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Exploring the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela

The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia are the most extraordinary man-made sites in sub-Saharan Africa. Here’s what we learnt from our three days there.

The 11 rock-hewn churches of Lalibela are a focal point and a place of pilgrimage for Ethiopian Christians. In mid-January, during the Timkat (Epiphany) festival, thousands of white-clad worshippers descend on the churches.

For tourists, the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela are an unmissable stop on tours of Ethiopia’s historic northern circuit.
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Danakil Depression tours: what to know before you go

Danakil Depression tours provide a fascinating look at a remote part of the world. We lend some insight into what you should know before you go.

By certain measures, the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia is considered to be the hottest place on earth with temperatures regularly reaching 45°C (113°F). Despite the challenges involved in visiting such a remote and hostile environment, there are numerous Danakil Depression tours on offer.

Surprisingly, tour companies tend to provide very little information for their would-be customers. Key information such as what to expect and what to pack is missing from most tour company websites. Continue reading

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Dead heat: the hottest places on Earth

Having just returned from Dallol in Ethiopia, we’ve seen how hard it is to survive in one of the hottest places on Earth.

The hottest places on earth are in constant flux. They change from year to year and recording techniques – which are often challenged and disputed – change with them. Regardless, the same places tend to crop up again and again, many of them sharing similar characteristics. The hottest places on Earth are nearly always dry, barren, sunny and home to little or no vegetation. Continue reading

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The volcanic seven summits of the world

The volcanic seven summits may not be coveted with the same vigour as the seven summits or even the seven second summits, but the peaks still offer a worthy challenge.

We’ve just returned from Erta Ale volcano in Ethiopia, one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Erta Ale may not be as lofty or as challenging as the following summits, but it did remind us why we stand in awe of volcanoes – active or not. Continue reading

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World’s best countries for women 2017

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 2017 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 compared with male peers, and to thereby rank the world’s best countries for women in terms of gender equality. Continue reading

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A complete travel photography gear guide

I’ve been involved in film or photography throughout my career: initially as a camera operator, video editor and AV engineer, later as a teacher in digital media, and now as a travel blogger. I’ve sold stock images for several years on Shutterstock and iStock by Getty Images, and my photography plays a prominent role throughout our travel blog and social channels, particularly Instagram. Continue reading

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Elbrus kit list: all you need to climb Europe’s highest peak

Our comprehensive Elbrus kit list includes everything you’ll need to conquer Mount Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe.

Mount Elbrus in Russia, at 5,642m (18,510ft), is Europe’s highest mountain and a member of the seven summits, the highest point on every continent. Having just returned from climbing Mount Elbrus with specialists 7 Summits Club, I thought it would be useful to share my entire Elbrus kit list as a point of reference for future climbers. Continue reading

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Climbing Mount Elbrus: my second seven summit

Climbing Mount Elbrus in Russia has been on my bucket list since I climbed Kilimanjaro in 2010. In August of this year I finally crossed it off.

Mount Elbrus in Russia, at 5,642m (18,510ft), is Europe’s highest mountain and one of the seven summits, coveted by mountaineers who want to reach the highest point on every continent.

Located in southern Russia near the border with Georgia, the twin peaks of Mount Elbrus stand as watchtowers rising nearly 1,000m (3,280ft) above the encircling peaks of the Caucasus range. Continue reading

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7 adventure sailing holidays for your bucket list

Adventure sailing holidays have the ability to carry passengers to the far reaches of the world, accessing some of the most remote and magnificent scenery the world has to offer.

Having just returned from my first tall ship sailing adventure off the west coast of Scotland, and with my interest for the high seas well and truly piqued, I take a look at some adventure sailing holidays I would love to join. Continue reading

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10 essential sailing apps

A list of essential sailing apps used by professional sailors to navigate their way across the seas.

During my recent tall ship sailing adventure, I picked the skipper’s brains about the essential sailing apps he uses for navigation, ship tracking, weather and tides.

Stefan, the owner and skipper of the Lady of Avenel, stands at the helm with his tablet mounted nearby. “Is this the future of sailing?” I asked him. “Never mind the future of sailing, this is the here and the now,” he responded wryly.

Stefan says that the development of navigation apps has advanced so much, that tablets (in addition to traditional systems) are now used by many sailors as the primary means of navigation on board. He spent some time telling me about the essential sailing apps he uses at sea – listed below for budding sailors.

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Learning to paddleboard in Scotland

I spent a week learning to paddleboard off the west coast of Scotland, the perfect setting for trying the world’s fastest growing water sport.

My only experience of standup paddleboarding (SUP) was the odd paddle at a beachside resort here and there. I’ve never liked surfing (I know that’s so uncool to admit) but I have always enjoyed kayaking whether it has been along the Thames in London or kayaking in more far-flung destinations.

So when I joined the Lady of Avenel for a tall ship sailing adventure recently, I was excited to learn it would be part of a wider paddleboarding trip organised by London-based SUP enthusiasts Active360.

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Tall ship sailing adventures off the west coast of Scotland

I joined the Lady of Avenel for a week of tall ship sailing adventures around the Inner Hebrides archipelago off the west coast of mainland Scotland.

This summer I joined the tall ship Lady of Avenel to sail around the Inner Hebrides archipelago. When the sails were furled we put kayaks and paddleboards overboard and headed for land, exploring wild beaches, craggy coves and traditional fishing villages en route.

Unhindered by ferry schedules, busy roads or hiking trails we could access some of the most remote scenery in Scotland; scenery that only the sea has passage to. The unique approach to tall ship sailing adventures provided by the Lady of Avenel combines traditional sailing with outdoor activities. Continue reading

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Hiking in Mauritius: five trails with stunning viewpoints

Hiking in Mauritius is hot, sticky and exhausting, but with some of the finest viewpoints in the world, thoroughly worthwhile too.

Hiking in Mauritius is like exploring Jurassic World, albeit without Chris Pratt and a ferocious dinosaur in tow. The scenery boasts sapphire-blue waters and powder-white beaches encircling jagged jungle-clad peaks that surge from sugar cane fields below. It is the spectacular crests with unimpeded viewpoints of the island in all its glory that provide the finest hiking in Mauritius. We take a look at five of the best trails. Continue reading

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Hiking Le Pouce in Mauritius

Hiking Le Pouce in Mauritius is a quick and rewarding hike offering stunning panoramic views of this beautiful tropical island.

After hiking Le Morne Brabant in Mauritius, we were keen to see more of the country’s extraordinary scenery and so chose Le Pouce, following in the footsteps of Charles Darwin who writes about his ascent of Le Pouce in his journal of 1845.

At 812m (2,664ft), Le Pouce – or The Thumb, so named because of its thumb-shaped peak – is the third highest mountain in Mauritius. Continue reading

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Diving at Blue Bay, Mauritius

Diving at Blue Bay in Mauritius gave us our first experience of scuba diving in strong currents with some tricky tunnels to navigate for good measure!

After our first dive in over a year and our appetites whetted, we were keen to get underwater again in Mauritius. Having moved from the north of the island to the quieter and relatively undeveloped area around Blue Bay in the south, we organised our second dive through our hotel. Continue reading

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Wild continent: the best National Parks in Europe

The best national parks in Europe are home to the wildest scenery and most thrilling outdoor pursuits the continent has to offer.

Europe’s finest wilderness has quite rightly been enshrined and protected in its national parks. Great glaciers, soaring mountains and primeval forests stretch across Europe’s 50 sovereign states. We take a look at the wildest and best national parks in Europe. Continue reading