Over the course of the year, Independent.co.uk's travel writers have been traversing the globe to bring you the latest in travel news, features and advice from all corners.
Bringing together in-depth features from the weekly Traveller magazine and the Sunday travel pages, as well as daily pieces of breaking travel news, Travel on Independent.co.uk is a busy and perpetually advancing section, and this year's most popular articles within it are a fair representation of the scope of coverage by our expert journalists.
The 12 most read are those Travel articles published in 2011 that have been visited by the greatest number of separate users to date.
The list (click the headlines to read articles in full)
1. Overcrowded, overpriced and overrated: welcome to Britain
By Tom Peck, Wednesday 11 May
Not the most optimistic article to get our list going - this story by news reporter Tom Peck looks at Lonely Planet's latest guide to Britain, in which it is less than complimentary of our dear home. As for its popularity, perhaps this story provided readers heading to our travel pages with just the right excuse to be heading on extravagant overseas excursions.
2. Simon Calder: Spanish airport strikes Q&A
By Simon Calder, Wednesday 9 March
Following Spanish airport workers' threats to stage walk-outs from April and through the summer months, readers were understandably eager to know how this could affect their summer holiday plans to one of Europe's most popular destinations for British holidaymakers. Who better to turn to than The Independent's travel guru, Travel Editor-at-Large Simon Calder?
3. The real danger to air passengers is not the ash cloud - it's these men
By Steve Connor, Thursday 26 May
After the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano in 2010 and the havoc it caused for stranded air passengers, Willie Walsh and Michael O'Leary, heads of International Airlines Group and Ryanair, respectively, joined forces in May to criticise the Met Office and aviation authorities' assessment of the risk posed to aircraft by volcanic ash. Here, Science Editor Steve Connor challenges the two airline bosses, claiming they "are guilty of playing to the gallery of public opinion".
4. Ryanair's new fees: £1 for your ticket, £5 for your sandwich – £100 for your bag
By Simon Calder, Saturday 10 December
As an airline famed for its cheap fares, the news that Ryanair will be increasing some of its charges by up to 150 per cent next summer came as quite a shock. Simon Calder lifts the lid on the hidden charges that allow the infamously thrifty airline to keep its fares so low.
5. German spas: the naked truth
By Tristan Rutherford, Wednesday 30 November
The first lengthy feature in the most read list, Tristan Rutherford ditches his trunks and modesty, all in the name of journalistic integrity. Tristan bares all to give us the lowdown on the luxurious thermal spas of Bavaria, and notes, despite the laid-back and liberal attitude of such places, old stereotypes die hard - every poolside lounger is reserved with a towel.
6. BA's richest passengers let in on secret of surviving crashes
By Simon Calder, Monday 3 October
The news that BA would be offering a course on how to survive plane crashes to its Executive Club members, arouse unnecessary anxiety, especially considering the excellent safety record of UK airlines. But Andy Clubb, the BA manager running the course assured Simon Calder it was all about giving passengers more confidence when flying.
7. After decades flying high, Branson hits turbulence
By Simon Calder, Thursday 23 June
In a top 12 dominated by airline news, this story about Virgin Atlantic shows readers' concern at factors that could cause disruption to their journeys. Simon Calder again proves himself as a leading authority on travel, answering readers' questions on how strikes by Virgin staff could affect their travel plans.
8. Video: Airbus reveal 'plane of 2050'
Monday 13 June
Looking more like a short sci-fi film, this CGI mockup of what Airbus say an aircraft cabin will look like in 40 years time drew in viewers with its promise of what future air travellers can expect. With its sliding glass panels, pop-up-displays and seats that mould to your body shape Airbus said the design was all about 'experiencing travel again'.
9. Amsterdam - up in smoke?
By Senay Boztas, Tuesday 10 May
An interesting piece on the plan to ban visitors from smoking in the city's many 'coffee shops,' and the possible ramifications for tourism, told from the point-of-view of Amsterdam resident Senay Boztas. As one of the main experiences drawing people to the city, it may come as a relief to tourists and coffee shop owners alike that the plans have since been shelved.
10. Goodnight to the sleeper train
By Simon Calder, Monday 21 November
Our Travel Editor-at-Large pays tribute to one of the last great travel experiences of our shores, lamenting the likely loss of the Highland Sleeper from London to the northern most points of Scotland. As the route looks to be another victim of the cuts and modern technology strives to get us to our destinations faster, Simon reminds us of a time when travelling was as much about the journey as it was the destination.
11. Pan Am glam? You must be off your trolley...
By Adam Sherwin, Wednesday 16 November
As BBC2 premiered Pan Am, the big-budget US drama about the glamourous life of air hostesses in the 1960s, Adam Sherwin spoke to real-life cabin staff to expose the gritty reality of life in the air. Think less VIP partying with suave pilots, and more low wages, handsy passengers and plenty of complimentary booze-induced vomiting.
12. London to New York in 90 minutes: is this the Concorde of the future?
By John Lichfield, Monday 20 June
The second story in our 12 most read about aircrafts of the future. Does this suggest our readers are not happy with the poor leg room, luke-warm onboard catering and rickety turbulence of our present aeroplanes? Who knows, but like Airbus' prediction, this hypersonic, stratospheric airliner that runs on seaweed certainly grabbed the attention of our readers.
While the above list shows the most read articles of 2011, we asked our editors to nominate their favourite three pieces of the year.
Simon Calder, Travel Editor-at-Large, The Independent
1. Cliffhanger: Mountains of adventure in Bhutan
By Ben Ross, Saturday 17 December
"The strangest destinations demand the very best writers to do them justice. Ben is dazzled by the magnificent landscapes and intrigued by the eccentricities of a country whose key measure is Gross National Happiness. But his sharp mind never wanders from the precarious path of telling a great story with humour and passion. 'If a stay here doesn't enhance your Gross Personal Happiness, then it's possible you have unresolvable existential issues.' The same spirit applies to Ben’s writing."
2. 48 Hours: Lisbon
By Sophie Lam, Saturday 1 October
"Our city-guide series, “48 hours”, is the most formulaic strand we produce: it needs to be, in order to provide readers with everything they need for a great weekend away within the space of a double-page spread. Yet, as Sophie demonstrates with her guide to the Portuguese capital, there is still room for inspirational description, as when taking an aperitif in the Sky Bar: 'The sunset views are breathtaking, encompassing the pink-tinged city as it shelves into Baixa and down towards the Tagus'."
3. How Canyons became the definite article
By Stephen Wood, Saturday 26 March 2011
"'Anyone who wanders down the long, meandering Harmony track towards Iron Mountain will casually turn on to White Water because it looks (on the piste map) like a flattish transition on to another gentle descent.' Stephen Wood is that rare ski writer: someone who (and I trust he forgives me) is better at writing than skiing, and therefore an instant friend for us struggling intermediates. He also has a forensic understanding of this complex industry. Meanwhile, back on that gentle meander: 'Although rated as a blue run, it is as steep as a racing piste as it plunges beneath a road bridge.' Ooh er."
Sophie Lam, Deputy Travel Editor, The Independent
1. A winter's tale in Norway: Explore the wilds of Roald Amundsen's homeland
By Chris Leadbeater, Saturday 10 December 2011
"A sensitive and evocatively-written account of the Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen's homeland. Chris captures Amundsen's arrival at the South Pole eloquently as 'the bittersweet backdrop to the sad tale of Britain's own doomed outrider, Captain Robert Scott, who finally scrambled to the Pole on 17 January 1912, only to find the Norwegian flag fluttering above his life's goal.'"
2. The secret success in Las Vegas? No gambling...
By David Schneider, Saturday 12 November
"The Vegas story has been written countless times, so it's refreshing to read an account that doesn't take it too seriously and by a writer who isn't bamboozled by the sheer hedonism of the place. David (whose drink of choice in BA's First Class cabin is a cranberry juice) recounts, 'Brides are everywhere in Vegas. They're a bit like urban foxes: the first time you see one you're all excited but then gradually you take them for granted.'"
3. France: Raising a glass to Cognac
By Stephen Bayley, Saturday 20 August
"'Angoulême recommended itself to Balzac on account of its suffocatingly small-minded provincialism. Disdainful, disparaging, jealous and miserly: those are words Balzac used to describe the local mentality. As my train pulls off in its direction, I suspect traces remain.' Following the route of 18th-century commis voyageurs, most notably Richard Hennessey, Stephen captures the essence of Cognac. The portrait he paints is both beautiful and brutal and his writing is at once gritty and graceful. "
And looking forward: Alan Cleaver, Online House Hunter: 2012 HOUSING PREDICTIONS