9 reasons why solo travel is great

To me, really travelling solo is not when you latch on to a group or another person – although this inevitably happens when travelling alone – but rather when you travel and experience things solely by yourself, whether that be climbing a mountain, watching the sun set or crossing borders.

For many people the idea of true solo travel is a real challenge because we’re not used to our own company. It can make us uncomfortable; bring about too much thinking time; make you face yourself and your fears alone. But wow, once you step beyond that, there are a whole host of reasons why you should give solo travelling a go. At least once.

1. You can go where you want, when you want

This is probably one of the biggest reasons people like to travel solo: not to have any restrictions on one’s route, destination or timescale. If you truly stick to solo travel then sure, it can work, but moments when you meet up with others quickly brings in the need for some compromise. It’s about balancing your needs, I guess. After a lot of time travelling

8 reasons to visit Holland

holland2The best bits of the Netherlands are outside of Amsterdam, says Helen Moat. Do you agree?

“You’re going back to the Netherlands? Isn’t it a bit boring?”

“Amsterdam is great but the rest is flat and uninteresting, isn’t it?”

“I’ve been to Amsterdam, but why would you want to go to the rest of the Netherlands?”

These are the responses I got when I told friends I was returning to the Netherlands. I’ve always been drawn to mountains, but now I’m enchanted by this flat, flat country. And I’m not bothered about going anywhere near Amsterdam.

Here’s why…

1. Great cycling

This is the thing. Cycling is civilised in the Netherlands. You can go off-road without worrying about getting a flat tyre because the cycle paths are surfaced. This also means more speed. Neither do you need to worry about being knocked off your bike by a lorry, sprayed by a car on a rainy day, deafened by traffic or choked by exhaust fumes. And where there are no cycle paths, the roads are quiet. Plus the cyclist has priority.

he routes are surprisingly varied and interesting too. There are undulating

Maldives on the cheap

1. Hire your own island for a night

Live the jet-set lifestyle with your friends and hire a private island for as little as $50 per person per night. Olhahali is one of the few destinations in the country that can be booked for a guest’s exclusive use, and offers a Robinson-Crusoe-type experience.

To get there you will of course need to charter a speed-boat first as the island is outside of the Malé atoll. Take your own barbeque and hammock and experience a night under the stars on this tiny speck in the ocean – just 285 metres in length and 60 metres wide.

Available for a maximum of 40 people for US$2,000 a day, Olhahali offers a number of packages on its official website, with special rates for expats and locals.

2. Make the most of the low season

Many resorts in the Maldives are under occupied, especially in the low season (April to October). With this in mind, it is more than possible to negotiate day-use of the resorts – even to blag a good deal for an overnight visit at competitive rates. Depending on the

Top 8 German Christmas markets

Germany’s Christmas markets offer traditional delights for the senses: aromas of spiced mulled wine, gingerbread and sausage fill the air as you wander through the finger-tingling cold streets, soaking up the festive atmosphere. From food and drink to hand crafted toys, tree decorations, candles and lambskin shoes, the stalls in German Christmas markets offer something for everyone…

1. Cologne

Cologne is host to a number of Christmas markets throughout the run-up to Christmas. The most famous of these is held in the shadow of the Cologne Cathedral, the largest in Germany and a UNESCO World Heritage site.

With the imposing Gothic backdrop and the largest Christmas tree in the Rhine, the ‘Am Dom’ Market (26 Nov – 23 Dec) offers over 160 stalls selling the traditional yuletide wares and their famous Glühwein (mulled wine). Traditional music fills the air, providing the perfect atmosphere for Christmas shopping.

For children, the Alter Markt is the place to go, with a Santa’s grotto, puppet theatre and stands filled with toys. The Rudolfplatz will transport children both big and small to the world of the brothers Grimm, with fairytale figures and festive illuminations.

Get into the festive spirit!

Cologne is just 4 hours, 25 minutes away from London by train,

Top 10 things to do in Thailand

1. The Grand Palace

This beautiful gold-tipped series of buildings is over 200 years old, and perhaps Bangkok’s most famous destination. Yes, it can feel like a tourist trap, but the complex’s history and grandeur is palpable: since 1782, it has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam (and later Thailand).

While you’re there, don’t miss the Emerald Buddha and nearby Wat Pho, which is home to the largest reclining Buddha in Thailand. Another must see is Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn, which is stunning from a distance and intriguing close up, with its mosaic detailing, as you climb to the top. Make sure you follow our 7 etiquette tips for travelling in Thailand, to ensure you don’t offend local customs.

At night, the Grand Palace is illuminated, and although you’ll likely still encounter the crowds, it’s a very romantic experience.

2. The Golden Triangle

The point where the Mekong River meets the Ruak River is known locally as Sop Ruak, but to the rest of the world it’s the Golden Triangle: the point at which Burma/Myanmar, Laos and Thailand meet.

Stand on the Thailand river bank, and you can look across to Burma/Myanmar and Laos, or hire a boat for a closer

The Wanderlust guide to the best of Morocco

It’s barely 20 miles from Europe, but Morocco couldn’t feel more different. Fast ferries from Spain link a country that is part Arab, part African – and with a character all of its own.

Morocco’s cities are the obvious draws. Marrakesh and Fes are the places to explore the medieval alleys of ancient medinas, packed with donkeys, traders and the scents of Africa. Casablanca and Rabat are modern with elegant boulevards and a café culture, while Tangier and Agadir are sophisticated cities where the beach takes centre stage.

Drill down to the smaller towns and Morocco’s heritage is more distinct and accessible. Visit Chefchouan, in the north, where cornflower-blue houses sprawl on a fertile hillside, or the fortified coastal town of Essaouira, once a Portuguese outpost on Atlantic Africa. Inexpensive taxi rides reach stunning highlights, Roman columns preserved by the desert at Volubilis and mud-built forts towering over folding mountain landscapes.

Zoom in closer and be welcomed into village life: ride the waves in surf communities on the sunsoaked southern coast near Agadir, trek to Berber villages huddled against adobe castle walls in the Atlas Mountains, and join nomads on camels to cross Saharan dunes.

At every level Moroccans are exceptionally hospitable: this is

10 magical Christmas markets

1. Cologne, Germany

Throughout the festive season, Cologne offers no fewer than four sparkling Christmas markets to its visitors. The most spectacular of these, Am Dom, hosts 160 tempting stalls in front of the towering twin-spires of the city’s cathedral. Stalls with handmade decorations, sweet gluhwein and candy surround a giant Christmas tree in the centre of the square.

After you’ve filled up on sticky treats and several alcoholic beverages to ‘warm yourself up’, head to the heart of the Old Town to the Alter Markt. Be prepared for your inner child to make an appearance here, as traditional merry-go-rounds and puppet theatres dot the market, while Father Christmas sits in his grotto amid wooden toys and scrumptious boiled sweets.

2. Budapest, Hungary

This winter wonderland in the centre of Budapest is a haven for food-lovers – fresh bread is baked in clay ovens, traditional pastry makers work their magic on glazed delights, and goulash is gobbled by almost everyone. If you choose to indulge in a little gluhwein, each serving comes with a free Christmas market mug for you to take home.

In the windows of Gerbaud House – the most beautiful building in the main square – you’ll see the Budapest Advent Calender.

5 things you absolutely must do in Bali

1. Visit a massive abandoned hotel

Locals call it “The Ghost Palace Hotel” and the rumours are just as spooky as the name suggests: wandering spirits and spooky ghosts haunt the palace day and night. The real story is that It was abandoned about 10 years ago because the company building it went bankrupt. It was prepared for opening and everything is more or less intact.

The location of the place completes the beautiful adventure – this grand hotel is set on a cliff with a spectacular scenery to gaze upon. It’s a perfect place for curious explorers to experience this post-apocalyptic aura.

2. Drive around on a rented motorbike.

Bali has some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. It also has some of the best motorbike renting possibilities. Getting a custom made bike is easy as counting to three.

I recommend driving across the island via the mountain ranges in the middle of the island. It’s so amazing that even the memory of it gives me goosebumps.

3. Visit the Uluwatu Temple

One of the six Bali’s spiritual pillars in a captivating location, resting on top of a cliff overlooking the sea, approximately 70 metres above it. I usually avoid touristy places, but this one