Britains newest UNESCO for Travel

William Wordsworth once described the UK’s Lake District as “the loveliest spot man hath ever found”. And the people at UNESCO seem to agree.

The national park has just been rewarded UNESCO World Heritage status, joining the likes of Bath and Stonehenge in the UK – as well as bucket-list international sights like the Great Wall of China and the Grand Canyon.

Delegates from the Lakes first tried to obtain UNESCO status in 1986, so we at Rough Guides think the announcement is cause for celebration.

Here are five ways to celebrate the Lake District’s new UNESCO World Heritage status, from osprey-spotting at Bassenthwaite Lake to a white-knuckle afternoon at the Via Ferrata.

 

1. Spot wild ospreys at Bassenthwaite Lake

Wild ospreys recolonised Bassenthwaite in 2001 and, although there’s no guarantee, they have returned every year since to nest and breed on the lakeshore here.

At the upper viewpoint, high-powered telescopes are provided. On most days during the season (April till August or September) you’ll be able to see these majestic birds fishing and feeding, hovering over the lake, then plunging feet first to catch their prey

 

2. Test your nerves at the Via Ferrata

The Via Ferrata (“Iron Way”) uses a system pioneered in the Italian Dolomites as a way to get troops and equipment over unforgiving mountain terrain.

By means of a permanently fixed cableway and clip-on harness, you follow the miners’ old route up the exposed face of the mountain, clambering up and along iron rungs, ladders and supports to reach the top of Fleetwith Pike.

The Classic route is exhilarating enough. Die-hard thrill seekers can take things one step further with the Xtreme route, with more vertical climbs and cliff-face ladders.

 

3. Visit the Castlerigg Stone Circle

One of the Lake District’s most mysterious landmarks, Castlerigg Stone Circle sits atop a sweeping plateau, dwarfed by the encroaching fells. Some 38 hunks of Borrowdale volcanic stone, the largest almost 8ft tall, form a circle 100ft in diameter. The stone circle probably had an astronomical or timekeeping function when it was erected four or five thousand years ago, but no one really knows. Whatever its origins, it’s a magical spot.

The ways to see the city’s alternative side

Hamburg is perpetually on the brink of falling out with itself. On the one hand, it’s a city of convention and millionaires – Hamburg has the highest concentration in Germany – with all the associated trappings.

But Hamburg’s alternative side is in rude health and full voice too. Ranging from seediness and vice all the way to seething anti-establishment protest, here’s how to experience the full gamut of Hamburg’s edginess for yourself.

 

1. Take the rough with the sleaze

Your flight here was probably half-full with stag-do-goers, their sights set on the bawdy bars and brothels of the 1km-long Reeperbahn. Hamburg’s Kiez – as the red-light district is known here – has made a long career of chewing men up and spitting them out. Even the Beatles (who spent their professionally formative years in Hamburg) had their eyes opened by “Sin Mile”.

But it’s also a tourist destination for those with no interest in titillation. Come for the people-watching alone: you could fill a novel with the gritty stories and characters associated with venues such as Zum Silbersack bar and Mojo Club.

You can also ignore the sex entirely – many locals do. The St. Pauli Theater overlooks the Reeperbahn, studiously ignoring the goings-on before it, while the Kiez also boasts Cuneo, one of the city’s finest Italian restaurants.

 

2. Embrace the skull and crossbones in St. Pauli

The Reeperbahn may be located in the St. Pauli neighbourhood, but this area doubles as the beating heart of Hamburg’s anti-establishment identity. The local football team, with its skull and crossbones regalia, is the most visible symbol of this attitude, and FC St. Pauli’s culture of punk, tolerance and anti-establishment resistance is tremendously refreshing. Catch a game if you can.

Step off the Reeperbahn and the mood changes utterly. St. Pauli is a peaceful, leafy, village-like place down streets such as Wohlwillstrasse and Grüner Jäger. On the former you’ll find St. Pauli’s tourist office, which looks like a minimal, artfully dishevelled café-cum-art space. Its gift items include indie bands playing cards, vegan and Fairtrade products, and badges depicting a Swastika-crushing fist.

First-timer’s guide when you visit in Victoria Falls

One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, the Victoria Falls are wider than Niagaraand higher than Iguazú – and have more activities on offer than both of them combined. Rough Guides Managing Editor Keith Drew has the lowdown on everything you need to know about Africa’s adventure capital.

 

So which side should I visit: Zimbabwe or Zambia?

Both. The lion’s share of the Falls are in Zimbabwe, and it’s here that you’ll get the best overall impression of their epic scale – all 1700m of thundering whitewater cascades. The numerous lookouts that run along the gorge inside Victoria Falls National Park include show-stopping views of the Devil’s Cataract; precarious Danger Point; and the spectacular Main Falls, the largest single sheet of water in the world.

On the Zambian side, the lookout points in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park give you another angle entirely. Watch the water plummet over the edge from just a few feet behind the Eastern Cataract, or cross the sliver of a bridge to Knife Point Island for that in-the-thick-of-it feeling.

You can also climb down to the river’s edge to the so-called Boiling Pot, named for the way the water rebounds off the rock face to create a treacherous swirl of criss-crossing currents.

 

Will I get wet then?

When the water levels are high, from around March to June, you’ll get absolutely soaked, particularly at Viewpoints 9 to 15 on the Zimbabwean side and around Knife Point Island in Zambia. The spray from the Falls can be so heavy that the island (and its bridge) are showered in a constant “downpour”.

Wear quick-drying clothes and flip-flops and hire one of the ponchos that are available to rent on both sides – they’ll also protect your camera.

 

 

KENYA on Advanture Tips

The African elephant is under constant threat from poachers, and numbers have fallen by one third in seven years. Joe Minihane journeyed to the Samburu reserve in Kenya to meet its elephants and the people trying to save them.

His trunk sways like a pendulum as he turns and spots our 4×4. Slowly, silently, he begins padding towards us.

“Don’t move a muscle,” whispers Saba from the driving seat. “Just let him come to us.” I watch as this young male elephant begins circling our vehicle, turning my head slowly as he passes and lets out a grunt, eyeing us with interest. His scent is pungent, his hide wet.

“He’s secreting from his temporal glands,” says Saba, as our interlocutor walks off towards the nearby dry riverbed. “It means he’s in musth.” Musth, she explains, is a short period when bull elephants become acutely hormonal. High testosterone levels mean they can be dangerous.

I’m in Samburu, northern Kenya, exploring the frontline in the battle to save these majestic creatures from the menace of ivory poaching.

Saba Douglas Hamilton is my guide. With her father, Iain, and her husband, Frank Pope, she runs the world-renowned Save The Elephants (STE) charity from here in the heart of the east Africa bush, doing vital, pressing conservation work.

It’s estimated that 22,000 elephants are killed annually for their tusks
There’s no denying that the African elephant is in crisis. Between 2007 and 2014, numbers fell by 30 percent across the continent, according to the Great African Elephant Census. In September 2016, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said elephants were experiencing their worst decline in 25 years. And there’s one key reason: poaching.

ALTERNATIVE TOUR DE FRANCE

With the Tour de France in full swing and 2017 marking the 200th anniversary of the mighty bicycle, Rough Guides’ Greg Dickinson embarked on his own two-wheeled adventure through the country – and he discovered some things about the power of pedalling along the way.

I click down through the gears and stand up. To my left a half-man, half-bicycle overtakes me with his right arm raised and fingers splayed. The soft whistling noise his bike makes sounds expensive.

Then, a glitch in the matrix and an identical cyclist follows, wearing the same red and white lycra outfit. Arm raised, fingers splayed. Within seconds a peloton of a dozen cyclists has left me in its slipstream, each “bonjour” loading another brick into my already overloaded panniers.

I try to go down one more gear but can’t. I’m at rock bottom, on a stretch that my France en Velo guidebook promised would be the easiest of the entire Channel to the Mediterranean cycle. In eight days and five hundred miles’ time, my calves and knees will have broken and repaired, and the Massif Central will feel much easier than this.

But right now I can’t see over this hill. I dig my hand into my saddle bag for an astronaut-style energy gel sachet and rip it open with my front teeth.

Once I’ve sucked out the gloop, I chew the plastic for any sugary remnants. This, I think, is not fun. At least, not “type one” fun.

Are you plan go to in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is blessed with all the essential ingredients for the family trip of a lifetime. Comparatively compact, with a colourful cultural identity, incredible wildlife and food you will never forget, this is the subcontinent at its most manageable. Rough Guides Managing Editor Keith Drew has the lowdown on why this tropical island paradise should be next on your family’s holiday hit list.

 

1. There are ancient kingdoms “ruled” by monkeys

Most children will be able to tackle the climb up Sigiriya, a royal citadel remarkably perched atop a weathered hunk of rock at the centre of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle – though a head for heights is needed for the metal staircase that marks the final push to the summit.

After this, you should be able to fit in another sight before temple fatigue kicks in, so pick the former capital of Polonnaruwa. Fifty-five kilometres to the east, it’s colonised by macaques and enlivened with tales of King Parakramabahu I (and his 300 wives).

Where to stay: The ground-breaking Jetwing Vil Uyana is set in former arable land now returned to paddy-fields, marsh and forests. Large thatched “dwellings” share an infinity pool, but the best thing for kids is the variety of wildlife, including the rare (and ridiculously cute) slender loris.

 

2. You can learn to surf on a laidback beach

The best waves in Sri Lanka crash onto the long expanse of beach that curves around Arugam Bay, a low-key settlement in the southeast of the country. The vibe here is very different to the more popular west coast, and it’s a good place to drop out from a sightseeing itinerary for a few days.

Several surf schools run lessons for children around Arugam Bay and Pottuvil Point further north; Baby Point is an aptly named break to start things off on.

Where to stay: There are lots of rustic choices on the main road through Arugam Bay, but for something a bit more relaxing, head to Kottukal Beach House by Jetwing at Pottuvil Point. It’s a breezy villa with two family rooms in the main house and instant access to an empty stretch of beach.

The greatest view on Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone has everything adventurous travellers could want – exquisite, empty beaches fringed by palms, rainforest jungles with monkeys swinging through the trees, a fascinating heritage and warm, welcoming people. But its troubled history of civil war and Ebola means that few visitors actually make it here.

Now fully reconciled and recovered, this beautiful West African country is moving on and it’s time to return – before everyone else does…

 

1. It’s safe and Ebola-free – and it needs tourists back

Sierra Leone has had a rough ride in recent years. First, there was a bitter civil war from 1991 to 2002, leaving more than 50,000 people dead and 2 million displaced. Graphically portrayed in Leonardo DiCaprio’s film Blood Diamonds, the conflict was fuelled by the diamond industry and characterised by extreme violence, kidnappings, child soldiers and horrific human rights abuses.

At the end of the war, Sierra Leone was one of the poorest countries in the world. Peace brought political stability and democracy, a vastly improved economy and a remarkable reconciliation of its people that still stands strong today. By 2014, the country was back on its feet, tourists were returning and the future looked bright.

Then came Ebola. The deadly virus took the lives of nearly 4000 people and the entire country ground to a halt in a state of emergency and fear. In March 2016, the nation celebrated as Sierra Leone was finally declared Ebola-free. Intrepid travellers are slowly returning, drawn by the beaches, islands and jungles of this beautiful country – but it’s the people themselves, their warmth, spirit and sense of fun, that leave such lasting memories.

 

2. Some of the world’s rarest wildlife lives here

Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary, in the Moa River, is just 12 square kilometres. But it’s home to around 80 rare and elusive pygmy hippos and an astounding 11 species of primates – one of the highest primate concentrations in the world.

Sierra Leone’s first ecotourism enterprise, the sanctuary’s profits benefit the eight communities that live near the island. Walking trails take you deep into the forests where chimpanzees, red colobus and Diana monkeys cavort in the canopy.

HOW TO ALIVE AND KICKING IN PARIS

Forget about the sleazy tourist traps in Pigalle, there’s only one place to see burlesque in Paris: the Crazy Horse, opened in 1951. Eleanor Aldridge spent the night at the city’s decidedly contemporary cabaret to see for herself.

The room is dark, illuminated only by glowing champagne buckets at the centre of each red velvet booth. Then, to the strains of a sultry Britney Spears cover, the curtains open.

Launching the second half of the show at the Crazy Horse tonight is Undress to Kill, a striptease like no other, designed by Dita Von Teese. The dancer is completely nude, dressed instead in Le Crazy’s signature projections – a backless red dress slowly morphs into an intricate veil of lace as the performer leans in and out of the light.

Every performer has six pairs of made-to-order heels and costumes are handmade, taking up to a week apiece
This is Totally Crazy, the cabaret’s new show for 2017. Modern burlesque meets high fashion; it’s a riot of spectacular lighting, barely-there costumes, beat-perfect choreography and angular fluoro wigs. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun.

Today, the Crazy Horse is the most famous cabaret in the city. The artistic vision of Andrée Deissenberg, previously of Cirque du Soleil, it’s become a Parisian institution, renowned for its celebration of femininity and beauty. Under the guidance of Creative Director Ali Mahdavi, they aim to glorify “the powerful, dominant, insubordinate female” – essentially women who like to run the show.

Since Andrée took the reins ten years ago, Le Crazy has gone from strength to strength, with Dita Von Teese by no means the most famous collaborator. The last few years have seen famous faces such as Conchita Wurst take to the stage, and the star-studded audience range from Rihanna and John Legend to Cara Delevingne and Jean Paul Gaultier.

THE WORLDs MOST EXTREME LANDSCAPE

The Namib desert is one of the world’s most extreme environments. Covering 81,000 square kilometres, its vastness can only truly be appreciated from above. Here, Lottie Gross flies along the Atlantic coast and over the dunes for a new perspective on this incredible environment.

Our plane was getting lower and lower – so much so that I could see the stripes on the backs of the zebra trotting along the rust-red dunes below us. I shifted nervously in my seat, exchanging glances with my fellow passengers, wondering when we’d ascend again. We weren’t scheduled to land here. There was no airstrip. It was the middle of the Namib desert – one of the most extreme landscapes on Earth.

Images of a stranded, sand-enveloped plane crash – reminiscent of scenes from Flight of the Phoenix, which, incidentally, was shot right here – flickered through my mind.

Just as I was thinking I should tell the pilot, who perhaps hadn’t realised we were getting so low that I could make eye contact with an oryx grazing beneath us, the ground dropped from beneath our aircraft and we sailed happily through the sky and into the Kuiseb Canyon. I breathed a sigh of relief, along with the rest of my flying companions, and the pilot turned to give a wry smile. That was cruel.

The world’s oldest desert is also one of its most extreme. The Namib is a place of towering, deep-orange sand dunes, contrasted by bright-white mineral pans and red, rocky outcrops.

Driving through its barren landscape is an otherworldly experience. The previous day, our vehicle had been the only one for miles around as we drove at sunrise to watch the light reveal a Martian terrain. The black sky turned to pink and then finally to blue; like a curtain being lifted, darkness gave way to views across the stunning Namib-Naukluft National Park.

The rocks dissolved into dramatic mounds of fine, lurid sand – bright orange on one side and black in shadow on the other.

Are you surviving solo travel

Travelling alone can seem daunting from the comfort of home. What happens if you get stranded somewhere? Can you go out at night solo? Won’t it feel weird to eat in a restaurant alone?

All these worries and more (Will I get attacked by bandits? Or my car stuck in a ditch?) plague most travellers before their first solo trip, but quickly evaporate, outweighed by the innumerable benefits. Here, our authors and editors offer their top tips on how to travel alone successfully.

 

1. Know your strengths

Are you a sociable person who wants to be in the middle of everything? You might go crazy if you can’t communicate, so head somewhere you speak the language.

If you’re more of an introvert, forget the language barrier. Vibrant cities are perfect for people watching, especially if they have a fantastic café culture.

 

2. Sleep around

Try a homestay or look for room rentals in an apartment – this gives you an automatic connection with residents when you’re travelling alone. As a solo traveller, you’ll have tons of options to choose from. Even if your landlord doesn’t take you out on the town, you’ll at least scoop up a few local tips.

Hostels are of course ready-made for solo travellers too, but you might wind up spending more time with other tourists than with locals.

 

3. Don’t be afraid of your own company

Being alone for large quantities of time can be daunting – but just roll with it. You might learn to love your own company along the way.

And if you’re feeling particularly social, you can always try to make new friends. Show off your free-agent status by offering to take a family’s photo at a big sight, for instance, or by sitting near a chatty gang at a bar.