One for the Road Review: Rough Guides 25

The nice folks at Rough Guides sent me a few titles from their about-to-be-released Rough Guides 25 series. The collection of 25 “Ultimate Experiences” travel books will be officially released in the US on Friday, to commemorate the company’s 25th anniversary. I’ve got a sneak peek at the books today, and an interview with founder Mark Ellingham coming up tomorrow — which will feature a chance for one lucky Gadling reader to win a complete set of the 25 anniversary guides! Here’s the scoop on this special limited-edition set:

Just a few moments spent flipping through these bite-size books had me hankering for a sudden journey real bad. These little guys are bursting with colorful photos and graphics of adventures that scream “Try Me!” Each mini-guide suggests 25 ultimate travel experiences for a particular region or theme. There are destination guides for places like India, Spain, Canada and China, and thematic guides like Adventure Travel, World Food and Ethical Travel.
While thumbing through my copy of 25: Europe, I discovered that despite my extended travels around the continent, I’ve only completed three of Rough Guides suggested ultimate experiences for European travels — portrait viewing at the Prado, bargain shopping in Krakow and exploring Sintra’s magical castle. There are several others that I’ve “sort-of” done, and readers will probably notice the same — enhanced or modified versions of trips previously taken. For example, I’ve been to the Louvre before, but never in the evening, as RG editors suggest. So now gazing at art after dark has been added to my ever-growing list of reasons to return to Europe.

I was bummed, however, not to find mention of two of my favorite European cities, Budapest and Ljubljana, in the Europe guide. But later on I found both incorporated nicely into 25: Places to Stay, which highlights unique accommodations around the world. Buda’s Hotel Gellert and Ljubljana’s Celica Hostel are both featured. (These cities might also be mentioned in the 25: Eastern Europe edition. In my interview with Mark Ellingham tomorrow you can learn more about how Rough Guides narrowed down which experiences to include in the books.)

In all, the complete set of 25 books features 625 travel experiences, a collection that is sure to offer ideas that appeal to every type of traveler. These suggestions go beyond the typical “top” travel experiences. Most have a unique twist to them — the point is not just to visit a certain city or landmark, but to experience it through a specific lens, be that time of year, hour of day or some other special element. Often the experiences are linked to seasonal festivals, cuisines, sporting events or outdoor activities. For example, try visiting the Colosseum in winter, instead of during the hot crowded summer. Or visit Sydney specifically to experience Mardi Gras, which takes place every March.

The books themselves are 80 glossy pages, lightweight and soft-bound. The flexible inside front cover folds out with a map that pinpoints each of the 25 experiences featured in the book. And the inside back cover folds out with a “Taking the Next Step” section that lists logistics and links to aid trip planning. Each of the 25 experiences gets its own two-page spread with fantastically fun photos and a “Need to Know” section. There is a bonus “Miscellany” section too, containing a random smattering of additional trip ideas like “The Top Five Bird Sanctuaries in New Zealand” or the “Five Best Dive Sites in Australia.”

Rough Guides has created a clever commemoration to their 25 successful years. And with this special anniversary series they have gathered together enough classic experiences to easily keep folks well stocked with travel ideas for at least another 25!

Check back tomorrow morning for Gadling’s interview with Mark Ellingham, Rough Guides founder; and news on how you can win a complete set of these anniversary guides.