10 least visited countries in the world – and how to reach them

From the vast Pacific Ocean to the lively coast of West Africa, we take a look at the least visited countries in the world.

There is perhaps no phrase more common in travel writing than “off the beaten track”. It’s applied liberally to all manner of things, from the vast Mongolian Steppe to an empty bar on a Bangkok side street. Clearly, it symbolises travel’s ultimate goal: to have fresh experiences in unspoilt places. And yet so few of us manage to find the true secluded ideal. Continue reading

long reads on outdoor survival

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

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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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

24 interesting facts about New Zealand

As our time in the country comes to a close, we share the most interesting facts about New Zealand we learnt along the way.

I left New Zealand feeling a little annoyed. You see, before visiting this part of the Antipodes, I could list exotic countries like SamoaCambodia, Turkey and Jordan as my favourite countries.

New Zealand in comparison feels distinctly European. Still, there’s no denying it: this country has usurped all others. It features not only extraordinary natural beauty, but also progressive politics, ever improving integration between its Maori and European populations and a forthright national attitude that’s thoroughly endearing. Continue reading

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8 South Island short walks with big views

We review eight South Island short walks showcasing New Zealand’s extraordinary scenery in just a short stroll. 

If you don’t have the time or legs for the Great Walks of New Zealand, then these South Island short walks are the next best thing. With grand views on par with some long-distance hiking trails, these quick walks showcase the best of New Zealand’s diverse and sometimes bizarre scenery without the aching feet, sweaty backs and muddy boots.  Continue reading

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Hiking the Abel Tasman Coast Track in New Zealand

Hiking the Abel Tasman Coast Track, either as a day hike or multi-day thru-hike, should be on every NZ itinerary.

New Zealand is a country used to collecting plaudits. Few experts will deny that it’s one of the world’s best countries for hiking. It ranks in the top 10 happiest countries in the world and has been named by Lonely Planet as one of the best countries to visit in 2018. Continue reading

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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

Jumping the 134m Nevis Bungy in New Zealand

Jumping the 134m Nevis Bungy, the highest in New Zealand

We visit the adventure capital of the world and try one of its most extreme activities: the 134m Nevis Bungy.

If you Google ‘bungy jumping’ along with the name of a news outlet, it won’t be long before you hit a ghoulish headline about a snapped cord or fatal miscalculation. It seems that journalists – and indeed their readers – are fascinated by extreme pursuits and their sometimes dire consequences. We are relatively unconcerned by prosaic traffic incidents. Instead, we want to hear about the horrors of jumping off a cliff or vertiginous bridge. Continue reading

Battling weather at Franz Josef Glacier

We attempt the Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk in pouring rain and dwindling humour.

We were in low spirits. Our heli-hike to Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand had been cancelled due to bad weather which meant we couldn’t get onto the glacier itself. In fact, given the vast and murky blanket of cloud, there was the distinct possibility that we would not see the glacier at all.

We were wary. In 2015, we almost missed seeing Machu Picchu because of endless fog. A few months after that, we trekked to Torres del Paine in Chilean Patagonia to find it completely shrouded in cloud – a disappointment that haunts Peter to this day. Continue reading

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Off the wall: scaling the Queenstown via ferrata

The Queenstown via ferrata allows climbers to scale and summit otherwise impassable cliffs rising high above the ‘adventure capital of the world’.

It’s rare that a visitor leaves Queenstown in New Zealand without having tried something that raises their pulse. We visited the ‘adventure capital of the world’ as part of a G Adventures tour of South Island and were keen to sample the town’s encyclopaedia of adrenaline-filled activities.

Named by Lonely Planet as one of the best countries to visit in 2018, New Zealand offers almost endless options for those seeking adventure including bungy jumping, canyon swinging, skydiving and shotover jet boating (yep, we had no idea either). Continue reading

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8 best day hikes on North Island, New Zealand

We review the best day hikes on North Island. No tents, sleeping bags or bulky backpacks required.

New Zealand is one of the best hiking destinations in the world and although the South Island steals the headlines for long-distance hiking, the North Island has much to offer in terms of shorter trails.

Don’t let lower distances fool you though: these trails may be short, but they are not always sweet. Some are thoroughly challenging. What they all have in common is spectacular scenery. Emerald lakes, rugged coastlines and rocky stalagmites are defining features of these day hikes on North Island. Continue reading

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Exploring the Rotorua geysers in New Zealand

We visit the Rotorua geysers on New Zealand’s North Island in pursuit of Pohutu, the largest active geyser in the southern hemisphere.

We smelled Rotorua before we even set foot in the town: an unholy triad of pungent sulphur, blocked drains and rotten eggs. Built on a geothermal hotspot, Rotorua is a place of bestirred primordia: boiling mud pools, hot springs, spitting vents and erupting geysers. Continue reading

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24 interesting facts about Australia

From a giant dingo fence to the planet’s largest living structure, we take a look at the most interesting facts about Australia.

In a country the size of a continent there are innumerable fascinating facts to be unearthed. Australia’s mix of ancient cultures, wild terrain and cosmopolitan cities means the country has so much to offer the millions of visitors it receives every year. With red outback sands, tropical aquamarine reefs and the wild Southern Ocean, Australia is a land of truly diverse landscapes. Continue reading

Skydiving in Cairns: jumping from 16,000ft

After a month in Australia, skydiving in Cairns seemed an apt way to finish an epic trip.

I slumped into the pillow with the desultory air of someone faced with 200 channels and not a decent TV show between them. I sighed, then yawned, then slouched.

After seven days of diving in the Great Barrier Reef and all the wonder and adrenaline that comes with it, spending two days cooped up in a Cairns hotels seemed like a damp squib of a way to end our month-long trip across Australia. Sure, there was a great pancake house down the street and, yes, Aangan round the corner did excellent Indian cuisine, but after camping, hiking, sailing and diving our way through this continent-sized country, we weren’t satisfied with a quiet goodbye. Continue reading

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20 interesting facts about the Great Barrier Reef

We share the most interesting facts about the Great Barrier Reef gathered on our week-long visit.

We’ve all seen pictures of the Great Barrier Reef: a pearl-string of reefs and lagoons boasting every imaginable shade of blue. This natural wonder in Australia teems with life.

Marine animals here vary from microscopic plankton to whales weighing 100 tonnes. It is a riot of colour, a carnival of life. Clownfish of bursting orange curl next to fish of luminous blue. It is a true spectacle – but what exactly is the Great Barrier Reef? Is it really bigger than Italy and can it really be seen from space? Continue reading

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Exploring Cooktown, Captain Cook’s historic landing site

We visit Cooktown in the far north of Queensland where Captain James Cook beached his crippled ship and helped found a giant country.

If you’ve seen a map of Australia, you’ve seen the huge, remote Cape York Peninsula, an area bigger than the UK, but with a population of just 18,000. Home to Australia’s northernmost point, Cape York Peninsula points upwards towards the Torres Strait and New Guinea in the northeastern corner of the continent-sized island of Australia.

On the southeastern edge of the peninsula with a population of around 2,600 lies Cooktown, a small town with a big history. We stopped off for a morning during our small-ship expedition around the Great Barrier Reef with Coral Expeditions. Continue reading

best dive sites in the Great Barrier Reef

8 of the best dive sites in the Great Barrier Reef

We spent seven days diving in the world’s largest reef system – and loved every minute. Below we share some of the best dive sites in the Great Barrier Reef.

As travel bloggers, we are at times guilty of hyperbole. When it comes to diving in the Great Barrier Reef, however, there is no overstating. The coral reef here is simply magnificent.

We spent seven days aboard the 35m catamaran Coral Expeditions II, a small ship that accommodates a maximum of 44 passengers (our trip had 22). Continue reading

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Diving Steve’s Bommie in the Great Barrier Reef

A first-hand report of diving Steve’s Bommie in the Great Barrier Reef including information on when to go, how to get there and what to expect.

It started with a whisper, as if he were revealing a state secret or the coordinates of Atlantis. His shoulders eased into the buttery leather of his seat, his stance loose and casual, as if this were any other drink on any other evening of our small-ship expedition across the Great Barrier Reef. His tone, however, betrayed something different: a low and certain intensity, alerting us to the fact that this dive would be like no other.

He would need special dispensation from the captain, said Colin, our dive instructor on the expedition. We’d have to leave early and take the dinghy and be back before breakfast. Nothing was guaranteed, but he’d talk to the captain and we’d wait and see. Continue reading