From the white, snowy tops of the Himalayas, to the greenery of Kerala and then the sands of Goa, India is a hugely diverse, intense but addictive country. It has deserts, rainforests, rural settlements and big cosmopolitan cities – some will love it, and a few will hate it, but with such variety there is pretty much something for everyone.

Here’s a selection of photos from our Things Not to Miss gallery for India, with music by Aruna Sairam, taken from the Rough Guide to the Music of India.

Music: Sarahanabhava, Aruna Sairam – Rough Guide to the Music of India
Available from worldmusic.net >

The road to Corcovado National Park was once paved with gold – lots of gold – and although most of it was carried off by the Diqui Indians, miners still pan here illegally. These days, though, it’s just an unpaved track that fords half a dozen rivers during the bone-rattling two-hour ride from the nearest town, Puerto Jiménez, and which runs out at Carate, the southern gateway to the park.

The journey in doesn’t make an auspicious start to a hike in Corcovado – and it gets worse. Trekking here is not for the faint-hearted: the humidity is one hundred percent, there are fast-flowing rivers to cross and the beach-walking that makes up many of the hikes can only be done at low tide. Cantankerous peccaries roam the woods, and deadly fer-de-lance and bushmaster snakes slip through the shrub.

But you’re here because Corcovado is among the most biologically abundant places on Earth, encompassing thirteen ecosystems, including lowland rainforests, highland cloudforests, mangrove swamps, lagoons and coastal and marine habitats. And it’s all spectacularly beautiful, even by the high standards of Costa Rica.

Streams trickle down over beaches pounded by Pacific waves, where turtles (hawksbill, leatherback and Olive Ridley) lay their eggs in the sand and where the shore is dotted with footprints – not human, but tapir, or possibly jaguar. Palm trees hang in bent clumps, and behind them the forest rises up in a 60m wall of dense vegetation.

Corcovado has the largest scarlet macaw population in Central America, and the trees flash with bursts of their showy red, blue and yellow plumage. One hotel in the area offers free accommodation if visitors don’t see one during their stay – it’s never happened. And after the first sighting of the birds flying out from the trees in perfectly coordinated pairs, the long journey to reach Corcovado seems a short way to come.

It’s best to visit Corcovado during its dry season (Dec–March). Meals and camping space or lodging need to be booked six weeks in advance (+506 257-2239, [email protected]).

 

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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, to witness sea turtles nesting. Once the domain of only biologists and locals, turtle-watching is now one of the more popular activities in ecotourism-friendly Costa Rica. As the most important nesting site in the western Caribbean, Tortuguero sees more than its fair share of visitors – the annual number of observers has gone from 240 in 1980 to over 50,000 today.

The guide stops, points out two deep furrows in the sand – the sign of a turtle’s presence – and places a finger to his lips, making the “shhh” gesture. The nesting females can be spooked by the slightest noise or light. He gathers us around a crater in the beach; inside it is an enormous creature. We hear her rasp and sigh as she brushes aside sand for her nest.

In whispers, we comment on her plight: the solitude of her task, the low survival rate of her hatchlings – only one of every 5000 will make it past the birds, crabs, sharks, seaweed and human pollution to adulthood.

We are all mesmerized by the turtle’s bulk. Though we are not allowed to get too close, we can catch the glint of her eyes. She doesn’t seem to register our presence at all. The whirring sound of discharged sand continues. After a bit the guide moves us away. My eyes have adapted to the darkness now, and I can make out other gigantic oblong forms labouring slowly up the beach – a silent, purposeful armada.

Tortuguero National Park is 3–4hr north of Limón by boat. Independent travellers must buy tickets for the park and arrange for a certified tour guide.

 

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In an adventure only for the bravest hikers, David Leffman tackles the rhyolite hills, black sand deserts and the icy glacier caps of the 55km trail from Landmannalaugar to Skógar.

Whiteout. Five hours into a five-day hike and I was already stuck in a blizzard, barely able to see my feet through the stinging wind-driven snow, let alone the next yellow post marking the route. I was below Hrafntinnusker, a boulder-strewn hilltop made of obsidian – black volcanic glass – and somewhere over on the far side of the crest, probably less than 500m away, was the bunkhouse where I was planning to spend the night. I only hoped it wouldn’t take another five hours to get there.

There are many reasons to tackle Laugavegur, the 55km hiking trail across Iceland’s southern interior between natural hot springs and volcanic wasteland at Landmannalaugar and the beautiful highland valley of Þórsmörk, “Thor’s Wood”. But the weather, which routinely drives foul, gale-force winds down the highland passes along the route, probably isn’t one of them. Laugavegur’s scenery was meant to be spectacular – rhyolite hills streaked in orange gravel, pale blue tarns, black sand deserts and the titanic, icy masses of glacier caps hovering over all – but I had yet to see any of it.

Progress was slow. Occasionally the flurries cleared for long enough to take a compass bearing on the next guide post, which I then had to follow blindly along its line, trying to forget folk tales about travellers who had become lost and died in similar conditions on Iceland’s interior tracks. But the Hrafntinnusker bunkhouse was reached at last, and next day the blizzard had blown itself out, leaving a metre of snow and clear views extending off the back of the plateau and down to brilliant green conical hills flanking Álftavatn (Swan Lake), my next stop. From here there was a plain of volcanic sand to cross in unexpected sunshine, which was hot enough to strip down to a T-shirt; near the Innri-Emstruá bridge, over a river swollen fearsomely with snow-melt, a herd of Icelandic horses was being driven to summer pasture, following a centuries-old routine. I spent the evening on a rocky ridge overlooking the Mýrdalsjökull ice cap to the south, enjoying the silence and the vast panorama of outlying glaciers spreading across the landscape below.

A day later and I was at the Þröngá, the deepest unbridged river so far, though fortunately only thigh-deep at the time; sometimes you have to wait for the level to subside before attempting to cross. On the far bank was Þórsmörk and a striking change of scenery: after the spartan, restricted palette of the last few days, I was overwhelmed by sudden lush splashes of colour, flowers, dense thickets of dwarf birch with copper and silver bark, thick grass and cushions of mosses and lichens. Þórsmörk’s deep valley runs east-west along the intertwined headwaters of the Krossá, which is fed by ice caps squashing down on the encircling plateaus. There’s nowhere more immediately attractive in the whole of Iceland, with a host of trails along low peaks and scree slopes to keep you active.

Having reached Þórsmörk, why stop there? I decided to continue south over the mountains to Skógar and the next main road, and asked Þórsmörk’s resident ranger, a tough, friendly young man in his mid-twenties, how long this 25km hike might take. He considered me briefly. “For you, I think eight hours. But it is difficult to know. You see that ridge?” He pointed to the edge of the Morinsheiði plateau high above us. “Three hours is enough to reach there. Although yesterday, I ran it in forty-five minutes during a rescue operation.”

Three hours later, via the knife-edge “Cat’s Spine Ridge” (thank you, whoever installed the chain here since my last trip), I was indeed at Morinsheiði, a flat pancake of clay and ice-fractured pebbles, in the middle of which was a sandblasted wooden signpost pointing blankly in three directions. Then came a narrow, 50m-long traverse at Heljarkambur: Icelanders, I know you’re tough, but a six-inch-wide trail with a vertical cliff hedging one side and 90m drop off the other really deserves some sort of warning sign. Beyond was a steep snowfield – a tiresome uphill slog without crampons, I envied hikers coming the other way who simply slid down – then a fresh lava field, a still-smoking souvenir of the 2010 eruption under the Eyjafjallajökull ice cap whose ash cloud grounded aircraft across Europe. This brought a perverse sense of pride to Icelanders, long accustomed to being ignored by the international community, and also vast amusement as they listened to foreign journalists attempting to pronounce “Eyjafjallajökull” (aey-yar-fyatla-yerkutl).

From here the descent to Skógar began abruptly; the previous few hours’ snow was suddenly gone and my pace picked up, then slowed again by a bridge over a river canyon, a short wooden structure whose far-end steps were missing, swept away by flood: nothing for it but to drop my pack off the end and climb down the superstructure. The trail followed the river as it grew steadily larger, cutting an increasingly deep gorge down across moorland, each twist decorated by ever-higher cascades which culminated at the Skógarfoss waterfall, dropping straight off the plateau in a 62m-high curtain of mist and noise. Nesting fulmars – technically seabirds, with the coast in distant sight across a level plain – wheeled in and out of the spray as I descended steps down the side of the falls towards a green sward and the tiny, thinly-spread hamlet of Skógar.

The Laugavegur hiking trail is open from some point in June until late August (exact dates depend on the weather), with daily buses from Reykjavík to the trailheads at Landmannalaugar, Þórsmörk and Skógar. Tough boots, thermals and full waterproof clothing are essential; rangers do not allow people to hike in jeans. Bunkhouses along the route provide mattresses, kitchens and showers and must be booked in advance through Ferðafélag Íslands; bring sleeping bags and food. Attached campgrounds with toilets and water can be paid for on site; you need a storm-proof tent and all cooking gear.

For a map of the trail, see here.

David Leffman is co-author of the Rough Guide to Iceland.

In an emotional venture to Pennsylvania, with Lincoln’s speech echoing in his ears, Rough Guides writer Stephen Keeling remembers the Battle of Gettysburg – the deadliest battle in the American civil war – 150 years on.

I can’t remember when I first heard about the Battle of Gettysburg, but it was probably at school. Even growing up in the UK we learnt a little about the US Civil War, its most decisive battle and President Lincoln, but it wasn’t until college that I studied the period in more detail. Still, it remained a fairly distant subject – a historic event of great consequence, not a real place.

But of course, Gettysburg is a real place. When I finally visited I had absolutely no idea what it would be like; my conception of Gettysburg – the battle, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address – was all black and white photos, a symbol of the Civil War and little more.

Visiting a real place that you’ve studied for so long in books can be jarring. Sipping my coffee and nibbling my muffin in Hunt’s Fresh Cut Battlefield Fries and Café, it was hard to believe I was really here; where 150 years ago this was the turning point in the Civil War, the Union victory that ended General Robert E. Lee’s invasion of the North with some 51,000 casualties. Yet, people were going about their business: driving trucks, fixing the road, delivering letters.

Today, Gettysburg is just a small, fairly ordinary college town of seven thousand, but cocooned within the National Military Park; rolling fields, barns and woodland frozen in time, laced with a 24-mile auto route lined by heavy wood “pig tight, cow high” rider fences, linking all the key locations of the battle.

I should have visited the museum first, but I was too curious see the battlefield. Most battlefields I’d visited in the past were literally just fields, dotted with the odd pillar or two, but Gettysburg is different. The road snakes through tranquil, bucolic countryside – distant dogs barks and motors hum, and on Sundays bells chime – but is lined with sombre stone memorials to the battle. Giant obelisks and heroic statues commemorate generals, battalions and whole states. The effect is a bit like driving through a giant cemetery, which of course it is, or least sacred ground. Pretty quickly it becomes hard to absorb the sheer scale of the battle, its confusing twists and turns and its terrible losses.

The ridge where the fighting kicked off is dominated by a large, lonely equestrian statue of Union Major General John Reynolds, who died here in the first hours of the battle – a disaster for the Union. In fact, by the end of the first day, the Confederates had the upper hand; today the observation tower at Oak Ridge looks down the slopes towards Gettysburg College, but 150 years ago this is where the Union lines crumbled.

But perhaps the most poignant part of the battlefield is the location of  “Pickett’s Charge”, where 12,000 Confederates charged 7,000 entrenched Union soldiers in a brave but hopeless bid to win the battle. With over 50 percent casualties, it turned into a decisive defeat that ended Lee’s campaign. Looking across the flat, grassy fields today, it’s hard to imagine so many men died here.

At the end of the auto route you reach the Gettysburg National Cemetery, and here the scale of the carnage starts to hit home. Thousands of gravestones dot the site, small rectangles of granite and US flags amongst grander monuments – and this is just for Union casualties (most Confederate dead ended up in Southern cemeteries). It was here, at the cemetery’s dedication on November 19, 1863, that President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, one of the most powerful speeches of all time.

It’s a moving place. Small groups of tourists wander the rows, in hushed reverence; gardeners tend the plots and birds flit and sing in the trees. Coming here when bodies were still being interred, visible signs of destruction all around, Lincoln must have felt utterly devastated; he only chose to speak for two minutes, but chose his words with diamond-like purpose.

I moved on to the civil war museum at the visitor centre. With its relics of the battle and illuminating film narrated by Morgan Freeman, it helps you put the battle into some kind of order. Exhibits try to offer some perspective on the suffering, death and the vast scale of the battle, but only succeed to a point; try to imagine 8000 bodies, lying in the burning summer sun, and over 3,000 dead horses being burned in great pyres. The townsfolk became violently sick from the stench.

The closest I could really get to the battle was at the restored Gettysburg Cyclorama, a cycle of murals depicting the fury of the fighting in a specially constructed circular hall, also in the new visitor centre. The depiction of “Pickett’s Charge” is especially realistic; the scattered bodies of horses and men, the confusion and the sheer hopelessness of it all, the waste. When I had studied the battle at college, the connection between the fighting, the terrible shock of Gettysburg, and Lincoln’s address had seemed almost coincidental; now it started to make more sense:

“…that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Stephen Keeling is co-author of the Rough Guides to New York and New England. Explore more of the USA with the Rough Guide to the USA.

Despite its industrial heritage Glasgow is actually one of the greenest cities in Europe, writes Helen Ochyra.

Clip clop. I am travelling at nineteenth-century speeds along the main road of a country estate. On one side are formal gardens, planted with shaped hedges in lush greens, on the other, open fields dotted with dun-coloured Highland cattle. As two tall Clydesdale horses, Baron and Duke, pull my cart through the bucolic scenery I feel a million miles away from anything remotely urban – and yet we are just three miles outside of what was once the UK’s greatest industrial city.

This is Glasgow, and it is full of surprises – many of them green. Although this is Scotland’s largest urban area, it is also home to more than 90 parks and gardens. In fact, Glasgow has more green spaces per capita than any other European city, and as you stroll along handsome Victorian streets or pass over the river that was once the centre of the British Empire’s shipbuilding industry, you are never far from a grassy square or a patch of parkland.

Pollok Park is the city’s biggest, at 360 acres, and the horse and cart rides are the best way to take in its vast scale. The park was gifted to the city in 1966 by Anne Maxwell MacDonald and represents the core of what was once an extensive family estate. Visitors can explore the Category B listed walled garden, laid out 250 years ago as a kitchen garden and orchard, and see plants discovered in the Himalayas by Sir John Stirling Maxwell in the woodland garden.

But the highlight of Pollok Park is its “fold” (group) of Highland cattle – the most accessible in Scotland. The Maxwell family bred prizewinning cattle on the estate in the nineteenth century and today the tradition continues. I am thrilled to meet the newest addition in the cattle shed, although his older stablemate’s long curved horns put me off getting too close. These are animals bred to endure the hardy conditions of Highland Scotland and I wouldn’t mess with them.

Back in the city centre, I find myself actively encouraged to mess with nature. I am spending the afternoon exploring the Botanic Gardens – but not just to look at the wide variety of plantlife found here. I am here to find dinner. Chris Charalambous, head chef of Cail Bruich restaurant, has been using foraged food in his dishes for about three years. He tells me that in Scotland there is the right to roam and that anything found growing wild can be picked, as long as it is for your own consumption.

I am a little sceptical but within just a few minutes of walking through the shaded woodland alongside the Kelvin River, Chris is rustling through the undergrowth and handing me leaves that have the unmistakable smell of garlic. I find myself gingerly nibbling one minute, happily munching the next, and by the time we return to the restaurant, I am converted.

Chris brings out trays groaning with produce foraged from right here in Glasgow. We try nettles, scurvy grass, wild chervil and gorse flowers. Every ingredient has a different flavour, from those reminiscent of fresh grass to those that shock with wasabi, and I am already thinking up ways to use Scotland’s bounty in my cooking at home.

I return to the Botanic Gardens to walk it all off and find myself immediately swallowed up by greenery. The gardens cover a whopping 42 acres and link the city to the West Highland Way. I explore the arboretum and stroll past blooming herbaceous borders arranged in chronological order of when the plants were introduced to Britain. It is highly educational, but also simply beautiful and again I forget that I am in the heart of a city.

The following day I take the short hop out to Glasgow’s loch, Loch Lomond. It is just 30 minutes by car, travelling alongside the river Clyde, and I am out of the city and into the countryside within minutes. At the loch all is quiet. In the distance the Highlands rise up, climbing into the sky as far as the eye can see. It is hard to take it all in from ground level and so I board a seaplane to take a flight over one of Scotland’s most famous landscapes.

All photos within the article by Helen Ochyra.

It is truly spectacular. Take off is smooth and suddenly we are sailing over the water looking down on the islands and hills below. This is the Highland Boundary Fault, the fault line that divides the Lowlands from the Highlands, and it is immediately obvious. On one side there are rolling hills, on the other rugged mountains.

And then I realize that that is Glasgow in the distance. A vast urban centre planted right in the middle of some of the world’s most dazzling scenery. The Gaelic translation of Glasgow is “Dear Green Place” and finally I can see why. Glasgow is competing to be crowned European Green Capital for 2015, and it’s certainly got my vote.

For more information on Glasgow visit www.seeglasgow.com.  

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 ago, the gap is two hundred metres lower than the surrounding cliffs. Heather crowned with blueberries lines the route to Door Mountain, and there are sweeping views across the Héradsflói valley, a vast moorland plain where strands of meltwater from Europe’s largest glacier shine like silver threads on a brown blanket. Few roads cross this landscape, and it remains the last great wilderness in Europe.

For more information on the area, see www.east.is.

 

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Costa Rica has been at the forefront of the green tourism movement for many years now, so it’s no surprise the country plays host to some spectacular ecolodges. These ten represent the pick of the bunch.

Lapa Rios

Costa Rica’s best-known luxury ecolodge has the maximum five stars in the government’s Certificate of Sustainable Tourism, principally for its low-impact presence and protection of lowland tropical rainforest packed with rivers and waterfalls. The lodge has sixteen bungalows with sensational views of the forest and Pacific.

Pacuare Lodge

The most thrilling way to arrive at this lodge is by rafting the Pacuare River – one of the best white-water rivers in Central America. The lodge consists of thirteen cat-tail-thatched wooden cabins (made by local Cabécar Indians) in the heart of the Talamanca Mountain Range, where you can explore the rainforest on foot or on horseback. Pacuare supports primary-school programmes and has helped to reintroduce howler monkeys to the forest.

Luna Nueva Lodge

Just 16km from the Arenal Volcano, this good-value ecolodge on an organic herbal farm is at the edge of a 200-square-kilometre conservation area of primary rainforest. Climb up an observation tower for views of the volcano, then join guided walking and horse-riding tours into the rainforest (including day-tours outside of the Arenal volcano area). Afterwards return for a soak in the natural spring-fed swimming pool or solar-heated hot tub before an authentic Costa Rican dinner looking out over the lush tropical gardens.

La Cusinga Lodge

La Cusinga offers eleven simple, elegant cabins bordering 2.5 square kilometres of private rainforest reserve and the Ballena Marine National Park, established to protect humpback whales. There are locally guided trips into the forest while at the coast you can go snorkelling, surfing, kayaking, scuba diving or dolphin- and whale-watching.

Finca Rosa Blanca Country Inn

Sustainability and conservation go hand-in-hand at this luxury inn above the forests of the Central Valley, just half an hour from San José. The nine artistically decorated rooms, including two villas, have views of the coffee plantations and spring-fed swimming pool below. The Finca’s certified guide, Manolo, runs naturalist walking tours; other activities include horse-riding and white-water rafting.

Bosque del Cabo

A great pick for wildlife enthusiasts. On the lodge’s doorstep – where the rainforest meets the Pacific – is the Osa Peninsula, home to flocks of macaws, parrots, monkeys, coatis and sloths. Choose between ten solar-powered thatched bungalows or two houses along the bluff of Cabo Matapalo. Jungle cats (including pumas and jaguars) have been spotted on the property, so keep your eyes peeled.

Danta Corcovado Lodge

The highlights here include the Osa Peninsula rainforest and the Golfo Dulce (a tropical fjord). Run by a local family, this simple lodge is sited within a farm in Guadalupe, just 8km from the Los Patos sector of Corcovado National Park, and the closest place to the Guaymi Indigenous Reserve. Activities include kayaking through the mangroves and jungle walks by night.

Costa Rica Treehouse Lodge

An intricately designed treehouse – built for up to six people – in and around a sangrillo tree behind Punta Uva beach, just south of Puerto Viejo in the province of Limón. Guests can explore the wilderness of the Gandoca-Manzanillo wildlife refuge by dugout canoe with indigenous guides or just lie in a hammock perched among the trees and admire the ocean views, deep in nature.

Cerro Escondido

The best way to arrive here is to arrange a horseback ride from Montaña Grande. Deep in the Karen Mogensen Reserve on the Nicoya Peninsula, this lodge has four simple teak cabañas from where guests can try guided birdwatching tours and excursions to the spectacular waterfall at Velo de Novia (“Bride’s Veil”).

Rara Avis Rainforest Lodge and Reserve

The only way to reach this remote lodge (other than to walk in 15km) is to ride for three hours on a tractor-pulled cart from Las Horquetas de Sarapiquí, a 90min drive from San José. Guests choose between a two-room riverside cabin or an eight-room lodge, in rustic rooms (each with a hot-water bathtub and balcony), a 5min walk from a waterfall in the heart of a thousand-square-kilometre tract of virgin rainforest. The reserve is home to bitterns, snowcaps, umbrella birds, great green macaws, parrots and toucans. For more info see www.rara-avis.com.

 

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Sahara Desert, Morocco

Sleep beneath the twinkling Saharan stars, accompanied by a few irascible dromedaries. You can explore the desert as part of a tour (usually setting off from Marrakesh, and heading up and over the beautiful Atlas Mountains), and choose your level of comfort, from simple canvas tents to luxurious Berber pavilions, complete with soft beds, rugged floors and handcrafted furniture.

Corsica, France

The GR20 is a challenging trek snaking diagonally across the French island of Corsica. Depending on how much of the 180km path you choose to tackle, the hike requires stamina, and a few nights bedding down in refuges (mountain huts) or under canvas nearby. Admittedly, if you like to camp in seclusion, this might not be for you: in peak season, the refuges and accompanying camping grounds get very busy – but the walking and spectacular countryside more than compensates.

Mount Everest, Nepal

Mount Everest needs no introduction, and nor does Everest Base Camp. At 5364m, it’s the highest campsite in the world, the bedtime target for tough hikers en route to the top of the giant mountain. The landscape up here is harsh and inhospitable, but Base Camp retains a cheerful mood with its little domed tents decked with multi-coloured flags.

The Lake District, UK

The shimmering lakes and sheep-studded hills of the Lake District provide a glorious, bucolic backdrop for a slumber beneath canvas. The whole area is peppered with campsites, perfect for families, hikers and nature-lovers. Buttermere, Ambleside, Borrowdale and Grasmere are particularly gorgeous camping spots.

The Outback, Australia

Camping in Australia generally means “bushcamping” – proper back-to-basics stuff, with no amenities to speak of. However, if you do like your water running, a shower to douse yourself in and a barbecue to fire up, there are also plenty of caravan parks (aka holiday parks). Wherever you go, you’re sure to feel humbled by the enormity and breathtaking beauty of Oz’s rust-red outback.

Yellowstone National Park, USA

Yellowstone has long been a favourite camping area for visitors keen to see the world’s largest collection of geysers, including Old Faithful. There are 12 official campgrounds in the park offering basic amenities (you can reserve a pitch in advance at 5 of them), but if you’re after real solitude among the pine-clad hills, then make for the backcountry, where you’ll find smaller, quieter designated camping spots.

Wild Camping, Iceland

Not only is wild camping in Iceland a phenomenal experience, it also helps to keep more pennies in the wallet, which is a hard task in a country this pricey. Wherever you decide to pitch your tent, make sure you’ve got permission from the nearest farmhouse. The national parks – like Skaftafell and Jökulsárgljúfur – provide Scandi scenery par excellence… wildflowers, spiked mountain ridges and hulking icy glaciers.

Milford Sound, New Zealand

Rudyard Kipling waxed lyrical about Milford Sound in New Zealand’s Fiordland, dubbing it the “eighth wonder of the world”. Its beauty is not lost on the general public, so to enjoy this incredible area it’s best to camp there for a night or two. Campsites sit within the bush, which offers fantastic walking right on your “doorstep”, as well as next to trout-filled rivers (bring your rod) and glacial lakes perfect for a refreshing dip.

Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides

Scotland + camping = midges. The Isle of Harris might not be the mainland, but there are still clouds of midges in force up there. Just to warn you. However, the stunning Hebridean landscape – sandy dunes and soft sea grasses, and a rugged, mountainous interior – is irresistible for a hardy camper.

Acatenango Volcano, Guatemala

Acatenango last blew its top in 1972. That’s really not so long ago, but if you have faith in the old mountain, head on up. The ascent takes you through cultivated farmland, followed by cloud forest and then alpine forest, before finally leading you into barren volcanic landscape. You can camp en route, but if you’re feeling brave, bed down in the crater itself. Just watch for bubbling magma…

Hokkaido Island, Japan

Hokkaido Island, Japan’s most northern and remote island, feels distinctly “un-Japanese” and arguably more European (possibly thanks to the lavender, pictured). It’s not particularly touristy, instead being the preserve of Japanese city folk keen to escape the chaos of urban living for a few nights in the wilderness, surrounded by bubbling hot springs, dense forest and gleaming lakes.

Masoala National Park, Madagascar

The main attraction of a camping trip in Madagascar is undoubtedly the wildlife: from red-ruffed lemurs and goggle-eyed chameleons, not to mention the dubious-looking (but still quite cute) aye-ayes, that dwell within the varied ecosystems of Masoala National Park, you’re guaranteed a sighting of at least one exotic beast.

Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Drifting off to sleep with the sound of grunting hippos in your ears is an interesting experience, but that’s what an overnight trip to Kenya’s Masai Mara is all about. Standards of camping in the national reserve vary – from petal-flecked honeymooning pavilions to more basic “army-style” tents – but it’s the breathtaking landscape and awe-inspiring animal life that matter most here.

Gower Peninsula, Wales

The Gower Peninsula in Wales is famed for its beautiful coastline – and how better to appreciate it than from your canvas shelter overlooking the rolling waves and butterscotch sand. Surfers (surfing conditions are great round here) and families make up the majority of the camping demographic – it’s what idyllic UK holidays are made of.

Grand Canyon, USA

The South Rim of the Grand Canyon, being closest to travel links, is the most visited section, so if you want to avoid heavy camping crowds, head for the North Rim – though be aware that the tourist season here is shorter, due to less favourable weather. Dawn is a spectacular time to witness the majestic Canyon come to life: as the sun rises, the landscape shows off its fiery furnace colours.

Taman Negara, Malaysia

This swathe of tropical rainforest in Malaysia’s interior makes for a wonderful hiking and camping experience. There are masses of trails – from easy boardwalk strolls to tougher day-treks – but wherever you go, you’ll come across spectacular wildlife like monkeys, elephants, tapir and mouse deer. Less attractive are the leeches, which you’ll need to prepare yourself for. Basic campsites are scattered throughout the park, mostly next to rivers.

Swiss Alps, Switzerland

Fresh alpine air tinged with the scent of wild pine, undulating meadows cloaked with cheery wildflowers and crystal-clear, ice-cold streams trickling down mountain-sides – who could resist such a wholesome camping backdrop? The Swiss Alps have plenty of gorgeous campsites at varying altitudes, offering perfectly peaceful night-time stopovers.

Fraser Island, Australia

Fraser Island – the world’s largest sand island – is about 300km north of Brisbane and home to some incredibly beautiful beaches as well a number of dingoes. Days are filled with an invigorating concoction of swimming, fishing, walking and boating, and at night you’ll be lulled to sleep by the peaceful sounds of the great outdoors just outside your tent.

Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru

Back away from the Inca Trail: the Cordillera Huayhuash means serious Peruvian trekking. Remote and rugged, the Cordillera is part of the Andes mountain range, and comes with accordingly high altitude. Over the years, security and infrastructure here has improved to allow ambitious trekkers and campers access to this challenging and impossibly beautiful terrain.

Glastonbury, UK

This image (dating from 2005) is in no way meant to put you off from camping at Glastonbury, the world’s biggest and best green-field music festival…but it would be reckless to go without expecting a least a little British downpour at some point. Nothing can match the sight of thousands of exuberant festival-goers descending on the picturesque Vale of Avalon in Somerset in June.

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 conquistadors who were nearer the mark, though, finding their own Eden further west in Sorata, Bolivia. Here, after an endless and desolate plain, the Altiplano jigsaws down into the kind of valley routinely trumped up in fairy tale and myth. That it’s seemingly hidden from the world goes without saying, but it’s the topography that dazzles, a cosmic wedge of terraces falling into mist, so ravishingly green after the whey-brown Altiplano they seem like, well, the hallowed allotments of Eden, if not quite the garden itself.

At the heart of it all, below the lottery of bijou maize plots and heaven-scented eucalyptus, sits Sorata, a beginning-of-the-world outpost populated by diggers, dreamers, eccentrics and entrepreneurs, its colonial piles crumbling contentedly under the gaze of almighty Illampu. At over 6300m tall, this ice-crowned mountain deity shadows every cobbled corner of town, its glacial heights all the more fantastical amid the bucolic setting, and one reason why the place remains popular among climbers and trekkers.

Yet Eden or no, once upon a time Sorata was itself a gateway to the heart of Amazonian darkness; Victorian explorer Colonel Fawcett, who inspired Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, passed this way more than once on his journey to oblivion, while the town’s predominantly German merchants made a killing on quinine and rubber hauled up from the jungle. These days the adventurous can still head east down the old trails, assuming they can tear themselves away from Sorata’s sequestered cafés and glorious climate, an eternal spring with blissfully warm days and cool, quiet nights, themselves spent in a peerlessly eccentric choice of psychedelic cabin, time-warped colonial chamber or haunted art-deco hotel. You might not find Eden but you will find a cure for modernity, one that might just make your return ticket redundant.

Sorata is served by buses from La Paz (4hr). In June–Aug, climbers arrive en masse and it’s worth booking ahead.

 

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