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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Hiking in Aigüestortes National Park, Catalonia

We spent a day hiking in Aigüestortes National Park across a wild landscape of twisting waters and soaring summits in the Catalan Pyrenees.

Tucked away in the northwestern corner of Catalonia, deep in the Catalan Pyrenees, is the region’s best-kept secret: Aigüestortes and Lake Sant Maurici National Park or Parc Nacional d’Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici in Catalan.

Aigüestortes is absurdly pretty. Mighty jagged peaks tower far above evergreen forests and myriad glinting lakes. It’s a landscape begging to be hiked – and so we did. Continue reading

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Mountaineering calendar: when to climb the world’s greatest mountains

We’ve created a mountaineering calendar of the world’s greatest mountains and the optimal time of year at which to climb them, listed month by month.

Since I first started climbing, I must have spent hours typing “when is the best time to climb…” into search engines and then crawling through websites to find the key piece of information I needed. Only when I have a date in mind can I start to think about the practicalities of actually trying to climb a mountain (i.e. booking time off work, flights, budget, gear etc).

To solve this problem once and for all, Atlas & Boots has put together a mountaineering calendar of the world’s greatest mountains and the optimal time of year at which to climb them. Continue reading

Iron nerve: via ferrata in the Catalan Pyrenees

Our trip to Catalonia begins with a via ferrata in the Catalan Pyrenees, testing my nerve, strength and agility.

I lean out from the rock face and even though I’m fastened in three different places, my heart kicks a skittish beat when I look down at the ground. I’m only metres above it, but suspending myself from an iron rung and leaning into the abyss goes against my natural instincts.

Jordi, our expert guide from Outdoor Adventour, tells me to lean out further. “You have to know you’re safe down here in case you need to do this up there.” Continue reading

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20 interesting facts about Ireland

We share the most interesting facts about Ireland, gathered on a short hop to the country’s Reeks District.  

My latest trip to Ireland took me to an area of the country I had never visited: the newly renamed Reeks District. I spent my time hiking, kayaking, surfing and learning that there’s much more to Ireland than wild waters and high hills.

The island has a reputation rich in history, tradition, literature and music, not to mention its charismatic and friendly people. Over the years, I’ve picked up numerous interesting facts about Ireland. Here, I share my favourites. Continue reading

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8 things to do in the Reeks District, Ireland

We explore the best things to do in the Reeks District, Ireland’s brand new adventure playground.

Set on Ireland’s west coast, the newly named Reeks District or ‘the beating heart of the Kingdom of Kerry’ is home to some of Ireland’s most magnificent scenery. With a wild blend of lofty peaks, untamed coastline and secluded moraine lakes, the Reeks District hosts an array of activities to keep outdoor enthusiasts entertained for days on end.

I visited the Kingdom of Kerry to try some of the best things to do in the Reeks District, Ireland’s brand new adventure playground. Continue reading

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Climbing Carrauntoohil: Ireland’s highest mountain

Climbing Carrauntoohil is an excellent introduction to the Reeks District, Ireland’s adventure playground.

The MacGillycuddy’s Reeks in Kerry are Ireland’s highest mountain range and the inspiration behind the region’s newly renamed Reeks District, home to Carrauntoohil which at 1,038m (3,406ft) is Ireland’s highest mountain.

High cliffs, mountain lakes and fast running rivers define the range which runs 19km along the eastern boundary of the Iveragh Peninsula. Known as the backbone of the Kingdom of Kerry, the sandstone mountains have been hewn over hundreds of thousands of years by glacial erosion and extreme weather.

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Animal instinct: eco-friendly wildlife tours

A curated selection of eco-friendly wildlife tours that place animal protection at the top of their agenda.

Having just returned from an incredible diving trip in the Great Barrier Reef, we’ve seen first hand how important it is to choose eco-friendly wildlife tours to minimise the environmental impact of our travels.

We’ve always maintained that tourists should be able to visit vulnerable places as long as they do so in a sustainable way. Of course, no tourism is impact-free. Only last month, a cruise ship guard tragically shot dead a polar bear in NorwayContinue reading

Polar bear death: has extinction tourism gone too far?

A cruise ship guard recently shot and killed a polar bear. Did the bear get too close, or the tourists?

I don’t usually dig myself into holes that I can’t climb out of. I like strong arguments and clear answers – but there’s only one answer here and, sadly, it’s one I don’t like.

Let me start at the start: on 28th July, a cruise ship guard shot a polar bear in Svalbard, an Arctic archipelago that lies between Norway’s mainland and the North Pole. 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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World firsts: exploring UNESCO’s original World Heritage sites

At last count, UNESCO’s World Heritage List included 1,073 locations across 167 countries or states. Here, we explore the 12 original World Heritage sites first listed in 1978.

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. 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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Arctic vs. Antarctic: how to pick your polar adventure

If you’ve ever dreamt about visiting one of the polar regions, use our guide to picking your Polar adventure: Arctic vs. Antarctic.

The North and South Poles were only “conquered” in relatively recent history. The South Pole was first set foot upon in 1911 by the Norwegian Roald Amundsen after his epic race with the ill-fated Scott. The conquest of the North Pole is a little murkier thanks to its location in the middle of the Arctic Ocean amid waters that are almost permanently covered with permanently shifting sea ice. Continue reading

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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

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24 interesting facts about Russia

We share the most interesting facts about Russia collected over the course of two trips to this mammoth country.

Russia has been described as many things: a mother, a winner, a force and a fighter. It is, as Churchill put it famously, a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

Russia is outsize both literally and metaphorically. Aside from its physical bulk, it has loomed as a spectre over the west for decades.

On Peter’s recent trip to this land of secrets, he gathered a wealth of interesting facts about Russia – some well known, others less so. As is tradition, we’ve gathered the best of them below.

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Climbing Mount Elbrus: my second seven summit

Climbing Mount Elbrus in Russia has been on my bucket list since I climbed Kilimanjaro in 2010. In August of this year I finally crossed it off.

Mount Elbrus in Russia, at 5,642m (18,510ft), is Europe’s highest mountain and one of the seven summits, coveted by mountaineers who want to reach the highest point on every continent.

Located in southern Russia near the border with Georgia, the twin peaks of Mount Elbrus stand as watchtowers rising nearly 1,000m (3,280ft) above the encircling peaks of the Caucasus range. 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