We’ve travelled very far and very wide at Rough Guides – and so have our editors. Now might not be a time for actual travel, but we can all daydream. Our in-house editors have been reminiscing about our favourite countries around the world. What’s yours?
There’s nothing like a period of enforced non-travel to focus the mind on where you’d really like to be. And my mind drifts back to Pacific-skirting drives in dazzling sunshine, endless coffee refills in diners, gazing at iconic city skylines and extraordinary, endless natural wonders. I’m biased, and I’m lucky: my family in the States means I’ve been across the pond a lot, but the thrill of Americana has never faded. There’s something magical about a walk in Central Park, hitting the beach in Malibu – Californian juice in hand – and soaring to the top of a skyscraper in Chicago. The world there is so familiar, but no mistake, it is so distinctively, fabulously America, and I can’t wait to go back.
From sexy salsa clubs to salty sea air, classic cars to disarmingly friendly locals, Cuba is a country with soul. It’s a place that’s always worn its political heart on its sleeve, its socialist slogans still splashed across mighty billboards that line its highways. The colourful capital, Havana, is full of colonial charm – several of the main tourist squares now gleam, having been restored to their former glory, while the residents of Centro Habana hang their washing from the balconies of crumbling facades and call to their neighbours from the doorstep. Away from the capital are steamy valleys, bleach-white beaches, cobblestone towns and – always, somewhere – music. And then there’s the people: warm, kind and eager to share their homes and stories with the travellers who come to visit their captivating island.
The countries I love most are two green lands, four thousand miles apart. One on the edge of western Britain, the other on the edge of the Eastern Caribbean. One forested and rainy, the other rainforested. Both laden with valleys, waterfalls and mountains. Both edged by majestic coastlines – secret soft-sand bays spiked with wave-lashed cliffs. Craggy islets orbited by dolphins, and seabirds that shriek when the sun slips low and they make for home. Both resilient lands, both warm and welcoming of heart. That’s Wales, my homeland, and the island of Dominica. Miles apart, but both clutched by the Atlantic, and both have the warmth of a comforting cwtch – that’s Welsh for a hug that feels like home.
Norway is an outdoors-lover’s playground for hiking, skiing and sailing, but it’s an ideal spot to relax, too. I particularly loved sipping fjord-chilled prosecco from the comfort of a lakeside cabin and mooching around colourful harboursides. But I believe that it’s the people you meet that really shape your trip – and visiting over Norway Day was definitely the right move. Cheerfully animated locals, women wearing traditional bunad dresses and children waving little Norway flags; the celebrations continued well into the night. With its glittering architecture, Oslo is my next must-visit destination, but I'm just as eager to explore the remote Lofoten Islands and ethereal Svalbard, too.
Despite not having been there for many years (too many, in fact), Argentina is a place I can transport myself back to in an instant. From the tropical northeast to the colonial cities of the arid northwest, through picturesque Lake District villages, the mountains of Patagonia and beyond to the tip of South America – not to mention upmarket beach resorts and a buzzing capital steeped in history – its geographical variety is breathtaking. But the one constant of this diverse country is the outward-looking nature and indomitable spirit of its people who, in spite of the political and economic woes of the past fifty years, know how to make the best of things.
A stunning view in Patagonia, Argentina © Shutterstock
Look beyond the headlines and you'll find the real Iran. The warm welcomes of locals, incredible museums and some of the most majestic architecture in the world – Iran is a land with endless superlatives. Delight in a series of succulent kebabs one day, the next ski at full pelt down the jagged Alborz Mountains. In the south, marvel at intricate reliefs at Persepolis, the once capital of the Achaemenid Empire, and haggle over pristine Persian carpets at the Vakil Bazaar in Shiraz. Shaking off the country’s media image will only be possible when travellers like us explore the real, living, breathing Iran – upending the myths is what makes this the most fascinating and rewarding destination of all.
Helen worked as a Senior Travel Editor at Rough Guides and Insight Guides, based in the London office. Among her favourite projects to work on are inspirational guides like