Inspired by the astonishes thrown up in our weekly A great little place I know sequence, we requested the authors and adventurers to share their best finding of the year

Dunhuang , Gansu Province, China

Peter Frankopan, historian and author
The nature of 2016 is not all destiny and gloomines. In Asia, things are changing rapidly as the Silk Roads rise again. In September, I was in north-west China, in Dunhuang, between the Gobi and the Taklamakan deserts, on the southern Silk Road. The city is an oasis, the last stop, exiting west, before roughly 1,000 km of sand, and near the Mogao caves, a Buddhist complex founded in the fourth century.

My favourite spot is in the desert, above crescent-shaped Yueyaquan lake. The excellent considers are at sunup from the highest level of a series of metal ladders pinned into the steep dunes. As you look down to the lake and city, you feel the heat and repression of the desert behind you. Ending to pate west required finding, commitment and gallantry. As brand-new connects are woven across Asia, it difficult not to feel awed by how easy it is to travel today and how difficult it formerly was. It is like the present working see the past, and brushing against the future.
Peter Frankopans The Silk Roads: A New History of the World issued by Bloomsbury . To order a imitation for 24.60 including UK p& p see legal guardians bookshop

Six Depot Roastery and Cafe , West Stockbridge, Massachusetts, US

Mark Vanhoenacker, pilot and writer

Photograph: Mark R Jones

In the late 1990 s, on a weekend break in Copenhagen, some pals and I stopped at a cafe and prescribed what proving to be best available sandwich Id ever had: a splendid, open-faced, pesto-laden creation that I would talk about continuously. Years afterwards, when I became an airline pilot and had the chance to return to Copenhagen often, I spent evenings ambling the city, but I could not find that cafe again.

This past August, though, I came across a sandwich thats just as good at Six Depot Roastery and Cafe in West Stockbridge, a classic New England village in the Berkshires, the Massachusetts area where I grew up.

As a long-haul pilot whose main please is coffee, I can report that Six Depot, which opened in 2013, is one of my favourite cafes in the world. An armchair caffeinator could waste weeks exploring the menu of beans curated by proprietors Lisa Landry and Flavio Lichtenthal, while the venue itself, a modern adaptation of an old-fashioned railway station that likewise acts as an art gallery and live music venue, is exhaustively New England. And the sandwich? Its a panino announced Chicken Mechado. The chicken is seared, braised and attracted, then stifled in something called Miami salsa yoghurt, batch, coriander and a few other parts. This glorious sandwich is something to tell all your friends about.
Mark Vanhoenacker operates Boeing 747 s for British Airways. He is the author of Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot. To prescribe a reproduce for 13.93 including UK p& p inspect the guardian bookshop

Cmara Oscura, Cdiz, Spain

Katharine Norbury, columnist

Panoramic view of Cdiz. Image: Alamy

In Cdiz the streets are long and narrow. The building of the city acts as a monstrous cooling system that pours Atlantic breaths through shadowed streets in a triumph of civil engineering. The municipality is full of jewels, though discovering them can be a hit and miss liaison. But in 1994, Spains first camera obscura was erected on top of a former watchtower, the Torre Tavira. When I saw a stream of Brownie steers with backpacks tripping down the steps of a white-painted building, I knew Id found it.

Inside, the tower was chill and airy. A small-scale group of us were heralded into a dark chamber at the top a written notice advised Silencio. We knotted around a large white-painted container, its edges discoloured with the gray-headed blush of fingerprints. Our guidebook extinguished the daylight and began to open the shutter, rotating the lens with a brass handle.

People the size of ants suddenly swarmed across the concave skin-deep. I reached out my hands and the ant-people clambered over my fingers. A lady cycled past Roman wreckings and a receptacle ship floated into the conceal. Two summer-flowering South American magnolia trees attested to the citys colonial past. Then it was over. Outside, on the ceiling, I picked out the Roman breaks and the surfaces of the magnolia trees. And armed with this new view, I returned to Cadizs shadowed streets.
Katharine Norbury is writer of The Fish Ladder: A Journey Upstream( Bloomsbury, 9.99 ). To ordering a photocopy for 8.19 including UK p& p inspect the guardian bookshop

Dhara Dhevi Hotel , Chiang Mai, Thailand

Steve McCurry , photographer

Dhara Dhevi Hotel. Picture: Steve McCurry

The Dhara Dhevi is the kind of plaza you could waste a few weeks in and never feel the need to leave the grounds. I have wasted many hours exploring its classical Thai architecture, exotic trees and labouring rice paddies. Ive always had a fury for art and Buddhist iconography from south-east Asia, and the Dhara Dhevis collection is museum-quality. I ascertained it fascinating that this project was the eyesight of one humankind, Suchet Pom Suwanmongkol, who is as cozy hanging out with the employees who improved the inn, as he is with the royalty who frequent it.

Photograph: Steve McCurry

On one call, I fell asleep under a tree and woke to the feeling of something nuzzling my leg. To my amaze, it was a small horse, the size of a St Bernard dog. At first, I conceived I was still fantasy, and then I appreciated several more of these tiny horses grazing in the distance. It was surreal, but not really unexpected in a target that is so amazing it feels like you are staying in a dream.

Dancing in the Zcalo , Veracruz, Mexico

Kevin Rushby, Guardian walk columnist

Photograph: Kevin Rushby for the Guardian
For many years, Veracruz was a city parties evaded mob warfare rarely allures the right kind of guest. But with
governor Javier Duarte extended, there is hope that the bad times are over. If they are, travellers are in for a plow. This magnificent city desires to defendant. Every weekend the Zcalo( center square) hums with work. Around the peripheries, strolling mariachi, norteo and marimba bands rival to entertain cafe-goers, while in service centres, dancers gyrate to local danzn bands. A cheerful potpourrus of hustlers, fortune-tellers and street vendors work through the crowds. Wares might include lung-buster cigars, mouth-blasting chilli snacks and, most bizarrely, electric shocks to fry your digits. The idea be conducted by two electrodes until the suffering is unbearable and pay for its own experience. The polite repudiation is ahorita !, meaning in a minute. The dealers know that actually symbolizes never.

Around the reces on Callejon de la Campana, the dancing is several positions hotter. Few would dare start to learn Latin dance here, but if you do , no one will bat an eyelid. Later, the working party shiftings to the malecn , the conceal wall, and continues till dawn.
Sustainable tourism firm Sumak Travel offers tailor-made excursions to Veracruz, and other specific areas of Mexico

Los Islotes , Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico

Steve Backshall, naturalist and TV presenter

Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Just two hours from La Paz in Mexicos Sea of Cortez, Los Islotes is a rocky California sea lion colony, peppered with remaining blue-footed boobies, cormorants and pelicans. The liquids are deep off-color, and carried with tropical fish flutter like butterflies among the blocky stones and through a stunning natural archway. The stars of the display, though, are the sea lions. You need to know a little bit of marine mammal psychology: if you chase after them, theyll treat you with arrogance, but if you figure out what obliges them click, theyll dance with you under sea for hours, pirouetting and prancing around you in an intoxicating aquatic ballet. Los Islotes was a happy detection, built on honeymoon with my wife, Olympic rower Helen Glover. Helen got scuba characterized, and we invested hours diving alongside whale sharks and manta lights, but the sea lions stood out as our finest animal encounter.

Manuelas restaurant , Puyuhuapi, Chile

Karen Darke, paralympic cyclist, adventurer and author

Christmas tree in hamlet of Puyuhuapi, with Manuelas restaurant in the centre. Photo: Karen Darke

The Carretera Austral, the 1,240 km highway through southern Chile, felt like being on a Patagonian woodland roller coaster. Cycling over gravel with the peculiar ecstatic strain of asphalt we were coated in dust and mud, suncream and Vaseline. Our periods were measured in kilometres , not time; 1,240 km seems an excruciatingly long way when the average hastened is just 3km an hour. In the most difficult of the gravel pointed three, we announced it it was quicker to walk.

Does this tempt you to cycles/second the Carretera Austral? It should. Among the gravel and grind were numerous wonders. Everything was supersize: trees contacted for the cloud, depressions yawned wide-ranging and leaves direct darkness big enough to shelter under. And at 370 km on the way south is the village of Puyuhuapi, where the forest is interruption by colourful lumber houses and shops on the edge of a fjord. There, we replenished stomaches and souls with monstrous one section of cod and microchips, bread and salad. At Manuelas there is one set menu, a idea over the smaller shelter and the Christmas tree in the square a reminder in the heated night sunshine that we were in the southern hemisphere.

The Gastrobus , Bantham, Devon

Pat Riddell, editor, National Geographic Traveller( UK )


A winding single-track street leads to the village of Bantham in south Devon. The owned clicked up in 2014 for 11.5 m by a pal of David Cameron after he saw it advertised for sale in the Sunday Times envelops 728 acres in particular the village, beach and estuary. But one of the main attractions in this sleepy part of the South Hams predates the entrance of Nicholas Johnston by two years.

The Gastrobus a laid-back surfers retreat offering locally ribbed coffee, gourmet burgers and hotdogs, freshly broiled bread and cakes, and indulgence ice-creams may not be one of south Devons best-kept secrets, but this summer, Claire Bishops creation experienced the additive of two antique Citroen H vans( together with Wi-Fi, card payments and a licensed bar ), preparing it even more appealing.

The Bakewell slices are one of the best things Ive ever savor. Granted, it lies by one of the UKs finest stretchings of sand, but the Gastrobuss curry nighttimes and acoustic periods make it practically an entertainment in itself.

Running alongside the Atlantic , Porto, Portugal

Katie Parla, Rome-based nutrient writer

Photograph: Alamy

In 2016 I trained for two marathons challenging enough for a person with no natural athletic ability. But when Im on the road, the physical challenge of long-distance moving is enlarged by a lack of reason. On a recent expedition to Porto, I would have much preferred to explore the citys meat and sucks vistum than touched the sidewalk, but I mine deep and get in a good 30 km.

I did a quick Google search and read that Gaia, the sphere on the other side of the Douro from downtown Porto, had a long, safe well-lit course along the ocean. Beginning in the Afruda district and intent near Espinhos golden beaches, the track includes wooden walkways above undulating dunes and paved boulevards with ocean thoughts. There are cafes and restaurants along the way, so when I involved ocean, I could make a speedy stop. I prefer to run at night, so it was pure glee to tour so far afield, safely, in a new city.

Statue at New York Public Library , US

TC Boyle, writer