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Travel

Britain at its best: The Isle of Lewis and Harris, Scotland

Britain at its best: Wrap yourself up in the glories of the Isle of Lewis and Harris – the ‘tweediest place on the planet’

  • The Daily Mail’s Harry Mount visited Lewis and Harris, Scotland’s biggest island
  • During the trip he meet one of the 150 Harris Tweed weavers on the island
  • He also visited the Callanish Stones, Scotland’s greatest set of standing stones

My hotel room in Stornoway, capital of the island of Lewis and Harris, was the tweediest place on the planet.

The chairs were upholstered in cream Harris Tweed. My blanket was in a heather-purple shade of Harris Tweed. I added to the effect by buying a sponge bag — in tartan Harris Tweed.

I bought my sponge bag (for £18) from one of the 150 Harris Tweed weavers on the island, Iain Martin. Do visit his croft in Airidh a’ Bhruaich, a half-hour drive from Stornoway.

Quiet interlude: A couple enjoy the view at Geodha Mhartainn on the Isle of Harris 

Martin, 52, has been working on the family croft since he was five, following in the footsteps of his father, grandparents and great-grandparents.

With his gentle, lilting, Outer Hebrides accent, Iain is an unequalled guide to Harris Tweed. Right in front of me, he wove a bright pink herringbone tweed on his 1926 Hattersley Domestic loom. How soft it felt — like butter straight from the creamery.

Iain has his own sheep and demonstrates the whole tweed-making process, from lamb to shop. He can show you everything from lambing to peat-cutting to sheep-shearing and sheepdog-handling.

Harris Tweed was created in 1846 by landowner, Lady Dunmore, who promoted the cloth to her pals, including one Queen Victoria.

After a decline in the Eighties, it now sells four times more than it did 15 years ago. Iain has customers as far afield as Texas.

In the picture-postcard town of Stornoway you can buy new men’s and women’s Harris Tweed jackets from two neighbouring shops — Harris Tweed Hebrides and Tweedtastic — which overlook the harbour.

For vintage jackets, starting from only £49, head round the corner to Lewis Revival.

Cameron’s Chip Shop down the street uses excellent local fish. For a sit-down dinner, the Harris & Lewis Smokehouse has some of the best smoked salmon in the world.

Just across the harbour is Lews Castle, a thwacking great Gothic pile, completed in 1851 for Sir James Matheson, the tycoon who owned the island.

You can stay there, or have a free look around the mammoth rooms with their views across the water. The cafe is good for lunch, next door to the museum, all spick and span thanks to a lottery grant.

Six of the famed Lewis chessmen — the cartoonish, 12th century, Nordic chess pieces found in a Lewis sandbank in 1831 — are on show here. The history of Lewis and Harris, Scotland’s biggest island, goes back a lot further. (Don’t be confused by the two names: it is one single island.)

A half-hour drive west of Stornoway are the Callanish Stones, Scotland’s greatest set of standing stones, erected around 2,750 BC. They’re laid out in a cross pattern on a hillock overlooking Loch Roag, with the island of Great Bernera as a backdrop.

The Daily Mail’s Harry Mound spotted Highland cattle during a visit to the Callanish Stones

Just as with Stonehenge, no one knows exactly what they were built for — which only adds to their intense, mysterious, spiritual feeling. Unlike Stonehenge, they aren’t besieged by tourists.

I had them to myself the whole time I was there. What’s more, there are other sets of standing stones on neighbouring spots overlooking the sea.

I stood watching two crofters herd a flock of sheep — chubby, tweed-producing factories. A sight unchanged for hundreds, or thousands, of years. There are also Highland cattle.

For more recent history, take a short drive to the village of Tong. Donald Trump’s mother, Mary Anne MacLeod, was born in a croft house there in 1912, where she lived until she was 18, before emigrating.

There is no mention of Mrs Trump. One passer-by said to me: ‘I do know where she lives but I’m not going to tell you.’

A young man was happy to direct me to the house: a nice, double-fronted home with dormer windows and a big garden bordered by fir trees.

As he described it, it’s a ‘blueish house’ — easily distinguished from the White House. 

TRAVEL FACTS

EasyJet (easyjet.com) flies from London to Glasgow from £44 return. Loganair (loganair.co.uk) flies Glasgow to Stornoway from £171 return. Harry Mount stayed in the Caladh Inn, Stornoway. Doubles from £99, caladhinn.co.uk

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Brrr-illiant! The wacky winners of the 2020 hair-freezing contest

Brrr-illiant! The wacky winners of the 2020 hair-freezing contest have been revealed – so which one is YOUR favourite

  • The contest takes place at Takhini Hot Springs, located just north of Whitehorse, in northwest Canada
  • This year there have been 288 entries, and here we present the five overall winners 
  • The winners each scooped $2,000 in prize money, plus free soaks in the Takhini Hot Springs

These are the competitors whose hairstyles coldly went where none had been before.

They are the winners of the Takhini Hot Springs Hair Freezing Contest, where entrants have to dip their heads in the Takhini hot spring, then style their hair and/or beards into an eye-catching shape as the frigid air freezes the strands.

This year there have been 288 entries, and here we present the five winners – Best Male, Best Female, Best Group, Most Creative and People’s Choice – along with a selection of wacky entries.

Best male: This chap went for a semi-yeti look, which hugely impressed the judges

Best female: This competitor wowed by incorporating a prop into her look – a brush frozen amid her locks

This couple’s wacky effort claimed the No1 spot in the People’s Choice category, with 2,163 votes

The organiser said: ‘We had a solid 50 entries this year that we considered for winners. Normally, we had 50 entries or less and had to pick from a few good ones’. Pictured is the winner of the Best Group category

The winners have each scooped $2,000 in prize money, plus free soaks in the steaming lagoon.

The spring is located 20 minutes north of Whitehorse, Yukon, in northwest Canada, and is run by Andrew Umbrich.

He told MailOnline Travel: ‘We found there is a strong correlation between prize money offered and people’s effort.

‘Last year we had four categories each worth $750, this year we had five categories each worth $2,000. Everything changed this year when we got Tim Hortons and Nongshim – an instant noodle company from Korea – to sponsor us.

Entrants keep their ears warm during the process by periodically dipping them into the hot water. Pictured is the winner of the Most Creative category

Ice one, sir: This fellow’s frozen follicles scooped a whopping 562 votes in the People’s Choice category

In second place in the People’s Choice category was this entrant with 1,798 votes. Her efforts to appear completely frozen all over have clearly impressed

In total 331 votes were cast for this chap’s unfeasibly ornate frozen mustache

‘We developed a website just for the contest, offered better prize money, and then the people came out and really tried hard to compete and win.

‘We had a solid 50 entries this year that we considered for winners. Normally, we had 50 entries or less and had to pick from a few good ones.’

The best temperature for hair-freezing is -20C or below, according to a ‘how to’ section on the spring’s website.

It recommends keeping the ears warm during the process by periodically dipping them into the hot water.

Entrants ring a bell near the pool entrance when their style is ready and a member of staff takes their photo. 

MailOnline Travel was impressed with this trio, picked from the gallery of entries available online

The best temperature for hair-freezing is -20C or below, according to a ‘how to’ section on the spring’s website

The spring is located 20 minutes north of Whitehorse, Yukon, in northwest Canada

Entrants ring a bell near the pool entrance when their style is ready and a member of staff takes their photo

Andrew Umbrich, who runs the spring, said: ‘We found there is a strong correlation between prize money offered and people’s effort’

There are five categories altogether – Best Male, Best Female, Best Group, Most Creative and People’s Choice

Branching right out: Another incredible entry to the 2020 hair-freezing competition

Is this your favourite? This entrant amassed 715 votes in the People’s Choice category with a far-out sculpture

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Cruises

Travel Advisors Come to the Rescue for Stranded Clients

If there was ever a time to turn to your travel advisor, that time would be now. Many travelers were stranded when international travel came to a halt as the coronavirus outbreak spread around the globe, grounding flights, closing hotels and stranding cruise ships.

It became apparent to many that they were not going to be able to change their reservations on their own and travelers turned to travel advisors and their networks of suppliers and foreign contacts to help get them home.

Avery Harris, director of Marketing at Viking Travel and a member of Ensemble Travel Group, rescued clients from Peru when the country closed its borders and canceled commercial flights.

Harris had clients traveling to Peru for a cruise from Lima to Buenos Aires departing on March 15. The clients canceled the cruise portion of the trip but opted to go ahead with their land-based journey to Machu Picchu and Ollantaytambo booked with Way to Go Tours, an Ensemble preferred partner.

The tour went on as planned until they returned to Lima on the day Peru initiated the closure of borders and a full stop of commercial flights, stranding Harris’ clients for at least two weeks in Lima.

His clients were frightened after trying unsuccessfully to get on one of the last flights out of Lima, but Harris was on the phone with them the whole time. He contacted Way To Go to inform them of the situation. The tour operator got in touch with its local operator in Lima who had someone meet his clients at the airport to provide some reassurance and assistance.

With flights suspended, Harris and his team worked to get their clients back to their hotel and to find a way for them to get home. There were more than 3,000 Americans stuck in Peru at the time.

Through his network of contacts in Peru, Harris was able to get his clients on a charter flight from Lima to Miami and, after taxi service was also suspended, he got them a private transfer from the hotel to the airport. Finally, after days of negotiating, Harris’ clients made it back to the U.S.

Lauren Doyle has a similar story to tell, rescuing her travelers from Thailand with the help of local suppliers.

Doyle, who is the executive vice president at The Travel Mechanic and a member of Ensemble, was closely monitoring the situation for her clients in Thailand when the State Department announced its Level 4 advisory.

Since her clients couldn’t get in touch with the airlines, Doyle worked directly with Ensemble’s local supplier, Trails to Indochina, to get her clients to the airport where they could change their tickets. She walked them through the whole process at the ticket counter to get them on a new flight. Trails to Indochina handled their transportation back to the airport and ensured Doyle’s clients made it onto their plane.

These are just two incidents that demonstrate the vast power a travel advisor and their subsequent network of contacts, partners and suppliers can provide during a crisis, along with showcasing the benefit of having an advocate on the ground to help when traveling.

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Travel

The great rail trips you can do at home

From experiencing The Canadian’s trip through the Rockies to travelling around the world with Tony Robinson, the great rail trips you can do at home

  • Channel 5 is airing Around The World By Train With Tony Robinson on Monday 
  • Take a virtual ride on the White Mountain Central Railroad, New Hampshire  
  • Get some inspiration for a future trip from train buff Mark Smith 

Every week our Holiday Hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at an important holiday topic, doing all the legwork so you don’t have to. This week: How to go on a great train journey from the safety of your own home.

There’s always been something about a train journey that stirs the imagination. Today’s locomotives may not have the romance of steam trains, but the grandeur of city-centre stations has actually increased as renovations bring glamour back to great public buildings such as St Pancras in London, Cornelius Vanderbilt’s Grand Central in New York and the palm-filled Atocha station in Madrid.

The journeys themselves are as exciting as ever, and travellers can enjoy them all, even under the pandemic lockdown.

Plan for the future

All aboard: Experience The Canadian’s trip through the Rockies

Start with Mark Smith, the train buff whose Man In Seat 61 website (seat61.com) began as a hobby in 2001 and became an award-winning travel phenomenon. Seat 61 is his favourite place to be on a First Class Eurostar train, and the website shows how to get from A to B by train all around the world.

Why not take a look now as inspiration for future trips? Then, for a fuller flavour, go to The Man In Seat 61’s series of short videos on YouTube. Most are step-by-step guides to different journeys.

You are led from concourse to platform as you make connections across the Continent and beyond, and you’ll see how trains differ as you head from France to Italy, for example. Images of a bottle of beer and a bowl of soup in the buffet car on the London to Vienna video bring home one of the small joys of travel. Seeing the sun bounce off the gleaming silver carriages of The Canadian does the same, as the classic train crosses the Rockies on the Toronto to Vancouver video.

 Read all about it

Let the power of the written word take you on a short trip on the White Mountain Central Railroad in rural New Hampshire, USA. The team which runs the railway’s heritage centre say it’s ‘where history meets fun’, and if you click on Virtual Tour – Steam Train Ride on the website (whitemountaincentralrr.com), you feel it straight away.

‘The engineer has just informed me that we have a full head of steam so I’ll give him the High Ball sign and we’ll be on our way,’ the text begins, as the endearingly old-fashioned travelogue describes almost every part of the trip.

Driver’s eye view

The trend for ‘cab-ride’ films was born in Norway in a ‘slow TV’ experiment 

Hop into a train cab for a driver’s-eye view of an entire journey. The trend for ‘cab-ride’ films was born in Norway in a ‘slow TV’ experiment that found a huge market for lovely but uneventful real-life films. The original, seven-hour Bergen to Oslo journey from 2009 is hard to find online, but YouTube has plenty of amateur alternatives, and once you click one you’ll be recommended many more.

Staying closer to home, you can enjoy the ride from Glasgow to Mallaig, or head to the other side of the world and follow the journey from Christchurch to Greymouth in New Zealand amid stunning mountain and ocean views. 

TV stations

TV fans are in for a treat for the next few weeks. Channel 5 is repeating Around The World By Train With Tony Robinson on Monday nights and is putting The World’s Most Scenic Railway Journeys on its Freeview service My5. A favourite is Episode 2, riding through Spain’s Picos de Europa and ending near Bilbao’s Guggenheim museum.

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The amazing finalists in the 2020 hair-freezing contest

The amazing finalists in the 2020 hair-freezing contest, where entrants dip their heads in a hot spring then let -20C air solidify the locks into a wacky style

  • The contest takes place at Takhini Hot Springs, located just north of Whitehorse, in northwest Canada
  • This year there have been 288 entries, and here we present the five finalists for the People’s Choice category 
  • The winners will be revealed on April 1 and each will scoop $2,000 in prize money, plus free soaks

Is this the world’s most hair-raising contest? Undoubtedly.

In the Takhini Hot Springs Hair Freezing Contest, entrants have to dip their heads in the Takhini hot spring, then style their hair and/or beards into an eye-catching style as the frigid air freezes the strands.

This year there have been 288 entries, and here we present the five wacky finalists for the People’s Choice category.

This couple’s wacky effort is No1 in the People’s Choice category, with 2,163 votes

Is this your favourite? This entrant amassed 715 votes with a far-out sculpture

The styles in the running for the other categories – Best Male, Best Female, Best Group and Most Creative – are under wraps.

The winners will be revealed on April 1 and each will scoop $2,000 in prize money, plus free soaks in the steaming lagoon.

The spring is located 20 minutes north of Whitehorse, Yukon, in northwest Canada, and is run by Andrew Umbrich.

He told MailOnline Travel: ‘We found there is a strong correlation between prize money offered and people’s effort.

‘Last year we had four categories each worth $750, this year we had five categories each worth $2,000. Everything changed this year when we got Tim Hortons and Nongshim – an instant noodle company from Korea – to sponsor us.

Ice one, sir: This fellow’s frozen follicles scooped a whopping 562 votes

In second place is this entrant with 1,798 votes. Her efforts to appear completely frozen all over have clearly impressed

In total 331 votes have been cast for this chap’s unfeasibly ornate frozen mustache

‘We developed a website just for the contest, offered better prize money, and then the people came out and really tried hard to compete and win.

‘We had a solid 50 entries this year that we considered for winners. Normally, we had 50 entries or less and had to pick from a few good ones.’

The best temperature for hair-freezing is -20C or below, according to a ‘how to’ section on the spring’s website.

It recommends keeping the ears warm during the process by periodically dipping them into the hot water.

Entrants ring a bell near the pool entrance when their style is ready and a member of staff takes their photo. 

MailOnline Travel was impressed with this trio, picked from the gallery of entries available online

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Tackle the North Coast 500 in Scotland for the drive of your life

Forget Route 66, grab a campervan and tackle the North Coast 500 in Scotland for the drive of your life

  • The recently rebranded North Coast 500 is a spectacular 500-mile route 
  • Graeme Thomson tackled the trail in a campervan with his wife and children
  • They drove from east to west, starting on the A9 from Inverness to Thurso

Think you need to jet off to Route 66 in the United States or to the wide-open spaces of Australia for a classic campervan adventure? Think again. There’s a spectacular 500-mile route here that’s perfect for a road trip.

It’s the recently rebranded North Coast 500, Scotland’s awesome alternative to the world’s better-known highways. Join it and you’ll take a long loop around the windswept head of the nation, where rain can add to the drama and where sunny days make you feel you’re in holiday heaven.

Better still, you can enjoy your Scottish adventure in some style with a campervan that includes a shower, kitchen, wi-fi and king-size bed. And don’t worry if you’ve never driven a campervan before. Rental firm staff will show you the ropes, and the best vans have touchscreens with instructions on everything from setting up bunk beds to refilling the water tank.

Magical journey: A motorhome crosses the Kylesku Bridge on the North Coast 500

 Yes, big vans take a bit of getting used to (parking can be tricky at first), but once you taste the freedom there’s no turning back.

My trip was a ten-day tour in an ingeniously roomy Bailey Advance motorhome with my wife and our two youngest children, aged 12 and 14.

We tackled the trail from east to west, starting on the relatively forgiving A9 from Inverness to Thurso. It also allowed the drama to increase as the holiday progressed.

An early highlight was the gloriously empty beach by our first campsite in Brora. It’s from where we visited Dunrobin Castle, ancient seat of the Earl of Sutherland and a towering monument of baronial elegance. We also detoured to the breathtaking Falls of Shin, where we watched salmon leaping upstream.

Heading north, we left the A9 to visit the Whaligoe Steps, a rough-hewn set of 350 or so stone steps carved into a cliff face. Descending gingerly to an eerie amphitheatre surrounded by the North Sea, the only sounds were the crashing waves and the cries of terns and kittiwakes.

We bypassed John O’Groats and its tourist hub and spent a night at Dunnet instead, where the vast beach was bathed in glorious pink light at sunset that night.

However, it wasn’t until we were west of Thurso that the magic of the route really hit home. Pootling along a single-track road across the top of Britain, it felt as if civilisation was ebbing away. Near the Kyle of Tongue, a golden eagle rose from the verge beside us and even the children were diverted from their screens.

Elegance: Dunrobin Castle is the ancient seat of the Earl of Sutherland

In peak season, pre-booking berths along the route at affiliated Caravan and Motorhome Club campsites is recommended to guarantee a spot each night. But there’s something to be said for going off grid. At the most remote point of our trip, we stopped over at Laid, a dot on the banks of Loch Eriboll, and loved it. We barbecued local salmon and sweetcorn and drank lemonade and Orkney Northern Light ale. As dusk crept in, a seal bobbed a hello at the loch edge.

The next morning, the children braved the Golden Eagle zip line 120ft above the beach at Durness, before we explored Smoo Cave.

We then turned south-west, twisting through moonscape terrain from the Kyle of Durness, skirting Cape Wrath and travelling 70 crooked miles to Ullapool. It’s a magnificent, barren stretch of road which, in a motorhome, can feel a bit like driving a tank along a towpath.

After days of basic living and little human interaction, by the time we reached Ullapool it felt as if we were rolling into Las Vegas. The low-key buzz was welcome and we took full advantage. We spent the day grazing at the Seafood Shack and browsing books at The Ceilidh Place. Next morning, we visited the botanical gardens at Inverewe before wending our way to our final campsite just south of Loch Maree.

The following morning, we drove along hairy roads near Loch Carron, pottered about in Plockton, the picture-perfect home of fictional TV police officer Hamish Macbeth (played by Robert Carlyle), and visited Eilean Donan, the most photogenic castle in Scotland. It was our final day and it felt as if a spell was wearing off as we re-entered the slipstream of reality. The North Coast 500 does that to you.

  • For more information, visit caravanclub.co.uk and northcoast500.com.

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The world's happiest countries revealed: Finland keeps the top spot

The world’s happiest countries revealed: Finland keeps the top spot, Afghanistan is ranked the bleakest and the UK and U.S both climb the table

  • The UN’s annual World Happiness Report ranks over 150 countries by happiness
  • Finland is named the world’s happiest country for the third year in a row 
  • Denmark takes the No.2 spot in 2020’s study, followed by Switzerland 

Finland has been named the happiest country in the world for the third year in a row by the World Happiness Report – and Afghanistan ranked the bleakest.

The annual United Nations World Happiness Report ranks over 150 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be, according to their evaluations of their own lives. 

Denmark takes the No.2 spot in 2020’s study, followed by Switzerland in third place and Iceland in fourth. The UK climbs two places to 13th and the U.S is up one place to 19th. 

Finland – where ice swimming is popular – has been named the happiest country in the world for the third year in a row by the World Happiness Report

Denmark is the second happiest country on earth, according to the UN. Pictured is the capital city, Copenhagen

THE HAPPIEST AND LEAST HAPPIEST COUNTRIES AND CITIES IN THE WORLD

HAPPIEST COUNTRIES

1. Finland

2. Denmark

3. Switzerland

4. Iceland

5. Norway

6. The Netherlands

7. Sweden

8. New Zealand

9. Luxembourg

10. Austria

11. Canada

12. Australia

13. UK

14. Israel

15. Costa Rica

16. Ireland

17. Germany

18. US

19. Czech Republic

20. Belgium

LEAST HAPPY COUNTRIES  

1.  Afghanistan

2. South Sudan

3. Zimbabwe

4. Rwanda

5. Central African Republic

6. Tanzania

7. Botswana

8. Yemen

9. Malawi

10. India

11. Lesotho

12. Haiti

13. Zambia

14.  Burundi

15. Sierra Leone

16. Egypt

17. Madagascar 

18. Ethiopia 

19. Togo 

20. Comoros 

HAPPIEST CITIES  

1.  Helsinki, Finland 

2. Aarhus, Denmark

3. Wellington, New Zealand  

4. Zurich, Switzerland

5.  Copenhagen, Denmark

6. Bergen, Norway

7. Oslo, Norway

8. Tel Aviv, Israel

9. Stockholm, Sweden

10. Brisbane, Australia 

11. San Jose, Costa Rica 

12. Reykjavik, Iceland 

13. Toronto Metro, Canada 

14. Melbourne, Australia 

15. Perth, Australia 

16. Auckland, New Zealand 

17. Christchurch, New Zealand 

18. Washington, USA

19. Dallas, USA

20. Sydney, Australia 

LEAST HAPPY CITIES

1. Kabul, Afghanistan 

2.  Sanaa, Yemen

3. Gaza, Palestine 

4. Port-au-Prince, Haiti

5. Juba, South Sudan 

6. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

7. Delhi, India

8. Maseru, Lesotho

9. Bangui, CAR

10. Cairo, Egypt 

11. Kigali, Rwanda 

12. Kumasi, Ghana

13. Khartoum, Sudan 

14. Monrovia, Liberia 

15. Antananarivo, Madagascar 

16. Harare, Zimbabwe 

17. Colombo, Sri Lanka 

18. Lome, Togo 

19. Gaborone, Botswana 

20.  Phnom Penh, Cambodia 

 

The remaining countries in the top ten are Norway (5th), the Netherlands (6th), Sweden (7th), New Zealand (8th), and Austria (9th), followed by top-10 newcomer Luxembourg. 

Joining Afghanistan (153rd) at the bottom of the table are South Sudan (152nd), Zimbabwe (151st), Rwanda (150th), Central African Republic (149th), Tanzania (148th), Botswana (147th), Yemen (146th), Malawi (145th) and India (144th).   

In addition to the country rankings, the World Happiness Report 2020, for the first time, has ranked cities around the world according to subjective wellbeing.

It perhaps comes as no surprise that the happiest city is Finland’s capital, Helsinki.

The report shows that in general the happiness ranking of cities is almost identical to that of the countries in which they are located. 

Switzerland is the third happiest country in the world. And with scenery like this, it’s not a surprising result

The UK climbs two places to take the 13th slot in the ranking

Filling out the rest of the top ten are Aarhus, Denmark (2nd); Wellington, New Zealand (3rd); Zurich, Switzerland (4th); Copenhagen, Denmark (5th); Bergen, Norway (6th); Oslo, Norway (7th); Tel Aviv, Israel (8th); Stockholm, Sweden (9th), and Brisbane, Australia (10th).

Meanwhile, Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan (186th) , is at the bottom of the table followed by Sanaa in Yemen (185th) and Gaza in Palestine (184th). Above those are Port-au-Prince, Haiti (183rd); Juba, South Sudan (182nd); Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (181st); Delhi, India (180th); Maseru, Lesotho (179th); Bangui, CAR (178th), and Cairo in Egypt (177th). 

Professor John F. Helliwell of the University of British Columbia, who co-edited the report, said: ‘A happy social environment, whether urban or rural, is one where people feel a sense of belonging, where they trust and enjoy each other and their shared institutions.

‘There is also more resilience, because shared trust reduces the burden of hardships, and thereby lessens the inequality of wellbeing.’ 

While Professor Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, director of the wellbeing research centre at the University of Oxford, commented: ‘Generally, we find that the average happiness of city residents is more often than not higher than the average happiness of the general country population, especially in countries at the lower end of economic development.’

‘But this urban happiness advantage evaporates and sometimes turns negative for cities in high-income countries, suggesting that the search for happiness may well be more fruitful when looking to live in more rural areas.’

REVEALED: HOW TO FIND YOUR FINNISH CALM 

According to VisitFinland, the Finnish tourist board, getting out in nature is  the country’s secret to happiness because it helps to slow down and calm the mind. Here are some simple tips on how you can bring some Finnish calm into your home…

1. Start your day with a cold shower  

The Finns love winter swimming as much as they love the sauna. The secret of plunging into icy water lies in the feeling that surges through your body once you get out of the water – as soon as you’re back on dry land your circulation kicks in and your body starts to warm up and makes you feel happy. Your body is producing the mood-balancing hormone serotonin with dopamine, and stress starts to melt away. The easiest way to do this at home is to take an ice-cold shower for a couple of minutes, first thing in the morning. 

2. Make sense of the world by reading 

Books are close to Finns’ hearts and there are many libraries in Finland, with Helsinki’s Oodi being the newest library to open in 2019. In 2016 the United Nations named Finland the world’s most literate nation, and Finns are among the world’s most enthusiastic users of public libraries. The country, which has a population of 5.5 million, borrows close to 68 million books a year. 

3. Experience a relaxing forest path on your sofa 

According to VisitFinland, getting out in nature country’s secret to happiness because it helps to slow down and calm the mind

There is something magical about the forest and the Finnish soul has always been linked with it. The green colour is calming and the gentle rustling of the leaves and pine needles is like music. It has been scientifically proven that only 15 minutes in the forest calms your pulse and your body starts to rest. So, close your eyes, stretch yourself on the sofa, and have an imaginary sound trip (playlist here) to the Finnish forest. 

4. Make the world a better (and tastier) place by baking a cinnamon bun

Korvapuusti translates into ‘slapped ears’ in English, but they are essentially cinnamon buns baked Finnish style with a dash of cardamom. Finns love their coffee (they drink almost 10kg per person per year) and korvapuusti so much that there is actually a particular word for it, ‘pullakahvit’, which literally means bun coffee. Cinnamon buns are the perfect comfort food and baked at home (click here for a recipe) they bring a cosy smell to the kitchen. 

5. Use art as a stress-reliever 

Finland’s contemporary art scene embraces everything from experimental artist-run initiatives and commercial galleries to flagship art institutions. There are more than 55 art museums and numerous art galleries packed into the city. The Finns use art to calm the mind and transport their thoughts to stress-free comforting places. 

Take a virtual trip from your own sofa to the Finnish museums to understand how art is a tool for happiness. In March 2020, Amos Rex won the prestigious LCD (Leading Culture Destination) Award for New Cultural Destination of the Year – Europe. Have a virtual tour of the new museum to see the new Generation 2020 exhibition in their Instagram Stories. If you want to discover Lapland, head to Rovaniemi Art Museum located in the Arctic Circle. Its main focus is on Finnish Contemporary Art and Northern Art. Culture Vultures on the search for something more classical should pay a visit to Ateneum Art Museum. The Ateneum Art Museum’s collection in Helsinki includes more than 450 works by famous Finnish artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela.

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Cruises

The latest travel cancellation and change policies

Many travel companies have introduced flexible cancellation and rebooking policies in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak. Knowing that these policies can be complex, can change, and sometimes vary depending on the itinerary and departure date, Travel Weekly is providing direct links to suppliers’ policy-change pages.

Find the latest information from the State Department regarding countries with quarantines here.

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Destinations

Discover the Top Attractions and Secret Spots of Aspen, Colorado

Up the ante on your next Aspen ski trips with these special spots. You don’t need to be a celebrity to indulge in pop-up champagne bars and members-only clubhouses and mountains—you simply have to know where to find them.

Grab a drink at the buzzy speakeasy in the Aspen Times building.

Bad Harriet is a sultry 55-seat speakeasy located in the lower level of the Aspen Times building on Main Street in Aspen, and you’re sure to miss it if you’re not looking for it. The underground establishment, which is part of Hotel Jerome, was inspired by the 1920s and has leather chairs, a brown marble bar, antler chandeliers and plenty of mirrors. Since there’s limited seating, be sure to make a reservation, dress to impress and bring a full wallet (cocktails are $17-$35).

$1,000 wine, please.

The only 5-Star spot in all of Aspen, The Little Nell is home to a highly coveted wine cellar that serves as a bragging point to anyone who dares enter. From Roulot and Romanee-Conti to Ridge and Screaming Eagle, more than 20,000 wines can be found in the cellar, compliments of more than a dozen sommeliers. Want some? It’s a $1,000 minimum—no worries, that’s easy to achieve, due to the price of the wines. Or, you could join The Little Nell Wine Club and receive preferred pricing—$8,000 per year.

Indulge in what may be the best breakfast you’ve ever had.

Hop in the car and head to Village Smithy in Carbondale, where locals and celebs alike can be seen waiting for as long as an hour for the best blueberry pancakes and skillets ever. Just a 45-minute drive northwest of Aspen, you’ll be rewarded with what may be the best breakfast you’ve ever had. There’s also a free public bus that goes from Aspen to Carbondale, with multiple stops along the way.

Get a weekly membership to the hottest private club in the city.

Caribou Club is the most exclusive private club in Aspen, and memberships are hard to come by in terms of access and finances. Additionally, they also offer a limited number of weekly private memberships—$500 minimum, depending on the week—which are much more accessible. If you’re staying at a high-end hotel—The Little Nell or the Ritz, for example—you may ask your hotel to arrange for you to dine here as a potential member. The food is exquisite and at 10 p.m. the bar transforms into a very popular—and still private—nightclub.

Head to the clouds.

Cloud Nine is the place to be. Rumor has it that this mid-mountain restaurant sells the largest amount of Veuve Clicquot in all of America, and they earn the highest revenue per square foot out of any restaurant in the United States, despite the fact that they’re only open 135 days per year. Translation: Cloud Nine makes about $10 million per season, while top-grossing Tao Las Vegas makes $42 in annual sales but is about 44,000 sq feet. An average of 120 bottles of bubbly are opened per night here, and most of that ends up on the walls and on the ceilings. It is quite the rowdy crowd.

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Holiday

6 of the best experiences in Africa for your travel bucket list – A Luxury Travel Blog

Africa is one of the most fascinating continents in this world. For anyone dreaming of going for the first time or if you are thinking of planning your next visit, here are a few of our top suggestions to add onto your bucket list

1. Track The Big 5 in Kruger

If you’re looking for a really authentic safari experience in South Africa, there’s no place like Kruger National Park. It’s one of the world’s great wildlife destinations, ranking up there with the very best that Africa has to offer. Covering a vast expanse of over 2 million hectares, the national parks and private reserves are all unfenced and allow for free roaming movement of the wildlife. Kruger is home to an immense diversity of wildlife and one of the best destinations to view The Big 5 of lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo!

Safari experiences range from rustic bungalows in the National Park for self-drive visitors, walking safaris for the adventurous at heart or staying at the private safari lodges within the private reserves such as Mala Mala (pictured above). Staying at one of these lodges, you’ll be treated to sunrise and sunset guided safaris in open-topped 4×4 safari vehicles, giving you an incredible game viewing experience. The safari lodges all take huge pride in getting their guests as close as possible to the animals and in the private reserves the guides are not restricted to the roads, meaning that you can head off-track into the depths of the bush in search of wildlife.

This really is a safari like no other, as the guides and trackers can follow their professional hunches off road and give you the game drive adventure of a lifetime.

2. Follow the great migration in Tanzania or Kenya

Tanzania is the most well-known for the Great Migration, and with careful planning and a little luck, it is possible for visitors to be at the right place to witness this amazing annual wildlife event.

Each year, literally thousands upon thousands of wildebeest, zebra and gazelles trek across the vast Serengeti plains towards Kenya’s Masai Mara, in search of new grazing grass. It is estimated that just over 2 million animals in total make this migration from one country to another and back again – a round journey of just under 2,000 miles. Travellers from all over the world descend on the Serengeti and the Masai Mara in Kenya each year in hope of seeing a dramatic river crossing and being surrounded by sound of herds of wildebeest. Truly one of Africa’s most prized natural events and worth adding this to the top of your bucket list!

3. Look a gorilla or chimpanzee in the eye

For many people who love adventure and travel, trekking through a jungle to find a family of silverback gorillas or chimpanzees is high on their bucket list, but it is one that few people actually get to achieve.  For the lucky ones who do get to experience this first hand, it is a trip where the memories will last a lifetime.

The mountain gorilla is extremely endangered and while exact numbers vary, it is widely assumed that there are only around 650 left in the wild today.  Visiting the gorillas is a great way to support their future on our planet, as the money spent on permits is used for their protection.

Uganda is home to more than half of the world’s population of rare Mountain Gorillas, and the fantastically named Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is the most popular destination here for visitors wanting to track gorillas in the wild.

If trekking through rainforests to watch a family of chimpanzees go about their daily life, then Mahale Mountain National Park in Tanzania should be high on your holiday hitlist. Greystoke Mahale is situated on Lake Tanganyika and this is about as remote as you can get. There are no roads within 100 km of your camp, and access is only by light aircraft. Upon arrival at the airstrip there is an approximately 90 minute dhow trip down the lake to reach the camp.

Guests here can enjoy morning hikes in the stunning tropical forest that covers the slopes of the mountains, which is home to 9 different species of primate, including chimpanzee. The main chimp group live in the mountains close to the camp, and have become habituated to human presence over 2 decades.

4. Hear the smoke that thunders

Only a short 2 hour flight from Johannesburg, a trip to Victoria Falls is certainly memorable. One of the 7 Wonders of the World, the Falls are situated between Zambia and Zimbabwe, and with a width of 1.7 km and a volume of 9 million litres per second pouring down a vertical drop of just over 100m they are certainly one of the largest waterfalls in the world.

The sheer noise of the Falls as they cascade over the edge into the deep gorge is deafening, and the misty clouds of spray, occasionally broken by rainbows, are visible from over 30 km away – hence it’s local name, Mosi-oa-Tunya, “The smoke that thunders”.

The big tourist draw of the Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwean side is that visitors can view virtually the whole width of the Falls face-on, at the same level as the top of the Falls where the mighty Zambezi River drops over the edge into the gorge. In some places you can get as close as 60m – although you should be warned – at these points you do get incredibly wet from the spray! Covering your camera and video equipment with a plastic bag is definitely advised!

Viewing the Falls from the Zambia side is as exciting, however, as you can make your way across the aptly named Knife-Edge Bridge and are awarded with some stunning views of the Falls with maybe the odd rainbow peeking through – but again, be prepared to get thoroughly soaked with the spray if the Falls are at full flood!

The towns surrounding the Victoria Falls, both Livingstone and Victoria Falls Town, are a hub of activity and adventure. Seeing the falls play a pivotal part in visiting this area, however don’t overlook the experience of the Zambezi River and surrounding parks here. From Sunset Cruises to Bungee Jumping, the area offers non-stop adventure and is an excellent starting point for a full on safari experience in either the Hwange National Park or to enter Botswana and explore the Chobe and Okavango Delta.

5. Travel in style on a luxury train across South Africa

A classic train journey in South Africa is the ultimate in luxury travel. Riding the rails, you’ll be plunged into the romance of bygone times to delight in the pure decadence of time-honoured train travel. Steaming across the land with beautiful landscapes unfolding before your eyes is a truly special experience that you’ll remember for years to come.

South Africa offers two luxury trains, Rovos Rail and The Blue Train and they are beyond indulgent, magnificent moving 5* hotels – an effortless combination of superb accommodation, sumptuous fine dining and outstanding service levels. Each carriage breathes an irresistible feeling of grace and grandeur.

As your train meanders through the stunning countryside of South Africa, you’ll be treated to wonderful views of mountains sloping into vineyards, fields that stretch into the horizon and stark deserts that seem to go on forever. Watching the Rainbow Nation roll slowly past your window with a glass of champagne, you’ll be in seventh heaven.

6. Climb Namibia’s Red Sand Dunes

Sossusvlei is Namibia’s top selling scenery. With epic sand dunes sculpted by the wind, it’s a must-see for any visitor to this spectacular and surreal country.

An endless sea of shifting sand dunes, Sossusvlei is a worldwide sensation and easily Namibia’s most iconic feature. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013, the staggeringly beautiful scenery is bound to look familiar as it has been featured in films and advertisements far and wide.

The dunes can certainly be considered the ‘trademark’ of Namibian tourism, yet they still feel so much more than just a tourist attraction. Climbing to the top of a sand dune and watching the shadows sweep across the land as the sun rises is enough to give anyone goosebumps. So, while you might have seen this terrain on the TV, there’s nothing like being here in the flesh. It’s a humbling place to take a walk and get some perspective.

Sossusvlei is actually the huge flat pan in the middle of the dunes, but the dunes themselves get all the glory, and deservedly so. These giant orange sand-sculptures are some of the oldest and highest in the world and they are constantly shifting their formation with the winds. This is why Sossusvlei is often referred to as the ‘dune sea’; because the dunes are always ever-so-slightly moving in a subtle and spooky dreamlike way.

Paul Campbell is a Co-founder and Managing Director at Travel Butlers. Travel Butlers are specialists in tailor-made safari and beach holidays to Africa and the Indian Ocean.

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