For a small country, Wales offers an incredible diversity of landscapes and experiences, many of which remain surprisingly undiscovered. From pristine white-sand beaches and rolling, quintessentially Welsh valleys to tucked away villages, here six places you really should visit – but which you’ve probably never heard of.

1. The Tywi Valley, south Wales

In the southwest of the country, the Tywi Valley is home to some of Wales’ most magical scenery – indeed, it’s not hard to see why the legend of Merlin remains so prevalent in the area. The lush green hills are punctuated with ruined castles, the standout of which is romantic Carreg Cennan.

Thought to be built on the site of a fortress that was built by one of King Arthur’s knights, the castle commands a striking position three hundred feet above the Cennen River, with views over towards the Black Mountain.

A much more modern attraction can be found in the National Botanic Garden of Wales, the centrepiece of which is Norman Foster’s striking glasshouse, which transports you into a much more Mediterranean climate than you could ever hope to find in the country.

The real joy in the region is, of course, taking your time in a leisurely exploration, following the curve of the green hills and discovering the quiet villages that sit among them.

2. Strumble Head, Pembrokeshire

Winding country lanes lead to Strumble Head on the beautiful north Pembrokeshire coast, which is arguably the best site in Wales for sea bird spotting.

This peaceful spot – though expect to be buffeted by the wind a little – is a rewarding place for watching gannets, kittiwakes, guillemots and fulmars, among many other birds, as they swoop and dive, and if you’re lucky you might also catch a glimpse of porpoises out on the water.

The best way to reach the headland is on an invigorating walk along the Coast Path, from which you can enjoy some astounding cliff-top views – plus, you’ll also be able to discover the lovely little beaches of Aber Mawr and Aber Bach.

by Martin de Lusenet on Flickr (CC 2.0)

3. Ruthin, Denbighshire

Sitting in the fertile Vale of Clwyd, the attractive little hilltop town of Ruthin stands out in the area for its particularly fine food, and makes a great base from which to explore the gentle hills that surround.

The market town is especially notable for its clutch of appealing half-timbered buildings, centred around St Peter’s Square, of which the higgledy-piggledy Nantclwyd y Dre, which dates partly from 1435, is especially worth seeking out.

On the southern edge of town, the imposing red thirteenth century sandstone castle makes a nice spot for a drink among rather grand surroundings or for a wander among the resident peacocks.

4. Rhoscolyn, Anglesey

The island of Anglesey, joined to the mainland by bridges near Bangor, offers a surprising plethora of lovely sights. One of the nicest, though strictly speaking on another island entirely (Holy Island), is the tiny seaside village of Rhoscolyn.

The sandy beaches here are exquisite and make this the ideal spot for a few days’ chilling out; if you’re after more active pursuits, this is also a great place for kayakers.

Best of all, there’s an excellent pub here – the White Eagle – which boasts a huge deck that’s perfect for soaking up the views of the coast, ideally over a pint or two of cask ale or a plate of locally-harvested oysters.

by Kris Williams on Flickr (CC 2.0)

5. Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog, Glyn Ceiriog Valley

There’s not much to Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog (or Llanarmon DC as it’s commonly known) but that’s part of its charm. Sitting on the edge of the quiet Glyn Ceiriog Valley, this is very much a place to come to get away from it all.

The blissfully quiet valley was long a vital route into both Snowdonia and the heart of the country, and today it still makes a great choice for a stop as part of a wider exploration of the country.

For such a small place, there’s not one but two impressive inns here, which – combined with some lovely walks on the doorstep, through the valleys and onto the moors – make Llanarmon DC the ideal choice for a relaxing countryside break.

6. Portmelgan, Pembrokeshire

Accessible only on foot, Porthmelgan is a tiny and spectacularly beautiful beach – the kind you usually only dream of stumbling across in the UK.

Just a fifteen-minute walk along the coast from popular Whitesands Bay, known for its surfing, Porthmelgan makes a much quieter and less crowded choice than its neighbour. The sheltered cove is great for paddling and rockpooling – though strong currents unfortunately mean that swimming can be a bit dangerous here – and on summer days the sands are something of a suntrap.

When you’ve had enough of sunbathing, you can rejoin the wonderful Pembrokeshire Coast Path to soak up yet more fabulous views over the cliffs and sea.

by Lynne Ayers in Flickr (CC 2.0)

Explore more of Wales with The Rough Guide to WalesCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

We all know about the UNESCO World Heritage List – the comprehensive list made by UN delegates, detailing places around the world that are “considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.” It includes sights like the pyramids in Egypt, England‘s Stonehenge and – most recently – the Forth Rail Bridge in Scotland. But there’s another list that no one really talks about: the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

What is intangible cultural heritage?

It’s things we can’t touch. Sometimes you can’t even see it. It includes anything and everything, from hospitality in the Middle East to a specific type of traditional music in Slovakia. Sometimes it’s vague – like the “know-how of cultivating mastic on the island of Chios, Greece” – and other times it’s extremely niche (take “Mongolian knuckle-bone shooting”, for example). Rather than places, sites or destinations, the intangible list focuses on traditions we’re keeping alive, and sometimes at risk of losing, from around the world.

What’s actually on the list?

In 2015, UNESCO added 28 new entries to their Intangible Heritage list. Here they are:

1. Glasoechko, a male two-part singing in Dolni Polog in Macedonia
2. Mongolia’s coaxing ritual for camels
3. Koogere oral tradition of the Basongora, Banyabindi and Batooro peoples in Uganda
4. The manufacture of cowbells in Portugal
5. The traditional Vallenato music of the Greater Magdalena region in Colombia

Pixabay / CC0

6. Aitysh/Aitys, art of improvisation, Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan
7. Al-Razfa, a traditional performing art from the UAE and Oman
8. Alardah Alnajdiyah, dance, drumming and poetry in Saudi Arabia
9. Arabic coffee, a symbol of generosity in the UAW, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar
10. Bagpipe culture in Slovakia

Pixabay / CC0

11. Classical horsemanship and the High School of the Spanish Riding School Vienna, Austria
12. Copper craftsmanship of Lahij, Azerbaijan
13. The epic art of Gorogly, Turkmenistan
14. Fichee-Chambalaalla, New Year festival of the Sidama people, Ethiopia
15. Filete porteño in Buenos Aires, a traditional painting technique, Argentina

Picture by Nick Taylor on Flickr (CC 2.0)

16. Lad’s dances in Romania
17. Majlis, a cultural and social space in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar
18. Marimba music, Ecuador and Colombia
19. Oshituthi shomagongo, marula fruit festival, Namibia
20. Sbuâ, annual pilgrimage to the zawiya of Sidi El Hadj Belkacem in Gourara, Algeria

Picture by CIFOR on Flickr (CC 2.0)

21. Summer solstice fire festivals in the Pyrenees in Andorra, Spain and France
22. Surova folk feast in Pernik region, Bulgaria
23. Three genres of traditional dance in Bali, Indonesia
24. Tinian marble craftsmanship in Greece
25. Tradition of kimchi-making in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Pixabay / CC0

26. Traditional knowledge and technologies relating to the growing and processing of the curagua, Venezuela
27. Tugging rituals and games, Cambodia, the Philippines, Korea and Vietnam
28. Wititi dance of the Colca Valley, Peru

If you’re after more bucket list inspiration, read our 50 things to do before you die list. 

Although long popular with Argentine tourists, Córdoba Province receives few foreign visitors, despite being one of the most diverse parts of the country. This underrated region is home to hip cities, kitsch Germania, iconic revolutionaries, skydiving hubs, UFO-spotters, and perhaps the finest horse riding on the continent.

Because its capital is getting cool

The capital of the province and Argentina‘s second city, Córdoba is finally emerging from the long shadow of Buenos Aires. Home to the second oldest university in South America, the city has a large student population, which gives it a dynamic, youthful feel. This sits alongside a well-preserved microcentro (historic centre) filled with beautiful colonial-era churches, monasteries, theatres and municipal buildings.

The local authorities are investing heavily in arts and culture, and several new museums and cultural spaces have opened up. The latest is the Centro Cultural Córdoba, an eye-catching, glass-and-concrete construction, with an arcing roof that appears to have been designed specifically to tempt skateboarders (though numerous signs warn that this activity is explicitly prohibited).

Immediately behind the centre, which hosts regular exhibitions, theatrical performances and film screenings, is the Faro (Lighthouse), a concrete twist that rises almost 90m into the air.

A photo posted by STC Architects (@stcarq) on

The centre of cool Córdoba, though, is Barrio Güemes, one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods, now rapidly gentrifying. Many of its crumbling eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century houses have been transformed into antique shops, boutiques, art galleries, and trendy restaurants and bars. The barrio comes alive in the evenings, when locals flock to drink craft beers at Dada Mini and cocktails at Milk, eat at the artist-owned Milo Lockett, and – at weekends – rummage through the stalls at the bohemian Paseo de las Artes street market.

Because you can ride like a gaucho

Córdoba’s central sierras, a mountain range formed 400 million years before the Andes and flanked with moorland and pampas, are wonderful for horse riding. The best place in the region for novice or experienced horse riders alike is the Anglo-Argentine-owned Estancia Los Potreros.

At this wonderfully secluded working ranch the Begg family and their gauchos take you on epic rides across an undulating landscape that vaguely resembles the Scottish Highlands.

Among their horses are Paso Peruanos, a breed famous for its extra “gait” – a fifth gear essentially – which makes for a smoother ride. They are so well-bred that even the most nervous rider will soon imagine themselves a cowboy or girl. More experienced riders, meanwhile, can try their hand at that very Anglo-Argentine sport, polo.

Because there’s town that looks like a cartoon Germany

For a complete change of scene, head to Villa General Belgrano, which feels like a cartoon version of Germany. The town was founded in the 1940s by survivors of the Graf Spree, a Nazi battleship that sank off the coast of Argentina during the “Battle of the River Plate” in World War Two.

Its streets are lined with ersatz Alpine-style buildings, mock castles, and pubs with names like “Alter Zeppelin” and “Viejo Munich”. Restaurants serve sausages and sauerkraut, spätzle and goulash, while café’s offer up black forest gateau and apple strudel. Shops, meanwhile, are stocked with beer steins, toy wooden trolls and relojes cu-cu (cuckoo clocks). The town comes into its own – with the kitsch ramped up to the max – in the autumn when it hosts a raucous Oktoberfest.

Because there’s adrenaline to be had in the skies

In the north of the province lies the town of La Cumbre, Argentina’s skydiving, hang gliding, and paragliding capital. If, however, you prefer to gaze up at the sky, head to nearby Capilla del Monte, famed for its UFO sightings. Here a steady stream of visitors arrive to experience the area’s “energy centres”, sample the medicinal qualities of local plants and herbs, and – above all – climb Cerro Uritorco, the supposed heart of the region’s paranormal activity.

Because there’s a fascinating revolutionary history

The province also has a fascinating revolutionary history, starting with the Jesuits, who helped to shape modern South America. The religious order – Pope Francis is a member – arrived in the region in the early 1600s, and quickly turned it into a cultural centre. Forced labour was provided by the indigenous community in return for the “civilizing” benefits of religious and Spanish-language instruction.

For the Spanish Crown this was a dangerously enlightened approach, and the – by now very wealthy – Jesuits were eventually banished from the continent in the 1760s. As well as a lasting cultural influence, they left behind an incredible array of architectural gems, notably estancias (ranches) such as Santa Catalina.

Almost 200 years later, in the 1930s, the Guevara family moved to Alta Gracia, a small town 40km south of Córdoba, in the hope that the dry climate of the surrounding sierras would help the five-year-old “Che” cope with his chronic asthma.

Their home, Villa Beatriz, is now an evocative museum, filled with all manner of memorabilia – from the golf clubs and typewriter Che used as a young man to the ashes of Alberto Granado, with whom he embarked on his famous motorcycle journey around Latin America.

Shafik Meghji co-authors The Rough Guide to Argentina. He blogs at unmappedroutes.com and tweet @ShafikMeghjiCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

We sent Rough Guides editor Rachel Mills to the southernmost tip of the Indian Subcontinent to research Kerala for the upcoming Rough Guide to India. From tea estates in lush green hills to sultry palm-fringed backwaters, plus a host of deserted beaches, she dove beneath the surface and immersed herself in the region’s natural wonders, lavish festivals and heavenly South Indian food.

In this video, Rachel shares tips on the top five things to do in Kerala. Here’s her expert travel advice for your trip to “God’s Own Country”.

Backpacking Australia will almost certainly exceed your expectations. It’s not just that the places you’ll see will be more stunning than you had imagined – from the open, red-tinged landscapes and rich rainforests inland to the immaculate, golden shores. It’s that the country is geared up for good times, whether it’s getting active outdoors in that almost endless sunshine, enjoying the exceptional café culture or getting swept up by the atmosphere at a sporting event.

Here are a few useful things to know before your first trip.

1. Plan a rough itinerary

Spontaneity is one of the best things about backpacking, but in Australia it pays to have at least a rough itinerary, as it’s easy to underestimate how long it takes to get around this vast country. Spending longer than planned pottering around South Australia’s wine country – fun though it is – might mean you have to sacrifice that eagerly awaited trip to extraordinary Uluru or exploring the billabongs of Kakudu.

Three weeks is the absolute minimum to “do” the East Coast by land: Sydney to Cairns via the broad beaches of Byron Bay and the Gold Coast, self-driving the length of Fraser Island (the largest sand island in the world), sailing the gorgeous Whitsundays, diving at the Great Barrier Reef and trekking in Daintree, the oldest tropical rainforest on earth. So to see the rest of Australia, you’ll need to fly or have much more time.

Pixabay / CC0

2. Plan where to go when

At any time of year, Australia is a great place to visit but it can get unbelievably hot, as well as surprisingly chilly and rainy, depending on where you go. Avoid travelling north during the “build-up” – the unbearably sticky weeks before the wet season rains bring cooler temperatures (Nov–March).

It’s far better to spend time in the more temperate south during these months, for example driving the Great Ocean Road or on a hiking trip in the Blue Mountains. The winter is generally a quieter so it’s a lovely time to see the country.

3. Pick accommodation to suit your needs

For solo travellers, Australia is a breeze. Staying in hostels is the best way to meet people, and  staff can help you orientate yourself and make travel arrangements, while other backpackers are an invaluable source of information.

Whilst not to everyone’s taste, “party hostels” provide social events to break the ice, but you can also find rural retreats, city hipster hangouts, and most have private rooms if you’re a couple or dorms don’t suit.

Airbnb is a popular alternative while campsites are usually well-equipped with kitchens, toilets and the ubiquitous barbecue.

PixabayCC0

4. Choose transport to suit your needs

Without doubt the easiest way to cover the great distances around Oz is to fly, but travelling by bus allows you to see more and is cheaper. Gaze out of the window on a long journey and be mesmerised by the changing landscape: the rust-coloured bush where kangaroos bound alongside, swaying grasslands, blue-tinged mountains, and occasional tiny settlements flashing past.

Greyhound buses offer hop-on hop-off travel passes and the Oz Experience – the party backpacker equivalent – provides excursions along the way. If you want more freedom, hire a car or camper van, pack a tent or bivvy bag and camp out under the stars.

5. Be savvy about safety

Throughout Australia, be prepared for summer heat waves when forest fires are a frequent danger. The arid interior is a hostile environment so take the necessary precautions if you plan to drive – breaking down here is no joke. Like in big cities anywhere in the world, be streetwise – watch your valuables and let family and friends know where you are going.

6. Don’t be spooked by dangerous animals

Australia has more than its fair share of scary critters but don’t get paranoid – the risks are actually very low: more people die each year from bee stings than from encounters with snakes, sharks, dingoes, saltwater crocodiles or jellyfish.

Spider bites are rarely fatal thanks to the availability of anti-venom. That said, do take simple precautions: redback spiders hide in sheltered places so always check under toilet seats, especially in outside lavatories.

Reduce the risk of encountering a shark by swimming between the flags on patrolled beaches and don’t swim in estuaries, rivers or mangroves where saltwater crocodiles like to hang out. When hiking in the bush, wear protective footwear to avoid snake bites.

PixabayCC0

7. Go west

Most visitors to Australia follow the well-trodden path up the East Coast. While it’s undoubtedly a highlight, the Ningaloo Reef on the remote West Coast is an equally spectacular and, unlike at the Great Barrier Reef, it comes right into the shore.

At Coral Bay, you can wade out through turquoise water to the reef or take a glass-bottomed boat and watch an exhilarating frenzy of fish at feeding time. When you’re done snorkelling or diving, see the reef from a biplane or speed on quad bikes along a glimmering white beach.

Head inland to spend the night at an isolated sheep station, cooking over a campfire as the sun sets over the never-ending ochre landscape.

8. Don’t dismiss anywhere

You can have a good time in the most unlikely places: for example, a stopover at a one-horse town with nothing but a pub and a few bungalows may turn out to be the venue for one of the most surprisingly good nights of your trip. The town probably won’t make it into the guidebooks but finding adventure where you least expect is one of the best things about backpacking in Australia.

9. Learn the lingo

Contrary to expectation, it’s unlikely you’ll hear anyone utter the words “fair dinkum” or “g’day Sheila”. However, there are lots of slang words that will flummox first-time visitors initially. You’ll wear your sunnies (sunglasses), boardies (board shorts) and thongs (flip flops) to the beach and bring an esky (ice cooler) for your barbie (barbecue).

Ordering a beer is one of the hardest linguistic challenges: in most states, a schooner is a large 450ml glass, except in Victoria and Queensland where it’s a pint. The smaller beer glass is called a pot in Victoria and Queensland; a middy in New South Wales and Western Australia; or a handle in the Northern Territory. Confused? Just ask for a stubby (375ml bottled beer), which is the same word everywhere.

10. Look for freebies

Fortunately, you don’t always have to pay to go swimming, surfing, snorkelling or walking. In all the major cities, you can visit the botanic gardens and many museums and galleries for free. There’s no fee to take a tour of Parliament in Canberra or ride Melbourne’s the historic City Circle Tram. Festivals around the country offer some free events; one of the most memorable is the Sydney Mardi Gras.

11. Work to pay your way

If staying for a while, find out if you are eligible for a working holiday visa at Australia.gov.au. Depending on the type of visa, you could do your usual type of work or see it as a chance to try out something completely different. If you normally work in an office job, why not try out working on a farm or fruit picking?

If you want to do bar or barista work, in most states you’ll need to obtain an RSA certificate, regardless of whether you have experience. If you’re planning to work in a city, bear the seasons in mind. For example, in Sydney, the peak tourist season is December to February so this can be the hardest time to find work, as businesses are quiet during the summer holidays.

There’s information about working in Australia on the Travellers’ Contact Point website (including tips on finding work, tax and opening a bank account).

12. Don’t hold back

Something happens to people when they travel around Australia. Normally adrenaline-shy folk find themselves bungee-jumping or throwing themselves out of planes as if it’s completely normal. The active, outdoors approach to life is infectious and you’ll probably want to make the most of each day.

So don’t stop yourself: do all the things that excite you – whether abseiling at Tasmania’s Gordon Dam or dancing all afternoon at a boat party in Sydney Harbour – and see as much of this amazing country as you possibly can.

Explore more of Australia with the Rough Guide to AustraliaCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Access to even some of the more remote parts of South America has improved in the past few decades, establishing a now well-etched tourist trail. But if you want to escape the crowds and make a beeline for an unexplored South American treasure, look no further than this list of the places you’ve never heard of, but should definitely visit.

Ranging from Argentinean ghost towns or alternative Brazilian carnival celebrations, to one of the world’s most unique and endangered landscapes, you’ll encounter a fresh perspective on South America if you visit any of these places.

1. For history: Epecuén, Argentina

Once a bustling resort attracting 25,000 holidaymakers per year, Epecuén has since found infamy as Argentina’s ghost town. In 1985, its main attraction – a therapeutic salt-water lake – overflowed its banks, flooding the town.

Abandoned to a watery grave for almost 25 years, Epecuén reappeared when the water finally began to recede in 2009. You can visit this melancholy relic of lost years by taking a bus to nearby Carhue (seven hours from Buenos Aires), from where you can walk among the ruins and even speak with former residents.

Image by rodoluca88 on Flickr (license)

2. For fascinating culture: Suriname

Suriname’s tourism industry is still in a fledgling state, but don’t let this deter you. Its capital city, Paramaribo, holds UNESCO World Heritage status thanks to its well-preserved colonial wooden buildings, while outside the city you can explore Suriname’s standing as one of South America’s most enigmatic countries with a trip to the communities of the Saramaka Maroons.

Originally groups of plantation slaves who escaped into the jungle in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, these communities maintain African traditions and Ghanaian dialects. Controlled tours to the Maroons’ villages are possible with agencies in Paramaribo.

3. For an alternative carnival: Olinda and Recife, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro might draw the most international visitors, but carnival in Olinda and Recife – neighbouring cities in the northeast of Brazil – offers a unique and more traditionally-rooted experience.

For carnival week, the winding, colonial streets of Olinda throng with parades reflecting a mixture of Brazilian folklore and African influences: check out the frevo dancing (clowns dancing with umbrellas) and the maracatu. The latter is a style of drumming originally brought to Brazil by African slaves, and where the players wear lavishly-decorated and extravagant headdresses.

In both Recife and Olinda, submit to the frenetic energy of the carnival blocos: parades of dancing revellers dressed in anything from traditional outfits to Flintstones costumes. Towering above the chaos are the 20ft-tall bonecos de Olinda – enormous, brightly-coloured statues. Don’t miss the most renowned of these blocos in Recife: the Galo da Madrugada. With over 2.5 million dancers, it is the largest globally, and features the giant rooster boneco from which the parade takes its name.

4. For excellent international cuisine: Gustu, La Paz, Bolivia

Bolivia and ‘internationally-renowned cuisine’ rarely appear in the same sentence. However, a food revolution driven by Claus Meyer – world-acclaimed chef and owner of Danish restaurant Noma – is attempting to reinvent Bolivia’s reputation.

Meyer opened Gustu in 2012 with a new take on fine dining, demonstrating what can be achieved with only local, Bolivian ingredients. The restaurant is run entirely by chefs trained in La Paz’s poorest district – El Alto – and acts as a social enterprise providing opportunities for underprivileged youth in the city.

Try a seven course tasting menu with drinks pairings for 640 bolivianos, and watch the magic happen as you dine at the chef’s table.

5. For untouched beaches: Palomino, Colombia

If you’re seeking respite from travelling, the unspoilt, white-sand beaches of Palomino should be next on your itinerary. Although its fame as a tourist haven is growing, Palomino remains a paradise for anyone looking to relax on unspoilt shores beneath the world’s highest coastal mountain range, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. There’s not a lot to do here apart from sunbathing or tubing down the river – but, frankly, that’s part of the appeal.

6. For astounding rock formations: Lago General Carrera, Chile/Argentina

Covering 1850-square-kilometres, Lago General Carrera (or Lago Buenos Aires as it’s known in Argentina) is a body of water straddling the Chilean/Argentinean border, five hours south of Coyhaique. Fed by glacial waters from the mountains, silt is responsible for the extraordinary azure of the water, which changes colour throughout the year.

It’s an unmissable sight thanks to the rock formations of white, blue and pink marble in the centre of the lake, a product of 6000 years of erosion. Accessible only by boat, visitors can admire the biggest structure, El Catedral de Márbol (the Marble Cathedral) or appreciate the breathtaking contrast of colours in the smaller cave systems.

7. For abundant wildlife: Parque Nacional Monte León, Argentina

Argentina’s first protected coastline, Parque Nacional Monte León is teeming with marine and aquatic animals. Covering 24 miles of desolate shores, an estimated 70 species of birds, a rookery of 75,000 Magellanic penguins, and a sea lion colony can be found here. Dolphin and whale sightings are also common and an official campground with basic facilities means you can appreciate this stunning national park in closer proximity. Visit during the park’s open months from November through April.

8. For alternative landscapes: El Pantanal, Paraguay

The largest natural wetland in the world, El Pantanal covers 81,000 square miles across Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. At threat from poor farming practices and unregulated tourism, this staggeringly diverse ecosystem can be accessed most adventurously from the Paraguayan side, with a trip to Los Tres Gigantes Biological Station.

Near to the town of Bahia Negra, and 600 miles from the capital Asuncion, the station can be reached by bus, plane or boat. With food and lodging provided, you can spend your days searching for the elusive jaguar with one of the station’s guides, or just relax and appreciate the organisation’s work in protecting one of the world’s most unique landscapes.

If you’re travelling to South America and are concerned about the zika virus, seek advice from National Travel Health Network and Centre. Explore more of South America with the Rough Guide to South America on a BudgetCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

It’s not just height that makes a mountain mean. Different routes can make one side of a mountain a cinch and the other side nearly impossible. The weather can turn a technically easy climb into a deadly expedition.

But whatever the weather, many aspire to tackle the world’s hardest mountains to climb. Here’s our ranking of the 11 trickiest ascents. Glorious and gruelling, gorgeous and grim – these peaks are as dangerous as they are awe-inspiring.

11. Mont Blanc, Italy and France

Elevation: 4808m
Average time to summit: 2 days

It may not be that tall compared to peaks in the Himalayas, and typical routes aren’t that technically challenging. Plus, its position on the border of Italy and France makes it all the more convenient. What better way to follow up your Eiffel Tower selfie than with a snap of you atop Europe’s highest peak?

This sort of heady logic brings many tourists to Mont Blanc every year, and maybe that’s why Mont Blanc has killed more people than any other mountain. Some 8000 have perished on this scenic European climb, most of them novices. Be responsible and be prepared if you’re planning to climb Mont Blanc, its power shouldn’t be taken lightly.

10. Vinson Massif, Antarctica

Elevation: 4892m
Average time to summit: 7–21 days

Fabled Vinson was first glimpsed by human eyes in 1958. Since then, only some 1400 have reached the summit. Weather poses the greatest threat here: it has some of the coldest temperatures on the planet and winds that can easily surpass 80 kilometres per hour.

The simple fact that it could takes weeks to get to a proper hospital in an emergency makes this a remarkably dangerous excursion. Furthermore, getting to Antarctica is going to cost you – a lot. Be prepared to dish out between $34,000–US $82,000 for your trip.

Vinson-036 by Olof Sundström & Martin Letzter on Flickr (license)

9. Matterhorn, Switzerland

Elevation: 4478m
Average time to summit: 5 days

An icon of the Alps, the pyramidal peak of the Matterhorn is successfully ascended by hundreds of climbers every year. However, this is no reason to assume it an easy climb.

The mountain has claimed more than 500 lives since 1865, and still takes a few more each year. Falling rocks have always posed a threat, but the crowds scrambling towards the peak every day during the Swiss summer have created new challenges for climbers to conquer, and new reasons to take on the more demanding conditions of winter.

8. Cerro Torre, Argentina and Chile

Location:Elevation: 3128m
Average time to summit: 4–7 days

Cerro Torre has long captivated the hopes and hearts of climbers, a jagged spire jutting out of the Patagonian Ice Field’s mountains.

Notoriously sheer with a peak guarded by a hazardous layer of rime ice formed by battering winds, it does not offer itself up easily. Climbers must be prepared to tunnel through the ice and deal with vertical and even overhanging sections.

7. The Eiger, Switzerland

Elevation: 3970m
Average time to summit: 2–3 days

The difficulty of the Eiger’s north face has earned it a disturbing nickname: Murder Wall. Requiring an technical skill and ice axe finesse, the sharp overhang, 1800m face and ever-increasing threat of falling ice and rock (a result of global warming) has killed at least 64 climbers trying to follow up the first successful ascent in 1938.

Pixabay / CC0

6. Denali, Alaska, USA

Elevation: 6190m
Average time to summit: 21 days

The altitude, awful weather, relative isolation and punishing temperatures all pose a serious threat to those who attempt to summit North America’s tallest mountain, previously known as Mount McKinley. Further, its high degree of latitude means that atmosphere and oxygen are spread thin.

Despite the having only a 50% success rate, Denali never fails to tempt climbers to ascend. Perhaps the words of one of the first climbers to summit have something to do with the far-flung Alaskan allure: “The view from the top of Mount McKinley is like looking out the windows of Heaven”.

5. Mount Everest, Nepal and Tibet

Elevation: 8848m
Average time to summit: 54 days

Surprised to see the world’s tallest mountain in the middle of our list? Make no mistake, Everest is still a difficult climb. Weather and altitudes can still be deadly, and avalanches have claimed dozens of lives in recent years.

But its glory has faded somewhat with the mountain’s commercialisation: while once it was a feat not many travellers could claim to have achieved, today’s services enable climbers hire local porters to lug their packs, employ chefs to prepare food, and even have a personal medic in case of injury to follow you as far as Base Camp.

However, the crowds that Everest attracts today have become an unfortunate danger in itself. If you do invest in a climb during the more accessible peak season, prepare to join a traffic-jam like queue of hundreds of climbers waiting their turn to summit.

4. Baintha Brakk, Pakistan

Elevation: 7285m
Average time to summit: undetermined

Commonly called “The Ogre”, towering Baintha Brakk has only been summited three times. Immense in scale, intricate in shape and harrowing in incline, this mountain is both the blight and desire of mountaineering’s most hardcore enthusiasts. From the start, any bold attempt at this mountain is a veritable struggle for survival.

Image by junaidrao on Flickr (license)

3. Kangchenjunga, India and Nepal

Elevation: 8586m
Average time to summit: 40–60 days

While climbing death rates are generally decreasing, Kangchenjunga stands as an unfortunate exception to the rule, taking more lives as time goes on. It seems fitting that the mountain is regarded as the home of a rakshasa (or man-eating demon). Only 187 have ever reached the top, though out of respect for the mountain’s immense religious significance among the region’s Buddhists, climbers have always stopped short of the summit.

PixabayCC0

2. K2, China and Pakistan

Elevation: 8611m
Average time to summit: 60 days

Though plenty of peaks in the Himalaya could contest for second on our list, K2’s technical difficulty is legendary. It’s also the second tallest mountain in the world.

In an infamous section called the “Bottleneck”, climbers traverse a towering overhang of precarious glacial ice and massive, sometimes unstable, seracs. It’s the fastest route to the top, minimizing time climbing above K2’s “death zone”: the 8000m altitude above which human life can only briefly be sustained. But too often these seracs come tumbling down, taking climbers to plummet with them.

gabe and K2 on Flickr by Maria Ly (license)

1. Annapurna, Nepal

Elevation: 8091m
Average time to summit: 40–50 days

By no means should a mountain’s height ever be confused with its technical difficulty. Annapurna, the tenth highest peak in the world, is deadly proof. With a near 40% summit fatality rate, a mountaineer is more likely to die here than on any other 8000m climb.

Threat of storms and avalanches loom over the mountain’s hulking glacial architecture. The south face, in particular, is widely considered the most dangerous climb on Earth.

Compare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Heading to the Portuguese capital this year? Whether you want rich history or shops galore, these are the best areas to stay in Lisbon according to our expert.

Best for the historic centre: Baixa and Chiado

Lisbon’s Baixa, or ‘downtown’, is an appealing oblong of handsome buildings flanked by the squares of Rossio, Figueira and the grand riverfront Praça do Comércio. Its an impressive example of late eighteenth-century town planning in which many of its traditional shops survive. Most of its banks and offices have now been converted into hotels and guesthouses: a plethora of them have opened up in the last couple of years, so wherever you stay, you’ll be right in the thick of it. Consider adjacent Chiado, too, the chic shopping district that’s home to the famous café A Brasileira.

Cash-strapped: Florescente
Feeling flush: Hotel do Chiado

Best for romance: Alfama

The city’s oldest quarter is a fascinating warren of steep, winding streets that thread their way past densely-packed houses where life carries on much as it has for centuries. Heading uphill towards the castle, you’ll get some of the best views Lisbon has to offer, across the terracotta roof tiles and the cruise ships that anchor on the broad Tagus estuary. Fado restaurants and souvenir shops are moving in, but this is still an alluring olde-worlde village Lisbon where you can spend all day exploring.

Cash-strapped: The Keep
Feeling flush: Memmo Alfama

Photo courtesy of The Keep, Lisbon

Best for designer shopping: Avenida da Liberdade

The wide, palm-lined Avenida da Liberdade is a mile-long strip of Portugal’s most expensive real estate, where embassies and consulates sit above top glitzy designer shops. Gently sloping downhill from the spaces of the centre’s main park, Parque Eduardo VII, to the central Baixa, the Avenida is also a short walk from most of Lisbon’s attractions.

Cash-strapped: Dom Carlos Parque
Feeling flush: Heritage Avenida

Best for hip and happening: Cais do Sodré

The once seedy Cais do Sodré has had a makeover, and the bars and clubs that once attracted sailors and street walkers now attract the hip and trendy. There’s an appealing riverfont promenade, tasteful warehouse conversions and the Mercado da Ribeira, the main market, much of it now given over to food stalls serving top cuisine. Cais do Sodré also has plenty of fashionable restaurants and bars, but many of its budget establishments remain; it hasn’t quite thrown off the earthiness that is part of its appeal.

Cash-strapped: Oasis Hostel
Feeling flush: LX Boutique

The bar in Hotel Bairro Alto

Best for nightlife: Bairro Alto

Spread out across a hill above the old town, the ‘high district’ has long been the city’s bohemian quarter. Its grid of densely packed streets are an intriguing medley of boutiques, bars, restaurants and graffittied houses. Relatively quiet by day, the district comes to life after midnight when on warm summer nights, it gives the impression there’s a permanent street party taking place until the small hours. This is not the place to come for a quiet night, but ideal if you want some serious nightlife. Stay on the fringes of the central grid to be clear of the noisiest streets.

Cash-strapped: The Independente
Feeling flush: Hotel Bairro Alto

Best for sophisticates: Lapa and Madragoa

West of the centre, the well-heeled districts of Lapa and Madragoa contain some of the city’s finest mansions and embassies, many with dazzling views over the Tagus. This is a quieter, more residential side to Lisbon, yet you’re only a short tram or bus ride from the city centre one way and the historic sites of Belém the other. This is also where you’ll find the splendid Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, an art gallery featuring the likes of Hieronymus Bosch, Dürer, Rodin and Cranach.

Cash-strapped: Fado Bed and Breakfast
Feeling flush: Olissippo Lapa Palace

Lapa Palace Hotel, Lisbon by Dan Benton on Flickr (license)

Best for culture: Belém

In 1498, Vasco da Gama set sail from Belém to open up trade routes to India, a feat which established Portugal as one of the world’s superpowers. To give thanks, the king built the sumptuous Jerónimos monastery, the centrepiece of a raft of impressive monuments and museums in this historic suburb west of the centre. These include the Torre de Belém tower, the impressive Maritime Museum and the unmissable Berardo Collection, one of Europe’s top modern art galleries.

Cash-strapped: Casa Amarela
Feeling flush: Altis Belem

Best for early morning flights: Parque das Nações

Close to the airport and a short metro ride from the centre, the Parque das Nações was built for Lisbon’s Expo 98. It’s a futuristic new town of modern apartments and gardens flanking various tourist attractions, including a casino, science museum and its most famous site, the Oceanarium, one of the largest in Europe. You’ll also find a range of international restaurants, bars, concert venues and the giant Vasco da Gama Shopping Centre. All of this faces out onto the Tagus, here crossed by Europe’s longest bridge, the 17-km long Ponte Vasco da Gama.

Cash-strapped: Pousada de Juventude Parque das Nações
Feeling flush: Myriad by Sana

MYRIAD by SANA Hotel- Expo 98 – Lisbon by www.GlynLowe.com on Flickr (license)

Explore more of Lisbon with the Pocket Rough Guide to Lisbon. Compare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

This feature contains affiliate links; you can find out more about why we’ve partnered with booking.com here. All recommendations are editorially independent.

Travelling is time we take to relax, to let go and to have fun. Sometimes, this means finding your inner child and just being a bit silly – and there’s no better way to do that than on some of the world’s best slides. If you’re in need of some time out and want to find your silly side, do it while squealing down one of these:

1. Arcelormittal Orbit, London, UK

Anish Kapoor’s 114-metre-tall sculpture was constructed for the London 2012 summer Olympics, but this year, it will be transformed into an enormous helter skelter. Construction is currently underway, but the tube slide, which will encircle Kapoor’s structure five times and which opens in May, will allow adrenaline junkies the opportunity to whiz from top to bottom at a speed of 15mph. The attraction, which will be the world’s longest and tallest tube slide, has been designed by Belgian artist Carsten Höller, who has incorporated glass panels to provide spectacular views of London’s skyline.

2. Human Slide, Discovery Park of America, Tennessee, USA

How many times do you get to slide down the inside of a giant leg? This particular attraction can be found at the Discovery Park of America, a science museum in Tennessee. Visitors enter the chest of the 14-metre-tall sculpture at an entrance on the first floor and, after taking in the spectacular views of the museum’s Grand Hall, can slide down to ground level through the enormous metal limb. The 12 tonne slide is almost as well-travelled as you: its parts were made in Germany, then welded together in Chicago before being shipped to the Discovery Park on flatbed trucks.

Barcelo slide by Darren Sweeney on Flickr (license

3. Lobby Slide, Hotel Barceló Málaga, Spain

How’s this for a novel way of making an entrance? Visitors to Málaga’s Hotel Barceló Málaga can slide straight from the hotel’s first floor into the super stylish B-Lounge Bar, which is one of the Spanish city’s trendiest venues. The slide even has its own name: EDHA, a Spanish acronym for what translates as “sliding structure for daring humans”.

4. The [email protected], Changi Airport, Singapore

Singapore’s Changi Airport is famous for its fantastic amenities, which include a kinetic rain art installation, a rooftop swimming pool and a cinema. But it’s the slide which we love the most. The 12m-high structure is the tallest slide located inside an airport (admittedly there’s not much competition) and travellers who ride it can reach speeds of up to six metres a second. Just don’t try and take your luggage trolley with you.

Singapore airport slide by Andrea Hale on Flickr (license)

5. Cittá del Mare waterslide, Sicily, Italy

Opening in late March, this slide is located within the grounds of the beautiful Città del Mare resort in Sicily. The slide is divided into four sections, with pools dividing each one. It’s surprisingly fast and one of the more exciting ways to enter the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean sea. Once you’ve had your adrenaline fix, we recommend nabbing one of the nearby sun loungers for a waterside view of the action.

6. Silver Towers playground, New York City, USA

This beautiful slide is the work of American artist and sculptor Tom Otterness and is part of a playground which was constructed in New York City in 2009. Otterness built his first playground structure in 2004 as part of an art competition, later selling several to private homes throughout the US. Manhattan property developer Larry Silverstein heard about the playgrounds through an art gallery and commissioned Otterness to build this one for the Silver Towers apartment complex.

Pod Playground by Eric Fidler on Flickr (license)

7. Pod playground slide, National Arboretum Canberra, Australia

If all playgrounds looked like this, children would never want to play indoors. The intricately carved entrances to these Australian playground slides resemble giant acorns – a nod to the 94 forests of 44,000 rare trees planted in Canberra’s National Arboretum. There are two slides to choose from and although they might not be the tallest or fastest slides in the world, we certainly rank them as the most beautiful.

8. Tran Station Slide, Utrecht, the Netherlands

We all know how stressful rush hour can be, but in Utrecht, commuters can exit the train station at lightning speed – via a metal slide which leads to a beautifully landscaped public space. The slide can be found at the city’s Overvecht train station and it’s the work of Netherlands-based design firm HIK-Designers. You’ll probably be surprised to learn that it’s not the first time a slide has turbo-charged the humble commute – in 2010 Volkswagen constructed a temporary “fast line” slide alongside the escalators at Berlin’s Alexanderplatz U-Bahn station.

Reddot Hotel by lhongchou’s photography on Flickr (license)

9. Lobby Slide at Reddot Hotel, Taichung City, Taiwan

Afraid of getting stuck in elevator? The Reddot in Tairchung, Taiwan might just be your ideal hotel, because the general manager, Steven Wu, has designed and installed a 30-metre-long tube slide which whisks guests from their hotel rooms to the reception area. The slide, which comprises 102 stainless steel panels and cost £100,000 to build, is so large that it had to be transported to the Reddot in four pieces.

10. Tube Slide, Technical University of Munich, Germany

Forget about lecture halls, libraries and auditoriums – we reckon giant tube slides should be the must-have facility for today’s universities. The two slides at the Technical University of Munich are located inside the atrium of the Math and Computer Science faculty and span four floors. This is one centre of learning where students have significantly fewer excuses for bad punctuality.

11. City Museum, St Louis, Missouri, USA

The City Museum is housed in what was once the International Shoe Company, and these enormous slides were used by workers to send shoes to different floors – the shoes would be sent down the chutes and workers on the different floors would simply pick off the ones they needed. The owners of the museum converted these chutes into slides for visitors and there are now 34 to choose from. The smallest one has a height of two metres and the tallest one spans seven floors.

Compare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

In recent weeks some of my normally fearless traveller friends have asked me whether it’s a good idea to travel right now.

It’s a question on many people’s lips at the moment, and understandably so. Global unrest has seen some stalwart tourist destinations become effective no-go zones, while the question of aviation safety was brought back to the fore after some high-profile incidents in 2015.

Here at Rough Guides we’re taking a positive look at the year ahead and continuing to do what we love doing best – travelling to exciting destinations (notepad and camera in tow) and inspiring others to keep exploring the world with us. From low flight prices to a revolution in travel tech, here are six reasons to keep travelling in 2016.

1. Because flying is actually safer now than it has ever been before

It will surprise some people to learn that 2015 was statistically the safest year in aviation history. With an accident rate of one in five million flights, according to industry analyst Flightglobal, you’re actually far more likely to be struck by lightning or attacked by a shark than find yourself in an aircraft accident. If crunching the numbers doesn’t help alleviate your fear of flying, check out our piece on how to cure your phobia of flying in a day.

Unsplash / CC0

2. Because flying is super cheap right now

While we’re on the topic of flights, data scientists at travel app Hopper have announced that airfares are currently at a three-year low – and around 15% lower than they were this time last year. The drop is largely due to cheap oil and increased competition. And good news for Americans – it’s predicted that internal US flights will be the cheapest of the bunch.

3. Because recovering destinations need you to keep travelling, and spending

Simply visiting a recovering country and spending your money there helps more than you might imagine. Both Haiti and Nepal are now welcoming back tourists after suffering major natural disasters in recent years. And while you get an unforgettable trip, your tourist dollars are helping their economies get back on their feet.

Similarly, countries going through financial or political crises – such as Greece – need all the continuing tourism they can get. No doubt the locals will be waiting to greet you with open arms. If you want to take it one step further and are interested in taking part in a volunteering project, check out these seven tips for volunteering abroad

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4. Because there are destinations that are looking forward to a great year

While news reports naturally tend to focus on negative events around the world, there are loads of on-the-up destinations to celebrate and explore in 2016. With the loosening of US-Cuban relations last year and the resulting influx of tourists, Cuba is seeing creative openings across the island, including a whole host of exciting new bars, restaurants and arts centres like Fabrica de Arte Cubano in Havana.

Resilient Sri Lanka, too, is more popular than ever, with visitor numbers set to continue to rise in 2016 as the country embarks on an era of greater political stability.

There’s a whole host of new tourist attractions opening up across the planet, from a new Louvre in Abu Dabhi to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Hollywood.

5. Because tech is making travel easier and more fun than ever before

Even if you’re not much of a tech geek, there are loads of great new apps and websites out there, making travel easier and more fun with just a few clicks.

Hipcamp is being touted as the Airbnb of camping, allowing you to rent a patch of grass for the night. Periscope allows you to broadcast live videos from anywhere in the world (as popularised by the tongue-in-cheek Drummond Puddle Watch in early January). While Adventurely helps solo travellers to meet up with other people with a similar itinerary. For more, check out our rundown on new travel tech in 2016 here.

Unsplash / CC0

6. Because you only live once

Our ethos at Rough Guides is “Make the Most of your Time on Earth”, and to be frank, that doesn’t mean sitting at home waiting for experiences to come to you.

We travel because we love that inimitable feeling of arriving somewhere new, because of the incredible people that you meet abroad (and indeed the not-so-incredible ones), because of the food, because of the weather, and – more than anything else – because you only live once, so you may as well get out there and discover the world. If you need inspiration on where to start, our list of 50 things to do before you die should help to get the feet itching.

Bon Voyage! We look forward to seeing you on the road.

Header image from Unsplash / CC0

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