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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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