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OUR YEAR OF Discovery

2018 has seen our team of writers and photographers visit all four corners of the globe. Here we reflect on the highs and lows in a year of travels – and where we’re excited about going next
PHOTOGRAPHS: JUSTIN FOULKES, JONATHAN GREGSON

OFF-GRID HIKING IN THE BALKANS

Oliver Smith, writer @OliSmithTravel

My travel highlight… was hiking the Peaks of the Balkans trail in the mountains of Kosovo, Albania and Montenegro. I’d never appreciated quite how wild and beautiful this corner of Europe was until paid a visit. It looked like a distant cousin of the Italian Dolomites or perhaps Yosemite Valley, with sheer mountains, meandering rivers and endless alpine meadows. It’s rather remote, so maps for the region aren’t the best researched. More than once found myself standing on a clif-edge scratching my head as my compass pointed over a ledge towards certain death (peaksothebalkans.com).

My low moment… was lying awake at night worrying about bear attacks in the woods of Montenegro, pondering how to defend myself with a walking stick.

In 2019 I am most excited about… visiting Alton Towers theme park, because I’ve still not been on the Smiler.

SCARY MONSTERS IN SWITZERLAND

My travel highlight… was a uniquely terrifying one. Imagine the winter scene of your dreams (snow-laden villages crammed with rickety wooden houses, mountain peaks rising above), then throw in the monsters of your childhood nightmares, and you’ve pretty much got the measure of the Tschäggättä carnival in the Swiss Lötschental.

For several weeks each year (for reasons no one can conidently explain), strange and terrifying creatures stalk the streets of the valley under cover of darkness, attacking anyone in their path. Photographer Jonathan Gregson and I were welcomed into the very heart of the carnival, meeting the carvers who make the participants’ astonishingly elaborate masks and joining a group of Tschäggäs as they prepared for their nightly rampage. Our familarity didn’t prevent the regular monster assaults but, in the end, it all seemed worth it (loetschental.ch).

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Lonely Planet - January 2019
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