Category Archives: Travel

Guide to rock climbing in Yosemite

Yosemite National Park is a gearhead’s dream. Just spend a few days in Camp Four and you’ll see that what makes this a singular destination for climbers – explorers from across the globe gather here to exchange route beta, challenge themselves on the amazing bouldering problems around the campsite and sort through endless piles of gear.

To the untrained eye, these collections might look like a whirling dervish of clanking metal and knotted mayhem. But they serve unique and bespoke purposes that, in the right hands, can get you safely up and down the towering granite cathedrals of this enchanting valley.

 

Getting started at rock climbing in Yosemite

There are climbs for every ability imaginable somewhere in this park. First-timers should hit up the Yosemite Mountaineering School to do intro courses. In these intros, you’ll learn to safely belay your climbing partner, how to use your feet and hands properly to ascend the rock, and the basics of rock climbing safety. You’ll have a blast doing it, but it’s important to remember that climbing is dangerous. You should only go out on your own if you (or your partner) already know what you are doing. You can take more advanced courses at the Mountaineering School, or, if you’re confident that you’re ready for action, head to the notice board at Camp Four, where you can find climbing partners.

 

Rock climbing essentials

You can gear up before you depart for the park or wait to do your shopping at the Yosemite Mountain Shop to round out your equipment. Either way, the basics will probably cost you about US$200. It’s of utmost importance that any climber is going to need a well-fitting harness (costing between $50 and $150). Some top climbing manufacturers include Black Diamond (blackdiamondequipment.com), Petzl (www.petzl.com) and Arc-Teryx (www.arcteryx.com). Look for something that fits snug but allows for good freedom of movement.

What you’re really interested in, though, is the glorious hardware – even a few pieces of jangling metal can make you feel heroic. Early on in your climbing career, you’ll just need the basics to help you safely belay, rappel and attach yourself to anchors set up in the rock by a qualified guide or leader. Start with a good locking carabiner (an oval-shaped device with an opening gate that can quickly attach to bolts on the rock or pieces of gear that a qualified leader places in cracks in the rocks to protect from falls and create bomber anchors used to belay climbers from below). These come in myriad sizes – generally, the bigger the better. Add a belay or rappel device (Europeans call it ‘abseiling’) like a simple Black Diamond Super 8 (blackdiamondequipment.com). Add on a few carabiners for effect and grab a helmet to protect your melon.

Next up comes a good pair of climbing shoes. Climbing shoes are all about feel. For long climbs and cracks, you might want a stiffer sole. For shorter sport climbs, most people go with something that’s a little softer to the touch. No matter your choice, you generally size these down one-and-a-half sizes, and often wear them without socks. Yes, climbing shoes get stinky as hell, but that’s part of the charm.

Lets diving on Bali undersea

Underwater wreckage that tells the story of WWII battles in the Pacific, manta rays the size of sedans and tiny critters darting in and out of coral gardens – Bali ranks high as a dream destination for most scuba divers. Thanks to its warm, calm waters and dive sites that range from beginner to advanced, Bali has an array of experiences for every diver.

But packing for an underwater adventure isn’t the same as packing for a regular trip. Airline weight restrictions coupled with the specific equipment required for diving means packing only the necessities. Here’s what to pack for a Bali dive trip.

 

For the first-time diver

With a variety of top-notch dive shops, professionally certified instructors and beginner-friendly conditions, Bali is a great place to learn how to dive. Remember to pack a few extra items to ensure your experience goes smoothly. Make sure you’ve signed up for a course from a reputable PADI, NAUI, SSI operator (ask to see certification if unsure). Bring your textbook, a pencil and a notebook.

 

For the marine biologist

Bali is home to 952 species of reef fish, such as eels, triggerfish and neon-bright damselfish. Elsewhere, divers can swim with eye-popping pelagics like the 1000kg sunfish or the graceful manta ray. Most dive shops sell waterproof fish identification charts that you can attach to your buoyancy control device (BCD) for underwater spotting. A writing slate is useful for recording the animals you see. An extra logbook at the surface can also help keep a long-term record of the animals spotted.

 

For the archaeologist

Home to the popular USAT Liberty wreck dive, Bali is great for underwater archaeologists. Bring along a compass, underwater map and dive light to aid in navigation. A marker buoy can be used to flag the start of a wreck dive, and an extra dive knife or scissors can help in emergencies. Remember, though, you’re not an underwater Indiana Jones: don’t take anything from these sites.

 

For the photographer

With visibility ranging from 10 to 50 meters, Bali is a great place to record your underwater experiences. Dive camera equipment can exceed thous ands of dollars with lights, underwater housings and lenses, or they can be as cheap as a few hundred bucks.

Dive sites near Tulamben, Amed and Pemuteran are also well-known for muck diving. A muck site accumulates sediment rich in nutrients, making a perfect habitat for a variety of photographic stars like nudibranchs, seahorses and mantis shrimps. A macro lens is essential for getting a shot of these tiny creatures. Be sure to pack extra batteries, a lens cleaning kit and extra memory cards.

Explore Colombo for free

Colombo is more than just a gateway to the resorts and surf breaks of Sri Lanka’s south coast. Despite the noise and crowds, this is a city of vibrant colours and rich culture, offering fascinating insights into the national psyche of Sri Lanka.

Many people rush through Colombo and make straight for the beaches, but linger and you’ll find a city full of history, where stately British colonial buildings jostle for space with Sri Lankan dagobas (stupas), palm-shaded parks and Dutch colonial churches. Here are 10 great ways to explore this constantly evolving city for free.

 

Snake charmers charm at Viharamahadevi Park

Colombo is spoilt for choice when it comes to places to chill out, but beautifully maintained Viharamahadevi Park is a city favourite. The parades of palms and fig trees are spectacular, the lawns are dotted with statues and fountains, there are views of Colombo’s colonial-era Town Hall, and there’s always the chance of catching the odd snake charmer in action. Find a shady spot and you can people-watch for hours.

 

Join the locals on Colombo’s favourite promenade

Whilst it might not be quite as green as it once was, Galle Face Green is still frequented by locals in search of some relaxing downtime. There’s a tacky but loveable charm to this seafront park, which is animated by bubble-blowers, bouncing beach balls and vibrant kites swooping across the sky. It’s also a great spot for a snack – street food traders congregate on the waterfront at sunset, serving delicious Sri Lankan treats, including crispy egg hoppers and the island’s signature kottu, a griddle fry-up of chopped noodles, eggs and spices.

 

Dive into an open-air gallery at Kala Pola Art Market

On any non-rainy day of the week, you can catch a cohort of talented local artists as they transform the streets of Nelum Pokuna into an open-air gallery with their latest creations. The Kala Pola Art Market is the oldest art market in town, and traders have been holding court here for over a century. Some of the work on display is touristy and generic, but there are some gems to be unearthed here if you look beyond the clichéd depictions of elephants and tigers. If you feel like investing, paintings are usually on canvas and can be rolled up to carry away.

 

Engage with Sri Lankan contemporary art at Paradise Road Gallery

The Paradise Road Gallery (paradiseroad.lk) is a piece of art in itself. This upscale gallery is a beautiful space that exhibits contemporary Sri Lankan artists of high renown and is considered one of the most important art spaces in the country. The general ambience, decadent aesthetic and renowned Gallery Café add to its charm. With monthly rotating exhibitions, it’s definitely worth popping back again for a second visit before leaving the island.

Pack for a Trip to Norway

Norway is one of those travel destinations where you need to be ready for weather changes in an instant. We took a road trip in the Fjord region in late August and our days would range from sunny and warm temps to snow on the ground while driving from one fjord to another.

 

When visiting destinations with fickle weather, like Norway, it’s always best to bring layers — even when visiting in the summer months. We consulted our Alaska packing guide before this trip, but added a few different items for the days we spent in Bergen and Alesund.

We got so accustomed to clear skies during our visit in late August that we found ourselves unprepared on an extremely long hike to Feigumfossen waterfall in Lusterfjord. At the top of the steep climb, buckets of rain began pouring down on us and we were in for a very wet and extremely muddy shuffle down the mountain. We used the only warmth we had to cover our camera gear because we even forgot our backpack rain cover in the car!

If you plan on doing any intense hiking in the fjords, make sure to be prepared for colder temperatures at the top! I cannot stress this enough. Bring WARM layers and rain gear, even if it means carrying a larger backpack.

Trolltunga, one of the most famous hikes in Norway, is known to be extremely cold at the top. We hiked Molden in Sognefjord and the temperature dropped at least 30 degrees from the bottom to the top of the hike.

 

Women’s Packing List for Norway

  • Rain Boots (These are great if you are visiting during winter or spring.)
  • Waterproof Hiking Shoes
  • Waterproof Jacket
  • 2 Dresses (Both the red & blue dresses you see in our photos were from Lulu’s.)
  • Down Jacket (Not too bulky for layering.)
  • 2 Thermal Tops
  • 2 Pairs of Fleece Lined Leggings
  • 1 Pair of Slip On Comfortable Shoes or Flip Flops (To go with dresses on the warmer days.)
  • 4 Other Tops
  • 1 or 2 Pairs of Jeans
  • Waterproof Pants (You can layer these with leggings for hiking.)
  • Beanie
  • Scarf
  • Hat
  • Pajamas
  • Bikini
  • Gloves
  • Sunglasses
  • Women’s Trail Socks

How to find best European road trips

To mark the launch of our latest Best Trips book we asked Lonely Planet staff to share their stories of times spent on the road. Ever the adventurous bunch, these daring drivers recall time spent navigating hairy mountain paths, drifting down coastal roads on the hunt for brilliant beaches and driving into the downright bizarre on off-the-beaten track escapades.

 

A well-deserved picnic in the Pyrenees, France

I can confirm, hand firmly on steering wheel, that the craggy beauty of the Pyrenees is unimpaired by vertigo and a carload of terrified loved ones. As a student living in the south of France, I was the naive host of a family road trip through the range. Setting off from my hometown of Pau, picnic blankets in tow, we climbed through the foothills breakfasting on local pâté and bread, and remarked on the farmers drinking red wine at 9am. Rising higher, we spotted marmots gambolling in the grass, bought sheep’s cheese at a roadside stand, and started to see patches of snow.

Even higher, as an eagle hovered alongside our car, my mother closed her eyes and started clinging to the seat belt. Crawling around the switchbacks, the mountain dropping away below me, I had my own Christopher Walken in The Deer Hunter moment: ‘What if I just turned the wheel?’ Somehow we made it over the border to Spain, the landscape opened up in a glorious green valley and we had our picnic, delicious chunks of cheese trembling in our hands.

 

Searching for the edge of the world on the Isle of Skye

The Isle of Skye is a terrible place for a road trip; every five minutes or so, you have to pull over… to gawp, goggle-eyed, at the grandeur of your surroundings. Provided you’re a fan of such stop-start journeys, though, the most myth-steeped island of the Inner Hebrides delivers Game of Thrones-style spectacle at every turn.

At a push, you could drive around Skye in half a day; but that, in my mind, would be a mistake. For while such a bat-out-of-hell tour would give you a glimpse of the major sights – the Old Man of Storr, the Quiraing, Uig Bay and, of course, the awesome Cuillin Hills – you’d forgo a host of lesser-known marvels. Far better to linger, as we did for three days, exploring every back road in changing light as we searched for the edge of the world.

Swedens sublime Bohuslan Coast

Drifting across the mirror-still surface of a shallow bay in Kosterhavet, Sweden’s first national marine park, the reason why the Bohuslän Coast beguiles visitors becomes as clear as the water barely stirring beneath the kayak.

In a country lauded for its stewardship of the environment (Swedenranks first and third in the world respectively in the most recently published Global Green Economy Index and Environmental Performance Index), the west coast is a showcase of sensitive development.

Stretching north from Gothenburg to the Norwegian border, the region features pine forests framing fjord-like lakes, charming coastal towns and, of course, a vast archipelago of 8000 islands, islets and skerries, whose distinctive Bohus granite glows orangey-pink in the rising and setting sun.

In summer, that sun shines for 18 hours a day at this latitude, giving you plenty of time to explore what Bohuslän has to offer; better still, the E6 motorway, which runs parallel to the coast for about 100 miles, forms the backbone of a readymade route for independent travellers. The only decision that remains is what to see along the way.

 

First stop: Marstrand – find the perfect place to drop anchor

Calculate the total value of the yachts gliding to and fro in Marstrand’s gästhamn (guest harbour) and you’d probably end up with a figure that dwarfs some countries’ GDP.

This small island, which lies about 30 miles north of Gothenburg, has been a compulsory stop for the Swedish elite ever since King Oscar II built a summer house here in the late 19th century; these days, Marstrand is a chic backdrop for world-class sailing events and welcomes up to 10,000 people a week in high season.

The king’s old residence – the regal Grand Hotel Marstrand, which has some satisfyingly old-school rooms and a swish restaurant – is one of the town’s two big historical sights; the other looms above it in the form of Carlstens Fästning, a hulking fortress built in the 17th century after Denmark-Norway ceded Marstrand to Sweden as part of a peace treaty.

While Carlstens Fästning trades on its storied history, offering guided tours and historical reenactments, Marstrand’s other old fort – the smaller 18th-century Strandverket Konsthall – opts for radical reinvention as the Strandverket Art Museum (www.strandverket.se), an unexpected outpost of contemporary sculpture, photography and more.

Don’t confine yourself to the history-steeped town, though – the rest of Marstrand is beautiful and begs for exploration. It’s also accessible thanks to well-marked trails, which range from easy to challenging. If you strike out west, scan the horizon for the red iron tower of the Pater Noster Lighthouse (paternosterlighthouse.com), now a small hotel for those who really, really want to get away from it all.

Marstrand is car-free, so you’ll need to park on the neighbouring island of Koön then hop on the ferry, which takes a couple of minutes.

Best food and drink when traveling

Hawke’s Bay is the larder of New Zealand: apples, figs, peaches, squashes and, most notably, grapes. Hugging the east coast of the North Island, this is the country’s oldest wine-growing region, and in April the grapes are being plucked: 4700 hectares of vineyards harvesting 45,000 tonnes of fruit. The serried vines begin to glow russet and gold under the autumn sun too.

Still reasonably warm and dry, this is a great time to explore by bicycle. Hawke’s Bay has New Zealand’s biggest network of gentle cycle paths, many of which link wine estates, cafes and cellar doors. Try the flat, off-road 22-mile (36 km) Wineries Ride, which navigates the grape-growing heartland of Bridge Pa, Gimblett Gravels and Ngatarawa Triangle. Napier, with its art deco architecture and Saturday Urban Food Market, makes a good base.

  • Trip plan: Enjoy the historic streets and fine eats of Napier and Hastings. Then follow a couple of easy cycle trails – perhaps one along the coast, another between wine estates.
  • Need to know: There are flights to Hawke’s Bay daily from Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch.
  • Other months: Dec-Feb – warmest; Mar-May – wine harvest; Jun-Sep – winter, cool. Oct-Nov – spring produce, warming up.

 

Discover bazaars, ancient wonders and culinary secrets in peace in İstanbul, Turkey

You might debate which is the greatest treasure of the former Constantinople: the incredible 6th-century basilica-mosque-museum Aya Sofya? Sprawling, opulent Topkapı Palace? The domes, minarets and ornate azure tilework of the Blue Mosque? Wander among them to decide for yourself, by all means – and in April, as things are warming up at the end of the low season, you can enjoy discounts, smaller crowds and more forgiving weather.

But save some time for the greatest legacy the Ottomans left the world: food, of course. Why do you think the Spice Bazaar is so huge and bustling? From simple kebabs to meze feasts and the luscious aubergine (eggplant) masterpiece, imam bayıldı, there are few cuisines that are as indulgent as Turkish. Over the past couple of decades a roster of excellent food-themed walking tours and cookery schools has sprung up in İstanbul, providing the opportunity to combine a spring city break with a culinary reboot.

  • Trip plan: Base yourself in the Sultanahmet district, on the west (European) side of the Bosphorus for easy access to the Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar and most historic sites.
  • Need to know: Two points of Turkish etiquette – don’t point your finger or the sole of your foot towards anyone.
  • Other months: Apr-May & Sep-Oct – mild, quieter; Jun-Aug – hot, busy; Nov-Feb – cold, damp.

How to Avoid Travel Mistakes

Whether it’s your first trip abroad or you travel several times a year, we all make mistakes that can cause headaches or possibly even ruin your trip. The good news is that with a little planning, it’s easy enough to avoid some of the most common travel mistakes so you can spend your time enjoying your vacation.

 

1. Overpacking

It’s tempting to bring outfits for every possible occasion, but it makes it difficult to haul your luggage around, and you may get stuck with high baggage fees for accidentally exceeding the weight limit. Instead, pack your bag as usual, then take out half the clothes you originally planned. You won’t wear all of them, you don’t have to sacrifice style, and you can always do some laundry on the road.

 

2. Not Checking Your Cell Phone Plan

It’s important to know what your plan covers to avoid data roaming fees. Not covered? Turn off your data before you get on the plane and leave your phone in airplane mode (you’ll still be able to connect to wi-fi). If data is important to you, look into buying an international plan or buying a local SIM card once you arrive.

Alternatively, for Americans, consider T-Mobile as your carrier. We now get free data in 200 countries and it has literally changed the way we travel. (Note: We have no affiliation with T-Mobile and we pay for our own monthly plans.)

 

3. Not Booking Enough Time in Between Flights

Flight conditions can be unpredictable. If one gets delayed, you might be forced to rush through an unfamiliar airport to make your connecting flight, and you might not make it in time. It’s best to book them with a safe buffer in between. If you are traveling through Heathrow in London, plan for at least a two-hour layover here since you have to go through security just to get from one flight to another.

Summer of Love revisited

It’s 50 years since peace, love and psychedelia burst out from the San Francisco underground into the mainstream, heralding 1967’s Summer of Love.

So pop The Grateful Dead on your headphones, stick on your finest floral shirt and make for these must-see sights in the one-time heartland of the hippies.

 

Beat Museum

To understand how the hippies took over San Francisco, you need to go back to the 1950s and explore that other Californian cultural phenomenon, the Beats. The Beat Museum in North Beach is home to hundreds of original artefacts, including notebooks and photos from Jack Kerouac’s pioneering journeys across America that led to his seminal On The Road, a huge influence on the teenagers who would pioneer the hippie movement and be at the forefront of the Summer of Love.

It also looks at the influence of poet Allen Ginsberg, who linked the Beats and the hippies through his work and activism. The museum retains a chilled vibe very much in keeping with 1967, with old hippies selling tickets and sharing tales of the good old days.

 

City Lights

City Lights was and is a totem of San Francisco’s countercultural movement. Founded by Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, its leftfield selections and readings by local authors made it the intellectual heart of the Summer of Love. Its street corner location on Columbus Avenue, a stone’s throw from the Beat Museum, is impossible to miss.

Pop in and you’ll find shelves stacked with everything from surrealist treatises to green politics, a true reflection of the academic side of the hippie dream. And if all that seems a bit too heavy, you can always browse the fiction section and pick up a branded tote bag instead.

 

Haight and Ashbury

The intersection at Haight and Ashbury was the epicentre of the hippie movement that began in San Francisco in 1964 and reached its peak in 1967. Known simply as The Haight, the area was home to some of scene’s biggest names, from Jefferson Airplane to Janis Joplin, as well as the first ‘head’ shop, helping the booming numbers of visiting teenagers to ‘turn on, tune in and drop out’.

 

Golden Gate Park

San Francisco’s vast Golden Gate Park was the go-to spot for the hordes piling into the city as 1967 got underway. The park’s Polo Fields were the site of The Human Be-In in January 1967, with as many as 30,000 young people gathering to see hippie pioneer Timothy Leary urge them to ‘drop out’, and Big Brother and the Holding Company play their brand of bluesy psychedelic rock. Today it’s seen as a defining counterculture event, which kicked off the Summer of Love.

Things are a touch more sedate now, with runners, walkers and cyclists outnumbering hippies. Take a stroll here on a sunny day with some vintage psych on your iPod, though, and you can still feel the vibes.

Why family travels never been better

Then: plane travel was considered a luxury, low-cost airlines had yet to take to the skies and, for many, family holidays were annual events bookended by seemingly never-ending drives, complete with squabbling siblings and ‘are we there yet?’ on repeat.

Now: thanks to a boom in affordable air travel, the modern child may take numerous trips each year, blending close-to-home camping expeditions or farm stays with urban adventures in the world’s ‘must-see’ cities such as London, Paris or New York.

What were once considered ‘trips of a lifetime’ are also more likely to be regular fixtures in childhood, with long-haul holidays spent zip-lining in Costa Rica, snorkelling off Thailand’s beautiful beaches or penguin-watching off the Cape in South Africa all boosting a young jet-setter’s memory bank.

 

We all sleep easier, family style

Then: the whole clan often crowded into one unappetising hotel room, slept top-to-toe in a cramped tent or descended upon some kindly old friend or distant relative who had once politely suggested ‘you should really come and stay some time’.

Now: hotels are generally far better prepared for families, offering adjoining rooms, cots and even babysitting services. There’s a whole range of luxury places created specifically for the family market – Cavallino Bianco (cavallino-bianco.com) in Italy, the UK’s Watergate Bay Hotel (watergatebay.co.uk) or Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii to name just a few – with kids’ clubs, child-friendly food, play areas in the grounds and so on.

But the accommodation revolution does not stop there. Thanks to popular home swap and rental sites it’s now super easy for families to locate great apartments, often with toys, bunk beds and all the mod cons required by today’s child. If you really want to go the extra mile, companies such as Bush Baby Travel (bushbaby.travel) offer safaris where the whole family can sleep comfortably under canvas in the bush. There’s also the family cruise option, with entire ships devoted to entertaining your children… did we mention Disney?

 

Our digital natives engage differently with a trip

Then: without portable screens and global roaming, children were kept busy while travelling by what now looks like a relatively limited repertoire: playing games, reading books, writing a travel journal or filling up a sketch pad.

Now: technology has transformed how children engage with a trip. Sure, the tech-free pursuits still apply – kids from any era adore reading, writing, drawing and (hopefully!) playing games as a family. But now they supplement these with a wealth of digital aids: Google Earth (google.com/earth) to see what their destination looks like before they arrive; translation apps to converse easily with locals; search engines to help locate fun things to do while away; and of course Skype or social media to share stories with family and friends back home.

Tablets are now key weapons in the parental arsenal against ‘I’m bored’: they get families through delays and meltdowns, and provide respite for siblings who need a bit of space from each other. Just don’t forget to pack the charger.