The once-grand cities of Mesoamerica are now overtaken by the jungle; immortalised in crumbling ruin yet abundant with atmosphere and history. Here are the best Aztec and Mayan ruins in Mexico.

The turquoise blue of the Caribbean Sea glows off into the distance. Waves crash against a perfect golden beach. Kids play on the sand, shouting in Spanish – the language inherited from European conquerors. On the clifftop above them, the faded stone of Tulum’s ancient Mayan ruins glow in the late afternoon sun.

With an enviable position on a thriving seaport, the town of Tulum reached its zenith between the 13th and 15th centuries. It would be one of the last Mayan cities to be built and one of the last to fall. It was this Mayan temple and this town where in 1511, the Spanish fleet first spotted Mayan civilisation. Within years the Spanish had subjugated the entire region.

The Mayas, along with Aztecs & Zapotecs, were just one of the many civilizations who lived in modern-day Central America. The stories of their once-mighty empires are now told through the decaying ruins of towering pyramids and colossal temples covered in ornate statues and weathered frescoes.

Yet these Mayan cities shrouded in jungle and Aztec pyramids rising from the plains, still pack a punch. Here are our favourite archaeological sites in Mexico.

Booking your trip via the links on this page (or on our book page) will earn us a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support – Paul & Mark.

Mayan ruins in Mexico




The Aztec and Mayan Ruins in Mexico are spread across the central, southern and eastern areas of the country. They can be split into four distinct geographical areas.

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


Mexico City is a great base for visiting some of the archaeological sites in Mexico. Templo Mayor and the National Anthropology Museum are both located in the city itself, while Teotihuacán is just a 45-minute drive from the centre.


The state of Oaxaca is one of the poorest in Mexico and is a great contrast from the very tourist-friendly Yucatán Peninsula and even Mexico City. Reward your adventurous streak by visiting Monte Albán, just outside the main city — also called Oaxaca.


The state of Chiapas is another relatively impoverished area. Set in jungle-shrouded hills, life here is quite traditional with a strong independent streak. Palenque and Yaxchilán are hidden deep in the forests and it’s a 3-hour drive, plus a 30-minute boat ride, between them.


The Yucatán Peninsula is home to several Mayan ruins: Chichén Itzá, Tulum, Coba and Ek’ Balam. With a large number of visitors Yucatán is much wealthier and more developed than the areas inland. The road network is very good and travelling between them is easy if you are driving in Mexico. Cancún is the main international airport.

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The early Mesoamerican people occupied the land that today runs from central Mexico to Costa Rica. Their first complex civilisation was created by the Olmec people, who began the city of Monte Albán around 500 BCE. But it was Zapotecs who developed it further, creating a hilltop capital which is now one of the finest archaeological ruins in Mexico.

The ruins are spread across a huge main plaza set on the summit of a 2,000-metre high hill that has been artificially levelled. Dotted across the hill, with magnificent views over the region of Oaxaca, ancient stones form some of the most interesting pyramids in Mexican including palaces accessed by a network of artificial terraces.

The remnants of civic buildings are a testament to Monte Albán’s advanced society. A ball court for games, elaborate tombs to remember the dead, and temples with intricate bas-reliefs speak to this lost culture. Intricate hieroglyphics suggest Monte Albán was one of only three civilisations in the world that independently learnt to write. (The others being Sumer and China).

As a result, Monte Albán today stands as a testament to Mesoamerican achievements. Ushering in a more advanced time, it held for over 1300 years until abandoned around 850 CE.


Monte Albán is a 20-minute drive from the city of Oaxaca. A local taxi will cost about $M200-300 round-trip. Alternatively, join one of the many tour operators offering shuttle services from hotels.

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The ruins of Teotihuacán rise majestically above the plateau an hour northeast of Mexico City. At its peak in the 5th century CE, this Mesoamerican city housed around 150,000 people, which made it the largest in Mexico and one of the largest in the world

An awesome site to visit, the highlight is the Temple of the Sun, the 3rd largest Aztec pyramid in the world. A 2-kilometre boulevard — The Avenue of the Dead — connects it to the Temple of the Moon, another stunning pyramid. Further along the avenue, the geometry of the two pyramids contrasts with the richness of the well-preserved murals on the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, an ornately decorated shrine to deities.

The city collapsed in the 8th century, and although the Aztec people repopulated it 500 years later, it would never regain its power. What remains however are some of the most remarkable ancient ruins in Mexico.


Teotihuacán is located about 30 miles northwest of Mexico City. It’s a 50-minute journey by car or by the public bus, which leaves from Autobuses del Norte in Mexico City.

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As Teotihuacán power waned, the Mayans began to rise in power and influence. Dominating the south and east of what is today called Mexico, powerful Mayan city-states vied with each other for dominance. None was more successful than Palenque.

Palenque is one of the most atmospheric Mayan temples in Mexico. Set deep in the jungle, an exquisite array of pyramids, temples and palaces rise up through the dense trees. On a sunny day, the complex shimmers magically in dappled light.

These Mayan ruins are not just beautiful but also unique for the abundance of architectural styles and evocative artwork. The Temple of Inscriptions records roughly 180 years of history in sculptural reliefs. Removed from the main group of buildings and hidden deep in jungle, the Temple of the Jaguar is adorned with elaborate bas-relief carvings and shrouded in mystery.

You could easily spend half a day looking around Palenque. Arrive for opening time to beat the bus crowds and you will be rewarded with an Indiana Jones experience.


Palenque is in a remote part of Mexico and not easy to get to. There is a private airstrip in Palenque town, but most domestic flights land at Villahermosa, 90 miles to the northeast.

The Mayan ruins are a short 7-kilometre drive from the town of Palenque. There is plenty of parking if you have your own car, and there is a regular mini-bus service from town.


Even deeper in the jungle, on the banks of the Usumacinta river, lies the ancient Mayan city of Yaxchilán. A perennial rival to Palenque, it is only accessible by boats ploughing the crocodile-infested waters.

The ruins are not as complete as other ancient ruins in Mexico, but what it lacks in complete structures, Yaxchilán more than makes up for in evocative Mayan temples. Centuries-old buildings surrender to the jungle, shrouded in twisted vines and roots. Lintels and stelae are covered with hieroglyphs telling the story of the Mayan people, their religious rituals and conquests.

It’s an ethereal place to explore and the most successful of the ruins in Mexico for transporting you back to a different age. Like Palenque, Yaxchilán collapsed around the turn of the 9th century, but they left behind some of the most salient reminders of Mayan Mexico and getting there is an adventure all on its own.


To get to Yaxchilán, park at the quay at Frontera Corozal, a 3 hour drive from Palenque. For around M$800 you will be ferried at high speed to the ruins, given 2 hours to look around and then ferried back. Entrance to the ruins is extra and paid when you get off the boat at the Mayan ruins.

5 – COBA

Coba is an ancient Mayan city on the Yucatán Peninsula. Evidence suggests that it saw strong population growth around 100 CE and an influential political status would make it one of the most powerful Mayan cities in the area.

Today, the site is made particularly special by the collection of Mayan pyramids called Nohoch Mul. The largest is 42 metres high and despite its current crumbling state, it’s possible to clamber the 130 steps to the top. At the summit, take in the historic view across the jungle canopy, split by ancient network of roads that made the Mayans such a formidable civilization.

The entire complex is quite large so the best way to see it is to hire a bike from the entrance gate and explore at your own pace. Don’t miss the remains of the old church and the two ball courts. After exploring the complex, head to one of the nearby cenotes to cool off.


The Coba Ruins are located 43 kilometres from Tulum and 60 kilometres from Valladolid. There are regular bus services from both and plenty of tours on offer.

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The Maya established Chichén Itzá around 750 CE and it went on to become the largest Mayan city with the most culturally diverse population. The Mayas that migrated here mixed with the many local tribes and created new architectural designs. The result today is one of the finest and most interesting ancient ruins in Mexico.

El Castillo – the most famous of the Chichén Itzá buildings – is a towering Mayan pyramid that also acts as a calendar. Four stairways of 91 steps plus the top platform make 365 days. Nine levels, split by the staircases, represent eighteen 20-day months. During the equinoxes, the sun casts a shadow on the north face of the pyramid giving the impression of a serpent wriggling down the staircase.

Other highlights at Chichén Itzá include the Sacred Cenote, where human bodies were sacrificed to the gods; the Temple of Jaguars, an ornately sculpted shrine with warriors laying siege to a village; and the Tzompantli, a dramatic platform carved with skulls, human sacrifices, eagles eating human hearts and skeletonized warriors.

It may be the busiest of the Mayan ruins, but it’s definitely worth wrestling with the crowds.


The Mayan ruins at Chichén Itzá are a 45-minute drive from Valladolid or 2 hours 45 minutes from Cancún. Oriente buses run every thirty minutes from Valladolid bus station. Tours operate from almost every city in the Yucatán Peninsula.


Just a short distance from Chichén Itzá, the Mayan ruins of Ek’ Balam were discovered in 1800, however, they remained relatively untouched until excavations resumed in 1997.

Much less visited than other ancient sites in Mexico, Ek’ Balam provides a great opportunity to explore the remnants of Mayan culture without the crowds. The whole area is around 15 kilometres although the main section comprises of only 40 buildings within the old walled city. As many of the buildings are yet to be excavated, the site is full of mystery and atmosphere.

There are several Mayan temples, two palaces and a pyramid. The buildings were huge. In fact, the tower is one of the largest structures to exist in Mayan architecture. With restoration work still underway, climb to the top and inspect the intricate facades slowly being uncovered while staring over the jungle.


Ek’ Balam is 40 kilometres from Valladolid. You can easily drive yourself or hire a taxi. Collectivos also run from Calle 44 (between Calles 35 and 37) in Valladolid.

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Tulum was the only Mayan city to be constructed on the coast. Designed as a fortress, a 784-metre wall surrounds the city on three sides. With protection from both land and sea attacks, it became an important economic hub.

Tulum reached its zenith between the 13th and 15th centuries. However, being the first to encounter the Spanish fleet in the early 16th century, the city (like the rest of Mesoamerica) was quickly subjugated by guns and disease.

Today the fortress-like Tulum Ruins, perched on a clifftop overlooking the Caribbean Sea are a dramatic sight.

The highlight is the Temple of the Frescoes, one of the best-preserved buildings on the site. It was used as an observatory for tracking the movements of the sun and its facade is decorated with deities sacred to the Mayan people. Most importantly, keep an eye out for the carving resembling a man on a horse; something the Mayas would only have seen after the Spanish invasion — perhaps symbolising their imminent demise.


Tulum town is a 1-hour 45-minute drive from Cancún. The Mayan ruins are 3 km north of the town and a very short taxi ride. However, a lovely way to get there is to hire a bike and cycle along the coast.

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While the Mayans dominated the coastal east, the Aztecs were rising to power in the central areas of Mexico. The religion of the Aztec’s foretold that their people would build a great city at a place shown to them by an eagle with a snake in its mouth, perched on a cactus. Seeing this vision on a swampy island on Lake Texcoco the Aztecs began their city.

Tenochtitlan was founded in 1325. Reaching its zenith in the early 16th century, it became the largest city and empire in the Americas before being swept away by the Spanish invaders. Today the main temple (Templo Mayor), once a blood-red temple that rose from this floating city, is just a bundle of rocks in the dirt.

It takes a bit of imagination to recreate the sight but inside, the museum is full of interesting artefacts. In particular, the exquisite Coyolxauhqui disk stone relief, which dates back to the 15th century, was only dug up in 1978.

Yet despite the paucity of buildings, there is something quite moving about these ruins. Set on the northern edge of the main square in Mexico City surrounded by the National Palace and the magnificent cathedral, they appear to provide the very foundations for today’s Mexico. A modern country, with its roots in both Spanish and Mesoamerican culture, that immortalised history on their flag with the image of an eagle perched on a cactus devouring a snake.


The Aztec ruins of Templo Mayor are located in the northeast corner of the Zócalo (main square) in the heart of Mexico City. The closest metro stop is Zócalo.

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While not the site of a ruined city itself, the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City has one of the most remarkable collections of Mesoamerican artefacts in the world. Few other museums we have visited have done such a good job of telling the long and complex history of its country’s people.

You could easily spend a whole day looking around the site. Fortunately, it’s split into different historic periods so you can pick off some of the most important treasures.

Our highlights include Room 4 which covers the rise and fall of Teotihuacan; Room 6, the Aztecs; and Room 8, Oaxaca and the Zapotecs of Monte Albán. The best, however, is reserved for Room 9 which covers the city-states of the Mayans.

It’s not easy to travel all around Mexico to visit each of the main ruin sites, so the National Museum of Anthropology is the next best thing. By the end, you’ll have learnt much about Mesoamerican history and seen a wealth of artefacts and reconstructions.


The National Museum of Anthropology is in Mexico City. The nearest metro stations are Auditorio on Line 7, or Chapultepec on Line 1.

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Visiting any of the ruins on the Yucatán Peninsula is very straightforward, the driving is easy, and the sites are well connected via the bus network.

However, if you are interested in heading into some other states, we recommend reading our Mexico Road Trip article first. Driving in this part of Mexico is not without its complications and it’s good to be prepared.

Here is some additional Mexico reading from us.

Our 2-week Mexico Itinerary

Driving in Mexico

How to design your Mexico Road Trip

3 glorious days in Mexico City


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The best Aztec and Mayan Ruins in Mexico that you shouldn’t miss. All the best ancient ruins in Mexico including how to get there, what to look out for and tips for your visit. | Archaeological ruins in Mexico | Mayan Ruins in Yucatán | Mayan Temples in Mexico | Ancient Mayan cities in Mexico.

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After a month exploring Mexico, we’ve developed a curated guide of the most wanderlust-inspiring waterfalls in Chiapas, and the most atmospheric cenotes in Yucatán.

Mexico has stunning beaches. Long stretches of golden sand dotted with palm trees frame clean blue oceans. Comfy loungers, with cocktails on hand, provide the perfect vantage point for people-watching.

But deluxe beach clubs are not the only way to cool off in Mexico.

The cenotes of Yucatán are natural sinkholes created after limestone bedrock collapsed, exposing the groundwater underneath. Vines from the trees above stretch down their long cavernous walls reaching cool clear water at the bottom.

Further inland the remote territory of Chiapas has some of the best waterfalls in Mexico. Water cascades over deep valley walls into pools surrounded by lush vegetation and boulders big enough to carry a sunbather.

So put down the cocktail and try some remote and wild swimming. After a month on the road, here are our favourite cenotes and waterfalls in Mexico.

Booking your trip via the links on this page (or on our book page) will earn us a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support – Paul & Mark.

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Along with popular tourist resorts, the Caribbean coastal state of Yucatán has several great swimming spots in thoroughly atmospheric places.

But on our Mexico road trip we headed further inland to discover some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Chiapas – an area of dense rainforest, dotted with incredible Mayan ruins. Cool off in deep cave systems or lush waterfalls in this thoroughly under-visited part of Mexico.


A tropical oasis with a beautiful natural pool under a waterfall

Misol Há is a 35-meter waterfall set deep in the jungle of Chiapas. It drops into a perfectly formed circular pool, surrounded by rocks and lush vegetation. A path runs directly behind the falls and leads to a small cave providing great views through the water.

A high concentration of mineral deposits maintains the water’s clear, brilliantly blue lustre. This makes Misol-Há the perfect spot for a refreshing dip before unwinding and warming yourself on one of the large rocks framing the pool.

In the late afternoon, the sun filtering through the falls creates a mesmerizingly tranquil scene.

For the sheer beauty of the place, and the pristine water, Misol Há is easily one of our favourite waterfalls in Mexico. It’s also close to some of the interesting archaeological sites in Mexico and a great way to cool off after a long day of sightseeing.

Getting to Misol-Há / Misol-Há is 20 kilometres from Palenque on the road to San Cristóbal | Location – Camino a Cascada de Misol-Ha, Chiapas | Hours – 06:45 – 19:45 | Costs – There’s a small fee for entry and parking.


An adventure to a deep canyon waterfall in Chiapas

Cascada el Aguacero Chiapas is located at the end of a makeshift road that looks like it was in desperate need of repair decades ago. A twisting drive down a steep rutted concrete road ends at a car park where a cheery Mexican will request 35 peso per person and promise to keep an eye on your car.

But, what makes Cascada el Aguacero one of our favourite waterfalls in Mexico is its stunning location. From the car park, 700 steps lead to the valley floor where steep canyon walls rise on either side, and a small river winds past large boulders.

If the water is high it’s a 30-minute hike through the jungle to get to the waterfall. However, from around December to May it’s usually possible to walk along the valley floor which only takes 15 minutes to reach the silvery strands cascading over mossy rocks.

A number of paths lead to hidden caves and an underground river. Bring a picnic lunch and a couple of beers to truly enjoy this relaxed atmosphere. Just keep in mind it’s 700 steps back up to the car park, so not too many beers.

Getting to Cascade el Aguacero / Cascada el Aguacero is about 1-hour drive from Tuxtla, look for the turn-off about 15 kilometres west of Ocozocoautla on the 190 (not the 190D) | Address – Cañón Río La Venta, Cascada El Aguacero.


Colourful turquoise waters in a lush jungle setting

Just under 40 miles from Palenque, the bright blue waters of Agua Azul cut a striking scene through the Lacandon Jungle. Numerous cascades race over orange rock, diverting then reconnecting, before forming pools of turquoise waters throughout the jungle landscape. The colour and the namesake comes from the high mineral content of the water, making Agua Azul one of the most striking waterfalls in Mexico.

Being so close to the ruins of Palenque it’s not exactly off the beaten track. Rows of tourist-targeted restaurants and trinket shops line the path. But if you’re not expecting to have the place to yourself Agua Azul is well worth the visit. Continue past the shops and eventually the path becomes more natural, the crowds disappear and you’ll realise why it is one of our favourite waterfalls in Mexico.

The top of the path is a great place for a swim and once you’ve worked up an appetite in the waters of Agua Azul, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from on your way back to the car park.

Getting to Aqua Azul / Agua Azul is 40 miles from Palenque off Hwy 199 | Colectivo – Shared taxis go from Palenque to “Crucero de Agua Azul” where pickup trucks will take you the rest of the way. | Tours – Alternatively, take a guided tour from San Cristóbal.


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A powerful waterfall for some energetic swimming

Between the popular ruins of Palenque and the slightly less popular archaeological site Yaxchilán, Cascada de las Golondrinas provides the setting for a great afternoon swim in one of the most energising waterfalls in Mexico. Here two cascades dramatically meet in a beautiful pool, surrounded by verdant jungle.

After a short walk up from the car park and along wooden boardwalks you will find picnic tables and easy access to the turquoise pools. But swimming at Cascada de las Golondrinas is more a test of strength than relaxation.

Fast-flowing water pushes even the strongest of swimmers away from the base of the waterfall, hurtling you back towards the edge of the pool.

Fortunately, the pool is big enough to avoid the strong currents and a rope and netting provide assistance if you fear being swept downstream. It’s a fun way to cool off from the heat of the day. Some basic facilities are available to enjoy a picnic at a beautiful waterfall in Mexico.

Getting to Cascada de las Golondrinas / Cascada de las Golondrinas is 56 kilometres from Frontera Corozal (the entry point for Yaxchilán), and 128 kilometres from Palenque. It’s a 10 kilometres drive off Highway 307.


An atmospheric cenote deep cenote with vines stretching to the water

There are around 6000 cenotes in Yucatán which can be collected on a week in Playa del Carmen. The one at Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxman is our favourite. Deceptively deep and fully collapsed, roots twist their way down its entire length, collecting water for the trees growing around the rim. Plants cling to the moss-covered rocky walls with water trickling down from above. It’s a beautiful cavernous swimming hole.

Like most cenotes in Mexico the water is clean (showering is compulsory before entering) but extremely refreshing. A rope hangs over the water, and it’s great fun to swing across and drop yourself into the pool to the approval of the cheering crowd. On our visit, we saw kids – particularly devoid of sanity – jumping in from the top.

Next to the cenote, there is a pool that visitors can use and a well-stocked bar. This gives Hacienda San Lorenzo more of a party vibe than a relaxing chill-out space, and it works its theme perfectly.

Getting to Hacienda San Lorenzo Oxman / San Lorenzo is 5 kilometres from Valladolid. Bikes can be hired for around 80 peso for the day or taxis are easy to order. Parking is included in the entrance fee | Hours – 8:00 – 17:00 | Cost – 30 pesos per person | Location – Calle 54, Valladolid


Beautiful icy dip close to Chichén Itza

If you find yourself hot and sweaty after exploring Chichén Itza make your way to the wonder of Ik Kil Cenote. This particularly attractive cenote – sacred to the Mayans and used for ritual services – is a 26-metre climb down spiral stone stairs to get to the 40-metre deep swimming hole.

The steep walls and deep water make it particularly icy, but once you brave the temperature, the beautiful clear water, small waterfalls trickling down the rocky walls and vines descending from the surface, all make Ik Kil an atmospheric cenote that really shouldn’t be missed. Bring a pair of goggles to spot the friendly fish that have made this place their home.

As Ik Kil is only a 10-minute drive from Chichén Itza and has tourist facilities including a restaurant and a gift shop, you won’t exactly have it all to yourself. But on our visit, there were more people in the gift shop than the cenote.

Getting to Ik Kil Cenote / Many tour operators run from Chichén Itza, however, if you have your own car it’s a very easy drive | Location – Hwy 180, Km 122 | Hours – 8:00 – 17:00 | Cost – 70 peso for adults, 35 for children

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An almost completely enclosed underground swimming cave

For a different experience to the other cenotes or the waterfalls in Mexico, Cenote X’kekén, is an almost completely enclosed cenote with just a small opening at the top letting in a dramatic shard of light.

It lacks as many vines and roots growing down from the top but it makes up for it in the uniqueness of swimming in an underground cave. Stalactites dangle gracefully from the limestone ceiling and the water is cool, clear and packed with inquisitive fish.

There is second cenote, Cenote Samulá, a 5-minute walk away. But although it is larger it’s much less attractive. Over recent years, facilities have started appearing at X’Kekén including a gift shop, lockers, bathrooms, showers and food stalls. Lifeguards are on duty in the cenote. Try to arrive late morning/midday when the sunlight is streaming through the opening.

Getting to X’Kekén / X’Kekén is 3 kilometres from Vallodlid | Cost – 80 pesos for adults, 50 for kids (1 cenote); 125 adults; 50 kids (both cenotes) Location – near Dzintup

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Mexico has a vibrancy and energy that hits you the minute you arrive. There’s plenty to explore in Yucatán near the biosphere reserve of Celestun, plus here are some more of our guides:

Aztec and Myan ruins in Mexico

How to develop your Mexico road trip

3 days in Mexico City

Our tips for driving in Mexico


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Centrally located in northern Italy with great transport links, Florence is the perfect base to explore the rest of Tuscany. Here is our pick of the best day trips from Florence.

One of the most beautiful cities in Europe, there are plenty of wonderful things to do in Florence.

You can easily spend three or four days exploring its treasure chest of art, enthralling Renaissance architecture and vibrant culture. It’s also well located for several excellent day trips.

To the south lies the picture-postcard scenery of Tuscany, with grand villas lined with boulevards of cypresses overlooking world-famous vineyards. Medieval hill towns with tightly packed laneways constricted by ancient walls hark back to another age.  

To the west are the grand cities of Pisa and Lucca, in which mighty cathedrals and leaning towers offer fantastic views and a taste of Italian wanderlust. Further on are the colourful fishing villages of Cinque Terre, tucked into the rugged coastline.

Finally, Venice, Rome and Bologna are all a direct train ride away, making a Florence to Tuscany trip the best way to explore so much more of northern Italy.

Booking your trip via the links on this page (or on our book page) will earn us a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support – Paul & Mark.

Florence to Tuscany day trips




Siena is one of our favourite cities in Italy and a great day trip from Florence. Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its “ideal embodiment of a medieval city” Siena is a moody and mysterious, medieval town.

Tightly packed, narrow, lanes are penned in by towering houses such that barely a ray of light glances the cobbled streets. On a cloudy day, old streetlights peer out of the mist illuminating orange walls and red brick buildings that have seen their fair share of history.

Piazza del Campo is one of the finest squares in Europe and home to the famous Palio horse race. Torre Mangia (tower) offers grand views over the red-tiled rooftops, and the Siena Duomo not only has a beautiful façade surrounded by white and black gothic towers but its interior is lavishly decorated.


By Train / Direct trains take 1 hour 15 minutes and leave from Florence Santa Maria Novella train station.

By Tour / Alternatively, join a day tour to Siena that also visits San Gimignano. For more information on how to visit read our guide to spending one day in Siena.


San Gimignano is a medieval hilltop town with towers that rise above green fields and pointy cypresses. It is the Manhattan of the Middle Ages that radiates under the Tuscan sun.

At one time there were over 70 towers in San Gimignano, today only 14 remain. But what’s left behind is a well-preserved medieval hill town where one can easily picture knights clipping up and down cobbled lanes on horseback as they navigate the main square.

For a small medieval hilltop town, there’s a surprising number of things to do in San Gimignano. The Duomo is ornately decorated with frescoes telling stories that are not quite told the same anywhere else. Climbing up the towers is rewarded with sweeping views over the town and countryside. And don’t miss San Gimignano’s contemporary art scene.

Known for its Vernaccia wine, golden ham and local saffron, San Gimignano is one of the best Florence day trips.


By Car / San Gimignano is just a 1-hour drive from Florence, making it a great way to enjoy Tuscany from Florence.

By Bus / If you are travelling via public transport, regular buses connect Florence to San Gimignano with a stop in Poggibonsi. All the details are in our guide to visiting San Gimignano for a day.

View of San Gimignano from the towers
Day trips from Florence


The Chianti region is just south of Florence. Known for its squat bottle in straw baskets, wine has been made here for over 700 years. There are few finer pleasures in Tuscany than sharing a traditional Tuscan lunch of sliced prosciutto and local cheeses with a bottle of Chianti surrounded by rows of twisty vines.

The main towns of Chianti are Castellina, Radda and Greve but we have a soft spot for Badia a Passignano. This tiny village has an abbey and three great restaurants all set overlooking a vast sweep of wine and olive groves. It’s the perfect destination for wine lovers and a great option for a day trip from Florence.

The vineyards belong to the Antinori estate who have built a fancy modern home, easily accessible just off the motorway between Florence and Siena. Finished in 2012, Antinori provides wine tasting and cellar tours in their grand design building. Booking in advance is required.


By Car / The villages and vineyards of Chianti are close to Florence but they are dotted about the countryside so the best way to visit them is in a hire car. This way you could visit Antinori estate, Badia a Passignano and Greve al Chianti all in one day.

By Bus / Without a car, you can get the SITA bus 368 – 370 from Florence Autostazione to Antinori. The stop you need is Bargino and the journey takes around 40 minutes.  

By Tour / There are several great organised tours into Chianti. This day tour from Florence has a trip to 2 vineyards including tastings for up to 5 wines.


In Val D’Orcia, cypress trees wind up sinuous roads to grand villas sat above rolling hills. The most scenic of valleys in Tuscany, it’s packed with photographic opportunities and gorgeous villages that have made this beautiful part of Italy a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Brunello is a single grape Sangiovese wine, only harvested from vines grown on the hills of Montalcino – a small village that’s a delight to stroll around. Nearby Pienza is often considered the ‘ideal city of the Renaissance.’ This is one of the best regions in Italy for experiencing local wineries in a beautiful setting.

Another 15 kilometres past Pienza, Montepulciano is an interesting walled town with winding medieval streets on top of a rocky cliff face. The central square is surrounded by imposing facades and terraces that look out over miles of sweeping Tuscan countryside.


By Tour / Seeing all the sights of Val D’Orcia by public transport is hard, so the best option is to join a tour. This one visits Pienza & Montepulciano and includes wine tasting.

By Car / If you want to really get to know the area, a great option is to hire a car and take your time. We recommend 2 days in Val D’Orcia.


The charming walled city of Lucca is a relaxing break from the busyness of Florence.

Known as the city of 100 churches due to its plethora of religious buildings, you can cycle the walls, join a walking tour, take a tipple in the intimate oval ‘square´ and stare up at the remarkable frescoes of the Duomo di San Martino.

When you have finished exploring on foot, head up Guinigi Tower for remarkable views over the medieval streets of the city centre with red roofs reaching towards the surrounding countryside of Tuscany.

The individual sights are not quite as grand as other places in Tuscany. But what Lucca offers is the ability to stroll through a lovely Italian town, soak up the quiet ambience, admire beautiful architecture and hang out in charming local squares.

Set under the Tuscan hills, a day trip to Lucca leaves many travellers wanting more.  


By Train / With direct trains from Florence, Lucca is one of the easiest Florence day trips. Trains leave from Florence Santa Maria Novella train station and take 1 hour 20 minutes.

By Tour / To relax and enjoy this amazing part of Tuscany, this day tour visits both Lucca & Pisa and includes a taste test of Buccellato, Lucca’s delicious cake.

6 – PISA

Pisa has a nice city center stretching along the banks of the Arno River. But most people head here for the remarkable collection of buildings on Piazza dei Miracoli – or Square of Miracles.

Sitting side by side on the grass are Pisa Cathedral and its bell tower (the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa), the Pisa Baptistry, the Camposanto Monumentale (Monumental Cemetery) and a museum. Altogether they make one of the finest architectural complexes in the world.

The highlights are the massive bronze doors and Pisano’s elaborately carved pulpit in the cathedral; the baptistery which at 55 metres high is the largest in Italy; and the iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa. No matter how many times we visit, standing on the summit of the leaning tower and taking in the views over Pisa is an experience that still seems as exciting as the first time we did it.  


By Train / To see the famous sights of Pisa, direct trains depart from Florence Santa Maria Novella train station and take 1 hour 10 minutes.

By Tour / Alternatively, you could take this half-day tour, or you could take the same full-day tour mentioned above that visits both Lucca and Pisa in one day.


Cinque Terre National Park lies at the eastern end of the Italian Riviera, where the mountains meet the sea. These five colourful fishing villages perched on the rugged Ligurian coast, have become the iconic symbols of this beautiful area.

Connected by windy paths over the cliffs, hiking between the villages is an excellent day out. Stop for lunch sitting over the harbour at Manarola then jump in for a refreshing post-lunch dip.

Regular trains run between the villages, so you can easily hop from one to the next soaking up this unique setting. One of the best ways to see the villages is on a boat tour where you can see the colourful buildings wedged between the ocean and the mountains.


By Train / It takes about 3 hours to get to Cinque Terre by train with a stop in Pisa.

By Tour / If you intend to see Cinque Terre on a day trip from Florence and you don’t have your own car, we’d recommend a private tour so you can relax on the way there and back. This tour includes an optional guided hike and train tickets between the villages.

Our Itinerary / To see a different side of Europe plus some popular attractions like Cinque Terre, read our 2-week Europe itinerary.


Bologna is an authentic Italian city with a bold individual character. Unlike many places in Tuscany, Bologna feels like a place that locals know better than tourists. And it feels like that’s the way it’s always going to be.

None of this, however, means it’s not worth a day trip. With centuries of history and a population of 85,000 university students, Bologna is old enough to be charming and young enough to be exciting. By day stroll through its miles of porticoes, popping into medieval churches and climbing narrow soaring towers.

In the evening join connoisseurs sampling wines from age-old enoteca’s, tuck into hams and cheeses on tightly packed lanes or join the young and boisterous enjoying aperitivo. The best Florence day trip for foodies and being only half an hour away you can even make it a half-day trip.


By Train / Direct trains take 35 minutes and leave from Florence Santa Maria Novella station. More information is on our guide to the best things to do in Bologna.

San Petronio Church in Bologna is half marble half brick
View from the top of Asinelli Tower, Bologna.


If Florence has competition for the most beautiful city in Italy then it comes from Venice. Built on 117 small islands connected by beautiful bridges across lovely canals, it’s a bewitching city full of ornately decorated buildings and grand piazzas.

The centre is compact enough to see many of the highlights in just one day, so it’s the perfect day trip from Florence. Walk over the Ponte di Rialto to see the Grand Canale; explore Saint Marks Square heading into the basilica and up the campanile; and wonder at the Doges Palace and seafront. 

Venice is quite a long way from Florence but a fast direct train means you can get there in just over 2 hours. While the city deserves more than just a day, if you are using Florence as a base to explore, it makes for a truly memorable day trip.


By Train / Direct trains take 2 hours 15 minutes and leave from Florence Santa Maria Novella station.

By Tour / If you would like to join a tour, this guided tour from Florence includes a transfer and free time to wander around by yourself.

10 – ROME

The capital of an ancient empire and a key player in the development of Renaissance Art, Rome is one of the greatest cities in the world. Still the beating heart of Italy, Rome is also a modern, engaging epicentre and a great place to visit from Florence.

The city itself deserves three or four days to explore all the main sights, but the train from Florence takes under 90 minutes so you can pack some of the highlights into one day. You’ll need to be selective about what you want to see, but a morning exploring St Peters and the Vatican museums; an afternoon at the Roman Forum and Coliseum; and an early evening dining in Trastevere would be an excellent day trip from Florence.  

Alternatively, pack an overnight bag and head back to Florence the following day.


By Train / Direct trains take 1 hour 25 minutes and leave from Florence Santa Maria Novella station. With the traffic in Rome, the train is definitely the best option from Florence.

11 – MILAN

Italy’s fashion capital, Milan is an elegant city with promenade-style streets, a magnificent cathedral and buzzing restaurants enthusiastic about local wine, truffle and all things deliciously Italian.

Strolling around the cobbled streets and stopping to admire the world go by at Piazza del Duomo is one of the best ways to experience this northern Italian masterpiece.

Even if you don’t have time for an opera, it’s well worth getting tickets to tour the Teatro La Scala; the opulent interior will leave you mesmerised. Alternatively, you can just stroll through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II to be equally as impressed, completely free of charge.

Milan deserves much more than a day trip from Florence, but there are enough tops sights that you could pick one or two wonderful things and see them properly.


By Train / The high-speed train from Florence Santa Maria Novella station takes just under 2 hours to reach Milan. Just enough time to soak up the incredible views on the way while you plan your Milan day.


Italy has an excellent train network, so a day trip from Florence is a great way to see more of the surrounding area. The best destination to visit from Florence by train on a day trip are:

  • Siena – 1 hour, 15 minutes
  • Lucca – 1 hour, 20 minutes
  • Bologna – 35 minutes
  • Pisa – 45 minutes

The high-speed rail network puts destinations that are a little further away in easy proximity for a day trip from Florence. However, if you are using Florence as your base and you’re not pushed for time, we’d recommend adding an overnight stay for these destinations.

  • Rome – 1 hour, 25 minutes
  • Milan – 2 hours
  • Venice – 2 hours, 15 minutes


For the towns that aren’t connected to Florence via a direct train line, tours are a great way to organise a day trip from Florence if you don’t have your own car. This way, you can see more of the remote hill towns or combine multiple destinations in one day trip. The Chianti Hills, Val D’Orcia and San Gimignano are all great options to see on an organised tour.

If you want to combine multiple destinations on one day trip, here are some tours you could consider.


Despite Italians having a reputation for being a little crazy behind the wheel, Tuscany is a relatively easy place to drive. Although the small towns are not made for cars, most have very easy parking on the outskirts which makes driving yourself a very easy experience.

Having your own car also gives you the flexibility to stop off and enjoy the incredible views at your leisure.

The best day trips from Florence in your car are Chianti, so you can visit several of the wine estates of your choosing; Val D’Orcia so you can stop for photo opportunities as you see fit; and San Gimignano which has easy parking and no direct train line.

We recommend for your hire car. They compare prices across all the major car rental companies so you can select a provider you are happy with.

Florence day trips


As a centrally located city in northern Italy, Florence is a perfect base to explore Tuscany. To help get you to plot your day trip, we have included all the locations listed in this guide on the below map.

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


Located in the north of Italy, Florence is an excellent base for exploring more of the country. With some exceptional hiking and exquisite lakes, here are some more of our guides from the region.

Wonderful things to do in Florence

Visiting the beautiful hilltop village of San Gimignano

See the beauty of the Italian lake on a Lake Como boat rental

Our 1-week Dolomites road trip itinerary

Best things to do in Bologna

Visit Santa Maddelana Church in Val di Funes

How to spend a day in Siena, Italy

All our Italy guides


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Centrally located in northern Italy with great transport links, Florence is the perfect base to explore the rest of Tuscany. Here is our pick of the best day trips from Florence.

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Walk the lanes of pretty villages and the trails of bucolic countryside; have a proper pint in a real pub and discover some of our favourite places to visit in the Cotswolds.

There’s an unmistakable charm about the Cotswolds. Dreamy honey-coloured cottages, impossibly cute villages and some of the most idyllic English countryside on offer. It is, rightly so, one area of the UK firmly on the radar of tourists and day-trippers from London.

Although much of what draws the busloads of crowds to the Cotswolds is not our cup of tea, scratch under the surface and there’s a host of interesting things to do for all types of travellers.

There are things to learn – like the Victorian era brewing methods still in use today at the Hook Norton Brewery. There’s intriguing history – like the famous monarchs who have stormed in and out of Sudeley Castle and the legacies that have created all the wonderful things to do in Oxford.

And there’s walking – sublime country tracks over beautiful rolling countryside.

Despite being a popular tourist spot, the Cotswolds can be surprisingly quiet in some of the less-visited areas. So, if you’re curious, outdoorsy and slightly adventurous, then some of our favourite things to do in the Cotswolds might be yours as well. 

It’s not an exhaustive list of everything you could do in the Cotswolds, but it’s some of the best activities for your next weekend away.

Booking your trip via the links on this page (or on our book page) will earn us a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support – Paul & Mark.

cotswolds village aerial




The Cotswolds villages are the embodiment of English charm. Steep pitched roofs, honey-colour cottages and wonky cobbled lanes. Here are our four favourites, but you can find more on our guide to visiting the best Cotswold villages.


Thanks to a lack of tourist shops, Castle Combe has a real lived-in feel. Framed by the surrounding wooded hills, it’s an unspoilt village in a beautiful setting. Pick a spot by the bridge overlooking the old weaver’s cottages and enjoy one of the most charming and tranquil settings in the Cotswolds.


Often described as the most beautiful village in the Cotswolds, Bibury has earned its reputation from the small row of weaver cottages set behind a wild meadow. Arlington Row is one of the most photographed spots in the Cotswolds. It’s easy to see why. Early in the morning, with mist rising from the water, the honey-coloured cottages magically shimmer in the haze. It’s one of our favourite places to visit in the Cotswolds.

Read Next Best walks in the Cotswolds

A row of slate roof weaver cottages through trees covered with frost


Bourton-on-the-Water is more a town than a village, but it’s still a beauty. A picturesque canal runs down the high street with handsome stone bridges connecting either side of the road. Trendy cafes mix with quaint tea rooms, great bakeries and ice cream stands. There are also plenty of things to do here: the car museum, the model village and the local brewery are some of our picks.


Having remained untouched for over a century, the villages of Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter are two of the most beautiful must-see places in the Cotswolds. The River Eye winds its way through honey-coloured cottages and cute churches with little bridges dotted along the brook. Take a short walk between the two and soak up the quintessential English countryside that connects these two charming Cotswolds places.

Read Next Cotswold weekend break ideas


The Cotswolds Way is the best long-distance path in the Cotswolds. On its 164-kilometre journey from Chipping Camden to Bath, it crosses the highest point in the Cotswolds and visits many of the most magical villages. However, you don’t need to walk the whole lot in one go; get a taster on any of these excellent day hikes.


The circular walk from the village of Broadway past the Broadway Tower is an achievable 7-kilometre hike over an easy-to-follow path. It starts and ends in the beautiful village of Broadway, collecting the strange folly of Broadway Tower on the way. As the second-highest point in the region, admiring the view from the top at sunset is one of the most magical things to do in the Cotswolds.  


The route from Stanton to Snowshill climbs to the top of the Cotswolds escarpment providing great views over the surrounding countryside. Less visited than many other villages, Stanton and Snowshill are both idyllic charmers with excellent pubs. If you are wondering where to go in the Cotswolds for the best post-hike pint in a lovely setting, it doesn’t get much better than The Snowshill Arms at the top of the village.


If you like your scenery more rugged then try the hike over Cleeve Hill. The unusually desolate environment at the top of the hill – the highest point in the Cotswolds – is matched with the more familiar rolling countryside lower down. On route, the path visits Belas Knap, a Neolithic burial mound and the village of Winchcombe. It’s a wonderful day out and one of the best places in the Cotswolds for sweeping views.

Read NextBest walks in the Cotswolds


There’s an artisan edge to the Cotswolds that bestows tasty morsels, craft spirits and local ales on visitors intent on seeking out the best the area has to offer. Here are our picks.


The Cotswolds Distillery produces a small range of craft whiskies, gins and liqueurs at their sleek and modern distillery in Stourton. Learn about the production techniques of their award-winning intoxicants on a tour or join their Gin Blending Masterclass to fully appreciate their craftsmanship.


The selection of produce at Daylesford Organic covers everything from fresh seasonal veggies to their own delicious breads. The cheese room is a mecca for cheese lovers, and the homewares are a desaturated spectrum of subtle greys and whites giving the place the customary Cotswolds aesthetic. Cooking classes and spa treatments are also available.


The Hook Norton Brewery is a passionate family-owned business that still uses a Victorian brewing tower to craft their handmade ales. Set in a beautiful little village, each day they still deliver beer to the local pubs via horse and cart. Tours of the brewery take place daily where you can learn their artisanal techniques and sample a drop or two. Hook Norton is the place to visit in the Cotswolds for a proper English ale.


With over 120 different artisan and farmhouse cheeses, the Cotswolds Cheese Company is an excellent foodie thing to do in the Cotswolds. While they stock a few international varieties, their focus is firmly on locally produced cheeses along with deli staples to stock your next picnic. They have outlets in Burford, Moreton-in-Marsh and Stow-on-the-Wold.


In various states of decay, the Cotswolds contain a plethora of ruins and follies that span the region’s history and offer great spots for a picnic.


Minster Lovell is a tiny village with the ruins of a 15th-century manor house resting on a grassy field beside the River Windrush. It’s a beautifully atmospheric scene and the ideal spot to enjoy a picnic. Weather permitting, there’s a small reed-fringed weir pool about 5 minutes’ walk upstream; perfect for a refreshing wild swim. All the details are in our guide to wild swimming in the Thames.


At the top of Fish Hill, Broadway Tower offers panoramic views across the Cotswolds. It was strategically located on an important pre-medieval trading route, however, the castle itself is nothing more than a folly – a tower constructed for ornamental purposes. The tower fulfils its purpose beautifully as well as being one of the best places to visit in the Cotswolds for a superb sunset view. Bring a picnic and take in this glorious setting.


Built between the 2nd and 4th centuries AD, the Chedworth Roman Villa was the largest Roman village in England consisting of bathhouses with ornate mosaics and underfloor heating. Today it’s little more than the remaining foundations, but it’s worth a visit for the extraordinarily well-preserved mosaics alone. Take a picnic and sit in the lovely grounds with views over the Cotswolds countryside.

Tower folly on a hill backlit by the sunset


The food scene in the Cotswolds is perhaps best known for traditional English pubs. However, there’s a diversity just waiting to be untapped. Here are some great ways to get culinary in the Cotswolds.


As one of the most picturesque villages in the Cotswolds, it’s fitting that Castle Combe also provides an afternoon tea with a glamorous sense of occasion. The Manor House delivers a decadent homemade high tea in one of their sumptuous lounges or on their outdoor terrace. The setting is beautiful, the sandwiches dainty and the champagne free-flowing (but it’s not free, it’s £32.50, more for bubbles).


Any town that earns its reputation via pudding is worth a visit in our books. Intent on preserving the tradition of the great British pudding, Pudding Club at the Three Ways Hotel in Mickleton is a great night out and a tasty thing to do in the Cotswolds. A light main is provided as a decoy before a parade of seven traditional puddings are unleashed on the room. Not trying one is considered impolite.   


The Wild Rabbit in Kingham crafts culinary masterpieces in an impressive but relaxed setting. Their recent Michelin star has given the prices a whack, but for fine dining in the Cotswolds, it’s difficult to go past. The menu is constructed from what is in season in the area.


The Fox Inn in Oddington is a traditional pub with a daily changing menu comprising comforting classics and a few dishes nudging into gastropub territory.  Their Sunday lunch is a winner, and the setting is relaxed, cosy and welcoming. For a traditional place in the Cotswolds with an unmistakable country feel, this is one of our favourite pubs.

2021 Update – the Fox Inn has been purchased by the owners of the Wild Rabbit and will re-open in 2022, continuing the theme of hearty pub classics.

Best Cotswolds villages


The Cotswolds are bordered by two of England’s greatest cities. One famous for re-energising the body; the other for re-energising the mind.


The Romans first built a temple in the valley of the River Avon around 60 CE, but the beautiful honey-coloured buildings that fill Bath today were built in Georgian times to house the wealthy who were drawn to the medicinal properties of the natural springs. Bath is a beautiful town with a vibrant independent retail sector and dreamy streets you could easily spend a day exploring. Read our day trip to Bath guide for more information.


Victorian poet Matthew Arnold called Oxford, the ‘city of dreaming spires’ after the stunning architecture used to construct the oldest university in the English-speaking world. History seeps from the laneways where massive contributions have been bequeathed to the world.

From exquisitely decorated libraries to trendy hipster pubs, Oxford has a long history of blending in with the times. Read our guide to spending a day in Oxford or, for all the highlights, read our guide to the best things to do in Oxford.


The manor houses of the Cotswolds provide an opportunity to explore immaculately manicured gardens. Some are quirky, some are shrouded in mystery; all are wonderful places to visit in the Cotswolds.  


With a use of topiary bordering on obsession, the cottage gardens at Hidcote Manor are segmented into different outdoor spaces, each with its own character. Created by American Lawrence Johnston, Hidcote is now owned and run by the National Trust.

The gardens have been maintained in their original design which showcases Johnston’s skill. Even if gardens aren’t your thing, it’s hard not to be impressed by the creative layout and beautiful spaces.


Snowshill Manor has a quirky garden designed with a sense of mystery. There are hidden terraces, sunken ponds, and a series of rooms each with its own style. The kitchen garden has a huge array of unusual herbs which backs onto an orchard and fields with sheep.


Westonbirt is the National Arboretum of England located just outside Tetbury. Across the 600-acre site, there are 17 miles of marked hiking paths which provide access to a wide variety of tree and plant species from all over the world.

Make sure to visit the Old Arboretum, a beautifully landscaped area with avenues framed by exotic trees, and the Sild Wood, a traditional working woodland area.

Couple walk over manicured lawn between high hedges


One of the best things to do in the Cotswolds is to visit a traditional English country pub. After much research, many pints and a few hangovers, here’s our pick of the best.


The Falkland Arms is a proper English pub in the Cotswolds whose relaxed rustic mood is accentuated by the warm banter resonating from friendly locals and their dogs snoozing by the fire.

Beer jugs hanging from oak beams and worn wooden tables with mismatched chairs feel like they’ve been part of the furniture since the 16th century when this traditional local inn was built. Get some snuff from behind the counter and settle in for the night.


The King’s Head is a local pub in the village of Bledington. Set in front of a small green with an ice cream van operating throughout summer, it’s a perfect country pub to enjoy a pint. They have a great selection of local ales, a roaring fire and a buzzing country atmosphere. If you want to eat at the King’s Head, book in advance and ask for a table in the bar area. 


The Ebrington Arms is a 17th-century country inn with a buzzing atmosphere and an excellent beer garden. They’re renowned for their award-winning food but it’s their in-house Yubby beers that get our vote. Work your way through their selection ranging from the refreshing Goldie Pale Ale to their strong, malty Cotswolds bitter.  

Read Next Best Cotswolds day trips


Follow in the footsteps of royalty and the aristocracy and wander the lavish hallways of these Cotswolds stately homes. If you are wondering where to go in the Cotswolds (day trip perhaps?) to feel like you’re part of the establishment, here are some suggestions.  


Blenheim Palace is the kind of opulence that makes you wonder why you weren’t born into a different family. As the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, Blenheim is an imposing, grand building and the only non-royal residence called a palace.

The immaculate grounds consist of an excellent example of a proper English landscaped garden. If you only visit one palace, make it Blenheim. Explore yourself or join a tour that includes a couple of Cotswolds villages and Bampton, where Downton Abbey was filmed.


Lacock Abbey, founded in 1229 by Ela, Countess of Salisbury, is a quirky country house with varying architectural styles inherited over the centuries. The medieval rooms contain a clock house, a brewery and a bakehouse, all enclosed in naturally wooded grounds. Many parts of the original 13th-century building remain untouched making the Abbey a favourite location for movies including Harry Potter and The Other Boleyn Girl.


Sudeley Castle is a voyage through English royal history. The commanding residence was home to heavyweights such as Edward IV, Richard III, Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and Charles I. While the building is fascinating enough, the 10 gardens that surround the castle grounds are an evocative stroll through English horticultural styles.

The Queens’ Garden contains over 80 different types of roses, while the Physic Garden still produces herbs once used to cure royalty of their ailments. The star, however, is the wild unkempt garden in the old ruins.     

Lacock Abbey, a large ornate building through green trees


The Cotswolds has turned itself into a venue for some of the country’s biggest festivals. For the foodies, musos, bookworms or party-goers, here’s a selection of events in the Cotswolds.


Over 10 days, the Cheltenham Literature Festival brings together the biggest names in publishing. Hear talks by award-winning authors, attend spoken word performances and join in discussions about everything from travel and adventure, lifestyle, art history and religion.


The Charlbury Beer Festival has been running for 21 years. Organised entirely by volunteers, the event raises money for causes in the developing world and locally. It features live music, plenty of food, talks and of course, beer. The festival also holds the World Open Singles Aunt Sally Championship, a traditional game where players throw sticks at an old woman’s head.


The Wilderness Festival features a programme of music, theatre and comedy, supported by excellent food and plenty of drink. The lakeside woodland setting at Cornbury Park is ideal for luxurious glamping. During the day partake in immersive games, paddle yoga, and workshops before world-renowned international acts hit the stage.


Another festival with a great lineup of international artists, the Big Feastival also includes food demonstrations, a cheese disco and table sessions with notable chefs. Take a cooking lesson, enjoy a huge variety of food, or just party into the wee hours with one great act after another.

Read Next Where to stay in the Cotswolds

Beer pumps in an old country pub


The versatility of these great things to do in the Cotswolds makes it a great year-round destination.

In summer, enjoy a walk in the Cotswolds over undulating landscapes dotted with sheep as the sun lights up the fields. Timeless villages similarly come alive when bathed in sunshine. However, summer is the busiest time of year, so accommodation will be more expensive and some of the villages will be bursting with tourists.

Few other areas in the country display rusty autumn colours quite like the Cotswolds when a stroll on a crisp day is food for the soul. In winter, be captivated by the pretty stone villages frosted in snow as you curl up in front of an open fire with a glass of red in a country pub.

But it’s spring when the Cotswolds really comes alive. The gardens are at their most beautiful; the hiking trails are full of blossom and wild garlic, and the villages are still quiet and relaxed before the summer rush.



Being centrally located in the heart of England, the Cotswolds are an excellent weekend destination. The best way to visit is in your own car, which will give you the freedom to collect many of these wonderful things to do at your leisure.


There are train stations at Kingham, Moreton-in-Marsh, Evesham (near Broadway), Bath, Charlbury and Oxford, but the buses that connect the villages can be rather infrequent. We have more information about getting around the area in our guide to the best villages in the Cotswolds.


With villages spread around a large area and buses infrequent joining a tour is an excellent way to see the highlights.


The Cotswolds is an area that is as diverse as it is beautiful. From sleepy hamlets to cities with imposing stately homes; bucolic rural countryside to the dramatic landscape of the escarpment, there are plenty of interesting things to do in the Cotswolds that make it a great place to visit for a weekend.

If you are thinking of staying over, read our guide covering the best places to stay in the Cotswolds to help you settle on the perfect area and find the right accommodation.

To help with an itinerary, read our weekend ideas in the Cotswolds which has several options for the perfect weekend break. 

Alternatively, if you’re interested in a shorter visit, read our 10 days out in the Cotswolds for some inspiration for your next day trip.

Best Cotswolds villages


The Cotswolds is the one area of England we’ve visited the most. There are few hiking trails we haven’t walked or villages we haven’t explored. We’ve spent long afternoons inside cosy pubs, worked our way through local ales, compared the best Sunday roasts and sampled local bakeries.


Where to stay in the Cotswolds – best areas and hotels

5 Itineraries for the perfect weekend in the Cotswolds

Skip the beach and head to great swimming spots on the Thames

Explore the best of the Cotswolds on these six circular walks

Explore the traditional charm and modern gems in these Cotswolds villages

Aristocrat to Artisan – the best things to do in bath in one day


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Discover pretty villages, bucolic country hiking trails, proper country pubs and artisanal suppliers on our guide to the best things to do in the Cotswolds. Cotswolds, England | Cotswolds English Countryside | England travel ideas |

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Whether you are a rugged rambler, a foodie, or a cute village junky, our guide on the best places to stay in the Cotswolds will help you narrow down the perfect spot

Combining the rustic charm of village life with a broad selection of accommodation and dining experiences, there are places to stay in the Cotswolds for every budget and traveller.

Do visions of a sleepy honeypot hamlet with a deserted movie-set feel lure you, or are you beguiled by the imposing stone splendour of majestic historic centres? Are you a foodie seeking a hip hotel for a weekend of creative indulgence, or do you see yourself stationed by the open fire with a glass of red all weekend?

Beyond the wisteria-draped majesty of the Cotswolds villages, gracious country roads lead to areas of immense natural beauty, with scenic hiking trails dissecting rolling farmland.

We’ve explored the area a lot over the years. There are few paths we haven’t walked, pubs we haven’t frequented and villages we haven’t photographed.

Our guide to the best places to stay in the Cotswolds helps you decide where to stay to appreciate this unique corner of England.

For more inspiration discover our favourite things to do in the Cotswolds and narrow down some options from our Cotswold weekend breaks.

Booking your trip via the links on this page (or on our book page) will earn us a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support – Paul & Mark.

cotswolds hotels


Best place to stay in the Cotswolds for exploring charming villages

The defining image of the Cotswolds is honey-coloured cottages with steep pitched roofs, gathered to form idyllic villages lost in time. Set amongst wooded areas or curving around babbling brooks, the villages around Bourton and the central Cotswolds are some of the most photogenic spots in the UK.

While there is no shortage of cute villages all across the Cotswolds, the Bourton region gets our pick for the most atmospheric ones conveniently located in a central hub.

Our selection of hotels are full of rustic country charisma and plant you within spitting distance of the iconic weaver cottages of Bibury, the river-lined charm of Bourton-on-the-Water and the quaint beauty of Upper and Lower Slaughter.



Warm, friendly country-style inn with traditional touches and stylish modern finishings. The restaurant is a hit with customers.



The Old New Inn is in a perfect location to explore the Cotswolds. It’s set in a beautifully decorated old building with a top-notch breakfast.



Elegant manor house situated in the idyllic village of Upper Slaughter. This is a grand old stay with helpful staff and quirky traditional style.


Best place to stay in the Cotswolds for independent shopping and immaculate villages

With Cotswold stone used to grandiose effect and cutting a niche between refined elegance and confident independence, Bath is one of our favourite cities in the UK. It’s loaded with Roman history, great architecture, a thriving coffee scene and a selection of restaurants at each end of the scale. 

Just outside Bath, Castle Combe is nestled between forested hills and a meandering river. It’s regularly regarded as one of the most picturesque villages in the country and a great spot to base yourself for a weekend in the Cotswolds.

Read more on our guide to spending one day in Bath.



Stay in the best address in town on the Royal Crescent. The fully appointed spa, landscaped gardens and award-winning restaurants will make this a stay to remember.



It’s a luxurious stay in the Manor House at Castle Combe with award-winning dining, elegant country surrounds and the full spa treatment.


Best place to stay in the Cotswolds for quirky galleries, great walks and big views

In the northwest of the Cotswolds, an escarpment cuts a natural divide between the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Severn Valley.

Here, the most dramatic sections of the Cotswolds Way provide some of the best hiking opportunities in the area. If you’re looking to spend more time in the outdoors, surrounded by excellent views, this is one of the best places to stay in the Cotswolds.

In addition to getting some mud on your walking boots, slip into your elegant footwear to visit two charming towns. Chipping Campden and Broadway is where you’ll find artists in their galleries and the well-heeled in their antique shops.



Warm friendly country style in a charming village, The Guiting Guest House is a relaxed, spotlessly clean stay with hosts who care about their business.



Fully equipped with a kitchen, laundry facilities and free wifi, the apartments are Saddlestones are perfect for a self-catered stay in the Cotswolds.



Lush picturesque setting with individually designed rooms, Buckland Manor is a stylish stay where every detail is considered. The restaurant features local farm produce.


Where to stay in the Cotswolds for top-notch food and drink

Over the last 20 years, the food scene has well and truly made its mark on the Cotswolds. Gone are the days of drab pub lunches and soggy sandwiches. Now, innovative creations appear on pub menus and quality local produce is available in hipster farm shops and local market stalls.

The best place to stay in the Cotswolds for a foodie weekend is in or around Kingham – a great destination to include on a UK road trip.

The nearby Daylesford Organic has a decent brunch, cooking courses and a shop stocked with local produce. A little further north, the Hook Norton Brewery has been churning out ales for centuries, while the Cotswolds Distillery brings a touch of modern sheen to gin and whiskey production.



Fresh, clean stylings in this traditional Cotswolds pub. The food has an excellent reputation for being some of the best in the area.



As chic as it gets in the Cotswolds, the Wild Rabbit is a stylish, yet relaxed stay. The restaurant once had a Michelin star but lost it.



Thyme is a beautiful historic manor farm located in a country estate. With a passion for high-quality food, this is a memorable stay in the Cotswolds.


Best place to stay in the Cotswolds for grand palaces and stunning architecture

To experience the imposing architecture built on the early wealth and power of the wool industry, head to the eastern edge of the Cotswolds.

Few places conjure up more majesty and glory than Oxford. Meander the quads of the colleges and stroll wonky laneways providing intermittent views of Oxford’s dreaming spires. Explore what is possibly the finest library in the world. Read our one-day Oxford itinerary for some ideas.

A few miles away visit Blenheim Palace, the seat of the Marlboroughs and one-time home of Winston Churchill. It’s one of the finest stately homes in the country with rooms teeming with aristocrat history, surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens.

Read more in our curated guide to the best things to do in Oxford.



One of our favourite pubs in the UK, the rustic Falkland Arms never fails to create that charming country pub atmosphere. The menu is all pub classics.



The chic country house feel of the Old Parsonage has a warm and friendly vibe that hits the spot with visitors looking for a blend of luxury and character.



The Galaxie is a friendly, family-run guesthouse in a leafy suburb just outside the centre of Oxford. There’s a hearty breakfast every day and facilities include parking and free wifi.


Best places to stay in the Cotswolds for destination dining and accommodation

If you’re thinking of a weekend getaway in the UK where you’ll spend more time in the hotel than outside it, there are some great places to stay in the Cotswolds to enjoy a luxurious getaway.

Spend lazy weekends unwinding in a stunning indoor pool; surrender to the care of a qualified massage therapist, or simply relax, feet up, in front of a roaring open fire.

There is no shortage of top-quality hotels in the Cotswolds to indulge for a weekend. But here are some suggestions from us where the accommodation is the destination.



Luxury manor house with flamboyant details including a full-service spa with aromatherapy and Ayurvedic treatments and an outdoor pool.



A quaint historic hotel with period features and top-quality service. Good enough for the royal clientele that once graced the halls.

Weekend in the Cotswolds


We’ve spent a lot of time exploring Britain, from rain-soaked outings in the Lake District to strolling historic centres. Here are some more of our guides from our home country including popular iconic sights and lesser-known hidden gems. For ideas on how to visit Oxford on a day trip, read our 1-day itinerary.



How to spend a few days visiting Dorset’s Jurassic Coast

The best ways to visit and photograph Old Harry Rocks, Dorset

Where to stay on the Jurassic Coast


Our favourite things to do in the Cotswolds to inspire your next trip

Explore the best of the Cotswolds on these six circular walks

Skip the beach and head to great swimming spots on the Thames


Walk Scafell Pike via the Corridor Route for a top Lake District hike

9 adventurous activities to try in the Lake District

Our pick of the finest walks & scrambles in the Lake District


Stay up to day with our travels on Instagram and get semi-regular updates directly to your inbox via our newsletter.



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With close proximity to several major centres in the south of England, these Cotswold weekend breaks are the perfect getaway. Here are 5 weekend itineraries for the Cotswolds that each sample a different side to this beautiful area.

There’s a wealth to explore in the 800 square miles that make up the Cotswolds.

From beautiful stone villages with honey-hued manor houses to remnants of Roman history and the visible impact of the prosperous wool trade.

With its close proximity to several major centres in the south of England, these Cotswolds weekend break are perfect for discovering some country charm. Whether you’re looking for an action-packed getaway or a languid stay; a fire-side relax or a pampering spa treatment, there’s a weekend break in the Cotswolds that’s perfect for every traveller.

Discover rolling landscapes and sheep-strewn hills, historic stately homes and picturesque villages, fine-dining Michelin-stared restaurants or local hearty pubs.

We’ve put together 5 Cotswold weekend breaks with all the details you need to start booking your next escape. For more ideas in the country, read our guide to the best UK weekend breaks.

Booking your trip via the links on this page (or on our book page) will earn us a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support – Paul & Mark.

Cotswold weekend breaks


Best Cotswold weekend break for great country walks and a thriving art scene

With some of the best hiking in the area along the Cotswolds Way, this is a great weekend itinerary to enjoy the great outdoors. But with a base in Broadway, you can also wander art galleries, shop for antiques and visit one of the most impressive castles in the country.  


To ease into this Cotswolds weekend break, check into your accommodation and breathe in the fresh country air. Choose from the relaxed yet friendly home-style comforts at the Guiting Power Guest House; the modern comforts of the Fish Hotel in Broadway or the grandeur and pampering of the Buckland Manor.

If you’re looking for a country pub to start the weekend in the traditional Cotswolds way, the Crown & Trumpet Inn in Broadway is renowned for its vibrant atmosphere, well-priced pub-grub and wide selection of local beers.

Broadway tower, weekend breaks in the Cotswolds


Waking up refreshed, spend Saturday enjoying the country scenery on a long hike. The Cotswolds Way – a 102-mile trail that follows the escarpment – zig zags through the area, creating a number of great options. Hike from Broadway up to the nearby Broadway Tower or try the excellent pub-to-pub trail through beautiful countryside on the Stanton to Snowshill hike. All the details are in our hiking in the Cotswolds article.

For a refined take on a classic Cotswolds pub, try the Ebrington Arms for dinner. Their French-inspired dishes are crafted to perfection and their Yubby Ale is the perfect accompaniment.


Energise by yesterday’s hiking, head over to Sudeley Castle to roam the immaculate gardens of the 15th-century grand residence. Then head to Broadway and stroll along the wide grass-fringed high street to grab a bite for lunch – we’d recommend Lygon Wine Bar.

After lunch, drive to the charming Chipping Camden for a stroll down the honey-stoned high street before making your way to Hidcote Manor to explore one of the finest private gardens in the country.

Sudeley Castle, Cotswold weekend breaks
Cotswold weekend breaks


Best Cotswold weekend for ancient history and immaculate villages

For more of a city-inspired weekend break in the Cotswolds, this itinerary is based around Bath – one of our favourite cities in the country and one of our favourite things to do in the Cotswolds. Explore the Roman history of the centre and scour laneways searching for cool independents shops. Venture out of the city to discover Castle Combe, a quaint village that is perfect to explore on a UK road trip.


To enjoy the range of bars and a great restaurant scene, book your accommodation in Bath. The pampering decadence of the Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa always lives up to its reputation. But, if you prefer evening languid strolls in the countryside then the Kings Arms in Didmarton is a lovely cosy pub. The Manor House in Castle Combe is an all-class establishment.  

You’re spoilt for choice on dinner ideas if you stay in Bath, and the restaurant at the King’s Arms in Didmarton is top-notch. However, if you are staying in Castle Combe, The Castle Inn is a great local pub for a weekend-starting pint.

Bath, Cotswold weekend break


Spend Saturday wandering the stone-dominated architecture of Bath. Start at the Roman Baths and get up to speed on ancient washing rituals with their excellent audio guide. Admire the incredible Bath Abbey before grabbing an excellent coffee at the nearby Mokoko.

Stroll over the 18th century Pulteney Bridge with the shops crammed on top and the Assembly Rooms for a taste of the Georgian good life. Continue the Georgian theme with dinner at the Circus Restaurant.

For more information read our guide to spending one day in Bath.


Today, drive to Castle Combe to explore one of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds. With green forested hills in the background, quaint cottages in the foreground, and a babbling brook in between, it takes little imagination to see why this gorgeous village has featured in many blockbuster movies. Have lunch at the Castle Inn overlooking the market square, then drive to the village of Lacock.

Managed by the National Trust, what Lacock lacks in authenticity it makes up for in the pristine condition of its houses. On the edge of town, the magnificent Abbey with its quirky country-style spaces is an ideal place to visit on this Cotswolds break. While here, explore the many Lacock Harry Potter locations.

Castle Combe, weekend break in the Cotswolds
Cotswold weekend break


Best weekend break in the Cotswolds for immersing in quintessential English charm

It doesn’t get much more Cotswolds than this weekend. Stroll picturesque country streets lined with craft coffee and artisan bakeries before exploring two of the most iconic villages in the Cotswolds. Stay fuelled up with organic farm produce, local beer and the regions best gin – many of our favourite things to do in the Cotswolds.


For a weekend indulging in the modern style of the Cotswolds, check-in at the Old Stocks Inn. Located in Stow-on-the-Wold, this family-run guesthouse has all the right details for a lovely stay. Alternatively, plump for the Kingham Plough, a smartly dressed pub with great food; or the Wild Rabbit, a Michelin-starred restaurant with relaxed on-trend accommodation.

Stow-on-the-Wold will have plenty of options to tempt you into a Friday night pint. However, if you’re staying in Kingham, dinner at the Plough is a great way to ease yourself into the Cotswolds life.

Cotswold weekend breaks, Wild Rabbit, Kingham


Complete with trendy cafes, quaint tea rooms and old-time ice cream stands, spend the morning getting acquainted with Bourton-on-the-Water. Although over-zealously referred to as the Venice of the Cotswolds, the canal running down the high street is a picturesque spot to stroll along. All the details are in our days out in the Cotswolds article.  

Drive to Upper Slaughter and have High Tea at the Lords of the Manor for lunch, then spend the afternoon strolling through Upper and Lower Slaughter, surely the finest villages in the Cotswolds. For dinner head to one of our favourite pubs, the King’s Head in Bledington. Ask to sit near the bar.


Start Sunday the right way with a delicious and healthy brunch at Daylesford Organic. After brunch, stroll around their extensively stocked farm shop before heading over to the Cotswolds Distillery in the village of Stourton. They have a wide selection of gins and whiskeys with tours running three times a day. Just a few miles further east, the family-run Hook Norton Brewery has tours twice a day of their Victorian brewery. Finish a foodie day dining in the charming Kings Head in Bledington.


Best short break in the Cotswolds for honey-hued architectural splendour and a grand stately home

Any time of year, the historic colleges of Oxford are an enchantment. Whether it’s the honeyed glow of summer or the crisp frosting of winter, it is a beautiful place. Nearby, the grandeur of Blenheim Palace – one of England’s finest stately homes – combine to make this a Cotswolds break full of British impressiveness.


Balance the majesty of Oxford and the grandeur of Blenheim with a stay at the Falkland Arms in Great Tew – one of the most atmospheric, rustic old pubs in Britain. Alternatively, the Old Parsonage has a chic country house feel right near the centre of Oxford, and The Galaxie is a friendly family-run guesthouse.

While there’s no shortage of great pubs in Oxford, such as the historic Turf Tavern, for a real taste of the Cotswolds, start your weekend with a pint at the thoroughly atmospheric Falkland Arms in Great Tew.

Weekend in the Cotswolds, Oxford.


Spend Saturday exploring the impressive Blenheim Palace, the childhood home of Winston Churchill. The opulence inside the palace and the immaculate formal gardens surrounding it, make the entry fee well worth it. There are a few options for lunch including the high-end Orangerie or the kid-friendly pizza café.

End the day at the atmospheric Falkland Arms in Great Tew. Join the cravat-wearing locals for a traditional ale, a box of snuff and some tall tales by the fire.


Spend Sunday inspecting the colleges and wandering the atmospheric streets of one of the most famous university towns in the world. All the details are in our Oxford day trip article including our advice for how to construct the day to ensure you see as much as possible.


Best Cotswolds weekend break for the wool-spun history of the area and idyllic river-side ruins

The prosperity of the Cotswolds is based in the wool industry of the 17th century, the story of which is woven through the fabric of the area. This Cotswolds break explores ancient history in Cirencester, the remnant of the weaver’s trade in Bibury and medieval history in Minster Lovell.


Start the weekend with dinner in Northleach at The Wheatsheaf Inn, an excellent country pub. If travelling further afield is too much effort after those decadent country puddings, head upstairs to luxuriate in the rooms complete with fluffy bathrobes. Otherwise, the Bay Tree Hotel in Burford oozes traditional English charm while the Swan Inn at Minster Lovell is a well-equipped country hotel in a tiny atmospheric village which serves fine pub food.

Our pick for this weekend would be to stay at the Wheatsheaf Inn, which is a beautiful, stylish pub with excellent food. Enjoy a pint by the fire when you arrive to get those weekend vibes underway.


This morning, take-in the picture-postcard view of the Cotswolds at Bibury. In the 17th century, a monastic wool store was converted into a row of cottages for weavers. Today, Arlington Row is possibly one of the most visited and photographed spots in the Cotswolds.

In the afternoon make your way to Cirencester, the capital of the Cotswolds, to browse the independent shops and the Corinium Museum, which will take you on a journey through Cotswolds history from prehistoric times to the modern day.  


Start today with an excellent coffee and fresh pastry from Lynwood Café in Burford. Then stroll the high street which cascades down the hill to collect some supplies for an afternoon picnic. Once stocked up, drive to Minster Lovell, a tiny charming village set along the banks of the River Windrush. The ruins of the 15th-century manor house are thoroughly atmospheric and a great spot for a picnic and a dose of wild swimming.

Minster Lovel, Cotswold weekend breaks


The versatility of these Cotswolds weekends mean they can be done throughout the year.

In summer, enjoy a walk in the Cotswolds over undulating landscapes dotted with sheep as the sun lights up the fields. Timeless villages similarly come alive when bathed in English sunshine. However, summer is the busiest time of year, so accommodation will be more expensive and some of the villages will be bursting with tourists.

Few other areas in the country display rusty autumn colours quite like the Cotswolds, when a stroll on a crisp day is food for the soul. In winter, be captivated by the pretty stone villages frosted in snow as you curl up in front of an open fire with a glass of red in a country pub.

But its spring when these Cotswolds breaks are ideal. The gardens are at the most beautiful; the hiking trails are full of blossom and wild garlic, and the villages are still quiet and relaxed before the summer rush.



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The Cotswolds is a rural area of England and while buses and trains do connect some of the villages and towns they are not that regular and many don’t run on weekends.  The easiest, and by far the most convenient way to see enjoy these Cotswolds breaks is on a classic British road trip. This way, you can collect tiny villages on the way to stately homes and not miss anything in between.


The best way to visit these beautiful Cotswolds villages and enjoy the scenery that surrounds them is by car. With your own wheels, you could easily visit several villages in a day, without waiting for public transport. If you need to hire a car for the trip, we recommend

Couple walk over manicured lawn between high hedges, Cotswolds


The Cotswolds is the one area of England we’ve visited the most. There are few hiking trails we haven’t walked or villages we haven’t explored. We’ve spent long afternoons inside cosy pubs, worked our way through local ales, compared the best Sunday roasts and sampled local bakeries. Here’s some more Cotswolds reading.


Explore the best of the Cotswolds on these six circular walks

Aristocrat to artisan – the best things to do in Bath in one day

Best things to do in the Cotswolds to inspire your next getaway

10 great ideas for days out in the Cotswolds

Where to stay in the Cotswolds – Best areas & hotels

Oxford day trip – An Itinerary for 1 day in Oxford


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With country walks and cosy pubs; charming villages and historic grandeur, here are 5 weekends in the Cotswolds #cotswolds

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The canyons and sculpted rocks provide some breathtaking hiking in Cappadocia. But the trailheads and paths are tricky and obscure. So, read on for all the tips and tricks we think you’ll need.

Over millennia, wind and rain have sculpted the valleys creating a surreal natural landscape. Domed white rocks, rippling rose canyons and phallic rock formations provide a magnificent backdrop to some stunning hiking in Cappadocia.

This rocky playground turned out to be one of our favourite experiences in Turkey.

But for all the tourists who come to this fairy tale landscape, information on hiking in Cappadocia is decidedly poor. We searched high and low for good walking maps or even average walking maps. None we found marked the trailheads and most barely had the paths covered at all.

While there is more information about hiking in Cappadocia online now, we still think these are the 3 best walks in the area, given all the other wonderful things to do in Cappadocia.

We’ve also included detailed instructions along with maps you can download and take with you so you can see some amazing corners of Cappadocia without worrying about getting lost.

Booking your trip via the links on this page (or on our book page) will earn us a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support – Paul & Mark.


Distance: 11 kilometres | Time: 3 hours, 20 minutes to 5 hours

The canyon walls of Pigeon Valley are topped with teeth-shaped rocks; the castle at Uçhisar offers wide panoramic views, and Love Valley has the iconic mushroom-topped columns, heavily photographed in Cappadocia.

This excellent circular walk begins in Göreme, heads up Pigeon Valley, ascends to the castle at Uçhisar, before returning via Love Valley to Göreme. It takes around 4 hours during which it visits some of Cappadocia’s most iconic scenery.


The Pigeon Valley (Guvercinlik Vadisi) path starts at Trail Marker G3 on Uzun Dore Road in south-east Göreme.  Follow signs pointing up the valley, walking through a cafe and up some steps as the valley bottom rises and opens out. Follow the path bending right, and squeeze through the tightest part of the canyon. Have tea at Calgary Tea Garden overlooking the view.


Continue up the path as it rises out of Pigeon Valley and onto the Göreme-Uçhisar road. Turn left and head up to Uçhisar Castle. The entrance to the castle is on the south side.


Head back to the Love Valley (Baglidere Vadisi) trailhead which is 100 metres past where you exited Pigeon Valley on the main road towards Göreme. Follow the path to the left of the Ozler centre. Take the right fork at marker B6 and follow the sign pointing to Love Valley.

Turn left at marker sign B5 and head steeply down into the valley before turning right and making your way along the valley floor. The canyon walls keep you hemmed in, so you can’t go far wrong, but you may need to backtrack once or twice, making your way around a local farm, and following a dried-up river bed.


Arrive at the iconic Phallic rocks of Love Valley and stop for tea at Keres Cafe before following the path bending right as the valley widens and meets the main road. Turn right and follow the road back into Göreme.

Read NextThe best ancient ruins in Turkey

Rocky landscapes on the hike in Cappadocia
Rocky canyon in Cappadocia



1.5 kilometres | 30 minutes to 1 hour


1.5 kilometres | 30 minutes to 1 hour


5 kilometres | 1 hour, 40 minutes to 2 hours, 20 minutes


2.5 kilometres | 20 minutes


Distance: 11 kilometres | Time: 3 hours, 50 minutes – 5 hours, 30 minutes (easily shortened)

When hiking in Cappadocia, all the scenery is impressive but the views on this hike – covering 3 different valleys northeast of Göreme, home to some of the best hotels in Cappadocia – is simply staggering.

Meskendir valley is a narrow canyon that heads arrow-like into the more coloured canyons; Rose Valley is a mass of pointed pink and white rocks whose interiors have been carved into churches; Red Valley contains sinuous fins of rock and its viewpoints had us perched above rippling oceans of stone.

Finding the paths in the Red and Rose Valleys can be tricky, mostly due to the immense profusion of signs. Unclear trail markers point in dubious directions, red scribbles on walls sometimes point both left and right, and many signs lay broken, buried or crossed out.

We highly recommend you download our map to help make this spectacular walk a little easier to navigate.

Hiking trail in Cappadocia


Park in a layby east of Kale campground on the Göreme to Ürgüp road. There is a Rose Valley sign painted in red which is the beginning of your trail. After a couple of hundred meters take the right turn and descend into Meskendir Valley.


Follow the valley north and then northwest. After about 2 kilometres you will pass Kucuk Church. Shortly you come to a makeshift hut marked as Bufe on Google Maps, with the G201 trail marker next to it.

This is the trail marker for the Rose Valley, which consists of two valleys, Gulludere I and Gulludere II. The marker signs for these valleys begin G1, G2 or G12. Turn right at this marker and follow the path into the valley.

Read NextBest things to do in Cappadocia


After about 500 metres you pass Anna Johachim Church. 100 metres further you come across trail marker G203 telling you to head left. Ignore this and continue straight on. Following the path you will arrive at the remarkable Kolonlu (Direkli) church. After going inside, continue on the path.

You soon find yourself at trail marker G1202 take the smaller path leading past the left-hand side of the marker. The path quickly rises before bending right for some fine viewpoints over Red Valley and then heads left.

At trail markers G1205 and G1206 follow signs for Gulludere I-II Cikisi and you shortly reach Panorama Point where you can get a drink and refreshments.


Make your way back down Red Valley (Kizilcukur Vadisi) following trail marker K11. Keep left at trail marker K10 and you will soon pass Uzumlu church and a café. The main Red Valley path continues down the valley, but in our opinion, it is better to stay on the high ground and keep the good views.

So, in spite of the sign suggesting you go left, turn right at K7C, come off the main path and take the smaller path across the valley and up the other side. Then bend left to a great viewpoint marked Demir Merdiven on Google Maps.

Enjoy the views before continuing on a path that slowly arcs right and you find yourself back at the G1202 marker. You can now re-join your Rose Valley Loop (and Google Maps) by heading up to Hacli Church. Look at the frescoes at Hacli church before gaining the ridge and following the path northwest.


The path comes to a sign that tries to take you down a rather precipitous slope with a bit of rope that had recently snapped (unlucky for someone). It’s very steep so avoid this and head left and follow the contours of the ridge which slowly drops you back into Meskendir Valley. Re-join Meskendir Valley, turn left and walk the 3 kilometres back to the car.

Read Next Our Cappadocia itinerary

Curved rocky landscapes on the Rose Valley hike in Cappadocia
Hiking in Cappadocia, Turkey


This is a fairly long hike and involves parking near Kale Campground, which requires a car. However, here are a number of ways you can shorten this walk and do it without a car.


You can skip the Red Valley Loop by staying on the Rose Valley loop when you first come to trail marker G1202. This will reduce the walk by about an hour.


If you don’t have a car and are staying in Göreme town, you can skip the Meskendir valley and take a shortcut to the Rose Valley Trailhead. This shortcut (shown in grey on the map) takes about 35 minutes. So, you could walk from Göreme, complete the Rose Valley Loop and the Red Valley Loop and return to Göreme in around 4h – 4h 30mins.


If you have a car and want to shorten the walk, you can drive up to Panorama point and start the walk there. Hiking the Red Valley Loop will take you just over an hour or hiking both the Red Valley and Rose Valley Loops will take about 3 hours. Make sure you finish back at Panorama point for a drink and a sit down on one of Crazy Ali’s couches. It’s a great scene at sunset, so sit back with a beer and survey all the paths you have covered while hiking in Cappadocia.

Read NextOur Turkey Itinerary

Red Valley Cappadocia Turkey



2.5 kilometres | 50 minutes to 1 hour, 10 minutes


3 kilometres | 1 hour, 10 minutes to 1 hour, 40 minutes


2.5 kilometres | 50 minutes to 1 hour, 10 minutes


3 kilometres | 1 hour to 1 hour, 20 minutes


Distance: 8km | Time 3 hours – 4 hours

The Ihlara Valley is a beautiful narrow canyon of sandstone-coloured walls, with a river drifting along the verdant valley floor. The river not only supports a plethora of plants and flowers but numerous chirping birds and belching frogs. Churches carved deep into the canyon walls can be explored and offer excellent views over this idyllic scene.

The Ihlara Valley hike is a very straightforward tranquil stroll along the prettiest part of the valley and is well worth the 1 hours, 15 minutes’ drive from Göreme. The only major challenge is finding the heavily disguised ticket office at the entrance to the valley in Ihlara Village.

Hiking in Cappadocia does not get much better than this walk. This hike starts in Ihlara Village, heads to Belisirma Village and back again. The total distance is 8 kilometres and it took us about 4 hours, including time to stop for tea and check out the churches.

Read NextBest things to do in Istanbul

Green river bank in Cappadocia


Park in Ihlara Village, outside the Star Café. There is a red sign that says ‘Valley’ on the Star Café’s wall pointing left. Follow the sign and stay on the road.

As the road rises and bends right, follow the canyon wall keeping the valley on your right. After about 400 metres you will see a small building through the trees with red writing saying Ticket Office.


Leave the ticket office, drop down into the valley and walk along the valley floor. There is no chance of getting lost on this walk as it is a narrow valley and you are hemmed in on both sides by the canyon wall. Head up to the nicely frescoed Konar Church

Pop into Algacati Church, meeting the tour groups walking down the steps from their buses. Have tea at Diker Aile Çay Bahçesi by the river (or do so on the way back).


Climb the steps up to S. George Church to see the frescoes, but more importantly, it offers fine views over the valley. Exit the valley at the Belisirma ticket office (don’t worry your ticket will get you back in).

Take the road that curls up to the left and visit Direkli and Bahattin Samanligi churches, which are worth the short walk. Leave the two churches and retrace your footsteps back to the car in Ihlara Village.

Read NextOur Istanbul itinerary

Green river bank and hiking trail in Cappadocia


01 – It can be hot and there is often little protection. Wear sun protection and take a hat.

02 – Be very careful during and after rain. The smooth rocks can quickly funnel water and be slippery.

03 – Some cafes on these walks were open, but not all of them. Make sure you take snacks to re-energise and plenty of water, either in a water filter bottle or a hydration bag like this one.

04 – Most of the walking was simple, but there is the odd steep section. For the Red Valley Loop, ensure you have decent grip on your shoes/boots (we use something like these).

05 – Use Google Maps App with downloaded maps of the local area. In order to download maps, go to the menu in the app and select Offline Maps. Then select Custom Maps, choose the area you want to download and then hit download. Make sure you do this while you still have Wi-Fi or mobile reception. Another good option is to use the Maps.Me app where you can also download offline maps for the area.

06 – Don’t worry too much about being on the wrong path. While it may sometimes feel as though you are in a massive area, the valleys are actually quite small, and you can’t go too far wrong, especially with Google Maps. Getting lost and found again is part and parcel of hiking in Cappadocia.

07 – You can combine the Rose and Red Valley loops with watching the balloons fly overhead, but you’ll have to be on the paths as the sun rises.

08 – Download our Cappadocia hiking maps onto your phones. Click on the icon to the left of the title on the map. To save this map, click on the star the right of the title – this will download to: YOUR PLACES -> MAPS in Google. Then you can easily follow our recommended paths and instructions while hiking in Cappadocia.



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While Istanbul is one of our favourite cities, Turkey is a bewitching country with ancient ruins, scenic countryside and incredible places to visit. Here are some more of our guides from Turkey.


Driving in Turkey – Our road trip tips

The complete itinerary for Cappadocia

The best things to do in Istanbul

The best things to do in Turkey

Ancient ruins in Turkey

5-Day Istanbul itinerary


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Complete guide to hiking in Cappadocia including detailed trail descriptions, instructions & tips plus interactive makes for all the hikes.

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The Patios of Cordoba are a multi-coloured bonanza of pots and plants. Tucked down alleyways and backstreets they offer a beautiful escape from the sun on those hot Spanish afternoons.

We have the Romans to thank for the patios of Córdoba. Founded by General Claudius Marcellus between 169 BCE and 152 BCE, Córdoba was – in its early years – the favoured conquest of a Roman empire expanding into Spain. But, after picking the wrong side in the civil war, Córdoba was sacked by Caesar to pay for the allegiance it formed with Pompey.

What was a bruised town thanks to vengeful Caesar, later became a building site for the new emperor Augustus. He made it a Colonia Patricia, built the walled perimeter and dished out generous land to war veterans. A housing boom was underway in Roman Córdoba.


Due to the hot dry climate, the Roman style was imitated. Houses were built around a central courtyard with a well or fountain in the middle to collect rainwater. When the Muslims captured Córdoba in 711 CE, they continued the tradition of the patio, adding an entrance from the street and filling the patios of Córdoba with plants to add an element of lush coolness.

This Roman/Muslim fusion lives on today with the courtyard (patio in Spanish) being the central feature of both house and palace. Never to be outdone by predecessors, the Christian’s added their own flair to the city by constructing the ostentatious Castle of the Christian Monarchs shortly after they conquered Córdoba in 1236.

No visit would be complete without seeing the influence of Roman, Muslim and Christian heritage through their gorgeous patios and gardens – one of the many interesting things to do in Córdoba. With the scent of jasmine and orange blossom wafting in the air, strolling around the colourful streets and popping into the patios of Córdoba is the perfect way to earn that late afternoon glass of fino.

Booking your trip via the links on this page (or on our book page) will earn us a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support – Paul & Mark.

Patios of Córdoba


Of all the patios of Córdoba, Palacio de Viana is probably the finest. Built in the 15th century, Palacio de Viana originally stuck to the Roman rules with a single courtyard in the centre of the house. But, after 5 centuries of expansion by the previous 18 owners, Palacio de Viana is now a sprawling palace that has slowly engulfed its neighbours. With a whopping 12 courtyards and a garden, it’s a great place to start a tour of the patios of Córdoba.

The patios at Palacio de Viana range from formal hedged symmetrically pleasing designs, to pot-filled colourful nooks. Thanks to the Arabic-Hispanic roots, water plays a key role in the look and feel of many of the gardens.

Orange trees create a sense of Moroccan allure, while sculptured cypresses provide that dignified regal atmosphere you get after 5 centuries of entertaining royalty. Intricate mosaics, inviting blue doors, and interesting features all combine to create a beautiful atmosphere.

If you have some flexibility in your Córdoba itinerary, Palacio de Viana is free Wednesday afternoons. More information is in our guide on the best things to do in Córdoba.


Located in the Jewish Quarter, La Casa Andalusí is a step back in time, reflecting the glory days of the Caliphate. It’s a beautiful house/museum which contains one of the smallest patios of Córdoba, complete with water features and beautiful mosaics. Inside the house, there is a scale model of one of the first paper factories.

This Chinese invention moved to Baghdad then across the Islamic Empire and entered Europe via the caliphate in Spain. This mix of cultural influences is one of the many reasons a summer holiday in Spain is so rewarding.

The house is full of Moroccan trinkets, books and exhibits that are interesting to inspect. A number of corners are covered in intricate Visigothic bas-relief, left over from the Germanic tribes who sacked old Imperial Roman cities.

The basement has remnants of the tunnels that ran under the houses in the Jewish Quarter and out under the city walls.


The patios in the San Basilio area are all part of privately owned houses with their garden oases on show for public pleasure. A ticket for €5 provides access to 5 great patios of Córdoba. Your ticket is often personally stamped by the owner on the way in, nobly standing proud as punch at the entrance to his realm.

On our visit, number 5 was locked for some reason, but we made a bit of a racket out the front and the owner let us in. This worked beautifully for us because we were the only people in his little courtyard; no busloads of tourists to get in the way of our shots.

There are a number of free patios in the area you can pop your head into as well.

The walls of the patios are covered with small plant pots which look like they require some diligent watering from dedicated owners. And they’re happy to do it. Each year patio owners compete in the coveted Courtyards and Crosses competition which takes place during the Patio Festival in the first week of May.

All the patios are free during the festival and best enjoyed with a glass of fino from the nearby Montilla-Moriles region.


After conquering Córdoba, the Christian Monarchs set about building an impressive palace to house themselves. The Alcázar was built in 1328 on top of previous Roman, Islamic and Visigoth Ruins. Acting as both fortress and palace, it was the favoured home of many Christian Kings. It is also infamous for serving as the headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition in 1482.

The interior doesn’t have much to see, except for a few mosaics and a weird chapel. A climb up to the tower, however, is well worth it for the great views of the Alcázar’s showpiece: the stunning gardens. While it may be a push to call these gardens on of the patios ofCórdoba, the expansive grounds consist of large ponds framed by extremely well-maintained trees. With the water features, excessive use of marble and beautiful mosaics, the whole compound has a spectacular grandeur. Most probably just what the Christian kings were going for.

Like Palacio de Viana, the Alcázar of the Christian Monarchs also has a free period. See all the details in our Córdoba guide.


There’s a host of fantastic things to do in Córdoba. Here are some great tours to help you get acquainted with this Andalucían gem. For more information read our guide to Córdoba.


Andalucía is one of our favourite areas in Spain. With an excellent climate, world-class cities and beautiful nature parks, it’s a fantastic southern European destination. Here are more of our guides from the area.

Traditional Tapas & Spanish Masters – get the most out of 3 days in Seville

5 best pueblos blancos (white villages) of Andalucía

Our favourite things to do in the fascinating city of Córdoba, Spain

Complete Guide to hiking El Torreón in Sierra de Grazalema

Our favourite things to do in Seville

Uncovering an enlightened caliphate in Córdoba

Complete Guide to hiking El Pinsapar trail in Sierra de Grazalema


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Create some sparkle over the 2022 festive season with our walking tour of the best London Christmas lights. Stroll past iconic boulevards, hidden neighbourhoods and famous stores dappled in illuminated cheer.

In a town that rarely shies away from putting on a show, the London Christmas lights is a yuletide tradition that illuminates the soul into embracing the festive season.

With Christmas window displays competing for attention, the scent of chestnuts roasting on corner stalls and London’s miscellany of architecture twinkling under the weight of synchronised fairy lights, there’s something alluring about Christmas in London that seems to affect even the biggest Scrooge.

London’s a big place, but fortunately, several of the best Christmas lights are centrally located within easy walking distance of each other.

So, slide numb fingers into warm mittens and let us take you on a journey past famous window displays, charming markets, sweeping boulevards and hidden corners to experience the best of the London Christmas lights.  

For more inspiration, read our guide to the best places to visit in the UK.

Booking your trip via the links on this page (or on our book page) will earn us a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support – Paul & Mark.

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The switch gets flicked on most Christmas Lights in London by mid-November. They continue to light up the streets until around 6 January. Most of the main streets have a switch-on ceremony where they mark the occasion with music, mulled wine and a local celebrity doing the honours. The date for the switch-on ceremony changes each year, so check local press for information.  

Christmas window displays start popping up in early November.

The best time to explore the lights are just after sunset (around 4pm in December) when it’s late enough for a mulled wine and early enough so that you have plenty of time to stroll through the magical streets. Most importantly, try and pick a day when it’s not expected to rain.


When Harry Goodridge Selfridge designed his Selfridge’s store in London he insisted on it having the largest windows in the world. Opening the store in 1909, he brought the concept of dressing windows for Christmas from his native America. And so, a great British tradition had begun. Harrods, Liberty, and Fortnum & Mason all quickly followed.

Today it still takes over 500 staff to dress the Selfridges windows in an often-quirky take on Christmas. Outside the store is the perfect place to start a stroll down Oxford Street for a dazzling display of Christmas lights in London.

Each year, the busiest shopping street in the UK is transformed with hanging golden stars, colourfully lit trees and shop fronts adorned with lights and featuring the most creative Christmas window displays.

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Just off Oxford Street, South Molton Street is a small shopping hub packed with exclusive brands and designer outlets. For a small lane, it packs a punch when it comes to Christmas lights, producing one of the most eye-catching displays in the city.  

A row of towering blue arches connects two large trees at either end of the pedestrianised street. The effect is a framed promenade, decked out with gold stars and twinkling blue lights, creating one of the best places to photograph Christmas lights in London.


Switch On – Early November (TBC)

Just around the corner from South Molton Street, New Bond Street is home to the flagships of some of the poshest brands in the world. Cartier, Fenwick, Fendi and Bvlgari try and catch the attention of passing foot traffic with some of the best Christmas window displays in town.

As a centre for high-end fashion, it’s fitting that the New Bond Street Christmas lights feature strutting peacocks. White feathers arc over the street and chandeliers hang above this beautifully lit road. It’s one of the more elegant Christmas lights in London, perfectly matched to the mood of the street.

Some of the best Christmas window displays are in New Bond Street. Each year, Cartier covers their front in a giant red ribbon and Tiffany & Co feature a whimsical theme.

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Fortnum & Mason has been a favourite of the Royal Family since Queen Victoria times. In the 1730s they started providing picnic baskets to the elite so they had something to nibble on while travelling to their country estates. Today, Fortnum & Mason ship around 120,000 picnic baskets a year.

Each Christmas they decorate the façade to look like a giant advent calendar, glowing a passionate red. In 2021, they collaborated with theatre set designers who were out of work due to the COVID pandemic to produce their famous Christmas window displays. Each designer created an eye-catching installation around the theme of personal interpretations of joy.

After Fortnum & Mason, wander across the road to inspect the Christmas decorations at Burlington Arcade.

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The tradition of Christmas lights in London began in Regent Street in 1954. From the start of the Regent Street Christmas decorations, the 19th-century architecture was adorned with angels playing trumpets. Now officially called The Spirit of Christmas, 16 “spirits” with an impressive 17-metre wingspan cover the street with a canopy of 300,000 twinkling lights.

A steady stream of red double-decker buses glowing under the Regent Street lights creates an unmissable London Christmas feel. The decorations stretch all the way from Langham Place down to Waterloo Place with smaller displays connecting some of the side streets. The best section is the main shopping strip of Regent Street from Oxford Circus to Piccadilly Circus.

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The iconic Carnaby Street, birthplace of Mods, Punk and New Romantics was a popular hangout for Jimi Hendrix, The Kinks and the Rolling Stones. In 1966, Lady Jane Boutique had live models undressing in the shop window. The owner was fined £2 for obstructing the street due to the group of men congregating to catch a glimpse.

The 60s theme continues in the Carnaby Christmas lights with more poignance and less rebellion. Sparkling butterflies shimmer overhead in collaboration with charity partner Choose Love, who aims to raise awareness for the plight of refugees around the world. It’s a bright and colourful display with a message of change and renewal.

While in the area, don’t miss the cool lights along Ganton Street and the stylish Christmas window display at Liberty.

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Piccadilly has recently emerged from the shadow of the impressive Regent Street lights to install its very own Christmas spectacle. Featuring dramatic large-scale figures of Anteros, the Greek god of required love who has stood in Piccadilly Circus since 1893, the winged canopy is a spectacular display.

With old-school London glamour and some of the most prestigious addresses in the city, Piccadilly is a delight to stroll down any time of year. At Christmas, it’s just a little more magical.

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Seven Dials is something of an escape from busy central London with the feel of a local neighbourhood operating at a slower pace. The central focal point, a column bearing 6 sundials – an unfortunate early commission before the present 7 road junction was finalised – is adorned with a giant wispy star of lights. It’s a whimsical Christmas display in one of our favourite parts of London.

Wander off in every direction from Seven Dials to get a taste of some of the best of secret London. Pop into concept stores, try independent restaurants and inspect hidden squares to witness a very local take on Christmas lights in London.

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London’s most glorious Christmas tree is in Covent Garden. At the western end of the market, the huge tree with 30,000 red and white twinkling lights reaches into the sky from the ancient marketplace.  

Behind the tree, beautiful decorations of massive baubles and mistletoe chandeliers continue the festive spirit in the North and South Halls. Look for Christmas present inspiration in the Central Avenue of the market. Neuhaus has excellent Belgian chocolates and Penhaligon’s is famous for fragrances.

Around the plaza you’ll also find temporary Christmas huts serving all the right cheer. There’s plenty of mulled wine, hot chocolate and wine bars with cosy interiors. Ramsbury’s Forest Domes has sheltered dining pods to eat amongst the Christmas decorations.   

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Every night from mid-November to early January, Christmas at Kew is cleverly illuminated by an array of flickering flames and lights. Well-marked routes transport you from one grand sight to the next with independent street food vendors keeping you sustained along the way. Just beware you must book weeks in advance, so be prepared. Tickets are £26.50 at peak times for adults.


Dates – 18 November 2022 to 2 January 2023

Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park has been entertaining London with energetic Christmas festivities since 2007. Half theme park, half Christmas market, it’s the most gaudy and dramatic set of Christmas Lights in London. Inside Ferris wheels, helter-skelters and roller coasters keep the adrenaline running. There’s an ice rink, shops and stalls, and more Christmas trinkets than you could possibly imagine.

It’s £5 for adults but it’s free if you spend over £20 on rides. Tickets must be booked in advance.


From late November to early January Winterfest comes to Wembley. A 25-metre Christmas tree made up of 100,000 lights accompanies circus acts, street theatre and art installations.

Reflections of the Future stretches 100 metres along Wembley Way and aims to create hope for the future after the recent period of uncertainty.


This institution in Kensington spends a cool £25,000 decorating its façade in plants every year. At Christmas, it adds 80 Christmas trees and 22,000 lights to create an over-the-top display that can’t be missed.

It’s a fantastic addition to the London Christmas Lights and it’s a great pub for a festive pint, although it’s a popular place so seats can be difficult to obtain. They also do excellent Thai-inspired pub food.

Chruchill Arms Christmas Lights Notting Hill


Covering 5 acres and with 330 departments, Harrods is one of the largest and most famous department stores in London. It also puts on quite a show when it comes to Christmas lights and window displays.

Windows are lavishly decorated (often with the help of global brands) in the Christmas colours of red, white, and green. Inside there’s a whole floor dedicated to high-end Christmas decorations and the food hall is a wonderful place to stock up on special items.

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Visit all these central London Christmas lights on our walking tour, where you can get into the Christmas spirit without spending a penny. The entire walk is just over 4 kilometres. If you marched around quickly it would only take 1 hour, but it’s much better to amble slowly and savour the atmosphere.

You can find the walking route on the map below. We recommend starting at Selfridges and ending at Covent Garden – a great place to treat yourself to a post-Christmas drink. If you want to add an extra 10 minutes you could head to the Christmas Market at Trafalgar Square, although the spirit is much merrier at Covent Garden.

Alternatively, If you start at Covent Garden and end at Selfridges, you can extend the walk by 20 minutes and end at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. This is a great option if you want to finish the walk by upping the adrenaline on theme park rides, rather than in a quiet spot with a glass of wine.

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


Despite the often gloomy weather, there are plenty of great things to do in the UK over the winter months, including plenty of great walks from London to get you out in the fresh country air.

Here are a few more suggestions from us that are well worth rugging up for.

Our guide to the best things to do in Oxford

The very best things to do in the Cotswolds

The best things to do in Bath, UK

The best Cotswolds villages you need to visit

Scenic highlights on the Jurassic Coast

A wonderful weekend in Hay on Wye

The best things to do in Cambridge


Stay up to day with our travels on Instagram and get semi-regular updates directly to your inbox via our newsletter.



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Create some sparkle over the festive season with our walking tour of the best London Christmas lights. Regent Street Christmas Lights | Oxford Street Christmas Lights | Bond Street Christmas Lights | Carnaby Street Christmas Lights | Piccadilly Christmas Lights | Covent Garden Christmas Market | Christmas Window Displays London

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Norway’s Fjordland is an excellent destination with sublime scenery. Our 10-day Norway road trip itinerary had us peering into glaciers, kayaking fjords and hiking up granite cliffs.

Our 10-day Norway itinerary took us deep into the heart of magical Fjordlands.

This UNESCO-listed gem is one of the scenic wonders of the world. It’s also a great road trip destination. The excellent roads wind their way along sleek slender lakes, before rising up over vertical granite cliffs. They carry you into beautiful towns and villages and career up mountain roads to snarling glaciers and remote farms. And where the roads end, a ferry is waiting to carry you to your next beautiful destination.

Hiking to great viewpoints, peering into glaciers or kayaking on fjords, this 10-day Norway itinerary has it all. But it’s not just the great outdoors that impress, Norway has picture-perfect towns, packed with good café’s, funky art and modern architecture.

If you like remote and rugged wilderness, if you like being off the beaten track and if you like constructing your own holidays then this Norway road trip itinerary is for you.  Here are our ideas, tips and mistakes to help you plan your own 10-day Norway itinerary.

Booking your trip via the links on this page (or on our book page) will earn us a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support – Paul & Mark.

Norway Road Trip itinerary


Stavanger is a pretty town, with a small international airport, and is an excellent destination to begin our 10-day Norway Itinerary. Landing in the morning gives you ample town to explore the town in the afternoon and evening.

Oil was discovered just off Stavanger in 1969 and the town hasn’t looked back. Fuelled by oil but energised by the local student population, Stavanger has retained its charm with old wooden buildings and small-town atmosphere making it a beautiful place to stroll around.

Start at Gamle Stavanger, the original old town. Built in the 18th century, the tightly packed white wooden houses are arrayed along the hill and are in remarkable contrast to the massive cruise ships often docked right beside them. For lunch head to Rena Matbaren, a Nordic-chic cafe serving excellent food from fresh seasonal produce. The cured herring sandwich was a particular standout.

In the afternoon, pop over to the ferry dock to book your ferry to Tau for tomorrow morning, before exploring one of the many small museums in town. Then head to the colourful buildings lining Øvre Holmegate. Grab an afternoon coffee (or go wild and have a local beer) at the book-filled Stuen Bøker & Børst café, whose outside tables offer views overlooking the cute cobbled street.

Stay / Thon Hotel Maritim, Stavanger


Pulpit rock, rising vertically 604 metres above the stunning Lysefjord, is one of the iconic images of Norway and rightly one of the most photographed spots in the country. Fortunately, the hike to get there is not only great but relatively straightforward.

The trail to Pulpit rock starts at Preikestolen Mountain Lodge. The easiest way to get there is south and east along highway 13. But much more fun is the 1-hour ferry to Tau – see timetables and prices here. Docking in Tau, it’s a 30 minutes to the trailhead.

The hike to Pulpit Rock takes 1 hour 30 minutes. It is full of diverse scenery as you clamber up rocks, cross alpine meadows, and circumnavigate lakes and pools, where if it is warm enough you can have a refreshing swim.

But the highlight is the Pulpit Rock plateau, a mere 25m x 25m. It was created around 10,000 years ago from the expansion of ice and not many views in the world are this good with such a small amount of effort. If you brought lunch with you, pull up on a rock behind the platform and admire your 604-metre high dining space.

Return to your car, drive to Røldal (3-hours), and after checking into your hotel, head to Røldal Stave Church. Built in 1250, it was one of the most important middle-age pilgrimage sites in Norway. Røldal is also a great ski destination for beginners.

Stay / Hordatun Hotel, Røldal

Travel / 1-hour ferry from Stavanger to Tau; 3 hours, 40-minute drive south to Preikestolen & Røldal


Today, our 10-day Norway road trip itinerary, took us up into the Folgefonna National Park, and into the remote world of ice caps and glaciers. We chose to explore the area on the 6-hour Blue Ice Glacier Walk (10:40 to 11.00 Jun to Sep; Price: 790 NOK.) You will need plenty of warm clothing, good boots, possibly sunblock and sunglasses. Crampon, ice axe, harness and rope are provided.

The walk takes you around the Folgefonna glacier, across flat ice and deep crevasses. While we would do it again (just), after 5 hours I was glad that it was about to finish. A much shorter and less expensive tour would probably have been better and if it looks like you might get no visibility maybe save your money for another activity on another day.

After the tour, head to Utne via a beautiful scenic drive along the fjord and through fields of brightly coloured fruit trees. Stay at Hotel Utne, a cute old hotel that has been in continuous operation since 1722. Oozing character, the hotel has a garden out front where you can have a drink taking in magnificent views of the fjord on your doorstep.

Stay / Hotel Utne, Utne

Travel / 2 hours, 30 minutes: Røldal to Fonna Glacier Ski Resort then Utne


Today head to Bergen, a pretty Norwegian city, with a fascinating history, an excellent art museum and some fine views. Start by taking the 30-minute ferry to Kvanndal, followed by a 2-hour drive, first along the fjord and then over the cliffs.

Bergen has a couple of really great things to do. Firstly, allow yourself to be enchanted by the UNESCO-listed site of Bryggen, a thriving tourist attraction with people lining up to see the old wooden buildings, which despite several fires rendering them to ash, remain much as they have been for centuries. Enjoy a stay in one of the city’s interesting buildings, by booking an Airbnb in Bergen.

For lunch, eat fish right off the boat at one of the many plastic-covered tables that line the market on the edge of the harbour, before heading to the brilliant KODE Museum, spread over 4 sections. We highly recommend you get there to catch one of the 3 free daily English language tours.

Late in the afternoon, take the Fløibanen funicular up Mount Fløyen and breathe in the beautiful views and bright colours Bergen of below.

For dinner and an excellent end to day 4 of our 10-day Norway itinerary, try Colonialen, a high-end gastro-slick experience with a trout dish I’m still raving about.

If you have more time, here’s how to spend 3 days in Bergen.

Stay / Steens Hotel, Bergen

Travel / 2 hours, 30 minutes: 30 minutes ferry, 2 hours driving


Situated at the end of Hardangerfjord, Norway’s second largest, Eidfjord is a small local community, spoilt by utterly stunning scenery. The 2-hour 15-minute drive from Bergen offers great views interspersed with long (time-saving) tunnels.

As a popular choice on a cruise of the fjords of Norway, there is plenty to explore around Eidfjord. First head up to Kjeåsen Mountain Farm. Kjeåsen sits 600 metres above the fjord and consists of two farmhouses offering quintessential Norwegian holiday snaps over the magnificent fjord. They operate a one-way system to get up to the farm; traffic goes up on the hour and down on the half-hour – so you may need to wait up to 30 minutes.

Next head across to Voringfossen Falls to see a spectacular waterfall with a freefall of 145 metres. Then drive onto the Hardangervidda Plateau, the largest plateau of its kind in Europe, and explore the area.

Unfortunately, we were confronted with driving rain with no visibility so, after all too short a visit, we headed back to Eidfjord and checked into the excellent Eidfjord Fjell and Fjord Hotel, which has a lovely Nordic-inspired lounge and a restaurant that will just have to do, given there’s not much else around!

Stay / Eidfjord Fjell & Fjord Hotel, Eidfjord

Travel / 3 hours, 45 minutes: Bergen – Eidfjord – Kjeåsen – Voringfossen – Hardangervidda – Eidfjord


This morning, the drive to Gudvangen, on the western edge of Nærøyfjord, was one of our favourites in Norway. We opted for the scenic twisting route through Ulvik and up over the mountains, instead of through the tunnel. It was a beautifully atmospheric drive as the early morning fog came and went, offering glimpses of the dramatic mountains surrounding us.

As you approach Gudvangen, exit at Stalheim for a brief stop, and sneak into the hotel to get your first glimpse of Nærøyfjord from above. The views of Eidfjord will almost look dull and boring in contrast to Nærøyfjord, a sleek 18km long branch of the world’s second longest, and Iceland’s largest, fjord – Sognefjord. The sides of this UNESCO-listed fjord are a mere 250m wide in some places and on a rainy day, waterfalls cascade over the almost vertical 1400-metre cliffs. But by far the best way to see Nærøyfjord is from its waters.

We booked a half-day kayaking tour with Nordic Adventures which started at 1 pm from the kayaking base at Gudvangen and was a highlight of our 10-Day Norway Itinerary. The tour was well run by experienced guides providing interesting facts about the fjord and there’s a stop for lunch on a bank by the fjord.

The tour takes 4 hours, and even with tired arms by the end of it, you’ll fall in love with this country and its amazing setting. After drying off, head to Flåm, around 20 minutes away, for the night.

Stay / Flåmsbrygga Hotel, Flam

Travel / 2 hours, 30 minutes: Eidfjord – Gudvangen – Flåm


Wake up this morning in beautiful Flam and take teh Flam Railway. This train journey, considered one of the steepest in the world with a gradient of 5.5%, is regularly cited as one of the best train journeys in the world.

After the train journey, take the stunning Aurlandsvegen (Snow Road) to Laerdalsoyri via the Stegastein Observation Deck. This modern construction is a sight in itself, but stepping onto its glass platform will be the true test of your nerve. Next, head up to Øvre Ardal and finally across the high mountain pass to Turtagrø – a summer-only activity as the road is closed in winter – and feel the remoteness of this landscape creep up on you as you wind your way over this hair-raising road.

We stayed at the Turtagrø Hotel, a fantastic modern hiking hotel with great views of the mountains right from your bedroom. You might have time for a quick late afternoon hike from the hotel to experience the rugged, remote, refreshing qualities of this place – vastly different from where you were last night.

Stay / Turtagrø Hotel, Turtagrø

Travel / 2 hours, 45 minutes


Hotel Turtagrø is in a fantastic location and extremely well set up for hiking. They have maps and descriptions of all the walks in the area and the staff are very helpful. For a small fee, they will let you raid the breakfast bar to create a make-your-own lunch to take out on your hike.

Their showcase walk is the hike up to Fannaråki Hut; at 2068m it’s the highest mountain hut in Norway offering spectacular views across the West-Jotunheimen Range. Alternatively, for something less vertical, take the circular walk to Styggebreen Glacier to witness this brooding icy vista. Or maybe head up to Nedre Dyrhaug, a nice easy walk where you can leave your mark by signing the book at the top.

Because all the walks leave from the front of the hotel, you’ll have time to come back and warm up with a late afternoon coffee before setting off again on another path.

Dinner at the hotel is a dorm-style festival with sharing plates scattered across large tables. There are no decisions to be made as it’s “chef’s choice.”

Stay / Turtagrø Hotel, Turtagrø


Continue your 10-day Norway itinerary with a drive across the roof of Europe on the Sognefjellet National Route. Some discipline will be required on this drive otherwise you’ll be stopping every 5 minutes to take photos. Your destination today is Geiranger, yet another UNESCO-protected fjord with sheer cliffs, impressive waterfalls and staggeringly good views.

On your way, stop off at Lom Stave Church, one of the largest of its kind in Norway. Built in the middle of the 12th century, it’s still got a golden glow and is worth a quick stop.

As you approach Geiranger, take the turn up to Dalsnibba Viewpoint and after a sequence of hairpin turns you arrive at the Geiranger Skywalk. This magnificent glass viewing platform sits 1500 metres above the stunning fjord below, and peering through the clouds provides amazing photo opportunities.

Once in Geiranger, head for the boat terminal and take the Geiranger Fjordservice sightseeing boat out on the fjord to do the Skageflå Farm hike.

In the evening, have a stroll around cute Geiranger and find a local restaurant for dinner.

Stay / Hotel Union, Stranda

Travel / 3 hours: Turtagrø to Geiranger


For your last day on your 10-day Norway road trip itinerary, drive from Geiranger to picturesque Ålesund (2 hours, 15 minutes) before your flight home. After a stroll around town, take the 418 steps up to the Aksla Viewpoint. Apparently, the midway point, Byrampen, is the official spot for a selfie.

After collecting your best shots of the famous colourful houses, grab lunch by choosing from the great selection of fresh salads and sandwiches at Invit Espressobar before washing it down with their fine coffee.

The drive to Ålesund airport is 20 minutes from the city.

Norway Itinerary Ålesund Aksla


A place like Norway is best experienced on your own wheels. So, for this 10-day Norway itinerary, you will need to hire a car. The road network in Norway is excellent and the view from the window stunning. Hiring a car, like everything else in Norway, is not cheap. Fortunately hiking and exploring much of Norway’s majestic scenery is completely free.

For this itinerary, you will need to pick up the car in Stavanger airport and drop it off at Alesund airport.


The below map contains all the stops on our 10-day Norway road trip to help you map your own trip.

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


Norway can be a cold and very wet destination. Any trip here risks bad weather. We went on our 10-day Norway itinerary in August, had a couple of days of almost solid rain and many days with cloud. If you enjoy hiking and outdoor activities then the best time to come for long days and warmer weather is May to September.

But September is peak rainfall in Fjordland, so early summer is better. The crowds are lower in May/June than July/August, although some tourist attractions will only just be opening in May.

All in all, June or early July is probably best.


01 – Fly into Stavanger and out of Ålesund, coughing up the extra hire car fees for the different location. Stavanger & Ålesund both have international airports connecting to a number of countries, as well as car rental facilities.

02 – The ferries in Norway are easy and frequent. There is no need to book tickets in advance, however, you do need to check timetables as some only depart every 40 minutes.

03 – Book the Glacier Walking Tour in Folgefonna National Park and the Kayak trip with Nordic Adventures a few days in advance, once you have an idea of the weather conditions.

04 – In some of the locations, there was no choice other than eating in the hotel. Generally, the food is very good but vegetarians and vegans should let the hotel know in advance.

05 – Norway is green and lush for a reason, it rains a lot, so it’s a good idea to allow some flexibility to do things in either the morning or the afternoon.

06 – This itinerary may seem to include a lot of driving, but the roads are very good and the view are always great. Driving times listed in the itinerary exclude time for food and photo breaks, so these need to be factored in.


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Norway road trip itinerary

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