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10 long-distance hiking trails from around the world

We look at some of the finest 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? 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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Are these really the best countries to visit in 2018?

Winter is coming and, with it, the customary slew of ‘Best Of’ and ‘Must Do’ lists summing up everything from the funniest one-liners on Twitter to the best countries to visit in 2018. Everyone’s at it, from The New York Times who are readying to publish their 52 Places, to industry stalwarts Lonely Planet who have just released their Best in Travel.

These peppy lists of perfect places do exactly what they’re supposed to: inspire intense wanderlust, but amid the desk-bound dreaming, it’s wise to ask if there’s a danger in genuflecting to the experts. Should we really gather these pearls of wisdom and place them in our bucket lists? Continue reading

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8 controversial mountain names from around the world

Naming mountains is a thorny business. We take a look at some of the most controversial mountain names from around the world and explore just why they’ve inspired so much debate. 

As an avid hiker, climber and would-be mountaineer, I’ve long been fascinated with the mountains of the world and the history behind their names. 

The first real mountain I ever climbed was Ben Nevis in bonnie Scotland. One would be forgiven for wondering who Ben was and why he has a mountain named after him. In fact, ‘Ben Nevis’ is the Anglicized form of the Scottish Beinn Nibheis, which means ‘mountain by the water’. Continue reading

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11 countries for spotting rare wildlife

We love the great outdoors: hiking, cycling, sailing and swimming, and in particular spotting rare wildlife. We’ve been lucky enough to swim with humpback whales in Tonga, walk among giant tortoises in the Galápagos and, most recently, to watch herds of elephants in Udawalawe National Park in Sri Lanka.

Wildlife goes hand in hand with beautiful scenery and in most cases minimum human impact as well. There is still so much incredible and diverse wildlife to see and so many beautiful countries in which to see them. Here’s our wishlist of the best countries for spotting rare wildlife.

In every case, we’ve focused on destinations that support conservation efforts and sustainable tourism. 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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The best national parks in the world – by continent

The best way to see the world’s greatest natural wonders is to visit the best national parks in the world. Thankfully, governments around the world have taken steps to preserve their areas of outstanding natural beauty, their diverse animal and marine life, and tracts of pristine wilderness.

From the plains and deserts of Africa to the waterfalls and glaciers of South America, every continent has something different to offer. Here we list the best national parks in the world by continent.

Continue reading

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The seven second summits: a tougher challenge

The seven second summits are considered to be a much harder mountaineering challenge than the more popular seven summits

Previously, I’ve  written about my dream of climbing the seven summits and laid out a realistic if not deeply challenging and expensive program of how to achieve that goal. This week I look at the seven second summits; the second-highest mountains on each continent. The highest summits are a dream of mine, but I draw the line at the second-highest – they’re simply too scary for an amateur enthusiast like me! Continue reading

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The world’s most expensive cities for expats 2016

Moving to a new country is one of the most expensive endeavours one can undertake. Enter Mercer’s 2016 Cost of Living ranking, a survey of the most expensive cities for expats.

With the UK recently voting in favour of Brexit, we at Atlas & Boots are reassessing our future. Prior to the result, we fully expected to return to France after our next big trip. Now we may have to look further afield. Whatever we decide, one useful way to choose where our future lies is to compare the cost of living in our new city compared to our old, currently London. Continue reading

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Eight-thousanders: the 14 highest peaks in the world

Most boys grow out of their fascination with mountains and the great outdoors. Those that do not usually end up on the side of a mountain asking themselves a single question: what the hell am I doing here? But, as the saying goes, the best alpinists have the worst memories and so they venture once again into the ether.

My fascination with mountains and exploration was piqued as a child when I visited the Glen Coe region in the Highlands of Scotland and eyed the gullies of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain. This fascination has only grown over the years. My bookcases continue to expand with mountaineering books, from thrilling first-person accounts of difficult first ascents to thick biographies of the world’s greatest climbers. For my birthday this year, I received two cards that looked like this even though bought independently and my presents included an exclusive screening of the new Everest film, Sherpa, and a book about great maps.  Continue reading

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Sherpa film review: has it put me off climbing Everest?

Let’s be clear about this: I have neither the skills nor the money to climb Everest. I’ve spoken several times about my long-running ambition to climb the seven summits, but I’m not so naïve that I can’t see it may forever remain a distant dream.

Naturally, this doesn’t stop me dreaming and I expect the allure of standing on top of the world will never really dissipate. However, after watching BAFTA-nominated documentary Sherpa, I am considering whether foreigners should be on the mountain at all.

Sherpa charts the Everest story from a perspective rarely seen and subtly asks the question: is continued foreign obsession with Everest bad for Nepal, Khumbu and the Sherpas? Continue reading

Hardest language to learn: Japanese script

What are the hardest languages to learn?

We’ve written before about the best language to learn based on a number of different criteria. The verdict was French which, as a Romance language, is relatively easy for English speakers. (We stress the word ‘relatively’ because all language learning takes effort.)

Some of the most interesting data in the article comes from the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) at the US Department of State. The FSI trains diplomats in language learning and maintains an internal ranking of language difficulty (specifically, how long it would take a native English speaker to reach proficiency). Here, we examine 10 of the hardest languages to learn based on FSI rankings. Continue reading

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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

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10 most unoriginal expat destinations

Are you a female American manager in Germany, a British man teaching in Spain, or an Indian businessman in the Emirates? Then I’m afraid you’re among the world’s most unoriginal expats, according to the 2014 Expat Insider report from InterNations, an expat community with more than 1.4 million members.

We examined the report and picked out the top 10 most popular expat destinations and cross-referenced them with the Expat Insider rankings of overall satisfaction. It’s interesting that only three countries appear on both lists (USA, Switzerland and Spain), indicating that many expats might find a better quality of life in a country other than their chosen one. 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

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The biggest buildings in the world

Modern architecture has made relentless and remarkable progress over the past century, and with construction of the world’s tallest and first one 1km high building beginning this week in Saudi Arabia, it doesn’t look to be slowing any time soon. The biggest buildings in the world continue to grow and not just higher into the sky. On the ground they are expanding in all directions too.

Architects continue to overcome structural hurdles and make history with innovative and groundbreaking designs. Here are some of their biggest and grandest: the biggest buildings in the world. Continue reading