village about 20 minutes to the west, which handily sits on

a river – the beaver’s natural habitat owing to the lack of waterbased predators. Over some wild boar wraps (another animal whose numbers are booming in the country), organic vegetables and hot chocolate, we learned how the beaver in these parts were once hunted to near extinction for both its fur and its glands, with the scent of the latter believed (up until the 19th century) to have medicinal properties. However, since a handful of Norwegian beavers were reintroduced here in the 1920s and ’30s, the population has boomed and is estimated to stand at around 150,000 today. “You never guarantee sightings on any trip,” said our guide as he took out a beaver skull to show just how razor-like its two woodgrinding teeth were, “but with this one, we pretty much can.” We set off slowly on boats ingeniously powered by electric motors, so as not to scare the wildlife. Gliding through the water in near silence, we waved to a local kayaker as she paddled past – she was actually making a little more noise than we were – and watched the sky turn crimson. As with all wildlife tours here, dusk is the only ⊲ Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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Sweden Water world

The best way to see the booming population of Sweden’s reintroduced beavers (pictured) is by electric motor boat (left)

⊳ time to go out if you want to

‘With an almighty splash, a beaver slapped its tail on the water’s still surface, causing it to erupt into a fountain of froth and waves’

maximise your chances of spotting these nocturnal residents. Under the dimming light, between the gentle vibration of the motor and the sound of the water lapping the boat, I found my eyes growing heavy. I think I would have dozed off if it weren’t for a sudden commotion on the riverbank. A huge beaver had emerged from the clearing, slunk into the water and, with an almighty splash, slapped its tail on the still surface, causing it to erupt into a fountain of froth and waves. And that was only the beginning. Eyes wide open now, I saw another swimming alongside our boat, keeping one eye on us as she made for the other side of the river.  A second alerted us to his presence by trying to divert our attention- with a tail slap then changing course, while a third was too busy collecting leaves for his lodge to even look in our direction. The evening’s sightings got even better on the way back, with a pair pushing sticks through the water, another on the shore cleaning its fur while heron swooped overhead. As we glided back to the mooring, and with the stars beginning to shine, it was hard to think wildlife sightings could get much better than this. But then I still had one very special creature left to find: the wolf. For that I would be leaving Kolarbyn and swapping my hut for canvas for a night out on the prowl.

A wolf on the doorstep

We headed into the woods during the day first, to get a sense of the habitat, and piled once more into the back of the people-mover.

“Oh wow – look!” shouted Marcus as he slammed his foot on the brakes and we all jolted forwards. “What?” I asked excitedly, peering out of the car window expecting to see at least one, if not a whole pack of wolves. There was nothing there. “Look,” he gestured emphatically and ran over to what looked like dog poo in the middle of the road. “Poo?” I asked, unimpressed. “Exactly,” he beamed, “they are here…” By ‘they’, he meant the Eurasian wolf we had hoped of hear. I learnt quickly that when it comes to these canines – from which every single dog breed is related, including the chihuahua – hearing is far more likely than seeing. With 200 million scent cells (humans have just 5 million), they know we’re in their territory long before we do – and we were very much on their patch. The trees were a mix of pine, birch, spruce and aspen, and the ground was coated by a green blanket of moss that, in areas, had dried out to become skeletal-like silver webs that crunched like snow beneath our feet. When we’d been walking for about half an hour, Marcus said, “Think about the woods and how it makes you feel. Now, how different does it make you feel when I tell you that we have been walking no more than 200m from a wolf den, in the heart of wolf territory?” Though it wasn’t fear, I felt my body involuntarily shudder. As beautiful as they are, wolves are indisputably the creatures of our childhood nightmares. They kill, they deceive, they lurk in the dark and howl at the moon – the archetypal baddie in fairytale. ⊲ Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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Sweden

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Sweden Fairytale forest...

Marcus leads the way into prime wolf territory; (opposite, from top left) in Skinnskatteberg the house where we listened to the wolf howling pre-nightfall; Kolarbyn’s floating sauna; our guide holds up a beaver skull; coffee the Swedish way; camping amid the wolves offers perfect views; a juvenile gull looks on in Karmansbo

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Sweden Running with wolves

Seeing wolves this close takes days of waiting, but hearing them is a whole other matter...

⊲ “And that’s the problem,” explained wolf expert Per Ahlqvist later that evening. “They are not popular and their presence here is often a battle between landowners and conservationists.” The current number of canidae in Sweden is estimated at around 340. It’s not massive, but it is impressive given that prior to the 1980s that number was zero. Then, for reasons no one really knows, a trio of RussianFinnish wolves migrated to the central region I was now in, and thus the Scandinavian wolf returned. After listening to Marcus’ collection of recorded howls indoors, we headed outside, rather fittingly under a near-full moon (a fact that Per was quick to point out had no bearing on whether or not we’d hear wolves). Walking in the woods after dark is like venturing into a place from a dream. It seems familiar, but at the same time inexplicably changed. Guided only by the moonlight, we carefully picked our way through the forest, weaving between trees and occasionally spotting the illuminated tails of glow-worms, lighting the way like fluorescent breadcrumbs. After about half an hour Marcus gestured for us to stop. We sat and waited. At first the entire forest seemed still and silent, but soon it was as if the landscape began to come to life. Every sound was amplified – a leaf falling, the creak of a tree trunk resting, the squawk of a bird or rustle of a squirrel – but… no wolf howl. On the way back to our camp, Marcus looked concerned. “I think if people hear the howls, they connect with the wolves better – I want

Wild Sweden/ Jan Nordström

‘Then the excited little yelps of wolf pups joined in. My stomach leapt, my eyes lit up and every sense was instantly heightened’

more people to come here, to show the locals that the wolves are not an enemy who kill cattle and need to be hunted, but a great natural resource that brings money and opportunities.” I nodded in agreement, and just as I was about to tell him it didn’t matter that we didn’t actually hear a wolf, he slammed his foot on the brakes again. “What?” I asked – now instinctively checking the ground for droppings. “I just have a feeling…” he said. We got out of the car and followed him into the trees and up a small hillock. We waited once more. Then, breaking the silence with a piercing cry, it happened. A single howl permeated through the darkness. But it didn’t stop with one; another joined in, then another, then another. Per had said before that no one definitively knows why they howl, but zoologists believe it’s simply a social thing – like being part of a choir. Then the excited little yelps of wolf pups joined in, too, and something inside me seemed to sing with them. My stomach leapt, my eyes lit up and every single sense was instantly heightened. If you’d have asked me before if I would have gladly spent several hours sitting and listening for an eerie sound that may or may not come, in a cold, dark forest in the middle-of-nowhere, Sweden, I’d have cackled in a kind of horror-movie style befitting such a scene and shaken my head. But, now I’ve had the good fortune to hear a wolf – and indeed a whole pack – howling, I am forever changed. When it comes to nightlife, give me a wild night out in Sweden any day of the week – even on a Thursday. Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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Competition

WIN! a hiking trip through NORWAY

Walk Norway’s epic landscapes, exploring glaciers, fjords and mountains with hiking experts Hvitserk…

is the capital Q:What of Norway? (a) Lima (b) Stockholm (c) Oslo NTURES VE

XP

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It’s not all about Norway’s rock stars. Your six days in Norway will also take you across the flour-white Folgefonna glacier for fine views of the surrounding fjord. You’ll head to Florli to climb the world’s longest wooden stairway. If the 4,444 steps of this cliff-clinging staircase seem daunting, you’ll soon forget about your jellied legs as you rise up into the mountains for wild views over Lysefjord. But these are just a few of the many vistas Norway has to offer, with nearly all of them accessible on foot. Taking one of Hvitserk’s guided small group treks will ensure that you come back from your Norwegian adventure with stories – and pictures – every bit as vivid as the legends you’ll encounter.

Hvitserk is offering one lucky Wanderlust reader the chance to win a place on its seven-night Trolltunga, Preikestolen and Kjerag trip, which includes flights, hikes (4-12 hours a day) to Trolltunga, Preikestolen and Kjeragbolten, as well as a walk on Folgefonna glacier and a chance to climb the wooden staircase at Florli. To be in with a chance of winning, just answer the following question:

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Your exploration of the country’s fabled trinity of rocky icons starts in Skjeggedal, close to the mirror-like Ringedal Lake. You’ll overnight at Haukeliseter mountain hut, then set out early to have the whole day to do the full-days’s rewarding hike to Trolltunga, a thin sliver of granite that juts out into space above a 700m drop-off, but one that rewards with views out over what seems like the edge of the world.

Fjord focus

HOW TO WIN

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The three kings

Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock, pictured right) is another granite great, but Hvitserk plan around its crowds. Rest up in a mountain lodge until the evening, as you wait for the masses to disperse, before making your fourhour round-trip to this tabular wonder. Finally, bag the last of this trio of greats amid the widescreen panorama of the glittering Lysefjord. Under the sinking sun, make your way up Mount Kjerag to grab a selfie on its gravity-defying boulder: Kjeragbolten, wedged between two granite shelves for millennia.

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ith its combination of dreamy fjords flanked by rugged mountains and icy glaciers, Norway was made for walking. Few places are off-limits thanks to its allemannsretten (right to roam) laws, and it’s something more and more visitors are starting to take full advantage of. With over 30 years of experience organising small group adventures across Norway, Hvitserk’s guides not only illuminate the path but also shed light on the spectacles you’re trekking to. They’re offering you a place on their classic Trolltunga, Preikestolen and Kjerag trip, showcasing this triple whammy of the country’s most legendary hiking highlights.

EDIT

To enter and for full terms and conditions, please go to wanderlust.co.uk/competitions or send your answer to the Wanderlust office (address p2). The closing date is 3 January 2018. State ‘no offers’ if you’d rather not be contacted by Wanderlust or its sponsors.

For more information, visit www.hvitserk.com or email info@hvitserk.com


Sweden Footnotes VITAL STATISTICS Capital: Stockholm Population: 9.9million Languages: Swedish, but English is widely spoken Time: GMT+2 (GMT+1 Mar–Oct) International dialling code: +46 Visas: Not required by UK nationals for stays of up to three months Money: Swedish Krona (SEK), currently around SEK11 to the UK£. ATMs are found in the major towns and cities. Bars, restaurants and shops accept credit cards.

When to go Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul

Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec

■ Best for wolf howling – winter is over, so the beaver are active. Around 100,000 moose calves are born around June, and wolf litters are born in May, so a very good chance of howling. Long summer days. ■ Best for northern lights – lots of snow, with a good chance of seeing the aurora. Wolf mating also means that sightings are possible; moose are also active. ■ Autumn – days are shorter, snow is common. This is moose hunting season, so not great for wildlife watching.

Health & safety

No specific jabs are required. Even in summer the weather can be changeable, so take layers. Midges and mosquitos can also be an annoyance in summer; DEET doesn’t seem effective, so mosquito nets and clothing with in-built bug protection are recommended.

Further reading & information

Sweden (Rough Guides, 2017) Sweden (Lonely Planet, 2015) Wild Scandinavia (Wild Things Publishing, 2016) www.visitsweden.com – Official website of Sweden’s tourist board

More online

Digital-Mapping.co.uk; Dreamstime

Visit www.wanderlust.co.uk/182 for links to more content ARCHIVE ARTICLES ♦ West Sweden’s Best Kept Secrets – online exclusive ♦ In the Footsteps of Kings – Issue 175 ♦ In search of Ethiopia Wolves – Issue 140 PLANNING GUIDES ♦ Sweden Travel Guide

THE TRIP The author travelled with Discover the World (discover-the-world.co.uk; 01737 214291) on their three-night Kolarbyn Eco-lodge Wildlife Adventure. Prices from £995 per person (based on two sharing) and include return flights to Stockholm from Gatwick Airport, car hire for four days, three nights at Kolarbyn Eco-lodge, self-service meals with ingredients provided, two guided wildlife safaris with outdoor meals and a self-guided canoe trip. The Wolf Howling Tour is available as an added extra from July to September, and includes overnight tent camping in wolf territory, a wolf expert guide for walks both daytime and nighttime (to hopefully hear the howling), a wolf talk, outdoor meals and an extra day’s car rental. Prices from £300 per person.

SEK835pppn (£76), including a night in a hut, sleeping bag hire, meal ingredients and sauna use.

Cost of travel

Expect typical Scandi prices, meaning similar to that of London or any major city. Expect to pay SEK40 (£3.65) for a coffee, SEK60 (£5.50) for a beer and SEK600 (£55) for a meal for two in a cafe/restaurant.

Food & drink

Swedes love their coffee. If camping, then their particular favourite is kokkaffe, which literally translates as ‘boiled coffee’ and is best made over a crackling campfire. You’ll find a lot of lingonberry on the menu, served with crispbread, as well as the favourite kanelbullar (cinnamon buns). Pickled herrings also feature a lot, as does venison, moose meat and wild boar.

SWEDEN HIGHLIGHTS

Getting there & around

Direct flights with Scandinavian Airlines (www.flysas.com) go from Manchester, Edinburgh, Birmingham and London Heathrow to Stockholm Arlanda Airport, costing from £88 and taking around 2.5 hours. Skinnskatteberg is a two-hour drive from Stockholm or can be reached by public transport. Regular Arlanda Express (arlandaexpress.se) trains run to Stockholm Central from the airport (20 mins; SEK540/£49 return), where you can pick up connecting SJ trains (sj.se/en/home.html) to Koping (80 mins; SEK190/£17 return); then the No 550 public bus (vl.se in Swedish) will take you to Skinnskatteberg (50 mins; SEK85/£8 one way).

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Stockholm The perfect place to spend a night, either before or after heading into the wilds a couple of hours’ drive away. Stop for a spot of fika (coffee and cake) and a wander around the old town (pictured). Lake Skarsjon Whether walking around it, canoeing across it or even taking a sauna while floating on top of it (at Kolarbyn Ecolodge), it’s the perfect place to explore the woods not too far from civilisation. Wolf howling The chance of you actually spotting any wolves is slim, but hearing them is

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a whole other matter. Take a guide and go for a walk in the woods for an unforgettable, wild night out. Beaver watching Watch these busy little creatures building dams and swimming through the water around the town of Karmansbo from a near-silent electric motor boat. Doing nothing at all Which is what this part of Sweden is perfect for; and because of allemansratt (freedom to roam), you have the right to walk, cycle, ride, ski and camp on any land and enjoy it in peace and quiet. Don’t mind if we do...

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The ultimate way to experience the forests of this littlevisited area of Sweden is at Kolarbyn Eco-lodge (kolarbyn.se/en), which proudly calls itself the country’s ‘most primitive hotel’. Essentially, it’s a collection of 12 charcoal huts made from the spruce forests in which they sit. There’s no electricity (candles are provided), no heating (there’s a fireplace in the hut and outside for cooking – you cut your own wood), no running water (you collect it from a spring) and no showers (you either bathe in the lake or in the sauna). You’re given the raw ingredients for your meals but cook and prepare everything from scratch. But it is simply wonderful – you forage berries in the wild, have no phone signal or Wifi, and fall asleep on reindeer skins to complete silence. Prices from

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8

HOWLING HOTSPOTS

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Wolves

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After more great wolf encounters? From the mountains of Ethiopia to icy Arctic Canada, here are eight more paw-some experiences...

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CANADA Everywhere!

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ROMANIA Carpathian Mountains whether spying muddy pawprints in the summer or crisp indentations during a snowy winter. The alpine meadows that wind up to Ciuma Peak are a wolf hotspot, as is the spectacular Zarnesti Gorge in Piatra Craiului National Park. Seeing one will send shivers down your spine, though in the land of Dracula’s home (Bran Castle), chills are not exactly uncommon. OTHER WILDLIFE? Lynx, brown bears, wallcreepers, alpine swifts, butterflies WHEN TO GO: Year-round Dreasmtime; Getty

WHICH WOLVES? Eurasian WHY IT’S A HOTSPOT: Like a huge emerald arm, the Carpathian Mountains not only cut a lush swathe across Romania, they are also home to the largest number of wolves in Europe. Its untouched beech and pine forests are the perfect lupine playground, even if the thick tree cover means sightings can be few and far between. But it’s the thrill of the chase that appeals, as you trek old shepherds’ trails deep into the wilderness to track their movements,

WHICH WOLVES? Eastern, Arctic, timber, northwestern WHY IT’S A HOTSPOT: Canada’s grey wolves have weathered modernity well, with some 60,000 still ranging the wilds here – no doubt helped by the incredible wildernesses that survive. You can spot them rubbing shoulders with polar bears on the banks of Hudson Bay in Manitoba’s Churchill, hike among them in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia and hear them howling under the northern lights up west in the Yukon Territory. In Ontario, wolves can prove more elusive to spot, with sightings usually reserved for fleeting glimpses from highways. But if you head there in August, wolf- howling demos at Algonquin Provincial Park offer an exciting way to connect with these predators. However, it’s in northern Québec where you’d arguably find the most thrilling experience, camping out in the tundra landscape of Nunavik and gaining a unique insight into the relationships between adults and pups, how they survive in the wild, and the hunting trips they embark on together (trips generally run in July). Wild. OTHER WILDLIFE? Arctic fox, musk-oxen, caribou and black, brown and polar bears WHEN TO GO: Year-round 

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FINLAND Kuhmo Region

WHICH WOLVES? Eurasian WHY IT’S A HOTSPOT: The vast remote wildernesses combined with the summer midnight sun means Finland’s eastern taiga is round-the-clock wolf-spotting territory. Nudging the Russian border, Kuhmo’s sprawling mix of boreal forests, limpid-blue lakes and swamps are off most people’s radars, meaning it’s all the more attractive to the country’s 200 or so solitude-seeking wolves. The several hides that dot this wild tundra offer perfect outposts for

near snout-to-nose glimpses of the canids, who often slink through the landscape sniffing out carrion. In summer, the sun barely touches the horizon, so wolf activity proves much easier to spot. Some hides even reside in a ‘no man’s land’ zone between Finland and Russia (with permit-only access), serving up even wilder encounters with the wolves. OTHER WILDLIFE? Brown bear, wolverine, lynx, white-tailed eagle WHEN TO GO: February–October

RUSSIA Bale Mountains National Park WHICH WOLVES? Siberian, Arctic WHY IT’S A HOTSPOT: Sadly, wolves in Russia are regularly persecuted by hunters, but there are still ways to spot them in the country’s remote wilds. Wolves cover the vast frozen expanse of Siberia, including the Durminskoye Reserve’s taiga forest, sharing this with Siberian (Amur) tigers and leopards. Big-cat-spotting trips here are common and the best chance to spy wolves in their element. Alternatively, once the winter ice breaks up, expedition ships can reach wild Wrangel Island, high in the Arctic, and another location where wolves are making a comeback long after it was thought they had disappeared. OTHER WILDLIFE? Polar bears, walrus (Wrangel); Siberian tigers, Amur leopards (Durminskoye) WHEN TO GO: June–August

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Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

ETHIOPIA Bale Mountains National Park WHICH WOLVES? Ethiopian WHY IT’S A HOTSPOT: The Bale Mountains are the only place in the world to spot Ethiopia’s endemic wolf. Their home in the Ethiopian highlands is a spectacular one, too: grassy hills blur with rocky outcrops that drip with lush trees, while wildflowers and lakes sprinkle otherwise desolate montane moorlands. Two of their strongholds are the equally sparse Sanetti Plateau – characterised by its giant lobelia plants – and the Web Valley, greatly increasing the chances of a sighting despite the wolves’ endangered status. Less than 500 of these remarkable creatures survive in the wild (farming and rabies have decimated their numbers), but a drive or hike through the Sanetta Plateau is likely to reward with a sight of its deep russet fur, maybe even with pups in tow. OTHER WILDLIFE? Mountain nyala, giant  mole-rat, Menelik’s bushbuck WHEN TO GO: September–July


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WHICH WOLVES? Iberian WHY IT’S A HOTSPOT: The rugged Sierra de la Culebra range in north-western Spain is the best place in southern Europe to spot wolves. But it wasn’t always the case. The animals’ love of ovine meat meant they were once public enemy number one in the eyes of sheep farmers here, and hunted to dangerously low levels – their numbers dropped to the low hundreds in the 1970s. Now, thanks to changing attitudes, wolf numbers are healthy again (upwards of 2,000). Their caution around humans does make them difficult to spot, but several viewpoints dotted across the plains and overlooking different packs heighten your chances of a sighting. OTHER WILDLIFE? Red deer, vultures, wild boar, golden eagles WHEN TO GO: Year-round

USA Yellowstone National Park

WHERE? Yellowstone National Park WHICH WOLVES? Rocky mountain WHY IT’S A HOTSPOT: Witness one of the best examples of wildlife reintroduction. Hunted to eradication in 1926, many thought Yellowstone had seen the last of its wolves. But, in an attempt to prevent overgrazing by a rising elk population, over 40 grey wolves were introduced here from Canada between 1995 and 1997; now there’s over 100. You won’t see them slinking past the spurts of Old Faithful, though (especially not in peak season). Instead, head to Yellowstone’s north,

Alamy

SPAIN Sierra de la Culebra

specifically the remote Lamar Valley (Wyoming). Its contours offer impressive overarching views of the landscape, and with binoculars you can capture long-range glimpses from both road laybys and on foot. Winter serves up the easiest chances to spot them; their thick fur is easier to see against the snow. Rise for dawn or hang around at dusk for a likelier encounter, and if your luck’s in, you might even see a grizzly, too. OTHER WILDLIFE? Bison, grizzly bears, mountain lions, coyotes, elk WHEN TO GO: September–June

8 BELARUS Belovezhskaya Pushcha NP WHICH WOLVES? Eurasian WHY IT’S A HOTSPOT: This ancient forest is one of the last swathes of a wilderness that once blanketed the continent. Today, Europe’s oldest wildlife refuge is a prime location for spotting wolves along the Polish border, where you can also bag glimpses of the rare European bison. Those bison herds and spine-jolting wolf sights may grab the headlines, but they share the forest with a host of ‘lost’ Euro wildlife, such as elk, stags and boar. Better still, 2017 saw Belarus introduce visa-free visits for up to five days via Minsk airport, although this is some 355km from the park. Alternatively, you can get a three-day free visa just for the park if you go with a tour group and enter via Poland at the Pererov-Belovezha checkpoint, meaning you can combine with a trip to neighbouring Bialowieza Forest. OTHER WILDLIFE? European bison, boar, horses WHEN TO GO: October–April Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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A

CHRISTMAS MIRACLE WORDS MARTIN SYMINGTON

New flights are putting the wild wonders (and famous red crabs) of Christmas Island within reach of UK travellers. 375 years after it got its name, we open up the gift that keeps on giving


Christmas Island

Colonial coastline Dolly Beach is one of Christmas Island’s many shorelines named after wives of senior settlers


t first the fork-tailed shapes reminded me of pterodactyls, gliding low over the rainforest with huge wings outstretched. Soon the birds were zooming on the ocean squalls like jets, just feet above my cliffside lookout point. Repeatedly they tore at the tails of red-footed boobies, causing the smaller birds to drop the

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Ocean. Measuring just 19km from nose to tail, its isolation is compounded by the fact that it went unsettled until the late 1800s – a feat in itself. It didn’t even have a name until a passing English sea captain, William Mynors, christened the volcanic speck on 25 December 1643. Even today, few find their way here. Until recently, the only way to reach it from the UK was via Perth, which meant a crazy four-hour flight back the way you came. But now a weekly hour-long hop can be chartered from Jakarta (itself now a direct flight to London with Garuda International) has finally opened up the island to European visitors. The main lure is undoubtedly the territory’s unique wildlife, from its mercenary frigatebirds to the Christmas Island red crabs whose annual migration from forest to ocean so awed the naturalist

Previous and this spread Alamy

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fish from their bills, which these hovering heisters then caught mid-flight. As vicious as it was captivating, this display of nature in the raw left me feeling a bit unsettled. “Christmas Island frigatebirds are kleptoparasitic,” explained guide and wildlife expert Lisa Preston, introducing me to a wonderful word as well as to one of the island’s many endemic species. You would never even guess that these flying menaces were seabirds at all, with their poorly webbed claws and lack of oily feathers. But why swim or dive for food when you have evolved perfectly to steal other creatures’ prey? It was Charles Darwin who first posited that remote islands gave rise to a greater number of endemic creatures, and while he never found his way to Christmas Island, he would have discovered a rare muse in this dog-shaped outpost in the Indian


Christmas Island Sir David Attenborough that he named the phenomenon one of the most mesmerising that he’d experienced. In 2018 it will be 375 years since this wild outpost was first christened, and with new connections offering the chance to rediscover its biodiverse wonders for myself, I set off in search of a Christmas miracle.

Starting over

It wasn’t until 1888 that Christmas Island was finally settled. Then a part of the British Empire, the discovery of rich phosphate deposits proved irresistible to prospectors. But it didn’t remain in British hands long, and the island has been an Australian territory since 1958, despite lying far closer to Indonesia (just 375km away). Today, the territory’s main settlement of Flying Fish Cove still owes its character to the activities of the first colonials. As I wandered the capital, I spied a huge yellow cantilever crane stretched over the harbour, ready to load ships with

phosphates. Mining remains the island’s economic mainstay, but that is slowly being phased out to protect arguably its most precious resource: the environment. In town, industry and island life seemed to meet around the main jetty of this laid-back melting pot, where I found scattered Taoist temples and a golden-tipped mosque. Ethnic Malays and Chinese, the descendants of the workers brought here under colonial rule, make up the bulk of the population (some 85%) while white Australians – who still refer to themselves as ‘Europeans’ – account for the rest. As I walked the beachfront, I passed a smattering of small hotels, ready to welcome the handful of tourists who made it this far, and spied a communal barbecue station where one grill was reserved purely for halal. I was on my way to find the town’s sole surviving relic of the colonial age, the stately green-and-cream former governors’ residence that stood strategically on Smith Point headland. 

Beaked bandits

A lesser frigatebird female and chick at nest; (right) a flying male frigatebird on the hunt – this time for a mate

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 I wound up a path through tangles of undergrowth to ‘Buck House’, as the locals call it, a grand mansion with commanding views over the cove. I imagined the uniformed overlords that would have once stood sipping G&Ts on its balcony. The building is now a cultural museum, though its most arresting exhibit was a tree made by the islanders, created using jetsam such as plastic dolls, flip-flops and toothbrushes – the true relics of civilisation. Next, I hired a battered, salt-encrusted 4WD to head for the territory’s furthest points. The island rises towards the interior in narrow terraces like a wedding cake, reaching a wide plateau about 200 metres above sea level. Outside town, the landscape quickly turned a chalky white, scarred by the open-cast phosphate mines. But this changed completely at the boundaries of Christmas Island National Park, as the soil became a rich, reddish colour. The national park occupies two-thirds of the island but its forest – or ‘jungle’, as

the locals call it – does not reveal its secrets readily. In one place I stumbled on the remnants of a ‘hidden garden’, where the island’s indentured workers had once grown papaya and chilli pepper plants in the clearings. But this was just the tip of it.

What’s in a name?

I followed trails leading to concealed beaches named after the wives of former governors and administrators, such as Ethel and Winifred – to me, they sounded like grumpy great-aunts. An hour’s hike from the nearest drivable path, I reached Dolly Beach. Its cove, cradled by jungledraped cliffs, was bisected by a freshwater stream and swept with the tractor-like flipper tracks of nesting sea turtles. I walked across fine sand that was curiously squeaky underfoot and strewn with driftwood and coconuts. Here I lay on the shore with my feet in the surf, pondering the plight of five

Santa Claws

Alamy

The Christmas Island locals accommodate their crimson cohabitants in various ways, such as (above) giving them a clear path during the mating rush

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Christmas Island

‘Red crabs were everywhere I looked: scuttling across roads, sidling along beaches. I even saw a few in the settlements’ Dutch sailors shipwrecked here in 1855. With an abundance of seafood, coconuts and wild fruit washed down with fresh spring water, the castaways lived here for a year before being rescued. Why, I wondered, would they ever have wanted to see a windmill or clog again? While the women were remembered by beaches, the male colonial bigwigs gave their names to the island’s extremities, such as Jackson Point and Anderson Dale. There were several ‘dales’ here, forested valleys veined with streams and christened with old-world names. I felt a strange sense of magic at Hugh’s Dale Waterfall, where a build-up of calcium carbonate deposits on the moss and ferns under its spray had effectively fossilised them. This exquisite natural sculpture looked so feathery and delicate that I hesitated to touch it while I stood cooling in the cascade. When I did, I found it was rock hard. After drying off, I took to the forest with my field guide and binoculars to look for some of the endemic species that draw birders from all over the world. Eventually, I spotted a gorgeous golden bosun

winging over the treetops with an otherworldly grace, its long tail feathers streaming behind, the glistening relic of another age.

And red all over…

Like the tortoises of the Galápagos, there is one creature that stands out amid all other wildlife here: the crab. There are 20 species of land crab on Christmas Island, but it is the reds that make all the headlines, and have had perhaps as big an influence on the island’s history as its human settlers. Red crabs were everywhere I looked – never mind that it wasn’t even migration season. These bright-scarlet crustaceans were a constant presence: scuttling across roads, sidling along beaches. I even saw a few in the settlements, scurrying boldly around gardens and verges, unfazed by humans. There are some 45 million of them here, though the vast majority burrow in the damp, dappled rainforests of the National Park; it was there that I headed next with Lisa, the island’s main guide for 15 years.

As we drove along the bush tracks, time and again we stopped to coax oblivious crabs out of our path while Lisa elaborated on their mysteries. “Nobody knows why the red crabs predominate here, or for that matter, what evolutionary advantage their intense colour gives them,” she explained. What we do know is that the crabs have been able to sustain their dominance here because theirs is one of the world’s few sizeable islands that, until comparatively recently, had never been inhabited by humans. In the years before man arrived, they made it their own, and I was slowly discovering how much of the island’s environment is designed by, and increasingly for, the crabs. I wandered the park, shaded under a canopy of strangler figs and Tahitian chestnuts, amazed at how the forest floor below seemed as if it has been swept clean. The crabs are the decomposers of the ecosystem, Lisa had explained, eating and recycling every scrap of vegetation. A boardwalk raised me up above this canvas, and as I looked more closely, I could see that  Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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Christmas Island  the ground was honeycombed with delicate crab burrows that would easily collapse underfoot. It is from these burrows that the red crabs emerge every year, synchronised with the climate, the tides and the lunar cycle to a baffling degree. So much so that, each autumn, soon after the start of the rainy season (no one knows exactly when), females in their tens of millions will simultaneously cascade en masse to the shore and release their eggs into the Indian Ocean. Three weeks later, the larvae emerge from the waves, metamorphose into land crabs and scramble back to the forests. “The trouble is, despite heaps of research into these crabs, we humans are still basically clueless,” admitted Lisa. “In 2016, for example, we predicted that they would emerge mid-December and the world’s crab-mad hardcore booked their trips. Then it all happened three weeks early. The latest theory is that the crabs

somehow knew how El Niño and La Niña would interact. Crazy or what?”

One last present

The red crabs don’t have the limelight all to themselves, though. It was their less common yet conspicuous cousins, the robber crab, that bewitched Professor Brian Cox in his 2013 Wonder of Life TV series, and they remain a curious sight for visitors. Measuring about the size of a football, with legs and pincers spanning out a metre or more, I watched these huge crustaceans – which began life in the sea, remember – climb trees in search of fruit and coconuts. At close quarters, they looked quite threatening, but the only real harm they might do is make off with any shiny objects you might leave unguarded, hence their name. On my final day, I toured the island with Rob Muller, the National Park head ranger. He told me that the robber crabs could seek out food by means of a sense of smell that can detect a single molecule in the air.

Stealing the show

Alamy

(clockwise from left) Hugh’s Dale Waterfall; a robber Crab; a raised boardwalk, giving you a good – and environmentally conscious– view of the crabs on the forest floor; local hub Flying Fish Cove

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‘Robber crabs measure about the size of a football, with legs and pincers spanning out a metre or more. I watched these huge crustaceans climb trees in search of fruit and coconuts’ “We had some Swedish scientists here once,” he recalled, “looking to see if they could replicate the robbers’ olfactory senses and develop it into a technology that could detect explosives or illicit drugs. They failed.” Rob was full of stories, though one in particular stuck with me. Despite the overwhelming presence of 45 million red crabs on the island, their numbers have perhaps halved in the last 50 years. This is largely thanks to an infestation of nonnative yellow crazy ants that are driving down the population. But plans are afoot: National Parks Australia has introduced

a tiny wasp that kills a bug that helps the ants that kill the crabs (…that lay in the house that Jack built). It’s a remarkable plan, and one Rob is cautiously optimistic about. At the ‘Pink House’ research station, where such schemes are fine-tuned, I walked through a fine mesh-protected enclosure of rocks and shrubs in the darting, watchful company of blue-tailed skinks and Lister’s geckos. Both of these endemic reptiles were on the brink of extinction, and now probably only exist in captivity. “The ecology of a small island is easily upset. Humans are the main introduced

species, and they have had the biggest impact,” lamented Rob. But there is hope. Some 120 years after they first settled here, people may also hold the solution. Later that night, in the company of a few other islanders, we sipped sundowners while darkness fell on Flying Fish Cove and the call of the muezzin echoed across the water. A school of spinner dolphins was in the harbour and we watched a flying fox unhinge itself from a palm and float into the gloaming. The conversation turned to Christmas Island’s future and everybody agreed that, with the phosphate mines winding down, the long-term survival of the island and its residents, both human and animal alike, lay in eco-tourism. In a world where people and the environment are often in conflict, it was uplifting to hear that on this far-flung and little-known speck, the reverse may be true. Christmas Island was named 375 years ago, but its new accessibility presents us with an exciting gift, waiting to be unwrapped by a whole new wave of visitors. And this time we won’t take it for granted. Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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Christmas Island Footnotes VITAL STATISTICS Capital: Flying Fish Cove Population: About 2,000 Language: English, Malay, Chinese Time: GMT+7 International dialling code: +61 Visas: Australian visas are required by UK nationals, who can also apply for a free eVisitor online at: www.border.gov.au/Trav/Visa-1/651Money: Australian dollars (A$), currently A$1.71 to the UK£. There is a bank and an ATM but commissions are high, so it pays to get cash in advance. Credit and debit cards can be used.

When to go Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul

Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec

■ Dry season – the lowest rainfall and a little cooler (26°C average high).

■ Red crab migration – the onset of the

rains is one of the triggers; dates vary. ■ Rainy season – wettest in Feb, then starts to ease (28°C); possible monsoons.

Health & safety

No particular health issues. There is a hospital with 24-hour A&E, providing a first-world standard of care. Tap water is drinkable. Highfactor sunscreen should be used.

Further reading & information

The Essential Christmas Island Travel Guide by Beth and Shaun Tierney (available locally or from Ethos Travel). www.christmas.net.au – Christmas Island Tourism Association

THE TRIP The author travelled with Ethos Travel (www.ethostravel.co.uk, 020 7284 1888), which offers a nine-night itinerary in Christmas Island from £2,099 per person. The price includes return flights to Christmas Island from Heathrow via Jakarta, seven nights room only at the Sunset, two nights room and breakfast at a Jakarta airport hotel, a week’s 4WD car hire and a halfday orientation tour with Indian Ocean Experiences.

reflecting the island’s ethnic make-up. My top four are Lucky Ho (Chinese), The Malay Club (Malay), Rumah Tinggi (fresh fish served on a terrace to the sound of crashing waves) and Golden Bosun Tavern (Aussie pub tucker). Australian wine and beer is widely available. The great majority of ingredients are shipped (preserved or frozen) from

Australia. Exceptions are the delicious, locally-caught wahoo fish and some fruit and vegetables grown at the Hidden Gardens Sustainable Farm. Families of islanders of all ethnicities routinely bring supermarket-bought ingredients down to the Flying Fish Cove beachfront for lunchtime and evening barbecues.

CHRISTMAS ISLAND HIGHLIGHTS

Getting there

Garuda International (0203 770 9661, www.garuda-indonesia.com), are the only airline to fly direct from the UK to Jakarta; flights cost from £735 and take around 14.5 hours. A weekly Garuda charter flight from Jakarta to Christmas Island (book at www.christmas.net.au) runs on Saturdays; flight time is 80 mins, with return fares from A$780 (£460).

Getting around

You will need a 4WD car. A week’s hire with Kiat Car Rental (www.christmas.net.au/plan-your-trip/ car-hire) costs from A$455 (£270) Indian Ocean Experiences (www.indianoceanexperiences.com.au) offer a variety of hiking, birdwatching and nature tours guided by Lisa Preston; A$100 (£60) per person for a half day.

Cost of travel

Food and drink prices in pubs, restaurants or supermarkets are about 15 to 20% higher than you’d expect in the UK thanks to freight costs, with most things shipped from mainland Australia. Ditto the price of fuel.

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Flying Fish Cove The main settlement, only natural harbour and the island’s largest beach. It has a multicultural atmosphere thanks to its Chinese, Malay and ‘European’ quarters. The Grotto A natural sea cave with access from the land. Swim in gin-clear water strangely lit by slanting shafts of light. Margaret Knoll Epic lookout point on a precipitous cliff. Excellent for watching frigatebirds battle with boobies (pictured). The Blowholes A series of rocky lava promontories that rumble with waves and tidal pressure, erupting in frequent geyser-like explosions of seawater.

Dolly Beach This remote, Robinson Crusoe-esque beach is cradled by cliffs and remains a year-round nesting site for sea turtles. South Point Temple Incense drifts ghost-like across statues and food offerings at a forlorn Taoist temple on one of the remotest headlands. Hugh’s Dale Waterfall A deep depression in an enchanted forest where exquisite natural rimstone pools have formed under the torrent of a waterfall. Pink House A wildlife research station in the heart of the National Park, where endangered critters (and the projects helping to save them from extinction) can be seen.

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North East Point

Indian

Flying Fish Cove

Ocean

North West Point

The Grotto

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Accommodation

More online

Digital-Mapping.co.uk; Dreamstime

Visit www.wanderlust.co.uk/182 for links to more content ARCHIVE ARTICLES ♦ First 24 hours in Jakarta – issue 140, October 2013 ♦ The best of Indonesia – online exclusive ♦ 7 of Indonesia’s greatest wildlife experiences– online exclusive PLANNING GUIDES ♦ Indonesia travel guide

The Sunset (www.thesunset.cx) is a well-named two-storey hotel that is stupendously located on a west-facing headland overlooking the sea, with its own small swimming pool. Doubles from A$165 (£98) room only. The rather chic Mango Tree Lodge (www.mangotreelodge.cx) is a stylishly decorated, comfortable hotel with striking artwork on the walls. Doubles from A$165 (£98) room only. VQ3 Lodge (www.vq3lodge.cx) is modern and functional, and set in a lush array of gardens. Doubles from A$145 (£85) room only.

Airport

Pink House

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8 Egeria Point

The Blowholes

Christmas Island

Dolly Beach

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South Point Temple

Food & drink

There is a good selection of Asian and European-style restaurants in and around Flying Fish Cove, each

Margaret Knoll

Hugh’s Dale Waterfall

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6 South 0

2km

Point

Christmas Island

Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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Plastic fantastic

Paying for a flight with a credit card comes with its own credit protection for tickets over £100, so you’ll get a refund even if the airline goes bust

■ The Wanderlust Masterclass

Protect your flight booking

T

his year, travel headlines were dominated by mass flight cancellations (Ryanair) and an airline going bankrupt (Monarch), leaving passengers confused and at risk of losing their money and trips. It could happen to any of us. So what can we do to protect our bookings, and what are our passenger rights when things go pear-shaped? Read on...

Before you book

Lay the groundwork before you book your flight and you’ll be both better protected and more prepared should things go awry.

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Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

If you’re booking a trip through a tour operator, make sure they operate under the Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (ATOL) scheme, run by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA; caa.co.uk). This protects you from losing your money or being stranded abroad. “You should receive an ATOL certificate as proof of protection once the booking is confirmed,” says Richard Taylor of the CAA. If you book a flight-and-hotel combo online (known as ‘flight plus’), again check they’re ATOL-protected. But remember: the scheme doesn’t apply to flight-only buys. If you’re just purchasing a seat on a plane, paying with a credit card is highly encouraged.

“It will provide cover under the Consumer Credit Act,” explains Kate Kenward of the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO; aito.com). “That requires them to give refunds if the ticket price is over £100.” If you don’t have a credit card or forget to use it, a debit card still offers some protection. “Debit cards do not legally have to refund you,” says Sean Tipton of the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA; abta.com). “But they generally will under their own voluntary policies or banking ‘chargeback’ (another form of customer protection) rules and the over £100 caveat may not apply.”


Masterclass Advice

‘Make sure the cancellation cover in your policy is comprehensive (covering all eventualities) and also includes protection for “irrecoverable or consequential loss” in the small print’ To protect against airlines going bust, look If your flight is cancelled within two weeks carefully at your insurance, as some policies of departure, then the airline is legally obliged may not have Scheduled Airline Failure (EU laws) to offer you a refund or put you on Insurance (SAFI). Depending on your type a different flight, whichever you choose. of cover, it can often be included at no extra What if your airline goes bust? ATOLcost. If not, it’s a minimal charge, but after protected bookings will again be taken care the dissolution of Monarch, many providers of by the tour operator. If you’ve purchased have extended their cover to include it. a ticket independently, SAFI will cover the “It helps cover unused flight ticket charges cost of the original flight, but you will have to that aren’t refundable,” explains Matthew book the replacement at your own expense. Prescott from InsureandGo, Wanderlust’s “Even though Monarch customers were travel insurance partners. “If you’ve already repatriated by the UK government, this completed your outward journey shouldn’t be regarded as standard and are stuck abroad, it will pay practice,” adds Sean. for your return flight, too.” Know your rights Make sure the cancellation “If your airline is based in the cover in your policy is Avoid unfamiliar airlines and rock-bottom air EU or your cancelled flight is comprehensive (covering fares – if they sound departing from the EU, you all eventualities) and also too good to be true, have substantial rights,” includes protection for that’s because they explains Richard. ‘irrecoverable or consequential probably are. Airlines are obliged to let you loss’ in the small print. If you’ve know of changes to schedules as booked independently, the latter soon as possible. If your flight is cancelled will cover the costs of the non-refundable less than two weeks prior to it taking off, or parts of your trip that may be affected, such if your delay is more than three hours, you as hotels and other advance bookings. may be entitled to both a refund and When it goes wrong... compensation. The same applies to You’ve made all the precautions, but what replacement flights that arrive more than two should your first step be if something goes hours after your original scheduled arrival. wrong? If your flight is cancelled and you’re Compensation can range from €250 (£220) protected by ATOL, your tour operator for flights less than 1,500km, whether in the should get in touch to discuss alternative EU or not, to €600 (£527) if it’s further than onward travel arrangements, whether that’s 3,500km and between an EU and non-EU before you go or during your stay. The CAA airport. Plus, if you’re mid-trip and stranded, may also be in contact to offer advice. you’re entitled to a welfare package, which “This is where tour operators prove their usually consists of food, a couple of phone worth,” says Kate. “Many of AITO’s agents calls and accommodation and transport if and tour operators booked replacement needed. Depending on airline policy, this flights for their customers before they were will either be provided directly or you will be even aware of Monarch’s collapse.” reasonably reimbursed. They may also need Those booking independently will need to to pay for a replacement flight on another make the first move: “The travel insurance airline if they can’t offer one themselves. company your policy is with should be your But if both the airline and flight is outside first port of call,” explains Matthew. If the the EU, check the individual cancellation airline has cancelled more than a fortnight policy of the operator before you book. before your flight takes off, they will offer a It’s rare anything will happen, but just refund or an alternative flight. Contact your tightening up your insurance and knowing insurance for the extras like hotels; but if your rights will make you more confident if they dispute it, your credit card firm is something does, allowing you to focus on another option to claim your money back. what’s important – the adventure itself.

Dreamstime

top tip

■ Case study

LINDSEY WHITAKER

Wanderlust reader Lindsey shares her story, so you can avoid the same fate

What happened? My family and I had a two-week trip to Lapland booked for over Christmas. We booked our flights independently with Monarch because they were direct and convenient – we all know what happened next. Sadly, the alternatives were dire in terms of flight times and stopovers, and the nearest option would have meant a huge extra cost. As for accommodation, we booked it online and, unfortunately, it had a ‘no refund’ policy. Luckily, after some desperate pleading, the hotel allowed us to transfer the booking to next year at a small extra fee, so I’m grateful for that. But both of our kids were deeply upset. How did you deal with the situation? We panicked slightly (obviously!), and then began a two-pronged approach of looking for flight alternatives and finding out how to get our money back. Martin Lewis’ Money Saving Expert website was helpful with the latter, while we also went onto Monarch’s own website, too. What would you have done differently if you had to do it all over again? We certainly wish we’d booked accommodation with some sort of refund policy. We won’t be doing that again! We also wish we had looked further into our travel insurance policy, to ensure it covered us for as many eventualities as possible – seeing as we had booked it independently. It’s made us more wary now of travelling independently, even though we had saved thousands by booking our Lapland trip the way we did. What advice would you give to others? Do your research on both terms and conditions and the refund policies for your airlines and accommodation if you’re booking independently. Also, check and double-check your travel insurance. On delving deeper, we soon realised ours was pretty worthless – a huge lesson learned there!

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Masterclass Instant Expert

Mind the smell

The first underground trains were fuelled by coal, making riding their tunnels a pretty pungent experience

■ 6 of the best…

GREEN THAILAND INITIATIVES The winners of the 2017 Thailand Green Excellence Awards are here… offering new ideas for an eco escape!

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Animal Welfare category winner: Elephant Hills These multi-day nature tours prove that elephants can be an integral part of Thailand’s tourism without being ridden or kept in unnatural conditions. Community-based tourism: G Adventures Judges remarked on how this tour operator works with its local partners in Thailand to link together hill-tribe communities and help educate them in sustainable development, hospitality and literacy. Eco Lodge/Hotel: Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp The judges were impressed by how this tented camp in Khao Sok NP limits its waste impact, generates its own solar and wind energy and runs local wildlife-monitoring projects. Marine: Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation A worthy winner for helping to conserve endangered turtles and for educating local children and visitors on these creatures and the challenges they face. Hotel: Six Senses Hotels Samui and Yao Noi Judges noted how the hotels’ ‘Farm on the Hill’ initiative helped educate guests and produce sustainable organic food grown with grey water and cooked with bio char ovens. Green Steps: Layana Resort, Koh Lanta What won over the judges were its initiatives helping both the local community and environment: restoring a pier, donating computers to a local school and building its own water storage reservoir.

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did you know?

Despite its name, only 45% of the London Underground is actually found in subterranean tunnels.

■ Instant Expert

Getty

London Underground What’s the news on the Tube? Well, 10 January 2018 marks 155 years since the first paying passengers rode London’s Tube between Paddington and Farringdon, marking the opening of the Metropolitan Railway. It was the world’s first subterranean rail network and also the beginning of the London Underground as we know it today. Sounds revolutionary for its era... It was – and much needed. At the time, no overground lines were permitted in central London, and the capital’s roads were clogged with traffic (albeit of the horse and carriage variety). So it was no surprise some 30,000 people piled onto the gas-lit wooden carriages that first day, despite its smoky tunnels (the first electric trains wouldn’t run until 1890). Nearly 12m people used it in that first year. It’s definitely changed since! You could say that. Now, 11 lines and 270 stations stretch deep into London’s outer reaches, and between 2016 and 2017, over 1.3bn people boarded its trains.

Is it just for commuters? No. By linking London’s sights, it’s ironically become a visitor attraction in its own right. Though many settle for a simple ride from A to B, there’s no limit to the experiences on offer these days. Walking tours delve into the Tube’s history, while the London Transport Museum (ltmuseum.co.uk) run popular ‘Hidden London’ tours, with the latest exploring Winston Churchill’s former secret station on Down Street. So, aside from secret government rail networks, what else can I discover? The capital’s post was once ferried between sorting offices on driverless ‘sub-surface’ trains as a way of bypassing traffic. Though this network closed in 2003, it reopened in September as part of a new Postal Museum (postalmuseum.org), allowing people to experience a 20-minute whizz around the old network, much of it unchanged since its 1930s heyday. Proof that, to get a deeper take on London, you need to head underground.

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For more details, visit www.greenthailand.co.uk Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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ASK THE EXPERTS

Careless vespers

Discovering the UK’s remotest islands; taking advantage of the new low-cost flights to Buenos Aires; trekking Cyprus’ hills; and wild cycling across the UK – our experts put you in the know…

THE EXPERTS

Patrick Barkham Journalist and author of Granta’s Islander: A Journey Around Our Archipelago (granta.com)

Kirsty Holmes Expert at Footprint Travel Guides (footprinttravelguides.com), which has released its new Argentina guide

Nike werstroh & Jacint Mig Dedicated hikers and co-authors of Cicerone’s Walking in Cyprus guidebook (cicerone.co.uk)

Chris Sidwells The hard-pedalling, lycra-clad author behind Little Brown’s Wild Cycling (littlebrown.co.uk)

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Q A

I want to explore some of Britain’s islands. Which would you suggest I explore first? Clive Peters, via email The unpredictable sea that separates Northern Ireland’s only inhabited offshore island from the spectacular Antrim coast is enough to deter most visitors, but Rathlin Island is well worth exploring. You can admire the colossal colonies of seabirds from the island’s bizarre upside-down lighthouse and walk its lonely moors above awesome sea cliffs. Unlike many seabird islands, Rathlin is still a proper working community, too, with a population of over 100. It’s a particularly friendly place, and you can hear great yarns and oral histories in the island cafe and bar. If you prefer your offshore escapes to be uninhabited, take a trip to Ray Island, 0.5 sq km of tidal saltmarsh in Essex’s Blackwater Estuary. You’ll need to join Essex Wildlife Trust and take a boat from nearby Mersea island. ‘The Ray’ was the inspiration for Sabine Baring-Gould’s Victorian gothic novel Mehalah, and plenty of spooky stories cling to this tiny place. But time alone on the Ray reveals true wilderness, a uniquely tranquil experience you share with curlew, oystercatchers, dunlin and other shore- and seabirds. Patrick Barkham, author of Granta Publications’ Islander: A Journey Around Our Archipelago. Patrick will also be talking about

Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

In the 8th century a hermit smuggled a religious icon to Cyprus and hid it in a cave; it was found there centuries later and the Machairas Monastery was built on its site

the book at Destinations’ Stanfords Travel Writers Festival (see p19) on 1 February at 1.30pm.

Q

New low-cost flights from the UK to Buenos Aires are set to launch in February 2018. How can I skip the crowds when they inevitably arrive? Margaret Ramsden, via email Buenos Aires is a sprawling, modern metropolis with interesting sights and cultural corners across its expanse, which means it’s not too hard to step away from the crowds. The grid layout of Buenos Aires lends itself well to exploration, so you don’t have to stroll far from its elegant boulevards to discover quirky bookshops, traditional parillas (barbecues) or quiet plazas. Even in bustling San Telmo, it’s not too tricky to step away from the hordes into quiet little spaces such as the Pasaje de la Defensa, a leafy cluster of boutique shops. If you don’t fancy mingling with the coach trips at Recoleta Cemetery (one of the city’s top attractions), try Chacarita Cemetery instead, the resting place of the legendary tango star Carlos Gardel (see p96 for more on him). The Feria de Mataderos, a weekend event on the edge of the city, is an authentic folk market that brings pampas life and the way of the gaucho to the city. But if you really want to get away from the urban hustle and bustle, Buenos

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Aires has some great options for seeking out a bit of nature. The Tigre Delta, navigable by a network of waterways, is the perfect spot outside of the city to relax; whereas Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve in the east of the city is a tranquil home to many bird species. The Palermo parks also offer fine and expansive gardens, while the leafy residential district of Palermo itself is home to a variety of museums and galleries worth exploring. Kirsty Holmes, adapted from Footprint’s Argentina handbook

Q A

Where is best in Cyprus to combine history and wildlife while walking? Isobel Brown, via email As a walker you can see byzantine churches, Venetian bridges and EOKA (nationalist guerrilla


Masterclass Q&A

■ Insiders’ Guide to...

ARGENTINA

Malcolm Parkinson, product manager and Argentina expert at adventure tour operator Exodus Travels, shares his tips on the country’s best sights and eats... ONCE IN A LIFETIME: Over the next three years, you will be able to see two total eclipses (2019, 2020) in different regions of Argentina. They can be very moving, especially when witnessed in one of the country’s scenic and lesser-known areas, such as Salta in the north. WHAT TO EAT: You’ve probably heard about Argentinian steak and wine, but don’t forget its empanadas. In the Salta region – famous for its empanadas salteñas – you’ll find the best in the whole country, made with spicy ground beef, potatoes and spring onions. You can also find different fillings, such as chicken, chorizo, cheese or vegetables. MUST VISIT: The Perito Moreno glacier, with its glistening white ice, sculpted pinnacles, blue crevasses and dazzling depths of colour, just cannot be properly captured on camera, and no film can do justice to the sight and sound of the enormous chunks of ice that break off with a roar and crash into the lake below. You have to see it in person! HIT THE HEIGHTS: Scale the dizzying peaks of the Andes, which runs the spine of South America for 7,250km and through five countries. On the Argentine side, lagoons, mountains and glaciers await trekkers, and whether hiking up to Cerro Fitz Roy Base Camp or pausing at the Laguna de los Tres glacial lake, the Andes are a walker’s paradise.

Dreamstime

‘Cyprus’s Machairas area is less visited than the rest of the Troodos range and several trails begin near its grand monastery’

organisation) hideouts along the trails of southern Cyprus. And given its geographic location, this is an important stop-off for migrating birds and it is therefore a great spot for birdwatching. The Machairas area is a fine choice for walking, as it is less visited than the rest of the Troodos range. Several trails begin near the grand Machairas Monastery, with an opportunity to visit the building itself and then follow some quiet trails. For more recent history, there is also a hidden EOKA hideout near the site of the monastery (Politiko trail). The shy Cypriot mouflon – a curly horned wild sheep that is also Cyrpus’ largest mammal – can be spotted on the quieter slopes of Paphos Forest and the mountains of Troodos. The best trail to see these animals starts near Agios

Nikolaos tis Stegis church, so you can include a visit to the church at the start of the walk. The trail then follows the Karkotis River and ends at Troodos Square. You can spot blunt-nosed vipers (highly venomous) and light-brown coin snakes while following trails to castle ruins perched on rocks in the Kyrenia Mountains of northern Cyprus. You will see fewer people on the trails in the northern part of the island, so there is more chance to observe the wildlife. Nike Werstroh & Jacint Mig, co-authors of Cicerone’s Walking In Cyprus guidebook

Q

I want to explore the wilder parts of the UK on two wheels. Can you suggest some trails that might suit a beginner? Simon Jones, via email

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There are several great options for anybody who wants to experience wild cycling without venturing into rough or remote terrain. The first are prepared cycle trails, many of them part of the Sustrans network (sustrans.org.uk), and they are spread across the whole of the UK. Another great source of off-the-beaten track rides for beginners is the National Byway (thenationalbyway.org); this is made up of carefully selected country lanes, and it covers the whole of the English countryside and some of Scotland and Wales. The third great wild cycling resource for beginners is the British canal network, or rather the towpaths running alongside it. There is bound to be a canal somewhere near you, especially if you live in a town or city. Canal

towpaths provide calm natural environments to ride in, and in urban areas they add the extra perk of seeing the alternative face of a place you might know well. One of my favourite routes is the Tarka Trail in Devon, which mostly uses converted rail lines and runs between two lovely Devon rivers, the Taw and the Torridge, exploring their valleys and estuary. My other favourite is the Trans-Pennine Trail, which crosses the spine of the north. Its end sections, Hornsea on the east coast and Southport on the west, are flat and accessible. Its mid-section (between Sheffield and Manchester) also has access points along the way and is a great intro to cycling in high country while still offering the safety and relative ease of a reasonable prepared trail. Chris Sidwells, author of Little Brown’s Wild Cycling.

Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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TAKE BETTER TRAVEL PHOTOS Max Lowe

Light wildlife as though they’re film stars, says acclaimed photographer Steve Winter, but always expect the unexpected...

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s a wildlife photographer, I always look to compose a shot that has something in it I’ve not seen before, or go out of my way to try and capture hard-to-find species in the wild. I want folks to stand up and notice something out of the ordinary. When I originally set up my camera for this image (right), I intended to capture a leopard and her two cubs. There was a curve in the trail, so I set a light at a 45-degree angle from the camera; this let me use shadow in the shot, a technique that makes it look as if the subject is walking into the sunset and also helps to define its muscles and form. Yes, this is dramatic, as opposed to natural, lighting. But all art is about emotion, and I thought this type of set-up would move the viewer more, as they saw a mother with her cubs trailing behind her. Instead, I got what looks like a studio portrait of a rhino when it wandered in instead! Every image like this is a gift – and one I am very thankful for.

Steve Winter is a contributor to the new book Remembering Rhinos (Wildlife Photographers United; £45); all proceeds go to the Born Free Foundation to protect the future of rhinos. See www.rememberingwildlife.com.

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Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

1 Set up the shot

I found this narrow trail by day, so I knew an animal would walk by this position at some point. This extra time allowed me to set up the lighting as you might in a studio – with carefully placed lights. Doing the recce first really paid off.

2 Make a spotlight

The spotlight effect (where only part of the subject is lit) comes from using an off-camera light source set at about 90 degrees to the shot. One way to achieve this is to use a speed snoot (essentially a funnel to direct the light) over a portable flash. Another is to use your surroundings, manoeuvring the subject when the sun is low in the sky to the correct angle, so that the sun itself acts as your spotlight.

3 Crank up the ISO

With the newer cameras, you can get away with allowing a lot more light into a shot and not create too much noise (grain). For instance, I will shoot at night with anything from 20,000 to 51,200 ISO! But check how well your camera produces images at higher ISOs first before shooting.


Masterclass Photography

4 Eliminate movement You need to use a fast shutter speed in order to eliminate any blur caused by movement. This was taken at 200th of a second (1/200) at an aperture of f13.

top tip

from the masters 5 Learn

Composition is the most important thing with any photo. Look at the master painters online or go to London’s National Gallery or the Louvre and pay particular attention to their composition. Light is key also – try to shoot during the beautiful light of early morning or late afternoon.

To take an image like this, you will need a steady camera, which means bringing along a tripod or an adjustable mount that can be attached to a tree or solid surface.


Masterclass Health

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TRAVEL CLINIC

with Doctor Jane

All washed up

Strong winds can see jellyfish wash ashore, so it pays to both watch your step and know which are dangerous

A sting in the tale

Jellyfish are the bane of swimmers but, as our case study shows, they needn’t keep you out of the water and the effects can often be easily treated, says Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth CASE STUDY: STUNG IN SARDINIA

Mary Novakovich, freelance writer “My husband and I went swimming in a cove while we were in southern Sardinia. The water was quite seaweedy and rocky, which made it difficult to see what was in front of me. We started splashing through the waves, but within seconds both of us cried out in pain. It was a sharp, stinging pain that wouldn’t go away. I knew immediately it was a jellyfish – I couldn’t think what else it could be. I asked the Italian family that was on the beach with us if they’d heard reports of jellyfish (aptly called ‘medusa’ in Italian). There and then the father pointed to a large, slimy one lying on the shore. My husband was stung on his shoulder, while I could see the skin start to swell in a circle just below my wrist. I knew it needed treatment, as the pain wasn’t going to go away. Luckily, the beach was only five minutes’ walk from the house we were renting. It was there where I’d left my tube of After Bite Xtra, which

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I normally always carry with me. I liberally applied some to my wrist and came back immediately to cover my husband’s stung shoulder with the stuff, too. It took effect very quickly, and within minutes the swelling started to go down. We didn’t feel any after effects or anything unusual, so didn’t go to hospital for a check-up; nor did we get checked out upon our return home. But I have been left with a faint scar on my arm. While we were still in Sardinia, we also made a point of going back in the water – admittedly at a different beach – once the stings had healed. I wanted to make sure that this didn’t spoil the pleasure I get from swimming in the sea.”

DR JANE SAYS…

Happily for Mary and the rest of us, the vast majority of jellyfish stings are unpleasant rather than life- or health-threatening. If the stings are extensive and there is abdominal pain or cramps, you may need to be taken to hospital, but most will settle on their own. Even so, it is worth knowing something about these sea creatures, as the treatment

Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

of stings is most effective when the species is known. An excellent illustrated species list is available to download (tinyurl.com/WL-jfish), to help with identification. However, poor water visibility, such as Mary experienced, means identification may not be possible, and there is also the chance that one species may have moved into a new area. Commercial shipping (ships load water for ballast when cargo is low, then dump it upon arrival) is one of many human activities that encourage the spread of invasive species – something we’re seeing increasingly frequently in our waters. Last summer, for example, there was a ‘bloom’ of non-native sea walnuts in the waters around Thessaloniki. These don’t sting, luckily, but it was unnerving to swim through these creatures as they splatted against my body.

THE SUSPECTS The jellyfish with a deservedly fearsome reputation is the box jellyfish (or sea wasp) – named after its cube-shaped ‘bell’. The dangerous box jellies are found

largely in South-East Asia and Australasia. On the beaches of the northern coasts of Australia, where they can cause trouble, lifeguards warn people if on-shore winds have increased the risk. Less dangerous box jellies also occur in the Med.    Another nasty species – albeit biologists say this is not strictly a jellyfish – is the Portuguese man-o-war. This huge jellyfishlike creature has a float that is clearly visible above the water’s surface, but its tentacles can grow up to 20m long and bathers can easily become entangled. These are the most dangerous


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Alamy

‘Strong winds blow in jellyfish from deeper oceans, and sometimes there are broken tentacles in the weeds, which can still sting’ of the many species found in the Mediterranean, though they are more common to the deep waters of the Atlantic and Pacific. The treatment for man-o-war stings is to apply a paste made from ordinary baking soda, or to heat the sting site. Elevated temperatures inactivate the venom, which means applying a hot pack or immersing the affected area in water between

40 and 45 degrees (ºC) for up to 20 minutes. It’s worth noting the same hot-water technique also works for fish stings, be they weever fish, stingrays or lionfish. Applying vinegar is a great remedy for box jellyfish stings, and the current consensus suggests that it may also help with Portuguese man-o-war incidents, too, especially if this is followed by heat treatment.

THE AFTERMATH The basis of first aid for all jellyfish stings is to rinse the area in seawater without rubbing. Avoid washing in fresh water or treating with alcohol, but do scrape off any adherent pieces of tentacle (credit cards work well for this). Cold packs (ice or a cold drinks) will often give some relief, even for Portuguese man-o-war stings. Generally, ammonia is not recommended for treating jellyfish stings; and while it is the major component of After Bite, this also contains sodium

bicarbonate, which may explain its soothing properties in Mary’s case. However, it’s worth noting that it is difficult to do proper clinical trials on jellyfish victims, so treatments are hotly debated. Persisting pain is probably best treated with a medium-strength steroid cream, such as Eumovate. Some sting victims are unlucky enough to be left with marks, but while redness can take several months to fade, it is rare for scarring to be permanent. Mary suffered her sting while swimming in turbid, weedy seas; one obvious tip to avoid stings is to swim where the water is clear. The risk of stings is highest after storms, especially if the wind is blowing from the sea onto the shore, as these bring jellyfish in from deep seas, and there may be broken tentacles – which can still sting – mixed in the seaweed.

■ Report all your Mediterranean jellyfish sightings to monitoring service www.jellyrisk.eu Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth is now living in Nepal, where she will be posting occasional blogs at www.wilson-howarth.com/blog

Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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DOWN-FILLED GILETS ■ T r a v e l l e r ’ s G u i d e To . . .

It keeps your core warm and your arms free. Meet the cosy traveller’s lifelong friend: the humble gilet…

COMFORT

For added comfort, check to see if there is a chinguard behind the top of the zip, to help keep the metal away from your face. Look for elasticated or adjustable drawcords around the hem and make sure the armholes are covered with a soft elasticated fabric, to allow movement but also help keep warm air in.

FIT

Gilets work best when they are a close fit. They are designed to be worn over other layers, so do check that it at least allows for a baselayer without being too baggy. The key is that when you lift your arms up, it doesn’t rise up too far and expose your back – scooped hemlines help with this. It’s also worth bearing in mind that they come in men’s and women’s specific fits.

FABRIC

Lightweight but durable windresistant fabric will help keep you warm. Water-repellency is also useful if the down inside is not hydrophobic (see ‘Fill’). While a gilet isn’t made for heavy rain, they should be able to deal with light drizzle.

FILL

Duck or goose down is a warm filling that traps a lot of heat at a very light weight. To stop the fill migrating around the jacket, it is usually packed in compartmented baffles. For a guide to how warm it is, look at the fill rating; the higher the number, the warmer the jacket – less than 600 is low and 800 is high. Remember that if down gets damp, the feathers will stick together and won’t ‘loft’ – which is how the warm air is contained. If going somewhere likely to be wet, look for hydrophobic (waterproof) down instead. From an animal welfare perspective, many manufacturers are now also doing what they can to make sure the down is responsibly sourced and/or traceable.

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Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

DRAUGHT EXCLUDERS

Behind the main zip, you’ll ideally want a draught excluder – a thin strip of fabric that runs the length of it, helping to trap in heat.

POCKETS

External pockets are usually of the hand-warming variety. Look for a lining, such as taffeta or fleece. Internally, a zipped pocket is handy for keeping cash, phones or passports and tickets close to hand.


Masterclass Gear

Tried & tested

We test out your essential travel kit, so you don’t have to… COLUMBIA Lake 22 Vest £90

Despite being the only one here under £100, this gilet has good stats: 650-fill down (certified responsible), water- and stain-resistant fabric, four pockets, a zip draught excluder and heat-sealed (no stitches) baffles. But its weight – 246g (size M); third heaviest on test – and lack of a scooped bottom does hold it back.  Verdict: A great budget option with some nice touches. www.columbiasportswear.co.uk

How we did the test…

We asked gear manufacturers to submit the gilets that they felt were most suitable for travellers. Our editor, Phoebe Smith, then took them out on the road to assess the available options. The ‘Value Buy’ and ‘Best in Test’ are indicated.

HAGLOFS Essens III Down Vest £150

VALUE BUY

This gilet is the lightest by far at just 157g (size M), and its outer fabric is wind-, tear- and water-resistant. Two zipped hand-warming external pockets, a scooped bottom and an 800-fill hydro-down complete the stats; it’s just a shame it’s not certified responsible. Verdict: A superb weight and well-featured. www.haglofs.com/gb/en

RAB Microlight Vest + Nikwax Hydrophobic Down £125

BERGHAUS Tephra Down Insulated Gilet £140

PATAGONIA Down Sweater Vest £130

OUTDOOR RESEARCH Sonata Down Vest (f) / Transcendent Vest (m) £150

For a responsible, 750-fill hydro-down gilet, this is a good price. Extras like a zip draught excluder, adjustable hem with slight scoop and light wind/water-resistant outer fabric – 240g (size 10); fifth lightest – are good, but the lack of covering on the arm holes is a miss. Verdict: A well-priced hydro-down with neat features. www.rab.equipment/uk

With 800-fill down that is traceable from a parent farm, this is both ethical and practical – the hem niftily adjusts from inside the two zipped outer pockets and its outer fabric is water/wind-resistant and ripstop. Plus, it’s a good weight – 330g (size S); fourth lightest on test. Verdict: Good but you can get hydro-down for less. http://eu.patagonia.com

ROHAN Daylite Vest £139 The wind/water-repellent outer fabric of this gilet feels durable, but you do pay for it – at 252g (size S) it’s the second heaviest here. A 650-fill down lines the inside, and synthetic fill on the sides stops the build-up of moisture. But while its two external zipped pockets are fleece-lined, the elasticated hem/arms aren’t covered. Verdict: Durable but with less fill power for the money. www.rohan.co.uk

BEST IN TEST

This only comes in a men’s fit (size S is 270g; heaviest on test) but it’s worth a look. Made from a sustainable, light outer fabric that’s water- and wind-proof, its 600fill down is responsible and hydrophobic. But the lack of an adjustable hem or elasticated armholes is a loss. Verdict: Some good features, though lacking others. www.berghaus.com

This 650-fill responsible-certified down vest is a good weight – 210g (size S); third lightest – and packs an adjustable hem, fleece-lined pockets and draught excluder zip into its water/wind-resistant ripstop shell. Verdict: Nice, but a shame the down fill wasn’t higher. www.outdoorresearch.com

ARC’ TERYX Cerium LT Vest £200

At 175g (size M) with 850-fill down, this is the second lightest here, but robust as well as water-repellent and windproof. Synthetic down at key moisture points helps reduce damp, and it has a scooped bottom and adjustable hem but, sadly, no zip draught excluder. Verdict: Well designed but not perfect (for the money). www.arcteryx.com

Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR TRAVEL ADDICTS

Christmas Subscription Offer PACKAGE WORTH

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10 issues of Wanderlust magazine + TRAVEL book + £50 travel voucher – all for £35! Wanderlust Issue 182 (December 2017/January 2018) Travel Hot List 2018 ♦ Christmas Island ♦ Sweden’s wolves ♦ Buenos Aires ♦ Indonesia’s islands ♦ Pocket guides: Taipei (Taiwan), La Rochelle, San Francisco

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TRAVEL HOT LIST 2018

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Time to Tango

Hotfoot it to Buenos Aires to join the dancing

31/10/2017 15:53


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Order online: www.WanderlustXmas.co.uk Or call us: 01753 620426 *UK subscription cost: £35 for ten issues. Overseas: Europe £45; rest-of-the-world airmail £57; rest-of-the-world surface mail £45. Payment must be in UK sterling. Order by 14 December 2017 to guarantee delivery (within UK) by Christmas – we’ll do our best to process orders received after that. Offer ends 29 December 2017. Wanderlust Publications cannot accept any responsibility for delivery delays due to Royal Mail. Free book offer valid for UK delivery addresses only. Gift giver and recipient must be different. Not valid in conjunction with any other offer. ‡Terms and conditions apply – see wanderlustvoucher.co.uk for details.


Buenos Aires Walk of fame

A pair of tangueros strike a pose on Caminito in La Boca, a street that takes its name from a famous 1926 tango song


Buenos Aires is a city that moves in time to the rhythms of tango, so what better way to discover a new side to the capital than by joining the dance…

TIME TO TANGO

WORDS BY CHRIS MOSS


Buenos Aires

O

ur taxi had just pulled up outside the Buenos Aires tango school of Dante Sánchez – winner of the World Tango Dance Tournament 2007 – when I made up my mind to confess a nagging worry to my dance teacher, Laura. “I’m an absolute beginner,” I told her as we made our way up the school’s stairs. It was then that I caught sight, through a narrow window, of a couple executing exquisite pirouettes, both of them stern-faced yet sensuous, formal but fluid. “A total beginner, really!” Once we were in our hired room – a proper dance space with a polished wooden floor and ceiling-high mirror – she asked me,  “But you lived here for ten years, didn’t you?” “Yes, and I got into the music,” I said, embarrassed. “But not the dance. I was too young. I was too tall. None of my partners were dancers. It was sort of uncool.” Excuses, excuses. The fact was: when I worked in Buenos Aires (1991-2001), I just hadn’t got round to it. Yet I couldn’t help but feel that I was missing out. In a city where the streets are named after tango musicians and songs, walking the barrios (neighbourhoods) can feel like a musical education. Tango rhythms permeate the geography and history of

Buenos Aires, and in many ways I felt as if I was missing the pulse of the place, a step out of time with the locals. I had come to rectify that, but before I could join the dance, first I needed to learn to walk. Gently, Laura guided me through the basic moves. You can’t really write a tango class – it’s too tactile; you have to feel the music and the body – but the basic process begins with learning how to walk like a cat: stealthily and with intent, backwards as well as forwards, and feeling gravity working through you. Then, once you can do that, you – as the male, and hence the leader – have to learn how to walk as if into a woman, hinting with slight moves and the merest signals of pressure from your upper body, that now you will lead with your right, that now you want to turn, and now you’d really like her to do a skip over your leg and then twirl and realign. You need to show her how to be your mirror. “It’s a non-verbal dialogue,” said Laura. “It’s not about leading and following so much as waiting – the woman waits for a signal.” Laura, 35, lithe and lissom, has been dancing since her teens. The irony of my leading her, or anyone still bodily alive, was not lost on me. “You are so light,” I said. “You feel so easy to move around.” “That’s because I’m doing all the work with my calves,” she said, smiling. “Tango is about giving the impression of lightness and ease.” I can’t say I achieved that during my first class, but I was delighted when Laura said I was not entirely “pata ⊲ dura” (“hard-footed”), the local

First tango in BA

Laura and the author ‘embrace’ and take to the dance floor of the Dante Sánchez tango school

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Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

Previous spread Alamy This spread Alamy; Chris Moss

‘The process begins with learning how to walk like a cat: stealthily and with intent, backwards as well as forwards, feeling gravity working through you’


Boca constrictor

A street musician plays a bandoneรณn, a traditional instrument used in tango music; (below) the colourful Caminito street in La Boca gained its look in the 1950s, inspired by the old Genoese port workers that arrived at the turn of the 20th century and painted their houses as they would back home


Buenos Aires In the footsteps of Carlos…

The Caminito of Carlos Gardel’s original song actually refers to a road in Olta, a town in Rioja province – the eponymous street in Buenos Aires was later renamed after it; (right) the face of tango legend Carlos is etched across the city in graffitied walls, posters and even statues

‘The residents of Buenos Aires tend to be outspoken, passionate, opinionated. This can be channelled into a dance that entraps chaos inside a kind of delicate order’ 100 |

Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018


Buenos Aires

 expression for having two left feet. She also talked to me about how tango was a mix of styles, just like the people of Buenos Aires are a mix of ethnicities, and that it was geometrical, like the city, and for some it was even a philosophy of life. But when we weren’t talking, we embraced and we danced. Something clicked – and it wasn’t my knees.

Dreamstime; Chris Moss

Finding Carlos

A couple of days later, I was walking through Buenos Aires’ throbbing, polluted downtown at rush hour, barely able to think amid the clamour of a city where the car is king. Then, from an old banger with its window down, came the unmistakable strident beat and straining accordion of a tango song. Even in the midst of a million angry souls racing home, the 2/4 pulse rose above the din. It was a balm to the soul. The late poet and lyricist Horacio Ferrer once called Buenos Aires a “tangopolis”. What he meant was a city that lives and breathes tango. It’s true, sort of. But some barrios are arguably more tanguero than others. In Abasto, just east of the imposing 1930s Art Deco building that used to house the city’s central market – now a shopping mall – is a street dedicated to Carlos Gardel, the legendary crooner who dominated the golden age. His first tango record, ‘Mi Noche Triste’,’, was released in 1917, and this year has seen a number of celebrations marking his 100 year legacy, along with the refurbishment of a new museum in his honour in the same area. I spent a happy hour there looking at old posters and sheet

music, listening to some of the 800-plus songs he recorded and watching clips from his movies. The nearby subway station is named after Gardel. I rode up to Chacarita and its namesake cemetery to see his resting place, where stood another statue – of the grinning Gardel holding a cigarette placed there by some loyal pilgrim. It was then that I recalled the words of my favourite Gardel lyric, from the song ‘Volver’ (‘Going Back’): ‘Going back, with my brow wrinkled, The snows of time silvering my temples, To feel that life is a heartbeat, That 20 years is nothing… nothing…’

Tangopolis

In the world capital of nostalgic longing that is Buenos Aires, Gardel can bow and snap the heartstrings. There are stations or streets here dedicated to poet Enrique Santos Discépolo, pianist Osvaldo Pugliese and Aníbal Troilo: the most famous player of the bandoneón – the button-accordion that’s long been the signature instrument of Argentine tango. The most touristy street in the entire city – Caminito in La Boca – is named after a celebrated 1926 song. There are tango-themed hotels (I stayed at Legado Mitico in a room dedicated to the musical genre), a newspaper kiosk selling only tango books, an FM radio station playing tango (La 2x4 on 92.7FM). Specialist stores sell strappy shoes with French heels and funyis, the fedoras beloved of tangueros back in the day, and there are not just one but two major annual tango festivals.  Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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Buenos Aires ⊳

But Ferrer was alluding to even more than all this. Few Argentines can dance tango really well, but most know the celebrated quips and definitions: ‘A sad thought danced’, ‘The vertical expression of a horizontal desire’, ‘The lament of the cuckold’. The refrain, ‘Gardel sings better every day’, is often quoted, tacitly acknowledging the fact that in a country where leaders and legends are routinely recast later as tyrants or figures of disdain (think: Maradona, Juan Perón, all those jackbooted generals), Gardel is eternally a dude. Thinking psychogeographically, I sat in Roberto’s café in the Almagro neighbourhood – far less gentrified than neighbouring Palermo – and contemplated. Emotionally speaking, Porteños – the residents of Buenos Aires – tend to be outspoken, passionate, opinionated. They are also given to formal declarations of love and devotion. They are prone to attacks of hysteria, and they will often hysterically confess this to you. All this can be channelled into a dance that entraps chaos inside a kind of delicate order. I asked for a glass of sweet Legui liqueur (named after Gardel’s favourite jockey and close friend Irineo Leguisamo) and studied the passersby. Did the women have a sway about them? Was there an innate upper-body stiffness in the men? It might sound rather fanciful, but you can probably find evidence of such latent tango-esque motions if you look for them. Porteños are,

after all, famous for posing and strutting and, also, coupling in the streets – kissing rather than the full act, of course. In the right mood, and right clothes, they often shimmy down the pavements as if coursing across a dance floor. But sitting in caffs wasn’t going to make me move like that. Off I went for another tango lesson at La Ventana, a lovely old venue in the distinguished neighbourhood of San Telmo, a lowslung barrio of cobbled streets and blank facades that likes to style itself as the venerable seat of tango. Where learning with Laura felt mutual and supportive, Facundo and Sophie were more your classic demonstrators. They showed me and a group of French travellers how to do a basic movement through a kind of invisible square. Here was Laura’s geometry made  flesh. Or rather, made wobbling flesh, crushed toes and random collisions. When I did the steps with Sophie I was fine. When I did them with another beginner I was pretty hopeless. Ergo, Sophie was brilliant and I couldn’t lead for toffee – or dulce de leche, at any rate.

The big show

Tango shows are all the rage in BA. As the city has joined the mainstream of travel destinations, more and more costumed extravaganzas have opened, from the erotic to the dramatic, ⊲

Joys from the ’hood

Alamy

Explore outside the usual tourist barrios, with a trip to the colourful facades of Abasto revealing yet another side to the city

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Buenos Aires ⊳ to the daringly modern. They are a wee bit cheesy and it’s easy to be cynical about them. But if you’re trying to get into tango, it’s all grist to the mill. After all, if you were on a football holiday, you’d surely go and see the local Boca Juniors team. The class at La Ventana was followed by a cabaret in the basement, but first came dinner. A glass of red and a small plate of chips and milanesa (breaded veal) was plenty, what with me being a dancer now. I was happily listening to the piped tango and starting my dessert when Facundo showed up and gave an impromptu class to some Brazilian women who had come for the show. They were beginners but got the feel of tango immediately – annoyingly. Then the lights were dimmed, the curtain went up and a quintet blasted out the first plangent chords of old-time tango. Made up of guitar, violin, double bass, piano and – of course – bandoneón, the band were shimmeringly good. They could deliver the percussive bop of classic dance numbers, take the more angular, experimental turns demanded by Astor Piazzolla’s jazz-inflected Tango Nuevo, and stroll through the

swooning swing of tango waltzes. Throughout, bemuscled male dancers in double-breasted suits and shapely women in skirts split up to their armpits performed extraordinary feats of balletic derring-do, simulating knife fights, romantic quarrels, first dates, last dances, seduction and, of course, sex. The imagery of the set and get-ups varied from standard tango iconography – bordellos, lamp-lit street corners, the races – to swaggering gauchos on ranches, to a ten-minute Evita-themed extravaganza of jiving jingoism, with the flags flapping above the dining room serving to cool my café cortado. The gap between ‘ballroom tango’ and ‘show tango’ is wider than a dancer’s legs when she’s doing the splits. But I enjoyed even the sheer energy of the show, and my eyes could not but boggle at the timing, precision and sheer physicality of the dancing.

‘Tango began in Buenos Aires margins and then gravitated to the centre and on to the world… and its finest expression is the milonga social gathering’ A time to dance

Tango began in the margins of Buenos Aires and then gravitated to the centre, then to Paris and on to the world. These days, its finest ⊲

www.laventanaweb.com

Stepping up

Joining the tango classes at La Ventana in the old bohemian neighbourhood of San Telmo

Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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Buenos Aires Strictly ballroom

Taking in a tango show in the basement of La Ventana might seem a little kitsch at first, but it’s a great way to grab some inspiration

⊳ expression – from an dancing point of view – is the neighbourhood milonga. It takes the form of a ‘night’ rather than a venue, and this social gathering is the authentic milieu for a tango experience that is both contemporary and rooted in the past. (The translation ‘ballroom’ doesn’t quite capture it; a milonga is a unique mix of formality and informality, youth and age, talent and tenderness). At the La Viruta milonga, which takes place at an old Armenian Community club, I ordered a cold glass of the local sweet cider and studied the rituals. There are dozens of these ‘nights’ but I decided on coming to this one because, way back when I wasn’t a dancer, in my ignorant twenties and early thirties, I had come here and watched, and sat, and gone home. I was watching now, but with a plan. I studied the way an old fella in a dusty black suit walked up to a table and gestured with his eyes; I saw the manner with which two middle-aged dancers – pairings are often strangers, and if known to one another it may only be as dance partners – came together with barely a word, found each other’s hands and then coolly, lightly embraced, keeping a balloon’s distance between their chests. I watched as two young women, smiling like beginners, found the courage to stand and try their steps out on a tanda – a series of three or four tango songs. Then, as the music picked up, these and perhaps a dozen other couples swirled anticlockwise around the wooden floor. Milongeros – regular social dancers – tend to dance al suelo (‘to the floor’). One

teacher explained this to me as: “Imagine you’re sweeping up using your feet.” You gently brush the surface with your heel, resisting clumsy or sudden moves and – chance would be a fine thing – repressing overly artistic flicks and kicks with your feet and legs. Tango makes you think. It made me realise that when I lived in Buenos Aires back in the 1990s, my life was as amorphous as everyone else’s. Residence as an expat is similar to that of a native in that life is a messy sequence of work, fun, sleep, eating, travel and falling in love (or not), all existing alongside the extra (rather tango-esque) feelings of missing home, friends and family. But on repeated returns I have had to accept that the singular experience of belonging to the Argentine capital goes beyond having lived there. This visit, with its focus on tango music, dance and the sights its rhythms and heroes have inspired, led me to see Buenos Aires in a way that I’d never done before, as I finally began to move in step with the city – and its people. So, did I get up? Did I find my feet and my huevos and glide confidently across the dance floor, offer a gentle nod and take my ‘waiting’ partner into the expert heart of the vortex of the milonga? To find out, you’ll have to go to Buenos Aires and hit the tango classes and take yourself to the milongas, too. But, rest assured, ‘Volver’ gets me every time. And now that I’ve found my feet, I’ll be going back very soon to perfect my ‘backwards-eight’ and lose myself in the music of the dance of time.

www.laventanaweb.com

‘At the milonga I watched as two young women, smiling like beginners, found the courage to stand and try their steps out on a tanda’

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Buenos Aires Footnotes VITAL STATISTICS Capital: Buenos Aires Population: 15,180,000 (metropolitan) Language: Spanish Time: GMT-3 International dialling code: +54 Visas: UK nationals don’t require visas for stays of up to 90 days Money: Argentine pesos (AR$), currently around AR$22.92 to the UK£

When to go Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul

Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec

■ Spring & autumn – Buenos Aires is

most pleasant in spring (Oct/Nov), when the trees are in bloom, and autumn (Apr/ May), when the summer rains turn things green and temperatures dip a little. ■ Winter – late autumn and winter are often cold, dark and wet. However, every August, BA hosts the International Tango Festival and Championship, which has free concerts, performances, classes and milongas. All events are free; visit turismo.buenosaires.gob.ar for details. ■ Summer – swelteringly hot. During this time the city can feel a bit downbeat as many locals flee for the coast.

Health & safety

No special precautions are needed for the capital. Safety-wise, take care crossing roads and avoid La Boca and the darker backstreets once dusk has fallen.

Further reading & information

Argentina (Rough Guides, 2016) – the best guide for a musical background to the city, or pick up any of the Rough Guides CDs to tango or Argentina www.hoy-milonga.com; tanguito.co.uk; buenosairesmilongas.com – useful sites for planning a tango-themed visit www.lata.org – Latin American Travel Association

More online

Alamy; Digital-Mapping.co.uk

Visit www.wanderlust.co.uk/182 for links to more content ARCHIVE ARTICLES ♦ Buenos Aires: The Wild Side – issue 171 ♦ Patagonia: Trip Planner – issue 165 ♦ Iguazú Falls: The Legend of the Falls – issue 156 ♦ Buenos Aires: First 24 Hours – issue 131 PLANNING GUIDES ♦ Argentina travel guide

THE TRIP

THINGS I WISH I’D KNOWN

Journey Latin America (020 8600 1881, journeylatinamerica.co.uk) can arrange a ten-day tango-focused trip to Argentina, with three nights in Buenos Aires at Hotel Clásico, starting from £2,088pp, including excursions, transfers, breakfast, a tango show at La Ventana (laventanaweb.com) and return flights from London.  

Know the etiquette. Always dance in an anti-clockwise direction at a milonga. Bring the right equipment. Men: for tango lessons, wear shoes that can move smoothly across the floor (ie not trainers). Women: it’s best if you wear shortish heels, as this facilitates the necessary inward ‘lean’ for the embrace. Explore beyond the usual. Palermo, Recoleta and San Telmo are all rather well-heeled barrios (neighbourhoods) and full of sights, but Buenos Aires is a very walkable city; take in Almagro, Barracas, Villa Crespo and Chacarita to see its more authentic areas.

Getting there

Currently, the only airline to fly direct to Buenos Aires from the UK is British Airways (ba.com), which flies from London Heathrow for around £848 return and takes about 11 hours. However, Norwegian (norwegian.com) will launch a 13-hour direct flight (from £600 return) from London Gatwick in Feb 2018. In the meantime, Lufthansa (lufthansa.com), Alitalia (alitalia.com), Iberia (iberia.com) and KLM (klm.com) all fly indirectly and are suited to those travelling from outside London.

Take the right money. Banks only change money for account holders these days. Take US dollars, as UK pounds are pretty much almost impossible to change, even in a casa de cambio. Try to brush up on a few Spanish tango expressions, such as… ‘el ocho’ (figure of eight step), ‘al suelo’ (keeping the soles of the feet close to the floor) and ‘quebrada’ (the angled posture of both dancers, but considered indecent in the early days). Check out what’s happening at venues. You might catch a live tango or folk show at Torquato Tasso (torquatotasso.com.ar) or La Trastienda (latrastienda.com).

BUENOS AIRES HIGHLIGHTS

Getting around

A SUBE card (similar to London’s Oyster; subre.gob.ar) is very useful, as it allows travel on the underground, buses and trains. It costs AR$25 (£1.10) to buy, with each trip costing between AR$4 and AR$6 (20-25p).

Cost of travel

Smart restaurants in Palermo and San Telmo charge comparable prices to the UK but you can still get pizzas, steaks and empanada dinners for as little as AR$100pp (less than £5) in neighbourhood restaurants. Most people leave a 10% or 12% tip. Taxis cost upwards of AR$115 (£5) for short trips.

Accommodation

Palermo Viejo’s Legado Mitico (legadomitico.com) is a smart small hotel, with its 11 rooms paying homage to national icons – the ‘El Tanguero’ is full of Carlos Gardel memorabilia. B&B doubles from US$300 (£229). Recoleta Grand (recoletagrand.com) is basic-looking but decent, and handy for downtown and Recoleta’s cemetery. B&B doubles from US$151 (£115). Palermo Hollywood’s funky 32-room Hotel Clásico (hotelclasico.com) is good value for money and has fine breakfasts. B&B doubles from US$119 (£90).

Food & drink

Stroll Palermo Viejo, where you’ll find good pizzas and organic options. El Sanjuanino (elsanjuanino.com.ar) in Recoleta is a fine choice for empanadas; and for a meat blowout, try El Trapiche (11 4772 7343) or the La Cabrera outlets (http://lacabrera.com.ar) in Palermo.

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Cementerio de la Chacarita This is the ‘people’s necropolis’, as opposed to the Recoleta cemetery, which is where nobility and military generals are entombed. But make no mistake: this site is a city of death, complete with roads and parking spaces. Gardel’s grave is here, as is Juan Perón’s. Further tango tombs can be found in a special artists’ corner. The Museo de Arte Moderno (MAMBA) and Museo de Arte Contemporaneo (MACBA) Side by side on the same block as Avenida San Juan (corner of Defensa) are these seriously good public galleries. They cost just pennies to get in and showcase some

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of the most thrilling art on the planet (MAMBA pictured). Zivals record shop Situated on the corner of Avenidas Callao and Corrientes, this shop houses a great selection of tango CDs and books. Bosques de Palermo The lungs of the northern barrios, with a rose garden, boating lake, a great art gallery (Museo Sívori) and picnic spots. Rojo Tango This erotically charged tango show at the Hotel Faena (rojotango.com) is great for a final night. Superb music is matched by acrobatic dancing and lots of bare – and bemuscled – flesh.

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ARGENTINA Buenos Aires

Rio de la Plata

BUENOS AIRES

Bosques 4 De Palermo 3 5 Cementerio de la Chacarita Zivals Faena Hotel 1 Museo de Arte Moderno (MAMBA)

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30km

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FROM THE ROAD

Letters, tips, photos & exploits from you, our endlessly adventurous readers

T ■ Yo u r S t o r y

A brief brush with celebrity Reader Dineke ten Hove discovers how an innocent cycle can turn you into a local star in southern China

112 |

he quick photo had turned into what felt like a full shoot, after the four Chinese students practised their English on me while cycling back from Moon Hill. ‘This is what it must be like for a celebrity,’ I thought, as the fourth girl stood next to me, made the ‘V’ for victory sign and we had our photo taken. I had spent the day cycling in the beautiful countryside around Yangshuo in southern China. The jagged peaks of the karst mountains dominated the landscape here. Outside the villages, people tended to their crops in the traditional way, wearing their distinctive conical hats to protect them from the sun. The view from the top of Moon Hill was worth climbing the 800 steps it takes to get there. The Li valley unfolded in front of me, with the Li River, which we’d cruised down the previous day, meandering through it. The crescent-shaped hole that gave Moon Hill its name framed the hazy mountains, making the panorama in front of me look magical. For a few minutes I was the only person on the top, making it even more unreal. I was on my way back to the town, cycling along the main road. The magical landscape I saw on the top of Moon Hill had returned to 21st-century traffic and fellow cyclists. I had slowed down considerably, the sun and the 800 steps taking its toll. I knew the last 8km would be another challenge. “Where are you from?” I heard. I looked to my left and saw that a tandem with two Chinese girls had caught up with me. They slowed down, as they were keen to start a conversation. We talked about where I had been in China, how long I was staying in Yangshuo and where I was going. Both girls

Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

were very excited that I was going to Shanghai, a place they wanted to visit as well. Most important of all, however, they wanted to know what I thought of China. I found out the girls were studying English at a university in Hunan province. They were in Yangshuo for two weeks in order to speak to practise their English on foreigners, a typical sight in China and one even described by Jung Chang in her book Wild Swans. Yangshuo’s reputation as a haven for Western tourists gives students plenty of opportunities to speak English. When the girls had asked all their questions and had exhausted their knowledge of the


Dreamstime

From The Road

English language, they sped up again to give their friends on another tandem a chance. The same questions, the same answers. These two were a bit shy and there was a lot of giggling and apologies for their English. I reassured them that it was much better than they thought and confessed that I knew no Chinese. This resulted in an impromptu Chinese lesson. Unfortunately we didn’t get past ‘nihao’ (hello), with my pronunciation causing a great deal of hilarity. The 8km was quicker and much more enjoyable than I initially feared. As we approached the town, then came the inevitable request for a photo. I’d already found out that some Chinese like to have their photo taken with foreigners. There was a lot of discussion about the best place, when suddenly one of them said, “This is the spot, by the river!” So we parked our bikes and I was told where to stand. I expected all four girls to stand by me and for each of them take a selfie. This time it was different. One by one, the girls stood next to me and the other three took a photo. At least 12 photos were taken, but I suspect there were more. I took a photo of the four of them and we went our separate ways. After I had taken my bike back to the hire shop, I reflected on how an 8km cycle ride along a boring main road led to a conversation with four Chinese students and ended with a photoshoot. It certainly felt like a brief brush with celebrity.

■ Yo u r S t o r y

A gentle awakening

Some cheeky camping leads to the bizarrest of wildlife encounters for reader Michael Harrison

H

aving spent three weeks hitchhiking and camping in the southern part of Alaska, I decided for a change of transport and scenery, and caught the train from Fairbanks to Denali National Park. Things are strictly controlled in the park. I had a permit for four days’ camping but, as I wasn’t in a hurry to leave the Wonder Lake campsite, I decided to cheekily play everything by ear until I was thrown out. The afternoon after my permit had expired, there was an emergency where the warden was involved in getting someone, who’d had an accident attempting to climb Mount Denali, loaded onto a vehicle and taken to hospital. One of that group decided to stay in the campsite for a couple of days and it was from him that I learned about their failed attempt and the accident. They’d got close to the top but then the weather closed in and they had to turn back. The forecast for the next day was quite good, though, and as I still wasn’t in any mad panic to move on, I decided to push my luck again. This time, however, I was told by the rangers to leave on the afternoon bus. I was in the process of breaking camp when the climber who I’d been chatting to came up with a suggestion. He would pack up all his gear ready for an early departure the next day, and we would both sleep in my tent (I was by myself but the tent comfortably slept two) and everyone would be happy – including the warden, where the number of tents was more of an issue than the number of people.

As I hadn’t seen Denali in my days at Wonder Lake, I decided to see if it would now show itself. That night, I just sat at one of the camp’s tables and watched the mountain and its associated range of hills gradually be revealed to the privileged. I was still in the same place when people started to stir in the campsite in the early hours. I joined the group of people milling around, telling them of what they had missed, as Denali was now hiding behind another bank of cloud, which it does for much of the year. When my tent-sharing companion left, I crashed out. It was a warm day, so I left the flaps of the tent open as I lay on my sleeping bag. A few hours later, I was awoken by a tapping on the soles of my feet. I opened my eyes and looked out: there, at the entrance of the tent and standing upright on its hind legs, was a medium-sized ground squirrel. We looked at each other, me entranced, it wondering what I was doing in its territory. Then it was gone, as quick as a flash. I’ve been woken in many different ways in my life but never in such a charming manner.

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■ Readers’ Pictures

YOUR PHOTOS

Been somewhere beautiful? Done something amazing? Email fromtheroad@wanderlust.co.uk – make us jealous! “Peering into the crater of Mount Vesuvius, Italy, with my family, to celebrate my mum’s 70th birthday.” Katharine Williamson

“Admiring the views of New Zealand’s Remarkables mountains and Lake Wakatipu after a ride on the Skyline Gondola.” Deirdre Hogan

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“Hang-gliding over São Conrado beach, Rio de Janeiro – I was only in the air eight minutes but felt like I was a bird!” Jasmine Thompson


From The Road

“Taking advantage of the new free-visa entry to Belarus, spying the Island of Tears memorial while I was there.” Walter Boyle

“I walked for miles to see the beautiful views over Budapest.” Amy Ralph

Where does your Wanderlust take you?

Every month, we ask ‘Where does your Wanderlust take you?’, giving you a chance to win a goody bag including a versatile 100% Merino Wool Buff® – the ultimate travel accessory (£26.75 RRP). But can you top Walter (above)? Show us where your Wanderlust takes you and where you take your Wanderlust! Take your magazine with you on your next trip and share a pic with us. Post it on our Facebook wall, tweet it to us at @wanderlustmag, email it to fromtheroad@wanderlust.co.uk or hashtag it #wanderlustmag on Instagram.

“Overlooking one of the many beaches on Rottnest Island, Western Australia.” Molly Ball

“Taking in the somewhat sulphurous morning air at the Ijen volcano, East Java.” Jim Pruden

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 LETTERS

Your mail and missives: terrific Trieste, Bolivian wrestling, cute lion cubs, avoiding a cancellation calamity, fantastic Finland and the real Borneo



★ STAR LETTER ★ Safety in travel

In your Big Debate [September 2017, issue 179], you asked if travel insurance should be compulsory. I’d never travel without it. In 2009, I had to cancel two trips, just eight months apart. A back injury would have made ten days bouncing around Botswana in a Land Rover acutely painful (and dangerous), and secondly, my mother fell ill and I had to forgo a fortnight in Cuba to care for her. In both cases it was very close to the departure and I’d paid in full. Without cancellation cover, I’d have been nearly £5,000 out of pocket and luckily, my insurers paid in full, and I could visit Botswana and Cuba in happier circumstances later on. So, I’d advise everyone to get travel insurance, just in case the worst happens – if it does, you can bounce back to travel another day. Lorena Sutherland, via email

Authentic Borneo

We’d just returned from Borneo when I saw your feature on staying in an Iban longhouse in Sarawak [October 2017, issue 180]. On our trip, we stayed two nights in one, and on my return I was asked if the longhouse now existed only for tourists. I can echo the words of Mark Eveleigh and assure people it is very real. Everyone got on with their everyday life, whether it was building a new hut for a returning family member, tending the pepper plants or looking after the children.

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Secret Finland

I’ve just been to Finland, the beautiful and almost forgotten ‘land of a thousand lakes’. It’s rarely visited in my experience – I believe we counted on one hand the number of foreign registration plates we saw. It was a thrill to think we had the lakes, forests, wild berries, saunas and trails all to ourselves. Wanderlust covers the most amazing off-the-beaten-track locations so, maybe it should be you to let the secret out and reveal the wonders of Finland to the rest of the world! [Editors’ note: Coincidentally, we have! See p20 for Finland’s newest national park, Hossa.] Rachel Daly, Ireland

However, tourism helps provide extras like fuel for the generator, tinned goods and putting children through university. We were inquisitive without being intrusive, and in return we were invited to a ‘topping out’ party for the new hut. Changes will come, with people leaving for university and modern additions like electricity, but this was a true homestay experience. From what I could see, the longhouse will be around for some time to come. Nigel Dearnley, via email

Time in Trieste

Last year, your Pocket Guide to Trieste, Italy, took my eye [November 2016, issue 171]. Four of us went recently and the plan was to find as

Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

many of the places mentioned in the article. However, when we wanted to visit the Karst region by funicular, we were told that it had been suspended due to a crash, so we went by bus. It’s not as scenic as the tram route, but still worth it. After a coffee, we walked back to Obelisco via a partly shaded path, which has fantastic views out over the city and bay. Though it wasn’t on the plan, we found the Verdi Theatre and went one evening to listen to the Trieste Orchestra and had a lovely time. Jan Morris’s book Trieste and the Meaning Of Nowhere is a good read, too. Thank you, Wanderlust.. And to others, we say: go! I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. Hilary Glew, Windsor

WIN WANDERLUST GOODIES Each issue, our winning contribution wins a haul of Wanderlust gear. This time, congratulations to Lorena!


From The Road

This month you have been mostly...

■ Experiences

JUST BACK FROM... Bolivia Reader Peter Fogarty recalls his month in South America’s ‘lost’ land The highlight: It has to be Cholita wrestling, where women battle it out in brightly coloured costumes. It was a brilliantly insane night out. Must see: Salar de Uyuni, especially the dunes of its Siloli Desert. It has lakes, mountains, flamingos and reflections – it’s just beautiful. Top tip: Make sure you have a Plan B, in case any of the roads are blocked and you can’t  go on a planned day tour.

Cautionary tale: Make sure you pick your local tour operators carefully – I had one that didn’t show up. Also, the traffic, car horns and exhaust fumes in the city of La Paz are a negative. I wish I’d known... Where I could have found a decent coffee! Anything else? People are genuinely ignorant about a country like Bolivia. There’s a lot more to see than just Salar de Uyuni and the ‘Death Road’. Plus, the people are so friendly.

Tuning into the blues on a four-wheeled adventure: “Listening to Johnny Cash on a 10,000km road trip around the USA.” Shari Rowles Plotting a trip to Uganda: “The Rwenzori mountains is one place I’m yet to reach!” @WhiteheadComm Looking forward to a snowy adventure: “I moved to Barcelona recently and went skiing for the first time in Andorra. Now to plan this winter...” @mashit_up Packing a camera ready for Madagascar’s wilds: “Try and take good gear – your iPhone really isn’t going to do justice to the environment there.” Steve Rencontre

Dreaming of travel from the armchair: “Reading @wanderlustmag and wishing I was on a South American train, not on my sofa.” @lolylena Spying some of the world’s great beasts: “Seeing gorillas in their natural habitat in Rwanda is truly magical.” Lisa Savage Spreading the love for Lisbon: “I’ve been there five times, spending around a year there collectively. The people there are so kind.” @RyanBiddulph Championing the beauty of Hoi An: “It’s one of my favourite places – everyone should visit there once in their life!” Sue Anderson

PHOTO OF THE MONTH Lion cubs at play, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Wanderlust reserves the right to edit letters

Howard Perry I shot this in the Shamwari Game Reserve in South Africa’s Eastern Cape in May 2017. We’d been tracking the lions for three days, as they made their way across the reserve to find water and food. On the afternoon of the third day we saw evidence of a pride kill, as the first rains of winter arrived. Cautiously, we approached the resting pride to find the young cubs were playing, learning to hunt as their mothers had done. I sat spellbound for half an hour, just watching the cubs until this moment arrived, enabling me to capture their play ‘mid-fight’ as the heavens opened.

TALK TO US: Email fromtheroad@wanderlust.co.uk Mail Wanderlust, 1 Leworth Place, Windsor, SL4 1EB Twitter @wanderlustmag Facebook www.facebook.com/wanderlusttravelmagazine Instagram @wanderlustmag Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018 | 117


Life in the

SLOW LANE

East of Bali, Nusa Tenggara is one of Indonesia’s most accessible island chains, allowing ferry-hopping travellers a way to slowly soak up its wild shores and diverse cultures WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHS MARK STRATTON


Indonesia

Three is the magic number

The tri-coloured lakes of the Kelimutu volcano, Flores Island


P Indonesia

edalling amid the paddies on a cranky old ‘sit up and beg’ bicycle, I watch ripened rice being handharvested by scythes or threshed against raffia-woven screens to remove the toffee-coloured husks. Elsewhere, among the fields surrounding Ubud, were small dedicated shrines to Dewi Sri, the Balinese Hindu goddess representing fertility and rice. Bali is a destination known to many first-time visitors to Indonesia. But why stop there? Indonesia’s oceanic archipelago has a registered 13,466 tropical islands and some 360 ethnic groups. This sweltering confederation, wedged between the Indian and South Pacific Oceans, is ripe for island-hopping and no chain is more accessible than that of Nusa Tenggara. The gateway to this region is Bali, from where I would set out to visit a half-dozen islands in two-and-a-half weeks, using ferries and buses to slowly follow the chain to its end on Timor. In doing so, I wanted to see how its spiritual beliefs and customs changed up close. This would see me depart Hindu Bali for Islamic Lombok and Sumbawa in the throes of Ramadan, then on to the church bells of Flores, before lastly meeting Timor’s animists, who apologise to trees before cutting them down.

Mr lava-lava

The slow boat to Lombok took four hours and passed dolphins spiralling from the cobalt-blue sea. In the island’s smouldering heat haze I made out the shadowy outline of a volcano ahead, but that

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would come later. In the meantime I arrived at Lembah port just as its mosques were in full cry. It was Ramadan here and the call to prayer echoed out from a sea of minarets, each rising above brightly tiled domes that resembled Fabergé eggs. “There’s a thousand mosques on Lombok,” said Rian, my driver, casting an anxious glance. “But don’t worry, we love all other faiths.” After two hours driving east, a twisting ascent led us into Gunung Rinjani National Park and the village of Sembalun. Around its outskirts billowed broccoli-top forests that cloaked the volcano’s flanks and chocolate-brown fields ripe with strawberries and tomato vines. This was the starting point to hike the still-active Mount Rinjani, which at 3,726m is Indonesia’s second-highest volcano. My two-day trek was arranged by Amin Udin, a kindly former guide who invited me to join his family for iftar, the meal that ends the day’s Ramadan fasting. I shared a feast of rice, shredded crayfish, water spinach and goat, washed down with coffee grown in Amin’s garden. Running parallel to their Muslim faith, Lombok’s indigenous Sasak culture believes a mountain spirit called Dewi Anjani inhabits Rinjani. “People say she is beautiful and will protect us,” my host explained. Hindus also revere Rinjani and make an annual pilgrimage to hurl sacrificial cattle, chickens, and gold coins into its crater, Amin told me: “Last November, they were there when it erupted. The Gods spoke with them, then they ran for their lives.” I certainly wasn’t running anywhere the next day during our steep, challenging ascent. With my guide, Dayat, and a porter who balanced our camping equipment and food on a bamboo yoke, the initial hike wended through tall grass savannah grazed by brown beef cattle. Thereafter, seven tough hills led through pine woodland atmospherically cloaked by low cloud and reverberating to drilling


Tailed thievery

(clockwise from this) A predatory Macaque stalks the trek to Mount Rinjani on Lombok; Ubud remains a pretty place to take in Bali’s rice paddies and Hindu icons

woodpeckers until the summit camp at around 2,600m on the crater rim at Plawangan. From my tent I watched the sun set over the lake and laughed at the impromptu raids made by macaques attempting to alleviate hikers of their dinner. “Plawangan means ‘door to the summit’,” said Dayat. Looking at the 40-degree loose scree scramble ahead, I wondered if it didn’t translate as ‘the gates of hell’? We departed at 2am the following chilly morning under a magnificently bright Milky Way. The three-hour ascent traversed an upstanding fragment of a once much-higher cone left over from a 13th-century eruption, but the loose ground underfoot made the going tough – for every several paces forward, I would slip one backwards. The summit was worth it, though, and brought one of Indonesia’s finest views. Looking westwards, the sunrise backlit Rinjani to project a triangular impression of the volcano onto the cloud hovering over Bali. To the east, I saw the rugged charcoal-black outline of my next destination, the little-known Sumbawa Island.

Fluent in football

With knees and quads screaming from Rinjani’s eight-hour descent, I boarded a 90-minute ferry the next morning to Poto Tano on Western Sumbawa. The ferry’s cook fried pisang goreng (bananas) for breakfast. I told the portly Captain Imade, who invited me into his wheelhouse, I felt self-conscious eating in public during Ramadan. “Oh, they don’t care,” he dismissed, helping himself to my bananas. “Nor do I. I’m Hindu.” Twenty-six-year-old Kiwi Brad Walden was “totally stoked” about Sumbawa’s surf. I met him at the small beachfront property he manages, an hour’s drive south of Poto Tano, near Kertasari fishing village. Yards from a golden sand beach, the resort has roomy bungalows with resident geckos shaded by coconut palms that cast patterned shadows on bouncy lawns. ⊲ Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

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Going downhill isn’t always easier

The testing eight-hour descent from Mount Rinjani

Sumbawa is one of Nusa Tenggara’s least-visited islands and I saw no visitors at all over the next two days crossing west to east. I’d read it had once been divided into small kingdoms and was conservatively Islamic. But the Sumbawans were open and curious. “You from?” asked one passenger on the bus to Bima. “The UK… [no response] Britain… [silence] England?” I finally added. “Ah, Wayne Rooney, football,” he cheered. “WAYNE ROONEY,” the whole bus chorused with approval. Halfway through that journey we passed Mount Tambora. In 1815 it had dispensed one of history’s most catastrophic eruptions, blasting Sumbawa back to the Stone Age. It obliterated three island kingdoms, killing 92,000 people. The global ash emissions precipitated a big freeze in the USA and harvests failed across Europe throughout 1816. The closest thing to a big freeze that afternoon, as I bumped along on the bus through sweltering tropical countryside, was a pit stop to consume a durian-flavoured ice-cream.

Into the dragon’s den ⊳

Kertasari is pretty. Fishing canoes line the beach alongside raffia mats of drying seaweed and brightly painted wooden houses raised on stilts. But the real reason to come here is the surfing. “West Sumbawa is a Mecca of world surfing,” Brad enthused; explaining how leading surfboarders come seeking “sick” and “uncrowded” waves. He drove me to Moro Bay’s gorgeous crescent beach and explained the winds and breaks behind two world-class barrel waves: ‘Dirty Hippy’ and ‘Northern Rights’. The water glided fast and long, rearing up like a cobra before rolling into silky transparent tubes and then crashing in whitewater fury. I doubted my previous boogie-boarding experience in Cornwall would stand the test, so contented myself by soaking aching limbs in the warm sea, looking back across the Sumbawa Strait to Rinjani’s perfect cone in disbelief that I’d managed to scale its steep slopes.

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At the port of Sape, every centimetre of the Dera Dharma’s deck space was filled for the sea crossing to Flores Island. A goat moseyed up the ramp but was hoofed off because it didn’t have a ticket. The voyage to Labuanbajo threaded through limestone islands shaped like Napoleonic hats – a little reminiscent of Vietnam’s Halong Bay. Labuanbajo is one of Indonesia’s busiest destinations. The small Catholic town is home to the indigenous Manggarai people and the coastal Bajo, who migrated here from Sulawesi a century ago. The reason for its popularity, however, lies offshore, with numerous tour operators offering trips to see the region’s famed Komodo dragons. Komodo is a four-hour boat ride away. From Labuanbajo I set sail in darkness at 4am with my guide, Rafael Todowela. Sunrise eventually revealed the island’s craggy outline; it was appropriately prehistoric, like something out of Jurassic Park. Rafael explained that Komodo’s dragons were isolated from those (now extinct) that once lived in Australia some 100,000 years ago.


Indonesia They now number over 5,000 in the wild, all split between a handful of islands, with the majority found on Komodo and neighbouring Rinca. Around a half-dozen also reside on Padar Island – a sort of borstal for misbehaving dragons that have taken a bite out of the overly curious. Being bitten by a dragon isn’t great for longevity; they possess dozens of toxic viruses used to infect their victims, which they trail like the grim reaper for days while waiting for them to die. “Until the mid ’90s the government fed them, but stopped because the dragons weren’t exercising enough and the poisons built up in their bodies and killed them,” said Rafael. Now the islands are stocked with bushpigs and Timorese deer for them to hunt. A ranger at Loch Liang called Hamnor guided us along well organised trails to find the dragons. He warned us not to approach within six meters of them because they can outrun humans. I wondered what the strategy was if they chased us? “Run in zigzags,” said Hamnor. “If this fails, climb a tree.” Some have even killed humans, and on Komodo there is a memorial to a Swedish baron who went missing in 1974, presumed eaten. We spotted dragon in a dry tamarind forest, and on first impression it hardly looked threatening, though was admittedly huge – three meters long and around 90kg. Dozing, it was spreadeagled on the ground and resembled a flaccid punctured tyre with reptilian scales, crocodilian head and a long flickering tongue. “It can smell rotting meat 9km away,” said Hamnor. We watched it wait by the waterhole. Their ability to ambush was demonstrated when a fishbone was thrown among four seemingly inert dragons that leapt into action with frightening speed to scrap for the morsel.

Two hours later, we stopped at Rinca Island on the way back to Labuanbajo. Its rolling limestone grassland reminded me of Salisbury Plain, and with ranger Rahman we encountered six dragons, including one stalking some very nervous deer. We also saw young dragons the size of large monitor lizards. “They live up trees for the first three years of their life because the older dragons will eat them,” Rahman said.

The king & I

Continuing eastwards, ahead lay one of the world’s great natural wonders. I traversed central Flores’ mountainous spine on a 14-hour minibus ride navigating constant switchbacks that left my head reeling. This journey reinforced my feeling that Flores is Nusa Tenggara’s most beautiful island, with its wild tropical forests, sweeping rice terraces, volcanoes and roadside markets heaped with fresh produce. On Kelimutu volcano’s fertile slopes, I slept the night at Waturaka in a farming village of wooden homes inhabited by the Christian Lio people. A Swiss NGO has launched a homestay project encouraging households to take in foreigners and share profits around the village. I lodged with Mr Ansel and his family. It wasn’t easy to communicate but I was welcomed with homemade coffee and fresh delicious produce from their gardens, including aubergines, tomatoes and French beans. Then next morning I rose early to witness sunrise on Kelimutu’s 1,639m summit and it revealed something extraordinary. The crater has three lakes, and the fledgling light had caught the first, which now glowed a luminous turquoise colour. On the other side of the ⊲

‘Komodo dragons can smell rotting meat 9km away. Their ability to ambush was displayed when four inert dragons leapt into action with frightening speed to scrap over a fishbone’

Florid Flores

The scenery around Western Flores spied from the bus; (left) the 13th century explosion that created Mount Rinjani’s crater may have caused a mini ice age

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Indonesia Enter the dragon

A legendary Komodo dragon; (opposite, clockwise from top left) Kertasari village, Sumbawa; the Lombok ferry to Lembah; the beaches near Kertasari; crossing the savannah on the Lombok Trek; betel nut leafs from West Timor; greeting sunrise at the summit of Mount Rinjani with a new friend; the ferry to Sumbawa;the waterfall at Waturaka village, Flores; (centre) a yoga sala at Kertasari


Indonesia Chew softly and carry a big stick

Betel nuts are always a big hit at the royal compound at Boti village

a royal appointment with an animist king. From the roadside town of Niki-Niki it was a rough pillion ride by motorcycle with an interpreter-guide called Eben to reach one of West Timor’s most authentic villages. A fenced compound amid a forest of palm trees enclosed Boti’s 76 half-a-coconut-shaped thatched huts, each occupied by members of the same family clan. Technology and shoes are verboten and Boti’s women weave striking sarongs. The men must grow long hair and the villager’s revere trees and rocks. I checked into their basic £8-a-night homestay, dining on meals fresh from their productive gardens. As a visitor, I brought the king the customary offering of betel nut. Eben, meanwhile, brought some bad news. “The King isn’t here,” he announced. “He’s in his garden, a long way from here.” “Surely he’ll return,” I asked? “Maybe not,” Eben added. “Sometimes he sleeps in his garden.” A few hours passed. No royal appointment. The king’s nieces served a lunch of chicken, stewed papaya leaves, and boiled corn. Finally a humble barefoot man with a ponytail and a hoe over his shoulder arrived to greet us: His  Royal Highness Nama Ambeno of Boti. I handed over the betel nut, which he quickly broke open to chew. The king was in his late 40s and his stained-red lips and rotting teeth suggested a long addiction to the nut. After letting fly a projectile trail of red betel spittle, he explained why he holds out against becoming a Christian village like his neighbours. “It makes more sense to worship nature because we can see not an invisible God,” he suggested. He told me they sacrifice animals three times each year for blessings and thanks for the harvest. They also live off a nine-day week calendar, and the men don’t cut their hair – “It’s like cutting down trees and becoming uprooted from the earth.” There was little else to do in Boti other than soak in its tranquillity. I watched a sweep of stars that night and reflected upon how I could have spent an entire trip on any one of Nusa Tenggara’s islands. I’d seen the cindery cones of grumbling volcanoes, golden beaches with barrelling surf, pagan villages ruled by betel-nut chewing kings and dragons that can kill with a single toxic bite. With every island in this chain as diverse as the next, I drifted into sleep contemplating the many thousands of other adventures that awaited across this remarkable Indonesian archipelago.

‘I handed the king my betel nut offering, which he quickly broke open to chew. He was in his late 40s and his stainedred lips and rotting teeth suggested a long addiction’

⊳ viewpoint, a second lake flushed inky blue, and then a third lake became visible – except this one was jet black like coal. Kelimutu’s tri-coloured lakes are influenced by localised chemical compounds within the crater, and they frequently change colour, becoming darker with greater oxygen content. Local Lio mythology believes human spirits enter the lakes and reside here for eternity. Shortly thereafter, my luck ran out. It was several days’ wait for the ferry to Timor Island from Ende Port, so instead I hopped onto a 50-minute flight to Kupang in West Timor, the easternmost limit of Indonesia’s Nusa Tenggara. In the 16th century, Timor was partitioned by the protestant Dutch to its west and the Catholic Portuguese in the east. East Timor (or Timor Leste) became independent from Portugal in 1975 but was also incorporated into Indonesia. This sparked a bloody war of secession against Indonesia that led to the East formation in 2002. But that would be a journey for another time. “Few travellers remain long in West Timor,” protested Edwin Lerrick, a former film actor and now owner of Lavalon Guesthouse. “They hurry on to East Timor but the west is the best.” His guesthouse overlooked Kupang Bay where Captain Bligh ended his 6,700km journey after being abandoned at sea by the infamous mutineers of the HMS Bounty in 1789. From Kupang, I ventured to a remote valley where, among numerous tribal villages of the Dawan-speaking people, I hoped for

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Indonesia Svalbard Footnotes Footnotes THE TRIP

VITAL STATISTICS Capital: Jakarta Population: 261 million Language: Numerous regional languages unified by Bahasa Indonesian Time: GMT+8 (Nusa Tenggara) International dialling code: +62 Visas: Not required by UK nationals for stays of up to 30 days; longer visas available on arrival at the airport. Money: Indonesian rupiah (IDR), currently IDR17,770 to the UK£.

LAOS

BURMA When to go

GOON

VIENTIANE

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun

THAILAND

Jul

Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

The author travelled independently but Rickshaw Travel (01273 322052, www.rickshawtravel.co.uk) contributed several of their ‘bite-sized trips’ (note: a minimum of three of these is required to make a full itinerary; they can’t be booked individually). For instance, their three-day In Search of the Dragon trip costs £378pp, based on two people sharing and includes two nights’ accommodation, boat and sightseeing guide; their Rinjani Footsteps on the Volcano trip costs from £295pp all-inclusive for a three-night trek. They also offer longer itineraries, Hainan such as the 14-day Treasures of Lombok trip, which costs £1,395pp based on two sharing.

Getting there

well on a budget of £25 to £50 per day. Clean en-suite double rooms start from around IDR28,000 (£15) per night while main courses at local restaurants are around IDR18,000 (£1) per dish. A litre of bottled water is around IDR9,000 (50p). with large bottles of local Bintang beer around IDR45,000 (£2.50).

Accommodation

Biyukukung Suites & Spa’s (Ubud, Bali; biyukukung.net) biggest selling point is its pleasant rooms, set amid rice paddies. B&B doubles from IDR1 million (£56). Whales & Waves (Kertasari; +62 812 3831 0440, whales-and-waves.com) offers smart room-only doubles from US$50 (£37) in a beautiful compound setting by the ocean, featuring world-class surfing. Puri Sari Beach Hotel (Flores; purisaribeachhotel.net) lies a kilometre outside Labuanbajo and is close to the SOUTH beach, with spacious air-con rooms facing MANILA a beautiful from CHINAgarden. B&B doubles IDR1 million (£56). SEA Dasi Guesthouse in Ende (Flores; dasiguesthouseende.indonesiaroom.com)

Garuda Indonesia (020 3770 9661, www.garuda-indonesia.com) run BANGKOK Barring higher altitudes, temperatures non-stop services from London Heathrow rarely drop below 25ºC all year round. to Jakarta from around £412 return, and CAMBODIA ■ Dry season – conditions get drier to Bali from £423 return (their economy VIETNAM heading east, and this is the least humid seating is very spacious). One-way flights PHNOM PENH time, with July and August seeing larger from Ende to Kupang start at £52 while AMAN crowds (particularly in Bali and Lombok), KupangHO to Jakarta costs from £53. CHI MINH EA as prices also rise. It’s mating season for Getting around Komodo dragons, so theyGulf are otherwise of PH Public transport is easy and cheap. occupied and seen lessThailand during this time. ■ Wet season – between January and Ferries link the ports of Bali, Lombok, Sumba is up-and-comingSULU in March is too wet to scale Rinjani. The Sumbawa, Flores and (given enough time) ritual ceremonies of ancestral worship Nusa Tenggara, with its dramatic West Timor, too. See Pelni (pelni.co.id) for SEA (called Pasola) take place around limestone plateaus, carved stone tombs timetables and booking information; the Weh February and March on Sumbawa. (pictured), glorious beaches and a day-long service between Sumbawa reputation for fine weaving. (Sape) and Flores (Labuanbajo) costs Health & safety The Gili Islands, off the coast from IDR80,000 (£4.50) one way. BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN sure you are up to date of Lombok, stopped being Buses cover the major routes but are Bukit Lawang Making BRUNEI Medan undiscovered gems around a decade slow because they stop frequently. Major Gunung with vaccinations. Malaria is present on Nantuna KUALA Leuser NP Flores and West Timor while rabiesLUMPUR journeys included: ago, but the resorts and lively beach Sumbawa Besar to Besar Berastagi Tangkahan Sibayak outbreaks fl are up occasionally. Follow scene is a fun contrast for those Bima (IDR80,000/£4.50; eight hours) and orest Reserve Parapat the guidesLake when around Komodo preferring the nightlife. M A theLexpress A Gunung Y S Mas I bus A from Toba Rote Island is reached by regular dragons, as their bites can be fatal Labuanbajo to Ende on Flores Niasand crocodiles are present in rivers ferries from West Timor and offers (IDR260,000/£15; 14 hrs). Shorter SINGAPORE great surfing and plenty of beach throughout. Insist on a helmet if riding distances are covered by bemo (minivans) Bukittinggi motorbike taxis, and be conscious that while motorbike-taxi ojeks are also Borneo accommodation. Lake Maninjau Solor and Alor archipelagos many ofPadang Nusa Tenggara’s volcanoes found on every street; both cost little. Kalimantan The lie east of Flores and offer some of remain active, so stay alert. Siberut Sumatra Cost of travel Indonesia’s most authentic indigenous Bangka Further reading Beyond Bali, the whole chain encounters, complete with jungles and Sulawesi Palembang proved very inexpensive and I lived very & information jagged mountains. Indonesia (Lonely Planet 2016) Belitung Bengkulu www.tourism-indonesia.co.uk – UK office of Indonesia Tourist Board JAVA SEA I N D O N E S I A www.indonesia.travel – good resource

is a pleasant family guesthouse that is well-placed for the airport and trips to Kelimutu. Doubles with self-service breakfast are £14. Flores’ Waturaka Homestay (Kelimutu; +62 812 3771 6047) is a fine opportunity to experience village life on Kelimutu. Full-board per day per person cost £7. And lastly, Lavalon Guesthouse (Kupang; lavalontouristinfo.com, +62 812 377 0533) is the place to plan all Timorese travels and has a nice sea-facing double costing £15 including breakfast. Its owner Edwin helps arrange access to Boti village homestay; from £8 per person full board.

Food & Drink

Chicken and fresh fish, eaten with rice, are popular. Nasi goreng (fried rice), gado-gado (a peanut-sauce-based dish) and fried bananas in batter are common. The spiciest food is found on Lombok, and PHILIPPINE much of the warung (small restaurants) are Javanese inflSEA uenced. Fruit is abundant and papaya, banana and soursop smoothies are a treat. All the islands offer homegrown coffee, drunk black with sugar.

OTHER NUSA TENGGARA ILIPPINES ISLANDS TO EXPLORE

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600km ARCHIVE ARTICLES ♦ South-East Asia: Trip Planner– issue 175 ♦ First 24 Hours: Ubud – issue 168 ♦ Bali’s Wild West – issue 138 PLANNING GUIDES ♦ Indonesia Travel Guide

JAKARTA FLORES SEA Java Bogor Bali Batur 2 Gili Islands Flores Surabaya Wetar Agung Cianjur Bandung Borobudur Labuanbajo Lovina Green Canyon Rinjani Komodo Prambanan 4 Ruteng Pangandaran Yogyak Yogyak Yogyakarta Ijen Maumere Mt Bromo Kelimutu Rinca Seminyak Mawun EAST TIMOR Uluwatu 3 Sumba Bajawa SAWU Timor Mataram Kuta Nusa Tenggara SEA Ubud Sumbawa 1 Lombok 3

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during the dark n w o d w lo s n a c fe s and New Year, li ! Pack your sense of adventure a tm s ri h C f o t n e team citem Following the ex ary – but not for the Wanderlust est adventure travel events… g nu cold month of Ja it the road, taking on the UK’s big h and join us as we

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SIR RANULPH FIENNES There is so much to do across the weekend:  Choose from over 100 inspirational talks across four theatres and meet an impressive set of speakers, including legendary explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes!  Kick back and enjoy an evening with The Adventure Travel Film Festival  Discover the hottest new destinations, gain top tips and advice from the experts and uncover hidden travel gems  Plan your African adventure of a lifetime with the Discover Africa feature  Join us on the Saturday (20 January) for our annual Wanderlust Gear of the Year Awards, which features a prize giveaway!  Visit the specialist Adventure Planning and Adventure by Motorcycle Seminars  Meet the friendly Wanderlust team, and stock up on any back issues, binders and books

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Once again, the Wanderlust team will be at London’s Olympia, as Destinations, the UK’s biggest and longest-running travel show returns for its 25th year. See the very best in amateur and professional travel photography at our Wanderlust Travel Photographer of the Year exhibition (which will also be on display at Manchester), with the winners revealed on Fri 2 Feb. Our Reader Travel Awards winners will be announced at the show, too (Thurs 1 Feb). Visit the Stanfords Travel Writers Festival where some of the UK’s best known explorers, adventurers, historians, novelists and TV personalities will be talking about their own adventures. Headliners this year include Rick Stein, Julia Bradbury, Michael Portillo, Charley Boorman and Timothy West. With over 70 tourist boards and hundreds of world-leading tour operators from all four corners of the globe, you’ll be planning your trip of a lifetime before you know it!

Not only that, Wanderlust is returning with another informative line-up of seminars* and workshops across both Saturday and Sunday. Tap into the knowledge of our editors and favourite experts, from writing to photography, film-making to pitching an article or book. View the full timetable on page 106. *Seminars cost £40 (including show entry), with any subsequent seminars £30. Advance booking is advised.

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Pocket Guides First 24 Hours High expectations

The 508m-high bambooshaped Taipei 101 tower rises up out of the centre of Taiwan’s busy capital and commands fine views

Taipei City, Taiwan

Taiwan’s capital is a sprawling mass of temples and treasures, but new transport links and direct UK flights make it easier than ever to explore, says Mark Stratton

Previous page Dreamstime; Getty This page Getty Shutterstock

Before you arrive

December sees the launch of China Airlines’ new direct flight to Taipei from London Gatwick. It’s a chance to discover a frenetic, 24-hour foodworshipping city; one dominated by rampant consumerism yet infused by authentic Chinese beliefs. But it’s not as impenetrable as it first seems. Taiwan is a safe and tolerant society – it became the first Asian country to legalise gay marriage in 2017 – and this liberal spirit is reflected in Taipei, its relatively crime-free capital: the greatest hazards you’re likely to face here are those posed by onrushing traffic. Just take care to avoid any potential offence and refer to Taiwan by its self-declared title, the Republic of China, and not the People’s Republic of China, which it broke away from in the late 1940s. Despite its sprawl, the capital has good public transport. What’s more, by buying tickets online for popular sites like the observation deck in the Taipei

101 tower, you can circumvent long entrance queues, meaning you can see a lot in just one day.

At the airport Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport is located 40km west of Taipei in the Dayuan district. The new direct service flies four times a week and will take around 13 hours, with a good-priced ticket starting from around £526. British citizens do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days. At the airport, the arrivals process involves passing through human quarantine, then passport control, luggage collection, animal and plant quarantine, and finally luggage inspection. Once through, you will find ATMs, info booths and currency exchanges.

Getting into town A great addition to Taipei’s public transport system has been the extension of the MRT (Mass

Rapid Transport) network in March 2017, which now connects the city’s main railway station to the international airport. The express train takes about 37 minutes and costs NT$160 (£4). Taxis from the airport downtown are metered and range in cost between NT$900 and NT$1,200 (£22-£30), taking roughly one hour depending on traffic. The airport bus services cost from NT$125 (£3) per journey, with key routes including the #1819 to Taipei Main Rail Station, #1840 to Songshan Airport and #1960 to Taipei City Hall.

Other ways to arrive Defrosting diplomatic relations with China have spawned a ferry service that connects Taiwan with Mainland China. The Cosco Star sails overnight (nine hours) from Xiamen, China, to Keelung, near Taipei, every Thursday. The website is in Chinese but it is easy to buy tickets from the many local travel agencies found in Xiamen. ⊲

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weather can be erratic and the island may even experience cyclones. Recommended guidebooks: Pocket Taipei (Lonely Planet, 2017); Taipei City Guide (Insight Guides, 2015); Wallpaper* City Guide Taipei (Phaidon, 2016) Web resources: The official Taiwan Tourism Bureau site hosts useful information (http://eng.taiwan.net.tw) while www.taipeicityguide.com is an unofficial portal but has plenty ■ F i r s t D a y ’ s To u r of handy tips for visitors. Taipei is spread out, so invest in a NT$150 iPhone app: The free Taipei City (£3.75) MRT day-pass before heading to Government Travel Taipei app its landmark Longshan Temple (pictured). constantly updates information on At 8am this Taoist-Buddhist site is full of food night markets and where to pre-work worshippers; grab a breakfast locate YouBike rentals, alongside of dumpling soup at its nearby foodstalls. accommodation availability and A short MRT trip takes you to the Chiangsightseeing tours. Kai-shek Memorial Hall (cksmh.gov.tw), Climate: Taiwan has a warm, a bombastic colossus revering the father temperate, often wet climate all year of modern Taiwan. See its changing of the round and average temperatures of guard and check out the slick Cadillac around 22ºC. This represents a collection amid his memorabilia. considerable variation from Jump on the Tamsui-Xinyi the 15ºC of December-toMRT line next to reach February and the highs Tamsui’s 17th-century of 30ºC-plus between Fort San Domingo on Snake Alley is a tourist trap July and September. the coast. The Dutchnear Longshan Temple that is best avoided, as touts can be quite forceful in luring visitors into teahouses – some of which may be brothels.

top tip

■ Where to Stay Top end: For a handy stay in the downtown area of the city (close to Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT), Les Suites Da-An (hotelsuitesda-an.com) is a rather well-manicured boutique with a retro-modern interior décor and enough gadgets to delight tech-lovers. B&B doubles from NT$5,863 (£144). Mid range: If you’ve seen the movie The Grand Budapest Hotel, then the colossal and slightly old-fashioned Grand Hotel (grand-hotel.org/taipei/en)

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built fort is adjacent to the former British Consular Residence, with its old Victorian interior. Grab food at the metro stalls, then zip back on the MRT to Shilin. From here, the R30 bus links the National Palace Museum (npm.gov.tw; NT$250/£6), a site dazzling with Chinese antiquities acquired when Taiwan ceded from China in 1949. Head on the MRT to the Taipei 101 (taipei-101.com; NT$600/£15) stop and head up to its 89th-floor observatory for fine views. After, grab a pre-dinner tipple in the trendy bars of Xinyi, then finish in one of the many night markets. First-timers should try Shilin’s, to sample specialities like oyster omelette and the infamous stinky tofu – not as revolting as its smell.

■ Stay or Go? may ignite a few flashbacks. This large, 14-storey pseudo-palace was built way back in 1952 and it resembles the set of a Chinese opera in places, often feeling endearingly shambolic. B&B doubles from around NT$4,950 (£124). Budget: Sci-fi meets Disney at the extremely quirky Hey Bear Capsule Hotel (pictured; heybear-hotel.com), where super-clean pods come with an array of bear toys and motifs. Capsules start from NT$390pp (£10); book in advance.

Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

It’s worth staying several days to explore Taipei’s myriad museums and malls, and to continue your market food education. The city is also circled by mountainous countryside easily accessible on day trips. Yangmingshan National Park (pictured) lies close to northern Taipei and its volcanic scenery offers fine hikes and a true wilderness. But note that the wellmaintained trails, such as those leading to its highest point at Mount Qixing (1,120m), can often be crowded at weekends.

Alternatively, luxuriate in the city’s suburbs at Beitou Hot Springs. With much of the geothermally heated water being piped into smart hotel resorts, for atmosphere’s sake, join the locals at the open-air public baths. Nearby is some well-preserved Japanese architecture around the Beitou Hot Spring Museum. Foodies (or those arriving by ferry) may want to venture to the sea-facing city of Keelung, with its Miaokou Night Market known for delicacies like butter crab.

Dreamstime

Population: 2.7 million Language: Mandarin Chinese prevails but English is very widely spoken. Timezone: GMT+8 International dialling code: +886 Visas: Not required by UK citizens for stays of up to 90 days. Highest Viewpoint: Taipei 101 (508m) has views across the city from atop the world’s former tallest tower. Health issues: Take insect repellent for the coastal lowlands, as dengue fever has been reported; and be aware that, between May and November, the


Pocket Guides Short Break Vintage port

La Rochelle’s harbour dates back to the 14th century in places, and is a great start for a wider exploration of the area

La Rochelle, France

The French port has a rich maritime history, but its plentiful cycle routes and easyto-reach islands make it more than just a pretty seascape, says Mary Novakovich

Shutterstock

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here’s a welcome lack of pretension about La Rochelle. This is undoubtedly the most appealing port on France’s Atlantic coast, its large harbour guarded by two hulking great 14th-century towers. The square Vieux Port teems with restaurants and bars, keeping the almost permanent buzz at a pleasant level. Although visitors throng the quaysides in high summer, there’s a sense that the city isn’t existing purely for them. This is a working port with a busy fishing industry, and it wears its beauty lightly, preferring not to make a song and dance about it. As laid back as it seems now, La Rochelle was always a bit of a rebel. It suffered for its switch to Protestantism during the French Wars of Religion, and came out badly after being besieged in 1627 by Cardinal Richelieu and the royal troops. But it picked itself up and became a major port in the trade between France and her overseas colonies.

Then in the 1970s, La Rochelle’s mayor shocked France by daring to banish cars from the historic centre. Unheard of at the time, the idea of pedestrianising old towns has since become standard. It’s also helped to preserve La Rochelle’s 17th- and 18th-century pale stone townhouses and arcaded streets. It’s the imposing medieval towers flanking the harbour that encapsulate so much of La Rochelle’s history. Tour St Nicolas, a former royal residence, has a labyrinth of spiral staircases that lead to a roof terrace and superb views of the port. Facing it is Tour de la Chaîne, which, as its name implies, used to be connected via a giant chain to its neighbour across the harbour. Inside, a permanent exhibition reveals the stories of the Rochelais who emigrated to Quebec, Nova Scotia and Louisiana over the centuries. From here you can walk along the remnants of the ramparts to the sharp, pointy Tour de la

Lanterne, which is the oldest lighthouse on the Atlantic coast. Its stone walls reveal its past as a prison, etched with graffiti from prisoners awaiting transportation to the infamous penal colony of Devil’s Island, off French Guiana. Nowadays, life revolves around the Vieux Port, which instantly draws you into its lively ambience and the tempting sight of all those café terraces. Boats come and go from the harbour for day trips to nearby islands, including Ile d’Aix and Ile d’Oléron. Ride the cycle-friendly corniche 7km west to another fishing port, or instead head to Les Minimes, the main pleasure port and an enormous sprawl about 3km to the south of the Vieux Port. This is also home to La Rochelle’s largest beach and is another bike-friendly part of a city that’s well connected by cycle paths. It doesn’t take long to be seduced by La Rochelle’s easy pace and casual elegance – French seaside life at its most relaxed. ⊲

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Pocket Guides Short Break

HERE’S THE PLAN...

Day 2: LAND & SEA Discover La Rochelle’s seafaring past in the Musée Maritime de la Rochelle (museemaritimelarochelle.fr; €9/£8), which reveals the port’s history in fascinating detail. The displays in the main museum aren’t in English, so you may need a bit of French to get by. But any translation woes are easily compensated for by a tour of the museum’s retired meteorological frigate, which is docked next door. For a blast of urban nature, head to Parc Charruyer (pictured) on the western side of the Vieux Port. This 2km-long strip of parkland covers 3.5 sq km and is a tranquil place for strolls along shaded paths. Stop for a cool

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Vue sur Cour B&B (vuesurcour.fr) has refined rooms in French country cottage style; doubles from €120 (£107). Laid-back Un Hotel en Ville (unhotelenville.fr) has a roof terrace to go with its simple rooms; doubles from €75 (£67). Where to eat: Iséo (iseo-bistrot.fr) offers Asian dishes as well as French cuisine. Prao (prao.biz) serves up some innovative French dishes in its industrial-chic restaurant, while its café is a good choice if you’re after some sandwiches. Further info: See the website holidays-la-rochelle.co.uk

Day 1: QUAY SIGHTS Start on the Cours des Dames by the Tour de la Chaîne, taking in the latter’s museum and the jail-cumlighthouse of Tour de la Lanterne (la-rochelle.monuments-nationaux.fr). A single ticket (€9/£8) takes in all three towers, including St Nicolas. Among the many eateries on the Cours des Dames and its offshoot, Rue St Jean du Pérot, is an outpost of the city’s top ice-cream maker Ernest Le Glacier (ernest-le-glacier.com). Refreshed, head to Quai Duperré, where you can’t miss the sight Leave your car behind. Driving of its 14th-century Porte de la Grosse in the city can be tough thanks

top tip

Horloge (pictured). This is the gateway to the nest of streets behind the Vieux Port, whose arcades give welcome shade. Stop by the bustling, elaborate 19th-century Les Halles market, then lunch in its neighbouring cafés. While away the afternoon lost in alleys lined with grey-shuttered townhouses. Stop at the tiny bar-filled Cour du Temple for an apéritif, then head to the port via Rue St Nicolas, an eclectic street of quirky indie shops and convivial bars. Look out for the deliberately shabby Cave de la Guignette (la-guignette.fr), housed in an old forge, and get there for a glass of wine before it closes at 9pm.

to a maze of one-way streets and a large traffic-free zone. Parking isn’t easy either, though there are underground car parks near the Vieux Port and the main railway station.

Day 3: ISLAND LIFE drink at La Trinquette, the garden of which lies in a rather dreamy spot overlooking a stream. At the foot of the park is Plage de la Concurrence, a small beach that has become a popular place for waterside walks. Alternatively, grab a bike and cycle 12km north to the Baie de l’Aiguillon nature reserve. The bay is known for its mussel farming, but its mudflats and marshes also serve as a pit stop for migratory birds (up to 150,000 have been counted here in January). Finish with a hike up to the towering limestone cliffs of Pointe St Clément in Esnandes, which rewards with views stretching across to the coast.

Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

One of France’s most enchanting islands lies just over the bridge from La Rochelle. Île de Ré combines impossibly pretty villages of cobbled streets and whitewashed cottage with miles of unbroken sandy beaches. Thanks to an extensive network of cycle paths, getting around by bike is the best way to explore, and you’ll find bike rental shops all over the island. Buses go from La Rochelle to the Île de Ré, or you can hire a bike and cycle across the bridge. If you’re driving, there’s a hefty €16 (£14) toll to pay, but the serenity and beauty of the island are not to be missed. The largest of the island’s ten villages, St Martin de Ré

(pictured) is an enticing place with a fine indoor food market, as well as cafés and restaurants lining the port. The island’s cycle lanes wind through peaceful vineyards and pine forests. Towards its western end, there’s a patchwork of salt pans and mussel and oyster beds, which all add to the larder of the island. Oyster shacks offer tastings, including l’Escale du Marais (6 45 620025) just outside La Couarde-sur-Mer. Carry on to the westernmost tip to the Phare des Baleines (Lighthouse of Whales), an 1854 beacon with fantastic Atlantic views well worth climbing its 257 steps for.

Previous page 4CornersImages This page Dreamstime; Alamy

■ Essential Info When to go: Spring, summer and autumn are the best times to visit, although winters can be quite mild. High season is August, when it can get very busy. Airlines start to cut back on their flights from October onwards. Getting there: Ryanair (ryanair.com) flies from London Stansted to La Rochelle from £20 return. Flybe (flybe.com) flies from Birmingham, Manchester and Southampton, and easyJet (easyjet.com) flies from London Gatwick and Bristol, with flights taking from 90 minutes. Getting around: The centre is compact and easily walkable, and there’s also a public bike hire scheme. Buses cost €1.30 (£1.15), and there’s a sea bus that connects the Vieux Port with Les Minimes for €3 (£2.65). A day pass of €4.50 (£4) includes buses and the sea bus. Where to stay: Hotel de la Monnaie (hotelmonnaie.com) has smart modern rooms in a 17th-century interior; doubles from €142 (£126).


Pocket Guides Travel Icon The golden ticket

Built in the time of the Great Depression, much of the financing for the Golden Gate Bridge came from locals hoping it would bring in money

FIRST 24 HOURS

San Francisco, USA

It’s 85 years since the first crimson girder was laid on San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge, but the years since have seen a revolution in this old Gold Rush outpost

Shutterstock

Get orientated Before silicon coursed through the valleys of San Francisco, this west-coast icon worshipped another element entirely. The hard living and raw fortunes of California’s 1848 Gold Rush are what the city was built on, yet for all its capitalist origins and hard years (its 1906 earthquake is still the worst in US history), recent times tell a much different story. The city has long been the US’s liberal conscience, championing gay rights and even birthing the ‘hippy’ movement of the 1960s – a loose cousin to the Beat Generation of Kerouac et al that also found its feet here. This culminated 50 years ago in the ‘Summer of Love’ when 100,000 hippies descended on the Haight-Ashbury district in an act of cultural rebellion. But, for many, the Golden Gate Bridge is San Fran’s true icon. And 5 January 2018 marks 85 years since construction began, linking the city with not just northern California but the larger travel world.

Getting there & around There are direct flights to San Francisco International airport from London and Manchester. Flight time is from around 11 hours, with prices from £440 return. From the airport take the free AirTrain tram to the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) rail stop – a return to downtown is $17.90 (£13.50). The city has a large transport network (Muni) that includes cablecars, streetcars, a Metro system and buses. A one-day visitor passport costs $21 (£16), or a CityPASS (citypass.com) offers unlimited travel for nine days with free entry to many attractions (£70).

The visit Make the Golden Gate Bridge your first port of call. Walking tours offer an insight into its vivid past, but the views from its centre are the real lure. Back on shore, Fort Point protected the bay long before the bridge existed, while the wild Presidio

park also lies on its doorstep. This former military wasteland has been transformed into a lush forest webbed with walking trails, chains of lakes and the bird-rich Crissy Field. Further south lies the wilder Golden Gate Park, too, a rectangular swathe with lakes, botanical gardens and even coyotes. Back in town, much of the old Haight-Ashbury district’s 1967 bohemian feel has gone. A sprinkling of vintage shops remain, though, and walking tours ply its fine Victorian houses and colourful murals. The old Beat hangouts have arguably fared better, with the Vesuvio café still as hip as its 1950s heyday. The city’s steep geography (it has over 40 hills) lends itself to some fine panoramas. Stop at the steep hairpins of Lombard Street in Potrero Hill before savouring the views from the Buena Vista Park. But the top of Coit Tower arguably affords the best outlook, gazing over the city, bay and bridge. No wonder so many artists found their muse here. ⊲

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Pocket Guides Travel Icon 

♦ Measurements

THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE

The bridge, which is lavishly illuminated at night, is 2.7km long, clears the water by 67m, and boasts a span of 1,280m. Its towers are 227m in height.

The Golden Gate Bridge stretches across the ‘Golden Gate’ strait between the San Francisco Peninsula and Marin County on the opposite side. It’s the longest, and arguably the most beautiful, suspension bridge in the world, and certainly the most celebrated symbol of San Francisco. Approximately 14 million tourists make a pilgrimage to the bridge every year and 112,000 cars traverse it every single day.

♦ Tower foundations

♦ Roadway

The roadway runs 67m above the surface of the ocean (which is 97m deep at this point). Made of reinforced concrete, it was built outwards from both towers simultaneously, so that the tension on the suspension steel cables would be evenly distributed.

The tower’s foundations are 20m thick and sunk around 30m deep into the seabed at around 345m offshore. The concrete poured into the supporting foundations during construction would be enough to build a 1.5m-wide, 4,000km-long road that would stretch all the way from New York to San Francisco.

♦ Towers

A 47m-high concrete shell was built around the base of the towers during the construction process. The seawater was then pumped away to create a dry space to work. The foundations that each of the 19,504-tonne towers rest on have to withstand tides of nearly 100km/h.

Colour me shocked

Language: English Time: GMT-8 (Mar-Nov GMT-7) Visas: Not required by UK nationals. An ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) is required (US$14/ £10.66; esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta). Be sure to apply prior to travel. Money: US dollar (US$), currently around $1.31 to the UK£. Health: Medical facilities are excellent but expensive. Take out comprehensive travel insurance. This feature is adapted from Marco Polo’s Spiral Guide: Perfect Days in... California, which contains insider tips infographics, tour suggestions and a large pull-out map. For more information, see marco-polo.com

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Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

Previous page Dreamstime This page Dreamstime, Marco Polo/Baedeker

■ Essentials

The original colour for the bridge wasn’t meant to be the iconic orange-red it is today; this was just the colour of the primer paint, yet it caught the eye of one of the architects, who insisted that it be kept.


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Parting shot

There’s a good reason the northern lights tops travellers’ wishlists. But we’ve all seen our fair share of jealousy provoking aurora images decorating peoples’ social media timelines, so the challenge now for visitors is to shoot its heavenly beauty in a different way. Snapper Kamil Nureev has managed to do just that, capturing the ethereal phenomenon

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glowing above the forest tundra of Siberia (above). Its pulsing, hollow emerald plates seem to bleed from the sky into the hyaline lake below. It’s a captivating scene taken in a part of the world that travellers are only really starting to discover (see p26); Russia’s vast frozen lakes and forests can promise an authentically wild setting for a crowd-free adventure.

Wanderlust December 2017/January 2018

Kamil’s image – ‘Autumn Dance’ – has been named runner-up in the ‘Aurorae’ category of the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2017. Run by Royal Observatory Greenwich, the contest has spawned a book (£25; out now) and exhibition (until 22 July 2018; rmg.co.uk). A visit will certainly provide you with astral inspiration for your next out-of-this-world trip.

‘Autumn Dance’ by Kamil Nureev/ Insight Astronomy Photographerof the Year 2017

Arcing aurora


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