Features // Nature

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…

The top five extra-terrestrial landscapes
The top five extra-terrestrial landscapes

Things aren’t always as they seem and although you may feel like you’ve stepped onto the set of a sci-fi movie, these extra-terrestrial looking landscapes are set firmly on our planet. Feel like you’ve been transported to a whole new world in these five striking, stunning and perhaps even a little bit spooky landscapes… Salar…

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…

Turtle-watching in Tortuguero, Costa Rica
Turtle-watching in Tortuguero, Costa Rica

It’s a clear, moonless night when we assemble for our pilgrimage to the beach. I can’t understand how we are going to see anything in the blackness, but the guide’s eyes seem to penetrate even the darkest shadows. We begin walking, our vision adjusting slowly. We’ve come to Tortuguero National Park, in northeast Costa Rica,…

Blazing a trail at Dana Nature Reserve, Jordan
Blazing a trail at Dana Nature Reserve, Jordan

When you think of eco-friendly travel, the Middle East might not immediately spring to mind. In environmental terms, the region is a disaster, characterized by a general lack of awareness of the issues and poor – if any – legislative safeguards. But Jordan is quietly working wonders, and the impact in recent years of the…

Our top 30 holiday destinations
Our top 30 holiday destinations

 To celebrate Rough Guides reaching the grand old age of 30 this year, we’ve asked some of our writers, editors and staff members to nominate their favourite holiday destinations across the world. Be prepared for some acute pangs of wanderlust… Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast James Smart, Senior Travel Editor, Rough Guides The sandy, snorkel-friendly Corn Islands…

Heading into deepest mafia country, Italy
Heading into deepest mafia country, Italy

The deep south, toe-end region of Aspromonte is still considered by many Italians to be out of bounds. For it is here, among the thick forests, crenellated mountain peaks and tumbledown villages, that the n’drangheta, or Calabrian mafia, based their empire until the 1990s. The organisation had its origins in landless nineteenth-century peasant workers who…

A night in the rainforest, Malaysia
A night in the rainforest, Malaysia

You probably won’t get much sleep on your first night in Taman Negara National Park – not because there’s an elephant on your chalet doorstep or the rain’s dripping through your tent, but because the rainforest is unexpectedly noisy after dark. High-volume insects whirr and beep at an ear-splitting pitch, branches creak and swish menacingly,…

Traversing the salt flats of the Salar de Uyuni
Traversing the salt flats of the Salar de Uyuni

Driving across the immaculate white expanse of the Salar de Uyuni, you’d think you were on another planet, so alien and inhospitable is the terrain. Some 3650m above sea level in the remote Andes of southwest Bolivia, the Salar is the largest salt flat in the world, a brilliantly white and perfectly flat desert that stretches over 10,000 square…

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…

Exploring Monument Valley’s vast wilderness
Exploring Monument Valley’s vast wilderness

We reached Monument Valley just as the sun was beginning to sink towards the horizon, casting a vivid glow on the red sandstone towers. As we stood on the balcony of our room at The View Hotel (the only hotel in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park itself), it was hard not to feel moved by…

Star-gazing at Mamalluca, Chile
Star-gazing at Mamalluca, Chile

In the northern half of Chile, the driest place on Earth, clouds are virtually unknown and the skies are of the brightest blue. At night, far away from the lights of major settlements, you can look up at a dark vault simply shimmering with stars. The near-perfect visibility almost every night of the year makes…

Places where you can wild camp – finding a pitch
Places where you can wild camp – finding a pitch

Like any artful skill, it goes by many names: stealth, free and wild to name a few. Each have a slightly different meaning, but they all refer to one simple concept – sleeping in the wilderness for free. Apart from being a stellar money-saver, wild camping is an excellent method to connect with the landscape…

A day at The Eden Project, Cornwall
A day at The Eden Project, Cornwall

Home to over a million plants and more than five thousand different species from around the world, the iconic “biomes” (gigantic greenhouses) at the Eden Project are the focus of the UK’s premier green attraction. Built on the site of a former clay quarry, the Rainforest Biome houses plants from tropical islands, Malaysia, West Africa…

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…

The road to ruins: Machu Picchu, Peru
The road to ruins: Machu Picchu, Peru

There’s a point on the Inca Trail when you suddenly forget the accumulated aches and pains of four days’ hard slog across the Andes. You’re standing at Inti Punku, the Sun Gate, the first golden rays of dawn slowly bringing the jungle to life. Down below, revealing itself in tantalizing glimpses as the early-morning mist…

Hiking in the Tatras, Poland
Hiking in the Tatras, Poland

The country’s traditional attractions – Warsaw’s lively old town and Kraków’s gorgeous squares – are worthwhile stops, but it’s easy to forget that there is another Poland, a genuine wilderness of high (and often snowbound) peaks, populated by lynx and bears. The Tatras Mountains are as beautiful as any national park in Europe, and their…

Bedouin camping at Wadi Rum, Jordan
Bedouin camping at Wadi Rum, Jordan

This excerpt from Make The Most Of Your Time On Earth sees one intrepid Rough Guides writer experience a night to remember… My Bedouin guide settled forward over his ribaba, a simple traditional stringed instrument. As he drew the bow to and fro, the mournful, reedy music seemed to fill the cool night air, echoing…

Taking in the views on the Tongariro Crossing
Taking in the views on the Tongariro Crossing

Alpine tundra, barren volcanic craters, steaming springs and iridescent lakes – the sheer diversity on the Tongariro Crossing makes it probably the best one-day tramp in the country. The wonderfully long views are unimpeded by the dense bush that crowds most New Zealand tracks, and from the highest point you can look out over almost…

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,…

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…

Exploring the Brecon Beacons in a Twizy: An Eco Tour
Exploring the Brecon Beacons in a Twizy: An Eco Tour

A new green initiative has been launched in the Brecon Beacons. The Eco Travel Network was established by local researchers and business owners to offer a pool of electric vehicles to visitors who want to explore the region while keeping their carbon footprint low. These Renault Twizys carry two people and run on batteries that can be…

The best places to visit in October
The best places to visit in October

As autumn looms in the north and spring is blossoming in the south, October is a beautiful month around the world. From the last of that European sunshine, to the wacky festivities of Halloween in the USA, here are the best places to go for holidays in October. Browse and buy leading art, London, UK…

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…

Lost for words at the Grand Canyon, Arizona
Lost for words at the Grand Canyon, Arizona

If a guidebook tells you that something is “impossible to describe”, it usually means the writer can’t be bothered to describe it – with one exception. After pondering the views of the Grand Canyon for the first time, the most spectacular natural wonder on Earth, most visitors are stunned into silence. Committed travellers hike down to the canyon floor…

Finding the corpse flower, Indonesia
Finding the corpse flower, Indonesia

When the English naturalist Joseph Arnold smelt rotting flesh during an 1821 expedition to the steamy jungles of Sumatra, he must have feared the worst. Back then, this was cannibal country. Blood-thirsty local tribes were known to capture their most hated enemies, tie them to a stake, and start feasting on their roasted body parts.…

Exploring Quichua culture in Ecuador’s highlands
Exploring Quichua culture in Ecuador’s highlands

You’re at an altitude of 3900m, shivering in the cold as the sun rises behind you. Below, a saw-edge precipice encircles a still, emerald-green lake 3km in diameter. Lower still, fertile plateaus creased with deep, shadowed valleys are picked out by the golden dawn light and, beyond, snow-capped peaks fringe the horizon. This is the…

Pick a papaya in Sri Lanka
Pick a papaya in Sri Lanka

If, along with rest and relaxation, your idea of the perfect holiday hideaway involves cooking up your own meals with fresh ingredients, then a self-catering stay at Samakanda Guesthouse might be just what you’re looking for. Tucked away in the hills above the town of Galle, Samakanda comprises two comfortable, solar-powered cottages: one a restored…

Meeting the monarch butterflies in Michoacan
Meeting the monarch butterflies in Michoacan

Early morning in the mountains of Michoacán. There’s a stillness in the wooded glades and a delicate scent of piny resin in the air. Mostly oyamel firs, the trees are oddly coated in a scrunched orange blanket – some kind of fungus? Diseased bark? Then the sun breaks through the mist and thousands of butterflies…

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…

Losing yourself in Connemara, Ireland
Losing yourself in Connemara, Ireland

On the far western edge of Europe, the starkly beautiful region of Connemara is a great place to get lost. Cut off from the rest of Ireland by the 25-mile barrier of Lough Corrib, the lie of the land at first looks simple, with two statuesque mountain ranges, the Maam Turks and the Twelve Bens, bordered by the…

Eating snake every which way in Hanoi, Vietnam
Eating snake every which way in Hanoi, Vietnam

When the man bringing your meal to the table is missing most of his fingers and the main ingredient is not only still alive but also long and writhing and – hang on, is that a cobra? Well, that’s when you know this is no ordinary dining experience. Eating at one of Hanoi’s snake restaurants…

Out-of-city experiences in Australia
Out-of-city experiences in Australia

Looking for amazing experiences on the doorstep of Australia’s big cities? Look no further. We’ve gathered together the best excursions, from surfing and snorkelling to bushwalking and caving, to tempt you away from the charms of the cities. Bushwalk the Blue Mountains, Sydney Just two hours from Sydney you’ll find the Blue Mountains, a kind…

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…

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…

Seven days in the warm heart of Africa
Seven days in the warm heart of Africa

Of all the sights, sounds and sensations stamped in my mind from my week in Malawi, one stands out above all others: Everlasting’s laugh. Our brilliantly-named driver was guide, companion and entertainer over several hours and countless bumpy miles around this sliver of sub-Saharan Africa, and his protracted guffaws were a law unto themselves. Oscillating…

Behold the northern lights, Sweden
Behold the northern lights, Sweden

They appear as shimmering arcs and waves of light, often blue or green in colour, which seem to sweep their way across the dark skies. During the darkest months of the year, the northern lights, or aurora borealis, are visible in the night sky all across northern Sweden. Until you see the light displays yourself,…

Iceland: top 10 hot pools to take a dip
Iceland: top 10 hot pools to take a dip

The Icelandic tradition of bathing outdoors in volcanically heated pools dates right back to Viking times. A few of these old pools survive today – often sited in spectacular locations – whilst almost all settlements, however tiny, have installed geothermally-heated swimming pools with accompanying hot tubs. It’s probably not how you planned spending time in…

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…

See sunrise on Mount Bromo, Indonesia
See sunrise on Mount Bromo, Indonesia

It’s not the most famous, the most active or the biggest volcano in the world, but Indonesia’s 2392m-high Mount Bromo is one of the most picturesque – in a dusty, post-apocalyptic sort of way. The still-smoking and apparently perfectly symmetrical cone rises precipitously out of a vast, windswept, sandy plain. This is the Sea of Sand, actually the floor…

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…

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”),…

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…

Chasing condors in the Colca Canyon, Peru
Chasing condors in the Colca Canyon, Peru

The rays of the morning sun begin to evaporate the mist that shrouds the depths of Peru’s Colca Canyon. You’ve come out in the early hours to see the condor, or Andean vulture, in action, and as the mist dissipates, you can see hundreds of others have done the same. Many cluster at the mirador…

Plunging from mountain to fjord on the Flamsbana
Plunging from mountain to fjord on the Flamsbana

The brakes grind then release and you’re off, squeaking and squealing down a roller-coaster-like track for what might just be the train ride of your life. This is the Flåmsbana, a shiny, pine-green pleasure train that plunges nearly a kilometre in a mere fifty minutes. The unforgettable ride takes you from the heady frozen heights of the Norwegian mountains…

20 stunning photos of New England fall foliage
20 stunning photos of New England fall foliage

Autumn (or Fall) in New England is a breathtaking and beautiful season: the billions of leaves change from green to a rainbow of browns, reds, oranges and yellows across the fields and forests of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. At this time of year the air is cool and crisp, making it…

The world’s most intense storms, Venezuela
The world’s most intense storms, Venezuela

Every night on Lake Maracaibo the clouds gather to perform the world’s most intense storms. Thunder and lightning crash about in the skies as residents of the local villages, built on stilts, sleep peacefully in their shacks. Alasdair Baverstock went to investigate. The towering thunderclouds that had been swelling upwards into the enormous skies were…

Exploring the Bungle Bungle Range, Australia
Exploring the Bungle Bungle Range, Australia

After seeing the Bungle Bungles Range in Purnululu National Park, Rough Guides writer Helen Ochyra had to return to explore this awe-inspiring rock formation on foot. Nothing is as good when seen through a window. A city view from the top of a sealed building, a passing landscape from a moving car, even a World…

Discovering Green Glasgow
Discovering Green Glasgow

Despite its industrial heritage Glasgow is actually one of the greenest cities in Europe, writes Helen Ochyra. Clip clop. I am travelling at nineteenth-century speeds along the main road of a country estate. On one side are formal gardens, planted with shaped hedges in lush greens, on the other, open fields dotted with dun-coloured Highland cattle.…

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…

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