Monthly Archives: February 2017

The best road trips in Europe

If you’ve got wheels, wanderlust and a spot of time, start your engines. From the sunny shores of Portugal to the darkest dungeons of Dracula’s castle in Transylvania, the following itineraries can be easily combined, shortened or altered to suit your wayfaring tastes. Here are 10 of the best road trips in Europe.

 

1. From the glamour and glitz of Paris to the glorious grit of Berlin

Leaving Paris, cruise through the gentle hills of Champagne and Reims to the quaint capital of Luxembourg City, and explore the country’s plethora of fairy-tale castles.

Trier, Germany’s oldest city, is less than an hour’s drive further north-east, where ancient Roman baths and basilicas stand marvellously intact.

Spend a night in the medieval village of Bacharach in Riesling wine country, before wandering the riverside streets of Heidelberg. Onward to Nuremberg, and then to Leipzigfor a strong dose of hot caffeine with your Cold War history, classical music and cake.

Detour to Dresden, restored after ruinous bombing in WWII, before ending in one of Europe’s coolest cities: the creative paradise of Berlin.

Alternatively, try starting your engines in London and taking the ferry to France, transforming this road trip into a pilgrimage between Europe’s holy trinity of artistic hubs.

Best for: Culture vultures looking for bragging rights.
How long: 1–2 weeks.
Insider tip: If you’re driving in France, you’ll legally need to keep safety equipment (a reflective vest and hazard signal). Additionally, keep spare Euros in your wallet to pay the occasional French road toll on the way.

 

 

2. Surf and sun in the Basque and beyond

Begin in Bilbao, where the nearby villages boast some of the world’s best surf, and drive along the Atlantic to San Sebastian: watersports wonderland and foodie heaven. Then venture south through the rugged wilderness of the Pyrenees to Pamplona. Ascend onwards to the Roncesvalles Pass before looping back to the coast. Or continue along the Bay of Biscay to the attractive seaside resort of St-Jean-de-Luz.

Travellers with a little extra money lining their pockets will be happy to spend days lingering on boho beaches in Biarritz, while those looking for gargantuan swell can do no better than the surfer hangouts in Hossegor.

Finish the trip northward in Bordeaux, “the Pearl of the Aquitaine”, where café-strewn boulevards and world-class wines are your trophies at the finish line.

Best for: Sun-seeking surfers and foodies.
How long: 1 week.
Insider tip: Check seasonal surf forecasts before you go, and look into coastal campsites if you’re on a budget. The Basque roads beg a convertible – or better yet, a colourful camper van with surfboards strapped to the roof.

Get off the tourist trail

Australia is a vast country, though most visitors stay on the same tried and tested track, ticking off well-touristed pitstops along the way. But, of course, there’s plenty more to see beyond the usual Sydney, rock and reef holiday triangle. Here’s our pick of the best places to escape the crowds Down Under.

 

1. For wildlife: Mackay, Queensland

Surrounded by sugarcane and with a main street well shaded by tropical foliage, Mackay is a great base for visiting Eungella National Park.

This enchanting rainforest has rivers rich enough in platypus to make seeing one almost guaranteed. Your best chance is at Broken River, where the viewing platform is surrounded by ferns and vines – pack a picnic and wait a while in silence to see them.

Afterwards, take a hike on walking tracks through the trees, ideal for birdwatching and goanna spotting, or head back to town for a stroll along the golden sands of Harbour Beach.

 

2. For epic sunsets: Tower Hill, Victoria

Continue just a little further west from the Great Ocean Road and you’ll find this volcanic crater. Encircled by beds of ash, it’s a fertile green sanctuary that is home to koalas and kangaroos aplenty.

The guided walks from the visitor centre will introduce you to the wildlife, as well as to the Aboriginal history – and you’ll learn how to rustle up some bushtucker. But the sunset – best seen from the crater’s rim – is the main event. Stick around afterwards and join the guided night walk to see the fauna at its most active.

 

Tokyo area guide

As the biggest city in the world, it’s unsurprising that Tokyo is crammed full of different places to stay – and with each district boasting its own character, choosing which part of the city to use as your base can be a hard decision.

Are you after the full Tokyo experience, with a view from a glittering skyscraper? Or a calm, traditional retreat, away from the neon-drenched madness? How about a kip in an only-in-Japan capsule hotel? Whatever side of this ever-changing city you’re interested in, you’re bound to find somewhere that hits the spot.

 

Best for history and location: around the Imperial Palace

The enigmatic Imperial Palace lies at Tokyo’s geographical and spiritual heart. Home to the emperor and his family since 1868, the palace itself is closed to the public, but the surrounding parks are a natural place to start any exploration of Tokyo.

Japanese-style luxury: Hoshinoya. Tokyo has been crying out for a place like this, and finally it’s here – a top-end hotel with ryokan-like elements to its décor and service.

Classic style and convenience: Tokyo Station. A grand old dame of a hotel, recently renovated – designers have plumped for dainty Euro-chic in the rooms and chandeliers all over the place.

 

Best for big spenders: Ginza and around

Look east from the Imperial Palace and you’ll see row upon row of high-rise buildings. Many of the city’s swankiest places to eat, drink and sleep can be found within these mushrooming towers, in between which stretch crowded streets that are transformed come dusk into neon-lit canyons. Most hotels here are, unsurprisingly, rather expensive.

Sweeping views: Conrad Tokyo. It’s the views that really steal the show at this luxury hotel – from the lobby and bayside rooms feast your eyes on what are arguably the best vistas in Tokyo, taking in Hama Rikyū Gardens, Odaiba and the Rainbow Bridge.