CULTURE: Step through the heavy wooden doors of the oldest residence in the Americas, the Aliaga House, and admire its collection of intriguing artifacts, not least the sword Jerónimo de Aliaga used in the conquest of Peru. Beneath the baroque basilica of San Francisco, meanwhile, you’ll find the city catacombs, the second biggest in the world.
DINING: Central has been repeatedly ranked Latin America’s best restaurant. Why? Chef Virgilio Martínez’s inspired tasting menu, which takes you on a journey through Peru’s varied terrain and altitudes using unusual ingredients (alpaca heart shavings, for one) plucked from the High Andes to rainforest to coast..
COCKTAILS: Step inside Ayahuasca’s beautifully-restored colonial mansion to sample Pisco-based cocktail creations, with the bar stocking some 50 varieties of this staple Peruvian liquor. Perhaps even more striking is the interior of Orient Express Bar, designed to resemble an old railway car.
SHOPPING: A boutique-lined street in San Isidro, Calle Miguel Dasso is the place to discover Peru’s best up-and-coming designers. But if it’s big brands you’re after, Lima has some excellent malls including state-of-the-art Jockey Plaza and the dramatic cliffside Larcomar.
WHAT’S HOT THIS MONTH: As the last gasp of dry season, September is optimal for embarking on a trek into the Andes, with clear, sunny days maximizing those amazing Andean views, and fewer crowds. This is also prime time for sampling Lima’s surf scene.
CULTURE: It’s easy to see why rural Cyprus’ wooden Orthodox churches have been granted UNESCO World Heritage status: inside, every inch is brightly painted with beautiful murals of saints and angels. Then there’s the fantastical 11th-century castle of St Hilarion, hewn from a craggy peak in the Kyrenia mountains. Step even further back in time at the ancient ruins of Salamis. Monumental columns, marble statues and Roman mosaic baths speak of this city’s former glories.
DINING: Gorge on delicious Cypriot mezze dishes such as stuffed vine leaves, grilled halloumi cheese or smoked eggplant at one of the island’s charming tavernas. In Paphos, Some of the finest include Ta Perix, where you tick off your choices on the order sheet, and father-and-son operation Seven St Georges, which sources veggies from a nearby organic farm.
COCKTAILS: In need of refreshment while wandering the walled Old Town of Nicosia? Stop at Patio Bar for creative cocktails with all the trimmings, surrounded by lively music and a color-changing feature wall.
SHOPPING: The hill village of Léfkara is renowned for gorgeous hand-beaten silver jewelry, while other traditional souvenirs like basketry and ceramics can be bought at regulated prices from Cyprus Handicraft Service.
WHAT’S HOT THIS MONTH: Having produced wine for the past 6,000 years, these islanders know a thing or two about grapes, so get ready to sip the best local vintages at Limassol Wine Festival (runs until Sept. 10). The Cyprus Cultural Foundation also opens the gates to its open-air amphitheater every Thursday for film, music and theater performances.
CULTURE: Imperial glories meet contemporary skyscrapers in the Chinese capital. There’s the awe-inspiring Great Wall snaking across the hills north of town, the sprawling Forbidden City palace complex and the serene Temple of Heaven Park.
DINING: For the ultimate Peking duck, Da Dong is renowned for its slices of succulent meat with crisp golden skin. Chuanban excels in Sichuan food, anointing all sorts of dishes with the famous fiery peppercorns. The most adventurous foodies should sample the stalls at Donghuamen night market – the array of weird and wonderful Chinese snacks include fried scorpions and snake skin.
COCKTAILS: Everything from the bitters to syrups is homemade at sleek craft cocktail spot Apothecary; arrive early to get a spot at the bar and try the signature Bazillionaire, featuring absinthe and rye. Or if you’re a craft beer fan, seek out Slow Boat among Dongcheng District’s alleyways, as despite this rustic taproom’s tiny size it boasts the city’s biggest brew-on-tap range.
SHOPPING: Beijing’s hipsters do their shopping on Wudaoying Hutong, an avenue of independent boutiques, quirky slogan T-shirt designers and vintage stores. You could also scan the shelves at atmospheric, expat-friendly bookshop The Bookworm (grab a whisky at the in-store café while flicking through your purchases) or splurge on Max Mara and Marc Jacobs clothing at Shing Kong dept. store.
WHAT’S HOT THIS MONTH: The Moon Festival illuminates the streets on Sept. 24, a 3000-year-old harvest celebration that comprises China’s biggest party after New Year. Join the peaceful crowds under the full moon to light paper lanterns, burn incense, star-gaze and scoff lots of sweet, round moon cakes.
CULTURE: Head out on a countryside truffle hunt with a local guide to learn why Alba’s tartufi bianchi are one of the most prized ingredients on earth, and hopefully unearth some of this ‘white gold’ with the help of a trained dog. Back in town, admire the baroque architectural gems of the Old Town.
DINING: The Slow Food movement – dedicated to preserving traditional cuisine and supporting local producers – started in this very town, so it’s no surprise Bra’s eateries celebrate artisanal Piedmont produce. Family-owned Osteria Boccondivino serves typical delicacies such as tajarin al burro e salvia (tagliatelle-esque pasta with butter and sage) or vitello tonnato (veal in creamy tuna sauce).
COCKTAILS: Sophisticated aperitif options (try the Violet Spritz), great coffee and live jazz make Il Centro a thriving spot for people watching. For a more quaint, old-world backdrop to your glass of Aperol or Barolo, Antico Caffè Boglione has been whetting locals’ whistles since 1847.
SHOPPING: Most of the treats you’ll want to buy in this town will be of the gastronomic variety, such as wedges of Bra Duro cheese from Giolito’s and hazelnut chocolates at Barbero.
WHAT’S HOT THIS MONTH: Around 150,000 fromage lovers will flock to Bra over September 14-18 for the global cheese festival, nibbling their way through guided tastings, markets, dairy visits and workshops. If the idea of an oozing Gorgonzola or sharp, crumbly Grana Padano makes you salivate, this is your nirvana.
CULTURE: You’re guaranteed a wild time at Liwonde National Park, one of Africa’s best spots for a river-based safari thanks to the thriving local population of elephants, hippos and crocodiles. A hike on Mulanje Mountain should also be on the bucket list, ensuring you stop for some tea tasting at the plantations along Thyolo Road.
DINING: The foundation of Malawian cuisine is nsima, a simple maize porridge usually served with vegetable and bean stew, while the street food scene offers tasty morsels like sweet fritters, barbecued meats and cassava chips. If you’re in the capital city of Lilongwe, Ama Khoufi gets the thumbs up for its creative veggie-friendly dishes, including falafels, toasties and guacamole, alongside a gorgeous garden setting.
COCKTAILS: Packaged in a retro bottle, light, silky Malawi Gin has something of a cult following among travelers and is even imported to the U.K. Order it as a ‘MGT’ (aka in gin and tonic form) with a garnish of fresh mango or lime.
SHOPPING: By shopping at thatched workshop Katundu, you’re supporting the single mothers who make these traditional crafts (think: colorful cushion covers and artworks). Carved wooden souvenirs come in all shapes and sizes at Lilongwe’s craft market and African Heritage in Zomba, while Ishq stocks tempting textiles such as linen chemises, hand-woven throws and pashminas.
WHAT’S HOT THIS MONTH: Now in its fifteenth year, Lake of Stars Festival (Sept. 28-30) is a unique mix of local and international musical talent, where a global crowd sways to the beat at a stunning waterfront site. This is also one of the best months for wildlife viewing, as the sparse bush makes animals easier to spot.