Features // Heritage & ruins

The other Inca trail, Peru
The other Inca trail, Peru

Escaping the hundreds of climbers on their way to Machu Picchu, Alex Robinson discovers the “other Inca Trail” in Peru – an equally impressive but near-empty climb.  I woke with a start in the night. The dogs were barking in the camp. I heard the clatter of tin cans, the crash of plates and then…

Top ten things to do in Estonia
Top ten things to do in Estonia

From the cultured capital of Tallinn to the winter-playground that is Otepää, here are ten of our favourite things to do in Estonia.  Admire the beauty of Alatskivi Castle Originally dating back to the sixteenth century, Alatskivi Castle was rebuilt between 1876 and 1885 by Baron von Nolcken who was inspired by the royal residence…

On the road in Panjshir, Afghanistan
On the road in Panjshir, Afghanistan

While working for an NGO in Kabul, British expat Marc Perry went to explore the precipitous Panjishir valley in northeastern Afghanistan. It had been my dream to visit Panjshir ever since I’d arrived in Afghanistan. Historically a geographic safe haven slicing through the Hindu Kush from Afghanistan to Tajikistan, this craggy, high-altitude valley is the…

22 beautiful pictures of Ireland
22 beautiful pictures of Ireland

 From beach to mountain to fen, every corner of Ireland has something beautiful to discover. In celebration of this stunning country, here are 22 stunning pictures of Ireland: Killarney, County Kerry  Beara Peninsula, Cork  Roundstone Harbour, County Galway  Dog’s Bay, County Galway  Dunguaire Castle, County Galway  Kinsale Harbour, Cork  Glendalough, County Wicklow  Dublin  Pine Island, Connemara…

Delving into Kelvedon Hatch: a secret nuclear bunker
Delving into Kelvedon Hatch: a secret nuclear bunker

From 1947 until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, secret bunkers sprung up across Europe in an effort to protect capitalist and communist states from potential nuclear attacks. Adam Bennett explores a secret metropolitan bunker in the Essex village of Kelvedon Hatch. During the Cold War, the prospect of a nuclear attack was…

Searching for the magic on Skellig Michael, Ireland
Searching for the magic on Skellig Michael, Ireland

Lottie Gross discovers why the ancient monastery on Skellig Michael, eight miles off the coast of Kerry, has been captivating travellers for years. On Saturday I met a sailor, Ireland’s first surfer, a spear-fishing medalist and a ballroom dancing champion – and that was just one man. Joe Roddy was a small, unassuming gentleman around…

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…

Medieval glamping at Warwick Castle
Medieval glamping at Warwick Castle

Sword fighting, scaremongering and sensational surroundings: Lottie Gross finds out why Warwick Castle isn’t just fun for the kids. As expected, upon arrival we discovered we were one of only two couples without children in the entire campsite. Fortunately, our medieval Warwick tent – complete with double bed, two singles, plush duvets and mattresses fit…

Memories of the Berlin Wall 25 years on
Memories of the Berlin Wall 25 years on

Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Rough Guides writer John Malathronas remembers his experience crossing Checkpoint Charlie. It was in August 1989 when I presented myself to Checkpoint Charlie – a bit scared, very curious, but mostly excited – and crossed to what was then East Berlin. Life in West Berlin, an…

Going underground at the wieliczka salt mine, Poland
Going underground at the wieliczka salt mine, Poland

In the depths of southern Poland Helen Ochyra goes underground to try out the claustrophobic work of miners in the Wieliczka salt mine. “Room for one more” I am told as I am gently nudged into an already packed out lift. The doors are pulled across behind me with much scraping of metal and we…

Nine quirky places to stay with the Landmark Trust
Nine quirky places to stay with the Landmark Trust

The Landmark Trust have been restoring buildings for almost fifty years and now have nearly 200 buildings in England, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands, France and Italy. Here are some of our favourite unusual places to stay by the Landmark Trust: Clavell Tower, Wareham, England Rescued from the edge of a crumbling cliff along the…

Visiting Vlad the Impaler, Romania
Visiting Vlad the Impaler, Romania

The whereabouts of Dracula’s grave is a contentious issue; two monasteries in Romania are fighting for the title of the resting place of Vlad the Impaler – but which one has the strongest argument? John Malathronas goes to Snagov monastery to find out. “You need four people for an impalement,” says my guide, Gabriel, in taciturn…

Vienna remembers the Great War
Vienna remembers the Great War

If there is one European city that seems particularly focused on the World War I centenary then it is the Austrian capital Vienna, where a host of war-themed exhibitions will be opening over the course of the year. Such attention may come as something as a surprise when one considers that the Austro-Hungarian Empire was…

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…

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