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TRAVEL

A river ride to Rishikesh: India's new adventure capital

Rishikesh shot to fame when the Beatles arrived, in search of enlightenment. Half a century on, the area is attracting a different kind of seeker – those after rapids, zipwires and mountain treks

I’ve only been in the raft a few minutes, bobbling down a placid stretch of India’s holy Ganges River, before my guide, Kalyan Singh Bhandari, puts his paddle down and sings a haunting Garhwali folk song typical of these Himalayan foothills. The warbling tune is, he says, meant to bring us good luck as we navigate the class 3 and 3+ rapids ahead.

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TRAVEL

10 of the best sustainable hotels in south-east Asia

In Thailand, Vietnam and across Asia, these eco-lodges and hotels are recycling, composting and reclaiming to reduce their impact on the environment

Yes, some of the structures are made form recycled shipping containers. And yes, recycled paper is used as insulation to keep the buildings cool. Inverter air conditioners and LED lights save energy and refillable glass water bottles for guests eliminate the need for plastic, while composted waste keeps the garden green – and the mojitos minty. But what is really remarkable about The Yard (a reference to both the greenery and a play on the Thai word for “relatives”) is its location at the heart of the galleries, boutiques and eateries of the cool Ari neighbourhood, a welcome respite from the concrete jungle and roar of traffic in the heart of Bangkok.
Dorm beds from £12, doubles from £27 B&B, theyardhostel.com

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10 of the best meditation retreats in the UK and Europe

We pick mindfulness and meditation holidays in beautiful surroundings – many combined with other activities like walking, singing and tai chi
More retreat top 10s: yoga | creative | by readers

In the Dart valley near Totnes, the Sharpham Trust meditation centre offers mindfulness retreats of different lengths throughout the year, including walking and singing breaks. Some are held in the estate’s mansion, others in the Barn Retreat nearby. For full immersion in the natural world, its Nature Connection retreat has accommodation in bell tents in the woods, with guided meditation and mindfulness activities, foraging and feasting on wild food.
• Three-night meditation retreats from £145 full-board. Three-night Nature Connection retreat, 25 July, £335 full-board, sharphamtrust.org

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TRAVEL

UK passport drops to sixth in global power index

Henley Passport Index ranks passports around the world according to visa-free travel, with Japan topping the 2019 list

The UK has slipped to joint-sixth in a table of the world’s most powerful passports. The Henley Passport Index ranks countries according to the number of destinations passport holders can visit without a pre-arranged visa, which decreased for the UK this year.

In 2015, the UK was ranked joint-first, alongside Germany, but has dropped down the listings each year since. The number of visa-free/visa-on-arrival countries UK passport holders can travel to fell from 186 to 185 last year, due to the introduction of e-visas in Turkey (now required prior to arrival). Despite this, however, the UK’s score has improved overall since the index began in 2006, when it had 126, and there are now more outbound trips from the UK than ever before, with 72.8 million in 2017.

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TRAVEL

Voices in the wilderness: a singing retreat in rural France

Teaching singing and meditation isn’t an obvious calling for a former punk rocker, but this one helps our participant hit the high notes on a break in the remote Massif Central

‘Get that gob open, Liz,” says Peter. “I’m not seeing any teeth.” I obey, stretching my jaw wide as we’d done in an earlier “howling wolf” exercise, and find that not only can I hit a top F# without squeaking, I’m thoroughly enjoying myself.

When I booked a three-day singing retreat at Peter Evans’s farmhouse in rural France, I had been apprehensive about displaying my pitiful abilities to some intimidating Oxford choral scholar type. But instead I found myself warbling to a skinny former punk guitarist with a strong “sarf” London accent and an array of truly terrible jokes.

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A vegan yoga retreat in Dracula’s back yard, Romania

In countryside not far from the castle of Vlad the Impaler, an idyllic break offers a gentle route to wellness with five days of yoga and meditation
Away with words: a fiction-writing retreat in Devon

It’s early morning in Transylvania and the sun’s shining on a group of yogis making shapes on the wooden veranda at Akasha Wellness Retreat. With pine and beech-covered hills rolling to the horizon, snow-capped mountain peaks and a soundtrack of cow bells and cockerels, it’s an idyllic spot to salute the sun.

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TRAVEL

Where to go on holiday in 2019 – the hotlist

A total solar eclipse, two World Cups, several new flights and walking trails, and big birthday celebrations from Havana to the Grand Canyon – here are our top 40 destinations worth checking out this year

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The 50 best UK pubs

The pub is a great British invention. Here, experts pick their favourites for Sunday lunch, picturesque settings, craft beer, history and more. All (but one) are child- and dog-friendly

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30 of the best spas in the UK

With lovely locations, top-notch treatments and pampering at affordable prices, our selection scrubs up nicely
20 best European spas

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TRAVEL

20 of the best spas in Europe

Beautiful locations blend with traditional and modern treatments at this pick of great value spas from Iceland to Sardinia
30 best UK spas

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TRAVEL

A local’s guide to Bangkok: 10 top tips

It’s easy to get sucked into tourist traps in the world’s most visited city but these old-school enchanted corners are blissful antidotes to all that

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Bangkok shrines all look alike after you’ve visited your fifth one. However, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything like Wat Pariwat, a temple complex in the city’s south-eastern corner. At first sight, it may look like your typical run-of-the-mill wat – but look closer and you’ll discover ornate depictions of emoji pandas, Wonder Woman, Pikachu, Disney figures and an angelic bare-chested Obama (to name a few) all blending in with the traditional intricate mosaics covering the walls and ceiling. It’s a visual feast and worth spending some time at as you hunt for pop culture references, including David Beckham, after whom it is nicknamed.
• 734 Rama III

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