People-powered Portland: car-free ways to explore the city

If you spend any amount of time in Portland, two things quickly become apparent: bicycles rule and car traffic is terrible. The city’s population has grown more quickly than its infrastructure, leading to the type of gridlock and bottlenecks that usually only happen in much larger urban areas. A woman rides her bicycle on the waterfront Eastbank Esplanade in Portland, Oregon © Ryan J Lane / Getty Images It can be frustrating, especially for a visitor trying to see a lot of things across the city in a short time…

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Together in eclectic dreams: Europe’s quirkiest hostels

Whether it be whispered pillow talk in darkened dorms or frenetic story swapping in communal kitchens, hostels are an essential port of call for the solo traveller in search of company. But forget those fears of beige walls and tired bedspreads – budget digs don’t have to be bland. To coincide with the release of the Solo Travel Handbook, we’ve compiled a shortlist of Europe’s more idiosyncratic hostels, proving that the humble need not be humdrum. Fancy spending a night behind bars? © Žiga Okorn Glenfinnan Sleeping Car, Glenfinnan, Scotland Prompting…

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The six sestieri: a guide to Venice’s neighbourhoods

While most cities are broken into quarters, Venice is divided into six districts or sestieri. Although it’s a compact city, each of Venice’s neighbourhoods has its own characteristics, offering you something a little different and distinctive wherever you wander. Read on to find out the best place to stay if you’re keen on cuisine, which neighbourhood will indulge your artistic eye, or where to head for a bit of uncharacteristically quiet Venice. A view of Palazzo Ducale and Basilica di San Marco © StevanZZ / Shutterstock Shopping in San Marco San…

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Queen Village, Philadelphia: A low-key local wander

If you’re looking for a way to break free of the tourists milling about downtown Philadelphia, check out Queen Village. This walkable maze of narrow streets in South Philly is home to eclectic shops, cozy local restaurants, eye-catching architecture and, of course, historic sites. Though it has undergone a revival alongside the rest of central Philadelphia, Queen Village has retained its funky character © Kirkikis / Getty Images Once a suburb of Philadelphia, Queen Village was first settled in the 1600s by Swedish immigrants. Since then, successive rounds of evolution have…

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Wonderful wadis: visiting Oman’s ‘vertical desert’

Say the word ‘desert’ and chances are that rolling sand dunes and expansive horizontal space spring to mind. In Oman, however, the desert landscape includes a vertical dimension in the form of soaring limestone cliffs incised with canyons. Drive or hike along one of these narrow, arid defiles, and you enter a troglodyte world of ancient cave-dwellings, prehistoric petroglyphs and old villages so long a part of the canyon they appear to be exuding from the rockface. Referred to locally as ‘wadis’, the canyons are part of the life-force of…

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Reveling in playful Boise

Tucked between rolling foothills, cast against cloudless blue skies and pierced by the cool, clear waters of the Boise River, the “City of Trees” is surrounded by frontiers that still feel untouched and untamed. The natural environs have been carefully protected to remain that way, and in turn, Boise’s outdoorsy, hands-off-the-handlebars vibe reminds visitors of the backyard freedoms of childhood. A place to walk, pedal or float — Boise is one of the easiest cities to navigate using a variety of people-powered contraptions. Mountain biker enjoys one of the many…

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Shopping in Essaouira: where to buy what

Laid-back Essaouira may have fewer shops than Marrakesh, but if you want to spend more time chilling than haggling, then the seaside city’s hassle-free souqs are for you. All of Morocco’s popular merchandise can be found in Essaouira’s compact, easily navigable medina, along with local specialities such as thuya wood, vibrant local art, raffia shoes and organic argan oil, the country’s liquid gold. Find handwoven bags and baskets for sale along Essaouira’s streets © Federica Gentile / Getty Images Best for arts and crafts Essaouira is renowned for its skilled artisans…

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Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaidō

Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaidō is best known for two things: winter sports and Sapporo beer. But the little-known eastern side of the island is a dream escape at any time of year for the adventurous visitor, whether you’re into beer or not. In eastern Hokkaidō wildlife wonders abound (is that a bear snacking on freshly caught salmon?); there are lakes, sulphur-spewing volcanoes and hot springs aplenty; and there’s an indigenous culture trying to reassert itself after years of decline. Plus, all this comes with very few tourists. Here are…

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