The travel that changed me: William Dalrymple

From the footsteps of Marco Polo to the dream destination he hasn’t yet seen, author William Dalrymple tells us about the travel that changed him

William Dalrymple was born in Scotland in 1965. At the age of 22, he set off to follow on foot the outward route of Marco Polo from Jerusalem to Mongolia. The journey inspired In Xanadu, the highly acclaimed bestseller which marked the beginning of a long and illustrious career.

Why Greta Thunberg makes us so uncomfortable

A school-age climate activist has made us face some harsh home truths

Greta Thunberg is a threat. She’s a threat to the multi-billion dollar livestock industry and the mighty fossil fuel lobby.

In fact, she’s a threat to our very way of life. She calls into question the idea that we – as free-willed, self-determining individuals – should have the right to consume as much as we want, be it travel, food or leisure. 

Announcing Kia’s new book: Take It Back

Take It Back is a gripping courtroom drama perfect for fans of Apple Tree Yard, He Said/She Said and Anatomy of a Scandal

The day I got a book deal started inauspiciously. Our group of 13 had camped for a night in the Australian Outback after battling broken air conditioning in 40°C heat, a cracked windshield, a change of vehicle and an alarming array of bugs at night – as well as a snake and dingo. 

As a traveller, not travelling

Kia takes stock of the past year and shares what it’s like to stay in one place

The last 12 months have brought immense amounts of change for us here at Atlas & Boots. A year ago, Peter and I were living out of Airbnbs while house-hunting in the Yorkshire Dales. We viewed 22 properties, put half-hearted offers in for two of them and then saw our 23rd house which we fell in love with. It wasn’t perfect (no outdoor space and in need of a lot of work), but the 300-year-old stone cottage with its wooden beams and cobbled street seemed perfect for a writer. If you stick your head out of the skylight, you can even see a castle. 

Hiking Sørvágsvatn Lake, Faroe Islands

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Blessed with a spell of good weather, we set off to Sørvágsvatn where the largest lake in the Faroe Islands stretches into ocean

Sometimes, in the dead of British winter, I’ll console myself with the fact that at least I’m not on Cotopaxi. At least I’m not on Cotopaxi. Our 2015 glacier hike on Cotopaxi Volcano was probably the coldest I’ve ever been. My fingers were rendered immobile and my feet were hunks of ice and still we trudged on through rain, sleet and snow.

In search of puffins in Mykines, Faroe Islands

puffins arguing on Mykines, Faroe Islands

We journey to Mykines, the westernmost island of the Faroes in pursuit of its famous puffins

“We do not have bad weather,” says the Faroe Islands website.

“Just a lot of weather.”

Adrift in the Atlantic Ocean, halfway between Iceland and Norway, the 18 islands of the Faroes do indeed have weather. It is palpable here: an ever-looming presence that snatches away your car door, rattles against your window and cries shrilly into quiet lulls.

Visiting Boulders Penguin Colony, Cape Town

It's clear why tourists flock to Boulders Penguin ColonyAtlas & Boots

Boulders Penguin Colony near Cape Town is home to 3,000 African penguins – but does it live up to the hype?

The ‘African Penguin’ is a contradiction in terms. Somehow, the hottest continent on Earth is home to a bird most often associated with the coldest: Antarctica. And yet, the three species of penguin I’ve seen have all resided in warm climes: the Galápagos Penguin off Isabela Island which lies right on the equator, the Little Penguin in super-dry, super-hot Australia and now the African Penguin in Boulders Penguin Colony in South Africa.

North Sentinel Island: a timeline of the world’s most isolated tribe

Sentinelis lined up on the shore of North Sentinel Island, ready to fight off visitorsChristian Caron/Fair Use

On a map, North Sentinel Island looks like any other idyllic spot in the Indian Ocean. Fringed with beaches and crystal cobalt waters, it lies in the Andaman archipelago of the Bay of Bengal.

North Sentinel Island, however, is unlike any other. It has been described as ‘the hardest place in the world to visit’, ‘the world’s most dangerous island’ and home to ‘the most isolated tribe in the world’.

These sensational labels can’t be qualified conclusively, but they do hold some truth. For an estimated 60,000 years, North Sentinel Island has been home to a fiercely independent tribe that has violently rejected contact with the outside world.

The ultimate guide to packing light

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Some would argue that overpacking is a rite of passage, but there is an easier way. Here are 12 tips for packing light

I started our big trip across the South Pacific and South America with a 45-litre backpack weighing 13kg. Over the course of the trip, I managed to drop a fair bit of weight and get my bag down to 10kg. Evidently, I had failed in packing light from the start.

In some ways, overpacking is a rite of passage: you have to do it to learn how not to do it. Of course there is an easier way. By gleaning advice from other travellers and being strict with yourself, packing light will become far easier. Here’s where to start.

Manyeleti Game Reserve: our first safari in South Africa

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A safari in South Africa is said to be the ultimate wildlife watching experience. We went to Manyeleti Game Reserve to see for ourselves

Our safari in South Africa was always going to be strange. Our expectations were buoyed by the myth and drama of this renowned destination but equally subdued by our safari in Namibia which was simply unsurpassable. With this in mind, we knew that South Africa would both delight and disappoint us.

20 interesting facts about Colombia

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Our curated list of the most interesting facts about Colombia we learnt during our visit

We didn’t plan on staying a month in Colombia. After spending longer than we had planned in the South Pacific, we were wary that we had only six months for an area far larger than what we had seen thus far.

Of course, our journey through Cartagena, Santa Marta, Taganga, Medellin, Guatapé, Popayán and San Agustín warranted more than the two weeks we had planned.

10 weird and wonderful sights in Cornwall

St Michael's Mount is one of the most famous sights in CornwallValery Egorov/Shutterstock

From Arthurian legends to dramatic moorlands, we share the best sights in Cornwall for a quintessential English break.

Cornwall may not be on par with diving in Djibouti or volcanoes in Vanuatu, but it holds a special place in my heart. It was in Cornwall that I took my first trip away from my parents (at the age of 10 on a school residential).

In fact, visiting Cornwall was my second holiday ever. I’d never been hiking, never been camping and had seldom seen a beach, so Cornwall was a complete novelty.

Visiting Eswatini: why this tiny country blew my mind

Interesting facts about Eswatini Swaziland white rhinosAtlas & Boots

Visiting Eswatini was never high on my bucket list. How utterly foolish of me

I’m not going to lie: visiting Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) was a box-ticking exercise. Landlocked between South Africa and Mozambique, this dot on the map offered an opportunity for Peter to tick off another country in his quest to qualify for the Century Club.

I was less enthused. We had only 11 days to see South Africa and trying to squeeze in Lesotho and Eswatini seemed like a bit of a stretch. Peter insisted it could be done and so I begrudgingly said yes.

Horse riding in Monteverde, Costa Rica

Horse riding in Monteverde prompts Kia to rethink a few things at home in the UK

I was dubious about horse riding in Monteverde. I had been told that we wouldn’t be given helmets and that the local guides couldn’t speak English. The latter I could deal with, but the former was a problem.

I’ve caused myself a fair amount of damage by not wearing a helmet in the past. After falling off a horse in 2017, I promised myself to never ride without one. Still, I was keen to go riding in Costa Rica, so went to the stables to see for myself.

Searching for sloths in Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

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With their sluggish limbs and camouflaged fur, sloths aren’t often easy to spot. We pinned our hopes on Manuel Antonio

There were two animals we were keen to see on our National Geographic Expedition to Costa Rica: the red-eyed tree frog and the three-toed sloth.

The first was surprisingly obliging and we took a decent snap on mere day two of the tour. The sloth, however, remained elusive. The one we did spot by a roadside was barely discernible from the surrounding branches and left us eager for more.

Santa Elena Cloud Forest: a fairytale hike in Costa Rica

Cloud forest covers only 1% of global woodlandAtlas & Boots

Santa Elena Cloud Forest was the highlight of our trip to Costa Rica. Here, we try to explain why

If you Google ‘best things to do in Costa Rica’, it’s unlikely you’ll find Santa Elena Cloud Forest among the top results, which is strange given that it was the best part of our nine-day visit.

Had we been travelling independently, we may have skipped it entirely. As luck would have it, our National Geographic Expedition to Costa Rica included a visit to Santa Elena Cloud Forest as a core activity.

Withering heights: saving Monteverde Cloud Forest

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We visit Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica and learn that despite its visible vibrancy, there’s more to it than meets the eye

In some ways, Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica is its own worst enemy. This dark and dripping place teems with life. Strangler figs tower above the forest floor, their trunks as sturdy as stone. Lush mosses and filmy ferns carpet the canopy in green while spindles of yellow justicia and vibrant red passiflora add a slash of colour.

Costa Rica: our first National Geographic Expedition

interesting facts about costa rica biodiversity frogBrandon Alms/Shutterstock

Our trip to Costa Rica was a long time coming. Here’s why it was worth the wait

I have a bit of a backstory when it comes to Costa Rica and it starts when I was nine years old. It was a perfectly ordinary morning that began with an assembly at my primary school in east London. The teacher on stage ran through some customary notices and then segued into a zany idea: the potential for a group of pupils to travel to Costa Rica as part of an environmental initiative. The chosen ones would live and study in Costa Rica for four weeks to learn about global environmental challenges and solutions.

Driving the hairpinned Sani Pass to Lesotho

interesting facts about Lesotho Sani PassVAIZ HA; CC BY 2.0

Sani Pass is said to be one of the most dangerous mountain passes in the world. We decided to drive it on our overnight tour to Lesotho

Sometimes, I feel jealous of past explorers − not grandees like Cook or Magellan but everyday travellers that went somewhere and saw something not yet covered by Lonely Planet or indeed Atlas & Boots.

I imagine sultry Indian summers with endless corridors of uncharted possibility or China’s Hallelujah mountains, misty and deserted, and think how magical those times must have been.