best passport to have

World’s most powerful passport 2017

Travelling can be a bureaucratic nightmare for those on restricted passports. Here we look at the best passport to have in 2017 based on the freedom it provides.

Ten years ago, in my first job after graduation, I shared an office with a researcher called Munir who I nicknamed Dr2 because he not only had a PhD but was also qualified as a medical doctor. (I recognise it’s not the wittiest name in the world but it was the best I could do at the time.) Continue reading

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Happiest countries in the world 2017

The happiest countries in the world have been ranked in the latest World Happiness Report. Norway has snatched the title, jumping up from 4th last year and knocking Denmark into second place.

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a global initiative for the United Nations, has just published this year’s World Happiness Report. The SDSN employs an international group of economists, neuroscientists and statisticians to survey citizens on their subjective wellbeing and produce a comprehensive annual list of the happiest countries in the world.

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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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Mountaineering calendar: when to climb the world’s greatest mountains

Since I first started climbing, I must have spent hours typing “when is the best time to climb…” into search engines and then crawling through websites to find the key piece of information I needed. Only when I have a date in mind can I start to think about the practicalities of actually trying to climb a mountain (i.e. booking time off work, flights, budget, gear etc).

To solve this problem once and for all, Atlas & Boots has put together a mountaineering calendar of the world’s greatest mountains and the optimal time of year at which to climb them. Continue reading

underground cities of Cappadocia

Underground cities of Cappadocia: for trogs and hobbits

Exploring the Kaymaklı and Derinkuyu underground cities of Cappadocia is perfect for connecting with your inner troglodyte.

With so many activities on offer above ground in Cappadocia (hot-air balloon rides, hiking and horse riding to name but a few) it would be easy to overlook the maze of tunnels burrowed deep in subterranean Turkey.

The underground cities of Cappadocia offer something truly unique to the tourist in Anatolia. You won’t find any fairy chimneys or ridged valleys here. Instead, a labyrinth of tunnels and chambers await. Claustrophobes, beware! Continue reading

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8 short but sweet Cappadocia hikes

Hiking around Cappadocia in Turkey is a unique experience offering some of the most surreal scenery in the world. There are numerous options available, from brief walks to full-day treks and beyond. Below, we take a look at some short but sweet Cappadocia hikes offering excellent vantage points with extraordinary views.

We hired a car and sought out the trails on our own. If you prefer, you can opt to book a Cappadocia hiking tour that will cover all the below. Voyager Balloons offer customised itineraries and are a good option if you don’t have transport. Continue reading

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Cappadocia balloon ride: a fairytale flight

A Cappadocia balloon ride gives passengers an unrivalled perspective of the area’s unique landscape of fairy chimneys, towering boulders and ridged valleys peppered with caves.

We had already spent three days exploring the lunar-like environment of Cappadocia. We had hiked, driven, ‘caved’ and ridden our way around Göreme National Park (the modern encompassment of the historic region of Cappadocia) and were soon ready for a full, unobstructed view from above. Continue reading

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The world’s most expensive cities for expats 2016

Moving to a new country is one of the most expensive endeavours one can undertake. Enter Mercer’s 2016 Cost of Living ranking, a survey of the most expensive cities for expats.

With the UK recently voting in favour of Brexit, we at Atlas & Boots are reassessing our future. Prior to the result, we fully expected to return to France after our next big trip. Now we may have to look further afield. Whatever we decide, one useful way to choose where our future lies is to compare the cost of living in our new city compared to our old, currently London. Continue reading

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What is the world’s most diverse country?

When Sadiq Khan was voted in as London Mayor, he announced his city ‘the most diverse and fantastic in the world’. This triggered interest from the BBC which ran a podcast examining his claim. The podcast named the Canadian city of Toronto as the most diverse but in doing so, highlighted a number of methodological problems that also apply when measuring the world’s most diverse country. Continue reading

The lighthearted side of Muslim men

Attallah Alblwi towers over me. Dressed in a gleaming white thawb, chequered keffiyeh and black agal, he is the type of man I’d normally find intimidating. Normally, I would associate him with the archetypal Muslim man: ascetic, righteous, upstanding; more concerned with decorum than needless things like fun and laughter. The Muslim men of my youth were idealised as guardians, protectors, keepers. They had no time for chatter or banter.

Attallah, however, has a playful smile and generous laugh, so full and deep that I wonder if there’s something more ‘interesting’ in his famous Bedouin tea. Continue reading

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18 interesting facts about Jordan

Jordan is one of my favourite destinations in the world. It seems to have everything. 

In places, it’s like an open-air museum with ancient ruins and mythical cities dotting the horizon. There are natural phenomena and arresting vistas that make for a photographer’s dream. The lands are steeped in a history as old as the verses of the bible and have played an important part in the biggest religions in the world. Throw in delicious cuisine and welcoming locals, and you have a wonderful destination full of adventure and intrigue. Continue reading

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Jerash ruins of Jordan: a once great Roman city

The Jerash ruins of Jordan are said to be the best-preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy. At just 48km (30mi) north of Amman, Jerash is a great day trip from the capital. 

The modern city of Jerash sits alongside Gerasa of Antiquity, an ancient city housing some of the finest Greco-Roman architecture in the world. The city is positioned in Jordan’s countryside of fertile rolling hills and valleys filled with olive, plum trees, fig trees, pine forests and wheat crops. Continue reading

Lowest point on Earth: visiting the Dead Sea

Peter loves collecting titles. So far, we’ve seen the driest place on Earth (Atacama Desert), the hottest place on Earth (Death Valley), the northernmost capital in the world (Reykjavik), the highest capital in the world (be it La Paz or Quito), the highest point in Africa (Mt. Kilimanjaro), the seven world wonders, the tallest mountain in the world (Mauna Kea), the end of the world (Ushuaia) and the international date line.

So, when the prospect of visiting the lowest point on Earth presented itself, Peter was predictably keen. Continue reading

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What is the greenest country in the world?

In January of this year, Yale University presented their latest Environmental Performance Index (EPI) Report naming Finland as the greenest country in the world. We take a look at the report and its key findings.

What is the EPI?

The EPI builds on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), formally adopted in September 2015. The main objective of the report is to assess and rank how 180 countries protect their ecosystems and human health, while in the process naming the greenest country in the world.  Continue reading

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Camping in Wadi Rum: a night in the desert

Camping in Wadi Rum in Jordan was a little different in both comfort and scenery to the wild camping I’m used to.

The striking rock formations, rolling red sand dunes and sparkling night sky is about as far removed as one can get from England’s damp-towel of a roof.

Wadi Rum’s arresting landscape can be explored on the back of a camel or in the relative luxury of a Jeep. We only had the one day and night in the desert so opted for a Jeep tour during the day followed by a night of camping in Wadi Rum, Bedouin-style. Continue reading

Visiting Petra: things to know before you go

If Christ the Redeemer is the most underwhelming experience of the seven world wonders, then visiting Petra must be the opposite. This “rose-red city half as old as time” was hewn from sandstone thousands of years ago.

Built by the Nabateans, possibly as early as 312 BC, Petra became a thriving trade center with over 30,000 people living within its boundaries. It was the capital of the Nabataean Kingdom from 400 BC until 106 AD when the Romans formally took possession. Continue reading

The countries I least want to see

“So what’s the plan after Africa?” I ask Peter.
He shrugs nonchalantly. “We’ll see after Africa.”
I frown.

As ever, I need a game plan. I know we’re planning to head to Africa in the summer but what comes after? Do we settle in London and travel in between things? Do we stay on the road? Do we move to Sri Lanka of which we occasionally and idly dream?

If I could choose, I’d settle somewhere quiet like our beloved tiny French village. The problem is, there’s still so much more I want to see.
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The oldest cities in the world

There’s a certain aesthetic attached to the oldest cities in the world: bustling souks beneath a bright blue sky, flowing garments made of whispery white cotton, stone masonry painted yellow by the sun.

In reality, however, the oldest cities in the world have faced deep unrest throughout their long histories. Tragically, some are still uninhabitable. The Syrian town of Aleppo, for example, is likely the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world but rages with civil war today. Damascus too is categorically off limits.
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