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Category Archives: Travel

Wonderfully Bizarre Mexican Festivals

Otumba: Feria Nacional del Burro

Donkeys are not always considered the most glamorous of animals but that viewpoint doesn’t ring true in Otumba, a town whose inhabitants simply adore these humble beasts of burden.

Set on an important crossroads an hour northeast of Mexico City, Otumba was a major centre for the sale of donkeys during Spanish Colonisation. On 1 May every year since 1965, the Feria Nacional del Burro (National Donkey Festival) has been celebrated.

The festival is no longer an unknown, village oddity; it’s a big deal. Attracting 40,000 people annually, with a huge array of events, this donkey-mad extravaganza has truly made a name for itself.

There are firework displays, donkey-shaped hot air balloons, burrito booths and a popular football game where – you guessed it – donkey and man take to the field. Other popular events include a donkey race through the town, hours upon hours of donkey dancing and, to top it off, the crowning of a Donkey Queen.

Noche de los Rábanos

If donkeys aren’t really your thing, head down to the gorgeous city of Oaxaca in the south of Mexico and try your hand at radish carving. The Noche de los Rábanos (The Night of the Radishes) is an annual festival dedicated to the fine art of fashioning radishes into beautiful sculptures.

The Spanish originally introduced radishes to Mexico, and artisans in Oaxaca would carve them into religious decorations in order to attract shoppers to a Christmas market held in the city centre.

A competition began in 1897 and since then the radish arrangements have become increasingly more intricate and impressive. Nowadays, entry is limited to only 100 people and government-grown radishes (huge and inedible) are specially supplied to the contestants.

The Velas of Juchitán

If you’re looking for the most exuberant, colourful and perhaps most exhausting festival in Mexico, look no further than the Velas of Juchitán de Zaragoza, held in the city of Juchitán, about 250km southeast of Oaxaca City.

The Velas were traditionally festivities that marked and celebrated certain saint’s days and has grown over the years. Today, there are 26 Velas, with massive parties taking place from April to September, and quite a few of them focus on the identity of different interest groups and families. For example, the Union of Fishermen have an extremely popular Vela. Another favourite is the Vela of Las Auténticas Intrépidas Buscadoras de Peligro (The Authentic Intrepid Seekers of Danger), which celebrates the Muxes, famous in the region as a group of transsexual men generally accepted in Zapotec society as a ‘third gender’.

The word Vela literally means ‘candles’, so Juchitán is lit up in the entire month of May. The whole city comes alive starting with a big procession called La Regada. The dress code is very formal; women wear ‘trajes de tehuana’, handmade dresses covered with radiant floral patterns, and have flowers pinned in their hair. This has the effect of turning the whole venue into a dazzling field of colours. The men, in contrast, wear austere black trousers and traditional white shirts.

How to Choose the Best Travel Camera

The Best Travel Cameras

Over the past ten years, I’ve scoured the internet and tested camera gear in order to find the perfect travel photography kit. When readers and members of our Instagram community ask us what camera we use, I always tell them that what works best for us won’t necessarily be the best fit for them. Choosing the best travel camera is more about finding one that allows you to shoot the photographs you want.

Choosing the best camera for travel photography is different from choosing a professional camera for things like wedding photography and portrait photography, or even just everyday use at home. With so many camera options on the market, it can be a little intimidating when you start your new camera search.

How to Choose the Best Travel Camera for Your Needs

There are several types of travel cameras on the market (Point and Shoot, Advanced Compact Cameras, DSLR, Mirrorless) and each one has its own list of benefits. First, and most importantly, you should consider what is most important to you – size, weight, price, ease of use, etc. Below, I’ve listed the benefits and limitations of each type of camera as well as the top cameras in each of those categories.

Compact Digital Cameras (Point & Shoot)

If your main concern is price, weight, and purchasing a travel camera that is easy to use, then you will want to look at purchasing a Compact Digital Camera. This type of camera won’t weigh down your luggage and it will easily fit in a small backpack or purse.

Compact Digital Cameras are perfect if you don’t want to be hassled with too many controls and you want the least expensive option. Nowadays, you can still find a Point and Shoot camera that takes great photos. That’s not to say you should pick just any Point and Shoot because they are not all created equal.

Advanced Compact Digital Cameras (High-End Compact)

Advanced Compact Digital Cameras are similar to Point and Shoot cameras, but they come with a few more bells and whistles. They are the high end of compact cameras with built-in lenses.

Advanced Compact Cameras are similar in size to the above mentioned ones and they offer full manual mode in addition to auto mode. (Note: Both of the cameras listed in the above section offer manual mode as well.) They also usually have the ability to capture photos in RAW format — which is important if you plan to make any edits to your photos once you upload them to your computer.

Mirrorless Cameras

If image quality, size, and weight is the most important factor, you will want to look at purchasing a mirrorless camera. What is a mirrorless camera, you ask? Unlike a Digital SLR, this type of camera does not have a mirror reflex optical viewfinder — hence, the name mirrorless.  This type of camera is perfect for people who still want an interchangeable lens without the weight of a DSLR.

Another plus for mirrorless is the electronic viewfinders because you can view the realtime effect of aperture and ISO adjustments, unlike a DSLR. If you want to take some of the guesswork out of your photography, then mirrorless is the way to go.

4 Tips to Travel Solo

Tip one: ditch the well-made plans

Wasn’t it Woody Allen who first said if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans? Travelling solo is one of the few times in life when you can throw all your plans out the window if you want, or just not make any at all. Unlike going on holiday with friends or – worse still – the family, you don’t need to compromise. Forget lengthy discussions over financial planning, the challenges of badly rehashed route maps and squabbles over who gets the bottom bunk; travelling solo is all about you.

If you’re a people-pleaser to a fault or have a tendency towards OCD then this is the way to go, free from all the obligations and stresses an infuriatingly disorganised friend or selfie-stick addict brings.

Top two: make new friends

Far easier said than done, especially in an age where the soft glow of a smartphone screen uplights every sorry drinker, sat lonely at their bar stool with thoughts of their next whiskey on the rocks. This is where an old school charm offensive comes in good use. Hostels, hotel bars, and clubs are still the best place to start – places where like-minded solo travellers can stop, unwind and quench a thirst.

If you don’t fancy your chances mixing ice-breakers with weary old-time travellers why not up your odds? Almost every major city around the world hosts a sightseeing tour of some kind, and you might not be surprised to find out that we recommend a late night guided bar crawl. Another sure-fire way to feel at home in any city is to experience its karaoke culture, even if you find yourself joining in with a particularly bad rendition of ‘All By Myself’.

Tip three: you don’t have to talk to strangers

Travelling solo doesn’t necessarily mean coming home with a phone full of names and numbers you’ll never hear from again, either. For many, solo travel is all about escaping the idle chitchat and inanity of the everyday and substituting it with the clarity of me, myself and I. The trend for self-reflective tourism – whether in pursuit of spiritual enlightenment or not – is booming, with monasteries reporting a surge in enquiries for retreats completed in near silence (with exception of the daily chanting, of course).

A stay at the Insight Meditation Society (www.dharma.org) in Massachusetts, for example, starts with 5.30am wake up call, is inclusive of daily chores and meals, and allows guests the use of 240 wooded acres of land, perfect for a meditative stroll on your super-silent Sunday afternoon. No whistling allowed.

Tip four: make friends ‘appen

Ignore the traditional stranger-tapping methods and just make sure you have some juice in your phone. Travelling in the 21st century is all about digital connections. Backpackr (www.backpackr.org) and Travel Buddies (www.travel-buddies.com) are the leading apps for making travel companions in this brave new world, while Tinder (www.gotinder.com) is branching out too, giving users a chance to swipe right on their next travel adventure and find a new pal with more than just a night in with Netflix on their mind.

 

Hidden Beaches in Thailand

 Haad Farang (Haad Sai Yao), Koh Muk

Framed by jungle-draped limestone karsts, this small but striking bay has serene waters free of riptides, making it safe for families to splash around in the sun. As its nickname implies – farang is Thai for foreigner – you’ll find a large concentration of backpackers here. Still, with only a few sun-loungers and a couple of ramshackle food stops, it’s a far cry from the chaos of Chaweng beach on Koh Samui or Kamala on Phuket. Most of the bungalows, restaurants and Koh Muk’s near-nonexistent nocturnal scene are tucked out of sight in the adjacent woods.

Rent a sea kayak (100 baht, around £2 an hour) and paddle around the corner to Tham Morakot (the Emerald Cave), a winding stalactite-lined cavern that opens up to a sheltered cove walled by dense foliage and frequented by bands of monkeys. It is awe-inspiring, but to fully appreciate it, be sure to pack a torch to avoid slamming into cavern walls and other kayaks. To avoid congestion, make the trip in the late afternoon, after the longtail boats (from £14) carting other travellers disperse.

Perched up on one of the limestone outcroppings, the aptly named Ko Yao Viewpoint Restaurant is the best place for sundowners. Skip the saccharine cocktails in favour of an icy Chang beer and bask in the last rays of the day.

Ao Kham, Koh Muk

On the eastern side of the island, about 30 minutes walk or a speedy £1 tuk-tuk ride from Haad Farang, Ao Kham is both longer and more peaceful than its westward-facing counterpart. Luxury bungalows line the edge of the sand, but are set back far enough so as not to intrude on the panorama. In lieu of the clamour of hawkers, you’ll mostly find couples wading through the glass-clear water. Early in the morning, the speckled tracks of hermit and sandcrabs outnumber human footprints.

Sivalai Beach Resort has an extended menu of standard Thai and western dishes and is popular for evening meals. However, prices are high and the quality tends towards the mediocre. A bit further inland, Boon Chu (+66 82 268 3073) has a more local feel and affordable prices, though service is often slow. Meanwhile,Koh Mook De Tara Beach Resort has some of the more authentic dishes on the island. Though the waterfront bar’s claim of the “best margarita in the world” may sound dubious, plates such as massaman curry – with slow-braised, bone-in chicken in a rich sauce with crimson coconut oil – are excellent.

Ao Sabai, Koh Muk

Not far from the Emerald Cave is the island’s only uninhabited beach. Walled in by dramatic bluffs and a smattering of palm trees, Ao Sabai feels like a secret hideaway. It may be on the petite side and its sand is more amber in colour than postcard-perfect alabaster, but the seclusion more than makes up for it. Loll in the shallows or pack a picnic and chill out away from the crowds.

Haad Lang Kao, Koh Libong

The largest Trang island may lack the picturesque, powder sands of some of its more fashionable neighbours, but it more than makes up for it with untamed swathes of mangrove and a low-key vibe seldom found on more frequented shores. Aside from a few fishing villages that house Koh Libong’s 6,000-plus Thai-Muslim residents, there’s little here to intrude on the sublime stillness. Many visitors come here with hopes of spotting one of the dugongs that nibble on the abundant sea grasses just offshore, though sightings of the shy creatures are rare. Haad Lang Kao, a golden strip of coast covered with coarse sand and pebbles, may house all of the island’s resorts, but it still feels relatively remote. The resorts diligently remove driftwood and garbage that washes ashore, keeping these sands in better condition than some others.

The 7 Best Stargazing Sites in the World

1) Mauna Kea, Hawaii

A visit to Hawaii already offers sun, sand and surf; travel to Big Island and you can revel in what many people consider to be the best stargazing on the planet. You may be at risk of altitude sickness (the top of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano, is 13,796ft above sea level) but the view is breathtaking in other ways too: a lack of light pollution ensures unparalleled visibility.

2) Atacama Desert, Chile

As one of the driest places in the world, Atacama Desert has few clouds, along with a high altitude and zero light pollution. What better way to experience it than by camping? Elqui Domos, in the Elqui Valley, is the only “astronomic hotel” in the Southern Hemisphere and offers domed tents with open ceilings and wooden cabins with decks.

3) Yangtze River Valley, China

You may not expect heavily polluted China to offer a top stargazing site, but the Yangtze River Valley swaps the lush scenery of Asia’s longest river by day with gorgeous glittering night skies. The Chinese have a long history of stargazing, too, dating back to 4 BC – one of the first observatories was built in Beijing during the Ming Dynasty.

4) Kiruna, Sweden

Its location 120 miles north of the Arctic Circle makes Kiruna a prime spot to see the aurora borealis, or northern lights – although unfortunately these streaks of magical colour are never guaranteed. Other places you may get to see them include Trysil in Norway and Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska.

5) Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania, USA

Cherry Springs is located atop a great mountain range, its nearby communities set down in the valleys, ensuring minimal light pollution. It’s an amazing place to see the nucleus of the Milky Way, and it’s pretty straightforward to do so too: the Night Sky Viewing Area has public parking, information kiosks and benches. More serious enthusiasts can stay overnight in the Astronomy Observation Field and enjoy 360° views of the sky.

6) Crater Lake, Oregon, USA

Oregon’s only National Park, the remote Crater Lake is at 7,000ft elevation and its relatively isolated location ensures clear skies – and the sunsets and sunrises over the Crater, the USA’s deepest lake, are pretty incredible too. Stay at the Crater Lake Lodge in the heart of the action; there’s also a campsite.

7) Death Valley National Park, California, USA

Exchange the neon stars of Las Vegas for Death Valley, only two hours’ drive away on the border of California and Nevada. As approximately 91% of the park is wilderness, there’s very little artificial light or pollution. The expansive vistas will open up a multitude of stars, but beware – visit in summer and temperatures could regularly top 100°F (38°C).

a magical journey to Norway’s

It might as well be midnight as we leave Tromsø. Last night’s snow crunching beneath the tyres, only the pinkish glow of street lights illuminates the ink-blue sky. This close to the winter solstice, the days here have a strange beauty. The first light doesn’t appear until just before 11am; it’s dark by 1.30pm.

We may already be 350km north of the Arctic circle, but today our journey is only just getting started. Striking out from the city, we snake along the shores of placid fjords, passing traditional red clapboard houses, candles flickering in the windows. These are the most northerly reaches of Europe – and fairytale Norway at its finest.

Even at Breivikeidet, where an isolated ferry plies passengers across the glassy expanse of Ullsfjord, the local population stands at just fifty souls. It’s certainly a challenging place to live – with temperatures dropping to -17°C (1ºF) in winter and 24-hour daylight summer – yet speak to most locals, and they wouldn’t move anywhere else.

As we begin the crossing to Svensby, the Arctic day finally gets going, a soft blue light illuminating the sheer, snow-covered slopes that plunge into the channel’s icy depths. This landscape, its intricate geography of fjords and archipelagos carved over millennia, is simply astounding.

And it’s a good thing the views are so mesmerising, as it turns out I’m as over-dressed as a polar bear in a sauna. Despite the snow, it’s so unseasonably warm that kids are getting stuck into the ferry’s extensive ice-cream selection.

Luckily, we’re not setting out for a day’s exploration. Instead, our two-hour journey reaches its conclusion just over the Lyngen Alps, where a team of entrepreneurs have dreamt up a new reason to draw visitors to this magical region.

On the shores of Lyngenfjord, you can now visit Aurora Spirit, the northernmost distillery in the world. It’s fittingly named; on winter nights the northern lights regularly dance in the sky above the strikingly modern distillery building. Nature always makes its presence felt here.

The project was conceived by three friends, Hans, Tor and Tor’s wife Anne-Lise, and completed in 2016. Inspired by trips to the Islay distilleries in Scotland, they wanted to create a similar experience back home. So, they set out to source local ingredients and talent to make “extraordinary spirits in an extraordinary place”.

And this is certainly an extraordinary place. Perched on a spur jutting out towards the island of Årøya, the wood-clad distillery has a location to rival any of its Scottish cousins.

Currently they produce vodka, gin and aquavit, the traditional Norwegian spirit, with their first whiskies maturing in cask in the NATO tunnels that run beneath the site. There’s a reason why this beautiful tract of land remained undeveloped; the site of a Cold War bunker, it was off-limits until 2005.

oday, however, their spirits draw on an older history. They’re sold under the brand Bivrost, the name of the mythical bridge that connected the human world to the world of the gods in Norse mythology. You can learn more on their exemplary distillery tours, which explain the processes of distillation and maturation, or at one of their tutored whisky tastings.

If you’re after an adrenalin kick instead, you can use the distillery as a base for a RIB tour of the fjord or try spot of Viking-inspired axe-throwing on their outdoor range. I’m hesitant about a trip into the bunker, eerily left exactly as it was abandoned in 1993, notebooks and pencils still scattered across the command room desks.

It’s more tempting to book a night in one of the luxury cabins currently being built on a hill above the distillery, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the bay. It’s hard to imagine a more serene experience than watching the sun dip below the snow covered mountains, or spotting eagles soaring over the fjord from the waterside jacuzzi.

What to See in Santiago

Santiago has always stood in the shadows of its South American neighbours. It doesn’t have the beaches of Rio or the faded opulence of Buenos Aires, but this modern city of seven million people on the edge of the Andes is beginning to win over global travellers. Airlines are jumping onboard, too: British Airways started the first non-stop flights from the UK last week, with the 14-hour-40-minute journey making it BA’s longest route.

Now, you may never have been to a Chilean restaurant, or even know what Chilean cuisine is, but the food scene is exploding in Santiago. The influential US magazine Saveur has named it the world’s Next Great Food City, and chefs have been toying with indigenous cooking methods and produce found between Patagonia, the Atacama desert and the sea to redefine the nation’s cuisine.

Meanwhile, there are now several wine bars in the Chilean capital – five years ago there were none – giving an important industry here a platform to shine. As the capital of one of South America’s most prosperous and stable nations, Santiago is in the midst of major changes, welcoming immigrants from across the Americas and erecting skyscrapers that have reshaped its skyline. Scratch beneath the surface, however, and you’ll find neighbourhoods such as Barrio Yungay and Barrio Italia where historic quarters have been reinvigorated.

WHAT TO SEE

Ride the funicular

On a smog-free day, the city’s dramatic setting between the rolling coastal range and the Andes is astounding. To best appreciate it, go to the funicular station at the end of Pio Nono street, in the bohemian Bellavista neighbourhood, ride the rickety railway to the top of Cerro San Cristóbal, sit in the shadow of the Virgin Mary statue and look across the metropolis. Sold from carts throughout the hilltop park is refreshing mote con huesillo, a drink of husked wheat and peach juice.

Stroll through Barrio Lastarria

José Victorino Lastarria street (named after a 19th-century writer, diplomat and politician) is just four blocks long, but this trendy and densely packed corridor is overflowing with shops, restaurants, museums and cultural centres. Start at theGabriela Mistral Centre, and check out the free-admission art galleries on the basement level. Then stroll past the restaurant-filled Paseo Barrio Lastarria and historic Parroquia de la Vera Cruz church towards the street-side craft vendors near the intersection with Merced. Catch an indie film at Cine Arte El Biógrafo or see the latest exhibitions at the Museum of Visual Arts (£1.20).

Explore Chilean history

In the heart of historic Santiago, at the edge of Plaza de Armas, is the newly restored Museum of Pre-Columbian Art (£5). It is filled with indigenous artefacts and, unlike most places here, has English-language displays. The basement of this 200-year-old building is dedicated to Chile and includes Mapuche totems, Inca pottery and the Chinchorro mummies, which are 2,000 years older than the mummies of Egypt. Race forward a few millennia at the Museum of Memory and Human Rights (free). This striking, copper-covered building at the edge of Quinta Normal park houses a sobering exhibit that grapples with the human rights violations and “disappearances” that occurred under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet between 1973 and 1990.

Shopping from artisans

Bypass the made-in-China souvenirs at the more centrally located Santa Lucia Craft market and go to Los Dominicos Handicraft Village. This adobe complex – part of a former monastery – houses the workshops and stores of artisans, and is a great place to purchase ceramic tableware, naturally dyed textiles, and jewellery made with lapis lazuli, a deep blue semi-precious stone found in the Chilean Andes. Grab an empanada at one of the rustic cafes or check out the latest exhibit at the village art gallery.

Learn Dive in Tobago

In at the deep end
I was in Tobago for a four-day PADI dive course staying at the luxury Magdalena Grand Beach Resort in Little Rocky Bay. On our first morning, we wandered down to the hotel’s World of Watersports dive centre to meet boss Sean Robinson, our dive teacher.

Resplendent in a lime green t-shirt, he was full of diving anecdotes, as well as graphic descriptions of a serious diving hazard known as the bends or decompression sickness. This occurs when a divers ascends too rapidly to the surface and can be fatal. After a couple of hours spent listening to Sean, I felt even more terrified.

Before panic could set in, I was diverted by a hugely unflattering wetsuit being proffered in my direction. Togged up in an ugly expanse of neoprene, a hefty weight belt and an inflatable jacket, I staggered over to the training pool to meet our second instructor; Mutley (real name, Leslie James) had the size and demeanour of a nightclub bouncer, complete with a gold tooth that flashed every time he smiled. He didn’t do it often.

Out on the reef
After two days of pool training, we were ready for our first open water dive. One of the most beautiful spots on Tobago is Pigeon Point in the south of the island boasting white sands, palm trees and azure waters. Just offshore lie the enormous Buccoo Reef and the smaller Kariwak Reef, both of which lurk 5m (15ft) below the water. This is where we headed.

After Mutley prised my fingers from the side of the boat, I followed my two fellow students into the water and down towards the seabed. As I hauled myself down the anchor chain, hazy shapes swam into view before a multicoloured parrot fish burst out of the gloom towards me. Mutley was waiting on the seabed, arms folded, doo-rag hat and gold tooth intact.

Shark! Shark!
Although no two reefs are ever the same, some things are universal. During my dives, what really struck me was just how much life there was below the waves. Trailing fronds of seaweed hid tiny black and white striped fish, while concealed in the sand at the base of the reef lay speckled sting rays and moray eels. A tiny pink and purple prawn made its jerky way past, only to be swept up by Mutley for a closer look.

At Japanese Gardens, a green turtle made a lazy loop around us and hidden under a rock, we found a nurse shark taking a nap. All I could see was a triangular fin poking out of the sea cave, looking for all the world like another ray. Then I realised what it really was: a 1.5m long (5ft) grey killing machine. ‘Shark! Shark!’ I tried to scream, thrashing frantically as I tried to swim away. Mutley shook his head wryly. The shark slept on. I lived to dive another day.

Travels in Trump’s banned countries

President Trump’s list of bad countries – Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Iran, Iraq and Libya – bears an uncanny, and unfortunate, resemblance to my own list of favourite places. Except I was often lucky enough to be in some of those countries before the current round of foreign interference, globalisation, climate change, arms-dealing and war dragged them to ruin and misery. Looking back though, the signs of problems ahead were there, but I still believe that travel is a powerful ally in the war against ignorance and suspicion. Here are some of the people and places I encountered on my travels.

Zaghawa nomads enter El Fasher in Sudan’s Darfur province in 1983. The delicate balance between camel-herding nomads and farmers was about to come under pressure from drought, but the first tremor of unease was when, in September of that year, President Nimeiri introduced sharia law. In El Fasher the town’s beer-makers, all women, were publicly flogged. Next day they were back, selling beer to the same policemen who had whipped them, but the mood in Darfur had subtly altered. An austere and intolerant form of Islam had arrived.

Yemen

Arriving in Yemen for the first time in 1986, I found the hospitality and friendliness of the people were equal to that of Sudan. I spent great days out in markets like this one (above) in an area on the Red Sea coast close to Saudi Arabia, a country that has been bombing Yemen.

A hardline form of communism was imposed on southern areas of Yemen in the 1960s and by the 1980s alienated young men were heading off to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. On their return they would form a hardcore of militant Islamic fighters. I remember one telling me off for wearing trousers – a sign of western decadence. Here a man sleeps near a stack of landmines near Aden after the 1994 Yemeni civil war.

Iraq

Inspired by those Yemeni mujahideen, Osama Bin Laden among them, the 9/11 attack was undoubtedly a turning point, a moment that Donald Trump can always return to in justifying his actions in banning travellers from certain countries. This is an Iraqi tank, hit by US shells, and then given a forthright sticker message. FDNY is the Fire Department of New York.

The 2003 Iraq war was an egregious moment in the history of foreign meddling. In Basra I found a complex and diverse society bracing itself for the disaster they knew was coming. This old couple, baffled by all the violence, but determined to continue old traditions of hospitality, invited me into their house.

The young lads, however, were more interested in the weaponry that surrounded them. Here a group play around with a British soldier and his SA80 rifle.

Syria

Syria was next to reap the poisonous harvest of radicalism, violence and hatred. In 2009 things were still peaceful and this shopkeeper in Hama was more interested in discussing Shakespeare than politics.

Outside Aleppo at Mushabbak, a boy cradles his favourite goat kid in front of a ruined Byzantine church. Within a year war would break out and steadily engulf the whole country.

The best podcasts to listen to on the road

1. If you’re a first-timer: Serial (series one)

For tens of millions of people, Serial was a deliciously addictive gateway drug into the world of podcasts. In the first series, launched back in 2014, investigative journalist Sarah Koenig delved into the mysterious 1999 murder of 18-year-old Hae Min Lee. It’s a true story, narrated with flair and compassion that will leave you yearning for answers.

2. If you like eavesdropping on funny conversations: The Adam Buxton Podcast

Dr Buckles is the undisputed duke of British podcasting; only he can make you laugh and cry with equal velocity in the space of one episode. His intimate, honest interviews leave you feeling like you’re listening in on a chat between old friends – which is often the case; Richard Ayoade, Louis Theroux and Sarah Pascoe are a few pals who have appeared on the show.

3. If you’ve ever thought about escaping to a desert island:Desert Island Discs

Simply one of the best podcasts out there, regardless of whether you’re on a desert island or not. In each episode, host Kirsty Young asks guests (or ‘castaways’) to choose the eight records they would take with them if they were stranded on a desert island. The BBC has put thousands of archive episodes online, with Louis Armstrong (1968), John Peel (1990) and Yoko Ono (2007) being a few of the landmark interviews.

4. If you need entrepreneurial inspiration: How I Built This

Travel’s a good time to reflect on things and make some big life decisions you’ll probably never see out. If you need a further kick up the backside, How I Built This interviews the entrepreneurs behind companies like Airbnb, Instagram and Vice, asking them how they came about setting up their multi-million dollar businesses. If this doesn’t inspire you to create that new app, magazine, or blog, nothing will.

5. If you want a ‘series fix’, but don’t want to pack a laptop:Homecoming

There have been a load of fiction podcasts over the last couple of years, mainly crime or sci-fi based, testing the water in what has traditionally been a non-fiction format. Many fall short of the mark, but Homecoming could signal a turning point. Its Hollywood cast features David Schwimmer, Oscar Isaac and Catherine Keener. As gripping as any Netflix original.