This is an eden in the Indian Ocean; a tropical paradise only a stone’s throw from the rest of Tanzania – the islands that make up the archipelago are semi-autonomous – and mainland Africa.

On the main island, confusingly known as Zanzibar internationally but Unguja locally, stroll the charming labyrinth of alleys, bazaars, mosques and grand Arab houses in Stone Town, where nothing much has changed in hundreds of years. Soak up the sometimes horrifying history of this once major port – ruled by the Omanis for hundreds of years, they traded not only in ivory but also people – then skip over to some of the island’s impossibly beautiful beaches. For something a little different, go to Nungwi, on the island’s northern tip, to see craftsmen building dhows, the traditional sailing boats.

The other island, Pemba, sees even fewer visitors. It has a much more interesting landscape than its neighbour, with hills jutting up over its interior and much of the island covered in clove crops and fruit trees. Most people come here for what’s under the water though. The outstanding coral reefs are pristine, and there’s everything from spectacular wall to breathtaking drift dives.



The sun-soaked Caribbean offers a wealth of destinations, but if you’re looking for an unspoiled gem then Grenada will spoil you. The first thing you’ll notice is the scent of nutmeg drifting from the plantations – it’s no wonder Grenada is also known as the Spice Isle.

Lesser known than its more famous neighbours – Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados – it boasts some of the best beaches in the world, virgin rainforest, mountain hiking with hypnotic views, and snorkelling in crystal clear waters. For something completely different on that front, spend some time exploring the underwater gallery of sculptures at Molinere Bay.

Capital St George’s sits around a picturesque horseshoe-shaped Carenage Harbour. Its narrow streets are perfect for wandering, and there are plenty of places to rest and sample the locally brewed beer, Carib, or a rum punch.

There are two other islands – Carriacou and Petite Martinique – that make up the country. The former is surrounded by shallow reefs, so is great for snorkellers, and it’s also home to most of Grenada’s musical heritage. Carnival here involves soca music, dancing, colourful costumes and a much more unusual tradition: on Fat (Shrove) Tuesday, pairs of masked men roam the island reciting lines from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. To get away from anything, do the short ferry trip to Petite Mart, as the locals call it. Here, people still make a living building boats and fishing. If you’re lucky you might even see the launching of a new boat on one of your leisurely strolls around the island.

Cape Verde

Cape Verde isn’t your average island nation. Located in the Atlantic Ocean, it spans an archipelago of 10 volcanic islands off the coast of West Africa that has an amazing array of landscapes, shaped by winds off the sea and less rainfall than you’d typically expect. If you’re thinking tropical palm-fringed beaches, you will definitely be surprised.

The capital of Praia is on Santiago, the largest of the islands, fringed by beaches, sheltered harbours and resorts. The main town of Mindelo on the island of São Vicente is the nightlife capital, teeming with bars and nightclubs that heave with crowds every night of the week. If you look for it you’ll be able to find musicians playing some of the styles of music, like morna, that are unique to the islands. In August each year, the town of Baía das Gatas hosts a music festival that attracts local artists and musicians from around the world.

Santo Antão, with its sharp peaks and picturesque panoramas, is one for those seeking green valleys and opportunities to spot some of the endemic and migrating species of birds. This is the place to hike the day away. On the other end of the spectrum is Sal, with its lunar-like landscape and the lively beach town of Santa Maria

What you’re most likely to take away from a visit here, however, is the nation’s love affair with music. DNA from the various styles that have been brought here – fado from Portugal, bossa nova and samba from Brazil, merengue from the Caribbean, African drumming – have morphed to become the islands’ own while still providing a link to the old country. You’ll hear it everywhere you go, from a party on the street to a family gathering, and it will stay with you long after you leave.



Palau is to diving what France is to wine – straight up heaven. It’s the main reason most visitors drop by this cluster of 250 or so islands about 700 kilometres east of the Philippines. And it’s easy to see why, with pristine reefs, spectacular drop-offs, shipwrecks from World War II and drift dives accessible as day trips from the main island of Koror. The Blue Holes comprises four vertical shafts that open on to a reef. The Chuyo Maru, a Japanese freighter sunk in April 1944, is covered in hard and soft coral and loads of lionfish at a depth of 11 to 40 metres. There’s also the awe-inspiring German Channel, which is famous for its population of manta rays.

Even if you don’t fancy strapping on an air tank, there are plenty of excellent snorkelling spots, including Jellyfish Lake, which is filled with millions of golden jellyfish that migrate across the water’s surface.

Most of Palau’s population lives on Koror, and it’s the centre for tourists, too. From here you can organise all your diving and snorkelling tours, as well as hiking, guided excursions to World War II sites and ATV adventures. Best of all, it’s the jumping off point for the Rock Islands, some of the most beautiful islets you’ll ever lay your eyes on, whether you choose to lie on the beach or explore the diverse underwater world.


If you’re a tiny country in a huge continent crammed with history, culture and gastronomic delights, what is it you can offer that your more famous neighbours can’t? That’s easy – more of the same, but in a simple, clean, easy-to-navigate package. Take that, rest of Europe!

Luxembourg, officially known as the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, epitomises everything that’s exceptional about this region. Cycle or hike in the hills, head to valley of Moselle to taste the local wine at cellar doors, explore some of the more than 50 castles around the country, and let your hair down at festivals that run the gamut of themes from contemporary film to medieval times.

Its people are a mix of different nationalities – primarily French, German and Belgium – and at any time you’ll likely meet more travellers than locals. That’s one of the minor downfalls of being such a tiny nation.

The lively capital, also called Luxembourg, is a mix of the new and historic. Its old town is World Heritage listed – during the early sixteenth century its fortress was considered the most impressive in Europe. For those who’ve worked up a hunger exploring, the city has an impressive four Michelin-starred restaurants (there are 11 around the country).










Basically, Zambia consists of two huge river basins: the Zambezi/Kafue, which covers about 75 per cent of the country, and the Congo in the north that covers the rest. It means this landlocked nation is a tapestry of thriving ecosystems, from grasslands to tropical forest. Despite all this, it’s not exactly a tourism hotspot and getting around can be something of a challenge. It’s worth taking though, because pockets of the country are home to some of the most amazing wildlife reserves anywhere in Africa.

Most visitors to Zambia will, at some point, head to Victoria Falls, where the Zambezi River thunders over a 100-metre drop. There’s a footbridge where you can walk to its edge, and plenty of blood-pumping activities – from bungee to white-water rafting – for the adventurer. Some of the hotels also run trips to Livingstone Island, where, at certain times of the year, people can swim in Devil’s Pool at the edge of the falls. The small Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park follows the river below the falls and is home to Angolan giraffes, hippopotamus, introduced rhinos, buffalo, zebra and other wildlife.

One of the best national parks in Africa is South Luangwa. There are a few lodges and camps, making it one of the most tourist-friendly spots, even if it is quite the trek to get there. High season sees an increase in the number of visitors, although it’s never nearly as crowded as the parks in South Africa. Those keen to spot herds of elephants, leopards and big birds, like ground hornbills, will want to hang around.

You’ll need to have your own 4WD for a trip into Zambia’s north, but it really is like another world – untamed, vast and virtually free of outsiders. It wasn’t always that way. The Nsumbu National Park on Lake Tanganyika was once one of the most popular parks in Africa and a haven for South Africa’s jetset, but was abandoned when lack of management meant poachers decimated the animal population and cutbacks to the national airline made it hard to access. Wildlife numbers are on the rise again, and the rugged landscape, including about a hundred kilometres of lake shore, make it a dream destination. Take a boat ride into the Kampasa rainforest, walk to waterfalls or do safaris by foot to see elephants, hippos, crocs, warthogs, zebras and antelope, as well as some amazing waterbird activity.


In a continent where most countries are so big you’d need months to do them justice, along comes pint-sized Uruguay. Wedged on an east coast peninsula between Brazil and Argentina, it offers the highlights of South America in a manageable parcel. Plus, even the most visited parts of the country haven’t been made over to fulfil the whims of tourists (most of whom come from Argentina or other parts of Uruguay).

From thermal bath houses in the northwest to the wildlife-rich coastline, there’s plenty to explore. Montevideo is a multi-faceted city, where about a third of the country’s population resides. There’s the historic Ciudad Vieja, which was once part of a Spanish citadel and is still home to ornate buildings, as well as a 13-kilometre stretch of beaches called the Rambla. Plenty of the beachside suburbs offer nightlife in all its forms, from old-school tango joints to pumping discos and clubs.

One of Uruguay’s finest attractions is its 340-kilometre coastline that heaves with locals during the summer until Carnaval. Travelling just outside those times means you can significantly cut costs and the number of people on the beach. There are plenty of chic, resort-style towns like Punta del Este (also known as the Monaco of South America), as well as more boho fishing villages turned beachside retreats, such as Punta del Diablo and José Ignacio, popular with the celeb set. The underwater life off the coast is abundant, and game fishing for tuna, salmon and other species is popular. Those less likely to throw in a line will still love the sea lions, who bask in the sunshine on many of the beaches along the coast. From Punta del Este, it’s also possible to book tours to Isla de los Lobos, an island about eight kilometres off the coast, with a huge population of sea lions and southern fur seals.

In contrast, Uruguay’s interior is best known for its estancias (ranches), many of them near the city of Tacuarembó (the Uruguayans claim it’s the birth place of the father of tango, Carlos Gardel, although the French beg to differ), where beef cattle graze the plains tended by gauchos. Many are open to travellers, but they’re unlike the more commercial experiences you’ll find in Argentina. Guests who stay at Uruguay’s estancias will help with daily life around the ranch, go horse riding, share mate (the national drink) with the workers and observe the amazing bird life of La Plata.


Whether you travel for incredible scenery to discover stories about the past or to meet people from far outside your social set, you won’t be disappointed in Ukraine. Sure, it’s had its troubles, but that doesn’t change its all-round beauty.

The capital, Kiev, on the Dnierper River, is best known for its vast gold-domed churches, but there’s a definite mix of old and new. Seeing the potential in the tourism dollar, money has been ploughed into luxury hotels, as well as huge nightclubs (the party starts at midnight and goes well into the next day) and fancy restaurants.

The city of Lviv, near the border with Poland, is another city steeped in layers of history. Be sure to visit a banya (Russian-style sauna) while you’re there, and partake of the city’s reinvigorated nightlife, where cavernous clubs and hidden bars are all part of the action. For a bit of film history, head to Odessa, on the Black Sea. Here, in 1925 the famous Odessa Steps massacre sequence was filmed for Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin. We don’t suggest you re-create the set-up, but you can certainly see where it was staged, as the steps are the main thoroughfare from the harbour to the city.

For rolling, forested landscapes head to the Carpathians in the country’s southwest. Here, you’ll discover a rural way of life since the mountains are home to the Hutsul people, who maintain may of the traditions – a colourful style of dress, travel by horse, the art of egg decorating known as pysanka – of the Ukraine of old. The area is popular with hikers in summer and skiers in winter, and houses the country’s largest national park.

Make sure, before you make any travel plans to Ukraine, to check the latest travel advice.



Tunisia is more than just a beautiful sand-fringed Mediterranean coastline boasting year-long sunshine and beaches that seemingly have no end. This small but full-of-life nation in Northern Africa boasts history and natural beauty like no other.

The capital of Tunis shows off the country’s heritage in its modern city, created during French rule, and World Heritage-listed, eighth century medina.

Head north for the deepest of green forests, Ichkeul Lake dotted with bright pink flamingos, and endless views of vibrant citrus and olive plantations on the way to Cape Angela, the northernmost point of Africa. Down south is the eastern end of the incredible Atlas Mountains, as well as the northern reaches of the mind-boggling Sahara, which stretches deep into Africa.

So go beyond the perfect sea-sand-surf ideals of the Mediterranean coast and explore the vast cultural landscapes, fresh cuisine and incredibly welcoming people for a taste of Africa like no other.


Ko e ‘Otua mo Tonga ko hoku tofi’a. It means ‘God and Tonga are my inheritance’, and anyone who’s visited this kingdom in the South Pacific will no doubt agree. The Friendly Islands number 176 in total, but only 40 of them are inhabited. Regardless of which ones you visit, you’ll soon feel as though you’re a part of the community.

This a traditional culture that has embraced contemporary ways of life to a certain extent. As a visitor, you’ll find good food, lovely hotels and action aplenty – there’s kitesurfing, diving, surfing and plenty more things to do – but at the same time there’s a dedication to family, Sunday is for church (at all times visitors should dress conservatively), and kava and dance rituals are still practised.

The main island of Tongatapu is where most visitors start. Visit the market, check out the blowholes in the reef on the southwest side of the island or hire a sea kayak and paddle to deserted islands and sand spits, stopping to snorkel along the way.

The Vava’u group of 61 islands in the north is a popular spot for yachtsmen, who anchor in protected coves to enjoy the exquisite beaches and turquoise water. Fishermen and divers are also lured by the marine life (and the latter by excellent visibility that generally sits at about 30 metres), but this location draws the most visitors between June and November, when migrating humpback whales come to the calm waters with their new calves. There are a number of operators who offer boat trips to view and swim with these gentle giants, but book early.

For a taste of truly authentic Polynesian life, head to the volcanic isles of Ha’apai or the country’s oldest island, ‘Eua, which has some fantastic hiking through its dramatic landscape.