Star struck: exploring the world’s Dark Sky Reserves

International Dark Sky Reserves are protected areas that offer exceptionally starry nights. We review the 13 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.

We at Atlas & Boots hadn’t heard of them until our recent trip to New Zealand‘s Aoraki Mackenzie, one of the world’s 13 Dark Sky Reserves. Continue reading

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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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Best natural wonders in France

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. Continue reading

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Wild continent: the best National Parks in Europe

The best national parks in Europe are home to the wildest scenery and most thrilling outdoor pursuits the continent has to offer.

Europe’s finest wilderness has quite rightly been enshrined and protected in its national parks. Great glaciers, soaring mountains and primeval forests stretch across Europe’s 50 sovereign states. We take a look at the wildest and best national parks in Europe. Continue reading

Mont Saint-Michel: 10 dos and don’ts

Essential 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.

Less famous but more impressive is Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy’s abbey on a rock in a bay. 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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Visiting the international city of Geneva

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. Continue reading

Adjusting to life in a tiny French village

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. Continue reading

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. 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

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10 most visited countries in the world

Have you dreamed about 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 UNWTO Tourism Highlights report, France and Italy are two of the most visited countries in the world. Together with the rest of the top 10, they make up a whopping 43% of overall global tourism. Here’s the complete list of the most visited countries in the world. Continue reading