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Medium 9781743213919

The Ardennes

Planet, Lonely Lonely Planet Publications ePub

Languages French (& German around Eupen)

If you’re looking for outdoor activities, fresh air and greenery, head for Belgium’s southeastern corner. Here you’ll find meandering rivers, dramatic cave systems, forested hills and deep valleys. There are some really special landscapes, with picture-perfect castle-topped medieval towns crowded into sweeping bends in a verdant-banked river. Eating is also great in the Ardennes, with pâtés, hams and other piggy products to the fore.

There's a wealth of things to see and do. It's Belgium's best zone for outdoor activities, while Stavelot, Malmedy and Eupen burst with revelry during their fabulous carnivals. Some of the Meuse Valley cities look dauntingly grimy, but they have plenty of attractions as well as lots of hidden history beneath the careworn exteriors.

Main towns are accessible by train and bus but to really appreciate the rural highlights you’ll need a car or strong cycling legs.

A La Calèche

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Medium 9781743214664


Planet, Lonely Lonely Planet Publications ePub

It’s a pint-sized place, with a surface area of just over 20,000 sq km, and two million people. But ‘good things come in small packages’, and never was that old chestnut more appropriate than in describing Slovenia. The country has everything – from beaches, snowcapped mountains, hills awash in grape vines and wide plains blanketed in sunflowers to Gothic churches, baroque palaces and art nouveau buildings. Its incredible mixture of climates brings warm Mediterranean breezes up to the foothills of the Alps, where it can snow in summer.

The capital, Ljubljana, is a culturally rich city that values liveability and sustainability over unfettered growth. This sensitivity toward the environment also extends to rural and lesser-developed parts of the country. With more than half of its total area covered in forest, Slovenia really is one of the ‘greenest’ countries in the world.

AApr–Jun Spring is a great time to be in the lowlands and the flower-carpeted valleys of the Julian Alps.

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Medium 9781742205793

Tasman Peninsula & Port Arthur

Planet, Lonely Lonely Planet Publications ePub

Just an hour from Hobart lie the staggering coastal landscapes, sandy beaches and historic sites of the Tasman Peninsula. Bushwalking, surfing, sea-kayaking, scuba-diving and rock-climbing opportunities abound – all good reasons to extend your visit beyond a hurried day trip from Hobart.

Don’t miss visiting the peninsula’s legendary 300m-high sea cliffs – the tallest in the southern hemisphere – which will dose you up on natural awe. Most of the cliffs are protected by Tasman National Park, a coastal enclave embracing chunky offshore islands and underwater kelp forests. The cliffs are a safe haven for seabirds, while the fertile waters below throng with seals, dolphins and whales.

Waiting portentously at the end of Arthur Hwy is Port Arthur, the infamous and allegedly escape-proof penal colony dating from the early 19th century. Today kids kick footballs and dads poke sausages on BBQs there, but it’s impossible to totally blank out the tragedy of this place, both historically and more recently.

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Medium 9781743218570


Planet, Lonely Lonely Planet Publications ePub

In its typically charming way, Amsterdam has loads of hotels in wild and wonderful spaces: inspired architects have breathed new life into old buildings, from converted schools and industrial lofts to entire rows of canal houses joined at the hip. Many lodgings overlook gorgeous waterways or courtyards. But charm doesn't come cheap…

Book Your Stay Online

For more accommodation reviews by Lonely Planet authors, check out http://lonelyplanet.com/hotels/. You’ll find independent reviews, as well as recommendations on the best places to stay. Best of all, you can book online.

Rates and crowds peak in summer and on weekends at any time of the year. Book well in advance if you're travelling then. Prices are lowest from October to April (excluding Christmas/New Year and Easter).

Any hotel with more than 20 rooms is considered large, and most rooms themselves are on the snug side. You'll see a 'star' plaque on the front of every hotel, indicating its rating according to the Benelux Hotel Classification. The stars (from one to five) are determined by the existence of certain facilities, rather than their quality. This means that a two-star hotel may be in better condition than a hotel of higher rank, though admittedly with fewer facilities.

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Medium 9781760342760

The Dead Sea البحر الميت ים המלח

Planet, Lonely Lonely Planet Publications ePub

The lowest place on the face of earth, the Dead Sea (428m below sea level) brings together breathtaking natural beauty, compelling ancient history and modern mineral spas that soothe and pamper every fibre of your body. The jagged bluffs of the Judean Desert, cleft by dry canyons that turn into raging tan torrents after a cloudburst, rise from the cobalt-blue waters of the Dead Sea, heavy with salt and oily with minerals. In oases such as Ein Gedi, year-round springs nourish vegetation so lush it’s often been compared to the Garden of Eden. Atop the bluffs lies the arid moonscape of the Judean Desert; down below, human beings have been at work for millennia, building Masada and Qumran (where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found) in ancient times and, more recently turning their hands to creating hiking trails, bike paths, kibbutzim, luxury hotels and even a world-famous botanic garden.

ANov–Apr Warm and sunny. Judean Desert cloudbursts cause flash floods in wadis.

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