Features // Discovery

Rio de Janeiro: eight essential sights and experiences
Rio de Janeiro: eight essential sights and experiences

Rio’s residents call their home the Cidade Marvilhosa – and there can’t be much argument about that. The city is home to some of the greatest landmarks in the world, from the Corcovado mountain, supporting the great statue of Christ the Redeemer, to the famous sweeps of Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. With the World Cup well and truly underway in Brazil,…

21 fun facts about Italy
21 fun facts about Italy

Do you know how old Italy really is? Any idea what Italy actually means or who Alessandro Volta is? No? Then you’d better read these 23 fun facts about Italy to get clued up before you go.  Source: italiantrips.com Source: eatingitalyfoodtours.com Source: eupedia.com Source: sciencekidz.co.nz Source: unesco.org  Source: mymelange.net Source: lifeinitaly.com Source: dera.ioe.ac.uk Source: lifeinitaly.com…

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…

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…

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…

Checking out the Bauhaus architecture in Tel Aviv
Checking out the Bauhaus architecture in Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv is a city with chutzpah, a loud, gesticulating expression of urban Jewish culture. Revelling in a Mediterranean-style café culture, it has dozens of bars and clubs, all aimed squarely at the under-30s. It doesn’t seem likely to have much in the way of architectural interest – it was only founded in 1909 –…

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…

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,…

Hunting for the world’s best chocolate in Venezuela
Hunting for the world’s best chocolate in Venezuela

As we walked along the beach road towards Chuao, a coastal Venezuelan town, a local was approaching from the other direction, swinging a machete in time with his steps. On either side of the concrete surface, the dense jungle towered above: enormous mango trees, banana groves, bamboo thickets and the shorter cocoa (or cacao) plants…

Travel News: a tourist pop group & portable hotel
Travel News: a tourist pop group & portable hotel

Rough Guides writer Steve Vickers gets you up to speed with the latest travel news, including business-only flights to the USA and portable Nordic hotel rooms.  New airline is strictly business Fed up with flying cattle class? Well a brand new airline is about to start running business-only flights to New York. And for now,…

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…

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…

Visit the cloud forests of Ecuador
Visit the cloud forests of Ecuador

Travelling from Quito, it’s easy to make a beeline along the Pan-American Highway to Cotopaxi and west to the beaches of the Pacific Coast or east to the Amazon Rainforest. But that would mean missing out on the cloud forests of Ecuador, where you’ll find some of the most fascinating birdlife in the country. Head…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

Arrivals: a travel news round-up
Arrivals: a travel news round-up

Rough Guides writer Steve Vickers casts an eye over the big travel topics and unpicks the top stories of the week. More tourists welcome, but heavy planes are not Climbers could soon be getting their crampons into five additional Nepalese peaks over 8,000m. Currently, just eight of the country’s highest mountains are accessible, but overcrowding…

Spellbound in Laos
Spellbound in Laos

The pace of life is deliciously slow in Luang Prabang, but if you opt for a lie-in you’ll miss the perfect start to the day. As dawn breaks over this most languorous of Buddhist towns, saffron-robed monks emerge from their temple-monasteries to collect alms from their neighbours, the riverbanks begin to come alive and the…

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…

Puzzles at the plain of Jars, Laos
Puzzles at the plain of Jars, Laos

After three hours trudging along steep forest paths, you come to a surreal sight. Hundreds of megalithic stone jars, large enough for someone to a crouch inside, are strewn all around. This group of 416 jars is the largest at the aptly named Plain of Jars, whose current tally stands at 1900 jars in 52…

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…

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,…

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…

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…

An historic hideaway in the city of Bath
An historic hideaway in the city of Bath

Lottie Gross takes a step back in time and finds the perfect historical retreat in the city of Bath. The year is 1723. My name is George Wade MP and I’ve just returned from London after a stressful week in the House of Commons. It’s late on a Saturday morning and I’m nursing a cup…

24 hours in London
24 hours in London

“The city that never sleeps” is probably a cliché used for cities in almost every country in the world. But is London really a nocturnal city, where night-or-day you can find somewhere to play? Lottie Gross took up the challenge to find out… 6am: finding flowers at the wholesalers It’s 6am on a Saturday morning…

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…

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…

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 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…

Things not to miss in Brazil
Things not to miss in Brazil

Next year sees the World Cup gracing Rio De Janeiro‘s various stadiums, and it is expected that 600,000 foreigners will flock to the country to support their favourite teams and players in football’s biggest tournament. But there is so much more to Brazil than its status as host to the World Cup 2014. There are…

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…

An Interview with Pico Iyer
An Interview with Pico Iyer

British-born, with Indian parents and a childhood spent in California, Pico Iyer is one of the most respected travel writers today. Tim Chester asks Pico about lessons learned, packing and the evolution of travel.  Could you single out the first formative experience that sparked your love for travel? I was lucky in that I was…

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.…

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 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…

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…

The best places to go in December
The best places to go in December

December might be dark and chilly in much of north America and Europe, but it’s by no means a dull month to travel. There are world-class classical music events, a clutch of colourful festivals and oodles of southern-hemisphere sunshine. Here are our tips on the best places to visit in December: DIVE THE BLUE HOLE…

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…

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…

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.…

28 interesting facts about India
28 interesting facts about India

Over 1.1billion people live in India, from the deserts of Rajasthan and the blissful beaches of Goa, to the Keralan tea plantations and the metropolitan cities of Mumbai and Kolkata. With such a huge diversity of landscapes, religion and culture, India is a fascinating place to visit. Learn a little more about this enormous country…

The best places to visit in January
The best places to visit in January

January doesn’t have to be that depressing, post-Christmas comedown month we’re all used to. There’s so much going on across the world, so whether it’s celebrating Australia Day in the sunshine or bagging bargains at the January sales in London, there are plenty of ways to banish those post-holiday blues. Here are our top places…

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…

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…

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