Most active volcanoes in the world

From stewing lava lakes to lethal eruptions, we chart the 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.

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The oldest cities in the world

There’s a certain aesthetic attached to the oldest cities in the world: bustling souks beneath a bright blue sky, flowing garments made of whispery white cotton, stone masonry painted yellow by the sun.

In reality, however, the oldest cities in the world have faced deep unrest throughout their long histories. Tragically, some are still uninhabitable. The Syrian town of Aleppo, for example, is likely the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world but rages with civil war today. Damascus too is categorically off limits.
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world's most urban countries

Concrete jungles: the world’s most urban countries

City life is stressful. It presses on our weary bones, wafts through windows on pungent fumes and boxes up our personal space. It affects our mental health and, according to a 2011 study by neuroscientist Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, increases the risk of mood and anxiety disorders including depression and schizophrenia. The specific causes of city stress are unconfirmed but it’s likely we can safely assume a mix of toxins, pollutants, noise and social behaviours unique to cities. 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

24 interesting facts about the world’s least known countries

This is a subjective topic I know. What counts as an interesting fact? What counts as one of the world’s least known countries? There is no scientific answer but when this question was posed on Q&A site Quora, it certainly threw up some noteworthy particulars about some of the more obscure sovereign and not-so-sovereign states of the world. Below I’ve picked out some of the most interesting. Continue reading

training-for-kilimanjaro-successful-summit

Training for Kilimanjaro: 7 tips for a successful summit

Last year, a good friend from back home in Norfolk (where it’s pretty flat) decided to climb Kilimanjaro and asked me for some advice. I certainly felt the trek was challenging but I’d had plenty of trekking and mountaineering experience before so was a bit blasé with my advice.

I told him he’d be fine, that it was more of a long uphill walk and that “if you can get in a few jogs beforehand and cut back on the beers and McDonald’s you’ll be fine.” Continue reading

man-made-dive-sites

11 surreal man-made dive sites

If you’ve ever dreamed of discovering the mysterious lost city of Atlantis, then these dive sites are sure to intrigue.

Man was designed to walk on land, but these underwater worlds suggest an alternative reality. From historic cities that have crashed into the sea at the hands of nature to artificial scenes constructed beneath the sea, these surreal man-made dive sites are utterly fascinating. Continue reading

15 crazy roads from across the world

In Bolivia, I tried without victory to convince Peter to let me do the Death Road bike ride from La Paz. It’s not normally the sort of thing for which I’d ask permission, but given that he taught me to ride a bike and saw me fall off it in Bora Bora, ride into a wall in Tahiti and very nearly crack my head open in The Galápagos, I thought it best to check if he thought I could handle the Death Road, renowned for claiming 200-300 lives every year (see #15 below). He of course categorically told me that I was not yet ready. In the course of googling statistics to try and convince him otherwise, I came across several other crazy roads remarkable for either their terribly bad or terribly good design. Here are the ones that stood out most. Continue reading

photography-tours

10 countries for breathtaking photography tours

I never get bored when I travel as I always have my camera with me. During my travels across 60 countries over six continents I’ve had the honour of photographing some of the most stunning vistas the world has to offer.

Every country I visit swallows gigabytes of space on my hard drive(s) and hours (if not days and weeks) of my life spent curating and editing images after the trip. I’ve been selling my photography for over five years and can see that some shots from some countries will always be sought after. Continue reading

failing-states

16 fragile and failed states

As we continue our trip around the globe, there are some areas of the world we are forced to avoid. Instability and unrest in these regions often make them unsafe or irresponsible choices for tourists. When we make the very easy decision not to go, it’s easy to forget that these failed states are home to millions of people who struggle every day if not for survival then a very basic level of wellbeing. Below we take a look at some of these failed states and the monumental troubles they face. Continue reading

most visited countries in the world

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

16 ugly buildings I actually sort of love

I’ve spoken before of my part-time love of architecture. I openly admire Gothic and Art Noveau but secretly I’ve always loved Brutalist. I say ‘secretly’ because Brutalist buildings are ugly – seriously ugly – but there’s also a bleak and haunting beauty amid the ugliness. Here are my favourite Brutalist structures (sometimes known as ugly buildings) from around the world.

In general, I have plucked images from Wikipedia rather than using artsy, filtered shots from funky angles, so that I can showcase the true horror of these structures. Tell me what I missed in the comments below. (Or call me a philistine devoid of any taste whatsoever.) Continue reading

great-travel-books

10 great travel books to read on the road

Having spent hours, perhaps days, on long journeys with our heads buried in books, we select 10 great travel books to read on the road.

1. The Snows of Kilimanjaro
Ernest Hemingway

When talking about Ernest Hemingway and travel books you’ve got plenty to choose from. I’ve gone for The Snows of Kilimanjaro as it holds a little bit of sentimentality for me. I read the short story just before I climbed Kili back in 2010. It didn’t help me with my climb and it’s not exactly full of optimism, but it’s a great read reflecting the time and culture that Hemingway was embedded in – for good or for worse.

2. Homage to Catalonia
George Orwell

Not exactly another cheery tale but Orwell doesn’t do cheery. Whether you’re a socialist or a nationalist you can’t help but be moved by Homage to Catalonia Orwell’s personal account of his experiences from his time in Spain during the Civil War. His description of Barcelona after the Communists’ initial successes is uplifting and full of hope for the left-winger among its audience (including me). If you know your history then you know that unfortunately it doesn’t end so well for the lefties.

3. Kon Tiki
Thor Heyerdahl

Kon Tiki is a (fairly) modern day tale of adventure and bravery on the tropical seas if there ever was one. In 1947 Thor Heyerdahl and his six-man Norwegian crew set out to prove that Polynesians migrated from South America as opposed to Asia during pre-Columbian times. He thought the best way to do this was on a raft. A raft modelled on and built from designs and technology available at the time. Oh, and the trip was 6,900 km (4,300 miles) across the Pacific Ocean. What a man.

4. Notes from a Small Island
Bill Bryson

If you’re British, this is laugh-out-load funny. Relentlessly. I don’t know if it’s as funny if you’re not British – you’ll have to let me know. Apart from its hilarity, Notes from a Small Island gives a great insight into British culture and mentality, as viewed by an outsider. Not to mention great descriptions of a cross-section of British towns, cities and regions always described in satirical detail. Quite heart warming all round, really

5. Around the World in 80 Days
Jules Verne

It’s a classic! How could it not be in here? I had a bit of a mad Jules Verne obsession when trekking across Norway a few years ago and read about ten of Verne’s tales. Around the World in 80 Days is a great a place to start. A rip-roaring adventure from the 19th century full of quaint references and some questionably political correctness! Good old-fashioned dream-of-travelling-the-world fun!

6. The Last Place on Earth
Roland Huntford

I love this book because it offers a deep and methodical insight into the contrasting preparations and expeditions of Amundsen and Scott to reach the South Pole. Both made it, but only one survived. However, The Last Place on Earth controversially highlights how this was written in the wind and destined to happen from the start. The book is deeply critical of Scott, hence the controversy. From reading this it’s a wonder he even made it out the English Channel!

7. South
Ernest Shackleton

South. Just reading the title makes me shiver. They don’t make ‘em like they used to! The South Pole had gone to Amundsen and Scott in 1911 and 1912 respectively, but there were still trophies in the Antarctic up for grabs. Shackleton, unfortunately was not going to win one on this endeavour. Beset by problems from the off, this is a tale of human endurance in the face of adversity if there ever was one. Marooned on the Antarctic continent, Shackleton leads his team on a harrowing three-year quest for survival.

8. Into Thin Air
Jon Krakauer

In 1996 eight climbers were killed and several more injured on Mount Everest, the highest mountain on Earth. Krakauer was one of the lucky ones. By Jon Krakauer: Into Thin Air is a chilling insight into what it was like to be on the mountain during those godforsaken nights. As a climber and adventure-junkie I rather foolishly hold onto the dream of summiting Everest one day. After reading this, I’m not so certain I will.

9. On the Map: Why the World Looks the Way it Does
Simon Garfield

I love maps. I can’t help it. This isn’t just about maps though; it’s more a reflection on travel and exploration over the ages. It also touches on the way people, and travellers in particular, engage with the world around them as they journey from one place to another. On The Map is a bit geeky for sure, but thoroughly entertaining and informative.

10. Treasure Island
Robert Louis Stevenson

I just re-read Treasure Island for the first time since I was a child and had to put it in. It’s still great. Just the names evoke the anticipation and excitement I felt as a child of what I was going to do when I grew up. Long John Silver, Billy Bones, Black Dog, Ben Gunn and a tale of buccaneers and buried gold are what young boys’ dreams are made off. Well, they were for me anyway.

stunning-film-locations-we-love

5 stunning film locations we love

The first time I went to New York back in 2000, I was uncertain that I would enjoy it. It loomed large and vivid in my mind, woven by a hundred films I’d seen in the past. The noise, colour and oversize personality depicted on screen were sure to be a letdown – how could they not be?

Of course, I was wrong. I absolutely loved New York. Still in its pre-9/11 era, the city was vibrant and welcoming. The food, the energy, the delicious September weather was heady and romantic, just like in the films. Continue reading

awkward-travel-moments

6 excruciatingly awkward travel moments

We’re all aware that travel is supposed to be about exploring the globe, meeting amazing people and finding yourself. The web is littered with blog posts about life-changing and eye-opening moments. However, it’s not all heartening tales and romantic anecdotes.

I’ve been around the backpacker’s block and I’ve had several excruciatingly awkward travel moments; the sort of experiences that are so cringeworthy, you just don’t know where to look or what to say. Here’s my list of the top six. Continue reading

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Climbing Kilimanjaro: Africa’s highest peak

Why climb? Because it’s there… and it can actually be done by most.

Kilimanjaro is the world’s highest freestanding mountain, meaning it is not attached to a mountain range. I trekked it in 2010 and it was inspirational to say the least.

It was part of a big trip for me to East Africa — and after an extensive safari throughout the Serengeti, Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater, coupled with several days on the exotic and dreamy island of Zanzibar — Kilimanjaro could easily have been overshadowed. But it wasn’t.

Climbing Kilimanjaro was exhilarating, awe inspiring, breathtaking, incredible and one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. I recommend it to anyone who has the time (and the energy). Continue reading

7 adventure cruises for your bucket list

Adventure travellers are generally accustomed to a degree of discomfort: camping on a mountain top, trekking through suffocating jungle, jumping off something very, very high. For even the most hardened traveller, however, there are some adventures that are just plain impossible to do alone. This is where cruise holidays come in. With the ability to carry passengers to the far reaches of the world, cruise ships offer a chance to go places and see things most of the population never get to do. Here we list the top adventure cruises for your bucket list (and by ‘bucket list’, we of course mean ‘when you win the lottery list’). Continue reading

taghazout-morocco

Not surfing in Taghazout, Morocco

You don’t have to be Australian, a sun-bleached “dude”, or even a surfer to enjoy this quiet little gem. Most people, including me, go to Morocco for the deserts, the Atlas Mountains, Marrakesh or to visit some of the romantic (sounding) cities of Casablanca or Essaouira. Some may venture south to the resort-town of Agadir, which unfortunately feels more Costa Del Sol than Arabian dream. Few, though, will visit Taghazout, a small, quaint village 20km north of Agadir on the main coast road. Continue reading