Mountains for mortals: 12 non-technical mountain climbs

As a climber, I have completed several indoor climbing and winter mountaineering courses but my technical climbing skills still leave a lot to be desired. I have mastered basic rope, ice axe and crampon skills but don’t practise them as often as I’d like. All too often I only find time for some wilderness backpacking in Europe or low-altitude scrambling in the UK. Regardless, I still have high hopes of climbing the seven summits. One day…

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Spotting leopards at Yala National Park: 10 practical tips

We’ve been generally lucky in terms of travel ephemera. In the Norwegian Arctic, we saw incredible displays of the northern lights. In Tonga, we swam with whales on the very last day of the season and in the Galápagos, we snorkelled with penguins. Despite this, I kept my expectations low for our leopard safari at Yala National Park.

It was raining heavily and our guide, a Sri Lankan Scotsman named Damian, warned us that leopards tend to retreat to caves when it’s wet. In addition, fellow tourists had been out on two safaris the day before with no luck in sight.

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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 find calm amid the chaos in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Colombo isn’t as frenetic as other Asian capitals, but it’s still a busy working city. Here are five ways to find calm amid the chaos at any time of day.

Home to nearly six million people, Colombo is the commercial capital and largest city of Sri Lanka. There is no metro or tram system so there’s no escape from the rumbling buses, tooting tuk-tuks and tinted cars that clog the wide boulevards.

In stark contrast to the rolling hills, tranquil tea plantations and picturesque beaches that define Sri Lanka, Colombo can feel like an invasive thorn in an otherwise placid landscape. Continue reading

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10 easy ways to travel green

Travelling green takes a little extra effort at first – but can soon become second nature. Here are some easy ways to travel green which will save you money too.

We at Atlas & Boots strongly believe that travel is a force for good. However, when you consider the environmental impact of commercial aviation, the overwhelming numbers flocking to sensitive ecosystems and the tourist-driven strain on resources, travel doesn’t look quite so pretty.

Whether it’s an appetite for low-budget air travel, air conditioned rooms or fully charged smartphones on the end of selfie sticks, the compulsion to travel takes a heavy toll on our planet. Continue reading

Things to do in Colombo, Sri Lanka

Let’s be frank: Colombo isn’t what you would call a ‘world city’. Not many companies boast about offices in ‘London, New York, Colombo’. The city has never been an international player nor does it have a world-class attraction.

Nevertheless, as the launching pad for trips further afield in Sri Lanka, Colombo enjoys a steady footfall throughout the course of the year. Tourists stay mainly for convenience, but don’t discount the city altogether. There are numerous interesting and quirky things to do in Colombo that are well worth a stay. Continue reading

The world is not getting better

Life for humans may be improving but what about everything else that shares our planet?

In trying times, social media users tend to share think pieces, charts and graphics proving that humanity has never had it so good.

These graphics focus on the growth of lovely things like basic education, literacy, democracy and vaccination, and the decline of awful things like extreme poverty and child mortality.

The charts are often accompanied by pithy captions like “awesome proof that humanity hasn’t actually botched it.” 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

Travel roundup 2016: 12 delightful things that happened this year

In last year’s travel roundup, we spoke of tumultuous events, political instability and acts of aggression across the globe.

As the French would say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Indeed, in 2016, we saw our fair share of tumult, instability and aggression – and Brexit and Trump only promise more.

Much like last year, however, we have also been reminded that there is amusement and delight in even the direst of years. From historic events (March, September) to frivolous fancies (April, June), 2016 hasn’t been all bad. Here’s a roundup of our favourite events. 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.

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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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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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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