Here at Rough Guides we’ve always known that Vietnam is magical. The gleaming skyscrapers of the country’s booming cities have a singular kind of beauty that shouldn’t be overlooked, but it’s the natural landscape that is truly breathtaking. Picture rice terraces carved into steep hillsides, market days that are a riot of colour, limestone peaks jutting out from azure waters and white-sand beaches stretching for miles. Here are the most beautiful places in Vietnam – as voted for by our readers.
1. Cat Ba
Although the low-slung harbour town doesn’t have all that much – except location – to recommend it, the rest of the island is rocky and wild and begging to be explored. Half of Cat Ba is verdant national park and it’s a paradise for travellers who come here to hike, climb and kayak (the waters and coral reefs are protected too). For jaw-dropping views across Ha Long Bay, head up to Cannon Fort.
2. Da Lat
Nestled in Vietnam’s central highlands, Da Lat is a quintessential hill station centred on pretty Lake Xuan Huong, whose shore is lined with pine trees. Dotted with French Colonial-era villas
A land of ancient ruins, soaring Andean peaks and sweltering, seemingly endless jungle, South America is a true treat for the adventurous traveller.
Covered with sights that give testimony to the continent’s chaotic yet captivating history, across a series of nations as unique as they are huge, this is a region where few are disappointed – and many can’t help but return. If you’re planning a solo trip in South America, here’s everything you need to know.
The must-see destinations
The once Inca capital of Cusco is the gateway to the continent’s prime destination: Machu Picchu. Trek the paved path of the classic Inca Trail through lofty peaks and cloud forest, or escape the crowds along the increasingly popular Salkantay or Lares treks that take longer – and more remote – routes to these magnificent ruins.
In the south, Patagonia has become synonymous with world-class hiking, particularly in Chile’s Torres del Paine and Argentina’s Los Glaciares national parks, while Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flats, are an incomparable sight at dawn.
At the heart of South America, the Amazon rainforest draws visitors in their droves, all keen to spot a
This winter, hygge emerged as the most divisive cultural phenomenon to hit the world since that blue and black dress. Or was it white and gold? In the second episode of our podcast (iTunes; Soundcloud), The Rough Guide to Everywhere, we get to the bottom of what it’s actually about.
In case you’ve been living in a cave (probably unknowingly having quite a hyggelig time while you’re at it), hygge is the Scandi word that translates to being comfortable, content and – paradoxically – antisocial amongst friends. It is a spiritual turning inwards, or a literal turning towards the nearest candle; a concept casually applied by Danes for decades before the rest of the world caught wind last year.
Lovers have flocked to the shops to buy handsome books, thick woolly socks and as much cocoa as they can get their cashmere mitts on. Haters claim that the concept has been exploited by publishers and clothing companies in a cynical bid to sell more stuff.
So, just before hygge reaches ultimate saturation point, we decided to talk to the global spokesman for hygge, CEO of the Institute of
With eternal summer, thousands of kilometres of beaches and affordable prices, Southeast Asia is the perfect destination if you’re planning a trip around nightlife.
Truth be told, the region’s party reputation has been greatly tarnished by the excesses of Ko Pha Ngan’s full moon parties and drug- and alcohol-fuelled incidents at Vang Vieng’s tubing bars, Laos’ backpacker central. Yet the real picture is far from this portrayal of a gap-year-fool’s playground.
Southeast Asian nights hide many more vibrant and authentic experiences. Here are a few of the best.
1. Dive into Kuala Lumpur‘s music scene, Malaysia
Apart for the well-known Bukit Bintang, Bangsar and TREC entertainment districts, the Malaysian capital hides a polyhedric music scene. Around the Golden Triangle, you can start from ZOUK‘s trance and R&B-filled rooms to No Black Tie’s classy jazz ambience.
In the outskirts, Petaling Jaya’s Merdekarya hosts one-man-band blues wails, while Ampang’s Rumah Api and rehearsal space Live Fact are underground venues for alternative, metal and punk bands.
2. Sample Ho Chi Minh City‘s bars, Vietnam
When the sun goes down, the bustling energy of southern Vietnam’s megalopolis transfers to its many clubs and bars. Atmospheric rooftop lounges like Chill Sky Bar stay open until late, and besides drinking, there’s a small but exciting
‘Safari’ traditionally means journey in Swahili, but the word now describes the ultimate bucket-list trip to discover Africa’s wondrous wildlife. Yet today, that wildlife seems increasingly vulnerable, so how do you ensure your safari will be both safe and ethically sound?
Start with a good safari operator
A good safari operator is key to a good safari. Research well and check the company’s ethical credentials: do they use local staff and guides? How do they help communities? Are they involved with conservation initiatives?
With a bewildering array of safari options and complex logistics, it can be a false economy to book independently: specialist operators have invaluable insider knowledge and often better rates. Websites like safaribookings.com are a good place to start, and offer helpful customer reviews of hundreds of operators and the tours they offer.
Stay safe on the road
On game drives, remember wildlife is still wild, even if the lions or elephants you spot seem unperturbed by 4x4s surrounding them. Stick to responsible safari etiquette: stay in your vehicle, don’t stress the animals, don’t stand up or move suddenly, don’t let your driver get too close or go off-road hoping for a better tip, and definitely don’t litter.
Get closer to nature on an
Like it or not, podcasts are the ultimate travel companion of 2017. Whether you want to get gripped by a psychological drama with a Hollywood cast, nerd up on unbelievable facts, learn a brand new language or just have a good old fashioned belly-laugh, there’s a podcast out there for every traveller.
In fact we at Rough Guides are delighted to announce that today, we are entering the podcast-iverse with our brand new show The Rough Guide to Everywhere, featuring conversations with adventurers, comedians and eccentrics about their travel stories from around the world. You can listen to the first episode on Soundcloud here, and subscribe on iTunes or your favoured podcast app.
Here are nine other podcasts that will bring colour, inspiration and laughs to those occasional lonely or boring moments on the road.
1. If you’re a first-timer: Serial (series one)
For tens of millions of people, Serial was a deliciously addictive gateway drug into the world of podcasts. In the first series, launched back in 2014, investigative journalist Sarah Koenig delved into the mysterious 1999 murder of 18-year-old Hae Min Lee. It’s a true story, narrated with flair and compassion that will leave you yearning for answers.
2. If you like eavesdropping
From ancient temples to hyper-modern skyscrapers, these are just a few of the world’s most incredible architectural wonders. Whether you’re looking to wander lost ruins or explore lavish palaces, you’ll find inspiration here.
1. The Alhambra, Spain
Towering out of an elm-wooded hillside above Granada, a snowy Sierra Nevada behind, there are few more iconic images of Spain than the ochre-tinted enclave of the Alhambra. Over five thousand visitors wander through the restored complex every day. No amount of words, however, can approximate the sensual charge of seeing the Palacios Nazaríes, the best preserved palace of the Nasrid dynasty, for the first time.
2. Baalbek, Lebanon
One of the wonders of the ancient world, the Roman archeological site of Baalbek – a place that, in the words of Robert Byron, “dwarfs New York into a home of ants” – holds awe-inspiring temples, porticoes, courtyards and palatial stone stairways. The Greeks and Romans called it Heliopolis, “The City of the Sun”, a name it shares with another great Classical city in Egypt – but this phenomenal site has no equals.
3. Burj al Arab, Dubai, UAE
Dubai is a desert turned Disney. What was once a sleepy fishing village is now a futuristic cybercity, with sparkling skyscrapers, shopping malls,
With its stunning beaches, friendly people, unspoilt countryside and tasty local cuisine, Portugal is, unsurprisingly, one of Europe’s most popular travel destinations. If you’re planning a trip, here are 10 tips from Matthew Hancock, co-author of The Rough Guide to Portugal, to help you find the most authentic parts of the country, escape the crowds and get even more for your euros.
1. Go out of season
While it’s true that parts of Portugal – Lisbon and the Algarve beaches in particular – can be overcrowded and busy in high summer, they are surprisingly quiet out of season.
Autumn is a lovely time to visit – the sea is at its warmest (the Algarve average water temperature in October is 21˚C) while the sun still shines for an average of seven hours a day.
Most Portuguese assert that the sea is far too cold outside the self-imposed “swimming season” (usually just July and August), leaving the beaches more or less empty in the shoulder seasons.
2. Venture off the beaten track
In Portugal it pays to get off the tourist trail. Head inland to the border region, where fortified castle towns such as Marvão and Estremoz loom over the surrounding plains, and storks nest in spring above the olive
City breaks can be hard to plan. You want it all – art, culture, quirky hotels, top restaurants – but also the chance to relax. Fortunately, there some cities where you can find both. These eight European destinations don’t skimp on urban culture, and have nature on their doorstep for when you need a breath of fresh air.
1. Reykjavík, Iceland
Reykjavík is the ultimate city-and-nature destination. This diminutive capital brims with Nordic-chic boutiques and cool hotels, yet lies just a few hours’ drive from the country’s most earth-shatteringly gorgeous landscapes.
Catch a ferry out to the islands of Viðey, Lundey or Akurey to see thousands of breeding puffins; hike up the “city mountain” Mount Esja; and explore still-active Eyjafjallajökull volcano, just 90 minutes outside of town.
You can also use Reykjavík as your base before embarking on the famous “Golden Circle“. This route encompasses the geysers at Geysir and roaring waterfalls at Gullfoss, with bathing opportunities in thermal pools such as Fluðir or Laugarvatn along the way.
Back in the city, make time for Reykjavík’s growing number of innovative restaurants, many of which use locally sourced ingredients such as cloudberries or lamb. Try Michelin-starred DILL or the more affordable Sjávarbarinn for freshly caught seafood.
2. Munich, Germany
You’ll find some of Germany’s most beautiful architecture in Munich, Bavaria’s historic capital. Start by exploring
Whether you’re looking for a beautiful beach to share a sundowner on, or you want to get lost in each other amongst the bustle of a city, these are the best places around the world for a spot of romancing.
With verdant rainforest stretching down to dazzling white-sand beaches and warm azure seas, it’s no surprise that the islands of the Seychelles are such an intoxicating destination. Home to a number of intimate (and often exclusive) resorts – not least on beautiful La Digue island – this is undoubtedly a honeymooner’s paradise.
Constructed afresh each winter, the IceHotel is just as much an art project as it is somewhere to spend the night. Situated in Swedish Lapland, 200km north of the Arctic Circle, this is more than just an unusual place to stay (and snuggle up); it’s also an amazing spot from which to see one of the most astounding natural phenomena – the Northern Lights.
The Lake District, England
With sixteen major lakes squeezed between England’s highest mountains – and set within a mere thirty-mile area – the Lake District deserves all its hype. This is the place for long walks, picturesque villages and breathtaking scenery – and fantastic pubs in which
The Himalayan Queen, the Grand Trunk Express, the Deccan Odyssey… the very names of India’s trains are evocative of timeless style and old-school adventure.
Introduced by the British East India Company, tracks were first laid across the country in the late 1800s to transport troops. Only after independence in 1947 did the focus switch to passenger trains – now, Indian Railways is the biggest employer in the country.
Today, there’s always an element of adventure to a journey on the rails. Here’s everything you need to know before travelling by train in India.
1. Book in advance
Booking opens 60 days before travel, and long-distance trains get filled up quickly, meaning that only the shortest journeys can be organized on the day. It’s often possible to book at your hotel reception, but be aware that you may have to pay a small “admin” fee.
If you organize your trip at a train station, avoid any touts, head straight for the booking desk and leave yourself plenty of time – it’s not the fastest system in the world.
You can also book online, though it’s not as simple is click and pay. First, you’ll need to create an account on IRCTC (Indian Railways’ official website), which will require an Indian
Travelling is all about opening your eyes to new places, people and ways of life. But unfortunately, sometimes we’re so eager for an exciting experience that we can’t see the effects of our choices, and it’s all too easy to stop thinking about them once you’re back home.
While tourists are increasingly aware of the need to consider the environment when they travel, and to be aware of animal rights violations, fewer are informed about their impact on indigenous people. Here, we explain a little about what tribal tourism is, and why you need to take great care if you’re considering it.
What exactly is tribal tourism?
Tribal tourism is visiting a place in order to see or meet the indigenous people who live there. “Ethno-tourism” and “ethnic tourism” are sometimes used to describe the same thing. As the name implies, this isn’t the same thing as an expedition for anthropological research, but a trip for recreational purposes.
Why are people interested in this kind of tourism?
For some people, it’s an educational opportunity – travel is a way of learning more about the world and yourself, and meeting new people can be a part of that. Others feel that, in our globalised age, they’ll
It’s safe to say, most people’s preconceptions of Hull aren’t brilliant. In the past it has been named Britain’s worst city and the least romantic place in the UK. But Kingston upon Hull, to use its proper name, has come into its own in recent years.
Designated the UK City of Culture for 2017, Hull is finally showcasing to the world what a vibrant and intriguing place it really is. With exhibitions and celebrations all over the city this year, culminating in the September Freedom Festival, there’s plenty to interest every visitor. But even without all these special events, it remains a brilliant weekend away.
Here are just a few reasons to love this misunderstood city.
1. Its historical charm will surprise you
You might expect to see industrial factories and high-rise concrete blocks throughout Hull, but while much of the city was flattened by bombing during the blitz, some of its oldest streets remain.
Head to the Old Town, where cobbled roads are lined with charming old houses and visit the 700-year-old Holy Trinity Church for some typically British Gothic architecture.
The Victorian indoor marketplace and shopping arcade also evokes a past age; there are a handful of vendors still inside selling fresh fish and coffee, and the shops range
In January 2016, energy company Dakota Access announced plans to run an oil pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois. A few months later, members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe began protesting the threat to their water supplies. The protests quickly became a movement, a rallying point for all manner of individuals and groups to express anger about everything from dark money and corporate power to ecocide.
But while the protests came to mean many things to many people, Neil McQuillian found that they mean most to the Native Americans involved. He went to understand why this is one of the greatest scandals in US history.
Colourful flags crack in the cold wind. There are tepees that sit like crowns amongst the regular tents. A silvery grey sliver of Missouri river slicks dull beyond them. The camp is pretty, in a way.
But, in its freezing stillness, the scene feels bleak – the few figures I see are bundles of clothing, moving hurriedly to finish what they’re doing and get back into shelter. Plus I’m only dropping in – I’ve come to better understand the protests against the $3.8bn Dakota Access oil pipeline but have just a few hours to spare – which means I’m an outsider. That status weighs pretty heavily here.
So when I hear low applause, it sounds like warmth and
From the calm surf of the Caribbean on the east coast, to the gnarly breaks of the Pacific on the west, the beaches of Central America make for stellar backpacking territory. And there’s plenty more wedged in between.
Whether you want to sandboard down a steaming volcano in Nicaragua, explore a cloudforest in Costa Rica, watch the sunrise over ancient Maya sites in Guatemala, or hike through the thick Panamanian jungle, the slim waist of the Americas offers plenty of adventure.
Here are eight tips to help you get the best out the region’s seven countries.
1. Pick your countries wisely
Sometimes saving a few bucks is as simple as hopping from one playa to the next. But if you’re selective about the countries on your hit list you stand to pocket a whole lot more change. Costa Rica and Panama consistently rank among the most expensive countries in the area, alongside English-speaking Belize, leaving Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras among the cheaper choices.
2. Know your accommodation options
Hostels and homestays are plentiful in these parts, but if you fancy spending the odd night somewhere more swish, bear in mind that most destinations in Central America are yet to capitalise on the trend for flashpacker-style
Springtime is beautiful, with its big blue skies and flowers in bloom, so there may be no better time to travel. If you’re thinking about getting away, here are our editors’ picks of the best places to go in spring.
With the natural phenomenon known as hanami (cherry blossom), spring in Japan is simply stunning. Head to Ōsaka, one of our top 10 cities for 2017, in early April to see the city’s castle rise high above a sea of petals, or walk through the Expo 70 Commemorative Park beneath a canopy of pink.
After years of economic crisis, Portugal is finally on the up. Spring is a beautiful time of year for the Rota Vicentina, a network of walking trails on the west coast of Portugal’s Alentejo region. There’s an inland route – the Historical Way – for the sea-scraping Fishermen’s Trail cliff-top paths stunning ocean views shrubs and flowers are aromatic beyond belief and the native storks should be returning from their winter holidays around now too.
New Orleans, USA
Mardi Gras isn’t the only reason to make a trip down south. Louisiana’s capital is just as enchanting when things have quietened down. Take your time soaking up the faded beauty
The history of Bodie reads like a parody of Wild West clichés. The discovery of gold transformed this one-horse mining camp into a boomtown of banks and brothels, saloons and schools. When the gold supplies dwindled in the early twentieth century, so did the population, and today Bodie is preserved in a state of arrested decay.
Rough Guides writer Greg Dickinson travelled to Mono County, California, to prospect these haunted streets.
The time portal to Bodie is located about three miles west of the town. Only, unlike the DeLorean time machine in Back to the Future, you need to reduce your car’s speed to cross this wormhole.
The tarmac road reaches a sign that reads “Bodie Historic Park” and a crunch falls beneath your tyres as you land on the sun-bleached dirt track. There’s no looking back now, literally, as a cloud of whipped-up dust in the rear window distorts any memories of the modern world.
Slowly and jerkily I approached Bodie, air conditioning blasting the hell out of my face. You can’t help but feel a bit intrepid on this track near the border of California and Nevada, but I knew mine was just one in a long list of vehicles that had
Iceland is famous for majestic glaciers and snow-covered houses, for the Northern Lights and blue-lit ice caves. Visit in summer, though, and it can feel like a different country.
While there are still plenty of icy natural wonders, you can also party with the locals at summer festivals, hike across flower-strewn moorland and soak in hot springs under the midnight sun. Here are our picks of the best places to experience summer in Iceland.
To get off the tourist trail: the West Fjords
Summer is the perfect time to hike through the stunning Icelandic scenery, and if you can camp, so much the better (and cheaper). Dynjandi is a particularly good spot to pitch up – the waterfall may not be as famous as Gullfoss, but it still attracts plenty of visitors. Stay the night and you may well get the thunderous falls, glittering in the early-morning sun, all to yourself.
For a more remote West Fjords experience head to Hornstrandir, right on the edge of the Arctic Circle and barely accessible out of summer. This peninsula in Iceland’s far northwest is entirely wild, its inhospitable but beautiful terrain preserved as a nature reserve.
It’s the perfect place to escape the crowds of the southern coast –
Thailand is the quintessential backpacker destination. Here you can make the first footprints on secluded sands, dance shoeless under a full moon and swim beneath cascading waterfalls.
Running through Thailand’s rainforests and temples and looping around its islands and beaches is the so-called “banana pancake trail”, a well-worn, tried and tested backpacker route that has seen the sandals of thousands of independent travellers over the decades.
They’re still coming in their droves and you’re a part of the action as soon as you strap on that backpack – the accessory that ensures you won’t even have the chance to get lonely.
For a frenetic introduction to Thailand, head straight to Bangkok where the neon lights and market stalls of Khao San Road still serve as the country’s main backpacker hangout. Slurp noodles, sip local beer and visit the gilded Grand Palace and Wat Pho’s giant gold reclining Buddha with your new friends.
For impressive Thai temples, head to Ayutthaya in the north, the country’s ancient capital now scattered with temples in varying stages of decay. The brooding red-brick ruins are best viewed at sunset, when the golden light makes this atmospheric city a photographer’s dream.
If you’re after something a little more laidback, Kanchanaburi
In recent years social travel networks have become increasingly popular, largely thanks to a rising interest in experiential and responsible tourism. Travellers are looking for new ways to engage with local communities and delve into the heart of a country’s culture.
One of the best ways to gain a genuine insight into your destination is to opt for a homestay. Offering something a night in a hotel can never provide, they give you a real experience of local life, connect you with like-minded people and can provide a vital source of revenue in struggling economies.
Here are just a few reasons to consider a homestay next time you travel.
1. To explore somewhere new
Homestays provide the chance to get to know a destination you probably wouldn’t have explored otherwise. Not only could you find a neighbourhood, town, or village yet to feature on the tourist map, but you’ll learn about local customs and traditions, from eating habits to family routines.
2. To get under the skin of a city
Sprawling metropolises such as Paris, New York, Rome and London might count among the world’s greatest cities – but they’re hard to get to grips with in a weekend. Stay with a resident, and you’ll have the ultimate insider to guide