5 Best places to go in Europe in February 2022

Temps are low in Europe in February, but so are the crowds—and hotel rates. Isn’t that reason enough to get those 2020 travel plans off to a roaring start?

1 Madeira, Portugal

Madeira CheckMyTrip

If you want to avoid the cold and wet weather that hits much of Europe in February, visit the island of Madeira, which sits in the Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of Africa.

This environment makes Madeira the perfect place for outdoor activities, even during the winter months. Try hiking Ponta de São Lourenço, which is a nature reserve filled with red-streaked volcanic rocks that offers majestic views of the ocean. Or, if you don’t want to hike, but still want amazing views, visit the Cabo Girão Skywalk, which is a clear platform that hangs off of Europe’s highest cliff— definitely not for those afraid of heights. Be sure to sample some of the area’s wine while you’re here, too. Head to Blandy’s Wine Lodge, where you can take a tour and find out how this region’s wine is made.

You can also try paragliding, or even the famous street tobogganing. Plus, if you visit at the end of February, you can take part in the Carnival festivities.

2. Prague, Czech Republic

Prague CheckMyTrip

Explore the winding streets of Prague’s Old Town to admire the pastel-colored buildings this February. Take a walk down Karlova Street, which historically was the way Bohemian kings traveled to their coronations, and check out the local shops selling glassware, wooden toys, painted eggs, puppets, and other crafts that make great gifts.

Warm up from the cold by visiting one of the city’s museums, like the Prague Jewish Museum, the National Museum, or the Museum of Beer. For a unique experience, check out the Franz Kafka Museum, which is devoted to the famous writer.

3. St. Moritz, Switzerland

St. Moritz CheckMyTrip

There’s no wrong time to visit this swish alpine resort town, which stuns both in summer and winter, but February is arguably the best. Ultra-luxe ski resorts are in full swing, the winter temps are at their warmest (ideal for lingering on the high slopes), and Switzerland’s world-famous White Turf horse-racing event takes over three weekends on the town’s frozen lake.

4. Paris, France

Paris CheckMyTrip

Paris is an obvious choice for a Valentine’s Day trip across the pond. The city is known as the most romantic in the world, and it certainly won’t disappoint if you decide to visit this winter.

Plus, February is often the cheapest month to fly to Paris, and you can enjoy off-season hotel prices and fewer crowds at the big attractions. Skip the lines and still get a chance to see some of the most popular tourist sites in the world, including the Eiffel Tower, Versailles Palace, and the Arc de Triomphe.

One night, take a Seine dinner cruise, where a heated boat will take you down the iconic river that flows through the center of the city. Consider booking a ticket to performances at the famous Moulin Rouge or Opéra Garnier for another exciting night in Paris.

5. Tenerife, Canary Islands

Tenerife CheckMyTrip

Your options are limited, but it is possible to squeeze in some European beach time during the second month of the year. While mainland Spain fluctuates from cool to cold, the southernmost Canary Islands—specifically Tenerife—are warm year-round. February is one of the best times to visit Tenerife’s southern beaches, when temperatures hit the low 70s and there’s less chance of rain.

Lounging by the water at Playa de la Tejita is requisite, but if you’ve got more time to spare, don’t miss a hike through the forests of the Anaga Mountains or a walk through Garachico, where you can also swim in rock pools formed by lava. Heads up: time your trip for the tail-end of the month and you’ll be just in time for the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival (February 19–March 1, 2020), a celebration of music, color, and life.

Sources: Travel and Leisure, JetSetter


Get up-to-date COVID-19 travel guidance in CheckMyTrip

Now in CheckMyTrip, you can check the COVID-19 travel restrictions for your origin and destination as part of your travel itinerary or directly in the app, in case you don’t have a trip planned yet.

Share this article

The best New Year’s Eve holiday destinations around the world

The best New Year's Eve holiday destinations around the world

It’s easy to sneer at New Year’s Eve: too expensive, too crowded, too much pressure to have the greatest night of your life. OK, you could hunker down at home – or you could make it really memorable by hitting up one of the best New Year’s Eve parties in the world. From fireworks blasting across breathtaking backdrops to raucous street parties in cool capitals and all-night raves on blissed-out beaches, there’s no shortage of amazing ways to ring in a new year.

BEST FOR: NEW YEAR’S FIREWORKS 

@rebeccadouglasphotography

Reykjavik, Iceland 

The Icelandic capital’s midnight fireworks are a community effort: everyone buys their own from ICE-SAR, the national search-and-rescue unit, in what is its most lucrative fundraising project of the year. The result: when the clock strikes 12, the sky explodes with hundreds of mini firework displays, lighting up the entire city. It’s a spectacular sight, but listen out for the sounds, too: fire engines and ships docked in the harbour all ring their bells and blow their horns to welcome the New Year.

THE LOCAL VIEW

Revelries ramp up long before the countdown, with community bonfires kicking off all over town from 4pm (a bonus of those long winter nights). A large crowd of locals gathers at landmark Hallgrímskirkja Church to launch fireworks and watch the display at midnight – offering a great vantage from its perch on Skólavörðuholt hill.

Countdown Entertainment

New York City, USA

Sure, Times Square isn’t the most original recommendation, but it is the archetypal NYE in NYC. If you’re going to do it, do it from the Renaissance Hotel’s  R Lounge – the bar windows offer peerless views of the famous One Times Square building due south, where the ball drops.

THE LOCAL VIEW

Make like a real New Yorker and swap Manhattan for Brooklyn. There’s free fireworks and live music at Prospect Park, and Brooklyn Bridge is a spectacular spot to take in the sky-side show. 

@edinburghschristmas

Edinburgh, Scotland

The Scottish capital’s famed three-day Hogmanay extravaganza usually kicks off on 30 December, with a Viking-style torchlight procession along the Royal Mile. The big night itself features a Scottish music programme including Dougie McLean, Eddi Reader and Breabach, which wraps in time for gig-goers to catch unequalled views of midnight fireworks over Edinburgh Castle. Celebrations continue on New Year’s Day with the traditional fancy-dress dip in the freezing Firth of Forth (known as ‘the Loony Dook’). For more information on the many events that normally take place, visit edinburghshogmanay.com.

THE LOCAL VIEW

You probably won’t spot many Edinburgh natives at official Hogmanay festivities for one, entirely rational, reason: they know to be sceptical about the weather. Instead, find the Scots hedging their bets with indoor jollities before bagging a free spot to watch the castle’s midnight display. Smart, boho Stockbridge has a wealth of great pubs: stop off for a wee dram or two and folk music at basement joint The Bailie Bar, followed by a trip to Inverleith Park, which offers the best free view of the countdown fireworks in the city.

@sydney

Sydney, Australia

Sydney Harbour’s firework extravaganza is usually watched by more than a million people gathered along the foreshore – but with the city only starting to reopen in October, this year will look a little different. If you’re already there, join the boatfuls of revellers bobbing in the water – hire out a boat, bring your own bubbles and start the countdown early. Landlubbers might prefer to reserve an outside table at one of the waterfront restaurants by Sydney Harbour Bridge for a front-row seat.

THE LOCAL VIEW

Alternatively, motor out to Cockatoo Island and set up a moonlit picnic in preparation for the show; you can even camp or glamp there for the night, as long as you book a spot in advance. New Year’s Eve without the end-of-night battle for a taxi? Yes, please.

BEST FOR: NEW YEAR’S STREET PARTIES

@cbezerraphotos

Paris, France

If you’ve got someone special to share a midnight kiss with, there’s no better place to spend New Year’s Eve than the city of romance. The centre of the action is undoubtedly the firework display on Champs-Élysées, but if you’re hoping to soak up the atmosphere without being packed shoulder-to-shoulder, the street parties in hilly Sacré-Cœur offer a cinematic – and slightly calmer – view over the festivities. Avoid disappointment and skip the Eiffel Tower entirely; fireworks are only set off here on Bastille Day, and you can see it lit up any night of the year with slightly fewer crowds to battle.

LOCAL VIEW

Traditionally, the French mark New Year’s Eve with a supper known as le réveillon – usually an indulgent feast of delicacies such as oysters, caviar, escargot and foie gras. Michelin-starred restaurant La Tour d’Argent does a set menu of exceptional dishes (and even more exceptional views over the city), though you may need to start saving in January to afford it. For a more budget-friendly option, the roof terrace of cool club Wanderlust is the ideal spot to watch the fireworks over the Seine.

@lindsay__travels__

Venice, Italy

Yes, it’s touristy. Yes, it’s crowded. But something is enchanting about Venice at New Year’s Eve, all the same, the anticipatory thrill of counting down to midnight in the packed St Marco’s Square more than worth the wait. (And there’ll be a wait – get here at least a few hours in advance if you want a good spot to see the fireworks).

LOCAL VIEW

One of the best views of Venice’s fireworks isn’t actually on the main island; catch the Vaporetto (water bus) over to Giudecca and watch the show from across the lagoon. There are several Italian New Year’s Eve traditions you can join in with. It’s good luck to be wearing red underwear as the year turns over, while lentils, also believed to bring good luck, are an essential part of any New Year’s Eve dinner. Plus, try out more modern practices, such as the chilly New Year’s Day swim in the Lido.

@pipps

Beirut, Lebanon

Beirut’s legendary party scene makes for a memorable outing any night of the year, but in 2017/2018 the city elected to put on an official shindig in its streets, and immediately landed on various ‘best of’ lists – prompting it to go even bigger in the following years. Place de l’Etoile is packed with merrymakers, as live bands, DJs and fireworks ring in the next decade, and a spectacular light show beams out of the square’s 1933 Art Deco clocktower. This being Beirut, things don’t typically wind down until after dawn.

THE LOCAL VIEW

The city’s nightlife scene has more than its fair share of bling-bling clubs, but to get among the Beiruti in-crowd, bar hopping in hip Gemmayzeh and neighbouring Mar Mikhael is where it’s at. The latter’s Anise is a firm favourite, where craft cocktails are concocted with Lebanese spirit arak and locally foraged herbs.

@escribiendoloquesurja⁠ ⁠ ⁠

Madrid, Spain

A city which is world-renowned for its parties goes crazy especially on the New Year’s Eve. If you are searching for where to go for New Year celebrations then we would be definitely recommend Madrid to you. One unique tradition which you would find here in Madrid is eating 12 grapes sharp at 12:00 am marking the arrival of New Year. Feasting on a scrumptious dinner is another way of celebrating New Year in Madrid, the traditional dinner here usually consists of lamb or seafood. Royal Palace is another hotspot for New Year celebrations in Madrid. Witness a great countdown party at Puerta del Sol with a huge variety of drinks and food.

Things to Do: Follow the tradition of eating 12 grapes at 12:00 am, feast on a heaty dinner, stroll through the Royal Palace

BEST FOR: NEW YEAR’S BEACH PARTIES

@fullmoonpartykohphangan

Koh Phangan, Thailand

Pre-Covid, there were parties on the beaches of Thailand’s islands all year round, but the wildest of them all is New Year’s Eve on Koh Phangan, home to the world’s most famous full-moon party. Revolving around Sunrise Beach in Haad Rin, the maelstrom starts as soon as it gets dark and romps on well beyond sunrise and into the following afternoon.

THE LOCAL VIEW

Go for cocktails and a dinner of freshly caught and grilled fish over on the sunset side of the island, and don’t even think of joining the party until just before midnight. Then head back to Sunset Beach for a dawn swim.

@shawnny_boy_0801

Goa, India

Some say Goa’s parties are not what they used to be. We say it’s still hard to beat dancing on the beach, with the sand between your toes and fairy lights strung on every palm tree, sequinned sari skirts twirling under the stars. And New Year’s Eve is the best time of year to party in Goa, with fireworks and celebrations all along the coast of India’s good-time state. Inevitably, the biggest and loudest bashes tend to be centred around Anjuna, where world-class DJs play to huge crowds long into the night.

THE LOCAL VIEW

For a more intimate party, head to Palolem, in the south. This jungle-lined bay is dotted with ramshackle beach bars that join up for a night of psy-trance tunes and EDM, free-flowing cocktails and fireworks at midnight.

@julesvernetravel

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

It’s practically midsummer in Rio de Janeiro this time of year, which is why many partygoers shun sweaty indoor clubs and take the party to the beach instead. A whopping two million people gather on the 2.5-mile-long Copacabana for samba, Champagne and fireworks on New Year’s Eve – to find a good spot, start staking your place from 10pm. It’s customary to wear white in Rio on NYE – said to bring luck for the New Year. But perhaps leave your favourite clothes at home, unless you don’t mind getting doused with Champagne, sprayed F1-style by rapturous crowds.

THE LOCAL VIEW

Lifeguard stations along the beach are called ‘postos’; in-the-know types recommend setting up between Postos 5 and 6. This is the final stretch of Copacabana, so it’s not quite as crowded; plus, it’s walking distance from the parties at neighbouring Ipanema, where many revellers head after the countdown fireworks.

@the_seven_best

Cape Town, South Africa

The mother of all celebrations in the Mother City usually takes place on the V&A Waterfront, where there’s everything you could possibly require in one handy spot: dinner, live music, dancing, fireworks. Plus, there are views of Table Mountain and the Atlantic shore. It’s spectacular – but if you want a party with a more local flavour, you have to head for the sand. 

THE LOCAL VIEW

A sunset picnic on Clifton 4th Beach, a gorgeous cove in the affluent Clifton neighbourhood, is a popular choice for Capetonians. Then it’s time to hit one of the city’s many glam beach clubs. The hottest ticket? Pacha’s elite soirée at Grand Africa, on the Grand’s private beach, facing Robben Island.

Sources: cntraveller, My holidays


Get up-to-date COVID-19 travel guidance in CheckMyTrip

Now in CheckMyTrip, you can check the COVID-19 travel restrictions for your origin and destination as part of your travel itinerary or directly in the app, in case you don’t have a trip planned yet.

Share this article

Best places to celebrate Christmas in Germany

Christmas in Germany

Christmas in Germany is a magical time. The four weeks leading up to the 25th are filled with weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas markets), glühwein, and much nicer than usual Germans.

However, Christmas Eve til the day after Christmas can be a little quiet as these are family holidays. So where to go to feel that yuletide feeling? These are some of the best places to spend Christmas in Germany – with or without your family and friends.

Nuremberg

@angelina__2909

Not all Christmas markets are created equal and the Nuremberg Christmas Market may be the best in the country.

Located in the heart of the altstadt (old town), watch for the angelic Christkind, a child that acts as an ambassador of the city. They wander among the festive red and white striped booths and lead the celebration. Shop the 180 traditionally decorated huts for hand-made goods and order some sustenance in the form of Nuremberg rostbratwurst, a warming drink, and favorite sweets like lebkuchen (gingerbread).

Christmas Eve at Berlin Cathedral

@pixelpassionphotography

Berlin has many lovely Christmas markets, but if you’re in the city on Christmas Eve, here’s a special event you won’t want to miss.

The Protestant Berliner Dom is located on the UNESCO Museuminsel in Mitte. The impressive structure dominates the landscape with the fernsehturm (TV Tower) and River Spree behind.

On Christmas Eve, the cathedral is open to the public for heavenly choir concerts. Hushed masses make their way through the rows of pews and then the singing begins. Familiar carols like “O Tannenbaum” (O Christmas Tree) echo throughout and visitors know the true meaning of gemütlichkeit.

World’s Largest Advent Calendar House

@taall_off 

For over 15 years the quaint town of Gengenbach in Baden-Württemberg has transformed its entire Rathaus (Town Hall) into the world’s largest Advent Calendar House, or – auf Deutsch – “Das weltgrößte Adventskalenderhaus“.

The 24 windows (two rows of 11 plus 2 in the roof) are each decorated with a festive Christmas scene with a new window revealed every night until Christmas. Celebrate the lead-up, or catch the full picture on Christmas day.

There are other towns with building-sized advents calendar, but this is the biggest.

Dresden Christmas Market

@pt_moon1

Dresden has the oldest Christmas market in Germany, dating back to 1434. Dresden’s Christmas market is famous for having the world’s biggest nutcracker and a huge Christmas pyramid, a 45-foot high wooden carousel with life-sized angels and scenes from the Nativity.

If you arrive before Christmas Day, check out the Stollen Festival on December 5. An enormous stollen (traditional Christmas cake) is presented, weighing 4 tons and measuring 13 feet in length. At any other time, just buy a normal-sized cake to enjoy yourself.

Bamberg’s Route of Nativity Scenes

@bambergphotoart

This charming city gets has many lovely places to visit, including its traditional taverns, Rauchbiers will warm you from the inside. Plan a visit to the cathedral and UNESCO World Heritage center in this “Franconian Rome”.

For Christmas, Maximiliansplatz is illuminated and decorated with a traditional market surrounded by Bamberg’s Franconian half-timbered architecture. Walk the Route of Nativity Scenes which consists of over 40 sites and about 400 Christmas cribs in a mix of historical and modern scenes.

Sources: Trip Savvy, Planet Ware


Get up-to-date COVID-19 travel guidance in CheckMyTrip

Now in CheckMyTrip, you can check the COVID-19 travel restrictions for your origin and destination as part of your travel itinerary or directly in the app, in case you don’t have a trip planned yet.

Share this article

10 Best Christmas Markets to vist this year

CheckMyTrip Christmas market

The holiday season is one of the best times to go to Europe with the festive spirit in full swing and the cold weather just mild enough to walk around. Christmas markets, found in towns large and small, are one of the best ways to soak it all in.

These are 10 of the best Christmas markets in Europe, by country. Some markets might be a little different this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but many are coming back (in some form) for the season.

@cityofprague

Prague, Czech Republic

Dates: From November 27, 2021 to January 2, 2022
Best for: Open-air concerts and traditional nativity scenes

Postcard pretty Prague is perfect for the festive season. Make like a local and swap your mug of mulled wine for a glass of grog – rum, water, lemon and sugar. The setting is magnificent: on one side, the 14th-century twin spires of Our Lady Before Týn; on the other, the city’s famous 15th-century astronomical clock. Between them swirls a glittering pool of seasonal cheer.There are presents aplenty on offer including frosted, hand-blown glass baubles. But it’s the food that will keep you hanging around: warm, fatty sausages just off the grill; fresh pancakes; garlic and-cheese flatbread; all topped off by a glug of svarák, the local, citrussy take on mulled wine. Its cinnamon scent is misted over the whole square.

If you’ve got little ones, shepherd them over to the Old Town Square where you’ll find sheep, goats and a donkey waiting patiently for attention from earnest tourists.

Expert tip: Head to Wenceslas Square to marvel over its brightly lit Christmas tree too and time it for 5pm when the lights are switched on each day.

@bertooo82

Berlin, Germany

Dates: From November 22 to December 31, 2021
Best for: Trendy Christmas gifts and tobogganing

For a more modern take on tradition, arty Berlin has it covered. The city centre is festooned with around 80 Christmas markets (there’s even one specifically for dogs), so don’t try to cover them all. If you’re after scale, Spandau is the biggest. For looks, Weihnachtszauber, in magnificent Gendarmenmarkt Square, is the prettiest with plenty of arts and crafts on offer.

Get your pulse racing at Winter World, on Potsdamer Platz —it’s less about shopping and more about winter sports, with tobogganing, curling and an ice-skating rink with free lessons for kids. Go at 10am, when it’s quietest

Expert tip: Some of Berlin’s smaller markets are only open for a few days, so check before you book.

@strasbourgtourisme

Strasbourg, France

Dates: From November 26 to December 26, 2021
Best for: 
Storybook scenery and sweets

France’s ‘Capital of Christmas’ looks like a real-life nativity scene at this time of year. You’ll find 300 traditional market stalls crowding the city’s central squares, doing a strong line in hand-painted wooden Christmas decorations.

Seek out the Market of the Invincible Small Producers of Alsace for sausages and almondy, fruity, brioche-like kugelhopf.

Expert tip: The main areas of the market — Place Broglie and the square in front of the cathedral — are busiest in the evenings and weekends, so try to visit these first if you want to focus on your Christmas shopping without any toe-stepping (stalls open at 10am).

La defense

Paris, France

Dates: From November 25 to December 29, 2021
Best for: 
Santons de Provence, Advent wreaths, garlands, baubles, candles and more

This market is the biggest in the Paris area, with more than 300 chalets showcasing crafts and thousands of square feet of merry decorations, all underneath the Grande Arche de la Defense. After a long day of shopping, go ahead and indulge in some cheese — you are in France, after all.

Expert tip: Visiting the market at night will be extra special as the towering skyscrapers of the La Defense business district will be lit up!

@hydeparkwinterwonderland

London, United Kingdom

Dates: From November 19, 2021 to January 3, 2022
Best for: 
The biggest open-air ice rink in the UK and shows

Sip hot chocolate topped with marshmallows or mulled wine in London’s Hyde Park as you shop for candle votives, ornaments, crafts, and gourmet food. After shopping, go ice skating or choose from different roller coasters before going to meet Santa.

Expert tip: Plan to go during the week. Saturdays are the busiest for the attraction, so avoid them at all costs!

@missmercimcn

Edinburgh, Scotland

Dates: November 20, 2021 and January 4, 2022
Best for: A cultural Christmas

Undeniably one of the prettiest cities on the planet, Edinburgh really shines in the winter months as Christmas markets and Hogmanay celebrations come together to create a winter wonderland offering one of the world’s best festive calendars.

Along with Santa’s Grotto; an oval ice rink; fairground rides, such as the 60-metre-high Star Flyer; an elves’ workshop hidden within the Christmas Tree Maze; and stalls selling wooden toys, Harry Potter themed gifts, and mulled Irn Bru; you’ll find special projections, performances, and art works showcasing local talent. Barcrawl under the fairy lights of George Street and pop into the Scottish National Gallery to contemplate winter scenes (nationalgalleries. org; free). After dark, head to the Royal Botanic Garden to sip spiced cider and marvel at its Christmas illuminations (rbge.org.uk; £19).

Expert tip: If you can only visit once, be sure to come at the end of December to join the city’s enchanting, Hogmanay Torchlight Procession through Edinburgh’s Old Town on 30 December. Bag a ticket and you can return for the Hogmanay street party and stunning fireworks display on 31 December. Don’t miss the famous ceilidh and concert in Princes Street Gardens on New Year’s Eve either.

@budapest_hungary

Budapest, Hungary

Dates: From November 19, 2021 to January 1, 2022
Best for: 
Ice rinks and Christmas illuminations

Igniting the Christmas atmosphere in mid-November, Budapest brings two Christmas market contenders to the table: Vorosmarty Square and Basilica. Vorosmarty Square is tucked right into the heart of the city and is Budapest’s oldest Christmas market. Here, you’ll find plenty of food stalls, handicraft shops and free concerts.

Basilica offers all of the above, but with the slight edge: Christmas laser projections on the Basilica itself and an ice-skating rink that circles around a grand Christmas tree.

Expert tip: You’ll also come across plenty of Hungarian delicacies to tuck into here, including Chimney cake. It’s one of Europe’s more sustainable markets with eco-friendly cups, plates and cutlery.

@ursprung

Basel, Switzerland

Dates: 25 November to December 23, 2021
Best for: Foodie delights and fairy lights

Basel’s Christmas market is the biggest and most beautiful in Switzerland, assembling 160 meticulously decorated stalls selling a wide array of culinary wonders from gob-stopping sausages, and authentic Basel Läckerli (a local twist on gingerbread), to hot punch, festive fondue, and rib-sticking raclette to beat the winter chill.

Split into two different sections at Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz, the former offers handmade, wooden toys, nativity scenes, and jewellery, while Münsterplatz’s fairytale forest is filled with fun festive activities for kids, from bauble-making workshops to gingerbread decorating.

Expert tip: Turn up at 6.30pm on 26 November to kick off the festive season, when the city’s Governing President, Elisabeth Ackermann, will switch on the Münsterplatz Christmas lights.

@gdansk_official

Gdańsk, Poland

Dates: From November 19 to December 24, 2021
Best for: Festive romance and global delicacies

Situated in the historical city centre, Gdańsk Christmas market is a magical winter wonderland with romance oozing from every corner – there’s even a spot that’s been set up so lovers can kiss under the mistletoe in the hopes of having a long-lasting life together. Expect to see elf parades, a talking moose, the Snow Queen and her singing carollers; and the chance take a spin on the fairy-tale carousel. Shop for original jewellery, ceramics and upcycled clothes such as hats and knitwear orfill-up on the wide variety of delicacies from around the world including traditional Polish cuisine (try pierogi). Foodies will be tempted by  Alsatian pancakes, Greek bougatsa and Spanish churros. Warm up with a mug of hot chocolate, mulled beer or honey and ginger and aromatic mulled wine.

Expert tip: Keep an eye out for the five-metre-tall gate in the shape of an Advent candle holder, with a viewing point at its peak. The gate also features a Christmas surprise – it will be decorated with the largest Advent Calendar in the city. A new window will be opened every day as part of a fun tradition.

@tresmassif

Brussels, Belgium

Dates: 26 November, 2021 to January 2, 2022
Best for: A gourmet Christmas

Winter Wonders in Brussels is spread out across Grand-Place, Bourse, Place Sainte-Catherine and Marché aux Poissons, boasting ice skating rinks, ethereal music and light shows, a massive Christmas tree, and a mile-long stretch of more than 200 snow-blanketed wooden chalets, serving toasty waffles, warming mulled wine and, of course, Belgian beers and chocolates.

Expert tip: At this time of year, the city is filled with pop-up restaurants and lively bars, so come with an empty stomach: advice you should probably take before taking a spin on the market’s signature ferris wheel, which offers a bird’s eye view of the fun.


Get up-to-date COVID-19 travel guidance in CheckMyTrip

Now in CheckMyTrip, you can check the COVID-19 travel restrictions for your origin and destination as part of your travel itinerary or directly in the app, in case you don’t have a trip planned yet.

Share this article

How to experience a city like a local

How to experience a city like a local

When you’re headed to an unfamiliar city, and your goal is to avoid the touristy neighborhoods and see how the locals live, how can you get the authentic flavor of a place fast? There are things you need to do in advance of your travels, as well as when you’re on the ground, so get prepared. After all, many find planning an exciting part of the adventure.

So if you normally rush from one monument, museum and park to the next, why not challenge yourself to leave your watch and schedule behind. Here’s how to expereince a city like a local!

Before you go

1. Learn the language

Tourist CheckMyTrip

You don’t need to be fluent in the local language but a few everyday words go a long way. “Hello” and “thank you” are always helpful, and “toilet” can definitely be useful. There are many free and paid apps that can help with this, such as BabbelDuolingo, or Memrise.

Having some basics will not only help you in getting around, it will also make it much easier to break the ice with locals. Most people love knowing a foreigner has made the effort. You might feel silly trying out new words or phrases, but travelling is all about leaving your comfort zone.

2. Fly into a regional airport

airport CheckMyTrip

Start your trip as you mean to go on by landing in a city that’s not the capital.

Airports in smaller cities are often less stressful and cheaper to fly into, whilst giving you the chance to explore some places you may not have thought about visiting. Consider flying out of a different city to expand your route.

3. Avoid hostels

Hostel CheckMyTrip

Hostels are very appealing if you’re on a budget but, apart from local staff, they tend to be full of other foreign travellers. They don’t give you many chances to experience a place and its culture. Instead, organise independent or local accommodation. They may be more expensive but you’ll go home with lots more anecdotes and memories than a run-of-the-mill hostel can offer. When searching for accommodation, look up the areas where people live day-to-day and opt for one of these local neighbourhoods. This will also help to keep costs down as they are likely to be outside of the city centre.

During your trip

4.Take a free walking tour

free tour CheckMyTrip

One of the best things to do when you arrive in a new city or town is look up free walking tours. They’re a great way to get your bearings in a new place. They’ll often make stops at popular attractions or neighbourhoods, allowing you to decide if they’re worth going back to another day.

The guides are always locals who often grew up in the town or city so they’re full of stories and local gossip that you won’t find in any guidebook. They’re also a found of knowledge about transport, what you should be paying for food and souvenirs and they’ll be happy to let you know the best, and worst, local restaurants.

Walking tours usually last two or three hours and you usually only need to book via their website a day or two in advance. There’s no charge, but it’s customary to tip your guide at the end.

5. Get really lost

Local CheckMyTrip

Rather than eating at a place recommended by a local guide, ditch it and get lost in a place and see what you stumble upon.

Choose a restaurant away from touristy areas or near famous attractions. Look for places offering authentic local food that doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket, then ask for some tips from bar and waiting staff. You’ll have a much more local experience and go home with a list of dishes to create in your kitchen.

5. Scour the markets and the streets

Market CheckMyTrip

Local markets, not those aimed at tourists, are the best place to really see locals at their best. The shouting, bartering and joking will tell you a lot about a nationality, not to mention teaching you some ‘colourful’ language.

Try to buy local foods that are grown in the country. Not only is this a more eco-friendly way to eat but you’ll get to experience the local version of familiar foods, or a Coke that doesn’t taste like Coke.

Don’t shy away from street food either. If you see queues of locals lining up for a street cart it’s a good sign that the food is popular, hygienic and tasty.

6. Use public transport

Transport CheckMyTrip

Be it bike, scooter, rickshaw, or subway, using public transport is a great window into a new culture. Even if you don’t understand the local language, you will see familiar sights, like people on the bus getting annoyed with the boy playing video games, or the crying child. A local metro card is also a good way to get around a city and cheaper than renting a car or taking a taxi.

What do you do when you travel to have a local experience? Share your tips with us on Instagram

Sources: Trip Advisor, EuroNews


Get up-to-date COVID-19 travel guidance in CheckMyTrip

Now in CheckMyTrip, you can check the COVID-19 travel restrictions for your origin and destination as part of your travel itinerary or directly in the app, in case you don’t have a trip planned yet.

Share this article

Destination: Argentina

Destination Argentina

Beautiful, defiant and intense, Argentina seduces with its streetside tango, wafting grills, fútbol (soccer), gaucho culture and the mighty Andes. It’s one formidable cocktail of wanderlust.

Things not to miss

 • Trying your hand (or feet) at the tango
 • Standing in the Playa de Mayo in Buenos Aires
 • Wandering the cobblestoned streets of San Telmo in Buenos Aires
 • Seeing the Iguazu Falls
 • Sampling a local Malbec, perhaps at one of the local parrillas, or steak houses
 • Sitting in the stands for a futbol match
 • Driving through the Lake District
 • Explore Cordova, a university town with Colonial architecture

When to go

The best time to travel to Argentina depends on where you want to focus your trip. Some factors to consider: Summer, December through February, is the best time to visit the extreme landscape of Patagonia. You’ll find fewer crowds in Buenos Aires during the summer, but it can get hot, too.

The prime time to visit Buenos Aires is in the spring (September through November), when the temperatures are cool and the purple jacarandas are in bloom. A great time to see Mendoza or the Lake District is in the fall, when the foliage pops—and there are fewer crowds.

City Life

@buenosaires

Arriving in Buenos Aires is like jumping aboard a moving train. The modern metropolis whizzes by, alive with street life from busy sidewalk cafes, to hush parks carpeted in purple jacaranda blooms in springtime. Stylish porteños (residents of Buenos Aires) savor public life – whether it’s sharing mate (a tea-like beverage) on Sunday in the park or gelato under handsome early-20th-century stone facades. There are heaps of bookstores, creative boutiques and gourmet eats. Buenos Aires isn’t the only stunner – Córdoba, Salta, Mendoza and Bariloche each have their unique personalities and unforgettable attractions, so don’t miss them.

Natural Wonders

@visitargentina

From mighty Iguazú Falls in the subtropical north to the thunderous, crackling advance of the Glaciar Perito Moreno in the south, Argentina is home to a vast natural wonderland. Diversity is a big part of it. The country that boasts the Andes’ highest snowbound peaks is also home to rich wetlands, rust-hued desert, deep-blue lakes, lichen-clad Valdivian forests and Patagonia’s arid steppes. Wildlife comes in spectacular variety, from penguins and flamingos to capybaras, giant anteaters, whales, guanaco herds and more. In this vast country, stunning sights abound and big adventure awaits.

Food & Drink

Satisfying that carnal craving for flame-charred steak isn’t hard to do in the land that has perfected the art of grilling. Parrillas (grill houses) are ubiquitous, offering up any cut you can imagine, alongside sausages and grilled vegetables. Thin, bubbly pizzas and homemade pastas also play central roles, thanks to Argentina’s proud Italian heritage. But there’s more. Buenos Aires fads are fun and fast-changing, bringing gourmet world cuisine to both upscale restaurants and the shady cobblestone neighborhoods. Grab a table, uncork a bottle of malbec, and the night is yours.

Argentine Culture

Cultural activities abound here. Tango is possibly Argentina’s greatest contribution to the outside world. The steamy dance has been described as ‘making love in the vertical position.’ And what about fútbol (soccer)? Argentines are passionately devoted to this sport and, if you’re a fan, chanting and stomping alongside other stadium fanatics should definitely be in your plans. Add a distinctive Argentine take on literature, cinema, music and arts, and you have a rich, edgy culture – part Latin American and part European – that is thoroughly distinctive. 

Sources: Lonely Planet, Travel and leisure


Get up-to-date COVID-19 travel guidance in CheckMyTrip

Now in CheckMyTrip, you can check the COVID-19 travel restrictions for your origin and destination as part of your travel itinerary or directly in the app, in case you don’t have a trip planned yet.

Ski holidays 2021-2022: Everything you need to know

Andorra checkMyTrip

Are you itching to get on the slopes this winter? Here’s the current position with 14 leading ski nations around the world – 10 of which already have ski areas open for the 21-22 season.

Andorra CheckMyTrip

Andorra

Borders Open: Yes

Entry without being Fully Vaccinated? Yes

Ski Season Already started? No

Entry Rules: Anyone aged over 6 years old will also need to be able to show either proof of Covid vaccination, a negative PCR test result within 72 hours before arrival, or proof of recovery from Covid. Travel in is via France or Spain so you need to adhere to entry rules in whichever country you arrive through as well as Andorra’s.

Pandemic Operations in Andorran Ski Resorts: Face masks are mandatory for everyone aged 8 or older in enclosed public spaces such as bars, restaurants and shops. Everyone aged eight or older is required to wear a mask. Limit of eight in groups in bars and restaurants and social distancing measures remain in place.

Austria CheckMyTrip

Austria

Borders Open: Yes

Entry without being Fully Vaccinated? Yes (but you will need to quarantine)

Ski Season Already started? Yes

Entry Rules: You’ll need proof of full vaccination to enter without quarantine. You can enter with a negative Covid test or evidence of recovery for a recent infection but will need to quarantine for 10 days with the option to reduce to 5 days with a PCR test on day five.

Pandemic Operations in Austrian Ski Resorts: You’ll need proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test or of recovery for a recent infection to use the ski lifts and apres-ski venues. Restrictions will increase if the number of people in hospital rises above certain pre-set levels.

Bulgaria CheckMyTrip

Bulgaria

Borders Open: Yes

Entry without being Fully Vaccinated?  Yes from, EU/Schengen and other areas but more complicated.

Ski Season Already started? No

Entry Rules: Simplest if fully vaccinated arriving from EU/Schengen with EU digital COVID certificate proving this, more complex but possible from all but reds list countries otherwise.

Pandemic Operations in Bulgarian Ski Resorts: The Bulgarian government has said skiers will not have to have the digital vaccine certificate to be able to ski at this stage, and that the same protocols as last season including mask wearing by resort employees and visitors and other normal covid spread prevention measures will be in place.

Canada CheckMyTrip

Canada

Borders Open: Yes

Entry without being Fully Vaccinated? No

Ski Season Already started? No – but Lake Louise opening Friday Nov 5

Entry Rules: If you’re fully vaccinated (at least 14 days before travel) travellers you can once again travel to Canada, on a few conditions. You must also provide proof of a negative COVID-19 negative test less than 72 hours old and you may be asked to take another test on arrival (this ios done at random to arrivals). of departure) or proof of a positive test result taken between 14 and 180 days. You also need to  upload proof of vaccination, quarantine and travel information up to Canada’s ArriveCAN portal at least 72 hours before you travel.

Pandemic Operations in Canadian Ski Resorts: From the start of November a number of Canadian ski resorts began announcing skiers would need to be fully vaccinated to use lifts to meet provincial/national public health guidelines to operate at capacity. Otherwise operations vary by province and by resort to some extent and can change frequently. Capacity restrictions and indoor mask wearing can be a factor.  Some resorts have required all staff be vaccinated.  Some report issues hiring enough staff due to work visa issues.

Finland CheckMyTrip

Finland

Borders Open: Yes – from low risk EU/Shengen area countries.

Entry without being Fully Vaccinated? Yes from EU/Shengen area and other apptroved low-risk countries but more complicated.  Not usually just for leisure from the UK, however UK citizens can enter if fully vaccinated.

Ski Season Already started? Yes

Entry Rules: Double jabbed people from low risk EU/Schengen area countries can enter without a test.  Entry possible for those with single jabs and other circumstances but testing required.

Pandemic Operations in Finnish Ski Resorts: Social distancing and indoor mask wearing remain the norm.

France CheckMyTrip

France

Borders Open: Yes

Entry without being Fully Vaccinated? Yes – if the country you’re arriving from is on the list of accepted countries and you take tests and get a negative result.

Ski Season Already started? Yes

Entry Rules: The country you are arriving from must be one France allows entry from and you normally need to be fully vaccinated. All arrivals need to fill out a pre-travel form.

Pandemic Operations in French Ski Resorts: Currently visitors won’t need a Covid pass to access ski lifts, although this could be subject to change if the Covid situation changes in the country. However, you will still need to show the ‘pass sanitaire’ (https://www.gouvernement.fr/info-coronavirus/pass-sanitaire) for the likes of certain public transport, events and cultural spaces with over 50 people, and other facilities such as bars.  Face masks are required in all enclosed public spaces in France.

Italy CheckMyTrip

Italy

Borders Open: Yes

Entry without being Fully Vaccinated? Yes (but quarantine required if not fully vaccinated)

Ski Season Already started? Yes

Entry Rules: The country you are arriving from must be one Italy allows entry from and you normally need to be fully vaccinated and show a negative test taken within 48 hours before entering Italy. Unvaccinated arrivals allowed but must also show proof of the negative test and will need to self-isolate for five days. All arrivals need to fill out a pre-travel form.

Pandemic Operations in Italian Ski Resorts: A ‘green pass’ is required for everyone aged 12 and over to access public spaces including bars, restaurants, exhibitions, spas, gyms and indoor pools. Covid passes are required for anyone aged 12 or over. Face masks must be worn required in enclosed spaces including public transport, as well as outdoor spaces where social distancing is not possible.

For rules on ski destinations, the best thing would be to consult the relevant regional tourist board website as the Regions in Italy have a certain amount of independence to decide their own rules. Eg for Trentino region: https://www.visittrentino.info/en/articles/practical-info/coronavirus-info

Japan CheckMyTrip

Japan

Borders Open: No

Entry Without being Fully Vaccinated? No entry whether vaccinated or not.

Ski Season Already started? No

Entry rules: Borders closed.

Pandemic Operations in Japanese Ski Resorts:  These differ between resorts and regions but mask wearing and distancing is generally the norm.

Notes: COVID-19 cases have fallen dramatically since the peak of its third wave in August. At the beginning of October, the country dropped its coronavirus state of emergency for the first time in six months.

Norway CheckMyTrip

Norway

Borders Open: Yes

Entry Without being Fully Vaccinated? Yes from some countries.

Ski Season Already started? Yes

Entry Rules: Entry allowed from a number of countries (EU/UK and others) if fully vaccinated or with evidence of recovery from a COVID infection in the previous six months. Unvaccinated travellers can also enter from these countries without needing to take a test if the country has a low infection rate. At time of writing the UK had a high infection rate and testing and quarantine was required along with the need to fill out a location form.  Countries status changes according to infection rates.

Pandemic Operations in Norwegian Ski Resorts: Most rules have been relaxed in Norway but individual ski resorts may still require COVID measures be adhered to.

Scotland CheckMyTrip

Scotland

orders Open: Yes

Entry without being Fully Vaccinated? Yes

Ski Season Already started? No

Entry Rules: No travel restrictions from within the UK.

Pandemic Operations in Scottish Ski Resorts: In Scotland masks must still be worn in indoor public places such as cafes, bars and gondolas cabins.  

Spain CheckMyTrip

Spain

Borders Open: Yes

Entry without being Fully Vaccinated? Yes from some countries including UK but you must show a negative recent test result.

Ski Season Already started? No

Entry Rules: In order to enter Spain you must present a digital vaccination certificate, showing that you have received the full vaccination programme or a Diagnostic Certificate, showing you have tested negative for COVID.

Pandemic Operations in Spanish Ski Resorts: Masks and 1.5m social distancing remain mandatory indoors in Spain.

Sweden CheckMyTrip

Sweden

Borders Open: Yes – to EU and Schengen countries and selected other nations.

Entry without being Fully Vaccinated?   Yes from some approved nations.

Ski Season Already started? No

Entry Rules: Sweden has complex entry rules if you do not live in the EU/Schengen area and are not fully vaccinated, but it is increasingly possible to travel there for leisure if you meet the requirements for arrivals from the destination you’re coming from.  

Pandemic Operations in Swedish Ski Resorts:

Latest Info:  https://www.krisinformation.se/en/hazards-and-risks/disasters-and-incidents/2020/official-information-on-the-new-coronavirus/travel-restrictions

Switzerland CheckMyTrip

Switzerland

Borders Open: Yes

Entry without being Fully Vaccinated? Yes from selected countries.

Ski Season Already started? Yes

Entry Rules: Entry without restriction for people who can show they are fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated arrivals need to present a negative PCR test (not older than 72 hours) or a negative rapid antigen test (not older than 48 hours). A second test is required four to seven days after entry. You can check your position here:  https://travelcheck.admin.ch/home

Pandemic Operations in Swiss Ski Resorts: To enter indoor hospitality venues you need to be able to show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid, or a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours/antigen test within 48 hours. Face masks are compulsory on public transport and indoors in public areas.

Usa CheckMyTrip

USA

Borders Open: From November 8th to citizens of 33 countries including UK and EU.

Entry without being Fully Vaccinated? No

Ski Season Already Started? Yes

Entry Rules: Travellers above the age of 18 must prove they received WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccines. Those below 18 must show negative test results from three days before travel.

Pandemic Operations in US Ski Resorts: These vary from state to state, country to county, company to company and resort to resort. However mostly restrictions are limited.  Many do require face coverings indoor and a few require evidence of vaccination in limited circumstances (indoor cafeteria dining) but not to ride lifts.

Sources: In the snow


Get up-to-date COVID-19 travel guidance in CheckMyTrip

Now in CheckMyTrip, you can check the COVID-19 travel restrictions for your origin and destination as part of your travel itinerary or directly in the app, in case you don’t have a trip planned yet.

Destination: Thailand

Destination Thailand

Thailand has reopened to vaccinated tourists from 63 countries this week, as officials significantly ease border restrictions.

The Thai government has approved (almost) quarantine-free entry to tourists from 63 countries ahead of its peak tourism season under the so-called Test-and-Go tourism plan. The new plan requires fully vaccinated arrivals to have COVID-19 insurance cover of at least US$50,000 (£36,600), and present proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test before they depart for Thailand.

Welcome to Thailand!

It’s hard to summarize the diversity of travel to Thailand. Its capital, Bangkok, is a teeming metropolis with gilded temples and palaces, while the two coastlines, on the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, have postcard-perfect beaches. In the mountainous interior, hill tribes live as they have for millennia. And wherever you travel in Thailand, there’s the food: fresh seafood, countless curries, and noodle dishes so delicious you’ll never want to return to your local Thai take-out.

Best time to visit Thailand

The weather in Thailand is split into three seasons: rainy (roughly May–Oct) cool (Nov–Feb) and hot (March–May).

The rains usually builds momentum between June and August, hitting its peak in September and October. The cool season is when travelling in Thailand is most pleasant, though temperatures can still reach a sticky 30°C. In the hot season, you’re best of hitting the beach.

The best time to go to Thailand is the cool season: more manageable temperatures and less rain, it offers waterfalls in full spate and the best of the upland flowers in bloom. Bear in mind, however, that it’s also the busiest season.

Where to go in Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand
@tourismthailand

Bangkok

The clash of tradition and modernity is most intense in Bangkok, which forms the first stop on almost any itinerary. Within its historic core you’ll find resplendent temples, canalside markets and the opulent indulgence of the eighteenth-century Grand Palace. Downtown’s forest of skyscrapers shelters cutting-edge fashion in decor boutiques and some achingly hip bars and clubs.

Most budget travellers head for the Banglamphu district, where if you’re not careful you could end up watching DVDs all day long and selling your shoes when you run out of money. The district is far from having a monopoly on Bangkok accommodation, but it does have the advantage of being just a short walk from the major sights in the Ratanakosin area:

  • Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo
  • Wat Pho
  • National Museum
Chiang Mai, Thailand
@tourismthailand

Chiang Mai

If you’re wondering where to visit in the northern uplands, then start with Chiang Mai. It’s both an attractive historic city and a vibrant cultural centre, with a strong tradition of arts, crafts and festivals.

Self-improvement courses are a strong suit – from ascetic meditation to Thai cookery classes – while the overriding enticement of the surrounding region is the prospect of trekking through villages inhabited by a richly mixed population of tribal peoples.

Plenty of outdoor activities and courses, as well as hot springs and massages, can be enjoyed at Pai, a surprisingly cosmopolitan hill station for travellers, four hours northwest of Chiang Mai.

Many colourful festivals attract throngs of visitors here too: Chiang Mai is one of the most popular places in Thailand to see in the Thai New Year – Songkhran – in mid-April, and to celebrate Loy Krathong at the full moon in November, when thousands of candles are floated down the Ping River in lotus-leaf boats.

Pha-ngan, Thailand
@asiaandbeyond 

Samui archipelago

The pick of the coasts are in the south, where the Samui archipelago off the Gulf coast ranks as one of the best places to go in Thailand. Ko Samui itself has the most sweeping white-sand beaches, and the greatest variety of accommodation and facilities to go with them.

Ko Pha Ngan next door is still largely backpacker territory, where you have a stark choice between desolate coves and Hat Rin, Thailand’s party capital. The remotest island, rocky Ko Tao, is acquiring increasing sophistication as Southeast Asia’s largest dive-training centre.

Tucked away beneath the islands, Nakhon Si Thammarat, the cultural capital of the south, is well worth a short detour from the main routes through the centre of the peninsula – it’s a sophisticated city of grand old temples, delicious cuisine and distinctive handicrafts.

Ayuthaya, Thailand
@kou.k_travel

Central plains

With Chiang Mai and the north so firmly planted on the independent tourist trail, the intervening central plains tend to get short shrift. Yet there is rewarding trekking around Umphang, near the Burmese border, and the elegant ruins of former capitals Ayutthaya and Sukhothai embody a glorious artistic heritage, displaying Thailand’s distinctive ability to absorb influences from quite different cultures.

Even if you’re just passing through, you can’t miss the star attraction of Nakhon Pathom: the enormous stupa Phra Pathom Chedi dominates the skyline.

To get an idea of what shopping in Bangkok used to be like before all the canals were tarmacked over, many people take an early-morning trip to the floating market (talat khlong) at Damnoen Saduak. Sixty kilometres south of Nakhon Pathom and just over a hundred kilometres from Bangkok.

 Phi Phi Islands, Thailand
@bkkmin

The Andaman Coast

Across on the other side of the peninsula, the Andaman coast offers even more exhilarating scenery and the finest coral reefs in the country, in particular around the Ko Similan island chain, which ranks among the best dive sites in the world.

The largest Andaman coast island, Phuket, is one of Thailand’s top tourist destinations and graced with a dozen fine beaches, though several have been overdeveloped with a glut of high-rises and tacky nightlife.

Beautiful little Ko Phi Phi is a major party hub, surrounded by the turquoise seas and dramatic limestone cliffs that characterize the coastline throughout Krabi province. Large, forested Ko Lanta is, for the moment at least, a calmer alternative for families, but for genuine jungle you’ll need to head inland, to the rainforests of Khao Sok National Park.

Tarutao National Park, Thailand
@thomasrossi 

Deep South

Further down the Thai peninsula, in the provinces of the deep south, the teeming sea life and unfrequented sands of the Trang islands and Ko Tarutao National Marine Park make this one of Thailand’s top places to go. There’s now the intriguing possibility of island-hopping your way down through them – in fact, all the way from Phuket to Penang in Malaysia – without setting foot on the mainland.

The greatest interest in the deep south is currently all over on the beautiful west coast, where sheer limestone outcrops, pristine sands and fish-laden coral stretch down to the Malaysian border.

Along Trang’s mainland coast, there’s a 30km stretch of attractive beaches, dotted with mangroves and impressive caves that can be explored by sea canoe, but the real draw down here is the offshore islands, which offer gorgeous panoramas and beaches, great snorkelling and at least a modicum of comfort in their small clusters of resorts.

Khao Yai National Park, Thailand
@khaoyainationalpark

Khao Yai National Park

Another regular in lists of the best places to go in Thailand, Khao Yai National Park – the country’s first national park – encapsulates the phenomenal diversity of Thailand’s flora and fauna. It’s one of the very few national parks to maintain a network of hiking trails that visitors can explore by themselves, passing dramatic waterfalls, orchids and an abundance of wildlife.

Spanning five distinct forest types and rising to a height of 1,351m, the park sustains over 300 bird and twenty large land-mammal species – hence its UNESCO accreditation as a World Heritage Site.

Rangers discourage visitors from exploring the outer, non-waymarked reaches unguided, partly for environmental reasons, but also because of trigger-happy sandalwood poachers. Sandalwood trees are indigenous to Khao Yai, and though oil collection does not usually kill the tree, it does weaken it. Guides can point out trees that have been cut in this way along the trails.

Phimai, Thailand
@babaruessli

Issan

Few tourists visit Isaan, the poorest and in some ways the most traditionally Thai region. Here, a trip through the gently modulating landscapes of the Mekong River valley, which defines Thailand’s northeastern extremities.

It takes in archetypal agricultural villages and a fascinating array of religious sites, while the southern reaches of Isaan hold some of Thailand’s best-kept secrets – the magnificent stone temple complexes of PhimaiPhanom Rung and Khao Phra Viharn, all built by the Khmers of Cambodia almost ten centuries ago.

Phuket, Thailand
@brendon

Phuket

We may have already mentioned the Andaman Coast, but Phuket is worth looking at in greater detail. Thailand’s largest island and a province in its own right, Phuket is the wealthiest province in Thailand, with tourism driving the economy.

Some tourist developments have scarred much of the island, however, many of the beaches are still strikingly handsome, resort facilities are second to none, and the offshore snorkelling and diving are exceptional.

If you’re after a peaceful spot, aim for the 17km-long national park beach of Hat Mai Khao, its more developed neighbour Hat Nai Yang, or one of the smaller alternatives at Hat Nai Thon or Hat Kamala.

@ms.ploydao

Ko Samui

Despite over a million visitors a year, Ko Samui remains a top places to go in Thailand. Back-packers to bougie fortnighters come to this part of southern Thailand for the beautiful beaches. At 15km across and down, Samui is generally large enough to cope with this diversity and the paradisal sands and clear blue seas have kept their good looks.

The island’s most appealing strand, Chaweng, has seen the heaviest, most crowded development and is now the most expensive place to stay, though it does offer by far the best amenities and nightlife. Its slightly smaller neighbour, Lamai, lags a little behind in terms of looks and top-end development, but retains large pockets of backpacker bungalow resorts.

The other favourite for backpackers is Maenam, which, though less attractive again, is markedly quiet, with plenty of room to breathe between the beach and the round-island road.

How to travel around Thailand

Travel in Thailand is largely cheap, easy and efficient – though not always speedy. For instance, long-distance journeys on land can be arduous, especially if a tight budget means you’re sat in the unforgiving second-class seats and there’s no air con.

That said, the many transport options available makes getting around Thailand a whole lot easier than elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Buses are speedy, inexpensive and frequent, and can be quite luxurious.

Trains are slower, but safer and, there’s more chance to sleep during an overnight trip. It’s also worth nothing that if you’re travelling by day you’re more likely to follow a scenic route by rail than by road.

Songthaews (literally “two rows”) – open-ended vans with as many people squashed into the back as possible – supplement the bus network, especially in rural areas. Slightly more comfortable are share-taxis and air-conditioned mini-buses which connect many of the major towns and cities.

*Sources: Lonely Planet, Rough Guides


Get up-to-date COVID-19 travel guidance in CheckMyTrip

Now in CheckMyTrip, you can check the COVID-19 travel restrictions for your origin and destination as part of your travel itinerary or directly in the app, in case you don’t have a trip planned yet.

Destination: Mexico How to celebrate the Day of the Dead

Mexico

From late October to early November, visitors flock to Mexico for Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead). Day of the Dead —that is a celebration of the continuity of life— is one of Mexico’s most important holidays, celebrated in November each year.

Here’s one thing we know: Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is not a Mexican version of Halloween. In 2008, UNESCO recognized the importance of Día de los Muertos by adding the holiday to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Today Mexicans from all religious and ethnic backgrounds celebrate Día de los Muertos, but at its core, the holiday is a reaffirmation of indigenous life.

Dia de los muertos
@checheolguin

The Día de Muertos tradition

Day of the Dead originated several thousand years ago with the Aztec, Toltec, and other Nahua people, who considered mourning the dead disrespectful. For these pre-Hispanic cultures, death was a natural phase in life’s long continuum. The dead were still members of the community, kept alive in memory and spirit—and during Día de los Muertos, they temporarily returned to Earth. Today’s Día de los Muertos celebration is a mash-up of pre-Hispanic religious rites and Christian feasts. It takes place on November 1 and 2—All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day on the Catholic calendar—around the time of the fall maize harvest.

catrina mexicana

Calaveras “Skull”

Calaveras are ubiquitous during Day of the Dead. The skulls are often drawn with a smile as to laugh at death itself. They take many forms such as sugar candies, clay decorations, and most memorable: face painting. Sugar skulls are decorated and placed on ofrendas of loved ones. A Calavera, or sugar skull, is a decorative skulls made (usually by hand) from either sugar (called Alfeñiques) or clay which are used in the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead.

The calavera Catrina

In the early 20th century, Mexican political cartoonist and lithographer José Guadalupe Posada created an etching to accompany a literary calavera. Posada dressed his personification of death in fancy French garb and called it Calavera Garbancera, intending it as social commentary on Mexican society’s emulation of European sophistication. “Todos somos calaveras,” a quote commonly attributed to Posada, means “we are all skeletons.” Underneath all our manmade trappings, we are all the same.

In 1947 artist Diego Rivera featured Posada’s stylized skeleton in his masterpiece mural “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park.” Posada’s skeletal bust was dressed in a large feminine hat, and Rivera made his female and named her Catrina, slang for “the rich.” Today, the calavera Catrina, or elegant skull, is the Day of the Dead’s most ubiquitous symbol.

Flor de Muerto “Mexican Marigolds”

Marigolds are believed to be the pathways that guide the spirits to their ofrendas. The flower’s vibrant colors and scent attract the departed souls, as they return to feast on their favorite foods. They are called “Flor de Muerto” (Spanish for Flower of Dead) and they symbolize the beauty and fragility of life. Marigold flowers include around 60 annuals and perennials that are native to Mexico and Central America.

Offering
Pic by Mexican folk art guide

Ofrenda “Offering”

While the most recognizable aspects of Day of the Dead are the representations of skulls and skeletons, the tradition that holds the most meaning is the Ofrenda (Spanish for offering). The Ofrenda is what the whole celebration is about; it’s a collection of offerings dedicated to the person being honored.

A brightly colored Oilcloth covers the table and on top of that sits a collection of photographs and personal items of the departed person. The lower portion of the altar is where the offerings are placed, from traditional Mexican cuisine to other items that represent the honored person’s particular tastes.

Food of the dead

You work up a mighty hunger and thirst traveling from the spirit world back to the realm of the living. At least that’s the traditional belief in Mexico. Some families place their dead loved one’s favorite meal on the altar. Other common offerings:

Pan de muerto, or bread of the dead, is a typical sweet bread (pan dulce), often featuring anise seeds and decorated with bones and skulls made from dough. The bones might be arranged in a circle, as in the circle of life. Tiny dough teardrops symbolize sorrow.

Sugar skulls are part of a sugar art tradition brought by 17th-century Italian missionaries. Pressed in molds and decorated with crystalline colors, they come in all sizes and levels of complexity.

Drinks, including pulque, a sweet fermented beverage made from the agave sap; atole, a thin warm porridge made from corn flour, with unrefined cane sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla added; and hot chocolate.

Sources: Day of dead, National Geographic, Lonely Planet


Get up-to-date COVID-19 travel guidance in CheckMyTrip

Now in CheckMyTrip, you can check the COVID-19 travel restrictions for your origin and destination as part of your travel itinerary or directly in the app, in case you don’t have a trip planned yet.

‘No time to died’: 5 places you have to visit in the new James Bond movie

No Time To Die continues the established James Bond tradition of filming in exotic and cinematic locations around the world. The James Bond movies are escapist entertainment that allowed audiences to see parts of the world they might never otherwise have seen.

Filming a James Bond movie on location is a big deal, and often forever associates that location in the mind of the public with 007. For example, after The Man with the Golden Gun was filmed in Phang Nga Bay on the west coast of Thailand, the area was transformed into a major tourist attraction, with the iconic rocks becoming known as James Bond Island. Here’s some of the places movie goers will see Daniel Craig in his last outing as Bond. 

Atlantic Road, Norway
@silvanabertolucci

Atlantic Road, Norway

If you’re an aficionado of the Dangerous Roads website – and anyone with a car and a death wish really ought to be – you’ll probably already know about this spectacular eight-kilometre stretch of tarmac hugging Norway’s north coast. 

What to expect An easy journey from the nearby city of Molde, followed by a drive along the edge of the world, with a series of dizzingly undulating bridges carrying you from island to island. Bad weather – or Bond villains – can render it borderline terrifying, so pick your moment.

Matera, Italy
@baratrousilova

Matera, Italy

Italy has been one of Bond’s favorite escapes in recent movies. It’s been reported that filming happened in the small southern town of Matera, where a high-speed car chase takes place through the winding streets in the iconic Aston Martin DB5.

Matera is well known for its cave dwellings that are carved into the mountainside – you can even stay in a cave hotel to experience it firsthand. The incredible scenery found in this location has earned it a place on Unesco’s World Heritage List. Exploring this site makes a great adventure for any avid traveler, let alone Bond fans looking to pinpoint where the film’s most iconic scene takes place.

What to expect: In short? Rustic charm and off-the-beaten-track vibes, plus regional cuisine big on hot peppers, lamb and juicy belts of lagane pasta. Other movie locations are available in Italy, of course, but if you’ve seen Rome and Venice, Matera is a perfect slow-holiday destination for Bond nerds. And it’s only 30km from another key No Time to Die location: the Gravina aqueduct from which Bond will hurl himself in the film.

Kalsoy, Faroe Islands
@_marcelsiebert ⠀

Kalsoy, Faroe Islands

No Time To Die filmed in the epic one-lane tunnels on the Faroe Islands (an archipelago situated in between Iceland and Norway). Past the one-way tunnels, the islands (18 to be exact) are a majestic set of green rolling hills and a hiker’s paradise. If you find yourself on the island of Kalsoy, everyone will tell you to hike up to Kallur Lighthouse. It’s mostly to see the exquisite panoramas of the Atlantic and the other islands in the distance, but it’s worth every minute of the climb up the rugged cliffs.

What to expect Precipitous crags, audacious hiking trails and lots and lots of puffins. Sure, they might end up on your plate, but the cuisine is mostly fermented mutton and fish, with the odd bit of blubber thrown in for good measure. The islands are also a great spot for spotting the Northern Lights – one good reason for visiting in the depths of winter.

Port Antonio, Jamaica

Port Antonio, Jamaica

James Bond was born in Jamaica, at the home of author Ian Fleming. His villa doesn’t actually feature in No Time to Die, but the film begins with the reluctant spy relaxing near his creator’s hideaway in Port Antonio. We’re sure the movie will have its fair share of actual sexy bits, but the sleek shutters in Bond’s modernist home could well be hottest part of the trailer. This franchise adores a knowing wink to a previous instalment, and you may recall Jamaica was where Honey Ryder emerged from the sea in Dr No. Expect things to get just as steamy in Bond 25 too.

What to expect Wander into the rainforest and gaze at waterfalls cascading into river pools, or sail through the reeds on a bamboo raft. It’s a much quieter spot than a lot of Bond’s travel destinations, so lap up the sunshine and forget about the daily grind, why don’t you.

Cairngorms, Scotland

Cairngorms, Scotland

Driving loch-side is almost always a fraught task for 007, and here he is, speeding along Loch Laggan as a Land Rover careers down the hillside behind him. No matter – Bond is used to alarming interpretations of the Highway Code. His last outing to Scotland saw him reckon with his past at childhood home Skyfall, and witness the death of Judi Dench’s M. This time, he’s a little further east, in the Cairngorms national park: a beautiful location for a spot of dangerous driving and demon confronting. (Don’t drive dangerously on your visit, pls.)

What to expect Pine forests, glittering lochs, rare wildlife. Start at Aviemore, and enjoy the on-the-nose Scottish symbolism of faltering stags and peaty whisky. This town has a ski resort, too, so pack your Union Jack parachute and go full The Spy Who Loved Me by taking to the slopes.

Sources: TimeOut, Lonely Planet