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Some Helly Hansen-clad travellers consider the Kazbegi area, next to the Russian border, one of Georgia’s more mainstream mountain trips. Don’t be put off: Stepantsminda, the main village of Kazbegi, may be frequented by tourists but it doesn’t feel overrun, and neither do its surrounding villages. Other mountainous areas, such as Svaneti, require longer slogs.
After my seven-hour ferry journey across rolling azure seas, it’s a relief to be back on land. Along with a handful of locals returning from Athens laden with boxes of bougatsa custard pies and neat bags of shopping, I’ve arrived on the Dodecanese island of Astypalea – known as the butterfly island because of Mesa Nisi and Exo Nisi, its two wing-shaped islands linked by a narrow strip of land. You can break the journey in Naxos or Mykonos. But despite the length of the journey, nothing can beat the pleasure of leaving the bustling port of Piraeus and arriving on a peaceful Greek island by boat.
Venice is a brilliant place to arrive in – the moment you walk down the steps and out of Santa Lucia station you’ll see bobbing gondolas on the city’s famous canals. Last year, I stayed at the Hotel Abbazia, a lovely traditional building in a restored ancient monastery. It’s two minutes from the station and has comfortable rooms for two or three from €125. You can have breakfast in the shady courtyard garden, almost imagining the monks strolling around as they said their prayers. In fact, the whole place was so relaxing, I almost missed my train as the friendly hosts served me more croissants and cappuccinos.