Want sea, sandcastles, adventure, a city break, camping, just a pool? We pick holidays across Europe to keep everyone, from tiny tots to sulky teens, in a sunny mood
A role in The Mercy – alongside Colin Firth and Rachel Weisz – has put the charming but faded seaside town in the spotlight
Everybody admires Teignmouth (pronounced “Tin-muth”). The problem is, most people don’t know they have been there, as inter-city trains whizz by without stopping, and if you blink you miss the station. But this small seaside town is on the famous stretch of coast where Brunel’s Riviera railway line follows the curves of Devon’s red sandstone cliffs, and those who bag the seats on the east get views of the English Channel and the Exe and Teign (pronounced “tain”) estuaries.
Chinese new year signals major travel across the country, and railways are at the heart of many journeys. Author and BBC journalist Michael Bristow knows China well – and the insight time on board offers
Chinese people will make nearly 400 million train trips over Chinese new year (16 February this year). Migrant workers will leave the cities and head back to the countryside to see their children; students will travel home for the long winter holiday; elderly parents will visit their grown-up children.
The mass arrival of cars and planes has changed the nature of travel in China but the railways remain the country’s most important form of transport. However, trains do not just get you from A to B: in China, these often long journeys give travellers a snapshot of ordinary life, a sense of where they are.
China’s rail network is a fast-paced wonder that makes exploring this huge country – including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen – much easier
• China by train: tracks, tales and a snapshot of daily life
Friday is Chinese new year and also the beginning of the spring festival, a national holiday in China (known as Chun Jie), which heralds what has been called the largest human migration in the world, with millions of people making journeys home for the holidays. China’s growing high-speed rail network – which is the longest in the world, too – carries a significant transport burden, with almost 60% of the population using it over a three-week-plus period.
It’s not just locals who can take advantage of the vastly improved journey times that the network offers: tourists too can use high-speed trains to visit more of China – and a whole lot faster. Many high-speed rail journeys are, ultimately, quicker than flying.
Enjoy ocean views from rooftop bars or just step out and get the sand between your toes. From Mazatlán to Pochutla, here are 10 charming beachside escapes
Mexico’s Pacific coast, more than 1,000 miles of it, is renowned for its beaches, as well as the resorts which have attracted Hollywood royalty. However, it’s also an area that can experience tropical storms, usually between June and December. The most recent was Hurricane Patricia, the strongest hurricane ever recorded at sea, which swept across the region at the end of October, but caused less damage than anticipated. Hotels are now operating as normal.
Well-known and deservedly popular for its jungle, coast and ancient ruins, the Yucatán peninsula can be a pricey place to stay – unless you pick one of these brilliant budget hotels and hostels
On the surface, this mid-size hotel in Cancún’s hotel zone is pretty unremarkable. The tile-floored rooms are big and clean, with terraces or balconies – though they’re not notably stylish. The restaurant is good, not gourmet. The pool is a sensible size. But set this against its glitzy, high-rise neighbours and check the rates, which are often lower than similarly appointed hotels on the mainland, 30 minutes from the water – and Beachscape starts looking pretty good. Then walk out on to the palm-shaded beach, one of the prettiest stretches in the hotel zone, and the place becomes a minor miracle.
• Doubles from $109, +52 998 891 5427, beachscape.com.mx
The Seychelles islands of Mahé, Praslin and La Digue may be known for their luxury resorts but there is also a great selection of family-run, more affordable guesthouses just as close to the archipelago’s famous, world-class beaches
For a room with a five-star view, Colibri is hard to beat. Nine rustic rooms – all wood and stone – ensconced amid tropical foliage that tumbles down a hillside to the turquoise waters of Baie Sainte Anne. There’s no beach but you can use the small infinity pool overlooking the bay at neighbouring B&B Chalets Cote Mer, also owned by Sylvie and Stephan, and costing about €10 more a night. You also share the waterfront creole restaurant. The owners can help with car hire but it’s a five-minute walk to a bus stop – which will take you to Praslin’s most famous beach Anse Lazio and the Unesco-protected Vallée de Mai nature reserve – and the jetty for ferries to Mahé and La Digue.
• Doubles from £112 B&B, +248 429 4200, colibrisweethome.com
From Cape Town and its peninsula to the Garden Route and the West Coast, the Western Cape is a dazzling part of South Africa, and its beachside accommodation doesn’t have to break the bank
Ringed by national parks and blessed with more than 100 beaches, the best bits of Sydney are outdoors, active and (mostly) free. Here’s how to enjoy it like a local
‘The best things about Sydney are free,” resident Russell Crowe has said. It is arguably the top metropolis on the planet for soaking up the scenery, but Sydneysiders don’t take these God-given gifts for granted. When they’re not out in the surf, swimming laps in an ocean pool, or sailing around the harbour, locals are barbecuing, picnicking, or finding other ways to enjoy the subtropical setting.
Marathon cycles meet epic swims and uplifting hikes in our guide to the best breaks that, from the Lake District to the Sahara, will get you off the sofa and into the great outdoors
Famed for ashtanga yoga, wellbeing is a way of life in this magical south Indian city – and fantastic markets, food and architecture all add to the allure
Mysuru (formerly known as Mysore; it was renamed in 2014) has hovered under the tourist radar for years and is often overlooked in favour of southern cousins such as Kochi and Puducherry. But the former royal capital of the erstwhile eponymous princely state is a slow-reveal pleasure, a place of culture, eccentricity, architecture, beauty and manners; a gently pious, highly literate and quietly arresting city, connected to nature and imbued with the sacred.
Looking for inspiration for your travels? Browse our 40 fabulous destinations around the world from capitals of culture to palm-fringed beaches, remote wildernesses to a new museum at the Pyramids
Street dishes to savour, colourful coasts to relax at and cool cities to explore, it’s been another year of exploring. Here, we pick our favourite stories of the year. Warning: contains holiday romances gone wrong!
For an experience of Portugal away from the droves of tourists that go there every summer, we headed to its central coast, where the Atlantic roars into empty beaches lined with delicious seafood restaurants.
Its street food scene is legendary and the capital George Town, one of the hottest destinations in Asia, now buzzes with nightlife – but the verdant island’s beaches and jungle are also worth exploring
This exotic tropical island off the north-west coast of Malaysia is one of the world capitals of street food, with a dazzling array of cuisines from the island’s Chinese, Malay and Indian communities. But after eating my way through everything from Hokkien black noodles, succulent giant prawns steamed in rice wine and spicy assam laksa, to roti canai dunked in a rich lamb curry, I discovered that Penang is a lot more than just a foodie paradise.
High in the Andes, Bolivia’s de facto capital is having a moment, thanks to local artists, chefs and cafe owners on a mission to breathe new life into the historic centre
There are few cities with such an extraordinary setting as lofty La Paz. At 3,640 metres above sea level, Bolivia’s de facto capital has serious altitude. Fly in and you’ll see the pancake-flat Altiplano (high plain) fall into a steep-sided bowl lined with a maze of adobe and red-brick buildings, which mix with modern skyscrapers at the base. And towering above it all is the jagged, glacier-topped Cordillera Real.