Features // Off the beaten track

Turkey in twelve meals
Turkey in twelve meals

Updating a guidebook is fascinating, exhausting, repetitive and exhilarating work. Nothing spurs you under the skin of a place more than 40 pages of listings that need checking in detail and the thought of thousands of travellers following your footsteps and relying on your diligence. Pounding the streets in search of that new café, lifting…

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…

Toasting bad weather in the Scottish Highlands
Toasting bad weather in the Scottish Highlands

First, be glad that it rains so much in Scotland. Without the rain the rivers here wouldn’t run – the Livet, the Fiddich, the Spey. Without the rain the glens wouldn’t be green and the barley wouldn’t grow tall and plump. Be glad it’s damp here in Scotland. Peat needs a few centuries sitting in…

Responsible travel – a green stay in Patagonia
Responsible travel – a green stay in Patagonia

Enjoy a more eco-friendly stay in Patagonia with our green guide to the region, taken from travel bible Great Escapes. Stay in an eco camp Ecocamp is a remote, futuristic camp in Chile’s Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. Tucked up in an igloo-like geodesic dome (made from sturdy galvanized iron and raised above the ground…

10 great reasons to visit Northern Ireland
10 great reasons to visit Northern Ireland

It has often had to play second fiddle to its southern neighbour, but Northern Ireland offers a diversity of attractions that frequently confounds first-time visitors. Rejuvenated and irrepressible, Belfast now rivals any of the UK’s capital cities, but in addition, the country manifests superb natural heritage – including one of the world’s great coastal road…

Why now’s the time to visit Nottingham, England
Why now’s the time to visit Nottingham, England

It may not feature on top of everyone’s British city bucket list, but it’s time to see this East Midlands city in a new light. Nottingham boasts a slew of new attractions for 2016, a recently expanded tram network and a burgeoning independent arts scene. Plus, in the year when the stalwart British fashion designer…

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…

Best places to visit in July
Best places to visit in July

July doesn’t have to mean fighting for space on packed European beaches, dodging flocks of school children and gritting your teeth at peak prices. Winter in the southern hemisphere promises cheap flights and fantastic skiing, while elsewhere July is packed with unusual festivals, wild celebrations and some of nature’s most spectacular events, giving you a…

Gorillas, gunfire and great coffee in Rwanda
Gorillas, gunfire and great coffee in Rwanda

“Isn’t it dangerous?”, “Isn’t there a war going on there?”, and “Aren’t there better places to spend your holiday?” are questions you may have to field when telling people you’re off to Rwanda. Even typing the country’s name into Google will instantly bring up the term “genocide”. The horrific events of 1994 cannot, and should…

Galloping through Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Galloping through Guanacaste, Costa Rica

This is not the Costa Rica you may have imagined: one glance at the wide-open spaces, the legions of heat-stunned cattle or the mounted sabaneros (cowboys) trotting alongside the Pan-American Highway reveals that Guanacaste has little in common with the rest of the country. Often called “the Texas of Costa Rica”, this is ranching territory: the lush, humid rainforest…

Wild and remote Britain
Wild and remote Britain

Britain’s more remote fringes are perfect for getting back to nature. Here’s seven our our favourite wild and remote spots drawn from travel bible Make The Most Of Your Time In Britain. Visit Bardsey, island of 20,000 saints You might get more than you bargain for if you’re out for a breath of fresh air…

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.…

Eight spectacular walks across the UK
Eight spectacular walks across the UK

Britain is home to an almost endless number of world-class rambling routes. We’ve narrowed down the choice to eight of our favourite spots for a brisk walk or a challenging hike, but do add your own favourite picks below. Epping Forest One of the last remaining vestiges of the ancient woodland that once blanketed England,…

Top ten great British wildlife experiences
Top ten great British wildlife experiences

Get up close to nature with our pick of the ten best wildlife sites across the UK, and let us know your own top British wildlife experiences below. Starling work on the Somerset Levels An eerie sight greets visitors to the Somerset Levels in late autumn and winter. At dusk between November and January a…

Mr & Mrs in Hsipaw: bizarre Burmese formalities
Mr & Mrs in Hsipaw: bizarre Burmese formalities

Writing for the new Rough Guide Snapshot Myanmar (Burma), John Oates travelled to the town of Hsipaw – a small settlement, once unfamiliar to the Burmese tourist trail – to discover bizarre traditions in the formalities of names, in which Mr and Mrs are a prefix for everyone. So that’s “Mr John” to you. It…

Great Rivers Of The World – The Amazon
Great Rivers Of The World – The Amazon

The Amazon is a land of true superlatives. The biggest river system in the world, it features eight of its top twenty longest waterways across 80,000 square kilometres of navigable passages, and churns a fifth of the globe’s fresh water through the largest rainforest on the planet. Spanning seven countries – Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador,…

Cage diving and conservation – a Q&A with Mark Carwardine
Cage diving and conservation – a Q&A with Mark Carwardine

Zoologist, committed conservationist, award-winning writer and bestselling author, TV and radio presenter, prolific wildlife photographer and expedition leader, Mark Carwardine is a hard man to pigeonhole. One thing, however, is for sure – his passion for the natural world is all-consuming. Here we get a flavour of the spine-tingling wildlife encounters that are the stuff…

Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City: where should you visit first?
Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City: where should you visit first?

Situated at the northern and southern extremes of this long, thin country, Vietnam’s two main cities lie over a thousand kilometres apart. Southern Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), formerly Saigon, was the US base during the Vietnam War and since the country’s unification has transformed into a thoroughly modern, thriving metropolis. The somewhat less modern…

Five of the best alternative walks in New Zealand
Five of the best alternative walks in New Zealand

New Zealand’s reputation as a walker’s paradise is thanks partly to its diversity of scenery, from the tropical beaches, hot springs and volcanic mountains in the north to the temperate forests, dramatic fjords and glacier-fed lakes in the south. But it’s also due to the country’s well-maintained network of backcountry trails managed by the Department…

Three magical days on the Rota Vicentina
Three magical days on the Rota Vicentina

Neil McQuillian explores a new network of trails in Portugal My ankle rolled to the side and I tumbled over. Our guide, José Granja, came across to check I was OK. “You know, you need to taste the floor,” he said, peering at me as we set off again. “I fell off my bike once,…

Sampling craft beers in the Holy Land
Sampling craft beers in the Holy Land

A sense of revolution is playing a central part in an unlikely craft beer scene currently thriving in the heart of the Middle East. Fearless beer-loving Yorkshireman Nick Appleyard set off in search of the best pint he could find on either side of Israel’s security barrier. It’s fair to say the Holy Land hasn’t…

Finding the Garden of Eden in Bolivia
Finding the Garden of Eden in Bolivia

You can’t buy a return ticket to the Garden of Eden, but if you could, your final destination would almost certainly be the Middle East. Colonial Spain begged to differ; according to Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America, one contemporary account located the biblical garden in the heart of the Amazon basin. It’s the…

Exploring Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula
Exploring Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula

For most travellers, Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula means one thing: the coast. Package tourists flock to the bold and brash resorts of Sharm el-Sheikh and neighbouring Na’ama Bay, while backpackers and independent travellers favour the more laid-back charms of Dahab and Nuweiba. The inviting Red Sea, sandy beaches and seemingly endless diving and snorkelling opportunities mean…

Six spectacular sights in Bolivia
Six spectacular sights in Bolivia

From the heights of La Paz to the Amazon rainforest, the immense Lake Titicaca to the blindingly white Salar de Uyuni salt flats, Bolivia is blessed with a wealth of spectacular sights. Neil McQuillian reveals his six highlights.    The Death Road Any reputable Death Road mountain biking operator will bore you to tears with safety instructions, dos and don’ts, and…

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…

Alternative travel in Southeast Asia
Alternative travel in Southeast Asia

From canoeing the lakes of Vietnam to riding an elephant through the jungles of Indonesia, enjoy the journey as much as the destination with our pick of some of the most amazing alternative travel experiences in Southeast Asia. Catch a Biodiesel bus around Cambodia Visits to the temples of Angkor Wat, the Killing Fields around…

People, places and putrified shark meat – getting to know Ben Fogle
People, places and putrified shark meat – getting to know Ben Fogle

An intrepid spirit and enduring passion for the natural world have led Ben Fogle, adventurer, writer and TV presenter, to some of the most extreme and spectacular places on earth. Whether he’s walking to the South Pole or rowing across the Atlantic, this fearless explorer is at his happiest when facing a gruelling physical challenge…

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…

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…

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…

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…

Emilia-Romagna: Tuscany without the crowds
Emilia-Romagna: Tuscany without the crowds

Blame Frances Mayes. Ever since she penned Under the Tuscan Sun twenty years ago the region has seen an unstoppable influx of English and American tourists descend on the area, which has left neighbouring regions, with just as much to offer, decidedly in the shade. Emilia-Romagna, home to an officially designated ‘Food Valley’, the majority…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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,…

A new side to the Czech Republic – five marvels of Moravia
A new side to the Czech Republic – five marvels of Moravia

The word’s been out for some time now: the Czech Republic does not begin and end with Prague. A little further over to the east, for example, the region of Moravia stands out for having all the rural Czech hallmarks you could possibly hope for – while at the same time still being within easy reach of…

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.…

Four Seasons in Slovenia
Four Seasons in Slovenia

Sandwiched between Italy, Croatia, Hungary and Austria, Slovenia might be small but it’s a surprisingly diverse country. Venture just an hour or so from the compact capital, Ljubljana, and you’ll find nearly 50 kilometres of sunny Adriatic coastline, tranquil wine regions and the stunning Lake Bled, backed by the soaring Julian Alps. Travel a little further and you’ll hit the dramatic Logarska Dolina,…

Braving Torres del Paine national park, Chile
Braving Torres del Paine national park, Chile

You have to keep your head down. Despite the spray-laden wind, it’s tempting to lift it above the rim of the boat and look ahead, so you can see the foam-capped waves racing past as the Zodiac inflatable roars upstream. Soon, in the distance, a towering peak of rock rises up. As you get closer…

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,…

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…

Dodging danger among the stunning national parks of Honduras
Dodging danger among the stunning national parks of Honduras

Among the chaos and danger of drug wars and organised crime Honduras can be a surprisingly beautiful and tranquil country. Shafik Meghji explored one of the country’s northern national parks on foot. “There are sometimes drug gangs in the park, but not in this part,” said my guide Jorge Salaverri, as our beat-up Jeep bumped…

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…

Extreme mountain biking in Ladakh, India
Extreme mountain biking in Ladakh, India

Mountain biking at altitude in the Himalayan region of Ladakh in northern India takes your breath away, writes Alasdair Baverstock. At the truck thundered towards us on the narrow dirt road, tossing boulders down the steep mountainside in its wake, Sonam Norbu took both hands off the wheel and fumbled for his lighter. Unimpressed by…

Santa Cruz: gateway to an alternative Bolivia
Santa Cruz: gateway to an alternative Bolivia

A new direct flight route from Europe to Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia could open up another side to the country writes Neil McQuillian. Travellers setting off on a South American tour rarely make Bolivia their first port of call. But as non-stop flights between Europe and the county restarted again last November (with Air Europa),…

16 captivating pictures of hill tribes in Laos
16 captivating pictures of hill tribes in Laos

Professional travel photographer Tim Draper has shot images for 24 Rough Guides guidebooks, visiting far-flung corners around the world. Here he shares some of his stunning shots taken in northern Laos, where he spent time with the Akha people. I‘d been trudging steadily uphill through dense jungle in heavy rain for over seven hours when I caught…

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