Features // Off the beaten track

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

Want to support Nepal? Go there on your next trip
Want to support Nepal? Go there on your next trip

Four months after two devastating earthquakes struck the country, Nepal is slowly getting back on its feet. Shafik Meghji explains how, ahead of the peak tourist season, travellers can help the country recover by booking a holiday. Why should I go? Tourism is a vital part of the Nepali economy, directly supporting almost 500,000 jobs,…

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,…

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 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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

Unexplored Mexico: Chiapas and Tabasco
Unexplored Mexico: Chiapas and Tabasco

For many years Chiapas and Tabasco were famous for revolutionaries, chilli sauce and little else. But these neighbouring Mexican states are increasingly appearing on tourist itineraries, drawing in travellers with their magnificent ruins, colonial cities, unique indigenous cultures and lip-tingling cuisine. Shafik Meghji heads off the beaten track. Chiapas Stretched along the Guatemalan border 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…

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…

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…

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,…

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…

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.…

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…

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,…

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),…

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…

Svaneti: the hidden heart of the Caucasus
Svaneti: the hidden heart of the Caucasus

The isolated Svaneti region of northern Georgia is as beautiful as it is remote. True to the traditions of the Caucasus, its inhabitants have always been independent-minded, and for centuries frustrated outside attempts at control with the help of the sturdy defensive towers that still punctuate its hillsides. Yet today Svaneti is a place with…

11 pictures of Morocco at its most magical
11 pictures of Morocco at its most magical

Our roaming author and photographer Anthon Jackson has travelled to over eighty countries, from journeying across Iran and Egypt to researching for Rough Guides in Indonesia and India. Here he shares some of his favourite images of Morocco, a country with “plenty of dreamy spots to wander around with a camera.” “On my first visit to Morocco it…

Ten unforgettable things to do in Namibia
Ten unforgettable things to do in Namibia

From a deserted town to enormous sand dunes and sunset cocktails above the city, here are ten unforgettable things to see and do in Namibia. Hike Fish River Canyon Second only in size to America’s Grand Canyon, Namibia’s Fish River Canyon is one of Africa’s unsung wonders. Starting just south of Seeheim, it winds 161km…

Budapest: the perfect summer break
Budapest: the perfect summer break

Essentially two cities in one – Buda and Pest – Hungary’s magnificent capital is now firmly established as one of Europe’s most enticing destinations. Its dramatic setting astride the Danube is reason enough to visit, but the city packs in a multitude of things to see and do. First and foremost, no visitor to Budapest…

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,…

Camel trekking into the depths of the Danakil Depression, Ethiopia
Camel trekking into the depths of the Danakil Depression, Ethiopia

Following in the footsteps of the late explorer and travel writer Sir Wilfred Thesiger, Rough Guides writer Anthon Jackson takes to the back of a camel across the Danakil Depression, in pursuit of Lake Abhe Bad on the Ethiopia-Djibouti border.  Just after dawn on our fourth day in the dusty frontier town of Asaita, Go’obo,…

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…

8 of the weirdest things you’ll see in Vietnam
8 of the weirdest things you’ll see in Vietnam

Governed by Chinese dynasties for over a thousand years, ruled by the French for a century and occupied by American troops for over a decade, Vietnam has – remarkably – managed to uphold a vast array of cultural practices. To the rest of the world, some of these traditional customs seem pretty strange, but they’re still prevalent throughout this…

12 things you didn’t know you could do in Europe
12 things you didn’t know you could do in Europe

Some sights are touristy for a good reason. They’re the ones you go to Europe to check off: a wobbly gondola on the canals of Venice, or a mandatory Eiffel Tower selfie. Europe has countless sights all worth a visit in their own right, but there’s so much more to the continent than cathedrals and beaches –…

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…

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…

This video takes you from Mexico to Canada on foot in 3 minutes
This video takes you from Mexico to Canada on foot in 3 minutes

The fabled Pacific Crest Trail guides adventuresome hikers from the borders of Mexico to Canada, blazing across the deserts, mountain ranges and dense forests that make up America’s breathtaking Western States (California, Oregon, and Washington). It usually takes five months for thru-hikers to complete, but you’re about to make the 4286km journey in less than three minutes.…

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…

Quirky Tokyo: the top 10 things to do
Quirky Tokyo: the top 10 things to do

With its sushi and sumo, pop culture and age-old tradition, serene gardens and traffic hell, Tokyo bombards the senses like no other city. Ordered yet bewildering, Japan’s pulsating capital will lead you a merry dance – but being lost has never been so much fun. The planet’s largest metropolis is Asia at its weirdest, straightest,…

10 reasons to pack your bags for Tasmania
10 reasons to pack your bags for Tasmania

Tasmania has shaken off its reputation as a sleepy backwater. Australia’s smallest state is buzzing with art, nurturing an exciting foodie scene and cutting the ribbon on new hiking trails – all against a backdrop of rich history and remarkable wildlife. Here, Anita Isalska gives ten reasons why you should give in to the island’s lure. …

Up and coming: Savamala, Belgrade
Up and coming: Savamala, Belgrade

On a walking tour through the city, travel writer Mary Novakovich discovers regeneration in one of Belgrade‘s oldest neighbourhoods, Savamala. From buzzing clubs to a new four-star hotel, Savamala is picking itself up after years of leaving its buildings to decay.  Heavy lorries rumble noisily past, adding to the dust rising from the road works…

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