Beyond Chichén Itzá: Mayan secrets in the Yucatán jungle

If you want extraordinary Mayan sites without the crowds, you just have to head deep into the jungles of the Yucatán Peninsula, discovers Graeme Green.

The road ahead is blocked. Standing between us and the ancient Mayan city of Calakmul, deep in the Yucatán Peninsula, there’s a strange and colorful bird with either a perverse sense of humor or a stubborn streak. Every time we stop the car, the bird—a wild, blue-headed Ocellated Turkey with wings of green, brown and gold—moves to the side of the road. But as soon as we rev the engine or inch forward, it moves right back in front of us, making it impossible to pass.

There are worse ways to be held up; the bird’s immovability allows us ample time to get out and photograph it. But after 10 minutes, it stretches the patience. We finally make it past, only for another technicolor turkey to appear, shortly joined by a posse of feathered friends further along. This could take some time…

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In photos: One cyclist’s remarkable journey from London to Hong Kong

In 2015, Joshua Cunningham rode his bike from London to Hong Kong. His journey took him some 12 months and 21,000 kilometers (13,000 miles), through 26 countries. Here, he shares some of the photographs and tales he collected along the way.

“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best,” Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.”

The bicycle travel experience is one of complete immersion—in place, people, terrain, climate, culture and cuisine. By traveling through a region, as opposed to skipping between locations within it, you have yourself the opportunity to see everything the guidebooks literally miss out—and everything that they would actively choose to avoid too.

And as I made my way across the Eurasian landmass in 2015, the depth of Hemingway’s words became abundantly clear.

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The fly fisher on a mission to get more women out on the water

Tayla Gentle journeyed into the Australian wilderness with expert fly fishing guide, Charley May, in search of a trout or two. She came back with a question: Why don’t more women take up this relaxing, tactical and restorative sport?

“My first piece of advice to you today: Don’t expect to catch a fish.”

I’m sitting on the banks of the Rubicon River under a canopy of gum leaves, somewhere about two hours east of Melbourne, watching fly fisher Charley May thread a tiny replica caddisfly onto her line with surgeon-like precision.

“No offense,” she says, without looking up from her intricate operation, “but the first time is never easy and you might walk away without catching much more than a tree branch. But if you’re disappointed by that, I kind of think you’re missing the point.”

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Bariloche’s little brother: Patagonia’s secret adventure town

It has all the trappings of Patagonia: Towering volcanos, glacial lakes, soaring mountains and scenic trails. But unlike its neighbor Bariloche, San Martin de Los Andes isn’t making headlines—yet.

We’d only been hiking for about 90 minutes when we reached a rocky clearing. Although steep in parts, the hike up the small mountain wasn’t terribly technical. The remnants of that winter’s snowfall obscured the trail in many places, forcing us to improvise our way through thick evergreen forest and occasionally find ourselves thigh-deep in icy snow.

While the uphill slog wasn’t enough to leave me breathless, the view did. It was as if an Argentinean deity, a postcard-maker and a group of Instagrammers had conspired to create the perfect travel photo.

A cloudless blue sky served as the background for the snowcapped Lanín volcano, which at 12,467-foot-high (3,800 meters) is the highest peak in this part of Patagonia. There are several smaller peaks to the north and the gorgeous deep-blue Lago Tromen; the border with Chile lay a stone’s throw to the northwest. Completing the image is San Martín de los Andes, quietly becoming the newest adventure sports mecca in South America.

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Is it time for travel photographers to take more responsibility?

With great cameras, or smartphones, comes great responsibility. The way you take a portrait photo can tell a thousand stories and that’s why it’s important to tell the right story, says our featured contributor Lola Akinmade Åkerström.

Mr. Oladiti is a security guard in Lagos, Nigeria. I’ve known him for years and every time I go back home, I see him. I notice new age lines snaking and deepening across his face, and I observe his body hunching lower with each visit.

But he is always there, without fail. Doing his job proudly as a security guard. I don’t know how old he is, but he is clearly old enough to be my grandfather.

Now, imagine if I had only zoomed into his face, converted his photo into black and white, sharpened it into oblivion, and made his age lines pop out more prominently to emphasize his age?

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I hiked through remote, spectacular Afghanistan (and you can too)

Back in 2013, ‘hiking through Afghanistan’ wasn’t high on the to-do lists of many travelers. But Australian writer Tracey Croke set off for the country’s Wakhan Corridor anyway, determined not to let the headlines convince her otherwise.  

I’m in Afghanistan with a man named Usef. The year is 2013.

Usef, it transpires, has a remarkably terrifying skill of zig-zagging his jeep at high speed to avoid potholes while turning his head a full 180 degrees to talk to me in the back seat.

“It’s a big drop,” I say, nodding at the unsurvivable rage of the Panj River, a hundred meters or so below. “Inshallah [God willing]” he smiles, rolling his eyes towards the heavens as if he has no influence over the matter.

In the distance, a bridge connecting high fences signals that my two-day drive through Tajikistan is coming to an end and the real journey is about to begin. We are lurching towards Ishkashim, the border crossing into Afghanistan.

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The kingdom of rails: Is the best way to see Thailand by train?

Train travel. Suspended in the rocking belly of the iron beast, with Thailand scrolling past your window—bridges, backyards, paddies, hills and the clang of level-crossing bells—there’s nothing quite like it, says veteran travel writer John Borthwick.

It all starts at Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong terminus, the heart of a rail web stretching from Nong Khai to Hat Yai. A throwback to the glory days of rail travel (it was built in 1916 by King Rama V, the monarch credited with protecting Thailand from colonization), this grand old dowager with its vaulted roof gives any journey a ceremonial sense of departure.

The night express to Chiang Mai is the classic Thailand rail trip. I board it for the 750-kilometer (465-mile) journey, ready to rock (quite literally) on Thailand’s narrow, one-meter gauge tracks. I’ve booked a four-berth compartment with upper and lower bunks in the popular, air-conditioned second class.

A snappily-dressed State Railway of Thailand inspector checks our tickets, followed by a caterer who takes meal orders. When my vegetarian option arrives, a Thai gent in the compartment laughs: “No spice, no meat, no fun. Monk food, I think.”

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