- Back to tourdust.com
Located in Central Italy, Le Marche is a relatively undiscovered region of Italy. With the Adriatic to the East and the Apennine mountains to the west, the area has plenty to offer the traveller looking to experience a different side of Italy.
Urbino, the region's capital, is a walled city situated on the side of a hill and its historic centre is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. A beautiful city, with some great examples of renaissance architecture, its highlights include seeing the impressive Ducal Palace - home to Duke Federico da Montefeltro - a propagator of the renaissance movement in the 15th Century. If renaissance art is your thing, you'll be in heaven here, with a national gallery to explore, as well as the chance to visit Raphael's house - he was born in the city in 1483. There is also a stunning cathedral to visit as well. When you've had your fill of culture, there are some lovely piazza to sit in and enjoy a cappuccino and a good dose of people spotting.
The Roman town of Fano, on the East coast, is a fascinating town to visit for history buffs. The arch at the gateway to the town was built by Caesar Augustus in 2 AD. Despite being heavily bombed in WWII, the town retains many of it historic highlights including the Palazo Martinozzi, the Cathedral
Loreto, a pilgrimage destination, lays claim to housing Mary's original home which was brought brick by brick from Bethlehem back in 1294. For those interested in Christian history, it is now housed in the Basillica della Santa Casa.
The hills in Le Marche's countryside are dotted with charming hilltop medieval towns such as San Ginesio and Urbania which are set around lovely town squares- the perfect place to sit and enjoy a gelato.
Le Marche has 180km of coastline. Admittedly, Italy's beaches haven't always had the best reputation, with concerns about cleanliness and over-crowding. However, the region of Le Marche can lay claim to having the greatest number of blue flag beaches in the country. That said, they do become very busy from mid July to the 3rd week in August, so you might want to avoid these times if you can.
The beaches are, for the most part, sandy, with resorts in the main towns of Pesaro, Senigallia and San Benadetto. These resorts tend to have cafes and sun loungers on the beach to rent. You usually have to pay for access to the beach at these resorts, unless you go to a public beach, which can be grottier. If you have a car, and like a quieter beach, then you could head to the Portonovo area, where you have the choice of resorts and also Mezzavalle beach which is both free and a lot quieter than the resort beaches. You will, however, have to walk about a kilometre through a forest to reach it.
If hiking is your thing, then you can't go wrong with Monti Sibillini National Park - part of the Appennine Mountains - on the Le Marche / Umbria border. Meadows full of wild flowers and some astounding peaks and wildlife. There are trails suitable for hikers and mountain bikers alike. There are several visitor centres in the region, which make a good base for planning your route. The pretty town of Amandola is a good base to explore the park from if you plan to take day hikes and then want a town with a choice of restaurants to return to.
It would, quite frankly, be very wring to talk about this region of Italy without mentioning food or drink. The cooking traditions in the region have their routes in 'cucina povera' or peasant's cooking. Living off the land, using locally sourced ingredients. And why not? With the Adriatic sea providing mullet, cuttlefish and squid, Brodetto, 'fish stew' is a favourite local dish. Away from the coast, minced pork and mushrooms are mixed with tomatoes and bechamel sauce to create Vincisgrassi - a regional variation of the traditional Lasagne. Rabbit, veal and game birds are also often found on the menus. Le Marche is probably most famous for its truffles - which locals grate and sprinkle on top of their dishes. These delicacies are some of the most sought after in the world and thrive in Le Marche's valleys. Many of the towns enjoy festivals to celebrate the 'tartufo' - October is a good time to visit the region to go truffle hunting - head to Sant'Angelo in Vado.
The local grape grown in Le Marche is Verdicchio and is one of Italy's most famous whites. The local reds are not as well known as the whites on a global basis, but don't take that as ani indication of a lack of quality. Rosso Conero and Rosso Piceno are definitely worth a try while you're there.
This is a stunning photo from the Cordillera Huayhuash mountain range in the Andes of Peru. Trekking in Peru is so much more than just the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu. The Cordillera Huayhash surrounds you with a lush landscape of glacial valleys and lakes circled by the towering Andes peaks. (Picture from Flickr user Andras Jancsik)
This was taken on the Camino de Santiago which is the ancient pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in the heart of the Pyrenees Mountains. Whether it be the Gregorian chants in hidden-away monasteries or even hunting the elusive Holy Grail that entices you, walking the Camino de Santiago is a must on any serious trekkers shortlist.(Picture from Flickr user Jule Berlin)
Nestled above the birch and spruce forests of Denali State Park, Mount McKinley in Alaska is the highest peak in North America and also boasts some stunning views. Mountain treks in Alaska takes you through upland lakes and tumbling creeks, across talus-covered slopes and over rocky ridges. (Picture from Flickr user Giant Ginkgo)
The Khuiten Peak in Mongolia combines eternal snow-capped peaks with deep gorges through which foaming streams dash down. The snow covered peaks soar into the cloudless sky and the frozen glaciers glitter in the sun's rays offering some amazing views in largely undiscovered country.
This mountain is situated in Lofoten, northern Norway as well as offering stunning views of the snow topped peaks surrounded by the think conifer forests it also boasts the northern lights in the backdrop! (Picture from Flickr user nb_harstad)
The surreal picture showcases the Haleakal volcano on the island of Maui, Hawaii. With its other worldly appearance Haleakal offers the chance to trek around one of the world’s largest dormant volcano and explore its cinder cones and lava flows in the desolate basin. (Picture from Flickr user Simond)
This beautiful picture was taken from Llyn y Dywarchen above Rhyd Ddu in Snowdonia. Offering Heather-quilted hills, craggy rocks and sloping pastures dotted with sheep, Snowdonia presents plenty of beautiful landscapes and sights to explore on your doorstep. (Picture from Flickr user Richard0)
On the border between Chile and Argentina lies Patagonia, a sprawling space that harbours mountains, glaciers, lakes and rivers within its clutches. Sprouting from within its midst is Mount Fitz Roy, which dominates the backdrop offering some awe inspiring mountain treks. (Picture from Flickr user Stuck in customs)
These beautiful canyons lie in southwest Montenegro and is characterised by its extreme untouched natural beauty. With flowing rivers and tree covered slopes throughout the whole region it has a system of rivers and deep canyons unlike any other in the world. (Picture from Flickr user shchukin)
This amazing picture was taken in Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina. In the background is Cerro Torre surrounded by spectacular glaciers and still crystal waters, with the whole area covered in a blue aura. (Picture from Flickr user Stuck in customs)
In Glacier national park, Montana sits Mount Grinnel, surrounded by glaciers, several hundred lakes and around 200 waterfalls it offers a mountain trekkers' dream with around a million acres of pristine landscape to explore and inspire. (Picture from Flickr user Stuck in customs)
Matterhorn is a mountain in the Pennine Alps on the border between Switzerland and Italy. It boasts being one of the largest peaks in the Alps, and this brilliant photo captures the majestic mountain in all its glory surrounded by the beautiful blue waters of the lake.(Picture from Flickr user Wagman 30)
You'd be hard pressed to find adventures that push quite so far into the wilderness as rafting trips do whilst remaining thoroughly accessible to us mere mortals. The River Siang in India's Eastern Himalayas plays host to just 100 paddlers a year and we think this has to be the ultimate rafting trip.
I’m not sure what it was about my holiday in Vietnam that totally captured my heart. True, this is a country with some seriously big hitting highlights; The imposing fortress at Hue, the quaint and charming Hoi an, the fascinating Cu Chi tunnels and, of course, two boat trips not to be missed - a Halong Bay junk cruise to admire the limestone rock formations in the north and, at the south of the country, a boat trip on the Mekong Delta.
Stepping back from this list of obvious highlights, it is the subtle charms of Vietnam that really left a deep impression on me. The seductive scent of incense burning, the smoke billowing in the air. The sight of water buffalo working in the fields, white birds perched on their backs. This, juxtaposed with an implausible amount of mopeds, and good food at every corner, from upmarket restaurants to plastic chairs at the side of the road forming a makeshift bar where home brewed beer can be enjoyed.
But probably the best thing about travelling in Vietnam, is that you really don’t have to go far off the beaten track before you find your own slice of Vietnam heaven. Tourists tend to congregate around the main sites and back packers stick to their end of town (never the twain shall meet…) so it’s actually quite easy to get away from other Westerners without having to be a hardcore intrepid travelling type!
So, here are some of my favourite memories from my holiday in Vietnam where we managed to get an off the beaten track experience, whilst remaining on the beaten track!
Sapa – An easy overnight rain ride to this beautiful hill town, near to China’s border in north east Vietnam. Home to local hill tribes, lush terraces, colourful markets and a slightly cooler climate, it is a welcome respite to a weary traveller. Don’t be misled, there are tourists here, but the people who come don’t tend to be the in your face travellers – they are all looking to soak up the more laid back atmosphere. You have the option of staying in a homestay or in a hotel to suit any budget. You can then get out trekking in the countryside. It is possible to get away from everyone else and not see another soul. We went off without a guide and got hopelessly lost, we survived to tell the tale, but, in retrospect, a guided trek might have been a good idea.
Mui Ne – Nha Trang is a popular beach destination in South Vietnam. The upmarket tourists enjoy the beach resorts serving sandwiches and chips, whilst the backpackers head out on boat trips and then float in rubber rings swigging beer and dodgy cocktails. This was not really my favourite place in the world. Head south and you reach the quieter Mui Ne. Other travellers present? Of course. There are smarter hotels and bamboo huts here, as well as mid range bungalows. The key to this place is its vibe. The sandy beach has that classic laid back South East Asian atmosphere, relaxed and chilled out. The more active can enjoy watersports or slide on plastic sledges at the local sand dunes, others can read, stare at the horizon or pretend to write deep thoughts in their travel journal. Food options vary from chilled out cafes serving food right next to the beach and more upmarket options serving wine. Our most memorable meal was eating at a local café followed by several beers and teaching the owners the words to Ronan Keating’s hits.
Hue – this is a stop on pretty much every visitor’s itinerary on their holiday in Vietnam and rightly so. The impressive fortress, partially destroyed in the war, serves as a reminder both of Vietnam’s troubled past and also the resilience of the people. From Hue, most people are offered the option of a cruise on the Perfume River. Higher end tourists will probably enjoy a sunset dinner cruise, whilst backpackers will pile into a boat in a flock of at least 10 and will then motor noisily (and slightly obnoxiously) past the former. We decided to get a boat all to ourselves, which was the best decision we could have possible made. We kicked back and watched the scenery pass by and then stopped off along the way to visit the Thien Mu Pagoda and the royal tombs. There were other tourists at the sites we stopped off at, but the chance to go at our own pace with friendly hosts made the trip all the sweeter.
Ho Chi MInh City -the city formerly know as Saigon is, for many, the starting point for a tour of this country. If you find yourself here, don't just confine yourself to the backpacking area or the key sites. Get yourself onto a moped (travel insurance recommended) and head down to one of the restaurants serving a traditional Vietnamese hotpot or barbecue. On your table will be a mini barbecue and you will be presented with raw food to cook. A great fun experience. There was a real mix of local families out for a meal together and only a couple of other tourists around as well, but most importantly, the food was delicious!
Hanoi - I couldn't write a blog post about Vietnam without mentioning my all time favourite city, Hanoi. Before you ask, yes we too went to the water puppet show and we went to visit 'uncle Ho' in his mausoleum. We are not immune to tourist sites! What I loved the most about Hanoi was the intriguing streets to wander round - they have their fair share of tourist shops, but you still get to experience the buzz of a city which comes alive at night. Sitting on a street corner, balanced precariously on a plastic stool whilst mopeds whizzed by and enjoying some home brewed beer... heaven.
For some more ideas of places to go in Vietnam, check out our collection of independent Vietnam tours.
Morocco is an incredible trekking destination boasting rich and unique culture, traditional Berber villages, soaring arid peaks and surprisingly verdant valleys. We've pulled together a collection of the most striking creative commons images of the Atlas Mountains and Rif Valley. Enjoy!
Toubkal in the High Atlas is perhaps the most accessible from Marrakesh. Trekking in Morocco tends to start out from Imlil, a charming Berber village. Toubkal is the highest peak in North Africa and makes for a challenging trek but the effort is justified by stunning views of the Atlas Mountains and Sahara Desert from the summit. Photo by Flickr user kassarar.
Toubkal by Flickr user Omer Simkha
Berber village near Toubkal by Flickr user Jean-Baptiste Bellet
The M'goun Massif is the off-the-beaten-path alternative to the Toubkal region. Verdant valleys and stunning ancient Berber villages dominate the trekking on oh so quiet trails. Photo by Flickr user Ryan Kilpatrick
M'goun Massif by Flickr user Ryan Kilpatrick
M'goun Massif by Flickr user Ryan Kilpatrick
The Ourika Valley
The Ourika Valley is rich with greenery and attractive villages and is completely at odds with Sahara like preconceptions of trekking in Morocco. Located just 30km from Marracesh, it is a refreshing destination when the City boils in summer. Image by Flickr user Bryce Edwards
Berber Village in the Ourika Valley by Flickr user Bryce Edwards
The Dades Valley
The Dades Valley is reminiscent of Colorado and America's wild west. The Dades river marks a lush trail through the semi-desert region surrounded by wild shaped rock formations. Photo by Flickr user Punxutawneyphil.
Chef-Chaouen situated in the Rif Mountains is a striking contrast of blindingly white walls, striking blue doors and simple architecture set between mountains and water. Photo by flickr user rhurtubia
Chef-Chaouen by Flickr user rhurtubia
Erg Chebbi Dunes
The Erg Chebbi dunes are the highest in dunes in Morocco set amidst a vast flat plateau. The dunes give travellers a taste of the Sahara and are just about reachable from Marrakesh. Camel trekking is popular. Photo by Flickr user amerune
Camp at the Erg Chebbi dunes by Flickr user amerune