Features // Off the beaten track

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.…

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…

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,…

Epic journeys
Epic journeys

Travel by camel through the Sahara, hike the Appalachian trail, and grab forty winks on an overnight train from Nairobi as we take a look at the world’s most epic journeys. Crossing the desolate sands, Niger A camel journey across the Sahara is an authentic and intimate experience that gets to the core of the…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

Secret beaches in Europe and around the world
Secret beaches in Europe and around the world

If you’re looking for your own secret piece of  paradise, take a look at our recommendations for the best secluded beaches to visit in Europe and around the world. But you’d better hurry; they won’t stay secret for long… Plage de Saleccia, Corsica, France Plage de Saleccia is a kilometre-long sweep of soft sand with…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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,…

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.…

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…

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…

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…

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),…

Uncovering France’s hidden charms in the Dordogne
Uncovering France’s hidden charms in the Dordogne

During three weeks in the Dordogne and the Lot researching The Rough Guide to France, I clocked up over three thousand kilometres on the road – equivalent to driving from London to Istanbul – climbing up steep single-lane tracks to isolated hamlets, negotiating bizarre one-way systems, and zipping down empty country roads where every corner revealed…

11 tips for travelling in Greece
11 tips for travelling in Greece

The good news for travellers to Greece is this: ignore the crisis headlines. Away from the grim scenes in central Athens, life goes on as normal; there’s little sign of impending doom, instead it’s consistent blue skies, clear water and good cheer. These tips are the accumulated wisdom of avid Hellenophile Marc Perry, after three trips…

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…

Travelling the Silk Road in Uzbekistan
Travelling the Silk Road in Uzbekistan

While the Chinese stretch of the Silk Road is world famous, the central Asian section is far less travelled but has no less to see. Kiki Deere describes travelling the Silk Road in Uzbekistan, from post-Soviet Tashkent, through the beautiful blue-tiled city of Samarkand, to unspoilt Bukhara. I peered out of the window of our…

Puerta Cerradas: eating with locals in Buenos Aires
Puerta Cerradas: eating with locals in Buenos Aires

Think Argentina is all rump steak and raunchy – not to mention randy – gauchos? Then it’s time to discover the latest craze in buzzy Buenos Aires as puertas cerradas are revolutionising the city’s eating habits. “You get together in their living room and talk to all these people you’ve never met while the home owner is cooking…

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…

Getting technical: the best travel apps and websites for 2014
Getting technical: the best travel apps and websites for 2014

Smartphones and tablets have become an essential item in our backpacks nowadays, especially as wi-fi is pretty much everywhere and roaming charges are soon to be scrapped in Europe. If you’re going away in 2014, make sure you’re in the know with the best travel apps and websites for your trip: 1. CityMapper Got a…

Discovering musical stars in rural Rajasthan
Discovering musical stars in rural Rajasthan

The state of Rajasthan – a land route for trade and culture between the Arab world and Asia – could obsess a musicologist for an entire lifetime. With the right guidance, at every five paces you can meet singing genealogists and poetic percussionists, flute-playing farmers and dancing snake priests, living alongside child stars and living…

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,…

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