This year sees the Olympics and Paralympics take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. If you’re heading to Brazil to catch any of the sporting action, here are a few great photos to inspire your trip from Picfair‘s best roaming photographers.

Staircase decorated with street art

Staircase by Lourdes Siracuza Cappi / Picfair

Capoeira on the streets

Capoeira by Rose Carvalho / Picfair

The Sugarloaf Mountain cable car, Rio de Janeiro

The Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by Filipe Frazao / Picfair

The Selarón Steps, Rio de Janeiro

Selaron in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by Filipe Frazao / Picfair

Copacabana beach from above

Copacabana from above by Martyn Wellman / Picfair

National Congress of Brazil, Brasília

Brazilian National Congress in Brasilia, Brazil by Filipe Frazao / Picfair

Surf Beetle

Surf beetle by Marcello Sokal Fotografia / Picfair

Balloons over Brasília

Brasília by Alexandre Perotto / Picfair

Capoeiristas dance

Capoeiristas playing by DesignXen / Picfair

Young Sambistas play drums at a small celebration

Young Sambistas! by DesignXen / Picfair

Indigenous Brazilian boy in the Amazon

Native Brazilian boy at an indigenous tribe in the Amazon by Filipe Frazao / Picfair

Sunset in Búzios, Rio de Janeiro State

Três Pescadores by Nick Pangere / Picfair

View of Rio from Sugarloaf Mountain

Botafogo by Fabrica Media / Picfair

Jijoca de Jericoacoara, Ceará

Beach Boy, Jericoacoara, Brazil by Fabrica Media / Picfair

Fishermen weigh their catch at the fishing market in Bahia

Catch of the day by DesignXen / Picfair

Gauchos of Brazil lead their cattle down the road in the Pantanal

Brazilian Gauchos by Amanda Dawes / Picfair

People ride horses in the Pantanal

People ride horses in the Pantanal by Filipe Frazao / Picfair

Overlooking Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro

Helicopter at Rio’s Sugarloaf Mountain by Fabrica Media / Picfair

Rocinha favela, Rio de Janeiro

Favela Mountain by Jessisa Painter / Picfair

Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro

Cristo Redentor by David Bayon / Picfair

Samba Queen

Samba Queen by jaime / Picfair

Sun shines from behind Christ the Redeemer

Christ the Redeemer by www.greattravelphotos.com / Picfair

Copacabana

Copacabana by Alexandre Perotto / Picfair

See more amazing photos of Brazil on Picfair. Explore more of Brazil with The Rough Guide to BrazilCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Earlier this year Rough Guides were on the judging panel for the ‘Depth of Field’ photography competition run by Canon. Amateur and professional photographers were asked to submit their best shots with interesting use of depth of field. After hundreds of entries came flooding in, we whittled it down to a shortlist and Canon chose the final winner. Here are 14 of our favourite photos from the selection.

The winning shot

Love bridge by Hamid Haydary

Our shortlist

Die Kuh by Eckhard Raff

Una voz en la multitud by Mr Antonio Ramírez Cedrés

Konzentration! by Michael Graber

Die Gedanken sind frei by anne marie wiesen

Reindeer Up Close by Nigel Jones

The two of us by Miles Cowton

das Aachener Marktweib by Kathrin Gehlen

De Roker by JEROEN TAALMAN

Autumn bench by Lee Stoneman

La luz de la Navidad by Soraya Morán Enríquez

Dreamy Paris Rob van der Teen

Mi camino by Ms Jessica Ruiz

Memorial al holocausto by Ms María García

Professional photographer Tim Bird shares some of his incredible pictures of India. 

I’ve been fascinated by everything to do with India from about the age of 13 when I first heard the sitar being played on Beatles records. These days I’m an India addict. I’m involved with a small Finnish-based NGO, Tikau Share, which focuses on an impoverished village in the state of Odisha. This has given me the incentive to take the 6.5 hour flight from my Helsinki home to Delhi several times a year.

India is so full of unique visual surprises and such variety of light and landscape, it’s no wonder that so many photographers are drawn to it. It isn’t really a single country. Bihar in the north-east, for example, is as different from Kerala on the south-west coast as Norway is from Spain, culturally, geographically, historically. On each visit I try to visit somewhere new, so I’ll be able to spend the rest of my life exploring and photographing India.

Temple decorations in Bhuj, Gujarat

Taj Mahal in morning mist, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Ganga Aarti Rishikesh ceremony

Pushkar camel market, Rajasthan

Pilgrims at Kumbh Mela, Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh

Marigolds at the market

Colourful ladies in line for the Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Ladies bathing Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh

Celebrations at Kumbh Mela, Allahabad

 Traditional Kathakali performance, Kerala

Great Rann of Kutch saltpan, Gujarat

Girl dancers in Bihar

Flower and trinket vendors, Nizamuddin shrine, Delhi

Fishermen in Mamallapuram, Tamil Nadu

Playing cricket near the Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Children return from school, Dharamshala

Buddha’s tree, Bodh Gaya, Bihar

Bihar village early in the morning

Temple flower vendor with cow, Udaipur, Rajasthan

Tricoleur doorway, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu

Explore more of India with The Rough Guide to India. Tim is leading a unique and exciting 12-day tour designed for photo-enthusiasts to Assam in northeast India in April 2016. For details, visit his website at www.timbirdphotography.com.

Sitting on the far west coast of Africa, just south of Senegal, Guinea Bissau is a small yet vibrant African nation just beginning to take its place on the tourist map. Years of colonial rule followed by decades of political instability kept this once-Portuguese outpost a secret, known only by dedicated deep-sea fishermen and a handful of NGO workers. But it’s not going to remain a secret for much longer, as Explore begin running trips to Guinea Bissau in November 2016. We sent photographer Diana Jarvis to uncover Guinea Bissau – here are some of her best shots.

1. The capital: buzzing Bissau

Like any African nation, the capital city is abuzz with endless human activity, night and day. But aside from a few sights – an impressive Roman Catholic Cathedral and several remnants from the Portuguese era – the main fascination here is watching the inexhaustible variety of life.

Bissau was founded by the Portuguese in the late seventeenth century and had various roles during the colonial era but didn’t officially become the capital of modern-day Guinea Bissau till 1942, taking the title from the island city of Bolama further south.

2. Ancestral shrines

Guinea Bissau is one of the few places in Africa you can still see traditional ancestral shrines in situ, being used for the purpose originally intended: to connect the human and spirit worlds. These totem-like structures each represent a departed family member and is a common feature in animist tradition throughout the region. Traditionally the wood was simply carved and left bare but as western artistic practices made their way into the consciousness of the people, the carvings started to become more and more representative of the person they’re commemorating.

3. Meeting King Pedro Mendes

Guinea Bissau is divided into many ancient kingdoms, which date back as far as the Mali Empire. During the colonial rule each king was officially recognised by the government and was paid accordingly. But since Independence in 1973, however, it’s a notional role only. Pictured below is King Pedro Mendes of Bassares, sitting in the village shrine where gifts of cana (a local brew made from sugar cane or cashew nut) or wine are offered up to the spirits.

4. A firey sunset

Owing to the lush mangroves and proximity to the equator, coupled with fairly low-lying land and coastal position, the country is a haven for tropical wildlife. More than one million birds opt for a migration route between Europe and the southern hemisphere and take in the fertile grounds on their way.

5. Kids returning from working the fields

Like many villages in the tropical mainland, access is via unpaved roads and the homes are scattered over several miles. Children must attend school from the ages of 7–13 but, despite this, there is still a huge number of kids in the workforce. The children below, in Bassares village, are pictured returning from the fields picking peanuts but they attended school earlier in the day.

6. The colourful women of Guinea Bissau

Bissauans take their fashion seriously and everywhere you look you’ll find brightly clad men and women of all ages in dazzlingly kaleidoscopic patterns.

The country’s population is around about 1.7 million and although the official language is Portuguese, you’ll find relatively few people actually converse in it. An array of other languages and dialects are spoken including crioulo (a kind of Portuguese creole), tribal languages, as well as a smattering of French, particularly in the north, near the border with Senegal.

8. The Cacheu Fortress

On the banks of the River Cacheu lies a town of the same name. It was one of the first places in sub-saharan Africa to be colonised by European traders owing to its proximity to the ocean– but as well as merchants and adventurers, it also became a Portuguese outpost for felons and criminals whereby outcasts where sent here for their misdemeanours.

The fort was established in the sixteenth century, when the town was known as a centre in the slave trade. It was here that Sir Francis Drake and John Hawkins fought against the Portuguese in 1567.

9. Fishing on the harbour in Cacheu

The waters around the mainland and islands of Guinea Bissau are extremely good places to find fish and seafood, so much so that the primary reason for western tourism to the region in recent years has been on tailor-made deep-sea fishing holidays.

The fishermen in Cacheu, however, only have to cast their dinner-plate sized nets out into the harbour and, invariably, wait no more than a few minutes before hauling in an array of crustaceans and small fish.

10. Sailing in the mangroves to Elia

Much of Guinea Bissau’s coast is low-lying and covered in mangroves, so villagers use dugout canoes to get around rather than cars and roads.

The adobe mud houses are round and are designed with maximum shade in mind: at the centre of the building and in complete darkness is the grain store, off which you’ll find a couple of very compact bedrooms while everything else – cooking, eating and animal rearing – takes place under the wide thatched awning.

11. King Jihca Ghadda of Elia

It’s a long boat ride through the mangroves towards the far north of the country to reach the village of Elia, but it’s well worth the trip. The villagers are incredibly warm and welcoming. The village is presided over by Jihca Ghadda (pictured), whose kingdom stretches across several islands.

12. The way to the road, Elia

Owing to its proximity to the sea, the low-lying estuarine land around the river Cacheu is frequently inundated with a mix of both fresh and saltwater. In order to increase the fertility of their land, the villagers of Elia have constructed their own water purification system, which separates the saltwater from the freshwater. This tract of land is part of that system, though it doubles up as a convenient path from the village to the main road in an otherwise wild and tropical area.

13. The Bijagós (Bissagos) islands

The Bijagós is an archipelago of 88 tropical islands – the largest archipelago in Africa – off the coast of Guinea Bissau. Around only twenty of them are inhabited and the whole region has been a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1996. The people of the islands are quite distinct from the mainland population, mainly thanks to the distance and time it takes to reach by boat. As a consequence, many of the islands have developed in isolation and traditions have remained intact.

14. Fishing on the Bijagós islands

Most of the inhabitants of the Bijagós islands subsist with incomes from farming and fishing. The boats are often simple wooden structures and, without access to new technologies, the fishermen navigate by the sun (or stars).

14. Subsistence farming

Most islanders subsist on a small income from fishing or farming. Produce grown includes cashews, mangos and groundnuts among others.

15. The Vaca Bruto ceremony, Agande, Uno Island

At a certain time in their lives, all the boys of the Agande go into the forest for several months to live alone, and supposedly return as men.

These rites of passages take place when it ‘feels right’ rather than at a set age. They generally happen once in a generation, so the ‘boys’ vary in age from 20–34 years old.

The process of initiation they go through isn’t exactly clear – it’s a secret, even to the village’s womenfolk – but once they return home, they take part in a ceremony known as the Vaca Bruto, which loosely translates as the ‘strong cow’.

The villagers of Agande on the island of Uno (shown here) are known to be more powerful in this dance than others. The spirits come to them while dancing and it’s the spirits, according to local lore, who give a man his power.

The ceremony starts with the beating of a drum and the appearance of a man making rhythmical sounds on a calabash who is known as the ‘conductor’ of the ceremony. Gradually the men, bare chested, adorned in tribal garb and sporting their heavy cow masks, appear from the forest.

The man in the black mask is the leader, followed by several in white masks who are second in command and represent the sky and the gods. The red mask, however, represents the land, blood and fire and is the sacrificial animal.

The men dance about each other for a while, the red-masked man flirting with the ladies but eventually a fight takes place and the red masked man is attacked, downed and tied up.

16. A green turtle nests on the island of Poilão

The island of Poilão is a favourite nesting site for green turtles. Using an in-built navigation system, they always find their way back to the place they were born in order to lay eggs. Ordinarily they head back into the water before first light but this one had become beached after the low tide revealed a rocky shore. Thankfully there were representatives from the UNESCO-funded turtle research project to help her back into the sea.

The turtle digs out a nest in the sand and lays her eggs – perhaps as many as 200 – covering them back up with the sand before returning to the sea. Between 50-70 days later, the hatchlings emerge from the nest and, when night descends and the moon is visible, they instinctively head out to sea.

17. A little bit of luxury on Rubané

The island of Rubané is about as touristy as it gets in Guinea Bissau and yet it still feels like you’re a million miles away from anyone. Here you’ll find the resort of Ponta Anchaca, a luxury island hideaway with beach-side lodges made of local wood and an al-fresco dining room that serves huge portions of locally caught fish.

18. Hippos

Orango is the largest of the Bijagós islands and contains a huge diversity of ecosystems, including savannah grassland and swamps. This tree, literally dripping with weaver bird nests, is on the shores of leech-infested swamp water. The birds create elaborate, pouch-like nests from leaf fibres, twigs and grass and happily live alongside much larger birds like egrets as well as the crocodiles and hippos in the waters below.

19. Bolama, the old capital

Bolama was the capital of Portuguese Guinea from 1879 till 1941, but when the country declared its independence Bissau became the country’s main city. Bolama was promptly abandoned by the Portuguese inhabitants and since then has been left to ruin and decay. It still retains the essence of latin grandeur but the grass has grown around it and the bats moved in. Some of the buildings are inhabited, thoughthere has been little investment in infrastructure.

All photographs © Diana Jarvis

Explore’s ten day Guinea Bissau and the Sacred Bijagos Archipelago tour travels by bus, boat and canoe across lagoons, rivers, forest, mangroves and the ocean to the tribal villages and islands of this captivating country. The trip departs in November and December 2016 and costs from £2959 per person. See more of Diana’s photography on www.dianajarvisphotography.co.uk.

As one of Europe’s top weekend break destinations, Amsterdam features on many a traveller’s bucket list – as well as our list of the top 10 cities to visit in 2016. With three world-famous attractions – the Anne Frank Huis, the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum – it’s hardly surprising. But there are also countless pretty canals and great green spaces here; it’s more than just museums that attract visitors. These 14 photos from Picfair‘s best travelling photographers show just a few of the city’s different sides.

Autumn in Amsterdam

An autumn walk by JJPerspectives / Picfair

Amsterdam’s gorgeous canals

City in a Canal by Emily Barnes / Picfair

Jazz buskers play over a canal

Jazz in Amsterdam by Gianluca Epirotti / Picfair

Hundreds of bicycles ready to ride

Bicycles by Billy Sasa / Picfair

Amsterdam canals by night

Blue Hour in Amsterdam, Holland by Hafiz Ismail / Picfair

The comprehensive library at the Rijksmuseum

Rijksmuseum library by Jeremy / Picfair

Crowds celebrate King’s Day in April

King’s Day, Amsterdam by JJPerspectives / Picfair

Colourful nightlife

Amsterdam by Alexandre Perotto / Picfair

A stunning sunset over Sail 2015, a quinquennial event

Sunset over Amsterdam by JJPerspectives / Picfair

A man transports his double bass by bicycle

Musical movement by Dave B / Picfair

A calm day on an Amsterdam canal

Calm Amsterdam by Martijn Kort / Picfair

Blue hour in the modern architectural area of Amsterdam

Zuidas, Amsterdam by JJPerspectives / Picfair

A girl carries balloons along an Amsterdam canal

The balloon girl by JJPerspectives / Picfair

Amsterdam’s Red Light District at night

Amsterdam red light by Martijn Kort / Picfair

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

Professional travel photographer Tim Draper has shot images for 24 Rough Guides guidebooks, visiting far-flung corners around the world. Here he shares some of his stunning shots taken in northern Laos, where he spent time with the Akha people.

I‘d been trudging steadily uphill through dense jungle in heavy rain for over seven hours when I caught my first glimpse of the Akha people. Despite the treacherous conditions the young man approached at speed, dressed almost entirely in black, carrying an old style flint-lock rifle which looked handmade.

A short distance behind him a young woman followed, also dressed in black, but with the addition of an elaborately decorated coin-covered headdress. She carried an impossible amount of firewood upon her back. I stopped to watch them nimbly side-step around me on the narrow trail and accelerate up the hill with effortless grace.

Since first encountering the Akha on a Rough Guides photoshoot 13 years ago I’ve returned many times to stay in the same villages hidden in the hills of northern and western Laos. I’ve watched on as traditional costumes are replaced by t-shirts and witnessed whole villages give in, pack up and move down to the road far below. Here are a few of my favourite portraits.

Akha children in western Laos

Akha tribeswomen and children

Akha girls in traditional handmade clothes

Young Akha girl in western Laos

Traditional Akha village in the hills of Phongsali Province

Akha mother and daughter

An impressive headpiece on an Akha tribeswoman

A young Akha girl giggles as she has her photograph taken

A young Akha girl wearing traditional clothes

A young Akha tribeswoman in traditional clothing

An older Akha tribeswoman

Men construct a spirit swing in northern Laos

Akha mother and children

Akha woman in traditional dress

An Akha child carries his sibling on his back

Akha children on spirit swing

Explore more of Laos with The Rough Guide to Southeast Asia on a BudgetCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

Go Buggy Rollin, France

Buggy, what? Yes, that’s right: Buggy Rollin. It’s a relatively new adventure sport in which each participant wears a full body suit covered in wheels and stoppers – a bit like a PowerRanger – and then hurtles face-first down a bobsleigh track at speeds of up to 100km/h. Weird, wonderful and a little insane – but we love it. Try it at the Beton on Fire festival in La Plagne in the French Alps.

Highline above a canyon, USA

Like a giant spider’s web, a network of slacklines link one side of a canyon to another. At the centre of the net (dubbed the ‘Mothership Space Net Penthouse’ by its creators) is a hole through which base-jumpers drop while highliners perch on one-inch wide pieces of string slung 120m above the ground. The venue is the Moab Desert in Utah, USA, where these extreme sports nuts meet annually to get their kicks.

Ride the world’s steepest rollercoaster, Japan

Get ready to scream as your carriage slowly makes its vertical ascent before plummeting at 100km/h down the world’s steepest rollercoaster drop – a hair-raising 121 degrees in freefall. Takabisha is the newest rollercoaster at the Fuji-Q Highland Amusement Park in Yamanashi, Japan, and is enough to put the wind up even the bravest of fairground thrillseekers.

Wing walk in the UK

In 1920s America, flying circuses travelled the country to promote aviation. Their ‘barnstorming’ pilots performed stunts like rolls and loop-the-loops while wing walkers wowed the crowds with their dangerous acrobatics on the wings of tiny biplanes. You can have a go at wing walking in Yorkshire in the UK, where, despite being fully kitted out with safety harness and parachute, none of the thrill has been lost.

Free dive in the Bahamas

In 2010, William Trubridge broke the free-diving record when he descended to a hundred metres on a single breath at Dean’s Blue Hole. It’s the world’s deepest salt-water blue hole, which is a kind of underwater sinkhole that opens out into a vast underwater cavern. Learning to free-dive in its turquoise waters is a remarkable experience, especially as the coral caves are teeming with sea life, from tropical fish and shrimps to seahorses and turtles.

Go volcano boarding in Nicaragua

It’s a steep one-hour climb up Cerro Negro, an active volcano in northwest Nicaragua. From the rim you can look down into the steaming crater, then hop on your board. The way back down takes only about three minutes: surfing or sliding, carving up pumice and coating your skin in a layer of thick black dust. Messy, exhilarating and oh so fun!

Climb cliffs without ropes, Ethiopia

The only way to access Tigray’s rock-hewn medieval monasteries is by foot, but they are high up in the Gheralta Mountains and there are no ropes to help with the climb. Visitors must traverse a narrow ledge and free-climb up a vertical rock-face. The rewards, however, are plentiful: grand views across a wide rocky landscape, striated pinnacles of sandstone and the fascinating painted interiors of the ancient churches.

Edgewalk at CN Tower, Toronto, Canada

The EdgeWalk at CN Tower in Toronto, Canada, is the world’s highest external walk on a building. Small groups that venture out onto a 1.5m-wide ledge that circles the very top of the tower are encouraged to dangle hands-free off the side of the building, 356m above the ground, trusting completely in the safety harness.

Explore the world’s largest cave, Borneo, Malaysia

You’ll soon find out if you suffer from bathophobia – the fear of depths – as you enter the Sarawak Chamber, the world’s largest cave by surface area. Beneath Gunung Mulu National Park in Borneo, an underground river channel takes you deep into the cave network. When you finally arrive at the Sarawak Chamber, the size of the space is hard to comprehend: at 150,000 square metres, the chamber is large enough to house forty Boeing 747 aeroplanes. You’ll feel very small indeed.

Base jumping from Angel Falls, Venezuela

Ever fancied jumping off a vertical cliff in a wingsuit? If so, you should head to Venezuela’s Angel Falls, the world’s highest waterfall and one of the most magnificent locations to take part in this extreme sport. Just getting here is an adventure. The 979m-high falls are located in a remote spot in the Guiana Highlands, accessible by riverboat and a trek through the jungle.

Bungee jumping from the Verzasca Dam, Switzerland

Like James Bond in the film Goldeneye, you too can leap from the world’s highest stationary bungee platform. The Verzasca Dam (or Contra Dam) in Switzerland is a 220m-high hydroelectric dam near Locarno, which holds back a reservoir containing 105 million cubic metres of water. For an extra adrenalin rush, try jumping at night.

Cliff diving at La Quebrada, Mexico

Leaping from the top a cliff into choppy seas below is a popular daredevil pursuit worldwide, but in La Quebrada, Mexico, it’s so dangerous that it’s best left to the professionals. With one swift movement, each diver soars high then gracefully turns and dives, hitting the water just as it surges up the gorge.

Flyboard in France

The sight of people hovering up to three metres above water is slightly futuristic, especially when they start flipping, spinning and diving whilst attached to what looks like a giant vacuum cleaner tube. Don’t be alarmed, this is flyboarding – a new watersport invented in 2011 by French jet-ski champion Francky Zapata, and it’s (literally) taking off around the world. A good place to try it is at La Rochelle on France’s Atlantic Coast.

Camp out in bear country, Wyoming, USA

Ah the Great Outdoors. If wild camping in a remote spot sounds idyllic, then Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, USA, could be for you – unless you don’t fancy your chances against grizzly bears in search of dinner… In fact, there is only about one bear attack in the park each year so your chances are pretty good, but you’ll need nerves of steel to lie all night in a flimsy tent whilst listening for bear-like rustling outside.

Swimming in Devil’s Pool, Victoria Falls, Zambia

Daring swimmers can bathe in this natural infinity pool just inches from the world’s highest waterfall: Victoria Falls in Zambia. Lie against the edge of the precipice and watch the Zambezi river cascade into the canyon 100 metres below, obscuring the view of the rainforest beyond with clouds of mist. This exhilarating swim is only possible in the dry season (May–October) when the waters are low enough for the natural pool to form.

Abseil from Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa

Extreme sports professionals regularly fling themselves from South Africa’s famous flat-topped mountain, but now mere mortals can have a go too. The world’s highest commercial abseil starts at 300m above sea level from the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. On the 112m descent, look around you – if you can – at the spectacular view over the beaches and bays of the city’s glittering Atlantic coast.

Skydive over Mount Everest, Nepal

There can be no adrenalin rush quite like it. Free-falling from 29,000ft above Mount Everest in Nepal, will literally take your breath away – not just from the thrill of the jump but from the extraordinary view of the world’s highest mountain. Unfortunately, this once-in-a-lifetime experience comes with a high price tag: tandem jumps with Everest Skydive start at $20,000.

Cycle Death Road, Bolivia

This is said to be Bolivia’s scariest road. The Yungas Road is a narrow track, barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass, with a sheer drop on one side and a vertical rock face on the other. Heavy-goods trucks used to plough along it – and frequently off it – but now only thrill-seeking cyclists hurtle down the 64 kilometre route from the snowy mountains to the rainforest below.

Today Ethiopia is celebrating Christmas. Following the Julian calendar, this East African, Orthodox Christian nation celebrates Christmas on the 7th January each year.

In Lalibela, one of the holiest sites in Ethiopia, tens of thousands of pilgrims gather for mass in the town’s 12 rock-hewn churches. All through the night there’s chanting, singing, swaying and praying – an evocative sight if you’re lucky enough to witness it.

Photographer Karoki Lewis travelled to Lalibela for Christmas, and here he shares his best pictures of the spectacular event.

Pilgrims gather on Christmas eve for the all-night Christmas celebrations at the Bet Maryam (Church of the Virgin Mary), Lalibela, Ethiopia

Pilgrims visit Bet Giyorgis, the Church of St George

Young pilgrims wearing Ethiopian national dress

Pilgrims celebrate the end of their 43 day fast, drinking the local honey based liquor tej

Pilgrims arrive from all over Ethiopia (some having walked for 4-5 weeks)

Priest and deacons line up for King David’s dance, the final ritual at the Bet Maryam

Priest and deacons get ready to dance in Bet Maryam

Pilgrims light candles to the new born Jesus

A pilgrim waits for Christmas day in Lalibela

Priests and deacons wearing white Shemas (shawls) and cloaks perform ritual dances

Pilgrims gather on Christmas eve

Pilgrims carry candles during celebrations

Pilgrim reading bible in the courtyard of Bet Maryam

Priests and Deacons in the courtyard of Bet Maryam

Pilgrims camp out near the churches of Lalibela

These tukuls become temporary homes for the pilgrims

Priest holds a 12th century bronze cross inside Bet Danaghel

Young priests sing and chant

Bet Maryam (Church of the Virgin Mary)

Priest with wooden cross and 500-year-old canvas painting in Bet Golgotha

Pilgrims at the Bet Gabriel

All images © Karoki Lewis 2016. Explore more of Ethiopia with the Rough Guide to Ethiopia. Compare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

They say a picture can tell a story worth a thousand words, which is why we’re big on pictures. There’s no better way – save seeing it for yourself – to understand a brilliant travel experience than seeing it through the medium of photography. We’ve spent this year uploading stunning Rough Guides imagery on our Instagram account, so here’s a round up of the travel pictures our readers liked the most.

1. Erg Chebbi dunes, Mergouza, Morocco

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2. Hong Kong, China

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3. The Blue Lagoon, Iceland

 

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4. Weligama, Sri Lanka

 

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5. Nyhavn, Copenhagen, Denmark

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6. Taranaki, Mount Egmont, New Zealand

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7. St Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow, Russia

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8. Quote by the Dalai Lama

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9. Quiraing, Isle of Skye, Scotland

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10. Edinburgh, Scotland

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11. Bryce Canyon, USA

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12. Germany

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13. Mahalangur Himal, Nepal

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14. Dubrovnik, Croatia

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15. Havana, Cuba

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  16. Palau, Micronesia

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17. A reason to travel

 

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18. Venice, Italy

 

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19. Zanzibar

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20. Beachey Head, England

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Rough Guides writer Kiki Deere shares some of her best photographs of the Philippines from her latest trip to Southeast Asia. 

Comprising 7107 islands, the Philippines boasts some of the world’s most incredibly diverse landscapes – nowhere more so than Luzon, the country’s largest island.

Northern Luzon is home to the country’s remotest wildernesses, a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts: here it’s possible to white water raft on gushing mountain rivers, bike and trek on mountainous paths, climb active volcanoes, go spelunking (potholing) or surfing at some of the country’s best spots.

I travelled along the west coast, sprinkled with laidback beach and surf resorts, before heading inland to the Cordilleras, the tribal heartland of the country. Here age-old rice terraces weave around the mountainside, and the tradition of burying the dead in hanging coffins is still very much alive.

The region is also home to the Philippines’ best-preserved Spanish colonial town, Vigan, and the country’s remotest island province, Batanes, where weather, topography and language differ greatly from the mainland. Southern Luzon is equally enthralling, with its powdery white-sand beaches and limestone formations in the Caramoan Peninsula, the largest concentration of whale sharks in the world at Donsol (it’s possible to swim with these gentle giants), and the country’s most famous active volcano, Mount Mayon, said to have the world’s most symmetrical cone.

Mount Mayon enveloped in cloud

The Ifugao People of the Cordillera

The rolling hills of Batanes

Halo-halo, a popular Filipino dessert

Sailing at sunset

Age-old rice terraces wrap around Ducligan in Banaue

The colonial streets of Vigan

A man tends to his bangka in Sorsogon Province

The verdant land of Masbate

Mount Iraya looms over the rugged coast of Batan Island

The hanging coffins of Sagada

Vegetable terraces covered in mist

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

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