Lonely Planet blog provides travel advice, information and inspiration from Lonely Planet’s online community. Lonely Planet has gone on to become the world’s most successful travel publisher, printing over 120 million books in eleven different languages, along with guidebooks and eBooks to almost every destination on the planet.
Do you know which country uses baht as a currency? Or where in the UK you’d find the giant cranes ‘Samson and Goliath’? Test your knowledge of travel trivia with the December edition of our monthly travel quiz, based around stories featuring in this month’s Lonely Planet magazine. Can you score full marks?
From hiking along China’s most iconic landmark to exploring Milan’s streets in the early morning sun, our Instagramming Pathfinders found fantastic frames and stunning shots in all corners of the globe last month. Here are the captures that impressed us the most from November.
‘We experienced the ‘vanlife’ lifestyle for 10 days in Iceland, discovering this breathtaking country with our little girl, and creating lifelong memories of incredible experiences in the wild. It was an unforgettable family road trip!’ – Dominique, @easyplanettravel
Why we like it: This image is the perfect encapsulation of the word ‘cosy’. The perspective shot from inside a warm, blanketed camper-van, overlooking the snow-strewn wilds of northern Iceland evokes a warming, wintry atmosphere, which is further enhanced by the sharp foreground focus. And we’re huge fans of the matching socks too.
‘The Día de Muertos parade has become a major event in Mexico City. Thousands gathered at Paseo de la Reforma to watch a spectacle made by a team of more than 1000 volunteers, make-up artists, producers and creators. The theme of this year was migration, and was dedicated to those who lost their lives travelling to America, as well as migrating animals such as monarch butterflies, whales and sea turtles.’ – Axel, @axel.ach
Why we like it: With his skilful composition and framing, Axel has managed to capture a beautiful action shot of the world-famous Día de Muertos celebrations. The sprinkling of butterflies in flight adds a sense of movement to the image, and his focus on the face of the performer brings the human emotion of the occasion right to the fore. This shot is a thing of beauty, and tells a story too.
‘Even at sunrise, Hallstatt is full of tourists, which is understandable, given its fairy-tale vibes. I snapped a few shots at the popular spot, and then escaped the crowds for a different vantage point. While hoofing it up some stairs, I found the church steeple splicing the sun. I celebrated with a fist-pump – sunrise score!’ – Lauren, @girlwanderlist
Why we like it: As Lauren rightly points out, Hallstatt is a much-photographed, popular tourist spot, rendering it difficult to capture from an original angle. Her shot however, framed by the distant mountains and multi-hued houses in the foreground, is a refreshingly different perspective of this picturesque destination, perfectly capturing the sun’s first rays as they break over the church spire.
‘Walking The Great Wall of China must be a dream for everybody. Going to Jinshanling made this dream come true. On a part of the wall which has not been restored, you can walk hours without seeing anyone. Just you, nature, and the immensity of the great wall, stuck in the past.’ – Xavier, @xaviermarchal
Why we like it: The Great Wall of China is indeed at the top of many an adventurous traveller’s list, but experiencing its sheer scale and majesty for real however, is another matter. Xavier’s shot puts us right in the midst of the climb, with the wall snaking endlessly into the distance, seemingly completely deserted. This is the kind of travel shot that makes you want to immediately pack up a backpack and jump on a plane.
‘Who said you can't visit Milan without the crowds? It was well worth getting up early to see the famous Milan Cathedral in all its glory. Sun rays, sleepy pigeons and one early bird make this image my favourite candid smartphone shot ever!’ – Jurga, @fullsuitcase
Why we like it: What a capture! Jurga’s early rising yielded a truly fantastic result, framing Milan’s magnificent cathedral being bathed in the sun’s morning rays. The one energetic pigeon of the flock forms the perfect central focus for the shot, and adds a sense of drama and movement to the otherwise tranquil scene. This is a skilful frame of one of Milan’s endlessly beautiful panoramas.
The year may be crawling to a close, but, as this month’s selection of blog posts from our Pathfinders community show, there’s always time to squeeze in one more adventure.
This month our picks include stories of life working aboard cruise ships, Prague’s wild side and one man’s quest to find a traditional ‘cabman’s lunch’ in the English capital. Selecting our favourite posts is no easy feat, but here are our top five blog posts submitted by our Pathfinders during November.
Most travel lovers have at one time or another considered the prospect of working in an industry that permits them to see the world while earning money. Here Sharon shares the truths of what life working aboard a cruise ship is really like, from the crew mate camaraderie to the crazy hours. As much as it's about sharing her experiences with others, the post also seems to be a way for Sharon to iron out her own conflicted thoughts on the subject, a rhetorical device that makes the article even more engaging.
Sharon is a writer and cruise ship entertainment host who likes to take photographs of a plastic lawn flamingo in exotic locations. Read more of her work at thesharonicles.com.
It takes a lot to make a typical listicle stand out from the crowd, but here Nicky is aided by her choice of subject, destination and fizzing writing style. A round up of the most unusual things to do in the city of Prague, the post is great fun from start to finish, opening with a metaphor that personifies the city as an attractive man in a nightclub licking his own elbow and ends with a recommendation on where to see beer being milked from a cat’s teat (don’t worry, it’s just a mural!).
Nicky is a wannabe thrill-seeker who, after years spent suffering from anxiety, is out to explore the world. Follow her adventures at thatanxioustraveller.com.
Tackling a very complicated subject in a factual and sensitive manner, Mark’s post delves into the topic of trophy hunting in Namibia, or more specifically, the government-backed scheme that sees a handful of permits being distributed – for a significant fee – to people wishing to hunt rhinos. It’s an emotive subject that is likely to illicit a response of some form from readers, but, beyond this, the article is impressively informative, showcasing a side to the practice that goes way beyond the unsettling images of hunters posing alongside their ‘kill’ that are often circulated on social media.
Mark and Paul are two London-based bloggers who travel the globe in an attempt to understand the world more clearly. Find out more at anywhereweroam.com.
There’s something so enjoyable about reading a blog post that educates you on an aspect of your own hometown; and that’s what happened with this London-focused post that sees author Jonathan heading out in search of a ‘cabman’s lunch’ from one of the tiny kitchens that have been serving the Big Smoke’s cab drivers since the 1800s. The post benefits from an intriguing subject matter, simple narrative structure and the fact this unusual activity can be easily recreated by travellers visiting the city.
Travel is all about making discoveries – from stumbling across amazing beaches to the realisation that you love the taste of tarantula – and Elena’s post encapsulates this wondrous aspect of travel. The post details how Elena’s interest in street art led her to the Moroccan town of Azemmour, where she uncovers the remarkable story of former resident Estevanico, a pioneering explorer and the first native African to reach the present-day United States. Estevanico’s life story is interwoven with Elena’s musings on modern Azemmour, and infused with striking images of street art from around the city.
In the wake of a series of unexpected events, Elena and Andrei packed up their things and began living on the road. Keep up with their adventures at travelingbytes.com.
This month the spotlight shines brightly on the Spring Break Family, who love to explore the world together and inspire other working families to do the very same… even if it’s just an adventure in your own backyard.
Tell us about your blog…
The Spring Break Family is a travel blog dedicated to all things family travel. Have you heard of the term ‘just 18 summers’? It refers to the limited amount of time you get with your kids before they grow and venture into other things. We embody that philosophy, utilising every spring break (instead of summer) to take our kids – affectionately referred to as ‘the girls’ – on a week-long trip where we learn, grow and experience new things together.
We are committed to empowering average working families like ours to make time to travel with their kids. We do this by practising transparent travelling: we share everything from our mishaps to the things we loved and the things we didn't like so much, and even the actual numbers from our budget. We promise to always keep it real. For most families, information is power so we give as much of it as we can.
Describe your travel style in three words.
Too much luggage. Just kidding! Flexible. Kid-centric. Fun!
Our spring break 2019 trip is to Spain. We’re going to start in Barcelona, end in Madrid, and hit up a few cities in between. The rest of our travel calendar is open for now but we hope to visit New York City (special request from the girls), Atlanta and Seattle.
Why do you think it's important to travel with your kids?
This time while they’re young is our opportunity as parents to give our kids a global mindset. Travel allows us to not only tell, but to show them that there is a world outside of their living room. Exposing them to new cultures, languages and food enhances their education and helps expand their perceptions beyond their immediate environment.
Time spent on vacation is uninterrupted family time. No chores, no job duties, no school work – just family, food and exploration! And while they’re learning about the world, I'm learning so much about my girls – I truly believe travelling with my kids helps make me a better parent.
Budget, budget, then budget some more. If you need a budgeting template or budgeting example, we share money-saving tips on our website. Do your research but stay flexible. Leave time to explore randomly, to stop at that cool ice-cream place you passed, or to just take a nap.
Don’t make the trip just about the kids. It’s a family vacation, but this trip is for you too. That said, please don’t take your kids to raunchy cabaret and say I told you to do it! However, that history museum you thought might be too boring for the kiddos might end up being their favourite stop.
Grant yourself some grace. Travel mishaps are inevitable – relax, enjoy the quality family time and have fun. There is a lot of information out there and plenty of families going on some pretty epic adventures. But if that’s not what works best for your family at this point in time, that’s OK. If all you can commit to is finding adventure in your backyard, that’s enough!
Well, for one, it gives me a platform to share all my corny jokes (and trust me, I have a lot of them). But I also love being able to share information with other families and see them take a chance on a trip. I talk to parents all the time who say they want to travel with their kids but don’t know where to start, or they finally got the funds together but are stuck at ‘now what?’. Being able to help encourage and equip them is such a joy. Hands down it is my favourite part of travel blogging.
If you’re a member of our Pathfinders community and would like to share your story, drop us an email at email@example.com and tell us what exciting things you’re up to on your blog.
Netflix. Coffee. Alcohol. Carbs. Sex. Before you leap to any conclusions, this is not a summary of my weekend. It’s what a group of millennials said they’d give up for the chance to travel the world for free.
Lonely Planet’s co-founder, Tony Wheeler, once opined that the hardest part of travelling was making that initial, at-the-cliff-edge decision to go. But for the respondents in this survey, the hardest part seemed to be stumping up funds.
Embracing modern-day monasticism is one way of solving the problem, I suppose, but a review of this year’s travel news stories suggests an alternative approach that doesn’t involve quite so much self-denial: working abroad.
Better than harvesting kumquats
I hear you groan. But before you move on, I’m not talking about teaching English or being an au pair or mixing Mai Tais or harvesting kumquats, good though those gigs can be; I’m talking about dream jobs, which crop up with surprising regularity.
According to my sums, these fantasy roles appeared at a rate of more than one a month in 2018; with any luck, next year will throw up just as many gilt-edged opportunities for the footloose and fancy-free.
Sceptical? I would be. But consider the following vacancies, all of them from the last 12 months:
* A travel agency sought four daydreamers to watch the world go by from the comfort of their beach chairs for a fortnight of extreme, yet well-paid, idleness in Stockholm, Sweden. Applicants needed to demonstrate a matchless ability to do sweet FA.
* A price comparison site recruited an adventurous retiree to jet off on a senior gap year, an all-expenses-paid trip around the world designed to fill in the blanks on their bucket list.
* If drink trumped food in your hierarchy of needs, there was a chance to become an ambassador for Bombay Sapphire instead. The mission? Go on a globe-trotting, gin-guzzling bender, following (unsteadily) in the footsteps of fictional explorer Phileas Fogg.
* Looking for something more sober? The Bahama’s Baha Mar resort wanted a qualified bird nerd to look after its flamboyance of flamingoes, while billionaire Richard Branson’s Necker Island was searching for a new paper shuffler.
Hope springs eternal
* The Caribbean wasn’t the only option for a would-be castaway, though: a posh resort in the Maldives wanted a ‘barefoot bookseller’ to stalk the sand, while ailurophiles must have been purring with pleasure at the thought of caring for 55 cats on the Greek island of Syros.
* If decamping to a desert island didn’t satisfy your stringent definition of getting away from it all, there was still one outstanding off-the-beaten-track opportunity for those with enough flying hours: a job as a pilot for the secret airline that flies in and out of Area 51 (you know, where the US government keep the aliens).
What can we conclude from all this? That hope springs eternal when it comes to travel opportunities, I think. So, friend, if your lengthy list of new year’s resolutions features the seemingly incompatible injunctions to ‘travel more’ but ‘spend less’, don’t despair.
Giving up all the good things in life – okay, Netflix, coffee, alcohol, carbs and sex don’t constitute a complete list, but they're close enough – isn’t the only option open to you; keeping an eye out for your dream job in 2019 might be a better tactic.
If you believe the legends, Poland’s second city was founded on the defeat of a dragon, and a mythical atmosphere does indeed permeate its attractive streets and squares. Use this guide to get to grips with its culture.
Honolulu, the boisterous capital of Hawaii, delivers an explosion of diverse experiences. Though a flight to these tropical islands doesn’t come cheap, once you get to the city, you’ll find it works just fine on a budget.
Enthralling Jaipur, capital of Rajasthan, is the gateway to India’s most flamboyant state. The city’s colourful, chaotic streets always create a heady spectacle. Follow our suggestions to see Jaipur’s top attractions.
Full of crisp, frosty fell walks, hearty dinner spots and cosy pubs with crackling fires, the Lake District is the place for a bracing, British winter retreat. Use this list to plan out a perfect seasonal holiday.
The Small Cyclades are some of the smallest islands in Greece. It’s no surprise that they’re one of Lonely Planet’s best places to visit in Europe. The four inhabited islands of the group (Koufonisia, Iraklia, Schinousa and Donousa) have all the beauty of more famous Greek Islands, but none of the crowds. Hidden between the islands of Naxos and Amorgos, they feel like an insider secret.
I spent a week here over the summer with my family. Koufonisia made the perfect base for exploring more of the Small Cyclades – here are some of the highlights!
Most of the people who live on Koufonisia are fishermen. The islanders here own the largest fishing fleet in Greece in proportion to their population. This is the island’s only dockyard where boats are built and mended in the same way as they have been for decades.
This was one of our favourite spots on Koufonisia. It’s called the ‘piscina’, which is the Greek word for swimming pool. It’s great for swimming and even more fun to jump into. If you’re feeling brave, you can dive down to the tunnel under the water and swim through into the open sea. This is just one of the many beautiful stops along the coastal path from Koufonisia’s only village. The path takes you past all the island’s best beaches – each more beautiful than the last!
Walk around the coast to the island’s prettiest harbour
Koufonisia is such a small island (it only covers two miles), that there’s virtually no traffic. There’s only one taxi for the entire island and most people walk or cycle. But you will find a lot of boats. We found this gorgeous harbour by taking the less trodden path around the west coast of the island.
If you prefer your beaches with nobody else on them, you’ll find a more Robinson Crusoe type experience on Kato Koufonisia, a 20-minute boat ride across the sea from Ano Koufonisia, the main island. Kato Koufonisia is uninhabited, but boats will take you to one of several beaches. This is the ferry deck for our stop on Nero beach.
Go back in time on the charming island of Schinousa
You can easily visit some of the other islands in the Small Cyclades from Koufonisia. A small ferry, the Express Skopelitis, connects all four islands. We spent the day on Schinousa and felt as if we’d stumbled on the Greece of the 1950s. It’s virtually untouched by tourism, yet there’s a delightful harbour, a small village with whitewashed houses and a few tavernas, and 18 beaches to choose from!
Do you love to write about your travels? Or perhaps Instagram is your thing? Find out more about how you can contribute to Lonely Planet.
Toxic. That’s the Word of the Year 2018 according to the lexicographers at Oxford Dictionaries, who revealed their annual list this month. The title goes to a word or expression that, in their considered opinion, is a sign of the times. Previous winners include post-truth, selfie and, my favourite, the ever-useful omnishambles.
Call me a gloom-monger if you wish, but toxic – from the Latin for poisoned or imbued with poison – feels like a fitting adjective to describe some, if not all, of the last 12 months in travel. Oxford points to a spike in the number of searches for it, plus the scope of its use. But you don’t need to dive into the data to hear the resonance of a word that can also mean bad, unpleasant or harmful.
Chemical is the noun most often caught in its company, but other combinations on the rise include toxic environment, toxic relationship and toxic culture. With my travel editor’s crumpled sweat- and sunscreen-stained hat on, I can’t help but join the dots between this grisly trio and some of the other expressions on the WOTY shortlist.
I’ll be honest with you: it’s a prickly subject for professional stokers of wanderlust like me and my colleagues; however much as Lonely Planet extols responsible travel – and we do, clearly and consistently – some see evidence of cakeism in our stance (another word from the shortlist, which riffs on the proverb about having one’s cake and eating it).
According to UNWTO, the number of international tourists has risen from about 25 million in 1950 to about 1.3 billion last year. Rising prosperity drives this growth. But there’s no doubt that we and other travel publishers play a part by kindling people’s desire to expand their horizons.
What has changed since the turn of the century, when that number was about 600 million, is the rise of technology that acts as both an accelerant of the desire, and offers us many more ways to satisfy it. (Incidentally, techlash – a word for the growing disillusionment with big tech – also features on the shortlist).
But nannyishly declaring a destination off limits, or staying silent about what draws people to it, won’t help; if anything, there’s an even stronger case for explaining what is popular, as that’s what travellers often want to know first, provided we cover it warts and all.
Take Santorini, for example: having adorned the covers of countless books, brochures and magazines (including our own), it’s the island that lures a thousand ships – okay, not quite a thousand, but hundreds each year, making it Greece’s most popular cruise destination. Why? Well, just take a look: black cliffs; white houses; fiery sunsets. Ravishing. But it’s also in danger of becoming a paradise lost. After her recent visit to update our content about Greece, our writer felt it was time to go further than simply stating Santorini was crowded for much of the year; now, alongside an explanation of its popularity, she says it is in effect dying of love.
With the world’s population projected to pass 10 billion halfway through this century, it won’t be alone. From Venice to Kyoto, the challenge is enormous – a Gordian knot whose untangling requires a coordinated, multi-pronged effort from governments, businesses, communities and, of course, travellers themselves.
As well as reflecting these growing problems (and, yes, there is much more for us to do on that front), we can, and do, flag up lesser-known but no less great destinations – this is one facet of our annual Best in Europe campaign, for example. We can point to underrated neighbourhoods and alternative experiences. And we can bang the drum for shoulder and off-season travel if your circumstances permit it.
Lonely Planet covers more than 200 countries and territories, recommending more than 270,000 experiences; to paraphrase Max Ehrmann’s Desiderata, despite all the challenges, it’s still a beautiful world. Our job is to tell people about it, inconvenient truths included, so that they can make informed decisions about where, when and how to travel. Done right, we still believe it’s a powerful force for good.