Strangest night: weird and wonderful after-dark adventures

First out of the door, it’s often thought the early riser gets the most out of their trip – exploring a destination in full effect. As the old saying goes, the early bird catches the worm.

But if the thought of a 6am alarm sends shivers down your spine, fear not; night owls needn’t feel their escapades are limited to noisy neon strips or dimly-lit streets devoid of action.

From après-ski antics in the Alps to stalking ghostly creatures on a golf course in Alderney, Lonely Planet staff share some of their most memorable nocturnal capers. Night time is the haunt of the weird and wonderful, so on your next trip lie-in a little and stretch your adventures out after dark.

La Folie Douce, a bar at the top of a 2500m-high slope on the AlpsLive the ‘high life’ at La Folie Douce © JARRY/TRIPELON / Getty Images

‘It’s all downhill from here’ in Val Thorens

I only went to Val Thorens to experience the legendary après-ski, so after an unsuccessful first day of ski lessons I stomped off the slopes vowing never to try again. Much to my dismay though, I learned that the Holy Grail of bars – La Folie Douce – was located in a chalet atop a 2500m-high slope; accessible only by a one-way chair-lift going up, the descent had to be done on skis. My skiing skills didn’t improve much the next day, but I headed up the mountain nonetheless.

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The party was incredible – set among the snow-capped peaks of the Alps – but when the bar closed at dusk, my route home involved tumbling most of the way down the rapidly-icing slope. Then being subtly tandem-skied the remainder of the way by my 6ft3 friend, wearing a bright yellow ski-suit.

Jessica Ryan, Product Editor. Follow her on Instagram @jessimica_ryan.

As night falls over Arequipa the city takes on a new soulAs night falls over Arequipa the city takes on a new soul © Flavio Huamani / Shutterstock

Making memories with Peru’s millionaire elite

Dressed in alpaca jumpers and denim shorts, mildly inebriated and wandering the dimly-lit streets of suburban Arequipa, Peru, neither I nor my travel buddy felt we were on the cusp of a night to remember. That is, until we walked through the doors of an immaculate mansion, directly into the 18th birthday party of a Peruvian millionaire. How we got in, I have struggled for years to recall. I do remember however, that despite our attire, we were welcomed into the party – which featured live music, champagne and professional fire-eaters dotted around a colossal garden.

As the birthday boy wafted about in a dressing gown like a Latino Great Gatsby, I wondered if it was all just a feverish dream, brought about by too much ceviche. But, although the details are sketchy, I’m almost entirely certain it happened. And that, if nothing else, is the sign of a great night.

Emily Frost, Social Communications Coordinator. Follow her on Instagram @frostyem.

Crowds gather to watch the sun set from Piazzale Michelangelo. Little do they know the real show starts once the night is in full effectCrowds gather to watch the sun set from Piazzale Michelangelo. Little do they know the real show is yet to begin… © Dmitry Naumov / Shutterstock

A scenic sunrise over Florence, Italy

Unashamedly, my favoured haunts when it comes to nightlife are cheap bars and soulless nightclubs, which play the same brand of insipid chart music regardless of where you are in the world. One night, however, while walking home from one of Florence’s clubs at four in the morning, some friends and I were shocked to find the 19th-century Piazzale Michelangelo full of people. Couples, young and old, were gathered around a single accordionist, slowly swaying in time to the musician’s soft melody; arms loose around waists and eyes wrinkled by tired smiles.

Beyond the dancers, a panorama of Florence was emerging, with the sun’s first rays crowning the domes of the city’s cathedrals. The scene provided a potent shot of authenticity, and my friends and I stayed to dance until long after sunrise.

Jack Palfrey, Assistant Editor for lonelyplanet.com. Follow his tweets @JPalfers.

Bioluminescent planktonWhen plans go awry, nature finds a way of shining through… © watcherFF / Getty Images

Lost in a trance in Vietnam

With hedonistic intentions, my friend and I hopped on a tiny boat to a beach party on an idyllic Vietnamese island. As the party started, we got chatting to a fellow traveller. Correction: we got chatted at – she was relentless and monotone, yet strangely hypnotic, like the snake Kaa from The Jungle Book. Finally she paused for breath to go to the loo, and we realised we’d been stuck for five hours and only two party-goers remained dancing by the dwindling bonfire.

Determined to improve the night, we went for a walk around the island and, passing a jetty, caught the utterly spectacular sight of bright blue bioluminescent plankton in the ocean. We sat for ages taking in the beauty of nature and our surroundings. It might not have been what we came for, but it was more memorable than any party could have been.

Gemma Graham, Destination Editor for Northern Europe. Follow her tweets @oh_gg.

Dive into the colour and chaos (and traffic) of NYCDive into the colour and chaos (and traffic) of NYC © Kobby Dagan / Shutterstock

An epic all-nighter in the Big Apple

I was visiting the Big Apple with friends and on the first night our host, a native New Yorker, decided to show us exactly why this is known as the city that never sleeps. At sunset she packed the five of us into her mom’s borrowed convertible, and drove us expertly through mad Manhattan traffic to an out-of-the-way Italian that served the best gnocchi I have ever tasted.

Leaving the car in a parking lot so she could partake in the wine being served, she spotted a limo driver, parked up on his break. Five minutes and fifty dollars later she had talked him into taking us for a ride, so we sailed along Fifth Avenue, shrieking with delight out of the sunroof as neon whizzed by.

Next we headed on to Queens, where our friend had another surprise in store: an urban beach. We drank tropical cocktails under fake palm trees while admiring NYC’s unmistakable skyline twinkling in the darkness, full of wonder and excitement for what else the trip (and our in-the-know host) might have in store.

Orla Thomas, Features Editor for Lonely Planet Traveller magazine. Follow her tweets @OrlaThomas.

Alderney's blonde hedgehogHow could you not go in search of such a cute and curious creature? © ECOSTOCK / Shutterstock

Blonde ambition on Alderney

Tough call, but… capering around Alderney’s golf course in hot pursuit of blonde hedgehogs counts as my strangest night-time travel experience. Directed by a local conservationist, my wife and I ran hither and thither in the darkness, our torch beam sweeping the fairways and greens in search of these singular creatures, which prosper on the island.

We found half a dozen of the pale-quilled, pink-eyed little blighters (not difficult – they seem to glow in the beam). Our guide, who monitored their numbers for the Alderney Wildlife Trust, scooped them gently from the dewy turf with a pair of heavy-duty gardening gloves, popped them into a tote bag and weighed them with a hand scale before restoring their liberty.

A rare genetic condition called leucism gives the hedgehogs their ghostly look, which would be a problem but for the absence of natural predators on Alderney – after all, it’s hard to hide from a fox or a badger when you glow.

James Kay, Editor for lonelyplanet.com. Follow his tweets @jameskay123.

Pizza from MilanThe classics are classics for a reason… © CRAFT24 / Shutterstock

Getting a taste of Italy’s la dolce vita

I finally made it to Italy after a lifelong love affair from afar. I was so happy I got teary just getting off the train at Milan; even the station was stunningly beautiful to this wide-eyed Australian. That night we hooked up with some locals over aperitivo and drinks then went to a recording studio to watch them practise over more drinks. Next we piled into tiny Fiats and whizzed across town for pizza. Our new best friend triple parked, basically blocking the street, while we ate. I couldn’t believe the chutzpah but apparently this was perfectly normal behaviour.

Finally sometime after midnight on the dancefloor of a club, one of the group decided we ought to kiss despite my husband being nearby, ‘I know he’s there, but… this is real life,’ he said. I was flattered of course, but declined with my best Italian, ‘No, grazie’. Whether it seems cliche, Italy delivered on all of my quintessential expectations – and much more.

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