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

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

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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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

Southern lights in Antarctica

Where to see the southern lights

From Australia to Antarctica, we list the best places to see the southern lights

People often ask “aren’t you done with travelling?” or “where is there left to go?”

To be honest, we thought that 2018 would be the year we sort-of settled down and maybe looked into a semi-permanent base somewhere in England’s Peak District… but then we went to World Travel Market and met representatives from Greenland and the Falklands and the Faroes, and many of the other remote places we’d like to see one day and we realised that we’d probably never be done with travelling. We’d always want to see more. 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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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

Mountains for mortals: 12 non-technical mountain climbs

As a climber, I have completed several indoor climbing and winter mountaineering courses but my technical climbing skills still leave a lot to be desired. I have mastered basic rope, ice axe and crampon skills but don’t practise them as often as I’d like. All too often I only find time for some wilderness backpacking in Europe or low-altitude scrambling in the UK. Regardless, I still have high hopes of climbing the seven summits. One day…

Continue reading

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The countries we most want to see

Despite our best laid plans, we never made it to Africa last year. With renewed plans to visit the continent after our current trip through Sri Lanka and Burma, we found ourselves in an interesting discussion: if you could see only five countries before you die, which would they be?

This question posed a far trickier dilemma than the countries we least want to see. With so much on offer, we had to be ruthless in our choices.

We didn’t choose countries we have already visited, nor stateless territories (e.g. Antarctica). Two of our countries overlapped (Nepal and Canada) so we each chose one more to make a total of 10. Continue reading

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The best national parks in the world – by continent

The best way to see the world’s greatest natural wonders is to visit the best national parks in the world. Thankfully, governments around the world have taken steps to preserve their areas of outstanding natural beauty, their diverse animal and marine life, and tracts of pristine wilderness.

From the plains and deserts of Africa to the waterfalls and glaciers of South America, every continent has something different to offer. Here we list the best national parks in the world by continent.

Continue reading

Off the beaten trail: 10 unknown treks for your bucket list

I spent eight years living in London, riding the crowded tube to work, fighting for space with those around me and standing in queues at bus stops, supermarkets, anywhere really – I am British after all. Naturally, this inspired daydreams of escaping it all and running off to the wilderness with only my backpack, tent, camping stove and a handful of freeze-dried meals.

About twice a year I managed to briefly abscond the confines of London, usually fleeing to the mountains of Norway, Austria or Scotland. In the last year, I’ve discovered plenty of unknown treks in the South Pacific but I still while away hours daydreaming of getting even further off the grid. Continue reading

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