Features // Leisure

Circling Lago Atitlan, Guatemala
Circling Lago Atitlan, Guatemala

Ever since Aldous Huxley passed this way in the 1930s, writers have lauded the natural beauty of Lago Atitlán. Ringed by three volcanoes, the lake is also surrounded by a series of Maya villages, each with its own appeal and some still quite traditional, despite the influx of visitors. A week spent circumnavigating Atitlán is…

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…

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…

Hanging out in the Jemaa el Fna square, Morocco
Hanging out in the Jemaa el Fna square, Morocco

There’s nowhere on Earth like the Jemaa el Fna, the square at the heart of old Marrakesh. The focus of the evening promenade for locals, the Jemaa is a heady blend of alfresco food bazaar and street theatre: for as long as you’re in town, you’ll want to come back here again and again. Goings-on…

Cooking classes in Marrakesh
Cooking classes in Marrakesh

“I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook.”  Anthony Bourdain To get under the skin of a country, try getting busy in the kitchen when you’re there. Local food can teach you much…

Getting in line at Mardi Gras, Louisiana
Getting in line at Mardi Gras, Louisiana

America’s most over-the-top and hedonistic spectacle, Mardi Gras (the night before Ash Wednesday) in New Orleans reflects as much a medieval, European carnival as it does a drunken Spring Break ritual. Behind the scenes, the official celebration revolves around exclusive, invitation-only balls; for such an astonishingly big event, it can seem put on more for…

The best places to visit in November
The best places to visit in November

As the Northern Hemisphere is getting colder in November, below the equator things are hotting up as spring gets ready to give way to summer. The cooling temperatures aren’t all bad however, as the temperature in Egypt and India becomes far more bearable, and autumn in South Korea is a sight to behold. Check out…

Watching the hurling at Croke Park, Ireland
Watching the hurling at Croke Park, Ireland

The player leaps like a basketball star through a crowd of desperate opponents and flailing sticks. Barely visible to the naked eye, the arcing ball somehow lodges in his upstretched palm. Dropping to the ground, he shimmies his way out of trouble, the ball now delicately balanced on the flat end of his hurley, then…

Joining the festivities on Norwegian National Day
Joining the festivities on Norwegian National Day

The seventeenth of May is just another day to most people, but in Oslo (and all across Norway for that matter) it’s an eagerly anticipated annual event: Norwegian National Day. A celebration of the signing of the Norwegian Constitution, National Day is a joyous and rather rambunctious affair. It has the usual parades, bands, street…

Britain’s top ten beaches
Britain’s top ten beaches

There’s a lot of coastline wrapped around this isle – over ten thousand miles of it, in fact. Factor in Britain’s astonishing variety of landscapes and you have a country whose beaches range from epic strands to tiny notches chipped from cliffs, wilderness islands to prim Edwardian resorts. Here’s ten of the best beaches in…

Music, dance and drama in ancient Aspendos, Turkey
Music, dance and drama in ancient Aspendos, Turkey

It’s a hot summer’s evening; overhead is a soft, purple-black and star-strewn sky. The incessant chirrup of cicadas mingles with the murmur of thousands of voices – Turkish, German, English, Russian – and the popping of corks, as the 15,000-strong audience settles down, passes round wine and olives and eagerly awaits the entertainment ahead. All…

Hanging out in Shinjuku
Hanging out in Shinjuku

Shinjuku isn’t for the faint-hearted. But if you’re new to Tokyo and want a crash course in crazy, it’s the first place you should come to. Sure, Asakusa has more history and Roppongi has better nightlife, but neither can compete when it comes to dealing out high-voltage culture shocks. On the west side of Shinjuku…

Ten things to do in Berlin for free
Ten things to do in Berlin for free

Few other European capitals can compete with Berlin, a city that’s simultaneously funky, cultured, gritty and glamorous. And whether you want to see museums, or be seen at trendy galleries, there are enough free things to do in Berlin to keep you busy for a week or more. Visit the Reichstag’s roof terrace For far-reaching…

Moonlit manoeuvres through Hoi An, Vietnam
Moonlit manoeuvres through Hoi An, Vietnam

Once a month, on the eve of the full moon, downtown Hoi An turns off all its street lights and basks in the mellow glow of silk lanterns. Shopkeepers don traditional outfits; parades, folk opera and martial arts demonstrations flood the cobbled streets; and the riverside fills with stalls selling crabmeat parcels, beanpaste cakes and noodle soup. It’s all…

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…

Catching the Loy Krathong Festival of Light, Thailand
Catching the Loy Krathong Festival of Light, Thailand

In the days leading up to Thailand’s annual Loy Krathong Festival of Light, pretty little baskets fashioned from banana leaves and filled with orchids and marigolds begin to appear at market stalls across the country. On festival night everyone gathers at the nearest body of water – beside the riverbank or neighbourhood canal, on 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…

A to B by cross-country ski, Norway
A to B by cross-country ski, Norway

With 30,000km of marked trails, Norway is the true home of cross-country skiing, the original and most effective means of getting yourself across snowbound winter landscapes. And it’s easier and less daunting to learn than the more popular downhill variety (well, more popular outside Scandinavia – here, everyone is a cross-country skier from the age…

St Petersburg’s White Nights
St Petersburg’s White Nights

Imagine spending all day sightseeing, taking a shower and a nap, and then looking out of the window to see the sky as bright as midday. Your body kicks into overdrive, and the whole day seems to lie ahead of you. The streets throng with people toting guitars and bottles of champagne or vodka; naval…

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…

Hitting Ibiza’s closing parties
Hitting Ibiza’s closing parties

Ibiza’s summer clubbing season is an orgy of hedonism, full of beats, late nights and frazzled young things. It reaches a messy climax in September, when the main club promoters and venues host a series of seratonin-sapping parties to round things off and extract a few final euros from their battered punters. These end-of-season events…

Spring break: five alternatives to the party scene
Spring break: five alternatives to the party scene

You’ve got a free week at the start of spring, and you want a dose of fun in the sun… but what’s that, you say? You don’t want it to involve body shots and wet T-shirt contests? American high school and college students may descend on beaches en masse in March and April, but that…

The best places to visit in May
The best places to visit in May

May is the perfect time to travel in the northern hemisphere. With the weather warming up, fewer tourists and lower prices than the peak summer months, the beaches of the Caribbean and the Med are prime targets, but there’s plenty going on elsewhere. From New Orleans jazz to a whale shark festival in Australia, here…

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…

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”),…

Ten top places to eat Korean food
Ten top places to eat Korean food

The wonderful food keeps dragging Martin Zatko back to Korea. Here are some of his favourite eating spots from around the country. 1) Buddhist temple food at Balwoo Gongyang, Seoul It’s impossible to believe that Buddhist monks really eat this well – even at Jogyesa, Seoul’s most important temple, which sits just across the road from this highly attractive restaurant.…

Taking a ride through Lisbon’s historic quarters
Taking a ride through Lisbon’s historic quarters

Just as you should arrive in Venice on a boat, it is best to arrive in Lisbon on a tram, from the point where many people leave it for good: at Prazeres, by the city’s picturesque main cemetery. Get a taxi to the suburban terminus of tram 28 for one of the most atmospheric public-transport…

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…

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…

Arrivals: a travel news round up (Oct 10th)
Arrivals: a travel news round up (Oct 10th)

Rough Guides writer Steve Vickers casts an eye over the big travel topics and unpicks the top stories of the week. First route to the Philippines since 1998 Philippine Airlines is about to open a new route from the UK. The flights, from London Heathrow to Manila, will be the first direct link between the UK…

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…

Eight facts about British travellers
Eight facts about British travellers

We’re tweeting mad, blessed with a hint of thriftiness and we don’t trust our friends as much as strangers – this week’s World Travel Market Industry Report revealed the following interesting facts about UK travellers: 1. 39% of UK travellers will only consider short haul holidays next year With the UK’s aviation tax increasing again…

7 San Francisco start-ups that change how we travel
7 San Francisco start-ups that change how we travel

San Francisco is the undisputed home of the start-up. From the Silicon Valley powerhouses to growing tech clusters in Oakland and the Mission, the Bay Area is a hub for digital innovation. Apple, Netflix, Twitter, Dropbox, Pinterest, StumbleUpon and more all hail from this corner of northern California. It should be no surprise, then, that…

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