Features // Indigenous culture

The Mayan ruins less travelled: El Salvador’s forgotten history
The Mayan ruins less travelled: El Salvador’s forgotten history

El Salvador’s Mayan ruins can’t be compared with the great Mayan centres in Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, but they have their own powerful charm – and on most days you’ll have the sites completely to yourself. Stephen Keeling went to explore El Salvador’s rich but oft ignored Mayan heritage. Joya de Cerén Around 1400 years…

A night at the Gogglebox mansion in Sandwich
A night at the Gogglebox mansion in Sandwich

Tim Chester spends an evening with the “posh couple” from Britain’s latest TV  craze Gogglebox. Gogglebox shouldn’t work. The TV show about people watching TV shows sounds like the most meta, barrel-scraping idea in the history of 10 Stone Testicle ideas, but somehow it’s compulsive viewing, a window into the country’s living rooms, prejudices and…

Ten unforgettable things to do in Namibia
Ten unforgettable things to do in Namibia

From a deserted town to enormous sand dunes and sunset cocktails above the city, here are ten unforgettable things to see and do in Namibia. Hike Fish River Canyon Second only in size to America’s Grand Canyon, Namibia’s Fish River Canyon is one of Africa’s unsung wonders. Starting just south of Seeheim, it winds 161km…

Aboriginal experiences British Columbia, Canada
Aboriginal experiences British Columbia, Canada

Maria Hart meets some of Canada’s First Nations people to discover what aboriginal tourism in British Columbia has to offer. “High tide is rush hour here” smiles our guide Tsimka, “that’s when the kayaks and water taxis usually come.” But since our group paddled over to Meares Island in a traditional flat bottomed canoe at…

Picking, eating and tripping on Peyote in Mexico
Picking, eating and tripping on Peyote in Mexico

Surrounded by the dwarfing Sierra de Catorce mountain range, Rough Guides writer Alasdair Baverstock indulges in some hallucinogenic Mexican cactus for an eye-opening experience. The cactus beside me was quite audibly breathing. Its expansions and contractions were sure signs of its survival in this desert. In fact, looking around at the abandoned silver mine everything…

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…

We went to Seattle and ate everything in sight
We went to Seattle and ate everything in sight

Quinns on Capitol Hill, around 8pm on the Saturday night, is when we hit the wall. Halfway though a wild boar sloppy joe, which oozed out of its brioche confines like meaty magma, spilling fried onion and Fresno pepper across the plate in an explosion of gluttonous joy, we were done. Finished. Finito. Couldn’t have…

Where to meet Europe’s only indigenous people
Where to meet Europe’s only indigenous people

Encompassing northern Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia’s Kola Peninsula, Sápmi is the collective name for the traditional territory of the nomadic Sámi – Europe’s only indigenous people, who migrated to northern Scandinavia after the last Ice Age and subsisted by hunting reindeer. As the reindeer grew scarce by the seventeenth century, hunters became herders; today,…

Top 10 things to do in Manaus, Brazil
Top 10 things to do in Manaus, Brazil

Brazil’s World Cup city Manaus will have far more than just football to offer this year. Here are the top ten things to do in Manaus while you’re there. See Italian architecture at the Manaus Opera House Completed in 1896 at a total cost of over two million dollars, the Manaus Opera House was built…

36 hectic hours at the Great Escape in Brighton
36 hectic hours at the Great Escape in Brighton

It was around 3pm on the Saturday that I had the first Brighton moment. We were upstairs in a local boozer, watching a woman in her underwear recreate the lift scene in Dirty Dancing. ‘(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life’ blasted through a laptop while a gaggle of half cut women raised jugs of…

Indian cooking in Kerala
Indian cooking in Kerala

In a four-day endeavour to master Indian cooking with her mother in south India, Lottie Gross learns so much more than just how to serve up the best masala… “You know why I call this a cooking holiday? Cooking for you, holiday for me!” Jacob laughs as he watches me squeeze out rice noodles through…

Incredible photos of the world’s rarest tribes
Incredible photos of the world’s rarest tribes

There are places in the world where little sign of western development exists, but it still threatens to change traditions and beliefs forever. Jimmy Nelson found and documented 31 of these traditional isolated communities in his quest to photograph the “purity of humanity”.  “I wanted to witness their time-honoured traditions, join in their rituals and…

Watching sumo wrestling in Japan
Watching sumo wrestling in Japan

People tend to laugh when I tell them that sumo wrestling is my favourite spectator sport. In its Japanese homeland it’s regarded as somewhat old-fashioned, with younger folk preferring to watch mixed martial arts. Abroad, the perception can be even worse; the generic assumption holds that it’s little more than fat blokes in nappies slapping…

Czech please! A food and drink tour of Prague
Czech please! A food and drink tour of Prague

Thought Czech food was only good for soaking up beer? Think again. A recent culinary revival has put the country firmly on the European foodie trail. Andy Turner volunteers his taste buds to investigate what and where to eat in Prague.  The wind howls down Wenceslas Square as I walk past the giant equestrian statue…

Living with locals in a Mongolian yurt
Living with locals in a Mongolian yurt

Getting friendly (and inebriated) with the only locals around, Lynsey Wolstenholme realises what self-sustainability really means on a Mongolian yurt homestay. After a six hour journey, along the bumpy, unpaved roads of Mongolia, I arrived at my base for the next 24 hours: a homestay nestled in the shadow of the Khogno Khan mountain. I…

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,…

Playing gaucho for a day, Argentina
Playing gaucho for a day, Argentina

Heidi Fuller-Love spends a day roping cattle, cooking asado and hanging out with a gaucho near Buenos Aires, Argentina. Gaucho day trips are a-peso-a-dozen near Buenos Aires, but I wanted to head out to an estancia (ranch) with a bona fide member of Argentina’s cowboy club, so when I met Andre – a gaucho guide from toursbylocals.com – I…

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…

Exploring the Banaue rice terraces, Philippines
Exploring the Banaue rice terraces, Philippines

The Banaue rice terraces were once a colourful collage of winding fields that clung onto a mountain-side in Ifugao province in the Philippines. After being almost completely abandoned by the locals, these plantations are now being revived as young farmers return to work on the paddies. While researching the new Rough Guide to the Philippines, Kiki…

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…

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…

Dancing with the Saramacca in Suriname
Dancing with the Saramacca in Suriname

Once a Dutch colony, Suriname sits on the northeast coast of South America and has a population of around a mere 550,000 people. Venturing deep into the jungle-clad interior, Rough Guides writer Anna Kaminski went to explore the ancestral territory of the Saramacca, descendants of seventeenth-century West African slaves.  Our little Cessna plane rumbles over the jungle; from above, southern Suriname is a dense carpet of greenery,…

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…

Communing with an Amazon shaman, Peru
Communing with an Amazon shaman, Peru

Psychedelic tourism isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but there is nowhere on Earth where so many shaman serve such magical brews as they do in Peru. Since the start of this millennium, an increasing number of travellers have sought the magical ayahuasca experience, whether from simple curiosity or in search of ancient wisdom. These night-long…

Celebrate Qoyllur Riti, Peru
Celebrate Qoyllur Riti, Peru

Most visitors to the ancient Inca capital of Cusco in southern Peru are drawn by the extraordinary ruined temples and palaces and the dramatic scenery of the high Andes. But the only true way to get to the heart of the indigenous Andean culture is to join a traditional fiesta. Nearly every town and village in the region…

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…

Listening to Gnawa music in Essaouira, Morocco
Listening to Gnawa music in Essaouira, Morocco

It’s midnight in Essaouira, and a castanet-like rhythm is drifting over the ramparts on the steely Atlantic breeze. Tucked into a courtyard is a group of robed musicians playing bass drums, reed pipes and qaraqebs, metal chimes which are clacked together in the fingers. Their leader, the maalem, plucks a three-stringed gimbri lute. Singers in…

Visiting the Pueblos Mancomunados, Mexico
Visiting the Pueblos Mancomunados, Mexico

Pine forests, wild mushrooms and a sunrise above clouds: not what you might associate with Mexico, better known for beaches, colonial cities and Aztec ruins. The mountains of the Sierra Norte, two hours’ bus journey north of Oaxaca, are home to a cluster of villages, a semi-autonomous community known as “Pueblos Mancomunados” (meaning “united villages”),…

Floating through Xochimilco, Mexico
Floating through Xochimilco, Mexico

Spend a few days in the intoxicating, maddening centro histórico of Mexico City, and you’ll understand why thousands of Mexicans make the journey each Sunday to the “floating gardens” of Xochimilco, the country’s very own Venice. Built by the Aztecs to grow food, this network of meandering waterways and man-made islands, or chinampas, is an important gardening centre…

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…

Learn how silk is made in Laos
Learn how silk is made in Laos

Holding the tiny cocoon in your fingers, it’s hard to imagine it contains a fibre of silk that will be 800m long when finally unravelled. And when you consider 100,000 silk worms are being cultivated here at Vang Viang Organic Farm, you’re effectively surrounded by 80,000km of silk – enough to circle the earth twice.…

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…

The best safari lodges in Kenya
The best safari lodges in Kenya

Kenya is the safari capital of East Africa. Elephants, buffalo and wildebeest roam across vast plains, flamingos in their thousands wade in lake shallows, lions doze on sun-baked savannahs and herds of hippos graze by river banks. Yet in the scramble to see the country’s wildlife, local culture often gets overlooked and tribal people have…

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…

10 great festivals and events across the UK
10 great festivals and events across the UK

From Hogmanay in Edinburgh to Bonfire Night in Lewes, Britain is home to a whole range of excellent festivals and events throughout the year. If you’re planning a visit anytime soon we recommend you build you trip around one of these memorable parties. Notting Hill Carnival in London Carnival Sunday morning and in streets eerily…

Capoeira dancing up close, Brazil
Capoeira dancing up close, Brazil

There’s not meant to be any physical contact in this age-old, ritualistic melding of martial arts and breakdancing. Your instructor probably explained that, though unless you happen to speak Portuguese you probably didn’t understand (and if you did, would you trust it to be true?). But you’re ready to give it a whirl; who knows, you may even…

An Arranged Marriage in Tajikistan – via MMS
An Arranged Marriage in Tajikistan – via MMS

Driving through the city of Panj, Tajikistan, Rough Guides writer Kiki Deere meets an ex-Soviet-soldier-turned-teacher who has discovered a new way of arranging a long-distance marriage. Our heavy-footed driver swerved to avoid a series of large rocks that had crumbled from the mountainside above. A muddy crimson river swept through the valley below: the Panj,…

Exploring the Great Plains
Exploring the Great Plains

Most US travel itineraries skip the “middle bit” – often stereotyped as a boring, endless and pancake-flat swathe of corn that makes up the Great Plains. But while the region lacks showstoppers – no Grand Canyon, no New York – the Great Plains are crammed with surprisingly intriguing attractions and great tracts are, well, quite…

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…

Ten things to do in Kenya after your safari
Ten things to do in Kenya after your safari

Whatever your budget, Kenya has no shortage of post-safari pursuits, writes Richard Trillo, author of the Rough Guide to Kenya and Kenya Programme Manager at Expert Africa. Whether you’re after a relaxing beach break or another adventure, there’s plenty to see and do in Kenya once you’ve left the wildlife behind. Share a beach house…

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…

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…

Exploring the temples of Angkor, Cambodia
Exploring the temples of Angkor, Cambodia

The sun was setting on the town of Siem Reap as I clung to the back of my moto driver. Threading our way through traffic, we rode out until town finally gave way to forest and we entered the Angkor site. In front of us were the iconic lotus-bud towers of Angkor Wat, looking like…

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…

Try a Buenos Aires tango, Argentina
Try a Buenos Aires tango, Argentina

When it first emerged in the city’s brothels and slums sometime in the 1890s, the world’s sexiest ballroom dance, the tango, horrified the genteel residents of Buenos Aires. Some of the city’s more liberal-minded upper-class youths fell in love with tango, though, and brought it to Paris, where the dance’s characteristic haunting melodies, seductive gazes…

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