Now Exploring Norway’s north

The Nordlandsbanen rail route is a storybook of varied landscapes. Skirting alongside the rugged islets of Norway’s jagged coastline, and gliding inland between undulating hills overlain with rich green pines, the dramatic scenery is punctuated only by the irresistible opportunities to hop off and explore. A journey on the Nordlandsbanen will allow you to experience fascinating tales of the past, to be stirred by the power of nature, and to taste the fresh flavours of the region.

The journey

Though perhaps less well-known than the Oslo-Bergen train ride, the Nordlandsbanen, which stretches northwards for 729km between regal Trondheim and spirited Bodø, could certainly lay claim to being the more unique route. As well as being Norway’s longest train line, it also crosses the Arctic Circle, the only railway in the world to do so.

An efficient service and spacious, comfortable trains make it a delightfully sedate way to make the ten-hour journey, but it’s the huge diversity of scenery that’s most appealing. Gently rolling, emerald-green fields rest under huge skies, and Norwegian flags whip proudly over the pillar-box red hytter (cabins) dotted haphazardly over the hillsides. Moments later, the train will track its

Place family adventure in the wintry Canadian Rockies

There might be no better time than winter to round up the kids and head to the Canadian Rocky Mountains for some unforgettable adventures. Pack plenty of pull-overs, bribe the little ones with hot chocolate, and grab enough outdoor paraphernalia to ensure you remain upright in this vast and powdery playground. That includes skates, skis, snowshoes, cleats, snowboards, and maybe even an off-road fat-bike.

The best downhill skiing in the Canadian Rockies

Many Canadians start skiing as soon as they can walk. As a result, the Rocky Mountain area has plenty of facilities for children on its slopes. For a full-on downhill experience, the local national parks (Banff and Jasper) are particularly well-endowed offering four major ski resorts with several others perched temptingly on the periphery.

Top of the pile in more ways than one is Banff’s Sunshine Villagewedged high up on the Continental Divide and famed for its heavy snowfalls and ski-in hotel. Next comes diminutive Mt Norquay, an under-the-radar day-use area located just outside Banff town.

However, the prize for the most family-friendly ski resort in the Rockies has to go

Info Bangkok city guide and what to do plus the best hotels, restaurants and bars

Bangkok Skyline at dusk

Floods, protests, power struggles, a military takeover – Krungthep, known to the rest of the world as Bangkok, has endured more than its share of hardships recently. The loss of the country’s beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who remained remarkably popular throughout his 70-year reign, hit particularly hard last year. Thailand’s populace is nothing if not resilient, though: after a dozen coups d’état in less than a century, they have to be – and, in spite of it all, the capital continues to flourish and, in the process, reshape its identity.

For decades, this was a city that imported everything, to which strings of glitzy megamalls attests. But somewhere along the way, Thailand began to foster its own considerable creative pool. Look closely and you’ll notice that generic luxury brands are ceding shelf space to funkier fashions by Thai designers; local chefs proudly flaunt family recipes on the hottest tables in town; and even north-eastern Thai folk music is in the midst of a revival.

Holiday Destination

March is a great time to travel – in many places it’s the shoulder season between chilly winter and Easter, when prices are hiked up, and in warmer climes, temperatures and humidity are usually low enough to make sightseeing a pleasure and not an endurance course. Fancy a trip to an exotic locale? Whatever your bent as a holidaymaker, we’ve got a stellar recommendation for you here.

One for the beach bums
Sayulito, Mexico

Hit the beach in Mexico for some March sun – but we recommend you skip the well-known resort areas like Acapulco and Cancun and instead head for the Riviera Nayarit on the Pacific coast. You’ll be able to find an all-inclusive or luxury hotel here if you wish, but the real appeal is a 200-mile stretch of coastline where you’ll discover authentic beach towns backed by jungle-clad mountains.

Probably the most popular is the bohemian surfer’s mecca of Sayulito, less than an hour north of Puerto Vallarta. Stay in a simple bungalow by the beach and feast on tropical fruit and seafood at one of the many alfresco restaurants, and look out for artworks by

This is It World’s best beaches

Dust off your shades and dig out your sandals – we’ve rounded up the best beaches around the world, from quintessential paradise to bare-it-all glam.

Paradise beaches

Hawaii is known for some of the most famous beaches in the world, but if you fancy a secluded slice of paradise, hop on a 4×4 to Kaiolohia Beach on the island of Lanai. As you sunbathe, gaze at the eerie 1940s oil tanker wreckage peeking out from an azure coral reef.

More than azure waters and white sands, El Nido in the Palawan archipelago of the Philippines has coved beaches full of natural wonders such as ancient caves and limestone cliffs. You’ll be equally spoilt for choice if you head to Pemba, neighbouring Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean, which is abundant in unspoilt beaches and untamed forests. Limited in accommodation and transport, Pemba is a guaranteed beach adventure.

Built into a rocky hillside on the Ionian coast, Maratea in Italy’s Basilicata region is a serene alternative to the well-trotted Amalfi Coast. Zip along mountain roads to the nearby black sands of Macarro.

Resort beaches

Luxury and silky sands

This best pilgrimages for modern travellers

Searching for spirituality or moral sanctuary? We unearth 10 of the best pilgrimages to cleanse the modern soul.

In a world of gadgets and instant gratification, a pilgrimage seems like an archaic concept. Something lifted from the pages of a medieval text, perhaps. But as increasing numbers of us seek refuge from the demands of modern life and its electronic distractions, venturing into the wilderness in search of spirituality has never seemed more appealing.

So we’ve picked 10 pilgrimage routes from around the world worthy of the long walk. Some are rooted in some of the world’s major religions, while others are simply about taking on a challenge and enjoying an authentic cultural experience.

The Way of St James, France

The Way of St James (or Camino de Santiago) is arguably one of the most famous pilgrimage routes in Europe, with over 200,000 people undertaking the journey to Santiago de Compostela, the resting place of St James, every year.

The most popular route is the so-called ‘French Way’. Beginning in the southern French town of Saint-Jean-Pied-De-Port, pilgrims cross the Pyrenees through Lower Navarre, and proceed through northern

Here Best Stargazing Sites in the World

Our ancestors used to look at the stars every night, making a deep connection with nature that’s now lost to a generation of city-dwellers. Happily, though, there are still plenty of places where you can see nature’s most dazzling show, and not all of them are remote. Here are ten of the best.

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

Japan’s forgotten paradise at Okinawa

From whale sharks to coral reefs, Japan’s Okinawa prefecture is full of surprises. Joe Minihane discovers a new side to the country.

It appears out of the blue, swimming majestically beneath me as I duck my head into the South China Sea. A whale shark, the largest fish in the world. Escorted by a trail of smaller fish, it glides through the water, opening its colossal mouth to feasts on the offerings of awestruck scuba divers.

Snorkelling in tropical waters is not something you’d usually associate with Japan, but then Okinawa doesn’t feel very Japanese. Floating some 1,000km (621 miles) south of Tokyo, this archipelago of paradise islands wears its Pan Asian influences proudly.

Formerly the Ryukyu Kingdom, this prefecture was independent until it became part of Japan in 1879. Its people traded far and wide across the continent, and its food, architecture and culture are all imbued with aspects of China, Korea and South East Asia. Consequently, it’s unlike anywhere else in Japan, which had been cut off from the outside world until the 19th century.

Paradoxically, it’s Okinawa that finds itself cut off nowadays; the archipelago

Review of Places In Mahamaya, Gili Meno, Bali

Stylish eco-hotel Mahamaya is one of the newest properties on the relaxed, relatively unspoiled Indonesian island of Gilo Meno, a 90-minute boat ride from bustling Bali. Anna Smith checks in.

First impressions

Mahamaya may be an affordable eco resort, but arriving there by speedboat we feel like a million dollars. Staff line up on the pure white coral beach to meet us and carry our luggage while we marvel at the sight of this glistening white modern hotel with its silver sign reading, in Indonesian, ‘Ultimate Paradise’.

Maya is also the name of the owner’s niece: this boutique hotel was set up by Brit entrepreneur David, whose sister Ali married a talented Indonesian chef who heads up the kitchen. This family affair launched just a couple of years ago and has quickly become a favourite with honeymooners. Check-in is smiley and efficient, containing an important briefing on conserving the water and electricity in this very environmentally conscious hotel.

Ideal for…

Couples on a romantic break looking to get away from it all. Those with young children are also well served.

The room

Wild Nature Travel

Spotting some of the world’s most charismatic animals on a traditional African safari is surely one of travel’s greatest pleasures. But there’s so much more to wildlife and nature tourism than seeing a lion, elephant or leopard from your seat in a convoy of four-wheel drives.

From tracking down tigers to watching wrestling dinosaurs (okay, not quite – but close), here are a handful of alternative ways for travellers to admire the unparalleled spectacle of the natural world.

Looking for tigers in northern India

Tiger numbers have crept up in recent years according to official statistics from the Indian government: in 2016, India was estimated to be home to 2500 of them – 70 percent of the global population. But in a country this vast, it’s still hard to see one.

With accredited naturalists working as guides, Himalayan Footsteps (himalayanfootsteps.com) offers a 13-day trip taking in the Bandhavgarh and Kanha national parks. Sightings are by no means guaranteed, although it’s said the best time of year to see tigers is between February and April, so it’s smart to plan ahead. If you don’t spot one, you’ll stand a better chance of seeing