Features // Indigenous culture

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…

Why you should visit Southern Brazil
Why you should visit Southern Brazil

Brazil’s booming southern states – Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul – are often strangely absent on tourist itineraries of the country. The cities of Curitiba and Porto Alegre will host 2014 FIFA World Cup matches, and the region is already a huge draw for Brazilian, Argentine and Uruguayan tourists. Yet it can…

On the Trail of Bruce Chatwin In Patagonia
On the Trail of Bruce Chatwin In Patagonia

The Polish woman grins as the car ferry to Tierra del Fuego crashes over the Magellan Strait. The bus groans and moves very slightly forward, grazing the truck in front of us. I grip my chair. She waves a book at me. “Have you read our excellent Podróże Marzeń guide to Chile?” She smiles again…

On the trail of Gauchito Gil in Argentina
On the trail of Gauchito Gil in Argentina

Argentines are a superstitious lot – many taxi-drivers religiously garland their rear-view mirrors with rosaries; fur-clad ladies-that-lunch avidly read their horoscopes; busmen faithfully display images of the Virgin of Luján over their dashboards; nearly everyone routinely tucks a banknote under their plate of gnocchi at the end of each month in the hope of better…

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.…

Mexico movie guide – eight essential films
Mexico movie guide – eight essential films

Thinking of visiting Mexico for the first time? Watch a few films before you go. Like great works of fiction, movies often provide an illuminating insight into the culture of a country, its landscape and its peoples. Mexico has always been a rich source of movie material, with its own prodigious film industry and plenty…

Meet the locals – how to immerse yourself on your travels
Meet the locals – how to immerse yourself on your travels

However good your intentions are, it’s often all too easy to retreat to the comfort of the hotel room and shy away from really engaging with the locals when you’re on your travels. Here’s a selection of holiday ideas that will thrust you into the heart of the community you’re visiting and foster a much…

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…

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…

Top five independent British cinemas
Top five independent British cinemas

If you’re feeling a little tired of the oversized popcorn, super-saccharine soda, impersonal nature and all-round lack of charm at your local multiplex, perhaps one of these singular establishments might tickle your fancy. Support independent cinema at some of Britain’s finest… The Electric Cinema, Birmingham The unprepossessing exterior, sandwiched between a couple of Chinese restaurants, belies…

Taiwan: A Traveller’s Movie Guide
Taiwan: A Traveller’s Movie Guide

Taiwan’s small but creative movie industry has been experiencing something of a renaissance in recent years. This selection – mostly recent films – should help you get under the skin of the island’s dynamic and complex culture. Aficionados should also check out the movies of two Taiwan legends: Hou Hsaio-Hsien and Tsai Ming-liang. Groundbreaker Hou…

Indulging in a Welsh tea feast in Patagonia
Indulging in a Welsh tea feast in Patagonia

By Shafik Meghji In 1865, 153 Welsh men, women and children boarded a tea-clipper, the Mimosa, in Liverpool and set out on an 8,000-mile journey to what they hoped would be their Promised Land. Fleeing cultural and religious persecution in the UK, the pioneers wanted to create a “little Wales beyond Wales” – a place…

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…

Stay with the locals in Kerala
Stay with the locals in Kerala

For a real sense of a country and its inhabitants, it’s always best to stay with the locals and meet as many residents as possible. The population of Kerala are particularly friendly and welcoming, and these experiences will leave you with a unique understanding of the Indian state. Learn to cook Keralan style Whether it’s…

12 top destinations for art holidays in Britain
12 top destinations for art holidays in Britain

If you fancy indulging your inner artist on your next British break, try one of these excellent galleries and art spaces across Britain. The Baltic, Newcastle Towering over the Tyne is Baltic, Gateshead’s striking contemporary art centre. Still emblazoned with the words Baltic Flour Mills, this uncompromisingly modernist building has just as much presence as…

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,…

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…

The view from Caracas as a nation mourns Chávez
The view from Caracas as a nation mourns Chávez

As Venezuela mourns its lost leader Huge Chávez, Alasdair Baverstock describes the mood in Caracas and reflects on the country’s reputation abroad. Twelve hours after President Hugo Chávez died, the central square of Caracas was still occupied by his red-clad supporters. Through the television lens, broadcasting into homes around the world, the scene looked terrifying.…

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…

The fascinating history of the Galápagos Islands
The fascinating history of the Galápagos Islands

Shafik Meghji has just returned from the Galápagos Islands during his research trip for the new edition of the Rough Guide to Ecuador. Here he explores some of the archipelago’s fascinating history. In the late eighteenth century British whalers sailing through the Galápagos Islands – considered at the time to be a forbidding place of…

Discovering the delights of a ryokan in Japan
Discovering the delights of a ryokan in Japan

Sofia Levin discovers tradition and tranquility in rural Japan Lush rice paddies morphed into a thick forest of bamboo and cedar trees as our train climbed steeper. Plants clung desperately to the side of the mountain and small waterfalls trickled down every crevice. At the end of the line, a funicular heaved us up the…

Five beautiful British places of worship
Five beautiful British places of worship

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of Britain’s most beautiful buildings are places of worship. Head to one of these five architectural wonders and prepare to drop to your knees in awe, if not necessarily in supplication. Ely Cathedral, Ely Ely Cathedral (pictured above) was created to invoke a sense of awe. Constructed over two hundred years, it’s…

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…

Five essential treks in the Himalayas
Five essential treks in the Himalayas

They may cross six countries and contain many colossal mountains such as Everest and K2, but journeying through the Himalayas isn’t just about making it to the top. The following five treks will give you more than just sore feet and lots of photos of snow-capped peaks. Meet the three sisters, Nepal Lucky, Nicky and…

Introducing the Rough Guide to Vintage London
Introducing the Rough Guide to Vintage London

Rough Guides has muted its orange and blue tones for the release of The Rough Guide to Vintage London, a comprehensive guide to vintage shopping, culture and lifestyle in London. Whether you’re looking for a retro bicycle, Mod cafe, a fifties frock, or just somewhere a bit different to go for Friday night drinks then The Rough…

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…

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,…

The spirit world – top five places to get a glimpse of the other side
The spirit world – top five places to get a glimpse of the other side

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. The typical setting for a session with an ayahuasquero or jungle shaman, is to meet him at a rainforest lodge on the edge…

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…

The top ten places to explore British history
The top ten places to explore British history

From Jersey up to Hadrian’s Wall and beyond, Britain is packed full of historic sites worth exploring. Here’s a few suggestions for reliving the nation’s long history, from Arthurian legends to its more recent nuclear past. Soaking up the Saxon past at Sutton Hoo When unearthed more than seventy years ago, the burial mounds at…

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”),…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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,…

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,…

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