Winning tip: Old camel trail, Cyprus
Deep in the cool Paphos forest, we found the 17km Venetian Bridges nature trail. Built in the 16th and 17th centuries, the three bridges were part of the old camel trail along which copper was transported to the ports. The whole route takes six to eight hours to walk, but we did one section, from the deserted village of Vretsia to Roudia bridge. Under towering sweet-smelling pine trees we accidently disturbed mouflon, the shy wild sheep of Cyprus. Watching as they nimbly danced up the hillside we knew we had been lucky to see these rare protected animals.
Gloucestershire youth hostel
• Dorm bed from £18 a night, yha.org.uk
Jungle camp in Borneo
Deep in the jungle of Sabah on the rim of Kinabalu national park in Malaysian Borneo, a small team of volunteers maintain an eco-friendly camp of basic open wooden huts and tents by a river. As its name, Lupa Masa (forget time), suggests, life at the camp does not adhere to the hectic schedules of the outside world. Waking at dawn to a hearty breakfast you can make your way to the river for a fresh natural shower then hike around trails, keeping an eye out for exotic flora and fauna (snakes, insects and flowers dominate, though tales of running into elusive cloud leopards add to the mystique of the camp). All meals are included, so lunch could be a quick plate of noodles or a big family gathering on the open deck admiring the sounds of the jungle. Nearby attractions include some waterfalls (including the tallest in Malaysia, which is a gruelling leech-filled two-hour trek away) a treetop trail and a hot spring. Evenings usually involve a campfire, beautiful vegetarian food and fascinating night hikes. Accommodation ranges from tents in a covered long house, small bamboo huts, a raised platform named “the honeymoon suite” and the relative luxury of riverside chalets.
• From £33pp a night, full-board, lupamasa.wixsite.com
Designer heaven, Atlanta
We discovered the Museum of Design in Midtown. Entry is cheap, staff are friendly and knowledgeable and the exhibitions fascinating. It’s a small museum but there is so much to see you can easily while away a long afternoon here, and it opens late on Thursdays (8pm). My highlight was a dress bejewelled with computerised LEDs. You can get a demo on the 3D printers in the foyer (and a great souvenir!) if you ask nicely. The museum shops sells quirky cards, 3D-printed jewellery and books.
• Admission $10 adult, museumofdesign.org
Guitars in Montpellier
Montpellier’s high proportion of university students give it a lively cafe society atmosphere, and colourful modern trams can get you to the beach in 20 minutes. We went in September and found an annual three-week-long international guitar festival under way. All the open-air squares were full of strumming musicians performing flamenco, folk, rock and country. The big “24 hours of Madness” is a fantastic fun-filled climax.
Mix it in Melbourne
Hidden in an alleyway off an alleyway in Melbourne’s CBD, the wonderful staff at Bar Americano mixed me the best drink I’ve ever had in my life, and then swiftly followed it with an even better one. The place is absolutely tiny, literally standing room only, and its licence allows only 10-12 people inside at any one time. Not only were the drinks fantastic, but we found the two staff charming.
Where Trotsky died, Mexico
Slightly shabby and overgrown, the house and gardens (in the Coyoacán district of Mexico City) do not seem to have many visitors. The sense of history is so strong, you can almost see “the old man” feeding his rabbits in the dilapidated hutches. The windows are half bricked in, to stave off the inevitable attack; the rooms small and gloomy. Bullet holes from the machine gun attack by assassins disguised as police – two months before the final attack that killed Trotsky in 1940 – still mark the walls of his bedroom. Stalin had a fifth columnist in Ramón Mercader, who had ingratiated himself with one of Trotsky’s secretaries for years, becoming her boyfriend. Finally he was invited into Trotsky’s study for tea. There he stuck the icepick into the back of his head and shoulder. Trotsky survived for a day; Mercader was imprisoned until 1960, dying in Havana in 1978.
Best stout in St Petersburg
We stumbled across Jawsspot – actually stumbled – as I walked into one of its barmen on his way out for a smoke. I was on the way back from a disappointing travel guide-recommended bar up the street. This place has more than 20 beers on tap that span the globe, on top of the Jaws brewery’s Russian-made beers – plus a bottle shop – in a shorn-back interior with more wood than Wickes. It’s well off the main tourist drag of Nevsky Prospect, and it may take a couple of visits for the regulars to stop eyeing you with suspicion, but you won’t get a better stout in the city.
Monastery art, southern Serbia
We started the year celebrating Orthodox Christmas with friends in Belgrade but then took the bus to the spa town of Vrnjačka Banja (three hours’ drive south), which is the perfect base for visiting the monasteries of Žiča, Studenica and Sopoćani by taxi or shared minibus. The latter two are Unesco world heritage sites but all hold incredible medieval frescoes. It was truly magical to be the only visitors to these monasteries surrounded by a landscape of snow and mountains.
Idyllic village, Nepal
The small village of Kakani is off the beaten track a couple of hours outside of Kathmandu and has great vistas of mountain ranges such as Ganesh Himal and the Annapurnas. It’s adjacent to Shivapuri national park, with its amazing plants and animals, and is great for hiking, wildlife watching, and photography. It’s away from the noise, the pollution, and the crowds of the city and lets you see what local rural life is like in Nepal. There’s a scout hut nearby that offers accommodation, several guesthouses and the Mountain View Hotel.
David G Paul
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