Hawaii, Mexico and Palau are encouraging tourists to use reef-friendly lotions – but protecting ourselves from the sun shouldn’t fall by the wayside
Last year, the Pacific nation of Palau announced that, from 2020, it will ban sunscreens containing certain chemicals linked with coral degradation. Tourists will have offending suncreams confiscated and anyone importing them will face a $1,000 (£800) fine. In addition, Hawaii’s ban on sunscreens that contain oxybenzone or octinoxate – the two most controversial chemical compounds – comes into force in 2021, and tourists swimming at certain beauty spots in Mexico are already forbidden from wearing non-biodegradable sunscreens.
If it all sounds pretty serious, that’s because it is. Sunscreen is supposed to be an entirely good thing. Having been a holiday essential since we learned about the damaging effects of UVB – and, later, UVA – rays last century, it is the stuff of nostalgia, adventure and longed-for escapes to warmer climes. News that the coconut-scented creams we have been slathering on for protection could be toxic to the environment is as welcome as a seven-day rainy forecast. So where do we stand with it as we head into summer?
Beyond the blarney of the Kerry tourist trail, the Reeks District is pitching itself as the country’s adventure playground, with five outdoor activities on offer
Halfway through cycling the Ring of the Reeks in Kerry, I realise I am going to make it. Not just the circuit’s full 90km but also the tourist board’s Big Five Challenge, which was launched this month.
I started my mission three days earlier with a seven-hour trek to the top of Ireland’s highest peak, 1,039-metre Carrauntoohil in MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, the range of mountains I’m now encircling by bike. The following day’s action included surfing on Inch Beach, kayaking for 6km across Caragh Lake, and night-time paddleboarding on Cloon Lough in Kerry’s Dark Sky Reserve. Today’s ride includes 1,350 metres of climbing over three of Ireland’s highest mountain passes.
Millennials become the biggest market for luxury liners as they share holiday moments using onboard wifi
When Emma Le Teace, 25, tried to get her boyfriend to go on a cruise with her, he didn’t want to go. She booked it regardless – and he loved it. “I think he’s been on five now.”
She has been on 21 cruises, and is planning three more this year. “I love visiting new places and, with a cruise, you know your view is going to be completely different each morning when you wake up. A kind of excitement builds up as you get closer to a new destination.”
The tales of heroes and feuding families in Iceland’s chronicles inspire this countrywide walking, hitchhiking and camping trip
The sagas are “our national identity”, says Icelandic actor Oddur Júlíusson. Based on historical events that mostly took place between the ninth and early 11th centuries, they have been narrated in the farmsteads of Iceland since the Middle Ages. Júlíusson performs the Icelandic Sagas Greatest Hits in Reykjavík, a comedy version in both Icelandic and English of all 40 of the “family sagas” – tales of feuding, romance, surprisingly intricate legal processes, sorcery and sea battles. “We are constantly reminded of these stories,” he told me, “and we name children after characters in them.”
Almost entirely surrounded by water, this Andalucian port city boasts 3,000 years of history, reflected in ancient buildings, traditional fish dishes and salt-of-the-earth people
Cadiz’s most famous beach, Playa de La Caleta, is right in the old town. Get there an hour before sundown and watch the sun dip gently into the Atlantic, as the small fishing boats are painted gold by its final rays. This beach imitated Havana’s craggy harbour in the James Bond film Die Another Day – when Halle Berry famously emerged, goddess-like, from the sea. The cove is marked by a distinctive Moorish-style white balneario (spa) and flanked by two ancient fortresses (Castillo de Santa Catalina and Castillo de San Sebastián).
This beach town in the far south of Spain, only a windsurf away from Africa, mixes a surfer vibe with excellent nightlife
It’s the most southerly town in mainland Europe, only 14km from Africa across the Strait of Gibraltar. It’s a 1,000-year-old walled labyrinth with a youthful party scene and a world-class kitesurfing and windsurfing destination. In summer it’s also a destination for families who want just a shady dune, a bar and a place serving fish – all of which are available in abundance along the 35km of coast north of Tarifa, beyond the beaches of Los Lances (home to Santa Catalina castle, an emblem of Tarifa) and Valdevaqueros to Bolonia with its Roman ruins and the seaside village of Zahara de las Atunes. Its community swelled by surfers who came and never left, Tarifa is a curious mix of off-the-beaten-track, cosmopolitan and barefoot cool, an adventure playground that’s home to some of the best places to eat, drink and stay on the Costa de la Luz. It can also be windy. If it wasn’t, as everyone will tell you, Tarifa would be just another Marbella – and no one wants that.
Mixing high art with the down-to-earth feel of an ancient port, Genoa is a treasure trove of fine foods and unpretentious bars
Tourists tend to overlook the capital of the Liguria region in favour of Turin, Milan or Bologna when it comes to city breaks in northern Italy, just using its airport to head for the Italian riviera. But the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, St George’s Cross, focaccia, blue jeans (the fabric was invented here by some accounts: “jeans” coming from Gênes, the French word for Genoa) and Joy Division record covers (I’ll explain that one later) is a joy in its own right.
Genoa’s long, narrow shape is dictated by its position between the sea and the Ligurian Appenines. Rarely more than a couple of kilometres wide, the city stretches along nearly 40km of coast – from the Voltri neighbourhood in the west to Nervi, a fishing village-turned-seaside resort in the east – with development snaking inland into a couple of valleys. Just east of the Porto Antico is the old city, Europe’s largest medieval town, a warren of tight caruggi (narrow streets) reminiscent of the Barrio Gótico in Barcelona or the centre of Naples. Genoa’s modern business/shopping area borders the old town, starting at the central Piazza De Ferrari.
Nearly 30 years on from the Velvet Revolution, the Czech capital is still evolving, epitomised by its new cultural attractions and diverse food and drink
Prague’s foodie scene is diversifying, with delicious Georgian cooking, which has a rising but still bafflingly low global profile, gaining popularity. Thankfully, the small but energetic local Georgian community is doing its bit to redress this injustice. At bustling Polévkárna Manana soup restaurant, the unstoppable owner, Manana Toidze, cooks a range of soups (a large bowl costs €3), including robust meat and walnut-based kharcho and international favourites, such as minestrone. Her compatriot, Lela Kukava, established nearby Fair Food Bistro, hidden in a quiet corner of the city centre. She employs refugees, who prepare their native dishes, and her homely restaurant also offers gluten-free and vegan options. Both eateries make good lunch choices and serve khachapuri, a highly addictive Georgian cheese-filled flatbread.
• Polévkárna Manana: Bělehradská 77, on Facebook. Fair Food Bistro: U Nemocnice 4, fairfoodclub.cz, both open Mon-Fri
Tech money is changing a city loved for its location amid the great outdoors but its cool offbeat feel – and famous beer and coffee scenes – remain
Division Street divides Portland in half, and a portion of the eastern section in the Richmond neighbourhood is buzzing with great affordable eateries including Aviv, a plant-based Israeli restaurant (savoury boureka with spinach and tofu feta, $5, shawarma plate $10); Indian street food joint Bollywood Theater, (snacks from $4.25, pork vindaloo, $12); and Pok Pok for Thai specialities (mains from about $14). My favourite, though, is vegan Thai sensation Kati Portland, with its open kitchen, shanty-town chic interiors and delectable food: you may find yourself drooling over the mussa-muhn curry (lunch specials $8.95).
Travel writers pick their favourite beaches to swim, surf, party, eat and just hang out from the Atlantic to the Aegean, from the UK to Turkey
The Spanish island’s seaside capital punches above its weight when it comes to restaurants, art and culture – perfect for a late-spring or early-summer getaway
I love the maze of Moorish-feeling little streets in the historic district between Plaça de Cort and the seafront. If you just wander towards La Seu, the cathedral, you always come across something surprising. A lot of the old mansions have been done up and are now hotels, cafes and restaurants, which is great to see. You only need to walk for 10 minutes or so to see all sorts of architectural styles and you get a sense of the history of Palma going back over 1,000 years. You emerge from this labyrinth of lanes and suddenly the bay opens up before you. I still find it magical.
The Bavarian capital is famous for its parks, history and beer halls, but its underground music and neighbourhood restaurants are worth checking out, too
Nomiya offers an elegant blend of Japanese food and Bavarian gemütlichkeit (a feeling of warmth, friendliness and good cheer – the German version of hygge). The rustic Japanese tavern and restaurant has been run by Ferdinand “Ferdi” Schuster for over 20 years, and has become an institution in the Haidhausen district, on the eastern bank of the Isar. Occasionally, guests are regaled with impromptu performances by local musicians. Yakitori and sushi go well with cold beer in traditional half-litre steins. And be sure to ask for a Tilmans, a fine local lager made by young independent brewer Tilman Ludwig.
• Small plates from €2, mixed sushi plate €17.50, Wörthstrasse 7, nomiya.de
In central France, the Auvergne’s volcanic landscape offers year-round activity holidays, with peaks to climb, lakes to swim, restored farms to stay in and great value mountain cuisine
The Cantal is the rural heartland of France’s wild Auvergne region, right in the centre of the country and part of the Massif Central. Locals joke that there are more cows here than people and there certainly are not many tourists, despite a range of adventurous outdoor activities in summer and winter. Hotels and B&Bs could not be more reasonably priced, and the hearty regional cuisine – rustic rather than gourmet – comes in formidable four- or five-course bistro set menus, ideal for big appetites and small budgets. The Cantal also boasts some of the most spectacular sites in La Chaîne des Puys, the 80 or so extinct volcanoes that have just been recognised as a Unesco world heritage site.
Its ancient standing stones are a big draw at midsummer but Lewis is rich in treasures of many other kinds – historic, religious … and gloriously outrageous
First light at Callanish. The stone circle on the Hebridean island of Lewis may be 5,000 years old, but it would not do to keep it waiting. Besides, coming here at daybreak is, from certain perspectives, positively tardy. Emma Rennie, a local photographer, considers 2am the best time to visit. “It’s beyond mindblowing,” she told me, ahead of my journey. “There’s silence, which the world is so short of nowadays, and millions of stars. I feel small and insignificant, and I love it.”
Callanish – or Calanais in Gaelic – comprises 49 standing stones laid out in a shape that, seen from above, suggests a Celtic cross. Despite this resemblance, the site long predates Christianity and, indeed, Stonehenge. The drama is heightened by its location on a ridge above a loch. You can gaze across the water to other prehistoric sites nearby – Calanais II and Calanais III. Like Led Zeppelin albums, the stone circles around here are numbered, and they are heavy. The central monolith at Callanish is almost five metres tall and weighs around 4½ tonnes. It has a pelt of lichen in pistachio green.
With rooms from £45 in the centre of a city with a reputation for expensive accommodation, this new budget hotel chain is a welcome arrival
Early evening at the Z Hotel Bath and the reception and lounge are full of clinking and chatter with people guzzling wine and munching cheese. It could be a special event – a conference maybe? Except, the crowd is an unusual mix: glamorous hen parties, American tourists and young couples.
Daily, between 5pm and 8pm, it’s cheese and wine time at the hotel – and they come free for guests. Far from dry slices with curled up corners, this sort-of aperitivo time features local producers (Somerset goat’s cheese and Paxton’s Cave-Aged cheddar, from Gloucestershire) and decent wine: a choice of two reds, two whites and a rosé. No wonder everyone’s filling their boots.