Star struck: exploring the world’s Dark Sky Reserves

Stars shine over the South DownsDreamstime

International Dark Sky Reserves are protected areas that offer exceptionally starry nights. We review the 16 places that hold this hallowed status

They sound like something out of Star Trek, these ‘Dark Sky Reserves’ – like they may have been conjured one evening in a lively LA writers room. Unlike the ‘Delta Quadrant’ or ‘Delphic Expanse’, however, International Dark Sky Reserves actually exist.

Europe’s best hikes for first timers

Mont Blanc is one of Europe's best hikesCreative Travel Projects/Shutterstock

From easy city walks to harder challenges in the great outdoors, we share 10 of Europe’s best hikes for first timers

When Peter headed to Argentina in January to climb Aconcagua (his third of the seven summits), a friend of mine asked why I wasn’t joining him.

Climbing mountains is his thing, I explained. I’m perfectly comfortable below 4,000m. She frowned and said, ‘I thought you’d want to go because you’re always out hiking.’

30 most beautiful mountains in the world

Ama Dablam is a thing of beautyDaniel Prudek/Shutterstock

The most beautiful mountains in the world have captivated climbers for centuries. Here, we examine their lethal appeal

“You are not in the mountains. The mountains are in you,” said John Muir, the renowned naturalist, author and environmental philosopher.

If our resident seven-summit hopeful is an apt barometer, Muir makes a valid point. Those who spend time in the mountains seem to be driven by a deeper force. These brave men and women will face vertiginous vertical falls, sub-zero temperatures and 8,000m death zones in pursuit of their summit dreams. It’s in ode to them that we present this list.

UNESCO’s newest World Heritage Sites

Fanjingshan in Chinasanyanwuji/Shutterstock

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.

10 most visited countries in the world

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul, TurkeySamet Guler/Shutterstock

We profile some usual suspects plus one or two surprises in the top 10 most visited countries in the world

Have you dreamed of a romantic kiss atop the Eiffel Tower? Perhaps you’ve thrown a wish into the Trevi Fountain or stopped and stared at the Sistine Chapel. If so, you’re certainly not alone.

According to the latest UNWTO Tourism Highlights report, France and Italy are two of the most visited countries in the world.

10 long-distance hiking trails from around the world

long-distance hiking trails coast path england

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?

Best natural wonders in France

The Étretat Cliffs have inspired numerous writers and artistsBachellier Christian; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

From dramatic mountains to unearthly caves, we explore the best natural wonders in France

If you ask a random person to name the best natural wonders in France, they’d likely come up short. There are plenty of manmade sights we can all reel off: the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Notre Dame and so on, but France is far less famous for its natural wonders. Here, we explore the best on offer.

Mont Saint-Michel tips: 10 dos and don’ts

Mont Saint-MichelAtlas & Boots

Essential Mont Saint-Michel tips for visiting the most fantastical building in France

When it comes to French architecture, there are myriad contenders for the throne. The most notable is the Eiffel Tower, a world-famous symbol of Gallic ingenuity.

Then there’s the Louvre, possibly the most famous museum in the world. After that we have the Notre Dame and, in any chosen order, the Arc de Triomphe, Sacre Coeur, Palace de Versailles and the Pantheon.

World’s most stunning big wall climbs

The Tsaranoro Massif is known as 'Africa’s Yosemite'Dreamstime

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.

Visiting the international city of Geneva

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The city of Geneva is a global city. We discovered more than just banks, jewellers and chocolate shops during our city break

Geneva in Switzerland is the very definition of a global city. With nearly half its population made up of foreign nationals and expats, it seems only right that the city is home to the United Nations headquarters as well as a further 20 international agencies including the Red Cross and World Trade Organization.

It was here that the Geneva Conventions were signed and today the city is a symbol of progress. From a charming and historic city centre to international landmarks and institutions, the city of Geneva is emblematic of modern 21st century Europe.

Adjusting to life in a tiny French village

We sample the simple life in a tiny French village, the perfect intermediary between the sweeping highs of travel and the daily challenges of city life

There are certain connotations attached to country life. It’s either bourgeois and boring (if you adopt it) or insular and provincial (if you were born into it). Five years ago, the thought of spending several months in a tiny French village with nothing more than a bakery and a corner shop would have worried me.

After a year on the road, however, it seemed like the perfect intermediary between the sweeping highs of travel and the challenges of city life. And, so, after a fleeting visit home, we packed our bags and moved to France for a few months.

Beginners’ French: language hacks for word endings

Beginners' French: language hacks for word endings

Once our journey around the world officially ends, we’ll be heading to France for a few months before finally returning to London. With only a short-course French qualification to my name (from my school days nearly 17 years ago), I need to improve my French quick smart. So far, I have been tackling the task digitally with a combination of Duolingo and the Michel Thomas Method. I’ve been using Duolingo for Spanish throughout South America with mixed success, but the Michel Thomas Method is a promising new approach for me.

15 crazy roads from across the world

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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).