Q. What is the best way to get from Morocco to Mali overland? Is there any public transport? We’d be more than happy to travel by chicken bus if there is one.
Irina, via email
A. The journey that you have in mind isn’t possible at this time as the route is very dangerous, and it is also worth being aware that Mali itself has serious safety issues.
There are two overland routes from Morocco to Mali; one involves travelling through Algeria and the other through Mauritania. The British Foreign and Commowealth Office (FCO) advises against travel over the Algerian border with Mali and throughout Mauritania, so neither route is a viable option. Added to this, travel to the northern provinces of Mali is currently advised against by the FCO.
If you are determined to travel to Mali, you could consider flying out of Casablanca (the only Moroccan city with a direct flight to Mali) to Bamako. Bamako is in the small area of Mali that the FCO does not advise against all travel to. However, you should still be aware that there are safety concerns across the entire country.
Register with the Foreign Office’s LOCATE service so that you are contactable in an emergency and continue to consult the FCO’s advice (fco.gov.uk). Also, check with your travel insurance provider that you will be covered before embarking on this trip. You might want to consider other overland routes within Africa or postponing your trip until it is safer.
Q. I’m visiting a friend in Madrid for a few days next spring, and would like to stay on in Spain for about 10 days. With the exception of Barcelona, which I’ve already visited, where do you suggest I go?
Susie, via email
A. Madrid’s location, slap, bang in the middle of the country, makes it a great place to start your exploration of the rest of Spain. My suggestion would be to head north and sample the delights of the Basque region.
Begin in the wine region of La Rioja. Just over 300km from the capital, it feels worlds away from Madrid’s buzzing city life. To break up the journey, stop at Unesco world heritage site Burgos Cathedral for its stunning Gothic architecture. In La Rioja, the old quarter of Laguardia is worth a stroll around and the Bodegas Muga winery in Haro (bodegasmuga.com) is an essential stop for everything you ever wanted to know about wine in this region.
Next, continue north to Bilbao for a spot of culture. Pay homage to the Museo Guggenheim and the less well known (but equally interesting) Museo de Bellas Artes.
Finish up at the pièce de résistance, San Sebastian. With glorious beaches, stunning cuisine and incredible nightlife, it will be a great way to finish your holiday. While in San Sebastian don’t miss out on the delightful traditional snacks (pintxos) in the bars of the old town, Parte Vieja, and be sure to check out Playa de la Concha, one of Europe’s best city beaches.
If staying in Marrakech, an Atlas Mountains trek is highly recommended. I went in March and saw four seasons in one day – we woke up to snow, then hit torrential rain, then the sun began to shine and we ended up swimming in mountain lakes. It was also absolutely mind blowing to see the village children who go to school on the cliffs. I must say the trek is not for the faint-hearted but it’s well worth it, even if your legs collapse beneath you! I hope everyone gets chance to experience the beauty of the Moroccan Atlas Mountains.
Chelsea Vance, via email
Coffee with a view
When visiting Athens, head to the Gallery Cafe, sitting opposite the Ancient Agora (so ancient it first became a public area in 600BC, and could date back to about 3000 BC) in the Greek capital’s oldest neighbourhood. The food is great, and if the weather is good, be sure to pick a table outside. It’s perfect for people-watching with a coffee.
Sacha El-Haj, Essex