Murano Island, Venice

Exploring the Magical Islands of Venice, Italy

Many people are drawn to Venice to sail the gondola along the meandering canals, or to discover the renown cultural landmarks, such as Saint Mark’s Basilica and Galleria dell’Accademia. However, if you are a more intrepid tourist, you may wish to explore a little further, and visit some of the fascinating lagoon islands. Here’s a sample of the top islands to see, if your curiosity about Venice extends beyond the city.

Torcello Island

The island of Torcello is among Venice Lagoon’s most popular islands, so after you have arranged your boat transfer from Venice airport to your hotel, this might be a good island to begin with. The island’s main attraction is Santa Maria Dell’Assunta Cathedral, which was built in 639AD. Inside this cathedral, you will discover some striking mosaics from Byzantine times, which date back to the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. These mosaics alone are worth making the journey for. The cathedral is just a ten minute stroll away, once you have arrived at the island by boat. After visiting the cathedral, you can walk along some of the paths, or explore other attractions like Torcello Museum and the Santa Fosca Church.

Torcello, Italy

Murano Island

After catching your boat transfer from Venice airport, and preparing yourself for some sightseeing, you may wish to head to the island of Murano. This island is also very popular due, in no small part, to the main tourist attraction here – observing glass-blowing in action.

Glass-blowing has been done on Murano for hundreds of years, so it is a long held tradition here. Actually, every glass maker in Venice lived on Murano at some point, to guard their trade secrets. You can observe a live demonstration, and there are several glass factories available for you to tour. In addition to the glass-making demonstrations, you can visit the pleasant restaurants, or enjoy some nice walks on this tranquil island.

Murano Island, Venice

Lido Island

Lido is probably the most well-known out of all of the islands, as it hosts the Venice Film Festival every year in September or August. You will pass this island on your boat taxi, while you are travelling to your hotel from Venice airport.

The Venice festival is among the world’s most prestigious showbiz events, and every year top directors and film stars from across the planet come here for the film premières, and for the opportunity to win the big award – the Leone d’Oro. Nicknamed “The Golden Island” because of its’ lengthy sandy beaches, Lido is also the location of the Grand Hotel des Bains – which was the setting for the Thomas Mann novel, “Death in Venice”.

If you just restrict yourself to the city while you are sightseeing in Venice, you will be missing out on a whole range of other great attractions. Once you have taken your boat taxi from Venice airport and arrived at your hotel, try to catch another boat out to at least 1 of the islands above, to discover more of this picturesque area.

Adriatic sea of Lido

Five Things not to Miss in Venice…

  1. Canal Grande – A boat ride along this central waterway will give you a first class view of colourful Venetian buildings and stately homes, along with some of the most recognisable landmarks in the city.
  2. Piazza San Marco – Lined with fantastic (albeit pricey) restaurants and cafés, this square is an ideal location to relax with a coffee, and take in the beautiful scenery of traditional Venetian architecture and the lagoon beyond.
  3. Ca’Rezzonico – Restored during 2001, this fascinating building houses possibly the finest museum in the city, which gives visitors a revealing insight into daily life in grand Venetian homes, towards the end of the Venetian Republic era.
  4. Doge’s Palace – This amazingly lavish Gothic-Renaissance building used to be the official home of Venetian dukes, or “doges”, who ran the city for more than 1000 years.
  5. Peggy Guggenheim Museum – The stunning collection of  sculpture and painting in this renown Venetian museum, is generally regarded as the most extensive and significant modern art collection on the planet. The museum is a splendid eighteenth century palazzo situated directly on the Grand Canal’s banks, and it has a remarkably quiet sculpture garden inside.

Discover more fantastic destinations in Europe on the TBD Europe page, or from around the web on the TBD Facebook page

About the Author

This is a guest post from Steve Laws, a travel enthusiast and the owner of This website provides top travel information and insight, aimed at inspiring holiday-makers to explore different parts of the world.

For more information, visit the website and check out the Cost Effective Travel Facebook Page


Image Credits

The following photos in this post have been licensed under Creative Commons Share Alike 2.0: – Some rights reserved by Alex E. Proimos – Some rights reserved by grisha_21 – Some rights reserved by Argenberg


The Former Jewel of the East: Kolkata, India

Kolkata is a city of contrasts. It is shocking yet charming, decadent yet squalid, degrading yet home to Nobel Prize laureates. It is certainly not for the faint hearted. When you arrive you are met with the familiar sight of streets packed with people and not a spare inch to move in, but the city is friendlier than many of its country’s counterparts, and meeting the locals is one of the best things about a visit to Kolkata.


‘Jewel of the East’

Kolkata is India’s second largest city and the capital of West Bengal. It was formally the capital of the British Raj and was the centre of colonial trade in Asia, leading to it being given the nickname ‘The Jewel of the East’. However, that image is certainly a crumbling one, as much of it’s architecture is left to ruin and not maintained anywhere near as well as in other Indian cities. It gives it an almost perverse photographic attraction, but before long will be left as a heap of rubble and forgotten for what it once was.

kolkata india

That said, there are areas of the city which are thriving, not least the new town suburbs which are growing to accommodate new shopping centres for the wealthy portion of the inhabitants. This is where you will find many of the hotels in Kolkata, certainly for those looking at the higher end of the market, though there are backpacker hostels dotted around all over which offer the usual excellent Indian value. Outside of the newly developed suburbs, there is still a raft of slums though in contrast which are unlikely to disappear any time soon.

Kolkata Belly

Unsurprisingly, one of Kolkata’s must do activities is eating the local cuisine. Whilst many might have to battle stomach issues throughout their time in India, it is certainly worth the pain to sample the exquisite local Bengali dishes. Take that opportunity to mix with the locals too, as interaction and discovery with them will make your stay all the more interesting. Like most places in India they are extremely friendly, perhaps even more so here.

Kolkata may not be the ‘Jewel of the East’ that it once was, but it still has plenty to offer visiting travellers. It is the kind of place that you will enjoy more by immersing yourself there any getting involved with local people and activities, rather than visiting places of interest and taking photos. If you’re the kind of backpacker that likes a recognised icon around every corner then this one might not be for you, but if you’re prepared to get your hands a little dirty and put in the time, Kolkata can be an extremely rewarding host.

5 Things Not to Miss in Kolkata

Whilst Kolkata is more about feel than sightseeing, there is still plenty to keep you busy. Below are some of our favourites…

  • Take a walk along Chowringhee Road and start to discover what Kolkata is all about
  • Sample some of the best Indian cuisine you’ll ever taste at local restaurants where you’ll feel like you’re in someone’s front room
  • Head to BBD Bagh and explore the areas of crumbling colonial buildings and religious monuments
  • Visit the Victoria Memorial for beautiful gardens and Kolkata’s version of the Taj Mahal
  • Take a trip to the Keoratala burning ghat, where Kolkatan’s cremate their dead and celebrate their lives.

victoria memorial kolkata

For more great places to visit in India check out our Asia Destinations page or ‘Like’ the TBD Facebook page!


diving in kadavu fiji

Fabulous Fiji – 5 Tips for this Island Paradise

When you hear the word ‘Fiji’, what is the first thing that springs into your mind? Swaying palm trees rising high from fine white sandy beaches, with sparkling turquoise waters lapping at the shore. While these beaches are certainly dotted around Fiji, ten months living on this island taught me that sun, sea and sand are not all Fiji is about. Fijians are always smiling – and it is easy to see why when you see just how much they have right on their doorstep.

So, set your watch to the notoriously relaxed ‘Fiji time’, amble at your own sweet pace, and soak up all that this beautiful South Pacific island has to offer. Here are a few suggestions to get you going:

Road trip around Viti Levu

As well as stopping off at the many beaches lining your path, taking a road trip around Viti Levu- the ‘mainland’- will offer many other spectacular landscapes, from Joske’s Thumb (a thumb-shaped mountain just outside Suva), to lush green pastures. My favourite sight en-route was always the numerous coconut sellers: these smiley Fijians will greet you with a mighty ‘BULA!’- Fijian for ‘hello/welcome’, before cutting the top off a young green coconut, sticking a straw in it, and handing it through your car window…all for $2 FJD. Not only coconut sellers will line your route…aubergine sellers, mango sellers, even crab and fish sellers will hold up their goods as you drive past. All in all, this is a fantastic introduction to Fiji before cruising off to the islands.

viti levu fiji

Diving/snorkelling in Kadavu

Diving enthusiasts, take note: Kadavu, Fiji’s third largest island, may just be the new Mecca of diving. The Great Astrolabe Reef, the world’s 4th largest barrier reef, has plenty of beautiful diving sites to offer even the most experienced diver. Eagle Rock is one of the many highlights, with its sunken boulders, pinnacles, narrow channels, sheer walls and a rugged, rocky sea floor. A bounty of tropical sea life awaits you, from graceful manta-rays, to turtles, to reef sharks.

Speaking of sharks, the Beqa Shark Dive- just an hour from Suva, Fiji’s capital- is a world-renowned encounter with these magnificent creatures. Reef sharks, tiger sharks, and even colossal bull sharks frequent Beqa Lagoon, and will often swim right up close to divers. Don’t be alarmed, they’re not looking for a human-flavoured snack- they will be much more interested in the food dished out by the divemasters. Witnessing these incredible creatures up close is a truly unforgettable experience; both you and your friends will be amazed at your bravery and the sharks’ splendour.

diving in kadavu fiji

Sawa-i-lau caves in the Yasawas

After a few days relaxing on the stunning beaches in the Yasawas, you may be feeling the need to explore more of the beauty on these islands. Even the most ardent sun-worshipper will not regret taking a boat tour out to the caves on the island of Sawa-i-lau. The journey itself is worth the trip, as you weave through the northern part of the Yasawas; the lush green of the islands next to the perfect sea blue is something else. Prepare to be particularly spellbound by the waters lapping the shores as your boat arrives: in my opinion, probably the most exquisitely clear in Fiji. Brooke Shields also once graced these shores; the Sawa-i-lau caves featured in the iconic film, ‘Blue Lagoon’.

As you climb into the first and largest cave, lower yourself into the natural pool and marvel at the stunning, jagged limestone formations around you. Swim into the next cave through an exhilarating underwater tunnel, before your tour guide leads you along the pools that cut through the cave’s shadowy passages. Fusing adventure with natural beauty, nobody will leave these caves disappointed.

Wind-surfing in Nananu-i-ra

For a little island, Fiji’s weather can wildly fluctuate, and windsurfers will love the strong winds off the tiny northern Fijian island of Nananu-i-ra. Accommodation wise, Safari Lodge is the best for water-sport fans, providing free equipment for kitesurfing, windsurfing and snorkelling/diving trips. Personally, I prefer the beaches on the other side of the island; a dip into the calmer waters outside Betham’s Beach Cottages will leave you relaxed, and ready to relax in the beach-side restaurant for the evening. Nananu-i-ra has yet to be touched by the same backpacker crowds as the Yasawas; up at Sunset Point, you are likely to enjoy a sunset that is exclusively yours.

Horse-riding and surfing along Natadola Beach

Though the Yasawa Islands may boast some of Fiji’s most beautiful beaches, the mainland has a strong contender of its own. With its soft, golden sands and azure waters, Natadola Beach- often ranked as one of the world’s top beaches- was a regular haunt of mine. A horse-ride along the shore makes for a unique beach experience; make sure you are not getting charged more than $20 FJD. For those riding for the first time, the friendly horse-owners will lead the horse for you; regular riders can canter or even gallop across the sands.

For years, Natadola has been one of the country’s best surfing spots for beginners; since the major 2012 floods in Nadi, the higher waves now attract more experienced surfers. Whatever your skill level, every surfer will find a wave to ride along this beach, with boards easily rented from the nearby Intercontinental Hotel.

surfing in fiji

Though Fiji may seem just like a beach-holiday location, she also has much to offer both the adventurer and culture-seeker. Although this Pacific paradise is certainly the perfect detour for backpackers to Australia and New Zealand, Fiji is a quality destination in her own right. I found it very difficult to say ‘moce’ (Fijian for ‘goodbye’) to this island after ten months; I have no doubt that any holiday-maker will feel the same way.

This is a guest post from, a dedicated traveller, freelance marketer, and occasional blogger on

For more posts on great destinations in South East Asia click here, or Like the TBD Facebook page for great tips from across the web.

Kuang Si Waterfall Luang Prabang

Monks, Buddhas and Breathtaking Beauty: Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang, located in north central Laos, is a UNESCO world heritage city and truly deserving of its title; the countryside, surrounded by beautiful mountains and rivers contribute to the splendour, whilst the French colonial architecture and stunning temples make the city truly superb.

Views of Luang Prabang

The unassuming destination of Laos has largely remained under the radar for mass tourism, which means it’s the perfect place to visit! The pace is still slow, the culture and traditions still apparent, the people welcoming and the countryside beautiful. Laos only opened up its borders to tourists in the late 80’s, but since then it’s become a lot easier to visit. You can cross overland from Vietnam, Thailand or Cambodia or fly in to Vientiane or Luang Prabang. Visas are purchased on arrival and you must only remember to take a spare passport photo and some US dollars to obtain one.


Luang Prabang is set at the confluence of two rivers and is surrounded by beautiful rugged mountains and greenery. The town itself is a stunning mélange of traditional Laotian wooden houses and French colonial architecture, dating from the time when Laos was part of the French colony of Indochine. With UNESCO so closely involved in preserving this beautiful town you’ll be surprised by the cleanliness and atmosphere of this charming city.


There’s an abundance of activities for all tastes to keep you busy in Luang Prabang – from a trip to the Royal Palace museum or the Ethnology museum (if you’re interested in the unique history and customs of the population groups throughout Laos). Or you may want to explore and take a dip in the nearby turquoise coloured waterfalls, try your hand at training to be a mahout (an elephant handler), or even take a fun local cooking course!

Luang Prabang is also where you may wish to start early and witness the giving of alms (donated food) to the many saffron robed monks. It’s an important tradition for the locals to support the Pagodas (temples) and give to the monks – who are only allowed to eat food donated to them before noon. It’s a memorable experience to witness this daily act of kindness and solidarity amongst the Laotians.

Kuang Si Waterfall Luang Prabang

A top tip for sticking to your budget is to head off the main road for dinner and stroll along the Mekong Riverside instead – there are lots of great, authentic restaurants along there that get forgotten – even though it’s only a 5 minute walk from the main hub to the riverside!

5 things not to miss in Luang Prabang:

  • Shopping – For great bargains and beautiful local handicrafts head to the daily night market. Starting from about 6pm every night the main street is full of locals selling their wares – there’s something for everyone and we guarantee you won’t leave empty handed!
  • Natural surroundings – You must venture out of town to take in the spectacular colours of the Kuang Si waterfalls. Hike to the top of the waterfall and get some brilliant photos standing under it, or just relax in one of the many lagoons.
  • Laos Barbeque – the brilliant local cuisine is showcased at the nightly food market. You pick exactly what you wish to eat and then it’s barbequed for you so it’s always fresh and healthy.
  • The views – it’s definitely worth climbing the steps up the main hill in Luang Prabang to take in the stunning views of the area.
  • Buddha cave – a short boat ride down the river takes you to the fascinating Pak Ouk cave which houses thousands upon thousands of Buddha statues! You can visit the caves independently or take an inexpensive half day trip to visit surrounding local villages too.

This is a guest post from Rachel, founder of – a new budget small group tour company who’s mantra is discover. relax. contribute. explore, as on a Footprints tour you get the best of both worlds – helping and learning about the local community while also having fun, seeing the sights and meeting new people! Responsible Travel and giving back to the local community are key to Footprints Worldwide and Rachel, who has lived, worked and travelled in many countries.

For more tips on places to visit in Asia go to our Asia page, or explore other destinations around the world on our Facebook page!

Radio City, New York CIty

Walking in a Winter Wonderland in NYC: New York City, USA

At any time of the year New York, known as “the city that never sleeps” is an amazing experience that overwhelms the senses. With its imposing skyline, huge parks, shopping precincts, monuments and bustling metropolitan atmosphere, there is nowhere quite like it. Visiting in winter and particularly at Christmas is a truly magical experience. The city comes alive with the celebrations. Dazzling lights, huge Christmas trees, roasted chestnut stalls and the tinkling of Santa bells and carol singers on the streets, all make for an enthralling winter break.  Here are some top tips for what to look out for during winter in New York.

Rockafellar Plaza, New York CItyRockerfeller Plaza

Christmas in New York does have a particular focal point and that is the way that Rockerfeller Plaza is transformed into a brilliantly lit winter wonderland. The New Yorkers are light fanatics and nowhere is this more evident than in the plaza. Focused on a huge 80 foot high Norwegian pine that is thought to be the biggest Christmas tree in the world, the Christmas light display is not to be missed. An open air ice rink is another feature of winter at the plaza and this together with the lights, brings crowds of people flocking there throughout the festive period.

The Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Any visit to New York at Christmas time would not be complete without obtaining tickets for what has become a big Christmas tradition, The Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Showing at the Radio City Music Hall, this festive stage show features over 140 performers, lavish costumes, grand sets and an original music score. A combination of song, dance and humour portrays traditional scenes in the style of a 90 minute revue. A tradition that was first established in 1933, the women’s precision dance troupe – The Rockettes feature strongly in the performance and this year celebrate their 85th anniversary. Running between early November and the end of December, the show draws an annual visitor total of around 1 million.

Radio City, New York CItyThe Majestic Monuments of New York

Of course New York would not be New York without a selection of the biggest and most famous monuments in the world. There are many that are worth a visit and of course, you would want to start out with the most famous of them all – The Statue of Liberty. A gift from the French in 1808, the statue is over 150 feet tall, looks out over the harbour and symbolises the independence and freedom upon which modern America is based. Another impressive statue is featured at the Columbus Circle Fountain near the south west of central Park. At a mere 70 feet high, this statue of Christopher Columbus is not a patch on then Lady of Liberty but, having been sculpted out of marble, it  is still very impressive.

Festive Shop Window Displays

New York offers a range of shopping precincts and famous department stores that could keep you shopping for your whole stay. During the festive season and usually unveiled in late November, some of the department stores present vibrant window displays that have enormous entertainment value in their own right. If that was not enough some stores even put on festive shows and presentations. There is a walking tour that covers around 2 miles and features some of the best window displays. Shops on the tour include Bloomingdales, Macy’s, Saks on 5th Avenue (good for visitors with children because it depicts scenes from a children’s book), Lord and Taylor and Barneys. All of the window displays feature vivid lighting and scene depictions that are rich in detail so taking one of these walking tours is highly recommended for great entertainment value.

Shopping in New York CIty

This is a sponsored post from Columbus Direct. For more information about Columbus Direct please visit their site or follow them on Twitter @columbus_direct

For more great destinations in the USA, whatever the season, visit our USA Travel Guide

backpacking abroad

Can Villa Rentals Work for Backpackers?

backpacking abroadBackpacking is a great way to see the world. One of the many benefits is the sense of freedom, independence and being in command of your own destiny. There is something very liberating about waking up in the morning and the only decision you have to make is whether to turn left or right, but whatever the decision, it actually doesn’t matter that much. Backpacking often takes you off the beaten track and down some of those little side streets and back alleys that you might never get to see on many of the package tours. This can be a revelation, as can the number of people that are willing to help out with many of the day to day dilemmas that this form of travel can throw up.

However, independent travellers do face a daily pressure of where they are going to lay their head that night, where the next proper bed and the next shower or hot bath is going to be, and how to find it. All part of the fun of backpacking you might think and in general most backpackers would agree with you. But would it not be nice to ease the pressure a bit and build a little respite into the trip schedule?  There may well be some essential destinations that you want to schedule into a rough journey plan. Perhaps a stay in a city or an area that has so much to offer that it simply can’t be rushed, and deserves a whole week set aside to fully appreciate everything that it has to offer.

backpacker on beachThe idea here involves finding somewhere to base yourself for a few nights, or perhaps even a week. Most people would be thinking hostels, small hotels or perhaps bed and breakfast. It is amazing how putting your head on the same set of pillows for a few nights running, or being able to actually unpack your backpack and catch up with personal chores like showering and clothes washing, can be really invigorating; leaving you refreshed and ready for the next leg of the journey into the unknown.

There is one fairly obvious constraint, and that of course, is money. In addition to the benefits already mentioned, backpacking is a form of budget travel. You may well be able to get two months backpacking on the same budget as you might spend on a two week all inclusive stay in a hotel in a nice resort. So how does the idea of taking a week out  somewhere reconcile with the fact that most backpackers are on a tight budget, and where can your average backpacker find somewhere to set up a base camp for a few days and not have to pay through the nose for the privilege?

The answer – and it is an answer that many people may not have considered as being even a remote possibility, is to take a holiday rental. Not only can this be eminently suitable for backpackers, it can also be extremely economical. You can actually pick up a rental deal for around £50.00 per person for a week. Can you think of a better or more economical way of taking some time out and operating from a luxury base camp for a week? Being the doubter that you are, you probably want an example!

backpacker villa rentalsAt one of the major villa rental sites, we found an apartment in Bangkok, Thailand that costs £13.00 per night to rent. It can sleep four but let’s assume there are only two people. This works out at £45.50 each for 7 nights. The cheapest hostel we could find in Bangkok costs £14.80 per night for 2 people sharing which comes out at £51.80 each for 7 nights. Taking out a rental gives you a secure booking, the ability to maintain privacy and independence, and if you look hard enough for out of season or short-term deals, comes in cheaper than the cheapest hostel. The moral of the story is that yes, villa rentals can indeed work for backpackers.

This is a sponsored post from Sam Jones, a travel writer for the HomeAway group

the lighthouse glasgow

The Home of Edgy Regeneration is a Wee Beauty! – Glasgow, Scotland

Being the largest and most populated city in Scotland, Glasgow has much to offer tourists coming from all over the world and can be a great escape in the UK for backpackers wanting to do things on a budget. Glasgow is certainly budget friendly and not as hard on the purse as other large UK cities like London and Edinburgh, so if you want a taste of UK city life without breaking the bank, then this is the place for you.

From the price of food and drink to the cost of accommodation, Glasgow offers loads of options to suit those on a shoestring. For accommodation, there are plenty of hostels available if you want to just turn up in the city and find your favourite, or you could use a website like where you can check hotel reviews and see if anything stands out to book in advance.

Once you’ve  sorted out all the boring things, Glasgow has loads to see and explore. Below are 5 hotspots that you shouldn’t miss when traveling to this vibrant city:

Buchanan Street:

Most likely arriving in the centre by train or bus at either Queen Street Station or Central Station, the visit will naturally start in Buchanan Street, which is a central shopping street lined with cultural buildings and many opportunities to dine. Arriving in the north end of the street, one has the chance of visiting the Gallery of Modern Art located closely at the Royal Exchange Square. Further up the street end sits the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall which is the performance base of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

buchanan street glasgow

Glasgow City Chambers:

The Glasgow City Chambers located at George Square are a pleasure to the eye. Entering the hall, everyone will be mesmerized by the Italian marble interiors which have more than once served as film settings in the past. Moving up the majestic stairwell, one will be eyed by chief figures of bygone days sitting on the wall in portraits. Participating in a guided tour through the building, everyone has the chance to sit on a chair which was once occupied by Queen Victoria!

The Lighthouse:

As the Scottish Centre for Design and Architecture, the Lighthouse underlines the fact that Glasgow is Scotland’s centre of modern art. It offers exhibitions, installations and allows every visitor to overview the whole city of Glasgow from its Mackintosh Tower, which is named after its father-architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. After moving up the spiral stairs, one sees a silhouette of chimney pots resisting the storm pelting through industrial and historical rooftops.

the lighthouse glasgow

Glasgow Green/People’s Palace:

It would be advisable to check the weather in Glasgow in advance because if it is sunny it is enjoyable to visit the city’s east end for recreation and to have a shortcake. As the oldest park in Glasgow, it holds a number of sculptures and monuments, such as Nelsons Monument, reminiscent of Scotland’s history. The People’s Palace and Winter Gardens is the highlight of the park. It is the residence of the museum of social history which gives an impression of Scottish people’s lives from the middle of the eighteenth century until today

Glasgow Cathedral:

It is a nice idea to close the day with a visit to the Glasgow Cathedral, which dates back to medieval times. Beside the impressive architecture, there may be the chance to listen to the church choir and a concert. Those who like it creepy might even consider visiting the “Glasgow Necropolis” – the main cemetery.

glasgow cathedral

Glasgow is a proper place to get a taste of British culture, so why not travel further south, to the north of England, to enjoy even more? Or check out other destinations in the UK and Europe here on Top Backpacking Destinations.


This is a featured post from one our our partners.

UK Backpacking

Backpacking in the UK: Visiting The National Forest

The National Forest is one of the UK’s proudest achievements; eight million trees planted by local councils, landowners, schoolchildren, charities and individuals, including one by the Duke of Cambridge. It’s a national treasure – but few realise its potential as an affordable holiday destination, especially for those seeking a budget holiday in the UK. The forest has a number of hotels, while the YHA has an inexpensive family-friendly hostel with private rooms right next to the central Conkers visitor centre. There are all sorts of things to discover in the area, and if you’re lucky, you may even get to plant a tree in the forest!


The National Forest promises days of discovering the UK’s amazing and varied wildlife, without having to spend a single penny. Footpaths and cycle paths wind across the whole area, providing plenty of opportunity to see as much or as little as you like – you could even try travelling through the hills and fields on horseback! There are several beautiful reservoirs with picnic areas and playgrounds, accessible from most of the woodland walks. Fishing is another popular way to discover the nature of the National Forest, and a great opportunity to learn a new activity!

National Forest

Surrounding Attractions

There are so many attractions in the National Forest area that it can be difficult to know where to start. Take a walk through historic castles and gardens, or head to one of the zoos and nature reserves in the area to learn more about the UK’s native flora and fauna. Surrounding National Trust attractions are a great way to see the area’s heritage and you can spend days on end just exploring the beautiful surroundings.

UK Backpacking

 Food & Drink

There are regular farmers’ markets and a large number of farm shops in the area, ideal for hungry backpackers looking to try some local produce, and much cheaper than stopping in pubs and restaurants for food. You’ll also spot a number of food fairs cropping up throughout the year, so check in advance to see what’s on. If you do want a special meal out, there are plenty of affordable places to eat, many of them serving tasty home-grown food.

5 Things Not to Miss:

–          Ashby de la Zouch Castle – A 15th century manor house, featuring extensive remains including the chapel, buttery, tower and even a secret kitchen tunnel.

–          Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre & Country Park – Learn everything you ever wanted to know about Medieval battlefields, with amazing displays and archaeology tours detailing the rise and fall of the Tudor Empire. Visit in August to see the impressive re-enactments!

–          Marston’s Brewery – A must for beer lovers, this traditional Victorian brewhouse includes a tour of the brewery itself and a tasting session with the brewing team.

–          Woodland Ways Bushcraft and Survival – Essential training for even the most seasoned camper, the survival sessions give you the skills to build a shelter and light a fire as well as plant and animal identification, all in the heart of the forest.

–          Bluebell Arboretum and Nursery – A stunning woodland walk with rare plants on display and a fantastic collection of specialist trees and shrubberies – ideal for the botanical enthusiast!

The National Forest

Check out more travel destinations in Europe here on TBD or on the Facebook page


This is a featured post from the YHA

tower bridge

The Perfect Start to a Backpacking Break: London, England

big benWhen deciding to go on a long-term backpacking trip, it is imperative to choose a good starting point. If you decide to start in London you will have a few benefits during your travels. Firstly, after having traveled to London, you will never be shocked about anything being very expensive since you’ve visited one of the most expensive cities already. Second, you will start in one of the most iconic cities in the world which is packed with fantastic sights and amazing things to do. Third, you can still afford to have a few treats before you get into full budget mode! When in London it might be a good idea to still indulge yourself before always having to be aware what you buy or do during your backpacking. With all the massage vouchers available for London you might even decide to get a wellness treatment so you will be prepared and all relaxed for your onward travels.

While you are in London you have to expect everything to be inordinately expensive, so it might be a good idea to relieve yourself of some of the needed expenses. Vouchers are a good alternative and will help you save a lot of money on numerous sightseeing activities, for example, with London aquarium vouchers. While browsing through all the vouchers you might even come up with great activities for your stay in London.

Another idea to cut off some of the expenses is to save on accommodations. A great way for backpackers in general is to “couchsurf”. While couchsurfing, you stay on another person’s couch for the time of your stay in the city, for free. Just help them out with food or drinks and they will be happy to be your host.

5 Things Not to Miss in London…

There are so many gorgeous places in London that many decide to write a whole book about them. Here are five tips on what you should definitely see and do while in London.

1. The Changing of the Guard

A trip to London wouldn’t be completely satisfying without watching this spectacle. In the summer you can see this every day at 11.30 am at Buckingham Palace. So this is a great way of combining the guard change, which you can also see at St. James Palace, and having a look at the famous Buckingham Palace.

2. The Portobello Road Market

This market is actually many markets rolled into one, so take your time to see everything and check out the offers there. This market in Notting Hill is also a place to see and be seen – keep that in mind while wandering along.

 3. Hopping onto an open bus tour

This is the first thing a London traveller should do to get a slight overview over the main sights and the city in general.

4. The London Eye

Built in 2000, this huge observation wheel is the newest landmark in London. If you want to take a peek of the city from the air, the London eye is the place to be.

london eye

5. Shopping at Harrods

You might not be be able to buy something from the world famous luxury department store, but it’s worth going just to walk around, it’s like a small town! This is just one of the ways you can indulge yourself in London but it is a traditional and interesting one. What a shame that there are no vouchers available for Harrods!

tower bridge

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mexico city main square

The Weird and Welcoming World of Mexico City, Mexico

Latin America is a great destination for backpackers. You don’t have to spend a lot of money for accommodation, food and public transport, people are generally very friendly and open-minded and you can quite easily get around with Spanish. However, it is a good idea to beware of pickpockets and not to carry much cash around. Instead, it is a good idea to make use of online banking systems and easily send money overseas. One of the most fascinating countries to pay a visit while in Latin America is Mexico and its overwhelming capital Mexico City. Below are five great spots to visit when you are visiting this inimitable capital:

The Zócalo

The Zócalo, the formal and official name being Plaza de la Constitutión, is the main square in the heart of Mexico City. Over the course of hundreds of years it has seen numerous ceremonies, parades, demonstrations and events. It is one of the largest squares in the whole world. To the north there is the impressive Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary of Mexico City, the largest and oldest cathedral in South America. North-east of the square is the Temple Mayor, one of the main temples of the Aztecs which was destroyed by the Spanish in 1521. It has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1987.

mexico city main squareSource: Walter Frehner/

Palacio de las Bellas Artes

The construction of the Palacio de las Bellas Artes, the Palace of Fine Arts, began in 1932. It has become the most important cultural center in the whole of Mexico and has hosted lots of events in art, music, opera and literature. It is located next to the Alameda Park on the West side of the historic center. This building really is a pleasure to the eye.

Museo Nacional de Antropología

The Museo Nacional de Antropología, the National Museum of Anthropology, is located near Chapultepec Park. It contains an impressive collection of artifacts from the time prior to the Spanish conquerors in 1492. The architectural highlight is the huge patio with a pond. In it is a large stone pillar which turns into a large square stone umbrella on the top. Also, it is a great way of ending a tour through Mexico as one can find many historic treasures recovered from the Maya and Aztec ruins that can be visited all over the country.


The archeological site of Teotihuacán is located about 30 miles outside of Mexico City. It harbors large pyramidal buildings, the world-famous Avenue of the Dead, uncountable murals and residential complexes. Archeologists estimate that the city was built in 100 BC and destroyed around the 8th century AD. Its former population is estimated to have amounted to around 125,000 people at the city’s peak.

mexico city TeotihuacánSource: Walter Frehner/


Xochimilko is one of the sixteen boroughs of Mexico and the third-largest of them. The district was centered on what once was the town of Xochimilko. It is located south of the historic center of Mexico City. The borough’s landscape is characterized by various canals and colorful boats floating on them.

Mexico City is a just a glimpse into the fantastic places to visit in Mexico and is certainly worth spending some time exploring if it happens to be your transport hub when heading out to other destinations. For more fantastic destinations in Central America check out the other places here on TBD!

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