Monthly Archives: April 2017

The newest UNESCO World Heritage Site

William Wordsworth once described the UK’s Lake District as “the loveliest spot man hath ever found”. And the people at UNESCO seem to agree.

The national park has just been rewarded UNESCO World Heritage status, joining the likes of Bath and Stonehenge in the UK – as well as bucket-list international sights like the Great Wall of China and the Grand Canyon.

Delegates from the Lakes first tried to obtain UNESCO status in 1986, so we at Rough Guides think the announcement is cause for celebration.

Here are five ways to celebrate the Lake District’s new UNESCO World Heritage status, from osprey-spotting at Bassenthwaite Lake to a white-knuckle afternoon at the Via Ferrata.

 

1. Spot wild ospreys at Bassenthwaite Lake

Wild ospreys recolonised Bassenthwaite in 2001 and, although there’s no guarantee, they have returned every year since to nest and breed on the lakeshore here.

At the upper viewpoint, high-powered telescopes are provided. On most days during the season (April till August or September) you’ll be able to see these majestic birds fishing and feeding, hovering over the lake, then plunging feet first to catch their prey.

 

2. Test your nerves at the Via Ferrata

The Via Ferrata (“Iron Way”) uses a system pioneered in the Italian Dolomites as a way to get troops and equipment over unforgiving mountain terrain.

By means of a permanently fixed cableway and clip-on harness, you follow the miners’ old route up the exposed face of the mountain, clambering up and along iron rungs, ladders and supports to reach the top of Fleetwith Pike.

The Classic route is exhilarating enough. Die-hard thrill seekers can take things one step further with the Xtreme route, with more vertical climbs and cliff-face ladders.

 

3. Visit the Castlerigg Stone Circle

One of the Lake District’s most mysterious landmarks, Castlerigg Stone Circle sits atop a sweeping plateau, dwarfed by the encroaching fells. Some 38 hunks of Borrowdale volcanic stone, the largest almost 8ft tall, form a circle 100ft in diameter. The stone circle probably had an astronomical or timekeeping function when it was erected four or five thousand years ago, but no one really knows. Whatever its origins, it’s a magical spot.

Underrated cities that you must to visit

Elegant and artsy Buenos Aires and humid, hedonistic Rio de Janeiro are some of South America’s biggest urban draws, notching up hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

But for each city flush with tourists, there are plenty still under the radar. For those looking to escape the crowds, here are six South American towns and cities you’re guaranteed to fall in love with.

1. Jardin, Colombia

Few guidebooks even mention Jardin, a charming Colombian town that by all accounts has changed little since it was founded more than 150 years ago.

As per tradition, each morning locals occupy the main square to sip a cup of rich, Colombian coffee, seated on colourful chairs that are painted in vibrant hues to match the exuberant facades of the town’s colonial houses. Across the plaza, the extravagant neo-Gothic Basilica Menor, with its striking turquoise interior, offers another excuse to tarry here.

Encircled by the mountains of the Cordillera Occidental and boarded by surging rivers and streams, Jardin’s colourful streets are matched by its surroundings. A short cable car passing over lush plantations of coffee and banana – the region’s principal crops – brings visitors to Mirador Cristo Rey and the best views over town.

2. Punta Arenas, Chile

The gateway to the splendid mountain landscapes of Torres del Paine National Park further north, Punta Arenas is a city that most pass through quickly.

But it’s the historic heart of Chilean Patagonia; a city of neo-classical mansions that belonged to the merchants at the centre of the international wool trade in the late 1800s. The most extravagant, Palacio Braun-Menéndez is evidence of the wealth that once poured into the region.

The wine destination you never knew existed

Asked to name the world’s best wine country and you’ll most likely tout the undulating vineyards of Italy, France or California. But Thailand? With its smouldering weather and chalky soil, Thailand is not top of a vinophile’s bucket list. But Tamara Hinson discovers why it should be.
Cocktails and Chang beer are no longer the only drinks being served in Bangkok‘s chicest rooftop bars. The city’s upwardly mobile masses have a new-found thirst for wine – but the extortionate taxes slapped on imported alcohol mean that it’s a luxury few could enjoy. Until now.
Tucked between the rolling hills of Hua Hin, away from the coastal region’s sandy beaches and five-star resorts, Monsoon Valley Wines‘ vineyard is a hive of activity. Local workers move slowly along the vines, filling baskets with ripe grapes and wafting away the heat with homemade fans. A family of four cycles past, leaving behind wisps of chalky soil.
This hot, humid chunk of Thailand isn’t an obvious choice for a vineyard. The same could be said for the entire country. But that didn’t deter Chalerm Yoovidhya, who founded Monsoon Valley Wines in 2001.Yoovidhya, the Thai billionaire behind the Red Bull empire, had always loved fine wine, and felt that a Thailand-based winery would boost the blossoming wine culture in his country.

Critics scoffed, pointing out that decent wine simply couldn’t be made in this hot, humid country, with its chalky soil and searing heat. But Yoovidhya persisted, and today his company is one of Asia‘s most successful wine brands, with the largest network of international distributors.

Despite being a safe country with no shortage of breathtaking historical sites, friendly people and some of the world’s most stunning wilderness Jordan is often overlooked by travellers.