Iceland, cleanest air in the world

10 hikes through the cleanest air in the world

The view isn’t so bad. Sure, it’s over the communal bin area but there’s a roof so you don’t really notice it. We’ll have to put up some net curtains because precisely six flats and nine balconies have direct view into our flat but that’s okay – privacy’s hard to come by in London. It’s not even the noise. Being on the road wasn’t always quiet.

It’s the air. Heavy pollution, barely noticeable before we left London, leaves my skin shockingly grimey at the end of the day. My every-other-morning run by the River Lea winds through a host of unnatural smells and the city’s cars are numerous as ever. Statistics show that conditions are improving (at least at our nearest monitoring station), but the fact remains: the air quality in London leaves a lot to be desired. To counter the back-home blues, we look at 10 hiking trails that offer the cleanest air in the world. Continue reading

world's most urban countries

Concrete jungles: the world’s most urban countries

City life is stressful. It presses on our weary bones, wafts through windows on pungent fumes and boxes up our personal space. It affects our mental health and, according to a 2011 study by neuroscientist Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg, increases the risk of mood and anxiety disorders including depression and schizophrenia. The specific causes of city stress are unconfirmed but it’s likely we can safely assume a mix of toxins, pollutants, noise and social behaviours unique to cities. Continue reading

Diving the Galápagos

10 places to see before they’re gone – or perhaps not

Friends and readers often ask us about the Galápagos. Is it worth the expense, they say. Would you recommend going?

The truth is it’s hard to encourage people to visit when we’ve seen first hand the damaging effects of human presence on the islands. Equally, it’s hard to discourage people from visiting because a) it would be hypocritical and b) underneath the frenzied tourism lies a unique destination with some of the best beaches we’ve seen and the best diving we’ve ever done (sharks, rays, sea lions and turtles). Clearly, the islands are worth a visit. 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

madrid at night

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

photography-tours

10 countries for breathtaking photography tours

I never get bored when I travel as I always have my camera with me. During my travels across 60 countries over six continents I’ve had the honour of photographing some of the most stunning vistas the world has to offer.

Every country I visit swallows gigabytes of space on my hard drive(s) and hours (if not days and weeks) of my life spent curating and editing images after the trip. I’ve been selling my photography for over five years and can see that some shots from some countries will always be sought after. Continue reading

biggest buildings in the world - 6

The biggest buildings in the world

We take a look at the biggest buildings in the world, from airplane factories to royal palaces.

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
WELCOME TO FABULOUS LAS VEGAS: TWINNED WITH GREAT YARMOUTH

Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas: twinned with Great Yarmouth

I grew up in a small village called Caister-on-Sea near Great Yarmouth in Norfolk. Norfolk’s a pretty rural part of the UK, positioned on the east coast and buffeted by the North Sea. Although I left my home county over 12 years ago, and rarely return apart from the odd visit, I still have a lot of affection for the county I grew up in. There are the beautiful Broads (a network of interconnected lakes and rivers), rolling rural farmland dotted with windmills and quaint little villages with great pubs. There is abundant coastal scenery complete with sandy beaches, rocky cliffs and sand dunes. There’s also Carrow Road, home of my beloved Norwich City, and Norfolk also happens to be home to some of the best fish and chips in the world. Continue reading

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On the road to Zion National Park

One of my favourite things about travel is its continuous ability to surprise me. Whether it’s discovering hidden beaches in Vanuatu or coming across sea turtles on a dive in Samoa, travel often presents the unexpected. The latest example was during our unplanned visit to Zion National Park in Utah on our (again unplanned) American road trip.

We had spent a couple of days exploring Grand Canyon National Park and were enjoying our final meal at our lodge when we got chatting to another group of hikers. They suggested adapting our route to take in Zion National Park. “It’s like a red Yosemite in the desert,” they told us. “You’ll love it.” Continue reading

THINGS-TO-DO-GRAND-CANYON

Off the beaten canyon: exploring Grand Canyon’s hidden gems

This article featured on Lonely Planet as one of their top posts from February 2015.

There’s something familiar about the Grand Canyon. Its dramatic landscape and red-gold hues have been depicted in movies, posters, pencil cases and postcards. It’s a recurring symbol of the road movie, a faithful slice of wholesome Americana – and, yet, when you see it for the first time, it’s still daunting, still overwhelming. Its sheer scale stretches for 277 miles (446km) along the course of the Colorado River, reminding you that America isn’t just a land of super-sized McDonald’s and greasy hotdogs; it’s home to some of the most beautiful scenery on the face of this Earth. Continue reading

things-to-do-around-grand-canyon

Things to do at the Grand Canyon

A trip to the Grand Canyon can be overwhelming, not only because of the incredible vistas on display but the sheer range of activities, hikes, trails and viewpoints to choose from. To make your visit as easy as possible, we put together the top things to do at the Grand Canyon during your trip. Note that numbers 1-4 can be done in a single day but you will need several days should you wish to do the rest. Continue reading

visiting-alcatraz

Escape to Alcatraz: visiting Alcatraz prison

I often joke that if you label any old building a tourist attraction and put it in a guidebook, people will come. It might be a prosaic power station, a random rock formation, or even a tour of a sewage factory – with enough PR, people will come.

In theory, visiting Alcatraz prison could fit into this category of non-attractions. It’s a prison. It has cell blocks, cells, walls and bars. Each cell is indiscernible from the next and the entire building, at least from the inside, should be largely unremarkable. Continue reading

american-road-trip

Our unexpected great American road trip

We never even planned to be in the US!

In fact, we should have been about 3,000 miles further south by the time we rocked up on Venice Beach in LA, mixing with the crowds of hippies, hipsters, tourists and homeless. I’ll admit that with my two-month old beard, huge backpack and threadbare flip flops, I blended in most with the latter.

In the two weeks since our arrival, we have crossed four states on our American road trip, seeing an array of landscapes straight out of the movies. From snowcapped mountain ranges to tumbleweed-strewn deserts, from glitzy casinos and roadside motels to the empty and silent towns of the Midwest, we saw it all. And it was magical. Continue reading

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Pearl Harbor Memorial: a Brit’s view

Our day starts with a 50-minute wait for the bus in Honolulu’s main thoroughfare. An hour after that, we find ourselves crawling along in the capital’s multi-lane traffic – not what we imagined when we planned our eight-mile journey in this supposed island paradise.

Kia tosses me a look. “I hope this is worth it,” she says with a tone that sounds sweet to the ears but hides much promise of pain.

“It will be,” I assure her, quietly gulping.

As the son of a history teacher, I’ve long been fascinated by the seminal events of days gone past. It started with small, poignant pieces of knowledge like the fact that more soldiers die of disease than violence, or that more soldiers die after a war ends than before because of veteran depression. These people, their lives, their decisions seemed so much bigger, so much sadder than mine. Continue reading

Caught in the LA headlights

A bony limb elbows me in the back. It’s followed by a perfunctory apology, shouted loud just like everything else in the throbbing bar. The muted colours of black and purple are uncharacteristically harsh and the lights just a little too bright.

I look at Peter. He is wide eyed, just like me. We have the same question: what now? Our friends in LA who are showing us the city have stepped out for a cigarette, leaving us momentarily alone in the trendy bar. Neither Peter nor I have been in a place like this for six months. After leaving London, we very quickly fell to the slower pace of the Pacific and operated comfortably on island time (“maybe now, maybe later, maybe tomorrow, maybe never”). Continue reading

summiting-mauna-kea-hawaii

Mauna Kea: summiting the world’s tallest mountain

Hawaii’s Mauna Kea takes the crown as the world’s tallest mountain. Mauna Kea is a monumental 9,330m (30,610ft) in height from base to peak.

Okay, so we all know that Mount Everest is Earth’s highest mountain, measuring at a staggering 8,848 metres (29,029 ft) above sea level. What’s less well known is that if you measure from base to peak, it’s not Everest but Hawaii’s Mauna Kea that takes the crown as the world’s tallest mountain. Mauna Kea lies largely hidden beneath the ocean surface but is a monumental 10,203m (33,476ft) in height from base to peak.

It was because of this astonishing fact that we couldn’t resist spending our precious few hours in Hawaii driving halfway across the “Big Island” and upwards to Mauna’s dizzying summit. We had agonised over the decision. Visiting Hawaii on a cruise meant we had limited time on land and we had to choose between Mauna Kea and the renowned volcano park. In the end, we couldn’t resist the call of the tallest mountain on Earth. Continue reading

5 stunning books for travel junkies

These books are by far the most beautiful books we’ve ever owned and are essential books for travel junkies.

1. Before They Pass Away by Jimmy Nelson

books for travel junkies
For three years, Jimmy Nelson travelled the world capturing the beauty of over 30 remote tribes with his large-plate field camera. Now collated in this deliciously luxurious tome, his photographs depict rural life in some of the world’s most pristine landscapes. From monks in Tibet to Kazakhs in Mongolia, Nelson’s stunning images are complemented by insightful portraits of cultures rarely seen.  A perfect gift for any travel junkie (including yourself). Continue reading

stunning natural phenomena horsetail

13 stunning natural phenomena

In the past few days, an old YouTube video started doing the rounds once more. The video claims to show what the sky would look like if different planets in our solar system were as close as the moon. It’s pretty impressive and got us talking about some of the amazing natural phenomena that already exist right here on Earth. Below, we list our favourites.

It’s worth noting that we define a ‘natural phenomenon’ as something that is not man made (obviously) and that only occurs in specific places at specific times under specific conditions (i.e. not a static attraction like, say, Derweze that you can go and see at any time).

Have a look and tell us in the comments which ones you most want to see. Continue reading