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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Does the outdoors really have a diversity problem?

My younger sister watches the Arctic reindeer roam around on my screen. She smiles as one nips at a basketful of grain. Then, she double takes.

“Wait. Is that you?” she asks.
“Yeah. Of course.”
“You look like a farm girl!” she says in a tone somewhere between amusement and disdain. “Where’s your long coat?”
“I was in the Arctic,” I say. “I wasn’t going to wear a floaty coat from Zara.”

She tosses aside the phone, mystified as to why I’d choose comfort over style 350km north of the Arctic Circle.
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World’s best countries for women – updated for 2016

The best countries for women in terms of gender equality have been announced by The World Economic Forum in the new edition of its annual Global Gender Gap report.

The 2016 report assesses 144 economies on how well they utilise the female workforce in their country based on economic, educational, health-based and political indicators. The report can be used as an objective analysis of women’s quality of life and to thereby rank the world’s best countries for women with regards to business, politics, education and health. 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

Visiting S21 prison: morbid or meaningful?

There are some sights you likely see only once. Places like Petra, Machu Picchu and Angkor Wat are so grand, exotic and expensive, they are the very definition of a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience.

Other sights are seen once because once is enough; places like Dachau concentration camp in Germany or S21 prison in Cambodia.

It was discomfiting then to find myself at the gates of S21 prison for the second time in five years. My first visit in 2011 had been harrowing enough. We had evaded an overzealous tour guide and journeyed through the former prison alone – a sobering experience I wasn’t sure I wanted to repeat. Continue reading

Risky travel: how much is too much?

On Tuesday 7th June 2016, a bomb went off in central Istanbul, killing 11 people and injuring 36 others. The news was particularly sobering because we had been in the city only a day and a half before.

We had spent a few weeks travelling through parts of western Turkey, stopping in Istanbul, Selçuk and Ephesus, Denizli, Pamukkale and Cappadocia and finishing off in Istanbul. On the flight back to London, I mentally planned the post I wanted to write: a call for tourists to start visiting Turkey again, to experience the iconic landscapes, historic architecture, delicious food and amazing people of Turkey. Continue reading

Where are the female adventurers?

“Have you been watching Walking the Himalayas?” asked Peter’s father. “The presenter in it reminds me of Pete.”

“Tall, dark and handsome?” I asked. “Well, I can certainly get on board with that.”

Later that week, I started the TV series as advised, noting with amusement that presenter Levison Wood (pictured below) did indeed look a bit like Peter.

We watched with interest until five minutes in when Levison makes a meal of crossing a mere river.

It’s true that presenters must add colour and ardour to their tales of travel (otherwise, we’d just have a bloke walking for 45 minutes), but occasionally the drama seems overwrought. When Bear Grylls does his action-man montages replete with pulsing music and sharp camera angles, you know there’s a team of producers standing around eyeing the lunch buffet and checking their watches. 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.
Continue reading

6 charmless South American towns we couldn’t avoid

Travellers go to Latin America hoping, expecting, knowing they’ll be wowed. Home to three of the world’s Seven Wonders, the region has a wealth of both manmade and natural attractions.

Travellers also know that their journey through this vast continent won’t always be full of rainbows and kittens. Amid the bright, great wonders will be dreary days in dull towns with nary a redeeming feature. In South America, finding these two extremes side by side is almost a guarantee, as illustrated below. Tourist towns inevitably crop up close to major sights and more often than not, they’re completely and utterly charmless. Here are six underwhelming South American towns we failed to avoid on our travels. Continue reading

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Work-life balance: what Americans can learn from the Brits

Tim Armstrong, the 43-year-old CEO of AOL, gets out of bed at 5am. He tries to hold off sending emails until 7am. After this, he’s on email “in the morning, during the commute, and late at night.” For some of the weekend he enjoys a respite but then starts work calls and emails at 7pm on Sunday.

Karen Blackett, the CEO of MediaCom UK, receives around 500 emails a day. She gets home at the reasonable hour of 6.30pm to spend time with her son but then returns to work calls and emails at 8pm. Continue reading

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Natural wonders vs manmade sights

Atlas & Boots host Lonely Planet’s #LPChat

In August, we hosted Lonely Planet’s #LPChat on Twitter to celebrate the release of their Ultimate Travelist, a list of 500 unmissable attractions across the world ranked by their global community of travel experts. The subject in question was natural wonders vs manmade sights.

On our travels, we’ve stood awed beneath a wide range of manmade sights, from Angkor Wat and Petra to the Easter Island moai and Incan ruins at Machu Picchu. We’re also desperate to discover unknown architectural wonders we haven’t yet seen. Continue reading

10 lessons from ‘the world’s poorest president’

I’ve always had a very specific idea about Uruguay. Crouched deep in the belly of the continent, it was in my mind an expansive plain of rolling hills, laconic gauchos astride thoroughbred horses and tall blades of grass bristling in the sun.

I’m sure my version of Uruguay exists somewhere but the one I found was vastly different. Instead of a South American Arcadia, I found a modern country with liberal views and impressively progressive laws. Uruguay was the first South American country to legalise same-sex civil union at a national level and the second country after Cuba to legalise abortion. It has no official religion and has renamed many of its traditional Catholic holidays: Christmas is Día de la Familia (Day of the Family) and Holy Week is now Semana de Turismo (Tourism Week). Continue reading

Diving the Galápagos

10 places to see before they’re gone – or perhaps not

Friends and readers often ask us about the Galápagos. Is it worth the expense, they say. Would you recommend going?

The truth is it’s hard to encourage people to visit when we’ve seen first hand the damaging effects of human presence on the islands. Equally, it’s hard to discourage people from visiting because a) it would be hypocritical and b) underneath the frenzied tourism lies a unique destination with some of the best beaches we’ve seen and the best diving we’ve ever done (sharks, rays, sea lions and turtles). Clearly, the islands are worth a visit. Continue reading

6 characteristics that define human nature

As we hiked across Isla Del Sol in Bolivia, I wondered aloud how many animals walk for pleasure; not to hunt or feed, not to find shelter or warmth, but to enjoy the act of walking itself. It led me to wonder what other characteristics are unique or largely restricted to humans alone. This in turn led me to an old issue of New Scientist magazine and a fascinating set of articles on the six things all humans do. Some are obvious, some are amusing. All trigger a flush of recognition and a sense of belonging. Continue reading

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Checking my privilege: why travel reminds me I’m not as smart as I think

I never felt poor until I went to university. I was one of eight siblings that grew up in a Tower Hamlets council house (vouchers for my school uniform, free school meals), but I never felt that my family was poor until I entered higher education. There, my peer-set changed from Bengali girls like me to those whose families owned second homes, second cars and even thriving businesses – not international conglomerates like you might find at Oxbridge, but impressive nonetheless: a diamond shop in west London, a doctor’s surgery in Surrey, an accountancy firm in Redbridge. Continue reading

Medellin: why you should visit the ex-murder capital of the world

In 1991, there were 17 murders every day in Medellin, Colombia, making it the murder capital of the world. The hunting ground of notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar, Medellin was rife with violent crime and corruption.

You can understand why then my family were concerned when I told them I’d be spending a week there. As if a month in Colombia wasn’t enough to give my mother palpitations, I was now visiting what was once the most dangerous city in the world. Continue reading

WELCOME TO FABULOUS LAS VEGAS: TWINNED WITH GREAT YARMOUTH

Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas: twinned with Great Yarmouth

I grew up in a small village called Caister-on-Sea near Great Yarmouth in Norfolk. Norfolk’s a pretty rural part of the UK, positioned on the east coast and buffeted by the North Sea. Although I left my home county over 12 years ago, and rarely return apart from the odd visit, I still have a lot of affection for the county I grew up in. There are the beautiful Broads (a network of interconnected lakes and rivers), rolling rural farmland dotted with windmills and quaint little villages with great pubs. There is abundant coastal scenery complete with sandy beaches, rocky cliffs and sand dunes. There’s also Carrow Road, home of my beloved Norwich City, and Norfolk also happens to be home to some of the best fish and chips in the world. Continue reading

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The world’s most divisive destinations

Should we or shouldn’t we go?

There are some travel destinations that no matter how picture perfect their landscapes or how much history steeped in their ancient lands, will always provoke a strong reaction in traveller circles. Whether it’s for political, geographical or social reasons, these divisive destinations will likely divide opinion for a very long time.

Below we look at some of the most contentious and divisive destinations that rightly or wrongly pull in the tourist crowds year after year. Continue reading

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Tackling the ‘where are you from originally?’ question

I’ve mentioned before that my indeterminate brown-ness juxtaposed with my British accent tends to confuse people or at best make them rather curious, especially when I’m on the road. The way I see it, I can answer ‘where are you from’ in three ways:

  1. Say London. If probed, give the back-story.
  2. Say London. If probed, feign ignorance and doggedly repeat that I’m from London.
  3. Say London but volunteer the back-story as that’s probably what they’re after anyway.

Continue reading