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The countries we most want to see

Despite our best laid plans, we never made it to Africa last year. With renewed plans to visit the continent after our current trip through Sri Lanka and Burma, we found ourselves in an interesting discussion: if you could see only five countries before you die, which would they be?

This question posed a far trickier dilemma than the countries we least want to see. With so much on offer, we had to be ruthless in our choices.

We didn’t choose countries we have already visited, nor stateless territories (e.g. Antarctica). Two of our countries overlapped (Nepal and Canada) so we each chose one more to make a total of 10. Continue reading

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How to photograph the northern lights

We enlist some expert advice on how to photograph the northern lights. 

I’d been hankering after a Nikon ever since ruining mine in the Maldives a few years ago. Stuck with a clunky second-hand Canon, I often found myself fiddling with settings instead of getting the shot I was aiming for.

So, ahead of our trip to Norway, I bit the bullet and bought a new Nikon D610 along with a wide-angle lens. I also spent some time learning how to photograph the northern lights. I knew I may only get one chance and I wanted to be ready. To maximise my chances of getting the shots I wanted, I booked a tour with Andrei, an experienced photographer from Enjoy the Arctic. Continue reading

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10 long-distance hiking trails from around the world

I’m always looking for new outdoor challenges (to add to my current bucket list of climbing the seven summits and sailing the Pacific Ocean). Completing some epic long-distance hiking trails sounds like the perfect challenge for me. Traipsing along quiet hiking trails in the backcountry for weeks on end is my idea of heaven (and I dare say Kia would enjoy the time away from me too!). But, which one to choose?

Below, I list some of the best long-distance hiking trails from around the world. From trail hiking to trail blazing, these present perfect ways to enjoy the wilderness, nature and seclusion I so often yearn for. Continue reading

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A long weekend in Norway: 7 things to do in Bergen

Seven fjords, seven hills and an old-world fishing wharf help make Bergen in Norway the perfect destination for a weekend getaway.

Bergen may be one of the rainiest cities in Europe but it’s also a vibrant cultural center with superb access to the western fjords. The city offers an excellent blend of nature and culture and, despite the damp, we loved it. Here’s what we suggest for a long weekend.  Continue reading

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12 of Earth’s most remote places and communities

Whether it’s astronomical distances, inhospitable climates or extreme terrains that define these remote and hostile lands, there’s one thing they all have in common: they’re on my bucket list. That and the fact that people live there.

It’s highly unlikely I’ll actually make it to many (if any) of these far-flung desolate realms, but I salute the hardcore residents who carve out an existence in the most remote places and communities on Earth. Continue reading

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Climbing Galdhøpiggen in Jotunheimen National Park

I set out on a hiking trip to Jotunheimen National Park in Norway intent on climbing Galdhøpiggen, the highest mountain in Norway, Scandinavia and northern Europe.

Before we started Atlas & Boots, I used to take a hiking trip every summer from our base in the UK. Usually, I would grab a couple of shorter trips on home soil throughout the year and then head off in the summer to find more challenging terrain.

Sometimes, it was an exotic destination like Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and other times it was closer to home in Europe. In one of my many trips to Scandinavia, I set my sights on Norway. Continue reading

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23 interesting facts about Norway

From polar exploits to illustrious penguins, we take a look at the most interesting facts about Norway.

Norway may well be the best country in the world – it’s certainly one of our favourites. It seems to have everything going for it. Not only is it a beautiful country full of stunning wildlife, nature and the northern lights, it’s also home to one of the world’s most progressive and open societies.

Throw in an enthralling history full of vikings, conquest and exploration, and I’m sold. I would move there in a heartbeat if only it weren’t so expensive (and that Kia may have something to say about the cold).

So, in a nutshell, we love the country – which is why we keep going back again and again. With that in mind, we take a look at some of the most interesting facts about Norway that we’ve learnt on the road. Continue reading

Is it time for tourism caps?

As world population grows, so too will mass tourism. Will capping visitor numbers help or hinder? We take a look below.

In June this year, approximately 30,000 Icelanders flocked to France to support their team in Euro 2016. What’s remarkable is that the exodus accounted for almost 10% of Iceland’s entire population.

Iceland is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world with only 330,000 residents spread across its vast expanse of land. With this in mind, it’s worrying to learn that an estimated 1.6 million tourists visited the country this year, far outstripping the number of residents and demonstrating a 20% increase on 2015 numbers. Continue reading

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Things to do in Oslo: 17 dos and don’ts

We went to Norway to see the northern lights but couldn’t leave without a few nights in the capital. There are plenty of interesting things to do in Oslo. The city is home to a blend of fascinating heritage, intriguing museums, vibrant art galleries and excellent access to the countryside, all set amid a serene waterside location.

Norway is the land of vikings, polar exploration, the Nobel Prize and Edvard Munch – and it’s all on display in Oslo.

Below, we offer tips and suggestions for the best things to do in Oslo – and a few to avoid along the way.

Continue reading

Visiting Kon Tiki, the raft that crossed an ocean

In 1947, Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl crossed the Pacific Ocean on Kon Tiki, a rudimentary raft made of balsa wood. We took a trip to see the legendary vessel.

“Your mother and father will be very grieved when they hear of your death,” Thor Heyerdahl was told as he prepared to cross the Pacific by raft.

The raft’s dimensions were wrong, it was so small it would founder at sea, the balsa logs would break under strain or become waterlogged a quarter distance into sea, gales and hurricanes would wash the crew overboard, and salt water would slough the skin right off their legs – there was no end to the warnings. Continue reading

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End of the line: 5 hiking trails on the Oslo metro

A comprehensive network of Oslo hiking trails is accessible from the city metro system. All offer great access to the outdoors and are easy to reach from the city centre.

The hiking trails around Oslo are similar to those in the rest of the country: clearly signposted, well maintained and often bookended with cosy cabins serving hot drinks and hearty food.

Trails in Norway are maintained by the excellent Norway Trekking Association (DNT). Their crowdsourced route planning sister site UT.no is also a great online resource full of hiking ideas, tips and maps. Continue reading

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The best national parks in the world – by continent

The best way to see the world’s greatest natural wonders is to visit the best national parks in the world. Thankfully, governments around the world have taken steps to preserve their areas of outstanding natural beauty, their diverse animal and marine life, and tracts of pristine wilderness.

From the plains and deserts of Africa to the waterfalls and glaciers of South America, every continent has something different to offer. Here we list the best national parks in the world by continent.

Continue reading

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Fram Museum in Oslo: a window into polar exploration

The Fram Museum in Oslo strikes the perfect balance between fact and fantasy, appealing to exploration junkies, history buffs and culture seekers alike.

Norwegians have a rich and successful history in polar exploration. Here in the UK we revere the names of Shackleton and Scott while only whispering those of Nansen and Amundsen. The legends of Shackleton and Scott are lauded for against-the-odds survival and ultimate sacrifice, while their Norwegian counterparts are known for triumphing in relatively undramatic glory. Continue reading

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20 dos and don’ts of visiting Tromso, Norway

You don’t go to Tromso 350km north of the Arctic Circle for culture and cuisine. You go in the hopes of seeing the legendary northern lights. And who can blame you? The aurora borealis is on every traveller’s bucket list and if you’re lucky enough to view them in their glory, the memory will remain forever.

Tromso is Norway’s main hub north of the Arctic Circle and serves as an excellent base for seeing the majestic natural phenomenon. However, there are other things to do in Tromso besides chasing the lights.

We spent four days in the city and can offer the following tips for visiting Tromso. Continue reading

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A night’s tail: Aurora husky hike in Norway

An aurora husky hike in Norway is an essential Arctic experience for all animal lovers. Even the arresting scenery plays second fiddle to these beautiful animals.

While Kia does not describe herself as an animal lover, I most certainly do. I grew up in the countryside always in the company of animals. Over the course of my childhood we kept dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters. The presence of animals in my life has had a lasting effect on me. Continue reading

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Before they’re gone: landscapes affected by climate change

Climate change is taking an unprecedented toll on the Earth’s World Heritage Sites and natural wonders. Below, we take a look at some of the worst affected landscapes.

With the surprise news this week that Donald Trump will be the next president of the USA, it would be easy to overlook that with the news comes one of the biggest threats to the historic agreement on climate made in Paris earlier this year.

Trump has previously described climate change as “fictional” and “created by the Chinese”, and has promised to “cancel” the Paris climate deal completely. On the domestic front he also plans to repeal all federal spending on clean energy, including research and development for wind, solar, nuclear power and electric vehicles. Continue reading

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Feeding Arctic reindeer in Tromso

I’m not an animal lover. I mean, yes, I’m vegetarian and, yes, I had one of those dinky green badges from Blue Peter when I was young, but this was due more to general environmentalism than a love for animals.

I’m wary of dogs, indifferent to cats, and have been known to ask how often people trim their kittens (answer: never). With this in mind, you’ll understand why I was unsure about our Arctic reindeer trip in Tromso. There was no snow on the ground so sledding was off the cards and we weren’t even sure if the reindeer would make it down from the mountains in time for our visit (two weeks before the official start of the season).

Nevertheless, we had a day spare and decided to spend it at Tromso Arctic Reindeer, 16km from the centre of town. Continue reading

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Chasing the northern lights in Tromso

We travelled 350km north of the Arctic Circle to chase the elusive northern lights in Tromso. Here’s what happened.

I pulled the duvet up over my head and huddled against the headboard.

“I don’t want to go out,” I said, the words hot and sulky beneath the cover.

Peter pulled the duvet off the bed. “Come on, we’ve got to go.”

I sighed a weary sigh and dragged myself up. It’s true: I didn’t want to go out. We were in the Arctic Circle for God’s sake! It was six in the evening and freezing outside! And dark! And freezing! Continue reading

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7 great travel mysteries from around the world

If there’s one thing I enjoy more than a good adventure yarn, it’s a good adventure yarn with a mysterious ending. Here are some of my favourite travel mysteries from around the world (and one from  outside of it).

1. The Abandoned Mary Celeste

This now infamous ship was sighted on 4 December 1872 near the Azores on course for Gibraltar. The crew of the Dei Gratia, another vessel following a similar course, spotted the ship through a spyglass, noting that it was sailing “erratically, yawing slightly and her sails were torn”. As the Dei Gratia approached the eerily empty ship, its crew saw that there was no one at the helm or even on deck. The ship was taking on water but still seaworthy. Continue reading