Features // Discovery

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,…

Whale watching in Husavik, Iceland
Whale watching in Husavik, Iceland

The fact that in Icelandic the word for beached whale is the same as that for jackpot or windfall may give you some clue as to how these seaborne beasts are seen by the locals. Yes, you may well find whale on the menu in Iceland’s restaurants – but thanks to a temporary moratorium on…

Trekking to Door Mountain, Iceland
Trekking to Door Mountain, Iceland

At the wild and sparsely inhabited eastern edge of Iceland, the granite crag of Dyrfjoll towers above the natural amphitheatre known as Stórurð (the Elves’ Bowl). One edge is sharp and steep, the other a flattened tabletop, and in between, the giant square gap that earns the whole its name: Door Mountain. Hewn by a glacier millions of years…

Visit Xi’an’s Terracotta Army, China
Visit Xi’an’s Terracotta Army, China

Qin Shi Huang, China’s first emperor, never did anything by halves. Not content with building the Great Wall, he spent his last years roaming the fringes of his empire, seeking a key to immortality. When (with inevitable irony) he died on his quest, his entourage returned to the capital near modern-day Xi’an and buried his…

Hunting for the world’s best chocolate in Venezuela
Hunting for the world’s best chocolate in Venezuela

As we walked along the beach road towards Chuao, a coastal Venezuelan town, a local was approaching from the other direction, swinging a machete in time with his steps. On either side of the concrete surface, the dense jungle towered above: enormous mango trees, banana groves, bamboo thickets and the shorter cocoa (or cacao) plants…

Equatorial differences in Quito, Ecuador
Equatorial differences in Quito, Ecuador

If you find yourself in Quito, a visit to the equator is more or less obligatory – the middle of the Earth is only about a thirty-minute drive north from the Ecuadorean capital. As you get closer, the highland vegetation gives way to sandy plains punctuated by uninspiring brown hills. The “Mitad del Mundo” monument…

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 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…

Checking out the Bauhaus architecture in Tel Aviv
Checking out the Bauhaus architecture in Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv is a city with chutzpah, a loud, gesticulating expression of urban Jewish culture. Revelling in a Mediterranean-style café culture, it has dozens of bars and clubs, all aimed squarely at the under-30s. It doesn’t seem likely to have much in the way of architectural interest – it was only founded in 1909 –…

Exploring Burma’s beaches on a budget
Exploring Burma’s beaches on a budget

As the tourism boycott has ended, Myanmar (Burma) is becoming a popular destination on the Southeast Asia trail. John Oates has been travelling across this untouched country for the upcoming Rough Guide Snapshot to Myanmar (Burma). Here he escapes the fast paced city of Yangon to relax on the sandy beaches of Myanmar. After several…

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