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Pathfinders: best blogs, Instagram shots and videos from March 2019


Man feet in boots on the Baikal ice Where will our Pathfinders take you this month? © Alexander Ippolitov / Shutterstock

From New York’s stunning street art scene to Siberia’s wild winter wonderlands, our Pathfinders have been jet-setting across the globe and have returned with ever more inspiring tales of their adventures. Check out March’s round-up of our favourite blogs, Instagrams and videos.

Best of the blogs

Street art in New York city: a guide to the best hotspots – Carol Guttery

Taxis driving through Times Square, New York City Dive into the colour and chaos of New York City © Luciano Mortula - LGM / Shutterstock

Why we like it: Many cities now attract tourists with their thriving street art scenes, but it’s New York – back in the 1970s – where it all began. In this post Carol curates a tour of the Big Apple’s best street art spots, leading visitors to historic murals and lesser-known – but equally impressive – modern works. Striking imagery, an embedded map tool and an intro section detailing the interesting history of the art form (and its link with the city) enhance the post’s appeal further.

Carol’s blog aims to encourage travellers to go beyond the headline sights and find alternative and offbeat adventures. Learn more at

Landing in New Zealand – Javi Lorbada

Akaroa village on Banks Peninsula New Zealand Akaroa was made for road-tripping © KarlosXII / Shutterstock

Why we like it: Javi is a wizard when it comes to landscape photography, so a blog post about his first experiences of New Zealand was always likely to result in a mesmerising read. In this photoessay, Javi focuses on the Banks Peninsula, driving a rented campervan from Christchurch to Akaroa (stopping at a few scenic vantage points of course). With the pictures of the camper set against a star-strewn sky, we challenge anyone to read this and not be inspired to hit the open road themselves.

Born in Madrid, Javi travels far and wide in search of the perfect shot. Keep tabs on his latest work at

Top Instagram shots

Mexico City, Mexico – Axel Alvarado

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Why we like it: In his brilliantly styled shot of one of Mexico City’s many Metro entrances, Axel uses the ornate, iron structure to frame blooming purple blossoms, creating the perfect central focus. The colour palette, which comprises muted pink hues and vivid violets set against the utility green of the foreground, works especially well when crowned by the dreamy blue sky, and the still-dimly-lit street lamps complete the overall effect with their warm, golden glow.

Axel is a keen travel photographer who loves nothing more than shooting the myriad charms of his home country, Mexico. Follow him on Instagram @axel.ach.

Siberia, Russia – Yan-Kei Clare

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Why we like it: From the tangled network of ice cracks slicing through its lower half, to the central figures being dwarfed by the towering, craggy rock formation, this expert frame of Siberia’s Lake Baikal is full of drama. The glistening solid ice draws the eye towards the vivid white of the snow at the rock’s base, which appears all the more monolithic when acting as a backdrop for the image’s brightly clad (but miniscule) explorers. This is a cleverly crafted shot of nature at its most panoramic.

Yan-Kei is a globe-hopping travel blogger with restless feet and endless wanderlust. Follow her on Instagram @yan_keiclare.

Our favourite footage

Things to do in Tuscany – A Lovely Planet

Why we like it: Pacey, lively and compelling, this short film featuring Tuscany’s top attractions is a great showcase for the region’s many charms. Fusing sweeping, aerial views across rooftops and fields with up-close, on-the-ground footage of everything from church tower climbing to truffle foraging, this is a dynamic and fresh snapshot of one of Italy’s most popular regions.

Hayley and Enrico are a globetrotting travel team, exploring and capturing new experiences in every corner of the globe on camera, and through their blog A Lovely Planet.

Find out what else the Lonely Planet Pathfinders are up to by checking out the Pathfinders forum on Thorn Tree.

Wonderings: Notre Dame will rise from the ashes even greater than before


Illustration of a traveller looking out of a train window at a lake with mountains and forest in the background © Joe Davis / Lonely Planet Wonderings: rambles through and reflections on travel... this month, James Kay says that Notre Dame will emerge from the recent fire as an even greater monument © Joe Davis / Lonely Planet

Many years ago, I climbed the spiral staircase that winds its way up to the balcony connecting the two towers of the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris’ western facade. From there, you can see many of the city’s greatest landmarks: the Eiffel Tower, the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, the Arc de Triomphe, the River Seine flowing past Île de la Cité.

A close inspection of the gargoyles and chimeras festooning the towers is just as engrossing as that far-reaching, wide-angle view. Jutting out from the walls, the gargoyles’ long necks channel water away from the ancient stone; the chimeras – horned, winged, taloned, feathered; beasts that never were – are there to ward off evil.

But none of them could protect the 12th-century building from the fury of a different element yesterday. Mercifully, the towers still stand, but the fire which began in the afternoon and raged through the night consumed the roof and toppled the spire.

Fire in the heart

I feel for the Parisians who lined the banks of the Seine to witness the conflagration, those vaulting flames mirrored in their tears. So do millions of other well-wishers around the world, for this is a building etched into the collective consciousness, a Unesco World Heritage site visited by millions of people a year.

Hyperbole aside, its destruction is a true tragedy. Notre Dame is the heart not just of Paris, but also of France, and not in a merely abstract sense: the brass plate set into the ground outside the western facade marks the city centre and the point from which the distance from Paris to all destinations is measured.

But, as we mourn, let’s remember that this heart will beat again.

Firefights battling the blaze yesterday as it spread across the roof of Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris Firefights battling the blaze yesterday as it spread across the roof of Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris © Pierre Suu / Getty Images

If you look north from our office in London, you can see across the River Thames to the towers of St Paul’s Cathedral’s west front. The cathedral – a place of comparable cultural clout to Notre Dame – is now in its fourth incarnation. Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece was built in the late 17th century after its predecessor was destroyed… by the Great Fire of London.

Contemporary accounts describe molten lead pouring from the roof of Old St Paul’s into the warren of streets below, causing the pavements to glow like flows of lava. So intense was the inferno that witnesses a furlong away – about 200 metres – could not face the flames.

Symbols of resilience

It took 35 years for the St Paul’s we know today to rise from the ashes – but rise it did, an irrepressible phoenix, just as it had from previous fires in 962, 1087 and 1561.

Furthermore, I’d argue that with each rebuild, just as the physical cathedral became a little bigger, so did its psychogeographical scale – that is, the amount of space it occupies in our minds. Along with all the other things for which it stands, St Paul’s became a potent symbol of the city’s resilience.

While I don't speak for them, I’d wager that the residents of Utrecht, Barcelona and Cologne feel much the same way about St Martin’s, Santa Maria Del Mar and Cologne Cathedral respectively, all of which were ravaged by, and reborn from, fire at one time or another in their long histories.

It won’t take 35 years to restore Notre Dame, which has survived revolutions and wars, and hosted the crowning of kings and the coronation of emperors. French president Emmanuel Macron has already launched an international campaign and hundreds of millions of euros are pouring into the reconstruction fund.

And whenever this storied structure does reopen to the public, its hold on our imaginations will have grown, not diminished. So let’s look forward to the day when the bells of Our Lady ring out over the rooftops of Paris once more.

Just back from: Spain, Cambodia, Greece & Australia


Tiles at the Alhambra, Spain Lauren getting a healthy dose of geometric patterns in Andalucia © Lauren Keith

Our travel-mad staff share their recent adventures from enjoying cookery classes in Queensland to exploring architectural beauties in Andalucía and sitting in the shadow of thousands of bats flying out to feast in Cambodia.

Getting a fine-art fix in Andalucía, Spain

Some visitors to North Africa who pick up a bug can shake it after a few days, but the one I’ve acquired is going to stay with me for life. I’ve been infected with something like tile-itus, and now I seem to only be able to plan holidays that involve scouting out those colourful, geometric patterns that adorn everything from mosques and madrassas (Islamic schools) to fountains and flats. These tiles, called zellige in Arabic, spread across the Muslim world, which for centuries included the Andalucía region of southern Spain.

Inside the Moorish palaces of Real Alcázar in Seville and the Alhambra in Granada, where room after room is covered top to toe in tiles and other Islamic adornments, I got a healthy dose of the colourful medicine I now require, and I instantly found bliss wandering in silence amongst those millions of tiny blocks. But now that I’m back, where do I get my next fix?

Lauren Keith, Destination Editor for the Middle East and North Africa. Follow her on Instagram @noplacelike_it.

An army of bats streaking across the sky in Cambodia An army of bats streaking across the sky in Cambodia © Rucy Cui

Braving the ‘cold’ to see bats in Cambodia

My family and I were in Cambodia this past Christmas. Even though we sweltered in the heat, the Cambodians we met were quick to tell us this was the coldest winter they'd experienced in recent memory. This was fully realised one evening in Battambang, as we sat just down the road from the Killing Caves of Phnom Sampeau. Having scrambled to the mouth of an unmarked cave we lay waiting for the nightly exodus: thousands of bats, awoken from slumber, streaking across the sky in search of their first meal of the day. We checked the time. Any moment now... As the sun started to go down, our guide said, 'They feel lazy. Maybe it's too cold tonight.’

When the first bat darted out into the sky, it was barely noticed. Then, all at once, a deluge of them flowed from the mouth of the cave, chirping in unison as if to sing, ‘It may be cold, but a bat's gotta eat!’ We watched the show against a perfect pinky sunset for half an hour. I don't think I'd ever seen anything so amazing and so unexpected.

Rucy Cui, Publicity Associate. Follow her tweets @rucycui.

Marvelling at the seemingly impossible in Meteora, Greece

With numerous rock pinnacles rising hundreds of metres from a forest of oak in central Greece, Meteora is one of the most peculiar landscapes I’ve ever seen. What’s even more impressive is how monks have been making their homes on top of these rock giants for centuries – first in natural caves and later in architecturally astounding monasteries. Once a place to be alone with God, these days it’s rarely a place for solitude.

A handful of the two million people who visit each year come in February, and most drive between the best-known monasteries. A more rewarding way to do it is on foot. So we set off from the village of Kalambaka with our guide Christos to hike to one of the less-accessible monasteries. It was an hour-long walk on an unbeaten path through the forest to Ypapanti Monastery. Built into a rock cavity, it’s difficult to spot from ground level, so we wound our way up to the hilltop opposite. From here, the impossibility of how these enormous rocks could be inhabited really struck us.

We walked on until we finally emerged at Varlaam, one of the biggest monasteries. Cloud had begun to form around the base of the rocks, and the meaning of the name Meteora (suspended in the air) became apparent. For a moment, I too felt suspended, in awe of the wonder of nature and resilience of humankind.

Hazel Lubbock, Digital Platform Editor. Follow her on Instagram @hazellubbock.

Cliff with his beautifully presented beetroot three ways Best in class – Cliff with his beautifully presented beetroot three ways © Clifton Wilkinson

Conquering a cookery class in Noosa, Queensland

The latex gloves were an unusual, slightly off-putting start to the cookery class. ‘To stop your hands getting stained’ was the reason given after my partner in cooking crime and I were told we would be preparing beetroot three ways. Glamorous they might not have looked, but the gloves took one for the team as I followed the recipe and got messy trying to create something that could sit proudly alongside the dishes being prepared by the rest of the class. The chef at Wasabi in Noosa, Queensland, was admirably patient as I chopped, fried, pureed and carefully arranged a variety of different coloured and sized beetroot. ‘Add some saffron flowers,’ he suggested. I sprinkled some on obligingly, turning over the last page of the now red-stained recipe book to check we hadn’t missed anything. We hadn’t. ‘Yours definitely looks the best of the lot,’ the chef said. He might well have said the same to the other pairs as they finished their dishes, but, as I pulled off my latex gloves with a satisfying snap, I didn’t care. Beetroot three ways. Clean hands. Cookery class complete.

Clifton Wilkinson, Destination Editor for Great Britain, Ireland and Iceland. Follow his tweets @Cliff_Wilkinson.

Clifton travelled to Queensland with support from Tourism Events Queensland. Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.

In the studio with Peter Williamson, illustrator of Wild Things


Pete sketching in his studio in Kent, England © Pete Williamson

Pete Williamson's illustrations often depict ominous scenes and dark landscapes, but his latest project involved illustrating unicorns, fairies and monsters for our new Lonely Planet Kids title Wild Things. We chatted to Pete on how he got inspiration from walking in the woods with his daughter and how he started out illustrating books.

Tell us about the brief

The brief was to create engaging characters and images to inspire children to get outdoors and use their imagination – whether it be magical adventures, looking for fairies, witches, dragons, portals to other worlds or making potions. My daughter was eight when the brief arrived and already really loved going out into the woods and fields at the end of our garden and making potions from petals, mud and anything else that caught her imagination; so this was a project that I really identified with and was happy to be involved in. A lot of it was illustrated during a heat wave so I did a lot of wandering in the cool of the woods for inspiration.

How did you make a start?

I work in a very traditional way. I start with really loose pencil sketches on paper then trace my sketches onto Fabriano art paper, ink them up and then scan into Photoshop where, if necessary, I clean the images up digitally. I use simple copy paper instead of fancy sketchbooks that I’d be worried about spoiling with mistakes, as I wanted the illustrations to have the feeling of energy that children’s drawings have.

This brief called specifically for a sketchy pencil style and illustrations that could be placed around text and photographs, almost as if someone had taken the book out with them on a walk, and had imagined ‘wild things’ and scribbled them down before they forgot them.

It was interesting to finish the illustrations at an earlier stage in their creation than I usually would. It felt like very pure drawing as I didn’t ink in the line work or add watercolour; it was all just pencil and paper, and I think that simplicity of expression fitted in well with the Wild Things ethos.

Were there any challenges?

After illustrating 65 or so children’s books, I find the principal challenge is not to repeat myself while at the same time working within my established style. This project called for subjects that I wouldn’t usually draw (no dark atmospheric landscapes, odd creatures or eerie, weird laboratories) and using methods I rarely use, so the project was fun throughout. For me, the initial sketching is one of the most energetic, exciting times in the creation of a book, so being briefed to create purely in that sketchy style was great.

What’s the one item in your studio you can’t live without?

I think it would have to be a black and white photograph I have hanging above my drawing desk. It’s of the musicians John Zorn and Sylvie Courvoisier playing, I think, some kind of improvised duet in a small room in New York. I just know that the music is strange, beautiful and honest – pure imaginative expression. The photo is a constant wake-up call that reminds me to strive for creative integrity at all times

How did you get into illustrating books?

I worked as a designer in animation for over a decade but I was always interested in illustrating in children’s books as my very first influences were picture books such as Dr Seuss, Maurice Sendak and Asterix.

I uploaded a character from an animated film I was co-creating to my website and it was noticed by two art directors who were looking for ‘dark’ and ‘quirky’ illustrations for Guy Bass’s Dinkin Dings and the Frightening Things and The Raven Mysteries by Marcus Sedgwick. Those two commissions were really successful (each winning a Blue Peter prize) and led to further book series with Marcus and Guy and also with many other writers, including Francesca Simon, Matt Haig , Steve Cole and even Charles Dickens!

Right now I’m working on my 67th book – a brand new collaboration with Guy Bass, which is looking great. I’m also starting to show my work in galleries and it’s had a really positive response.

Where in the world are you based?

I’m based in Kent, 50 minutes outside London, pretty much surrounded by woods and fields.

Follow Pete's drawings @pete.williamson.illustration.

Some sketchy looking characters...
Various fairies for Wild Things
Another collection of cute critters
Getting stuck into the mythical creatures
Experimenting with some magical natural materials
Fairy feast: Peter's illustrations overlaid in the book.
Unicorns and dragons
Another overlaid unicorn sketch
The front cover of Wild Things

Pathfinder spotlight: Samai Haider


Samai and her travelling toddler hiking in Switzerland Samai and her travelling toddler hiking in Switzerland © Samai Haider

This month our spotlight is on the incredible writer, traveller, economist, artist and photographer Samai Haider. Samai shares her travel stories on her self-titled blog and is living proof that travelling with young children is not only possible, but may just be the most rewarding decision ever.

Give us the low-down on your blog…

My blog isn’t a travel blog in the traditional sense. It is more of a repository for all my published work – much of which is, admittedly, driven by my travels. While all my articles are written with the intent to provide information about a destination, I weave in personal anecdotes from my trips to create stories that I hope will give readers a true sense of the place and its people. I also use the platform to showcase my artwork, either sketches I’ve done while travelling, or abstract paintings inspired by the dramatic landscapes I’ve encountered on the road. Travel sparks my creativity, and through my writing and art, I hope to show others how travel can touch every inch of your soul.

Describe your travel style in three words…

Immersive. Budget-friendly. Gastronomic.

Top three places you’ve visited?

This list has been frightfully difficult to curate, but after much deliberation, my top three would be: Easter Island, Iceland and South Africa.

Samai's son on the steps of a 12th-century monastery in Bhutan Samai's son on the steps of a 12th-century monastery in Bhutan © Samai Haider

What inspired you to start backpacking with your toddler?

As someone with an incurable case of itchy feet, I couldn’t fathom the possibility of staying away from the road as a new parent. When my son was a few months old, my husband and I took him on brief forays around the state, then weekend getaways interstate, before we finally took the plunge and went on a six-week jaunt to Europe.

As people who cherish being unencumbered by suitcases, preferring instead the freedom of hopping on and off buses and trains at whim, we thought Europe would be a comfortable place to ease back into backpacking. We headed off with only the most basic of baby supplies stashed into our single backpack and, of course, the staple in every new parents’ inventory, the nappy bag. We didn’t know if we could be the impulsive travellers we used to be, or even if the baby would take to being uprooted every few days, but we had to try.

On that trip, as we watched our year-old son happily chow down on escargots in Paris and take delight in riding tuk-tuks in Bangkok, we realised that even the youngest amongst us can be versatile and derive pleasure from new places.

Samai's son playing with children on Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro What better way for a kid to learn about the local culture than to meet the local kids? © Samai Haider

What have you learnt about yourself, your toddler or the world at large from travelling this way?

Backpacking with a two-year-old has been a vastly different experience from our travels in the past, and these days we find ourselves as dedicated connoisseurs of playgrounds over museums. Travelling long-term with a toddler, it is even more evident that the ups and downs of life don’t just stop because you’re doing what you love. So, I’ve learnt to be more flexible with my plans. I have learnt that it is possible to see previously visited sights in a new light, through my toddler’s eyes. I’ve learnt to linger in a place to absorb the local culture while making connections with people along the way.

I have also learnt not to underestimate a toddler’s memory or ability to form opinions. So far, my son has absorbed ‘Bhutanese dzongs’ into his vocabulary, adopted empanadas as a dietary staple in Argentina and, while in London, demanded a visit to London Bridge so he could sing ‘London Bridge is falling down’ while walking across it. But more than all the wonders I’ve witnessed so far, what has truly been life-changing has been watching my son bond with children across the globe, with little regard for language, age or race. I’ve learnt that a child’s play transcends all barriers.

Samai's son trying to dig up more Moai on Easter Island 'Maybe there's more Moai under here?' © Samai Haider

Top tips for anyone thinking of travelling with under-twos?

  1. Maintain some semblance of a routine to help settle your child into their new surroundings.
  2. Be prepared to tackle temper tantrums and nappy changes in some fairly unorthodox situations. We have vivid recollections of changing nappies under the watchful gaze of the Moai on Easter Island and scrambling to quell an impending meltdown atop a 3000m-high Himalayan pass.
  3. Prep a child for air travel using books and stories so they know what to expect at the airport and while on the plane. While we made up our own stories about the airport (which became a favourite bedtime ritual), when it comes to flying, Maisy Goes on a Plane remains a personal favourite.

If you’re a member of our Pathfinders community and would like to share your story, drop us an email at and tell us what exciting things you’re up to on your blog.

Pathfinder pics: Singapore, the 'green city'


Singapore's small but idyllic coastline © Jessica Palmer

Lonely Planet Pathfinder, Jessica Palmer of, recently spent 11 days exploring Singapore with her family. From the vibrant hues of the Gardens by the Bay to the surprisingly tranquil East Coast Park beach, here are her highlights...

Cities are not usually my thing. Even though they can be incredibly vibrant and exciting, I don't enjoy the lack of nature, fresh air and, often, cleanliness of the concrete jungle... Singapore however, is completely different! Singapore has nature, colour and space. It has architecture designed with greenery in mind, and gardens designed with healing in mind. Singapore is modern, clean and friendly. I set out to explore Singapore’s green areas with my young family, and very quickly discovered that it really does deserve the title of 'Green City', and is a fantastic place to visit with children!

Sci-fi movie landscapes

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This looks like something out of a sci-fi movie, right? It’s actually the view from the Singapore Flyer two minutes before the heavens opened! The Singapore Flyer is basically a huge Ferris wheel, or as it’s called here, an 'observation wheel'. You’re looking at 101 acres of glorious green lung right in the heart of Singapore – the famous Gardens by the Bay. Hiding behind the rain haze is the South China Sea, full of enormous ships carrying all sorts of things.

Cycling Pulau Ubin island

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A cheap, ten-minute bumboat ride from Changi Point ferry terminal will take you to the island of Pulau Ubin. After stepping off the wharf into Pulau village, you will be greeted with a single street, lined with hundreds of pushbikes for hire and plenty of options for kids. From here we cycled on dirt tracks through the jungle, passing cheeky little long-tail macaques rummaging through a bag they had obviously stolen, before finally arriving at Chek Jawa Wetlands. Here you can stroll on a sturdy bridge over the mangrove wetlands, as well as a coastal bridge over the ocean. If it’s low tide you can see a host of marine life under the coastal bridge too.

Fort Canning Park

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I came across a construction worker escaping the Singapore humidity by having a nap in the shade of this overgrown fort wall. It wasn’t long before his supervisor marched up the hill and told him to get back to work! I had a little chuckle to myself as, not for the first time, I was reminded that some things are the same no matter what country you are in.

Fort Canning Park is a beautiful green space on a hill that has witnessed some of Singapore’s historical milestones. It was once home to the palaces of 14th century kings, as well as the headquarters of the Far East Command Centre and British Army Barracks. In 1942, a decision was made to surrender Singapore to the Japanese in the underground tunnels and bunkers known as Battlebox, which you can now visit via a tour.

Beach life

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This is Singapore’s East Coast Park, and whilst the beach is no French Polynesia, it’s still nice and clean with plenty of sand and ocean. The seafront park stretches for 15km and has coconut palms, bushland, overgrown trees, and lots of green grass. There is also an awesome kids park and restaurant area, as well as a paved walking track that cyclists and skaters take advantage of.

Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden

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The Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden is seriously amazing! It’s located at the Singapore Botanic Gardens and is a great example of how Singapore caters to little people. Chock full of greenery, the garden somehow manages to combine both fun and learning, with a hedge maze, water play area, playground, obstacle course, zip-line and a potting and sensory garden. The kids really enjoyed being allowed to touch and smell the different herbs and plants in the sensory garden, and, to be honest, I did too!

The Cloud Forest Dome

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The Cloud Forest Dome is out of this world! This three-storey waterfall is what you’re greeted with upon entry, and a series of pathways (and escalators and elevators if you need) take you to the top and back down again with different zones and gardens along the way. A huge bonus is that both this dome and the flower dome are cooled, which is a welcome relief from Singapore’s humidity!

Do you love to write about your travels? Or perhaps Instagram is your thing? Find out more about how you can contribute to Lonely Planet here.

Travel news quiz: March edition


People stroll along London's Portobello Road, a famous market area in Notting Hill district What type of venue is Ed Sheeran planning to open on London's Portobello Road? Find out in our quiz © William Perugini / Shutterstock

Which popular board game now has a life-size version in Hong Kong? And what false claim is currently drawing tourists to Sydney University? Test your knowledge of the latest happenings in the travelsphere with our travel news quiz, featuring some of this month’s most intriguing Lonely Planet news stories.


Want more travel trivia? Have a go at last month's quiz.

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In the studio with Niki Fisher, illustrator of The Cruise Handbook


Niki in her studio near Jindabyne, Australia © Niki Fisher

Illustrator Niki Fisher is no stranger to illustrating Lonely Planet titles – The Cruise Handbook is the 5th one she's illustrated. We caught up with her to find out how she designed the vibrant cover page and how this ties in with previous illustrations for the same series.

Tell us about the brief

The brief was to create a cover that depicted the range of activities available on cruises as well as the broad age groups that cruises attract these days. I was given suggestions from the Art Director, but apart from that, the brief was quite open.

How did you make a start?

I started by doing a bit of research online, finding out about the huge variety of activities on offer on cruise lines – it was actually quite an eyeopener. I would never have imagined that there are entire water parks, tennis courts and rock climbing walls on a lot of these huge ships! Once I had collated a range of activities and popular cruise destinations I started doing some rough pencil sketches of individual scenes. Once I had several sketches done I started to place them on the page next to each other and work out a composition.

Were there any challenges?

It’s a bit of trial and error working out what scenes go well side by side, ensuring that each of the scenes was strong in isolation as well as collectively working in harmony in the overall illustration. Also, considering how the illustration is going to tie in with the title can be a bit like a game of Tetris.

What’s the one item in your studio you can’t live without?

That’s hard, out of necessity I couldn’t do without a pencil. I could always draw on the walls or any other surface if I had to. I like working in a very sunlit space. Having lots of pot plants in my studio as well as a green wall helps create an illusion of the outdoors which helps to make my workspace a happy place.

How did you get into illustrating books?

The first book cover I ever illustrated was The Solo Travel Handbook for Lonely Planet, and I'm now working on my 5th new title. Book covers are a really satisfying thing to work on, a lot of the work I do is editorial which is very conceptual and the actual illustrating is something I do right at the end once the concept is sound. A book cover requires a lot of process for it to come together, which is often something that isn’t afforded on fast turnaround jobs.

Where in the world do you usually work from?

I work from my home which is a small cottage in the Snowy Mountains of Australia, just outside of Jindabyne. I live with my partner and two sons. We moved here from Melbourne last year, we wanted lots of space for our kids to grow up in and explore.

See more of Niki's work at @nikifisherdesign.

Niki's illustrations

The first rough sketch for the layout of the cover
Draft sketch of a bass player
Final illustration of the bass player
Sketch of couple dancing
Final of couple dancing
The final layout of the cover page without the title text

Just back from: South Korea, Portugal, New England and Slovenia


Peace ribbons at the Demilitarised Zone in South Korea Peace ribbons at the Demilitarised Zone in South Korea © Chris Zeiher

As always, our travel-obsessed staff have been off exploring new destinations around the globe. This month they share some of their recent adventures from hitting the hiking trails in New England to finding the perfect pastéis de nata in Portugal.

Exploring the DMZ in South Korea

Clutching a piping-hot coffee I attempted to warm myself on a cold winter’s morning in Seoul, South Korea, as I located a small tour bus emblazoned with three letters: DMZ. The ‘Demilitarised Zone’ is one of Korea’s most popular tourist attractions, but what makes a visit to this 4km-wide buffer zone between the North and South so fascinating?

I’d heard stories of K-Pop being blasted over loudspeakers as the South attempt to block out the constant din of propaganda messages from the North. But on arrival at Imjingak, a park dedicated to the 10 million South Koreans separated from their families, it was oddly silent. The audio war is at an end and the park itself is now a mixture of memorials and carnival rides. Ribbons, containing messages of peace, tied to the border fence flap in the cold wind as merry-go-round music softly plays in the background. Weird.

The zone continues to offer up oddities from the unused Dorasan Train Station, where the platform to Pyongyang (North Korea’s capital) sits deserted, to the Dora Observatory offering telescopic views across the zone – all topped off by a claustrophobic walk down the Third Infiltration Tunnel which gets you within 170 metres of North Korea. Part creepy theme park, part unsettling testament to an unresolved conflict, and part symbol of hope, the DMZ has everything a dark tourist could desire.

Chris Zeiher, Director of Sales and Marketing in Australia and the Pacific. Follow his tweets @chriszeiher.

A secluded beach in Portugal How can kids resist the bright sandy beaches and hidden coves of Portugal? © Becky Henderson

Keeping the kids happy in Portugal

There’s no doubt about it, travelling with your children can be a stressful experience. Before kids, travel meant taking long-haul flights to far-flung places, enjoyable days of exploring and doing pretty much whatever I wanted to do. Now, before we can even get to the exploring part, I’m sweating at the prospect of two hours in a confined space with two mini people, hoping I have enough snacks and entertainment to stop them annoying other travellers. Then once we’re there, will there be enough kid-friendly activities to please the little ones which will also allow us to really experience the destination?

Step up Portugal! A super family-friendly, laid-back, welcoming country that had us all enthralled. Travelling out of the main tourist season, we spent lazy days exploring hidden coves along the Algarve’s glorious coastline, pottering around small towns and searching for the perfect pastéis de nata (custard tarts) in local markets. Once the sun went down and the kids were asleep, we relaxed with a drop or two of the excellent local wine. Kids happy – tick. Adults happy – double tick!

Becky Henderson, International Licencing Manager.

The Pogue, decked in fall colours, in the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park The Pogue, decked in fall colours, in the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park © Katie Clowes

Veering off the beaten path in Vermont, New England

In hindsight, leading my mum who suffers from incapacitating vertigo along the ‘Precipice Trail’ probably wasn’t my best idea. However, after consulting the map at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, we'd realised it was the quickest route to the South Peak of Mount Tom, where we were promised a fantastic lookout over the charming town of Woodstock, Vermont. Short on time before our afternoon of cheese, maple syrup and craft beer tasting we decided that, as the trail was only two miles each way, it would make for a nice morning walk to work up an appetite.

One panic attack, nine miles and four hours later we made it back to the car. Whilst we did eventually reach the Mount Tom lookout and saw the stunning view of Woodstock and the surrounding valley in all its fall glory, it was the extra hours spent in this beautifully tranquil park and the unforeseen adventure that I’ll take away from our walk in the woods. That and a promise never to take my mum hiking on an unknown route again!

Katie Clowes, Marketing and Communications Executive for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Follow her on Instagram @kclowes3.

Misty Bled Island (centre right) looking like a scene from a fairy tale Misty Bled Island (centre right) looking like a scene from a fairy tale © Laura Brown

Castle-hopping and fairy-tale frolics in Slovenia

Even in winter, Slovenia is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Stone castles are nestled on mountainsides and cobblestone streets wind around picturesque canals and traditional European architecture. We began our trip in Ljubljana, the country’s capital city. Cars are not allowed in the city centre, so we spent an entire day freely wandering up and down the canals, drinking gluhwein and exploring the Christmas markets.

The next day, we drove out into the countryside with a tour guide to see the Postojna Cave and Predjama Castle carved into the side of a cliff face, and ended the day at the magical Lake Bled. We took a traditional Pletna boat to Bled Island, before watching the sunset over the region from yet another castle perched on a mountainside.

The whole experience was like being in a fairy tale. The people were marvellously friendly, the scenery was beautiful, and I’m completely in love with Slovenia. I can’t wait to go back in the summer when I can get stuck into the mountaineering and hiking that the country is known for.

Laura Brown, Director of Business Operations.

FREE mini-guides: Hamburg, Antwerp, Florence, Istanbul, Las Vegas and Belfast


A double-page spread from the April edition of Lonely Planet Magazine (UK) The April edition of Lonely Planet Magazine (UK) is out now! © Lonely Planet

The latest edition of Lonely Planet Magazine (UK) has hit the news stand! This April marks the mag’s 10 year anniversary, and to celebrate the occasion a special guest editor has been handed the reins – renowned adventurer Bear Grylls.

Alongside stories about Bear’s life in travel, features in this month’s issue include tales of reclusive artists in Alaska, a lowdown on Madrid’s newest attractions and a round-up of Lonely Planet staff members’ best ever souvenirs.

To whet your appetite, take a sneak peek at this month’s selection of city mini-guides – from quirky Florence to Vegas on a budget – that are found in the back of the magazine each issue and available to download here for free!

Hamburg's Elbe River fish market in the morning With its magnificent markets, cool cafes and renowned restaurants, Hamburg is a great city for foodies © Roy Jankowski / Getty Images

Eating in Hamburg

Hamburg’s appeal can be narrowed down to one simple calling card: it’s one of the coolest cities on Earth. Here’s where to sample some of its hottest cafés and restaurants.

> Download free PDF

Jenever cafe De Vagant on Reyndersstraat, Antwerp Antwerp is home to a fine assortment of drinking establishments © Jonathan Smith / Lonely Planet

Drinking in Antwerp

Belgium’s second city and biggest port, easygoing Antwerp is where the country's hip kids come to have fun and unwind, with a slew of drinking dens to suit every taste. Read on to uncover the best places to get a beer, wine or genever.

> Download free PDF

The skyline of Florence, Italy, dominated by the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower) Seek out Florence's quirkier side © Catarina Belova / Shutterstock

Quirky Florence

Cradle of the Renaissance, romantic, enchanting and utterly irresistible, Florence (Firenze) brims full of world-class sights, restaurants and attractions. Here’s our guide to its more offbeat charms.

> Download free PDF

Interior of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul with colourful produce on display Istanbul has always been a market town and is still one of the world's great places to shop © Ayhan Altun / Getty Images

Shopping in Istanbul

This magical meeting place of East and West has more attractions than it has minarets (and that’s a lot). It’s also a place where the locals have perfected the art of shopping – join them with our tips on top boutiques.

> Download free PDF

High-angle view of the Las Vegas Strip Enjoy a break in Vegas without blowing your budget © f11photo / Shutterstock

Las Vegas on a budget

An oasis of indulgence, dazzling in the desert, Vegas promises excitement, entertainment, fortune and fame. Here’s how to enjoy the city if your ambition is bigger than your budget.

> Download free PDF

Irish musicians perform while seated on a table at the John Hewitt pub in Belfast Belfast's music-filled pubs are one of the city's prime highlights © Steve Raymer / Getty Images

Best of Belfast

There’s plenty to fill a short break to Belfast, from beautifully restored Victorian architecture to a glittering waterfront, fantastic food scene and music-filled pubs. Here’s our guide to the highlights.

> Download free PDF

Want more freebies? Check out last month’s mini-guides.

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