Christmas in Germany is a magical time. The four weeks leading up to the 25th are filled with weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas markets), glühwein, and much nicer than usual Germans.
However, Christmas Eve til the day after Christmas can be a little quiet as these are family holidays. So where to go to feel that yuletide feeling? These are some of the best places to spend Christmas in Germany – with or without your family and friends.
Not all Christmas markets are created equal and the Nuremberg Christmas Market may be the best in the country.
Located in the heart of the altstadt (old town), watch for the angelic Christkind, a child that acts as an ambassador of the city. They wander among the festive red and white striped booths and lead the celebration. Shop the 180 traditionally decorated huts for hand-made goods and order some sustenance in the form of Nuremberg rostbratwurst, a warming drink, and favorite sweets like lebkuchen (gingerbread).
Christmas Eve at Berlin Cathedral
Berlin has many lovely Christmas markets, but if you’re in the city on Christmas Eve, here’s a special event you won’t want to miss.
The Protestant Berliner Dom is located on the UNESCO Museuminselin Mitte. The impressive structure dominates the landscape with the fernsehturm (TV Tower) and River Spree behind.
On Christmas Eve, the cathedral is open to the public for heavenly choir concerts. Hushed masses make their way through the rows of pews and then the singing begins. Familiar carols like “O Tannenbaum” (O Christmas Tree) echo throughout and visitors know the true meaning of gemütlichkeit.
World’s Largest Advent Calendar House
For over 15 years the quaint town of Gengenbach in Baden-Württemberg has transformed its entire Rathaus (Town Hall) into the world’s largest Advent Calendar House, or – auf Deutsch – “Das weltgrößte Adventskalenderhaus“.
The 24 windows (two rows of 11 plus 2 in the roof) are each decorated with a festive Christmas scene with a new window revealed every night until Christmas. Celebrate the lead-up, or catch the full picture on Christmas day.
There are other towns with building-sized advents calendar, but this is the biggest.
Dresden Christmas Market
Dresden has the oldest Christmas market in Germany, dating back to 1434. Dresden’s Christmas market is famous for having the world’s biggest nutcracker and a huge Christmas pyramid, a 45-foot high wooden carousel with life-sized angels and scenes from the Nativity.
If you arrive before Christmas Day, check out the Stollen Festival on December 5. An enormous stollen (traditional Christmas cake) is presented, weighing 4 tons and measuring 13 feet in length. At any other time, just buy a normal-sized cake to enjoy yourself.
Bamberg’s Route of Nativity Scenes
This charming city gets has many lovely places to visit, including its traditional taverns, Rauchbiers will warm you from the inside. Plan a visit to the cathedral and UNESCO World Heritage center in this “Franconian Rome”.
For Christmas, Maximiliansplatz is illuminated and decorated with a traditional market surrounded by Bamberg’s Franconian half-timbered architecture. Walk the Route of Nativity Scenes which consists of over 40 sites and about400 Christmas cribs in a mix of historical and modern scenes.
The holiday season is one of the best times to go to Europe with the festive spirit in full swing and the cold weather just mild enough to walk around. Christmas markets, found in towns large and small, are one of the best ways to soak it all in.
These are 10 of the best Christmas markets in Europe, by country. Some markets might be a little different this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but many are coming back (in some form) for the season.
Prague, Czech Republic
Dates: From November 27, 2021 to January 2, 2022 Best for: Open-air concerts and traditional nativity scenes
Postcard pretty Prague is perfect for the festive season. Make like a local and swap your mug of mulled wine for a glass of grog – rum, water, lemon and sugar. The setting is magnificent: on one side, the 14th-century twin spires of Our Lady Before Týn; on the other, the city’s famous 15th-century astronomical clock. Between them swirls a glittering pool of seasonal cheer.There are presents aplenty on offer including frosted, hand-blown glass baubles. But it’s the food that will keep you hanging around: warm, fatty sausages just off the grill; fresh pancakes; garlic and-cheese flatbread; all topped off by a glug of svarák, the local, citrussy take on mulled wine. Its cinnamon scent is misted over the whole square.
If you’ve got little ones, shepherd them over to the Old Town Square where you’ll find sheep, goats and a donkey waiting patiently for attention from earnest tourists.
Expert tip: Head to Wenceslas Square to marvel over its brightly lit Christmas tree too and time it for 5pm when the lights are switched on each day.
Dates: From November 22 to December 31, 2021 Best for: Trendy Christmas gifts and tobogganing
For a more modern take on tradition, arty Berlin has it covered. The city centre is festooned with around 80 Christmas markets (there’s even one specifically for dogs), so don’t try to cover them all. If you’re after scale, Spandau is the biggest. For looks, Weihnachtszauber, in magnificent Gendarmenmarkt Square, is the prettiest with plenty of arts and crafts on offer.
Get your pulse racing at Winter World, on Potsdamer Platz —it’s less about shopping and more about winter sports, with tobogganing, curling and an ice-skating rink with free lessons for kids. Go at 10am, when it’s quietest
Expert tip: Some of Berlin’s smaller markets are only open for a few days, so check before you book.
Dates: From November 26 to December 26, 2021 Best for: Storybook scenery and sweets
France’s ‘Capital of Christmas’ looks like a real-life nativity scene at this time of year. You’ll find 300 traditional market stalls crowding the city’s central squares, doing a strong line in hand-painted wooden Christmas decorations.
Seek out the Market of the Invincible Small Producers of Alsace for sausages and almondy, fruity, brioche-like kugelhopf.
Expert tip: The main areas of the market — Place Broglie and the square in front of the cathedral — are busiest in the evenings and weekends, so try to visit these first if you want to focus on your Christmas shopping without any toe-stepping (stalls open at 10am).
Dates: From November 25 to December 29, 2021 Best for: Santons de Provence, Advent wreaths, garlands, baubles, candles and more
This market is the biggest in the Paris area, with more than 300 chalets showcasing crafts and thousands of square feet of merry decorations, all underneath the Grande Arche de la Defense. After a long day of shopping, go ahead and indulge in some cheese — you are in France, after all.
Expert tip: Visiting the market at night will be extra special as the towering skyscrapers of the La Defense business district will be lit up!
London, United Kingdom
Dates: From November 19, 2021 to January 3, 2022 Best for: The biggest open-air ice rink in the UK and shows
Sip hot chocolate topped with marshmallows or mulled wine in London’s Hyde Park as you shop for candle votives, ornaments, crafts, and gourmet food. After shopping, go ice skating or choose from different roller coasters before going to meet Santa.
Expert tip: Plan to go during the week. Saturdays are the busiest for the attraction, so avoid them at all costs!
Dates: November 20, 2021 and January 4, 2022 Best for: A cultural Christmas
Undeniably one of the prettiest cities on the planet, Edinburgh really shines in the winter months as Christmas markets and Hogmanay celebrations come together to create a winter wonderland offering one of the world’s best festive calendars.
Along with Santa’s Grotto; an oval ice rink; fairground rides, such as the 60-metre-high Star Flyer; an elves’ workshop hidden within the Christmas Tree Maze; and stalls selling wooden toys, Harry Potter themed gifts, and mulled Irn Bru; you’ll find special projections, performances, and art works showcasing local talent. Barcrawl under the fairy lights of George Street and pop into the Scottish National Gallery to contemplate winter scenes (nationalgalleries. org; free). After dark, head to the Royal Botanic Garden to sip spiced cider and marvel at its Christmas illuminations (rbge.org.uk; £19).
Expert tip: If you can only visit once, be sure to come at the end of December to join the city’s enchanting, Hogmanay Torchlight Procession through Edinburgh’s Old Town on 30 December. Bag a ticket and you can return for the Hogmanay street party and stunning fireworks display on 31 December. Don’t miss the famous ceilidh and concert in Princes Street Gardens on New Year’s Eve either.
Dates: From November 19, 2021 to January 1, 2022 Best for: Ice rinks and Christmas illuminations
Igniting the Christmas atmosphere in mid-November, Budapest brings two Christmas market contenders to the table: Vorosmarty Square and Basilica. Vorosmarty Square is tucked right into the heart of the city and is Budapest’s oldest Christmas market. Here, you’ll find plenty of food stalls, handicraft shops and free concerts.
Basilica offers all of the above, but with the slight edge: Christmas laser projections on the Basilica itself and an ice-skating rink that circles around a grand Christmas tree.
Expert tip: You’ll also come across plenty of Hungarian delicacies to tuck into here, including Chimney cake. It’s one of Europe’s more sustainable markets with eco-friendly cups, plates and cutlery.
Dates: 25 November to December 23, 2021 Best for: Foodie delights and fairy lights
Basel’s Christmas market is the biggest and most beautiful in Switzerland, assembling 160 meticulously decorated stalls selling a wide array of culinary wonders from gob-stopping sausages, and authentic Basel Läckerli (a local twist on gingerbread), to hot punch, festive fondue, and rib-sticking raclette to beat the winter chill.
Split into two different sections at Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz, the former offers handmade, wooden toys, nativity scenes, and jewellery, while Münsterplatz’s fairytale forest is filled with fun festive activities for kids, from bauble-making workshops to gingerbread decorating.
Expert tip: Turn up at 6.30pm on 26 November to kick off the festive season, when the city’s Governing President, Elisabeth Ackermann, will switch on the Münsterplatz Christmas lights.
Dates: From November 19 to December 24, 2021 Best for: Festive romance and global delicacies
Situated in the historical city centre, Gdańsk Christmas market is a magical winter wonderland with romance oozing from every corner – there’s even a spot that’s been set up so lovers can kiss under the mistletoe in the hopes of having a long-lasting life together. Expect to see elf parades, a talking moose, the Snow Queen and her singing carollers; and the chance take a spin on the fairy-tale carousel. Shop for original jewellery, ceramics and upcycled clothes such as hats and knitwear orfill-up on the wide variety of delicacies from around the world including traditional Polish cuisine (try pierogi). Foodies will be tempted by Alsatian pancakes, Greek bougatsa and Spanish churros. Warm up with a mug of hot chocolate, mulled beer or honey and ginger and aromatic mulled wine.
Expert tip: Keep an eye out for the five-metre-tall gate in the shape of an Advent candle holder, with a viewing point at its peak. The gate also features a Christmas surprise – it will be decorated with the largest Advent Calendar in the city. A new window will be opened every day as part of a fun tradition.
Dates: 26 November, 2021 to January 2, 2022 Best for: A gourmet Christmas
Winter Wonders in Brussels is spread out across Grand-Place, Bourse, Place Sainte-Catherine and Marché aux Poissons, boasting ice skating rinks, ethereal music and light shows, a massive Christmas tree, and a mile-long stretch of more than 200 snow-blanketed wooden chalets, serving toasty waffles, warming mulled wine and, of course, Belgian beers and chocolates.
Expert tip: At this time of year, the city is filled with pop-up restaurants and lively bars, so come with an empty stomach: advice you should probably take before taking a spin on the market’s signature ferris wheel, which offers a bird’s eye view of the fun.
Get up-to-date COVID-19 travel guidance in CheckMyTrip
Now in CheckMyTrip, you can check the COVID-19 travel restrictions for your origin and destination as part of your travel itinerary or directly in the app, in case you don’t have a trip planned yet.
When you’re headed to an unfamiliar city, and your goal is to avoid the touristy neighborhoods and see how the locals live, how can you get the authentic flavor of a place fast? There are things you need to do in advance of your travels, as well as when you’re on the ground, so get prepared. After all, many find planning an exciting part of the adventure.
So if you normally rush from one monument, museum and park to the next, why not challenge yourself to leave your watch and schedule behind. Here’s how to expereince a city like a local!
Before you go
1. Learn the language
You don’t need to be fluent in the local language but a few everyday words go a long way. “Hello” and “thank you” are always helpful, and “toilet” can definitely be useful. There are many free and paid apps that can help with this, such as Babbel, Duolingo, or Memrise.
Having some basics will not only help you in getting around, it will also make it much easier to break the ice with locals. Most people love knowing a foreigner has made the effort. You might feel silly trying out new words or phrases, but travelling is all about leaving your comfort zone.
2. Fly into a regional airport
Start your trip as you mean to go on by landing in a city that’s not the capital.
Airports in smaller cities are often less stressful and cheaper to fly into, whilst giving you the chance to explore some places you may not have thought about visiting. Consider flying out of a different city to expand your route.
3. Avoid hostels
Hostels are very appealing if you’re on a budget but, apart from local staff, they tend to be full of other foreign travellers. They don’t give you many chances to experience a place and its culture. Instead, organise independent or local accommodation. They may be more expensive but you’ll go home with lots more anecdotes and memories than a run-of-the-mill hostel can offer. When searching for accommodation, look up the areas where people live day-to-day and opt for one of these local neighbourhoods. This will also help to keep costs down as they are likely to be outside of the city centre.
During your trip
4.Take a free walking tour
One of the best things to do when you arrive in a new city or town is look up free walking tours. They’re a great way to get your bearings in a new place. They’ll often make stops at popular attractions or neighbourhoods, allowing you to decide if they’re worth going back to another day.
The guides are always locals who often grew up in the town or city so they’re full of stories and local gossip that you won’t find in any guidebook. They’re also a found of knowledge about transport, what you should be paying for food and souvenirs and they’ll be happy to let you know the best, and worst, local restaurants.
Walking tours usually last two or three hours and you usually only need to book via their website a day or two in advance. There’s no charge, but it’s customary to tip your guide at the end.
5. Get really lost
Rather than eating at a place recommended by a local guide, ditch it and get lost in a place and see what you stumble upon.
Choose a restaurant away from touristy areas or near famous attractions. Look for places offering authentic local food that doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket, then ask for some tips from bar and waiting staff. You’ll have a much more local experience and go home with a list of dishes to create in your kitchen.
5. Scour the markets and the streets
Local markets, not those aimed at tourists, are the best place to really see locals at their best. The shouting, bartering and joking will tell you a lot about a nationality, not to mention teaching you some ‘colourful’ language.
Try to buy local foods that are grown in the country. Not only is this a more eco-friendly way to eat but you’ll get to experience the local version of familiar foods, or a Coke that doesn’t taste like Coke.
Don’t shy away from street food either. If you see queues of locals lining up for a street cart it’s a good sign that the food is popular, hygienic and tasty.
6. Use public transport
Be it bike, scooter, rickshaw, or subway, using public transport is a great window into a new culture. Even if you don’t understand the local language, you will see familiar sights, like people on the bus getting annoyed with the boy playing video games, or the crying child. A local metro card is also a good way to get around a city and cheaper than renting a car or taking a taxi.
What do you do when you travel to have a local experience? Share your tips with us onInstagram
Beautiful, defiant and intense, Argentina seduces with its streetside tango, wafting grills, fútbol (soccer), gaucho culture and the mighty Andes. It’s one formidable cocktail of wanderlust.
Things not to miss
• Trying your hand (or feet) at the tango • Standing in the Playa de Mayo in Buenos Aires • Wandering the cobblestoned streets of San Telmo in Buenos Aires • Seeing the Iguazu Falls • Sampling a local Malbec, perhaps at one of the local parrillas, or steak houses • Sitting in the stands for a futbol match • Driving through the Lake District • Explore Cordova, a university town with Colonial architecture
When to go
The best time to travel to Argentina depends on where you want to focus your trip. Some factors to consider: Summer, December through February, is the best time to visit the extreme landscape of Patagonia. You’ll find fewer crowds in Buenos Aires during the summer, but it can get hot, too.
The prime time to visit Buenos Aires is in the spring (September through November), when the temperatures are cool and the purple jacarandas are in bloom. A great time to see Mendoza or the Lake District is in the fall, when the foliage pops—and there are fewer crowds.
Arriving in Buenos Aires is like jumping aboard a moving train. The modern metropolis whizzes by, alive with street life from busy sidewalk cafes, to hush parks carpeted in purple jacaranda blooms in springtime. Stylish porteños (residents of Buenos Aires) savor public life – whether it’s sharing mate (a tea-like beverage) on Sunday in the park or gelato under handsome early-20th-century stone facades. There are heaps of bookstores, creative boutiques and gourmet eats. Buenos Aires isn’t the only stunner – Córdoba, Salta, Mendoza and Bariloche each have their unique personalities and unforgettable attractions, so don’t miss them.
From mighty Iguazú Falls in the subtropical north to the thunderous, crackling advance of the Glaciar Perito Moreno in the south, Argentina is home to a vast natural wonderland. Diversity is a big part of it. The country that boasts the Andes’ highest snowbound peaks is also home to rich wetlands, rust-hued desert, deep-blue lakes, lichen-clad Valdivian forests and Patagonia’s arid steppes. Wildlife comes in spectacular variety, from penguins and flamingos to capybaras, giant anteaters, whales, guanaco herds and more. In this vast country, stunning sights abound and big adventure awaits.
Food & Drink
Satisfying that carnal craving for flame-charred steak isn’t hard to do in the land that has perfected the art of grilling. Parrillas (grill houses) are ubiquitous, offering up any cut you can imagine, alongside sausages and grilled vegetables. Thin, bubbly pizzas and homemade pastas also play central roles, thanks to Argentina’s proud Italian heritage. But there’s more. Buenos Aires fads are fun and fast-changing, bringing gourmet world cuisine to both upscale restaurants and the shady cobblestone neighborhoods. Grab a table, uncork a bottle of malbec, and the night is yours.
Cultural activities abound here. Tango is possibly Argentina’s greatest contribution to the outside world. The steamy dance has been described as ‘making love in the vertical position.’ And what about fútbol (soccer)? Argentines are passionately devoted to this sport and, if you’re a fan, chanting and stomping alongside other stadium fanatics should definitely be in your plans. Add a distinctive Argentine take on literature, cinema, music and arts, and you have a rich, edgy culture – part Latin American and part European – that is thoroughly distinctive.
Are you itching to get on the slopes this winter? Here’s the current position with 14 leading ski nations around the world – 10 of which already have ski areas open for the 21-22 season.
Borders Open: Yes
Entry without being Fully Vaccinated? Yes
Ski Season Already started? No
Entry Rules: Anyone aged over 6 years old will also need to be able to show either proof of Covid vaccination, a negative PCR test result within 72 hours before arrival, or proof of recovery from Covid. Travel in is via France or Spain so you need to adhere to entry rules in whichever country you arrive through as well as Andorra’s.
Pandemic Operations in Andorran Ski Resorts: Face masks are mandatory for everyone aged 8 or older in enclosed public spaces such as bars, restaurants and shops. Everyone aged eight or older is required to wear a mask. Limit of eight in groups in bars and restaurants and social distancing measures remain in place.
Borders Open: Yes
Entry without being Fully Vaccinated? Yes (but you will need to quarantine)
Ski Season Already started? Yes
Entry Rules: You’ll need proof of full vaccination to enter without quarantine. You can enter with a negative Covid test or evidence of recovery for a recent infection but will need to quarantine for 10 days with the option to reduce to 5 days with a PCR test on day five.
Pandemic Operations in Austrian Ski Resorts: You’ll need proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test or of recovery for a recent infection to use the ski lifts and apres-ski venues. Restrictions will increase if the number of people in hospital rises above certain pre-set levels.
Borders Open: Yes
Entry without being Fully Vaccinated? Yes from, EU/Schengen and other areas but more complicated.
Ski Season Already started? No
Entry Rules: Simplest if fully vaccinated arriving from EU/Schengen with EU digital COVID certificate proving this, more complex but possible from all but reds list countries otherwise.
Pandemic Operations in Bulgarian Ski Resorts: The Bulgarian government has said skiers will not have to have the digital vaccine certificate to be able to ski at this stage, and that the same protocols as last season including mask wearing by resort employees and visitors and other normal covid spread prevention measures will be in place.
Borders Open: Yes
Entry without being Fully Vaccinated? No
Ski Season Already started? No – but Lake Louise opening Friday Nov 5
Entry Rules: If you’re fully vaccinated (at least 14 days before travel) travellers you can once again travel to Canada, on a few conditions. You must also provide proof of a negative COVID-19 negative test less than 72 hours old and you may be asked to take another test on arrival (this ios done at random to arrivals). of departure) or proof of a positive test result taken between 14 and 180 days. You also need to upload proof of vaccination, quarantine and travel information up to Canada’s ArriveCAN portal at least 72 hours before you travel.
Pandemic Operations in Canadian Ski Resorts: From the start of November a number of Canadian ski resorts began announcing skiers would need to be fully vaccinated to use lifts to meet provincial/national public health guidelines to operate at capacity. Otherwise operations vary by province and by resort to some extent and can change frequently. Capacity restrictions and indoor mask wearing can be a factor. Some resorts have required all staff be vaccinated. Some report issues hiring enough staff due to work visa issues.
Borders Open: Yes – from low risk EU/Shengen area countries.
Entry without being Fully Vaccinated? Yes from EU/Shengen area and other apptroved low-risk countries but more complicated. Not usually just for leisure from the UK, however UK citizens can enter if fully vaccinated.
Ski Season Already started? Yes
Entry Rules: Double jabbed people from low risk EU/Schengen area countries can enter without a test. Entry possible for those with single jabs and other circumstances but testing required.
Pandemic Operations in Finnish Ski Resorts: Social distancing and indoor mask wearing remain the norm.
Borders Open: Yes
Entry without being Fully Vaccinated? Yes – if the country you’re arriving from is on the list of accepted countries and you take tests and get a negative result.
Ski Season Already started? Yes
Entry Rules: The country you are arriving from must be one France allows entry from and you normally need to be fully vaccinated. All arrivals need to fill out a pre-travel form.
Pandemic Operations in French Ski Resorts: Currently visitors won’t need a Covid pass to access ski lifts, although this could be subject to change if the Covid situation changes in the country. However, you will still need to show the ‘pass sanitaire’ (https://www.gouvernement.fr/info-coronavirus/pass-sanitaire) for the likes of certain public transport, events and cultural spaces with over 50 people, and other facilities such as bars. Face masks are required in all enclosed public spaces in France.
Borders Open: Yes
Entry without being Fully Vaccinated? Yes (but quarantine required if not fully vaccinated)
Ski Season Already started? Yes
Entry Rules: The country you are arriving from must be one Italy allows entry from and you normally need to be fully vaccinated and show a negative test taken within 48 hours before entering Italy. Unvaccinated arrivals allowed but must also show proof of the negative test and will need to self-isolate for five days. All arrivals need to fill out a pre-travel form.
Pandemic Operations in Italian Ski Resorts: A ‘green pass’ is required for everyone aged 12 and over to access public spaces including bars, restaurants, exhibitions, spas, gyms and indoor pools. Covid passes are required for anyone aged 12 or over. Face masks must be worn required in enclosed spaces including public transport, as well as outdoor spaces where social distancing is not possible.
Entry Without being Fully Vaccinated? No entry whether vaccinated or not.
Ski Season Already started? No
Entry rules: Borders closed.
Pandemic Operations in Japanese Ski Resorts: These differ between resorts and regions but mask wearing and distancing is generally the norm.
Notes: COVID-19 cases have fallen dramatically since the peak of its third wave in August. At the beginning of October, the country dropped its coronavirus state of emergency for the first time in six months.
Borders Open: Yes
Entry Without being Fully Vaccinated? Yes from some countries.
Ski Season Already started? Yes
Entry Rules: Entry allowed from a number of countries (EU/UK and others) if fully vaccinated or with evidence of recovery from a COVID infection in the previous six months. Unvaccinated travellers can also enter from these countries without needing to take a test if the country has a low infection rate. At time of writing the UK had a high infection rate and testing and quarantine was required along with the need to fill out a location form. Countries status changes according to infection rates.
Pandemic Operations in Norwegian Ski Resorts: Most rules have been relaxed in Norway but individual ski resorts may still require COVID measures be adhered to.
orders Open: Yes
Entry without being Fully Vaccinated? Yes
Ski Season Already started? No
Entry Rules: No travel restrictions from within the UK.
Pandemic Operations in Scottish Ski Resorts: In Scotland masks must still be worn in indoor public places such as cafes, bars and gondolas cabins.
Borders Open: Yes
Entry without being Fully Vaccinated? Yes from some countries including UK but you must show a negative recent test result.
Ski Season Already started? No
Entry Rules: In order to enter Spain you must present a digital vaccination certificate, showing that you have received the full vaccination programme or a Diagnostic Certificate, showing you have tested negative for COVID.
Pandemic Operations in Spanish Ski Resorts: Masks and 1.5m social distancing remain mandatory indoors in Spain.
Borders Open: Yes – to EU and Schengen countries and selected other nations.
Entry without being Fully Vaccinated? Yes from some approved nations.
Ski Season Already started? No
Entry Rules: Sweden has complex entry rules if you do not live in the EU/Schengen area and are not fully vaccinated, but it is increasingly possible to travel there for leisure if you meet the requirements for arrivals from the destination you’re coming from.
Entry without being Fully Vaccinated? Yes from selected countries.
Ski Season Already started? Yes
Entry Rules: Entry without restriction for people who can show they are fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated arrivals need to present a negative PCR test (not older than 72 hours) or a negative rapid antigen test (not older than 48 hours). A second test is required four to seven days after entry. You can check your position here: https://travelcheck.admin.ch/home
Pandemic Operations in Swiss Ski Resorts: To enter indoor hospitality venues you need to be able to show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid, or a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours/antigen test within 48 hours. Face masks are compulsory on public transport and indoors in public areas.
Borders Open: From November 8th to citizens of 33 countries including UK and EU.
Entry without being Fully Vaccinated? No
Ski Season Already Started? Yes
Entry Rules: Travellers above the age of 18 must prove they received WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccines. Those below 18 must show negative test results from three days before travel.
Pandemic Operations in US Ski Resorts: These vary from state to state, country to county, company to company and resort to resort. However mostly restrictions are limited. Many do require face coverings indoor and a few require evidence of vaccination in limited circumstances (indoor cafeteria dining) but not to ride lifts.
Thailand has reopened to vaccinated tourists from 63 countries this week, as officials significantly ease border restrictions.
The Thai government has approved (almost) quarantine-free entry to tourists from 63 countries ahead of its peak tourism season under the so-called Test-and-Go tourism plan. The new plan requires fully vaccinated arrivals to have COVID-19 insurance cover of at least US$50,000 (£36,600), and present proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test before they depart for Thailand.
Welcome to Thailand!
It’s hard to summarize the diversity of travel to Thailand. Its capital, Bangkok, is a teeming metropolis with gilded temples and palaces, while the two coastlines, on the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, have postcard-perfect beaches. In the mountainous interior, hill tribes live as they have for millennia. And wherever you travel in Thailand, there’s the food: fresh seafood, countless curries, and noodle dishes so delicious you’ll never want to return to your local Thai take-out.
Best time to visit Thailand
The weather in Thailand is split into three seasons: rainy (roughly May–Oct) cool (Nov–Feb) and hot (March–May).
The rains usually builds momentum between June and August, hitting its peak in September and October. The cool season is when travelling in Thailand is most pleasant, though temperatures can still reach a sticky 30°C. In the hot season, you’re best of hitting the beach.
The best time to go to Thailand is thecool season: more manageable temperatures and less rain, it offers waterfalls in full spate and the best of the upland flowers in bloom. Bear in mind, however, that it’s also the busiest season.
Where to go in Thailand
The clash of tradition and modernity is most intense in Bangkok, which forms the first stop on almost any itinerary. Within its historic core you’ll find resplendent temples, canalside markets and the opulent indulgence of the eighteenth-century Grand Palace. Downtown’s forest of skyscrapers shelters cutting-edge fashion in decor boutiques and some achingly hip bars and clubs.
Most budget travellers head for the Banglamphu district, where if you’re not careful you could end up watching DVDs all day long and selling your shoes when you run out of money. The district is far from having a monopoly on Bangkok accommodation, but it does have the advantage of being just a short walk from the major sights in the Ratanakosin area:
Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo
If you’re wondering where to visit in the northern uplands, then start with Chiang Mai. It’s both an attractive historic city and a vibrant cultural centre, with a strong tradition of arts, crafts and festivals.
Self-improvement courses are a strong suit – from ascetic meditation to Thai cookery classes – while the overriding enticement of the surrounding region is the prospect of trekking through villages inhabited by a richly mixed population of tribal peoples.
Plenty of outdoor activities and courses, as well as hot springs and massages, can be enjoyed at Pai, a surprisingly cosmopolitan hill station for travellers, four hours northwest of Chiang Mai.
Many colourful festivals attract throngs of visitors here too: Chiang Mai is one of the most popular places in Thailand to see in the Thai New Year – Songkhran – in mid-April, and to celebrate Loy Krathong at the full moon in November, when thousands of candles are floated down the Ping River in lotus-leaf boats.
The pick of the coasts are in the south, where the Samui archipelago off the Gulf coast ranks as one of the best places to go in Thailand. Ko Samui itself has the most sweeping white-sand beaches, and the greatest variety of accommodation and facilities to go with them.
Ko Pha Ngan next door is still largely backpacker territory, where you have a stark choice between desolate coves and Hat Rin, Thailand’s party capital. The remotest island, rocky Ko Tao, is acquiring increasing sophistication as Southeast Asia’s largest dive-training centre.
Tucked away beneath the islands, Nakhon Si Thammarat, the cultural capital of the south, is well worth a short detour from the main routes through the centre of the peninsula – it’s a sophisticated city of grand old temples, delicious cuisine and distinctive handicrafts.
With Chiang Mai and the north so firmly planted on the independent tourist trail, the intervening central plains tend to get short shrift. Yet there is rewarding trekking around Umphang, near the Burmese border, and the elegant ruins of former capitals Ayutthaya and Sukhothai embody a glorious artistic heritage, displaying Thailand’s distinctive ability to absorb influences from quite different cultures.
Even if you’re just passing through, you can’t miss the star attraction of Nakhon Pathom: the enormous stupa Phra Pathom Chedi dominates the skyline.
To get an idea of what shopping in Bangkok used to be like before all the canals were tarmacked over, many people take an early-morning trip to the floating market (talat khlong) at Damnoen Saduak. Sixty kilometres south of Nakhon Pathom and just over a hundred kilometres from Bangkok.
The Andaman Coast
Across on the other side of the peninsula, the Andaman coast offers even more exhilarating scenery and the finest coral reefs in the country, in particular around the Ko Similan island chain, which ranks among the best dive sites in the world.
The largest Andaman coast island, Phuket, is one of Thailand’s top tourist destinations and graced with a dozen fine beaches, though several have been overdeveloped with a glut of high-rises and tacky nightlife.
Beautiful little Ko Phi Phi is a major party hub, surrounded by the turquoise seas and dramatic limestone cliffs that characterize the coastline throughout Krabi province. Large, forested Ko Lanta is, for the moment at least, a calmer alternative for families, but for genuine jungle you’ll need to head inland, to the rainforests of Khao Sok National Park.
Further down the Thai peninsula, in the provinces of the deep south, the teeming sea life and unfrequented sands of the Trang islands and Ko Tarutao National Marine Park make this one of Thailand’s top places to go. There’s now the intriguing possibility of island-hopping your way down through them – in fact, all the way from Phuket to Penang in Malaysia – without setting foot on the mainland.
The greatest interest in the deep south is currently all over on the beautiful west coast, where sheer limestone outcrops, pristine sands and fish-laden coral stretch down to the Malaysian border.
Along Trang’s mainland coast, there’s a 30km stretch of attractive beaches, dotted with mangroves and impressive caves that can be explored by sea canoe, but the real draw down here is the offshore islands, which offer gorgeous panoramas and beaches, great snorkelling and at least a modicum of comfort in their small clusters of resorts.
Khao Yai National Park
Another regular in lists of the best places to go in Thailand, Khao Yai National Park – the country’s first national park – encapsulates the phenomenal diversity of Thailand’s flora and fauna. It’s one of the very few national parks to maintain a network of hiking trails that visitors can explore by themselves, passing dramatic waterfalls, orchids and an abundance of wildlife.
Spanning five distinct forest types and rising to a height of 1,351m, the park sustains over 300 bird and twenty large land-mammal species – hence its UNESCO accreditation as a World Heritage Site.
Rangers discourage visitors from exploring the outer, non-waymarked reaches unguided, partly for environmental reasons, but also because of trigger-happy sandalwood poachers. Sandalwood trees are indigenous to Khao Yai, and though oil collection does not usually kill the tree, it does weaken it. Guides can point out trees that have been cut in this way along the trails.
Few tourists visit Isaan, the poorest and in some ways the most traditionally Thai region. Here, a trip through the gently modulating landscapes of the Mekong River valley, which defines Thailand’s northeastern extremities.
It takes in archetypal agricultural villages and a fascinating array of religious sites, while the southern reaches of Isaan hold some of Thailand’s best-kept secrets – the magnificent stone temple complexes of Phimai, Phanom Rung and Khao Phra Viharn, all built by the Khmers of Cambodia almost ten centuries ago.
We may have already mentioned the Andaman Coast, but Phuket is worth looking at in greater detail. Thailand’s largest island and a province in its own right, Phuket is the wealthiest province in Thailand, with tourism driving the economy.
Some tourist developments have scarred much of the island, however, many of the beaches are still strikingly handsome, resort facilities are second to none, and the offshore snorkelling and diving are exceptional.
If you’re after a peaceful spot, aim for the 17km-long national park beach of Hat Mai Khao, its more developed neighbour Hat Nai Yang, or one of the smaller alternatives at Hat Nai Thon or Hat Kamala.
Despite over a million visitors a year, Ko Samui remains a top places to go in Thailand. Back-packers to bougie fortnighters come to this part of southern Thailand for the beautiful beaches. At 15km across and down, Samui is generally large enough to cope with this diversity and the paradisal sands and clear blue seas have kept their good looks.
The island’s most appealing strand, Chaweng, has seen the heaviest, most crowded development and is now the most expensive place to stay, though it does offer by far the best amenities and nightlife. Its slightly smaller neighbour, Lamai, lags a little behind in terms of looks and top-end development, but retains large pockets of backpacker bungalow resorts.
The other favourite for backpackers is Maenam, which, though less attractive again, is markedly quiet, with plenty of room to breathe between the beach and the round-island road.
How to travel around Thailand
Travel in Thailand is largely cheap, easy and efficient – though not always speedy. For instance, long-distance journeys on land can be arduous, especially if a tight budget means you’re sat in the unforgiving second-class seats and there’s no air con.
That said, the many transport options available makes getting around Thailand a whole lot easier than elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Buses are speedy, inexpensive and frequent, and can be quite luxurious.
Trains are slower, but safer and, there’s more chance to sleep during an overnight trip. It’s also worth nothing that if you’re travelling by day you’re more likely to follow a scenic route by rail than by road.
Songthaews (literally “two rows”) – open-ended vans with as many people squashed into the back as possible – supplement the bus network, especially in rural areas. Slightly more comfortable are share-taxis and air-conditioned mini-buses which connect many of the major towns and cities.
From late October to early November, visitors flock to Mexico for Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead). Day of the Dead —that is a celebration of the continuity of life— is one of Mexico’s most important holidays, celebrated in November each year.
Here’s one thing we know: Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is not a Mexican version of Halloween. In 2008, UNESCO recognized the importance of Día de los Muertos by adding the holiday to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Today Mexicans from all religious and ethnic backgrounds celebrate Día de los Muertos, but at its core, the holiday is a reaffirmation of indigenous life.
The Día de Muertos tradition
Day of the Dead originated several thousand years ago with the Aztec, Toltec, and other Nahua people, who considered mourning the dead disrespectful. For these pre-Hispanic cultures, death was a natural phase in life’s long continuum. The dead were still members of the community, kept alive in memory and spirit—and during Día de los Muertos, they temporarily returned to Earth. Today’s Día de los Muertos celebration is a mash-up of pre-Hispanic religious rites and Christian feasts. It takes place on November 1 and 2—All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day on the Catholic calendar—around the time of the fall maize harvest.
Calaveras are ubiquitous during Day of the Dead. The skulls are often drawn with a smile as to laugh at death itself. They take many forms such as sugar candies, clay decorations, and most memorable: face painting. Sugar skulls are decorated and placed on ofrendas of loved ones. A Calavera, or sugar skull, is a decorative skulls made (usually by hand) from either sugar (called Alfeñiques) or clay which are used in the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead.
The calavera Catrina
In the early 20th century, Mexican political cartoonist and lithographer José Guadalupe Posada created an etching to accompany a literary calavera. Posada dressed his personification of death in fancy French garb and called it Calavera Garbancera, intending it as social commentary on Mexican society’s emulation of European sophistication. “Todos somos calaveras,” a quote commonly attributed to Posada, means “we are all skeletons.” Underneath all our manmade trappings, we are all the same.
In 1947 artist Diego Rivera featured Posada’s stylized skeleton in his masterpiece mural “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park.” Posada’s skeletal bust was dressed in a large feminine hat, and Rivera made his female and named her Catrina, slang for “the rich.” Today, the calavera Catrina, or elegant skull, is the Day of the Dead’s most ubiquitous symbol.
Flor de Muerto “Mexican Marigolds”
Marigolds are believed to be the pathways that guide the spirits to their ofrendas. The flower’s vibrant colors and scent attract the departed souls, as they return to feast on their favorite foods. They are called “Flor de Muerto” (Spanish for Flower of Dead) and they symbolize the beauty and fragility of life. Marigold flowers include around 60 annuals and perennials that are native to Mexico and Central America.
While the most recognizable aspects of Day of the Dead are the representations of skulls and skeletons, the tradition that holds the most meaning is the Ofrenda (Spanish for offering). The Ofrenda is what the whole celebration is about; it’s a collection of offerings dedicated to the person being honored.
A brightly colored Oilcloth covers the table and on top of that sits a collection of photographs and personal items of the departed person. The lower portion of the altar is where the offerings are placed, from traditional Mexican cuisine to other items that represent the honored person’s particular tastes.
Food of the dead
You work up a mighty hunger and thirst traveling from the spirit world back to the realm of the living. At least that’s the traditional belief in Mexico. Some families place their dead loved one’s favorite meal on the altar. Other common offerings:
Pan de muerto, or bread of the dead, is a typical sweet bread (pan dulce), often featuring anise seeds and decorated with bones and skulls made from dough. The bones might be arranged in a circle, as in the circle of life. Tiny dough teardrops symbolize sorrow.
Sugar skulls are part of a sugar art tradition brought by 17th-century Italian missionaries. Pressed in molds and decorated with crystalline colors, they come in all sizes and levels of complexity.
Drinks, including pulque, a sweet fermented beverage made from the agave sap; atole, a thin warm porridge made from corn flour, with unrefined cane sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla added; and hot chocolate.
No Time To Die continues the established James Bond tradition of filming in exotic and cinematic locations around the world. The James Bond movies are escapist entertainment that allowed audiences to see parts of the world they might never otherwise have seen.
Filming a James Bond movie on location is a big deal, and often forever associates that location in the mind of the public with 007. For example, after The Man with the Golden Gun was filmed inPhang Nga Bay on the west coast of Thailand, the area was transformed into a major tourist attraction, with the iconic rocks becoming known as James Bond Island. Here’s some of the places movie goers will see Daniel Craig in his last outing as Bond.
Atlantic Road, Norway
If you’re an aficionado of the Dangerous Roads website – and anyone with a car and a death wish really ought to be – you’ll probably already know about this spectacular eight-kilometre stretch of tarmac hugging Norway’s north coast.
What to expect An easy journey from the nearby city of Molde, followed by a drive along the edge of the world, with a series of dizzingly undulating bridges carrying you from island to island. Bad weather – or Bond villains – can render it borderline terrifying, so pick your moment.
Italy has been one of Bond’s favorite escapes in recent movies. It’s been reported that filming happened in the small southern town of Matera, where a high-speed car chase takes place through the winding streets in the iconic Aston Martin DB5.
Matera is well known for its cave dwellings that are carved into the mountainside – you can even stay in a cave hotel to experience it firsthand. The incredible scenery found in this location has earned it a place on Unesco’s World Heritage List. Exploring this site makes a great adventure for any avid traveler, let alone Bond fans looking to pinpoint where the film’s most iconic scene takes place.
What to expect: In short? Rustic charm and off-the-beaten-track vibes, plus regional cuisine big on hot peppers, lamb and juicy belts of lagane pasta. Other movie locations are available in Italy, of course, but if you’ve seen Rome and Venice, Matera is a perfect slow-holiday destination for Bond nerds. And it’s only 30km from another key No Time to Die location: the Gravina aqueduct from which Bond will hurl himself in the film.
Kalsoy, Faroe Islands
No Time To Die filmed in the epic one-lane tunnels on the Faroe Islands (an archipelago situated in between Iceland and Norway). Past the one-way tunnels, the islands (18 to be exact) are a majestic set of green rolling hills and a hiker’s paradise. If you find yourself on the island of Kalsoy, everyone will tell you to hike up to Kallur Lighthouse. It’s mostly to see the exquisite panoramas of the Atlantic and the other islands in the distance, but it’s worth every minute of the climb up the rugged cliffs.
What to expect Precipitous crags, audacious hiking trails and lots and lots of puffins. Sure, they might end up on your plate, but the cuisine is mostly fermented mutton and fish, with the odd bit of blubber thrown in for good measure. The islands are also a great spot for spotting the Northern Lights – one good reason for visiting in the depths of winter.
Port Antonio, Jamaica
James Bond was born in Jamaica, at the home of author Ian Fleming. His villa doesn’t actually feature in No Time to Die, but the film begins with the reluctant spy relaxing near his creator’s hideaway in Port Antonio. We’re sure the movie will have its fair share of actual sexy bits, but the sleek shutters in Bond’s modernist home could well be hottest part of the trailer. This franchise adores a knowing wink to a previous instalment, and you may recall Jamaica was where Honey Ryder emerged from the sea in Dr No. Expect things to get just as steamy in Bond 25 too.
What to expect Wander into the rainforest and gaze at waterfalls cascading into river pools, or sail through the reeds on a bamboo raft. It’s a much quieter spot than a lot of Bond’s travel destinations, so lap up the sunshine and forget about the daily grind, why don’t you.
Driving loch-side is almost always a fraught task for 007, and here he is, speeding along Loch Laggan as a Land Rover careers down the hillside behind him. No matter – Bond is used to alarming interpretations of the Highway Code. His last outing to Scotland saw him reckon with his past at childhood home Skyfall, and witness the death of Judi Dench’s M. This time, he’s a little further east, in the Cairngorms national park: a beautiful location for a spot of dangerous driving and demon confronting. (Don’t drive dangerously on your visit, pls.)
What to expect Pine forests, glittering lochs, rare wildlife. Start at Aviemore, and enjoy the on-the-nose Scottish symbolism of faltering stags and peaty whisky. This town has a ski resort, too, so pack your Union Jack parachute and go full The Spy Who Loved Me by taking to the slopes.
There’s no doubt, Vietnam offers visitors a very unique experience.From bustling cities and gorgeous beaches to lush forests and breathtaking rice paddies – Vietnam has it all! The country which borders China, Laos, and Cambodia, is the perfect SEA destination for anyone wanting to immerse themselves in nature, history, culture, and some of the best culinary feasts across the globe.
LAST UPDATE: OCTOBER 13, 2021Disclaimer: This information is collated from official sources but general in nature. Entry requirements are subject to change at any time. Keep checking for the latest advice from your local government, embassy, or consulate to confirm any visa or entry requirements before travel.
Most visitors need a visa to enter Vietnam, but luckily the process doesn’t take more than a few days.
Some European passport holders, such as citizens from the UK, France, and Germany, can enter Vietnam 15 days visa-free. Citizens from the US and most other nations do however need to apply for a visa. Some nationalities can also apply for a visa online – you can read more about it here.
When visit Vietnam
The humid south is warm year-round, and the warm May-Nov monsoon season brings brief, heavy showers that barely disrupt travel – but regions around the Mekong may flood.
The cold monsoon along the central coast occurs from Oct-Apr and is much less pleasant.
Oct-Dec are warm, sunny months in the north; from March it is unbearably hot.
May, June and September are the best times to visit Vietnam to avoid the crowds.
Halong Bay’s stunning combination of karst limestone peaks and sheltered, shimmering seas is one of Vietnam’s top tourist draws, but with more than 2000 different islands, there’s plenty of superb scenery to go around. Definitely book an overnight cruise and make time for your own special moments on this World Heritage wonder – rise early for an ethereal misty dawn, or pilot a kayak into grottoes and lagoons. Prefer your karst landscapes a little less… crowded? Try the less touristy but equally spectacular Lan Ha Bay, located a little way to the south, or Bau Tu Long, to the north.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
Vietnam’s headline natural wonder is the jaw-dropping Hang Son Doong, one of the world’s largest caves, located in the heart of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. The images of ant-like travellers shining head torches around the vast, empty caverns tug on the wanderlust strings; however, unless you have a cool $3000 to spend on a tour, you won’t be able to enter this subterranean marvel. But fear not, Phong Nha-Ke Bang has a wealth of other caves that you can clamber, crawl, boat or zipline through for a fraction of the cost, including Hang En, which boasts its own beach. More so, there are plenty of attractions above ground, including guided treks around the oldest karst mountains in Asia, home to tigers, elephants and 300 species of bird.
Ho Chi Minh City
Increasingly international but still unmistakable Vietnamese, former Saigon has visceral energy that will delight big-city devotees. HCMC doesn’t inspire neutrality: you’ll either be drawn into its thrilling vortex and hypnotised by the perpetual whir of its orbiting motorbikes, or you’ll find the whole experience overwhelming (and some visitors seem to be perpetually seesawing between the two!). Dive in and you’ll be rewarded with a wealth of history (the War Remnants Museum an essential stop), delicious food and a vibrant nightlife that ranges from beers on street corners to swanky cocktail lounges. The heat is always on in Saigon; loosen your collar and enjoy.
Lapped by azure waters and edged with the kind of white-sand beaches that make sun-seekers sink to their weak knees, Phu Quoc – way down in the south of Vietnam – is ideal for slipping into low gear, reaching for a seaside cocktail and toasting a copper sun as it dips into the sea. And if you want to notch it up a tad, grab a bike and hit the red-dirt roads: the island is relatively compact, and offers areas of natural, unblemished jungle alongside some newer, less-serene additions (a Vietnamese version of Disneyland and the world’s longest over-sea cable car as two examples).
Vietnam’s capital is a city with one foot buried in a fascinating past, while the other strides confidently towards tomorrow. Sample Hanoi’s heady mix of history and ambition by wandering the streets of the Old Quarter, sipping an egg coffee (coffee prepared with egg yolks) or slurping on a hearty bowl of bun rieu cua (a sour crab noodle soup) while watching businessmen breakfast on noodles or play chess with goateed grandfathers. When you’re done, check out the crumbling decadence of the French Quarter then zip up the cosmopolitan Tay Ho for fine dining options and the lowdown on Hanoi’s growing art scene.
Historic Hoi An is Vietnam’s most atmospheric and charming town. Once a major port, it boasts the grand architecture and beguiling riverside setting that befit its heritage. The face of the Old Town has preserved its incredible legacy of tottering Japanese merchant houses, elaborate Chinese guildhalls, and ancient tea warehouses – though, of course, residents and rice fields have been gradually replaced by tourist businesses. Lounge bars, boutique hotels, travel agents, a glut of tailor shops and vast numbers of daily tourists are very much part of the scene here. If it gets too much, hop on a bike to explore the town’s outskirts and pristine surrounds, where you’ll find that life moves at a much more sedate pace.
Ba Be National Park
Detour off the regular Vietnam tourist trail in Ba Be National Park, an essential destination for adventurous travellers. The scenery here swoops from limestone mountains peaking at 1554m down into plunging valleys wrapped in dense evergreen forests, speckled with waterfalls and lakes. The park is a haven for hundreds of wildlife species, including monkeys, bears and pangolins (the only mammals wholly-covered in scales) as well as the highly endangered Vietnamese salamander, while birders will want to keep an eye out for the spectacular crested serpent eagle and the oriental honey buzzard, which can be spied on boat trips or trekking excursions. After a day of animal-spotting, recharge in rustic homestays and village guesthouses of the local Tay ethnic minority.
The high-rise, high-energy beach resort of Nha Trang enjoys a stunning setting: it’s ringed by a necklace of hills, with a turquoise bay dotted with tropical islands. A sweeping crescent beach of white sand defines the shoreline, backed by an impressive promenade dotted with parks and sculpture gardens. Inland there’s a cosmopolitan array of boutiques and dining options, but as restaurant service winds down for the evening, nightlife cranks up – central Nha Trang is a party town at heart. Looking for a more tranquil vibe? The city also makes for a great launching pad for a beach crawl up the coast to the city of Quy Nhon, with stop offs at Doc Let, Bai Bau and Bai Xep.
The capital of the nation in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Hue is perhaps the easiest Vietnamese city to love and spend time in. Its situation on the banks of the Perfume River is sublime, its complex cuisine justifiably-famous, and its streets are relatively traffic-free. And that’s without mentioning the majesty of the Imperial City, a citadel-within-a-citadel, housing the emperor’s residence, temples and palaces, and the main buildings of state, within six-meter-high, 2.5km-long walls. Explore the city’s fringes to find some of Vietnam’s most impressive pagodas and royal tombs, many in wonderful natural settings.
Ha Giang province is Vietnam’s spectacular destination for intrepid bikers, with dizzying ascents up the Quan Ba Pass (Heaven’s Gate), jaw-dropping vistas on the epic ride between Dong Van and Meo Vac and the opportunity to venture to Lung Cu, a hilltop flag tower that marks the most northern point of the country. And with improved roads, new trekking routes, and a wider choice of guesthouses, homestays and restaurants in the province’s small towns and villages, Vietnam’s far north is firmly planting itself on the travel map as a hotspot for bikers and non-bikers alike.
Foreign tourists won’t be welcomed back to Australia until at least next year, the prime minister said Tuesday as he outlined plans for lifting some of the toughest and longest COVID-19 travel restrictions. In the meantime we continue dreaming of Australia.
Located between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, Australia is the world’s largest island and its smallest continent. There’s a well-known vibrancy in its natural beauty, but don’t forget to seek out its history and culture as well. There’s plenty here to inspire your future travel plans so, go on, take a look around and let yourself dream of all the possibilities.
Temperature: 31°C high; 24°C low Season: April to September Flight time from UK: 20h 25 m from London
For its tropical climate, easy-going ambiance and close proximity to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is one of Australia’s most popular vacation destinations. Located on the northwest corner of Australia, Cairns is a provincial but stylish city with a population of around 150,000 people.
The city is bordered by mountains and the Coral Sea and is surrounded by sugar cane plantations and rainforest. There are enough good bars, restaurants and shopping options to keep visitors entertained before they head off into the stunning nature nearby.
Instead of a beach, Cairns features a saltwater lagoon in the center of the city. The Cairns Esplanade along the shore is lined with trendy cafés, bars and boutiques. Numerous beaches are located just to the north of the city and are easily accessible by bus or car. The City Botanic Gardens features plants used by Aboriginal people. Opposite the gardens, a boardwalk leads visitors through the rainforest to the Centenary Lakes, a habitat for crocodiles.
Opportunities for adventure sports abound in Cairns and range from snorkeling and scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef to skydiving and whitewater rafting. The Daintree Rainforest to the north of Cairns is considered the world’s oldest tropical rainforest, and a hike along an aerial walkway over the forest is an experience that many visitors won’t want to miss.
Temperature: 27°C high; 17°C low Season: September through November and from March to May Flight time from UK: 25h 9m from London
A modern city with a long history, Sydney is defined by its scenic harbor. The region’s first inhabitants lived along the harbor’s bank for thousands of years. The harbor was also the landing site for convicts sent to Australia during the 1780s. Today, ferries take visitors for cruises under the famed Sydney Harbor Bridge and past the iconic Sydney Opera House.
Adventurous travelers can take a ferry to Manly Wharf where they can rent kayaks to paddle the inlets of Sydney Harbor National Park or sign up for surf classes at Manly Beach. The Federation Cliff Walk is a 5-km (3-mile) long walkway that starts at the Raleigh Reserve Park, providing spectacular views of the sea, harbor and the Macquarie Lighthouse, Australia’s first and longest operating lighthouse.
Sydney’s beaches are the perfect place to spend a warm summer day, to swim or just relax on the sands. The most popular are Bondi Beach, Manly and Coogee, although many others have their own charms.
No visit to Sydney is complete without a tour of the Sydney Opera House. Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon and completed in 1973, the sailing ship-inspired performing arts complex is considered one of the world’s most distinctive architectural structures.
For adventurous visitors to Sydney, a heart-thumping climb on the harbor bridge is a must-do activity. For others, shopping at the historic Queen Victoria Building, hitting the clubs and restaurants the in Rocks district and visiting the world-class Taronga Zoo are can’t-miss activities. Visitors can count on cosmopolitan Sydney to accommodate every taste.
Temperature: 25°C high; 14°C low Season: September to November and March to May Flight time from UK: 21h 15m from London
The capital of the state of Victoria, Melbourne is Australia’s second most populated city. Located near the southeastern tip of Australia on the large natural bay of Port Phillip, Melbourne is considered the nation’s cultural capital as well as an important port. Due to its high quality of life, citizens from around the world have flocked to the streets. Its multicultural population is reflected in the delicious cuisine and the unique neighborhoods that make it such a fascinating place to explore.
Melbourne’s City Center district boasts the most attractions, including the city’s most recognizable landmark, the Flinders Street Railway Station. The multiple clocks hanging over the Edwardian Era station’s entrance is a popular meeting spot. The skyscraper Eureka Tower features an 88th-floor observation platform, the highest in the southern hemisphere. Visitors can step out onto a glass-enclosed compartment for panoramic views of the bay and the green Dandenong mountain range beyond.
In the Carlton district, visitors can explore the southern hemisphere’s largest museum. The Melbourne Museum showcases the nation’s rich social history, from its indigenous cultures to its fascination with football and horse racing, and has extensive exhibits illustrating Australia’s natural history as well.
Visitors looking for outdoor activities can enjoy the city’s parklands, many of which are shaded by large, mature trees. For swimming and sunbathing, Melbourne’s bayside beaches are ideal. For a retro feel, Brighton Beach features colorful bathing huts. St. Kilda Beach is one of the most popular beaches, both for its swimming and for the clubs and restaurants that line the shore. From dawn to dusk, visitors to Melbourne will never run out of exciting things to see and do.
Temperature: 24°C high; 10°C low Season: spring season between September and November Getting to Kangaroo Island: Kangaroo Island is easily accessible from Adelaide, South Australia’s capital. By air it’s just a 25-minute flight, by scenic coach and ferry transfers, it is around 2.5 hours.
The third-largest island in the country, Kangaroo Island lies just off the coast of South Australia. One of the most popular tourist destinations in the state, its delightfully untouched landscapes are home to incredible scenery and an abundance of wildlife.
Everything from huge dunes and towering cliffs to large caves and remarkable rock formations can be found in its numerous nature reserves. These are home to echidnas, koalas, and kangaroos, while penguins, sea lions and dolphins can be spotted offshore. Its diverse landscapes lend themselves perfectly to all kinds of outdoor activities, with hiking, sandboarding and scuba diving popular.
Besides its ample natural riches, wildlife, and recreation opportunities, Kangaroo Island also boasts lots of delicious local produce and fine wines for visitors to try. These can be sampled at any one of its four main towns or at the small farms and wineries that dot the island.
Temperature: the average maximum daily summer temperatures are between 17°C and 23°C and winter daily temperatures sit between 3°C and 11°C. Season: between December and February Getting to Tasmania: As Australia’s only island state, access to Tasmania is by air and sea only. Regular flights depart from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane and fly direct to Hobart and Launceston.
The island state of Tasmania may be isolated from the rest of the country but it still remains one of the best places to visit in Australia; almost half of its area is protected as the government looks to preserve the natural riches.
With desolate wilderness and alpine plateaus interspersed with stunning white beaches, waterfalls, and forests, exploring its terrain is simply mesmerizing. Taking a boat trip along its craggy coast is equally rewarding and you can even see dolphins, penguins, and seals along the way.
With lots of great local produce, eating and drinking in the capital city of Hobart is an absolute pleasure and the restaurants and bars are divine. The island also hosts an eclectic range of great festivals throughout the year, where you can enjoy local beer and wine or arts and music events.
While many of Western Australia’s most impressive beaches lie in remote locations, you’ll find one of the state’s best beach attractions just a 30-minute drive from Perth. A favourite for both locals and visitors, Cottesloe Beach is divided into three sections. The main area of Cottesloe Beach is perfect for swimming and walking, while North Cottesloe Beach is home to Peter’s Pool – a great spot for snorkelling. South Cottesloe doesn’t have any sand for sunbathers, but it does have amazing waves for local surfers.
Near the Northern Territory town of Darwin is Mindil Beach. Although swimming isn’t recommended, the beach is still well worth a visit because of the festivities that happen along its shores during the dry season. At the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets, you’ll find food from all over the world as well as an incredible view of the town’s famous sunsets. If you need to cool off, visit Darwin’s Waterfront Precinct. Located just a five-minute walk from the city centre, you’ll find a man-made lagoon for children, a popular wave pool, a saltwater beach and several great eateries.
As the coastal capital of South Australia, Adelaide is home to several metropolitan beaches. Henley Beach, home to white sand and gentle surf, is popular among locals and visitors. Walk along the jetty out to sea, or stop by one of the many bars and restaurants along the shore to taste local wine and beer.
Thousands of people soak up Sydeny’s beaches every year, but there’s more to explore than the big name beaches of Manly and Bondi. Manly Beach’s lesser-known neighbour, Shelly Beach, is not only great for surfing but also snorkelling and scuba diving. The shallow marine reserve offers sheltered water perfect for families as well. After your swim, take the easy track up the headland for scenic views out to the ocean. Alternatively, grab a bite to eat at The Boathouse Shelly Beach, one of the area’s buzzy cafes.
Because the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is landlocked, it doesn’t have any ocean beaches. However, you don’t have to go far to find a stretch of sand by the sea. Head to the Jervis Bay region of the South Coast, located in New South Wales about 2.5 hours from Canberra, for countless beautiful beaches. One of these is Pretty Beach. With glassy water and lush greenery, its name is well-deserved. You may even spot friendly kangaroos sharing the sand.