Welcome to the World of Travel
We would like to welcome you to the world of travel…
Third Rock from the Sun. Mother Earth. The Blue Marble. The spinning ball of rock that is the world goes by many names, but it is also the place that each and every one of us calls home. And wherever it is that you call home, you can be sure that if you travel – near or far – the world will exhibit its overwhelming beauty and diversity. Adventure and inspirational experiences await around every corner, so what’s stopping you? Go forth and explore.
Comedian Steven Wright once quipped, ‘You can’t have everything – where would you put it?’ Weighing in at 5.97219×1024 kg, and with 149 million sq km of landmass (and another 361 million sq km of ocean), the world has room enough to fit ‘everything’. Amidst all of that ‘everything’ there is so much to discover, from rivers deep, like the Nile (snaking 6850km from central Africa to the Mediterranean), and the sunken shores of the Dead Sea (427m below sea level), to mountains high, like the Himalayas (more than 100 peaks over 7200m, including Everest at 8848m), the Andes and the Alps.
Across seven continents and 221 countries, ‘everything’ takes plenty of wondrous forms. There are mighty expanses of greenery, like the Amazon basin (7 million sq km of jungle), while beneath the crystal-clear Pacific Ocean lies the Great Barrier Reef (stretching 2300km), and the scarred hide of the Grand Canyon is a repository of 2 billion years of geological history.
Not all the world’s wonders are inanimate, however. Wildlife spectacles include the annual wildebeest migration (two million strong) across the Serengeti, the stoic emperor penguins of Antarctica, and the diverse menagerie on the Galapagos Islands, where people seem out of place.
It is people, not animals, who have colonised the entire planet. Since foregoing stone tools, inventing the wheel (3300BC) and first smelting iron (1200BC), humankind has embarked on a big production number that features countless cultures, civilisations and empires. History suggests that humans were naturally inclined to warfare but also –more positively – to congregating and cohabiting, thus, over time the city was born.
More than half of the world’s population now live in cities. They are the pulsating beacons that attract us, with their bright lights and human interaction, epicentres of culture, industry and endeavour. And each has its own distinctive character: New York with its skyscrapers and taxicabs, London with its parks, pubs and palaces, Sydney with its bridge and Cape Town set against the rugged panorama of Table Mountain. A tour of urban conurbations will take you to geographical oddities (İstanbul straddling the border of Europe and Asia), and cities of faith (Jerusalem, holy to Judaism, Islam and Christianity), cities with thousands of years of history (Athens, Damascus, Varanasi) and booming new cities mushrooming across Asia, Africa and South America.
Cities may be the hubs that you pass through as you roam, but they are not necessarily humankind’s greatest achievements. These are many and dispersed, assuming myriad physical forms.
Mystery clings to many, such as the Great Pyramid of Giza built in 2560BC, the Terracotta Warriors in Xī’ān and the mighty stone moai of Easter Island. Others no less awe inspiring were built for specific purposes, like St Basil’s Cathedral in the Kremlin, the Great Wall of China, and the Taj Mahal, a monument to love. More modern spectacles like the architectural extravaganzas of Dubai and the Shanghai skyline may lack the gravity of history but if anything are more dazzling.
All of these monuments contribute to the ways of life that go on around them, which reminds us that not all of humankind’s achievements are tangible. Just as intoxicating and just as worth getting out and seeing are cultures, festivals and events, from Viennese coffeehouse culture to Cuban jazz, from full moon parties on Koh Samui to Maasai warrior dances under an African sunset.
There is all this and plenty more besides to be encountered as you venture into the world. This book can act as inspiration and as a first step on your own voyage of discovery. Listed here is every country; each includes enough of a taste of its top sites and experiences to get your feet itchy, basic practical information to help you start planning, and a map to help you plot a rough itinerary. Where exactly you want to go and how you proceed from here is entirely up to you, but we encourage you to get out there and do it!
Need to Know
It’s the babble of Babel out there! There are almost 7000 languages spoken in the world today. These are divided into six major language families, and around 130 smaller ones. The distribution of languages across the globe reflects movements of people through history, and language families include some unlikely relatives: for example, Albanian is related to English, Hindi, Persian and Russian. The size of countries and populations don’t necessarily account for numbers of languages, either: in New Guinea almost 450 languages are spoken by a population of only 3.5 million people.
It’s estimated that half of the world’s population speaks more than one language. Fear not if you don’t: a smile can go a long way, even amongst people you share no language with. That said, learning a few words of the language spoken at your destination can open a lot of doors.
We all know that as the world orbits the sun, the planet is also spinning, meaning that for some of us the sun is setting, and for others it is rising. So, when it is bedtime in Sydney, locals will be reaching for a late-afternoon chai in Mumbai, lunching in London or getting ready to rise in New York. To make life easier, the world is divided into time zones.
The clever fellows at London’s Royal Observatory saw to it that from the 1880s Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) was adopted as the global reference time. Each time zone is designated as either being + or – whole numbers of hours (or half hours) from GMT. In 1972, Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) replaced GMT (it works the same way, but UTC accounts for stray ‘leap seconds’).
Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com) Travel portal
Time and date (www.timeanddate.com) Time differences
XE (www.xe.com) Currency conversion
Wherever you go in the world you’ll need a fistful of cash (or a credit card). There are around 180 different currencies circulating in the world today. So-called hard currencies – think the US$, the British £, the European €, the Yen and the Swiss Franc – are widely accepted, so can be handy to carry.
Depending on where you go, and where you come from, you will need to exchange your own currency into that of your destination. How far your money will go depends on exchange rates: they may make you feel like a pauper, or a millionaire.
Consider low-season travel
Look for favourable exchange rates; when one currency rises against yours, another may fall
Book ahead for the best deals
Back in the day, explorers and conquerors left home without so much as a note from mother and crossed borders with impunity. You can’t get away with that nowadays. To leave your own country and to enter any other, you need a passport, a travel document certifying your identity and issued by your government. To visit many countries you also may need a visa, a stamp in your passport that allows you to temporarily enter said country.
Rules & regulations
Regulations and rules regarding visas are many and complex, and vary from country to country. Some countries allow visa-free travel to passport holders of other countries (such as in the EU), while others may allow certain visitors to obtain a visa upon arrival. Still others require aspiring visitors to get a visa before they leave home. Bottom line: investigate visa requirements before you book your next trip.
If You Like…
Australia Plunging waterfalls, pristine beaches and reefs. (Click here)
Maldives Whiter-than-white powder sand and luminous cyan-blue water. (Click here)
Portugal The Algarve has a varied coastline; sandy islands, dramatic cliffbacked shores and rarely-visited beaches. (Click here)
Puerto Rico Backed by low scrub rather than craning palms, Playa Flamenco is the only public beach on the island. (Click here)
Seychelles White-sand beaches lapped by luxuriously warm waters and trees leaning over the shore. (Click here)
Spain According to one count, the emerald-green northern Spanish region of Asturias boasts more than 600 beaches. (Click here)
Tahiti & French Polynesia Bora Bora: a perfect Morse-code ring of small islets. (Click here)
Thailand The soaring limestone karsts of Railay are one of Thailand’s most famous natural features. (Click here)
Carnaval, Brazil Carnaval is nonstop revelry, with nearly 500 street parties happening in every corner of town. (Click here)
Día de Muertos, Mexico Day of the Dead; the happy-sad remembrance of departed loved ones at the beginning of November. (Click here)
Goroka Show, Papua New Guinea Massive feather headdresses, rustling grass skirts and evocative face and body paint. (Click here)
Holi, India Hindus celebrate the beginning of spring by throwing coloured water and gulal (powder) at anyone within range. (Click here)
Naadam, Mongolia Two or three days of serious wrestling, horse racing and archery action. (Click here)
New Orleans, United States of America New Orleans’ riotous annual Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest are famous the world over. (Click here)
Brú na Bóinne, Ireland Ireland’s finest Stone Age passage tomb, predating the pyramids by some six centuries. (Click here)
Flanders Fields, Belgium Manicured graveyards with white memorial crosses bear silent witness in seemingly endless rows. (Click here)
Gallipoli, Turkey Memorials and cemeteries mark the spots where young men from far away fought and died in gruelling conditions. (Click here)
Machu Picchu, Peru A ruin among ruins with emerald terraces, backed by steep peaks and Andean ridges. (Click here)
Persepolis, Iran The artistic harmony leaves you in little doubt that in its prime Persepolis was at the centre of the known world. (Click here)
Petra, Jordan Petra has been drawing the crowds since Jean Louis Burckhardt rediscovered this spectacular site in 1812. (Click here)
Pompeii, Italy A once-thriving Roman town frozen in time 2000 years ago in the midst of its death throes. (Click here)
Tikal, Guatemala The remarkably restored temples are a testament to the cultural and artistic heights scaled by this jungle civilization. (Click here)
Food & Drink
Beer, Czech Republic Czechs claim to have the best pivo (beer) in the world and who are we to argue? (Click here)
Champagne, France Celebrated around the world for the sparkling wines that have been produced here since the days of Dom Pérignon. (Click here)
Copenhagen, Denmark One of the hottest culinary destinations in Europe, with more Michelin stars than any other Scandinavian city. (Click here)
Japan Attention to detail, genius for presentation and insistence on the finest ingredients results in memorable cuisine. (Click here)
Malaysia Start with Chinese-Malay ‘Nonya’ fare, move on to Indian curries, Chinese buffets and Malay food stalls. (Click here)
San Sebastián, Spain Chefs here have turned pintxos (Basque tapas) into an art form. (Click here)
Turkey Mezes aren’t just a type of dish, they’re a whole eating experience. (Click here)
Vietnam Essentially it’s all about the freshness of the ingredients. The result? Incomparable texture and flavour combinations. (Click here)
Whisky, Scotland Scotland’s national drink has been distilled here for more than 500 years. (Click here)
Blue Hole, Belize The sheer walls of the Blue Hole Natural Monument drop more than 400ft into the ocean. (Click here)
Diving, Red Sea, Egypt Underwater world of coral cliffs, colourful fish and spookily beautiful wrecks. (Click here)
Hiking, Dolomites, Italy This tiny pocket of northern Italy takes seductiveness to dizzying heights. (Click here)
Hiking, New Zealand The sublime forests, mountains, lakes, beaches and fiords have made NZ one of the best hiking destinations on the planet. (Click here)
Outdoor Adventure, Switzerland This country begs outdoor escapades with its larger-than-life canvas of hallucinatory landscapes. (Click here)
Rafting, Slovenia Slovenia is an outdoor destination and fast rivers like the Soča cry out to be rafted. (Click here)
Safari, Botswana Chobe National Park ranks among the elite of African safari destinations. (Click here)
Skiing, Andorra 193km of runs and a combined lift system that can shift over 100,000 skiers per hour. (Click here)
Zip Lining, Costa Rica Few things are more purely joyful than clipping into a high-speed cable, laced above and through the seething jungle canopy. (Click here)
Cappadocia, Turkey The hard-set honeycomb landscape looks sculpted by a swarm of genius bees. (Click here)
Dead Sea, Israel & the Palestinian Territories Cobalt-blue waters, outlined by snow-white salt deposits, reddish-tan cliffs and tufts of dark-green vegetation. (Click here)
Grand Canyon, United States of America It took 6 million years for the canyon to form and some rocks exposed along its walls are 2 billion years old. (Click here)
Great Barrier Reef, Australia Stretching more than 2000km along the Queensland coastline, with dazzling coral, languid sea turtles and tropical fish of every colour and size. (Click here)
Iguazú Falls, Argentina The roar, the spray and the sheer volume of water live forever in the memory. (Click here)
Lake Baikal, Russia Baikal’s gob-smacking vistas and the tough going will leave you breathless. (Click here)
Mt Everest, Nepal Tibet has easily the best views of the world’s most famous mountain. (Click here)
Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania The magic starts while you’re still up on the rim, with the chill air and sublime views over the enormous crater. (Click here)
Northern Lights, Iceland Celestial kaleidoscope known for transforming long winter nights into natural lava lamps. (Click here)
Salto Ángel (Angel Falls), Venezuela Witness the cascade of the world’s tallest waterfall, as it thunders 979m from the plateau of Auyantepui. (Click here)
Acropolis, Greece Embodies a harmony, power and beauty that speak to all generations. (Click here)
Stonehenge, England People have been drawn to this myth-rich ring of boulders for more than 5000 years. (Click here)
Pyramids of Giza, Egypt Witness the extraordinary shape, impeccable geometry and sheer bulk of the pyramids. (Click here)
Taj Mahal, India The marble mausoleum is the world’s most poetic parting. (Click here)
Great Wall, China Perfectly chiselled bricks, overrun with saplings, coil splendidly into the hills. (Click here)
Eiffel Tower, France Pedal beneath it, skip the lift and hike up, buy a crêpe from a stand here or visit it at night. (Click here)
La Sagrada Família, Spain Barcelona’s quirky temple soars skyward with an almost playful majesty. (Click here)
Temples of Angkor, Cambodia The Cambodian ‘god-kings’ of old each strove to better their ancestors in size, scale and symmetry. (Click here)
A Mighty Asian Junket
This is the “Asian century”, so a jaunt through the great cities and landscapes of Asia is definitely in order!
Start your trip in booming Tokyo, a city combining tradition and ultra-modernity, from where you can visit the solemn majesty of Mt Fuji. Crossing to the continental landmass of Asia, head for Shanghai, the most dynamic city in the world’s fastest changing nation. Then turn your gaze southward to Hong Kong, for fantastic shopping and leisurely ferry trips, or lap up the Portuguese ambience in nearby Macau. Zip across to historic Hanoi to savour its graceful architecture en route to the surreal-looking limestone islands of Halong Bay. Returning via Hanoi, hop across to Luang Prabang, glistening with temples and on the banks of the Mekong River. Move on to the moated old city of Chiang Mai to enjoy a meditation retreat, before heading for the awe-inspiring ruins of Siem Reap and Angkor. Skipping south it’s time for a beachside idyll on the Andaman Sea, either at Phuket or Krabi. Move on to Singapore for shopping and for planning your next moves.
The Hippy Trail: London to Melbourne
A rite of passage for many, the overland trail from Europe and across Asia has inspired generations of travellers, including Maureen and Tony Wheeler, the founders of Lonely Planet.
Starting from London, head to Paris for a view of the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. Motor eastwards to view the half-timbered houses of Strasbourg, then trundle through the Black Forest en route to the provincial charms of Munich. Take in the musical atmosphere and charming architecture of Salzburg then head for the operas and coffeehouses of Vienna. Stately Budapest and buzzing Belgrade provide spa treatments and throbbing nightlife en route to İstanbul, the mighty Turkish city astride two continents. Catch a Bosphorus ferry, then make a bee-line for the otherworldly landscapes of Cappadocia. Passing the foothills of Mt Ararat, aim for Tabriz across the Iranian border. Enjoy the teahouses of Tehran before revelling in the breathtaking architecture of Esfahan and hitting the desert road. Head to the old city of Lahore for its arts scene and serene Mughal gardens.
Cross the Indian frontier and head to thunderous Delhi, with its Red Fort and fragrant bazaars, and continue to Agra to swoon before the sublime architecture of the Taj Mahal. Zip westward to the deserts and dreamy fortresses of Rajasthan. Then, passing through the clamour of Kolkata, move on to Myanmar, now opening up to tourism. From there it’s a short hop to a spa retreat in Chiang Mai, before zipping in to throbbing Bangkok. Koh Samui provides an island idyll in the Gulf of Thailand before you move on to Indonesia. Jogjakarta is a centre for Javanese art, and puppetry and is the gateway to the Buddhist monuments at Borobudur. Next, hit Bali for some sun ’n’ surf before skipping to rapidly changing Dili. From there it’s a short hop to Darwin, Australia’s most Asian-flavoured city, from where you can drive across the desert to Adelaide, before hitting Melbourne, the artistic and cultural capital of Australia.
A Mediterranean Odyssey
The Mediterranean has been the scene of countless cultures, empires and civilisations throughout history – come here for a dizzying array of art, culture and natural beauty on show.
Venice, seaboard city of art and maritime endeavour, has been the embarkation point for many an odyssey. Follow in the footsteps of Lord Byron, that swashbuckling romantic, and head towards Ravenna, with its Byzantine mosaics, before moving on to the Renaissance time capsule that is Florence, then to Rome, to gawk at the Colosseum. Ferrying across the Adriatic brings you to Croatia’s idyllic Dalmatian coast, dropping in at Split and Dubrovnik, described by Byron as the ‘pearl of the Adriatic’. From here cross into Bosnia-Hercegovina to the achingly slim bridge in Mostar. Back on the coast, savour the breathtaking scenery of the Bay of Kotor, then push on to gorgeous beachside Sveti Stefan and Bar. Heading into Albania you’ll encounter post-communist Tirana with its colourful buildings and the hilltop citadel of Gjirokastra. Down on the Ionian coast lie idyllic Corfu, Ithaka, the island home that Homer long sought, and Cephalonia, where Lord Byron fetched up. From here you can reach Athens to see the Acropolis, or catch a ferry onward throughout the Greek islands, or back to Italy.
Naples is Italy’s pulsing southern metropolis and is the transit point for Sicily, home to Greek temples and slumbering Mt Etna. From here aim for Sardinia’s crystalline Emerald Coast then the quiet fishing villages and rugged interior of Corsica. The Corniche at Nice, and Monaco are sun-splashed places to linger. Marseille then beckons, with its castle and gritty port ambience. Inland is Aix en Provence, and the Provençale landscapes of Arles that inspired Van Gogh. Beyond lies Barcelona, city of art and architecture and gateway to the Balearic Islands. Head south for the nightlife in the Spanish capital, Madrid, then onward for the Moorish delights of Córdoba, Seville and Granada. Finish in Gibraltar, gateway to the Atlantic, and the westernmost point of Hercules’ travels.
Road Trippin’ the Americas
Considering the wide open spaces of the American landmass, it stands to reason that this was the birthplace of the road trip. You can tailor your own odyssey, following in the footsteps (or tyre treads) of Jack Kerouac, and many more besides.
Start in New York, the city that never sleeps, then ramble down to historic Philadelphia for a picture of what colonial American cities looked like, then press on to Cincinatti on the banks of the Ohio River, where Jack Kerouac once passed. From there head south to Nashville, country music Mecca and home to historic buildings and big-name sports. Continuing the musical theme, roll on to Memphis to pay respects to Elvis and Johnny Cash, then follow the Mississippi down to steamy New Orleans for southern cooking, ornate architecture and the jazz clubs that Kerouac haunted. Then, if you’re inclined, you could head to Latin-flavoured Miami, and roll on to reverse the tracks of Che Guevara by heading south to Caracas, Bogotá and Lima, en route to the lofty heights of Macchu Picchu, before fetching up in Buenos Aires, a slice of Europe in the southern hemisphere.
Alternatively, go west, young man, hitting Dallas for cowboys and cheerleaders, then mozy on down to sprawling, boot-scootin’ Houston. For awesome desert views and iconic landscapes the Grand Canyon is a must, before getting a dose of glitz and striking it rich in Las Vegas. Cruise on to Los Angeles to spot a star in Hollywood, then follow Kerouac’s footsteps again to San Francisco. Head north to counter-culture Portland, before crossing the Canadian border and hitting the hip neighbourhoods of Vancouver. Don your spurs to drop in at ‘cowtown’ Calgary, then cruise over the seemingly endless prairie and above the Great Lakes to Montréal for diverse cuisines and European-style architecture. Complete your loop to New York either via Lake Ontario and the muscular shoals of water plummeting over Niagara Falls or through the picturesque landscapes of New England.
Safari of a Lifetime
Africa offers vast landscapes, an opportunity to see wildlife on a scale unrivalled anywhere else in the world, and more cultural diversity than you can poke a rhino’s horn at.
From Cape Town, after climbing Table Mountain, and sampling the wineries of Stellenbosch, you can choose either of two routes. Enjoy the floral bounty of Namaqaland, as you proceed to Fish River Canyon for fantastic hiking. Continue through the Namib Desert and the desolate Skeleton Coast, as you aim for Etosha National Park. If you don’t spot a lonely rhino there, head east towards the Kalahari, where you can walk with bushmen, and then the lush Okavango delta, realm of wallowing hippos. Onward in the footsteps of Dr Livingstone to Victoria Falls, to spy the endlessly rushing waters of the ‘smoke that thunders’. Continue via Lake Kariba to Malawi to enjoy chilling out on the ‘lake of stars’, as Livingstone did back in the day.
The alternative route from Cape Town is through the rugged Drakensberg Escarpment, to the mountainous kingdom of Lesotho, the perfect spot for a pony trek, and then Swaziland. Press on to Kruger National Park, for a chance to spot the Big Five. Slide into Mozambique to hit Maputo for its Portuguese atmosphere and beachside caipirinhas, then proceed up the coast in the wake of Ferdinand Magellan, diving with whale sharks, then stopping in at the faded architectural grandeur of Mozambique Island. From there proceed to Lake Malawi and north into Tanzania, being sure to visit the premier wildlife areas of the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. Then strike out for the peak of Mt Kilimanjaro and on to the Indian Ocean and enjoy the spice gardens and beaches of Zanzibar, where Livingstone once holed up. Sultry Mombasa is an entrepôt of Swahili culture and the gateway to Kenya. Proceed via the Masai Mara to Nairobi. From there you can head via Addis Ababa, Khartoum and Cairo to the Mediterranean, to complete a mighty trans-continental journey.