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World firsts: exploring UNESCO’s original World Heritage sites

At last count, UNESCO’s World Heritage List included 1,073 locations across 167 countries or states. Here, we explore the 12 original World Heritage sites first listed in 1978.

The aim of UNESCO’s list is to identify, protect and preserve sites of cultural and natural heritage considered to be of exceptional value to humanity. These sites include a range of locations such as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, east Africa’s Serengeti, the Pyramids of Egypt and Machu Picchu in Peru. Continue reading

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22 interesting facts about Ethiopia

From violent volcanoes to luminous lakes, we take a look at the most interesting facts about Ethiopia.

Ethiopia’s unique mix of fascinating history, deep-rooted identity, incredible natural wonders and rare wildlife makes its one of the most intriguing places on Earth.

The country is home to landscapes as diverse as deserts, volcanoes and highlands, architecture ranging from rock-hewn churches to medieval-style castles, and wildlife that includes rare species such as the gelada baboon, the walia ibex and the Ethiopian wolf. Continue reading

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In search of the source: visiting the Blue Nile Falls

The Blue Nile Falls in Ethiopia may not be a match for its grander neighbours, but following the footsteps of famous explorers still makes for a fine day out.

The Blue Nile Falls – or Tis Abay in Amharic, meaning “great smoke” – is a somewhat poor relation to the famous waterfalls found in listicles. It’s no Angel, Iguazu, Victoria or Niagara, but the 42m-high (138ft) Blue Nile Falls still offers a dramatic display. Continue reading

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Which Simien Mountains trek is for you?

A Simien Mountains trek should be an essential part of any visit to Ethiopia. We summarise the best routes to help you choose which trek is best for you.

With a range of trekking options available, from day trips to mammoth multi-day thru-hikes, choosing a Simien Mountains trek can be a bewildering process. As with most things in Ethiopia, there is a dearth of information available online. With that in mind we’ve summarised the most popular trekking routes in Simien Mountains National Park to provide a solid overview of each option. Continue reading

Simien Mountains National Park: trekking Africa’s Grand Canyon

After Erta Ale and Dallol, would Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains National Park live up to the hype?

If Simien Mountains National Park really were ‘Africa’s Grand Canyon’, how was it that I knew nothing of it? Was this just Peter’s ploy to drag me out camping again?

I knew of the park by name, but couldn’t point to it on a map, or tell you what I might find there. To be honest, prior to planning our trip, I had no idea there were proper mountains in Ethiopia – a result perhaps of TIA syndrome which conjures dusty, flyblown vistas and not the vast gorges of lush beauty that populate Simien Mountains National Park. Continue reading

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“This is Africa”: useful mantra or ugly prejudice?

“This is Africa”, or TIA, is used to shrug off a range of inconveniences, but does its casual use perpetuate harmful stereotypes?

Africa, more than any other continent, has a PR problem. Popular culture tells the west that Africa is a land of conflict and famine where progress is slow and corruption is rife. Even the ‘better’ half of Africa is riddled with cliché: the giant red sun, open savannah and fearsome tribes in native garms.

The most pervasive cliché perhaps comes wrapped in a snappy epithet: “This is Africa” or its diminutive form, TIA. Continue reading

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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

Dallol in Ethiopia, the hottest place on Earth

Dallol: visiting the hottest place on earth

We visit Dallol, a collapsed volcano crater filled with acid ponds, poisonous chlorine and sulphur gases, inside the Danakil Depression of Ethiopia.

I wasn’t daunted at the prospect of visiting Dallol, dubbed the hottest place on Earth. Despite its temperatures regularly reaching 45°C (113°F), I knew that after visiting Erta Ale volcano in the region, Dallol would be a walk in the park – if the park was a collapsed volcano crater filled with acid ponds and geysers, poisonous chlorine and sulphur gases.

Dallol lies 116m (380ft) below sea level in the Danakil Depression of the Afar region in Ethiopia and is part of the East African Rift where three continental plates are being torn apart. Continue reading

EARTH’S MOST REMOTE PLACES AND COMMUNITIES

The most extreme places on Earth

We explore the most extreme places on Earth. Crazy destinations where humans find ways to exist in harsh and hostile environments.

I’ve always been fascinated by tough environments and particularly by the explorers who have braved them. When researching the most remote places on Earth I came across several extreme environments that simply were not designed for human inhabitation or travel. However, we humans are a race of perseverance and often find ways to exist in these harsh and hostile lands. Here are just a few of the most extreme places on Earth. Continue reading

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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

Off the beaten trail: 10 unknown treks for your bucket list

I spent eight years living in London, riding the crowded tube to work, fighting for space with those around me and standing in queues at bus stops, supermarkets, anywhere really – I am British after all. Naturally, this inspired daydreams of escaping it all and running off to the wilderness with only my backpack, tent, camping stove and a handful of freeze-dried meals.

About twice a year I managed to briefly abscond the confines of London, usually fleeing to the mountains of Norway, Austria or Scotland. In the last year, I’ve discovered plenty of unknown treks in the South Pacific but I still while away hours daydreaming of getting even further off the grid. Continue reading

Most active volcanoes in the world

Volcanoes are inarguably nature’s most fearsome wonder. They feature in tales of ardour and heroism, tower terrifyingly above humble settlements and whisper threats of violence and destruction. They are overwhelming in both sight and sound and uniquely exhilarating for the intrepid observer.

The world’s most active volcanoes in particular offer a terrifying beauty irresistible to thrillseekers. Continue reading

10 awesome international borders

We take a look at some amazing images of the awesome international borders to be found across the globe from Asia to America.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen an impressive collection of new websites, blogs and social media accounts dedicated to ‘travel porn’. They’re filled with big, sweeping images of fairytale lands and precarious precipices. Sometimes, like this incredible piece on architectural density in Hong Kong, they’ll depict urban decay or stifling poverty – always gilded by the photographer’s lens. Continue reading