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UNESCO’s newest World Heritage Sites

From Inuit hunting grounds to sacred mountain monasteries, UNESCO’s newest World Heritage Sites have been formally recognised for their outstanding value.

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.

To be included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, nominated sites must be of “outstanding universal value” and meet at least one of 10 selection criteria.

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18 interesting facts about Costa Rica

We share the most interesting facts about Costa Rica collected during our visit to this diverse destination.

The tiny republic of Costa Rica is a Central American success story. Democratic, prosperous and stable, the country is an oasis in the midst of an often-turbulent region of the world.

We visited Costa Rica for nine days on our first ever National Geographic Expedition. Highlights included clambering the slopes of a misty volcanic peak, hiking through fairytale cloud forest in Santa Elena, searching for sloths in Manuel Antonio National Park and planting trees at the Monteverde Institute.

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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.

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Canyoning in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Canyoning in La Fortuna with its waterfall rappels and cavernous ‘falls’ proved to be Costa Rica’s biggest thrill of all.

Beneath the hulking slopes of Arenal Volcano in northwestern Costa Rica is the small town of La Fortuna. With a wealth of natural attractions nearby including lush rainforest, extensive hiking trails, myriad hot springs and two gargantuan volcanoes (Cerro Chato is also within easy reach), it’s not the town itself that draws visitors to this green district of Costa Rica.

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Searching for sloths in Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

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.

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Santa Elena Cloud Forest in Costa Rica

Santa Elena Cloud Forest: a fairytale hike in Costa Rica

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.

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Withering heights: saving Monteverde Cloud Forest

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.

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World’s most powerful passport 2019

Travelling can be a bureaucratic nightmare for those on restricted passports. Here we look at the best passport to have in 2019 based on the freedom it provides.

Ten years ago, in my first job after graduation, I shared an office with a researcher called Munir who I nicknamed Dr2 because he not only had a PhD but was also qualified as a medical doctor. (I recognise it’s not the wittiest name in the world but it was the best I could do at the time.)

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Costa Rica: our first National Geographic Expedition

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.

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Happiest countries in the world 2019

The happiest countries in the world 2019 have been ranked in the latest World Happiness Report. This year, Finland holds on to the top spot.

Happiness is a nebulous thing; hard to grasp and harder to hold onto. Scientists, economists and philosophers have defined it through the ages as a combination of different things, among them health, wealth, companionship and security.

Various indices attempt to rank the happiest countries in the world on an annual basis. The World Happiness Report from the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) is particularly interesting as it ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be.

The SDSN employs an international group of economists, neuroscientists and statisticians to survey citizens on their subjective wellbeing to produce a comprehensive annual list of the happiest countries in the world.

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12 great long reads on outdoor survival… and surrender

A handpicked selection of some of the most dramatic, absorbing long reads on outdoor survival from the last five years. 

You may have guessed that we at Atlas & Boots are just a little bit obsessed with tales of endurance. From the best books about survival to epic journeys of discovery, we have written about some of the most dramatic pursuits in the history of exploration.

In recent years, we have been intrigued by a number of brilliant long reads on outdoor survival (and surrender). 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 recently 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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What is the greenest country in the world?

The greenest country in the world is Switzerland according to the latest data analysis from the 2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI).

The Environmental Performance Index evaluates and ranks 180 countries on 24 performance indicators across 10 categories covering environmental health and ecosystem vitality.

The aim is to gauge, at a national scale, how close countries are to meeting the environmental policy goals outlined in the United Nations 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement. Continue reading

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Poorest countries in the world – ranked

Africa dominates the ranking of the poorest countries in the world based on the latest data from the World Bank.

Last year, we spent a month travelling through Ethiopia. Growing up in the eighties, we were only too aware of the struggles Ethiopia had faced historically: political unrest, civil war and, of course, famine.

However, in 2017, Ethiopia had the fastest-growing economy in the world and was named by Lonely Planet as one of its Best in Travel countries of that year. Change is happening, but it’s still slow. 

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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

World’s most stunning big wall climbs

It was five years ago that I first came across a big wall climber. A tiny speck on the side of a gigantic granite wall, the climber was bivvying in Yosemite National Park, the Holy Land of big wall climbing.

I couldn’t comprehend how someone could sleep tacked onto the side of a wall, suspended thousands of feet above the ground, sometimes in treacherous weather conditions. 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

Mountains for mortals: 12 non-technical mountain climbs

There are no “death zones” on these non-technical mountain climbs, but they offer plenty of challenges for mere mortals like me.

As a climber, I have completed several indoor climbing and winter mountaineering courses but my technical climbing skills still leave a lot to be desired. I have mastered basic rope, ice axe and crampon skills but don’t practise them as often as I’d like.

All too often I only find time for some wilderness backpacking in Europe or low-altitude scrambling in the UK. Regardless, I still have high hopes of climbing the seven summits. One day…

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