Features // Heritage & ruins

Ten central & Eastern European sites to mark the WWI Centenary
Ten central & Eastern European sites to mark the WWI Centenary

Most of us know that World War I started with the assassination of an Austrian Archduke in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo. For the English-speaking world, however, the subsequent history of the conflict largely focuses on the Western Front, Gallipoli and other theatres where British, Commonwealth and American forces saw action. It is often forgotten…

In photos: 4000-year-old forest discovered in Ireland
In photos: 4000-year-old forest discovered in Ireland

The first few months of 2014 brought gale-force winds and record amounts of rain to Ireland and much of the UK. Homes were flooded and many lived without electricity for months. These recent storms reached the southwestern Atlantic coast of Ireland and have shifted sands, moved boulders and changed the face of the coastline. It…

Ten things to do in Madrid for free
Ten things to do in Madrid for free

Sophisticated, globally minded and perfect for late-night parties – Madrid can be an expensive place to enjoy. So if you want to see the sights on a budget, timing is crucial. Many of the city’s best museums, galleries and historic buildings are free to visit but only for a few hours at a time, so…

Visiting the imperial mausoleums of Hué
Visiting the imperial mausoleums of Hué

The broad, peaceful outer courtyard sweeps you past an honorary guard of immaculate stone mandarins towards the first of a series of elegantly roofed gateways, through whose triple doorways you get a perfectly framed view of Emperor Minh Mang’s mausoleum complex. Archways look wistful in peeling ochre paint; slatted lacquer-red shutters offer tantalizing angles on…

Sauntering through the ruins of Ani, Turkey
Sauntering through the ruins of Ani, Turkey

The ruins of Ani are a traveller’s dream – picture-perfect scenery, whacking great dollops of history, and almost nobody around to see it. While Turkey as a whole has been enjoying ever more popularity as a tourist destination, the number heading to its eastern reaches remains thrillingly low, lending an air of mystery to its…

The hanging coffins of Sagada, Philippines
The hanging coffins of Sagada, Philippines

Members of the Igorot tribe of Mountain Province in northern Philippines have long practised the tradition of burying their dead in hanging coffins, nailed to the sides of cliff faces high above the ground. Comfortably predating the arrival of the Spanish, the procedure can probably be traced back more than two millennia. To this day,…

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 not to miss in Jordan
Things not to miss in Jordan

Despite its natural beauty and vast array of historical sites, Jordan welcomes only a fraction of the visitors to the Middle East. When many think of Jordan, they picture camels and deserts – which admittedly make up 85 percent of its land mass – but this is also a country of mountains, beaches, castles and churches, with a welcoming…

Visit the house of the spirits, South Africa
Visit the house of the spirits, South Africa

It’s art, myth and archeology, it’s visually stunning and you can reach back through the millennia and immerse yourself in its marks and contours. South Africa’s rock art represents one of the world’s oldest and most continuous artistic and religious traditions. Found on rock faces all over the country, these ancient paintings are a window into a historic culture…

Visiting the Bribrí, Costa Rica
Visiting the Bribrí, Costa Rica

Indigenous communities in Costa Rica are relatively unknown and often overlooked, so visiting them makes for a truly fascinating and authentic experience. In the remote Bribrí village of Yorkín, men and women are equal and sustain themselves through farming, fishing and hunting. Rough Guides writer, Anna Kaminski, met the woman behind the collective. Our motorised…

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…

A first-timer’s guide to Chile
A first-timer’s guide to Chile

Stretching north to south for 4270km and only 64km wide at its narrowest point, this land of ice and fire, periodically shaken by volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, is one of the most geographically diverse on earth. Most travellers fly into the capital of Santiago, roughly in the middle of the country, and head either towards…

Exploring Cockatoo Island, Sydney
Exploring Cockatoo Island, Sydney

Sitting in the middle of Sydney Harbour, Cockatoo Island is a World Heritage listed location with a wealth of history to uncover. In search of some truths about the island’s dark past as the Australian answer to Alcatraz, Sara Chare follows the Cockatoo Island Convict Trail. Australia itself was once considered to be one big…

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…

A hallucinogenic ayahuasca experience in Peru
A hallucinogenic ayahuasca experience in Peru

Embarking on a very personal and spiritual journey, Rough Guides writer Anna Kaminski shares her ayahuasca experience, after ingesting the hallucinogenic vines of the Amazon Basin. The ancient Volkswagen Beetle climbs the hairpin bends high into the mountains, the lights of Cusco spread out in the valley beneath us.  On a particularly steep bend, it gives…

The Kasbah du Toubkal, Morocco
The Kasbah du Toubkal, Morocco

On the drive up through the Imlil Valley into the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, you have a sense that you’re going somewhere special. The road passes rose-coloured adobe villages and fields terraced with ancient irrigation channels that nourish apple, cherry and walnut orchards. Mules trot along the road carrying children, women return from the…

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…

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…

Walking the Siq to Petra
Walking the Siq to Petra

Tucked away between parallel rocky ranges in southern Jordan, Petra is awe-inspiring. Popular but rarely crowded, this fabled site could keep you occupied for half a day or half a year: you can roam its dusty tracks and byways for miles in every direction. Petra was the capital of the Nabateans, a tribe originally from Arabia who traded with,…

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…

Solving the mysteries of Pompeii, Italy
Solving the mysteries of Pompeii, Italy

Pity the poor folk picking through the rubble of the Forum in Rome. To make the most of the ruins there you have to use your imagination. In the ancient Roman resort town of Pompeii, however, it’s a little easier. Pompeii was famously buried by Vesuvius in 79 AD, and the result is perhaps the…

Britain’s best gardens
Britain’s best gardens

From Kinross to Kent, Britain is home to all manner of beautiful gardens, ranging from wild and sprawling estates to compact, tidy arrangements. Here’s a few of our favourites, taken from Make The Most Of Your Time In Britain. Aberglasney Gardens Once a grand Carmarthenshire estate, Aberglasney fell on hard times during the twentieth century…

Doing penance in the Sistine Chapel, Italy
Doing penance in the Sistine Chapel, Italy

You’ve seen them a thousand times before you even get there. Michelangelo’s ceiling and wall frescoes of the Sistine Chapel are perhaps the most recognizable pieces of art in the world, reproduced so much that they’ve become part of the visual furniture of our lives. Getting to this enormous work isn’t easy; indeed, it’s almost an act of…

Masada: conquering Herod’s hilltop palace
Masada: conquering Herod’s hilltop palace

The steep cliffs rising out of the Judean Desert look like an unlikely place for a fortress, but there, 400m up, overlooking the Dead Sea, sits the legendary stronghold of Masada. Masada was first fortified by Herod the Great in the late first century BC, who was apparently so scared his people would revolt that he built this…

Thoughtful travel – ten spots to remember the past
Thoughtful travel – ten spots to remember the past

There are some places in the world that you may not immediately think of visiting. Among all the favourite churches, museums and galleries lurk some more disturbing locations with morbid histories, places that represent the darker side of humanity. They may not be top of your itineraries, but they’re equally – if not more –…

Follow Jesus to Nazareth, Israel
Follow Jesus to Nazareth, Israel

Secreted away in the souk quarter behind the Basilica of the Annunciation, in a maze of streets too narrow for cars, lies the Fauzi Azar Inn – a 200-year-old mansion that has been converted into the most welcoming place to stay in Nazareth. Centred on an arched courtyard, its ten adjoining rooms are decked out…

Ten things to do in Tokyo for free
Ten things to do in Tokyo for free

With sublime sushi, soaring skyscrapers and vending machines that churn out everything from eggs to ice cream, Tokyo is the planet’s most mind-boggling metropolis. Wandering its neon-lit streets can easily eat up your time, and put serious pressure on your wallet. But as this round up of the free things to do in Tokyo shows,…

Discover Mayan ruins at Lago de Petexbatún
Discover Mayan ruins at Lago de Petexbatún

If you like your Mayan ruins a little less grandiose than Tikal but all to yourself, then try those in and around Lago de Petexbatún, a spectacular expanse of water ringed by dense forest to the south of Sayaxché. The region is home to several ruins, including Dos Pilas, Ceibal and Yaxchilán, though the most…

Creepiest places around the world
Creepiest places around the world

There is something alluring about the eerie, macabre side of life (or death, for that matter), so it’s not surprising that plenty of sinister, chilling places in history have become popular tourist attractions. From Western Europe to Asia, there are some truly creepy places to visit around the world – here are a few that…

Great Rivers of the World – The Mekong
Great Rivers of the World – The Mekong

Over 4000km long, the Mekong – derived from the Khmer “Mae” meaning “big”, “mother”, or “boss” – is the 12th longest river in the world, flowing from Tibet, through China, Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Navigation remains tricky along the Mekong as many rapids and waterfalls pose a risk to those who choose…

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…

On the trail of Mark Twain in the USA
On the trail of Mark Twain in the USA

Stephen Keeling follows in the footsteps of Mark Twain, the American literary giant who penned such classics as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Hannibal, Missouri “Hannibal has had a hard time of it ever since I can recollect, and I was “raised” there. First, it had me for a…

A Phallic Journey: Italy’s Penis Café
A Phallic Journey: Italy’s Penis Café

Outside the progressive town of Taormina, Sicily, Rough Guides writer Kiki Deere finds phallic fun at a penis-themed café. My long hair brushes against an erect penis as my hand firmly grips onto a dark phallus that protrudes from the bannister. Rows of excited male members line the windowsill, while others seemingly pop out of…

Beautiful Detroit: photos of the city at its best
Beautiful Detroit: photos of the city at its best

Empty buildings, decrepit houses and economic decline – the newly-bankrupt Detroit has been hit by a barrage of bad press of late. The Guardian, Time and others have all run (admittedly fascinating) “ruin porn” galleries of the city’s fall from grace. We thought we’d show you some of the more beautiful sights of Detroit instead,…

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…

10 unexpected highlights of Croatia
10 unexpected highlights of Croatia

By now we all know what’s on the Croatia bucket list – the Plitvice Lakes National Park, Dubrovnik’s medieval walls, and at least one of Croatia’s growing roster of music festivals. However there’s a lot more to Croatia than meets the eye, so it’s well worth planning a few detours to take in some of…

The Battle of Gettysburg: 150 years on
The Battle of Gettysburg: 150 years on

In an emotional venture to Pennsylvania, with Lincoln’s speech echoing in his ears, Rough Guides writer Stephen Keeling remembers the Battle of Gettysburg – the deadliest battle in the American civil war – 150 years on. I can’t remember when I first heard about the Battle of Gettysburg, but it was probably at school. Even…

Ten great places to celebrate Independence Day
Ten great places to celebrate Independence Day

America goes all out for 4th of July celebrations. Sure, people are remembering that historic declaration on the fourth of July, 1776, but they’re also ready to enjoy a three-day weekend right in the middle of the summer. That usually means barbecues, parades, free concerts and fireworks. Whether you celebrate in a big city or…

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…

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 Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

The Pyramids at Giza were built at the very beginning of recorded human history, and for nearly five millennia they have stood on the edge of the desert plateau in magnificent communion with the sky. Today they sit on the edge of the city, and it must be a strange experience indeed to look out…

Visit Xi’an’s Terracotta Army, China
Visit Xi’an’s Terracotta Army, China

Qin Shi Huang, China’s first emperor, never did anything by halves. Not content with building the Great Wall, he spent his last years roaming the fringes of his empire, seeking a key to immortality. When (with inevitable irony) he died on his quest, his entourage returned to the capital near modern-day Xi’an and buried his…

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…

The ruin pubs of Budapest
The ruin pubs of Budapest

John Malathronas goes on a “tipsy tour” of the ruin pubs of Budapest.  One of the crazes in Budapest over the past few years has been ruin pubs. At £1.50 a pint they won’t ruin you financially, although by the end of a long evening they may well have ruined your plans for an early…

Living with the locals in rural Myanmar
Living with the locals in rural Myanmar

As tourists start flooding into Myanmar (Burma), Melanie Kramers dives into the deep countryside to live like a local and discovers a beguiling mix of past and present. Hand-rolled cheroot clamped between her teeth, the elderly woman stares hard at us and issues a guttural grunt. While it sounds like the kind of grumpy growl…

Chicago’s Magnificent Mile on a budget
Chicago’s Magnificent Mile on a budget

Exploring Chicago’s Magnificent Mile – the most glamorous stretch of Michigan Avenue – is a must for anyone visiting the city, but the experience can prove expensive. Max Grinnell, however, has some insider tips on how to make the most of the Mile without breaking the bank.   The hotel that housed Oprah’s guests The…

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