Features // Discovery

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…

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…

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…

Mike Spencer Bown: most travelled man retires
Mike Spencer Bown: most travelled man retires

Twenty-three years, 195 countries and a single rucksack: that’s what it takes to complete a travel bucket list. We’ve all got one and most of us probably won’t be able to complete it; there are just too many incredible sights in the world. But one man has ticked of his entire list, so we called…

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…

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. Here…

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…

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…

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…

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,…

Ten reasons why you should visit Lviv, Ukraine
Ten reasons why you should visit Lviv, Ukraine

Home to a burgeoning café scene and an ever-growing stock of backpacker hostels, the western Ukrainian city of Lviv (Львів) represents the country at its most tourist-friendly. A top pick in Rough Guides’ top ten cities for 2014 list, it’s certainly the Ukraine’s biggest surprise, a former outpost of the Habsburg Empire whose elegance and charm will challenge…

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,…

Arrivals: a travel news round up (September 16)
Arrivals: a travel news round up (September 16)

Rough Guides writer Steve Vickers casts an eye over the big travel topics and unpicks the top stories of the week. Thousands apply for one-way trip to Mars More than 200,000 people have applied for the chance to help colonise Mars. Just four of the applicants will be picked for the first one-way mission being…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

Top 9 articles for American readers in 2013
Top 9 articles for American readers in 2013

What inspires you to travel? Whether you’re looking to save the world (one eco-lodge at a time), add new destinations to your travel bucket list, or just taste the finest Belgian beers, check out this rundown of our most inspiring ideas for US travelers on RoughGuides.com: 1. Top 20 Belgian beers Beer is big business…

Travelling the Silk Road in Uzbekistan
Travelling the Silk Road in Uzbekistan

While the Chinese stretch of the Silk Road is world famous, the central Asian section is far less travelled but has no less to see. Kiki Deere describes travelling the Silk Road in Uzbekistan, from post-Soviet Tashkent, through the beautiful blue-tiled city of Samarkand, to unspoilt Bukhara. I peered out of the window of our…

Strange lands: the eternally-burning fires of Central Asia
Strange lands: the eternally-burning fires of Central Asia

In far-off lands, largely undiscovered by travellers today, there are fires eternally burning; some natural and some man-made. These impressive fire craters can be found across Central Asia, fed by the vast oil reserves that lie beneath this region. They’ve featured in both local folklore and Hollywood movies as the entrances to Hell. If you’re…

6 reasons to visit Bogotá: South America’s underrated capital
6 reasons to visit Bogotá: South America’s underrated capital

Polluted, rainy and business-orientated. Let’s face it, a trip to Bogotá hardly sounds appealing. And many travellers don’t bother to probe much further than this bleak reputation, seeing Bogotá either as somewhere to be skipped out altogether, or as merely a logistical blot on a more exciting itinerary. Other Latin American cities such as Buenos…

Santiago out of the shadows
Santiago out of the shadows

New boutique hostels, quirky nightlife and a medley of world cuisines are making Santiago stand out among the crowd of popular Latin American capitals. After spending a long time in the shadows of its more illustrious South American neighbours like Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, Santiago is finally coming into its own. The Chilean…

Biking the Camino de Santiago: cycling for the soul
Biking the Camino de Santiago: cycling for the soul

Traditionally, pilgrimage meant hoofing it, wayfaring the hard way. Yet most Catholic authorities will tell you there’s nothing particularly sinful about making it easier on yourself. You could roughly trace Spain’s Camino de Santiago, or Way of St James, by car … but then taking full advantage of the fringe benefits – discounted accommodation and gorgeous red wine – would…

Camel trekking into the depths of the Danakil Depression, Ethiopia
Camel trekking into the depths of the Danakil Depression, Ethiopia

Following in the footsteps of the late explorer and travel writer Sir Wilfred Thesiger, Rough Guides writer Anthon Jackson takes to the back of a camel across the Danakil Depression, in pursuit of Lake Abhe Bad on the Ethiopia-Djibouti border.  Just after dawn on our fourth day in the dusty frontier town of Asaita, Go’obo,…

Things to do in Ecuador beyond the Galápagos
Things to do in Ecuador beyond the Galápagos

There’s so much more to Ecuador than just the Galápagos. Chitra Ramaswamy went on her own voyage of discovery to find the best things to do in Ecuador, beyond Darwin’s famous islands. The alarm on my mobile phone goes off at 4am. Deep in the heart of Ecuador’s Mindo cloud forest, a fragile wilderness that…

Top 9 destinations for American travelers in 2013
Top 9 destinations for American travelers in 2013

If you’re looking for the latest travel hot-spots, check out the top picks from US readers on RoughGuides.com. From Europe to Asia, the Americas, and Australia, here are the most popular overseas destinations for US travelers: 1. Netherlands No larger than the US state of Maryland, the Netherlands is a surprisingly diverse country for its size.…

17 amazing pictures of Brazil, Bolivia and Peru
17 amazing pictures of Brazil, Bolivia and Peru

Stretching from the warm tropical shores of the Caribbean to the wild and windswept archipelago of Tierra del Fuego, South America has a dizzying treasure trove of landscapes that have long seduced independent travellers seeking an unforgettable experience. Belgian photographer Pascal Mannaerts has been captivated by the continent since he discovered photography during his student years; here is a selection of…

Things to do in Phnom Penh, the underrated capital
Things to do in Phnom Penh, the underrated capital

Many people seem to skip the Cambodian capital and head straight for Siem Reap, fearing Phnom Penh to be a dangerous and uninteresting city. However, on a recent trip to Southeast Asia’s “unpopular capital”, Meera Dattani discovered all that the city has to offer and has concluded that, while its underrated and understated, Phnom Penh…

The best places to go in spring
The best places to go in spring

From the shores of Morocco’s Atlantic coast to the post-Mardi Gras partying in New Orleans, our editors give you their picks for the best places to go in spring time: Cornwall, England Becca Hallett, Editorial Assistant: Cornwall has plenty of activities to help burn off all the delicious seasonal food available, like a wander among…

The World Outgames, Antwerp
The World Outgames, Antwerp

From synchronised swimming to same-sex dancing, the World Outgames is an Olympic-style competition with a difference – it’s one of two sporting competitions held by the world’s gay community. In August Antwerp played host to the third ever World Outgames, and Rough Guides writer Michael Turnbull went along to discover more about the city’s LGBT community. The…

12 tips for backpacking Australia
12 tips for backpacking Australia

Backpacking Australia will almost certainly exceed your expectations. It’s not just that the places you’ll see will be more stunning than you had imagined – from the open, red-tinged landscapes and rich rainforests inland to the immaculate, golden shores. It’s that the country is geared up for good times, whether it’s getting active outdoors in that almost endless…

10 free things to do in Montréal, Canada
10 free things to do in Montréal, Canada

As the largest city in Québec province, there’s plenty to do in Montréal. Fill up on complimentary samples at the Jean-Talon food market and then take advantage of the city’s huge variety of free cultural and outdoor activities, from festivals to art exhibits to tango. Here’s our roundup of the best free things to do…

Arrivals: a travel news round up (Oct 10th)
Arrivals: a travel news round up (Oct 10th)

Rough Guides writer Steve Vickers casts an eye over the big travel topics and unpicks the top stories of the week. First route to the Philippines since 1998 Philippine Airlines is about to open a new route from the UK. The flights, from London Heathrow to Manila, will be the first direct link between the UK…

Great rivers of the world – China’s Yellow River
Great rivers of the world – China’s Yellow River

The Yellow River, or Huang He, is the second longest river in China stretching almost 5500km through nine provinces, making it the sixth longest river in the world. Its nickname, the “Mother River”, is apt as these snaking waters have sustained Chinese civilizations since ancient times. There is an abundance of sights, sounds and smells to experience along the Yellow River’s course, from the thousand-year-old Xiaoji mountainside statues in Bingling, to the collection of…

The best boutique hotels on a budget, Sri Lanka
The best boutique hotels on a budget, Sri Lanka

If you’re looking for a stylish holiday without maxing the plastic, Sri Lanka has a burgeoning number of chic, affordable hotels and B&Bs. Here are some our favourite boutique hotels in Sri Lanka: Casa Heliconia, Kaleliya The new highway from the airport to Colombo makes accessing this idyllic country retreat easier than ever; it takes just…

Cairo through the ages
Cairo through the ages

As visitors slowly return to Egypt after years of political instability and unrest, Keith Drew traces the history of Cairo, the largest city in the Arab world.  Midan Tahrir was strangely peaceful. A handful of tourists milled around waiting for the Egyptian Museum to open its doors for the day. Taxis, trucks and donkey carts…

Find the USA’s best christmas lights display
Find the USA’s best christmas lights display

Whether it’s the chilly mountains of Pennsylvania or the warm desert of Palm Springs, Americans get in the holiday spirit with lights, lights and more lights – Rudolph’s nose is just the beginning. Here’s where to sample the wide array of festive installations this December. 37th Street, Austin, Texas From praying mantises to your classic…

Discovering Green Glasgow
Discovering Green Glasgow

Despite its industrial heritage Glasgow is actually one of the greenest cities in Europe, writes Helen Ochyra. Clip clop. I am travelling at nineteenth-century speeds along the main road of a country estate. On one side are formal gardens, planted with shaped hedges in lush greens, on the other, open fields dotted with dun-coloured Highland cattle.…

Drink to quirky history in the best Oxford pubs
Drink to quirky history in the best Oxford pubs

Oxford’s history is a gloriously prismatic thing, full of the characters and creative minds that have called the city and its colleges home. Its older pubs, as a result, are places with more personality than most – wherever you drink, stories appear. So where to go in search of an atmospheric pint or two? Here…

Iran: the time to go is now
Iran: the time to go is now

Our editors and authors have named Iran as one of the top countries to visit in 2015. Here, Anthon Jackson explains why now is the time to travel to Iran. The word is out: as far as off-the-beaten-path destinations go, Iran is an absolute gem. More than ever since 1979, intrepid travellers are making their…

Trend report: new things to do in Buenos Aires
Trend report: new things to do in Buenos Aires

One of South America‘s booming capitals and major cities, Buenos Aires is a seductive and cultured city with an eclectic mix of people and places. Vicky Baker has the lowdown on the newest things to do in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Biking mad A few years ago, cycling the manic, traffic-packed streets of Buenos Aires seemed…

15 things everyone learns backpacking South America
15 things everyone learns backpacking South America

South America has become a favoured destination for the intrepid backpacker, and while it’s impressive in the astounding diversity of its nations, there are a number of universal lessons that every traveller will learn at some point during their time here. So whether you fell foul of altitude or accepted that you – inevitably – suck…

Exploring Matera’s cavernous dwellings in Italy
Exploring Matera’s cavernous dwellings in Italy

Italy’s southern region of Basilicata is home to one of the country’s most distinctive towns: Matera. It’s a fascinating place, not least for its unique topography and intriguing history as a Mediterranean troglodyte settlement. Thanks to its biblical, otherworldly feel, it’s been used as the setting for Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ too. Rough Guides…

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