Features // Discovery

Painting the town red at La Tomatina in Spain
Painting the town red at La Tomatina in Spain

On the last Wednesday of every August, 130,000 kilos of over-ripe tomatoes are hurled around the alleyways of Buñol until the tiny town’s streets are ankle deep in squelching fruit. What started in the 1940s as an impromptu food fight between friends has turned into one of the most bizarre and downright infantile fiestas on…

Things not to miss in India
Things not to miss in India

From the white, snowy tops of the Himalayas, to the greenery of Kerala and then the sands of Goa, India is a hugely diverse, intense but addictive country. It has deserts, rainforests, rural settlements and big cosmopolitan cities – some will love it, and a few will hate it, but with such variety there is…

Seven days in the warm heart of Africa
Seven days in the warm heart of Africa

Of all the sights, sounds and sensations stamped in my mind from my week in Malawi, one stands out above all others: Everlasting’s laugh. Our brilliantly-named driver was guide, companion and entertainer over several hours and countless bumpy miles around this sliver of sub-Saharan Africa, and his protracted guffaws were a law unto themselves. Oscillating…

Yorkshire’s overlooked oddities
Yorkshire’s overlooked oddities

Yorkshire boasts a wealth of big-hitting tourist attractions, but hidden away there are a few entertaining oddities which would be a shame to miss. Here, in no particular order, are ten of the best. The Teapottery Housed on an industrial estate just outside Leyburn, the Teapottery calls itself, with justification, the “home of eccentric teapots”.…

Blazing a trail at Dana Nature Reserve, Jordan
Blazing a trail at Dana Nature Reserve, Jordan

When you think of eco-friendly travel, the Middle East might not immediately spring to mind. In environmental terms, the region is a disaster, characterized by a general lack of awareness of the issues and poor – if any – legislative safeguards. But Jordan is quietly working wonders, and the impact in recent years of the…

Trekking in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica
Trekking in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

The road to Corcovado National Park was once paved with gold – lots of gold – and although most of it was carried off by the Diqui Indians, miners still pan here illegally. These days, though, it’s just an unpaved track that fords half a dozen rivers during the bone-rattling two-hour ride from the nearest…

Schloss Neuschwanstein – the fairy-tale castle
Schloss Neuschwanstein – the fairy-tale castle

If you could only visit one castle in the world, then Schloss Neuschwanstein must be it. Boldly perched on a rocky outcrop high above the Bavarian village of Hohenschwangau, the schloss lords it over some of the most spectacular countryside in the country. It looks every bit the storybook castle, a forest of capped grey…

What exactly was Machu Picchu?
What exactly was Machu Picchu?

Mark Adams, author of Turn Right at Machu Picchu, uncovers the myths and mystery around the spellbinding Peruvian landmark. This year, around a million visitors will make the epic journey to Machu Picchu – an odyssey that for most people entails a long flight to Lima, a second flight to Cusco, and then a three-and-a-half…

Taking in the views on the Tongariro Crossing
Taking in the views on the Tongariro Crossing

Alpine tundra, barren volcanic craters, steaming springs and iridescent lakes – the sheer diversity on the Tongariro Crossing makes it probably the best one-day tramp in the country. The wonderfully long views are unimpeded by the dense bush that crowds most New Zealand tracks, and from the highest point you can look out over almost…

Heading into deepest mafia country, Italy
Heading into deepest mafia country, Italy

The deep south, toe-end region of Aspromonte is still considered by many Italians to be out of bounds. For it is here, among the thick forests, crenellated mountain peaks and tumbledown villages, that the n’drangheta, or Calabrian mafia, based their empire until the 1990s. The organisation had its origins in landless nineteenth-century peasant workers who…

Three magical days on the Rota Vicentina
Three magical days on the Rota Vicentina

Neil McQuillian explores a new network of trails in Portugal My ankle rolled to the side and I tumbled over. Our guide, José Granja, came across to check I was OK. “You know, you need to taste the floor,” he said, peering at me as we set off again. “I fell off my bike once,…

9 tourist board campaigns that will give you itchy feet
9 tourist board campaigns that will give you itchy feet

Tourist boards around the world are constantly trying to outdo each other as they try to sell their destination to the rest of the world. Some efforts can be cheesy, but others are downright sensational. After all, no one knows the place better. Here, we’ve picked nine of the most inspiring tourism campaigns. Get your…

14 things everyone learns on their first backpacking trip
14 things everyone learns on their first backpacking trip

Travelling is about education: learning about the world, yourself and life in general. The lessons are endless no matter where you are in the world, so if you’ve ever been backpacking, you’ll know what we’re talking about. Here are fourteen things every backpacker learns on their first jaunt around the world: 1. You need less stuff…

The Taj by moonlight, India
The Taj by moonlight, India

When it comes to viewing the Taj Mahal, there isn’t really an unflattering angle or wrong kind of weather. Even the Dickensian smog that can roll off the Jamuna River in midwinter only serves to heighten the mystique of the mausoleum’s familiar contours. The monsoon rains and grey skies of August also cast their spell;…

Conquering Mount Olympus, Greece
Conquering Mount Olympus, Greece

Work off that moussaka with a hike up the most monumental of the Greek mountains – Mount Olympus. Soaring to 2920m, the mountain is swathed in mysticism and majesty, mainly due to its reputation as the home of the Ancient Greek gods. Reaching the peak isn’t something you can achieve in an afternoon – you’ll…

Travel Bucket List – Your Picks
Travel Bucket List – Your Picks

To celebrate the re-launch of the Rough Guides website, we asked some of our writers and editors – plus a few travel personalities from Ben Fogle to Simon Reeve – to nominate their pick for our multimedia travel bucket list. They came back with some inspiring tips, from swimming with manatees to volcano-boarding and sleeping…

Exploring the Brecon Beacons in a Twizy: An Eco Tour
Exploring the Brecon Beacons in a Twizy: An Eco Tour

A new green initiative has been launched in the Brecon Beacons. The Eco Travel Network was established by local researchers and business owners to offer a pool of electric vehicles to visitors who want to explore the region while keeping their carbon footprint low. These Renault Twizys carry two people and run on batteries that can be…

Five unmissable sights on easter island
Five unmissable sights on easter island

Easter Island is one of the remotest places on Earth – its nearest inhabited neighbour, Pitcairn Island, is 2250km away in the South Pacific Ocean – and is less than half the size of the Isle of Wight. Despite its diminutive size, this triangle-shaped island (known locally as Rapa Nui) is packed with truly unique…

Discovering the delights of a ryokan in Japan
Discovering the delights of a ryokan in Japan

Sofia Levin discovers tradition and tranquility in rural Japan Lush rice paddies morphed into a thick forest of bamboo and cedar trees as our train climbed steeper. Plants clung desperately to the side of the mountain and small waterfalls trickled down every crevice. At the end of the line, a funicular heaved us up the…

On the Trail of Bruce Chatwin In Patagonia
On the Trail of Bruce Chatwin In Patagonia

The Polish woman grins as the car ferry to Tierra del Fuego crashes over the Magellan Strait. The bus groans and moves very slightly forward, grazing the truck in front of us. I grip my chair. She waves a book at me. “Have you read our excellent Podróże Marzeń guide to Chile?” She smiles again…

Taiwan: A Traveller’s Movie Guide
Taiwan: A Traveller’s Movie Guide

Taiwan’s small but creative movie industry has been experiencing something of a renaissance in recent years. This selection – mostly recent films – should help you get under the skin of the island’s dynamic and complex culture. Aficionados should also check out the movies of two Taiwan legends: Hou Hsaio-Hsien and Tsai Ming-liang. Groundbreaker Hou…

Dodging danger among the stunning national parks of Honduras
Dodging danger among the stunning national parks of Honduras

Among the chaos and danger of drug wars and organised crime Honduras can be a surprisingly beautiful and tranquil country. Shafik Meghji explored one of the country’s northern national parks on foot. “There are sometimes drug gangs in the park, but not in this part,” said my guide Jorge Salaverri, as our beat-up Jeep bumped…

Why you should visit Southern Brazil
Why you should visit Southern Brazil

Brazil’s booming southern states – Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul – are often strangely absent on tourist itineraries of the country. The cities of Curitiba and Porto Alegre will host 2014 FIFA World Cup matches, and the region is already a huge draw for Brazilian, Argentine and Uruguayan tourists. Yet it can…

Getting the inside track on Hanoi
Getting the inside track on Hanoi

The best way to explore Vietnam’s beguiling capital is to get a local to give you the inside track, says Alex Whittleton. I arrived at my hotel in Hanoi’s brash and beautiful old town in a state of bleary-eyed excitement. My flight had been long and sleepless, but I’d just had one of the most entertaining taxi rides of…

Heart of stone: losing yourself in deepest Iberia
Heart of stone: losing yourself in deepest Iberia

The Beira Baixa is a land of burning plains and granite visions, isolated in one of the most remote corners of Western Europe, where the Spanish border blurs under a broiling sun. Here, if you search hard enough, you’ll find at least two of the most startling medieval villages in Europe: Monsanto – Mon Sanctus…

The world’s most intense storms, Venezuela
The world’s most intense storms, Venezuela

Every night on Lake Maracaibo the clouds gather to perform the world’s most intense storms. Thunder and lightning crash about in the skies as residents of the local villages, built on stilts, sleep peacefully in their shacks. Alasdair Baverstock went to investigate. The towering thunderclouds that had been swelling upwards into the enormous skies were…

In the footsteps of Gabriel García Márquez: a tour of Colombia
In the footsteps of Gabriel García Márquez: a tour of Colombia

Following in the footsteps of legendary author Gabriel García Márquez, James Rice takes us on a literary tour of Colombia. Gabriel García Márquez, the acclaimed Colombian novelist who died in April 2014, never considered his stories as magical as others supposed. Amused that he was always praised for his inventiveness, he once said: “The truth…

18 facts you didn’t know about Thailand
18 facts you didn’t know about Thailand

Sixteen million tourists fly into Thailand each year, and despite the influx of visitors, this country’s cultural integrity remains relatively intact. From the idyllic islands to the bustling cities, there are 77 provinces housing 63 million people across mountains – so if you’re thinking about visiting, why not clue up on a few of these…

Meeting the monarch butterflies in Michoacan
Meeting the monarch butterflies in Michoacan

Early morning in the mountains of Michoacán. There’s a stillness in the wooded glades and a delicate scent of piny resin in the air. Mostly oyamel firs, the trees are oddly coated in a scrunched orange blanket – some kind of fungus? Diseased bark? Then the sun breaks through the mist and thousands of butterflies…

Staten Island – The Forgotten Borough?
Staten Island – The Forgotten Borough?

The free ride across the harbour to Staten Island is one of the highlights of any visit to New York City, but is there any point in getting off the ferry? Culturally Staten Island has more in common with suburban New Jersey than with the other four New York boroughs – and with parts of…

A day at The Eden Project, Cornwall
A day at The Eden Project, Cornwall

Home to over a million plants and more than five thousand different species from around the world, the iconic “biomes” (gigantic greenhouses) at the Eden Project are the focus of the UK’s premier green attraction. Built on the site of a former clay quarry, the Rainforest Biome houses plants from tropical islands, Malaysia, West Africa…

Everest: the hard way, Nepal
Everest: the hard way, Nepal

By the time you’re halfway up the notorious Lamjura Pass – which rises in one lung-busting, 2km-high staircase of green, terraced hillside from steamy river to airy ridge – you’ll be asking yourself why. Why did I ever think of walking to Everest Base Camp? Why did I carry so much stuff? And why did I not fly…

Get blown away by the Great Wall, China
Get blown away by the Great Wall, China

The Great Wall is one of those sights that you’ve seen and heard so much about that you know reality is going to have a tough time living up to the hype. But having made it all the way to Beijing, it seems perverse to ignore this overblown landmark, so arm yourself with a thermos…

Best places to visit in July
Best places to visit in July

July doesn’t have to mean fighting for space on packed European beaches, dodging flocks of school children and gritting your teeth at peak prices. Winter in the southern hemisphere promises cheap flights and fantastic skiing, while elsewhere July is packed with unusual festivals, wild celebrations and some of nature’s most spectacular events, giving you a…

Florida at 500: ten historic highlights
Florida at 500: ten historic highlights

Five hundred years ago, grizzled Spanish conquistador Ponce de León became the first European to set eyes on (what he called) La Florida, the “Land of Flowers”, though Spanish colonization didn’t get going until 1565, with the foundation of the city of St Augustine. Today the place is part historic theme park, part memorial to…

Exploring Quichua culture in Ecuador’s highlands
Exploring Quichua culture in Ecuador’s highlands

You’re at an altitude of 3900m, shivering in the cold as the sun rises behind you. Below, a saw-edge precipice encircles a still, emerald-green lake 3km in diameter. Lower still, fertile plateaus creased with deep, shadowed valleys are picked out by the golden dawn light and, beyond, snow-capped peaks fringe the horizon. This is the…

Navigating Portugal’s Lake Alqueva
Navigating Portugal’s Lake Alqueva

Equipped with her compass, Helen Abramson goes treasure hunting on manmade Lake Alqueva and discovers the joys of GPS during a geocaching adventure. On the map, Lake Alqueva appears as a fierce artery, stretching out into countless capillaries offering countless opportunities to get lost. I feel prepared though; I’ve brought my compass. I’ll be staying…

The best places to visit in April
The best places to visit in April

April is a fantastic month to travel. Spring in the northern hemisphere brings warmer weather, making it an excellent time to soak up the early sun in Marrakesh or take in the rhododendron displays in Sikkim. Over in Australia you can visit Uluru without the crowds, while California’s Coachella festival and Austria’s Snowbombing  provide partying aplenty.…

On the road again – travel thoughts from Simon Reeve
On the road again – travel thoughts from Simon Reeve

Bestselling author, TV presenter and insatiable traveller, Simon Reeve has visited more than 110 countries in his time. Drawn to far-flung, mysterious and often troubled places, he is an expert at chronicling the lives of the people he encounters along the way. He is best known for the BBC series Tropic of Capricorn, Tropic of…

The tale of St John of Nepomuk, Czech Republic
The tale of St John of Nepomuk, Czech Republic

As you shuffle along with your fellow tourists round the chancel of Prague’s main cathedral, there’s not a lot to see beyond the remains of a few medieval Czech kings with unpronounceable names – Břetislav, Spytihněv, Bořivoj. That is, until you find your way virtually barred by a giant silver tomb, which looks for all the world as…

23 things you never knew about Japan
23 things you never knew about Japan

This collection of islands has fascinated travellers since Japan picked itself up from World War defeat, and became one of the leading economic and technological centres of the world. Ancient gods and traditional customs sit side by side with cutting edge technologies and trendy pop culture, and there is always something new to learn about…

Cycling in the Dutch countryside
Cycling in the Dutch countryside

If you like the idea of cycling, but would rather cut off both arms and legs than bike up a mountain, then perhaps The Netherlands is the perfect place for you – especially if you’re also scared of traffic. The most cycle-friendly country in the world, Holland has a fantastically well-integrated network of cycle paths…

Exploring the Brecon Beacons in a Twizy: a foodie’s tour
Exploring the Brecon Beacons in a Twizy: a foodie’s tour

A new green initiative has been launched in the Brecon Beacons. The Eco Travel Network was established by local researchers and business owners to offer a pool of electric vehicles to visitors who want to explore the region while keeping their carbon footprint low. These Renault Twizys carry two people and run on batteries that…

Twenty places to make you feel insignificant
Twenty places to make you feel insignificant

French novelist Gustave Flaubert once said: “Travelling makes one modest – you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world”. With this in mind, here are twenty daunting and spectacular places around the world that might make you feel a little small. Easter Island, Chile A trip to see Easter Island’s moai lined up on…

Behold the northern lights, Sweden
Behold the northern lights, Sweden

They appear as shimmering arcs and waves of light, often blue or green in colour, which seem to sweep their way across the dark skies. During the darkest months of the year, the northern lights, or aurora borealis, are visible in the night sky all across northern Sweden. Until you see the light displays yourself,…

Browsing English veg in the Asian hills, Sri Lanka
Browsing English veg in the Asian hills, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has many unexpected sights, but few are as surreal as early morning in Haputale. As dawn breaks, the mists that blanket the town for much of the year slowly dissipate, revealing the huddled shapes of dark-skinned Tamils, insulated against the cold in woolly hats and padded jackets, hawking great bundles of English vegetables…

Airbnb: ten unusual places to stay
Airbnb: ten unusual places to stay

Tired of the usual bed-in-a-box hotel rooms? As Airbnb takes over the world we had a rummage for some unusual places to stay listed on the site. Owl house, Merseyside, UK  If you like owls, you’d be wise to check out this bird-like bolthole just outside Liverpool. Built at the bottom of a garden, the eco-friendly cabin has…

Snapshot: Myanmar (Burma) Highlights
Snapshot: Myanmar (Burma) Highlights

Myanmar (Burma) is a beautiful and culturally rich country, but has been cursed for decades with a brutally oppressive regime. Now, following the softening and then removal of the 15-year-long tourism boycott, tourist numbers have swollen. This is a fascinating time to discover Myanmar’s temples, rice fields, and mountains, and meet the people eager to…

Boda boda tours: getting under the surface of Uganda’s capital
Boda boda tours: getting under the surface of Uganda’s capital

There’s only one way to avoid the traffic-burdened streets of Uganda’s capital, Kampala: hop on the back of a boda boda, the city’s motorcycle taxi. The motorbikes got their name from the slang term “border border”, because back in the 1960s and 70s people took motorcycle taxis as a fast, and inexpensive way to cross…

Unravelling the mysteries of the Baekje dynasty in Korea
Unravelling the mysteries of the Baekje dynasty in Korea

Bar those with a fair knowledge of Korean history, few have ever heard of the kingdom of Baekje. Though long swallowed up by the sands of time, this ancient dynasty was one of East Asia’s cultural high-water marks, and its influence can still be felt today: their rulers introduced Buddhism to both Korea and Japan,…

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