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Summer in the Alps

The tradition of the Alpine hut dates back centuries, when farmers spent their summers up in the mountains tending to their grazing animals. Now, visitors to the Swiss Alps can get a taste of that lifestyle. A new website set up by the Swiss tourist board allows visitors to book directly one of the many wooden cabins scattered across the region. For a full Heidi experience, spend your days strolling the hills to the accompaniment of jangling cow bells, and nights in your hut in glorious isolation.

• Rent one of 250 wooden Swiss huts at (from £145 for a week)

SOMETHING TO DECLARE: Motorbikes are the best way to travel

I’ve never thought of myself as a biker. I’m not one of those big hairy blokes who congregate at B-road cafés of a weekend, don’t own a leather jerkin emblazoned with the motto of my local motorcycle club, and would struggle to explain the difference between a two-stroke and four-stroke. But I firmly believe that motorbikes are the best way to travel.

Like intravenous drips, these two-wheeled wonders inject you into places that lumbering four-wheelers can only dream of reaching. I’ve wound my way down narrow tracks in the depths of the Laotian jungle, ducking under trailing bamboo; bumped up steep, rocky mountainsides above the silvery waters of Lake Baikal and woven along muddy paths to remote tribal villages in Arunachal Pradesh.

Even if a four-wheeler could reach these places, where’s the fun in seeing the world from inside a cage? On a bike, for better or worse, you and your environment are one. You can smell the piles of buffalo dung, the wafts of frangipani and the musky mammalian scent that just might be a bear. You can feel the hot desert wind on your face and the cold mountain chill in your hands. Occasionally, on days when monsoon rains have left me wetter than Jacques Cousteau, I’ve fleetingly wished for the nice, warm shelter of an enclosed vehicle. But the post-ride elation, the feeling that I’ve battled with the elements and won, has always made up for the soggy ordeal.

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Lonely Planet - August 2017
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