Features // Coasts & islands

Okinawa: Japan’s best-kept secret
Okinawa: Japan’s best-kept secret

Snow-white beaches, giant coconut-eating crabs and karate-loving grannies: Okinawa is Japan but not as we know it. This alluring chain of sun-kissed, hibiscus-draped islands offers a blend of Southeast Asian heat, unique ‘un-Japanese’ culture and delicious, life-extending food. Andy Turner explores how to make the most of a trip to Japan’s subtropical paradise. Find the…

A coastal trail with a difference: sea kayaking in Northern Ireland
A coastal trail with a difference: sea kayaking in Northern Ireland

The Northern Irish coast is justifiably famous for its beauty, all craggy inlets and brooding cliffs topped by crumbling castles. Most people explore this coastline from the land, walking along the clifftops and driving the winding road that snakes along from the Scotland-facing east coast to the large inlet of Derry in the west. But…

9 great family vacation ideas
9 great family vacation ideas

It’s easy to be daunted by the endless choices on offer when planning a trip with kids. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of family vacation ideas that will get everyone – even jaded teenagers – excited. For adventure: India In the spirit of the latest The Jungle Book movie, take the kids on a tiger safari in India’s…

An introduction to French Polynesia, your dream South Pacific escape
An introduction to French Polynesia, your dream South Pacific escape

Spanning an area as large as Europe, French Polynesia can be intimidating to the first-­time visitor. Technically an overseas collectivity of France, this globally ­renowned destination is considered by many to be a slice of heaven on earth. With its idyllic beaches, postcard­-worthy sunsets, and incredible turquoise waters filled with abundant marine life, French Polynesia’s Society Islands (most notably…

The great British seaside: how Margate got cool
The great British seaside: how Margate got cool

Not all that long ago Margate was a forlorn seaside town rejected by even the bucket-and-spade brigade. In a sad story echoed across England, the already struggling high street was devastated by the opening of an out-of-town shopping centre; pubs and restaurants were closing, and the future of this once thriving seaside resort looked grim.…

An underwater art exhibition just opened in Florida
An underwater art exhibition just opened in Florida

A brand new art exhibition with a difference has opened in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary this month. You can’t exactly buy an entrance ticket and there are no galleries as such. Instead, you’ll need a PADI license and an oxygen tank, because this exhibition sits 27m below the surface of the Atlantic, around…

9 essential tips for backpacking Thailand
9 essential tips for backpacking Thailand

Backpacking Thailand can mean staying in fun-packed hostels and idyllic beach bungalows, eating noodles so tasty and so cheap you’ll swear off all other food groups and climbing aboard everything from an overnight train to a lolloping elephant. But it also means following a well-worn route – one that has sprouted an entire industry to…

The 10 best beach holidays in Europe
The 10 best beach holidays in Europe

For a relatively small continent, Europe has some extraordinary coastlines. Their variety is dizzying, from sheltered rocky coves fringed with olive trees to vast stretches of soft sandy beaches. Whittling down the list for possible beach holidays in Europe can be tough, so here are a few places that will get you in the mood for lazy days…

Island-hopping in Croatia: a practical guide
Island-hopping in Croatia: a practical guide

With its mountainous coastal backdrop, scattering of tawny islands and giddyingly translucent waters, the Croatian Adriatic offers one of the most compelling seascapes in Europe. Indeed it’s something of an island-hopper’s paradise, with a veritable shoal of ferries providing the opportunity to stride up the gangplank, sprawl on the sun deck and soak up the…

The 7 most beautiful places in Southeast Asia – chosen by you
The 7 most beautiful places in Southeast Asia – chosen by you

It’s not just appearance that makes up the beauty of a place. Often, travellers will cite the people as the most beautiful thing about a country or culture. In Southeast Asia, there’s no doubt there is beauty in every form – and now our readers have voted to decide which countries are the most beautiful. Here…

Šibenik: Croatia’s hottest long-weekend destination
Šibenik: Croatia’s hottest long-weekend destination

Richard Mellor explores Šibenik, a city tipped as Croatia’s next best tourist hotspot thanks to a new luxury hotel.  It’s appropriate that the parachute’s inventor – one Faust Vrančić, if you’re asking – was born in Šibenik, for this Croatian backwater has its feet firmly on the ground. Having a recent history of battle and bombs…

Get on board: the 5 best European river cruises
Get on board: the 5 best European river cruises

Among a certain segment of travellers, cruising is sometimes maligned: the dismal buffet and watered-down cocktails. Those kitschy lounge acts. The contrived shore excursions. But that, as they say, was then. Cruising today, and especially river cruising, offers an entirely different experience, from celebrity chef-driven cuisine to stargazing lounges to bike rides along leafy canals.…

7 stunning European islands you’ve probably never heard of
7 stunning European islands you’ve probably never heard of

We’ve all heard of the big hitters, such as Ibiza, Corsica and Sicily, but what about Europe’s lesser known islands? Have you ever dreamt of mixing it up with a windswept, heart-pumping hike on the remote hills of Foula? Or kicking through the sweeps of sand that pass for roads on La Graciosa? It pays…

Make the most of Malta: a first-timer’s guide
Make the most of Malta: a first-timer’s guide

For a few chunks of rock in the southern Mediterranean, Malta is a hugely versatile destination. Like its unique language, the country is an intriguing blend of Italian, Arabic and British influences, a legacy of centuries of invasion and assimilation. As its capital, Valletta, gears up for a stint as European City of Culture in 2018, Andy…

Video: a 1 minute guide to Japan
Video: a 1 minute guide to Japan

Japan has long captivated the imaginations of travellers around the globe, seeming to both baffle and beguile all who venture there. Between language barriers and Japan’s rather deceiving size (roughly stretching the length of Miami to Montreal) it’s all too easy to miss out on Japan’s best spots during the trip planning process. From countryside…

7 must-visit places in Spain you’ve probably never considered
7 must-visit places in Spain you’ve probably never considered

Spain’s massive size means that it’s thankfully not as hard as you might expect to wander off the well-beaten tourist track. Whether it’s quiet coves, tucked away old villages or eerie landscapes you’re after, here are seven places that you’ve probably never heard of but really should visit in Spain. 1. Las Alpujarras, Andalucía South…

Providencia: an introduction to Colombia’s Caribbean island
Providencia: an introduction to Colombia’s Caribbean island

Colombia meets Jamaica? Not quite, but two competing images loom large over the Caribbean island of Providencia: Bob Marley, adopted saint of the local Raizal population, and Johnny Depp, fictional hero of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise and a symbol of everything ‘pirate’ to the local tourism industry. It’s all a very long…

A dog surfing competition took place in Australia this week
A dog surfing competition took place in Australia this week

Plato said every dog has the soul of a philosopher. While that statement is disputable, the wave-riding canines at the Noosa Festival of Surfing are proof that some dogs, at least, have the soul of a surfer. Thousands gathered at Queensland Australia’s Noosa Beach this week to watch The Dog Spectacular, the world’s only surfing event where…

6 of the best beach holidays in Italy
6 of the best beach holidays in Italy

Italy’s sun-kissed coastline is undeniably easy on the eye, but that doesn’t always translate into great beaches. Take the Amalfi Coast: surely one of the most beautiful stretches of coast in the world, but its pockets of grey sand (or silver, as the locals spin it) can come as an anti-climax. In general, Italy can’t…

30 things to do on your first trip to Europe
30 things to do on your first trip to Europe

Europe offers more architecture, wine, music, fashion, theatre and gastronomy per square kilometre than any other continent. It boasts over seven hundred million people, in excess of 450 World Heritage Sites and more renowned paintings than you can point your camera at. Which means heading off the main routes will still land you waist-deep in…

Video: top 5 things to do in Kerala
Video: top 5 things to do in Kerala

We sent Rough Guides editor Rachel Mills to the southernmost tip of the Indian Subcontinent to research Kerala for the upcoming Rough Guide to India. From tea estates in lush green hills to sultry palm-fringed backwaters, plus a host of deserted beaches, she dove beneath the surface and immersed herself in the region’s natural wonders, lavish festivals and heavenly South Indian…

Why Uruguay is South America’s best beach destination
Why Uruguay is South America’s best beach destination

Squeezed between Argentina and Brazil and shaped a bit like a football, Uruguay doesn’t feature on your average South American checklist. But with its progressive politics, sizzling asado culture and some of the best beaches on the continent, we think it should. From off-grid hippie enclaves (note: cannabis was legalised here in 2014) to chic…

7 reasons why Langkawi is Malaysia’s ultimate island escape
7 reasons why Langkawi is Malaysia’s ultimate island escape

Looking to unwind on a tropical island somewhere in Southeast Asia? Then head to the island of Langkawi, Malaysia’s ultimate escape from the country’s frenetic cities. From trekking into the rainforest to wildlife-watching – all between spells of relaxing on a wide, sandy beach – here are a few reasons why you should escape to Langkawi. 1.…

Goa or Kerala: which state should you visit?
Goa or Kerala: which state should you visit?

Since the 1960s, foreign tourists have flocked to Goa, India’s smallest state, attracted by its palm-fringed golden beaches, glorious sunshine and distinctly relaxed attitudes. Domestic tourism has taken off enormously in recent years too, such that now almost ninety percent of visitors are from within India. Kerala, several hundred kilometres south, draws double the number of both domestic…

10 reasons to visit Muscat, Oman
10 reasons to visit Muscat, Oman

Compared to flashy Emirati neighbours like Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the capital of Oman is a breath of fresh, sea air. Muscat is famous for dazzling souks and superb seafood, but its terrain brings the biggest thrills. This port city on the Gulf of Oman is backed by the arid Hajar mountains, meaning you can…

Croatia: 10 tips for first-time travellers
Croatia: 10 tips for first-time travellers

Croatia is one of Europe’s rising tourist stars. This remarkable Adriatic country of 1244 islands, bear and wild boar inhabited forests and world-class vineyards is so much more than just a beach destination. To make sure you hit the ground running in this complex and diverse nation, follow our top ten Croatia travel tips. 1.…

Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City: where should you visit first?
Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City: where should you visit first?

Situated at the northern and southern extremes of this long, thin country, Vietnam’s two main cities lie over a thousand kilometres apart. Southern Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), formerly Saigon, was the US base during the Vietnam War and since the country’s unification has transformed into a thoroughly modern, thriving metropolis. The somewhat less modern…

7 must-visit places in Scotland you’ve probably never heard of
7 must-visit places in Scotland you’ve probably never heard of

Scotland sports such a strong selection of tourist attractions – from castles and cabers to kilts and whisky – it’s easy to forget that there is much more to this land. Venture away from the cities and you’ll find that Scotland holds over ten percent of Europe’s coastline and almost 300 mountains over 3000ft-tall. Ready to explore?…

10 great reasons to visit Northern Ireland
10 great reasons to visit Northern Ireland

It has often had to play second fiddle to its southern neighbour, but Northern Ireland offers a diversity of attractions that frequently confounds first-time visitors. Rejuvenated and irrepressible, Belfast now rivals any of the UK’s capital cities, but in addition, the country manifests superb natural heritage – including one of the world’s great coastal road…

Go it alone: solo travel in Thailand
Go it alone: solo travel in Thailand

Thailand is the quintessential backpacker destination. Here you can make the first footprints on secluded sands, dance shoeless under a full moon and swim beneath cascading waterfalls. Running through Thailand’s rainforests and temples and looping around its islands and beaches is the so-called “banana pancake trail”, a well-worn, tried and tested backpacker route that has…

Geothermal cuisine: discover volcano–cooked Azorean food
Geothermal cuisine: discover volcano–cooked Azorean food

Scattered like shards across a million square kilometres of the North Atlantic, west of Portugal the nine islands of the Azores are unmistakably volcanic. For now, this green and breezy archipelago is snoozing in the temperate embrace of the Gulf Stream; the last significant onshore eruptions were in 1811. However, over thirty of its volcanoes remain active, and regular tremors and underwater seismic…

The other Bali: an alternative guide to the Island of Gods
The other Bali: an alternative guide to the Island of Gods

Beyond the mystical sounds of gamelan and the intricate craft of batik, Bali boasts a world of subcultures often overlooked by visitors. The art makes bold statements, nightlife sometimes involves a new tattoo, and music is anything but serene. On an island where locals are often denied entry from bars and clubs, an experience off…

Your Europe itinerary: 10 routes to explore the continent
Your Europe itinerary: 10 routes to explore the continent

You can’t expect to fit everything Europe has to offer into one trip and we don’t suggest you try. For those taking a big, extended trip around the continent you could join a few countries together. Each of these itineraries could be done in two or three weeks if followed to the letter but don’t push…

Madeira: shaking off misconceptions
Madeira: shaking off misconceptions

Famous for being the birthplace of footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and Madeira wine, this Portuguese island has a reputation as a holiday choice of the staid over-60s. Although it’s part of Portugal, Madeira is closer to North Africa than it is to Europe – and the island is attracting a new generation of independent travellers who know it’s not just…

Azores on film: why you need to explore this amazing archipelago
Azores on film: why you need to explore this amazing archipelago

Strung out in the mid-Atlantic, 1500km off the coast of Portugal, is a chain of nine breathtaking islands. These are the Azores, a volcanic archipelago thrust up from the seabed at the intersection of the Eurasian, North American and African plates. Home to around 250,000 people, the lush islands hide glassy lakes, towering waterfalls, bubbling hot springs and flower-filled meadows. If you’re looking…

The best beaches in Cuba
The best beaches in Cuba

Conjure up an image of the perfect Caribbean beach and you’ll find Cuba‘s generous shoreline fits the description perfectly: stretches of powdery, bone-white sand – often freckled with shady palm trees – and limpid, turquoise waters. And with so much coastline there are beaches to suit all needs: great swathes of golden sand groomed by resorts promise days…

Your Southeast Asia itinerary: 8 ideas for exploring the region
Your Southeast Asia itinerary: 8 ideas for exploring the region

You can’t expect to fit everything Southeast Asia has to offer into one trip – or two or three or four, to be fair – and we don’t suggest you try. So, to help you start planning, we’ve put together 8 ideas for your Southeast Asia itinerary from The Rough Guide to Southeast Asia on a Budget. For those taking a big, extended…

15 things everybody learns backpacking in Southeast Asia
15 things everybody learns backpacking in Southeast Asia

From psychedelic milkshakes to overloaded tuk-tuks, there are some things everybody comes across when backpacking in Southeast Asia. Whether you spent the brunt of your time beaching, boozing, motorcycling, meditating or trying to see it all – here are 15 things you likely learned. 1. Getting from A to B is surprisingly fun All-night bus rides with bad action movies…

6 of the best winter sun destinations
6 of the best winter sun destinations

With shorter days creeping in and woolly hats coming out, there’s no denying that a change of season is on the way. What better to beat the winter blues than escaping the cold weather altogether? Here, we’ve picked 6 of the best winter sun destinations. 1. Pinar del Río, Cuba Winter is the dry season…

360° video: up close and personal with Iceland’s Strokkur geyser
360° video: up close and personal with Iceland’s Strokkur geyser

Feeling far away from the natural wonders of Iceland? You’re about to feel a lot closer. Welcome to 360° virtual reality, where you can look where you want, when you want, as the video plays in real time.  After hitting play, either click and drag on the video to take control of its camera (on desktop) or tilt…

Discover Berlin’s biggest bathtub: the Baltic Sea
Discover Berlin’s biggest bathtub: the Baltic Sea

Carved balconies like lace, swaggering villas in spacious gardens and an absurdly long pier. Who would have expected “Herring Village” to be so glitzy? Indeed, who would have imagined such Bäderarchitektur (spa architecture) in a backwater like Usedom, a little-known island in the Baltic Sea? Yet during the latter half of the nineteenth century, as German aristocracy went crazy for…

8 things you didn’t know you could do in Ontario, Canada
8 things you didn’t know you could do in Ontario, Canada

There’s more to see in Canada’s most populated province than ice hockey, forests and freely flowing maple syrup – and some of it’s pretty weird. From the world’s largest Elvis Presley festival, to axe throwing ranges in Toronto, here are just a few things you didn’t know you could do in Ontario. 1. Drink Dead Elephant Ale…

Undiscovered Southeast Asia: 9 places to get off the tourist trail
Undiscovered Southeast Asia: 9 places to get off the tourist trail

Southeast Asia is the quintessential backpacker destination – all noodle stands, grungy hostels and full moon parties, right? Not necessarily. There are still plenty of authentic Southeast Asian escapes. You just need to know where to find them. Start here. 1. Trek the path less followed in Umphang, Thailand Want to trek Thailand in peace?…

9 of the best road trips in Europe
9 of the best road trips in Europe

From the sunny shores of Portugal to the darkest dungeons of Dracula’s castle in Transylvania, the following itineraries can be easily combined, shortened, or altered to suit your wayfaring tastes. If you’ve got wheels, wanderlust and a spot of time, here’s some adventure fuel. Start your engines: these are the best road trips in Europe.…

Rotterdam: 8 reasons to visit the Netherlands’ second city
Rotterdam: 8 reasons to visit the Netherlands’ second city

Rotterdam has the confident vibe of a place on the up. Amsterdam might still be the brightest beacon for travellers to the Netherlands, but a host of exciting new attractions are putting this southern city on the map. Last year, Rotterdam Central railway station and the Markthal, a market hall and apartment complex whose arched…

10 things you didn’t know you could do in Panama
10 things you didn’t know you could do in Panama

There’s a whole lot more to Panama than its famous canal. Hiking, rafting, surfing and diving are just a few of the excellent adventure activities on offer, and it’s a brilliant destination for birdwatching with over 970 species soaring in its skies. From touring Panama City to sampling inventive cuisine from entrepreneurial chefs, there are countless…

7 things you probably didn’t know about Senegal
7 things you probably didn’t know about Senegal

Say Senegal or mention West Africa and misinformed mutterings of ebola start to spread quicker than the virus itself. Sitting on the western shoulder of Africa, Senegal is frequently overlooked by travellers – but for little good reason. While the excellent birding and beaching in The Gambia – the country that slices Senegal’s coastline in two…

8 unknown islands you need to discover in the British Isles
8 unknown islands you need to discover in the British Isles

Everybody knows the Isle of Man, Guernsey, Skye. But what about the other 6000-odd British Isles? Yes, we did say 6000. From the chunky Shetland Islands in Scotland’s far north to the sunny Isles of Scilly slung out from the coast of Cornwall, the British Isles are made up of islands of all shapes and…

8 things you didn’t know you could do in the UK
8 things you didn’t know you could do in the UK

So you’ve gawked at the guards of Buckingham Palace, hiked up Snowdon and hit the beach – what next? From lethal motorcycle races to mountain towns that look like something out of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, here are 8 unconventional things to do in the UK. 1. Horse about at Scotland’s Common Ridings The Common Ridings of the Scottish border towns of Hawick, Selkirk,…

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