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UNESCO’s newest World Heritage Sites

From Inuit hunting grounds to sacred mountain monasteries, UNESCO’s newest World Heritage Sites have been formally recognised for their outstanding value.

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.

To be included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, nominated sites must be of “outstanding universal value” and meet at least one of 10 selection criteria.

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20 interesting facts about Colombia

Our curated list of the most interesting facts about Colombia we learnt during our visit.

We didn’t plan on staying a month in Colombia. After spending longer than we had planned in the South Pacific, we were wary that we had only six months for an area far larger than what we had seen thus far.

Of course, our journey through Cartagena, Santa Marta, Taganga, Medellin, Guatapé, Popayán and San Agustín warranted more than the two weeks we had planned.

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12 largest rainforests in the world

The largest rainforests in the world are some of the most vital ecosystems on our planet. We look at where they’re located and why they need protecting.

Home to over half the world’s plant and animal species, the largest rainforests in the world absorb vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping maintain the balance of the air we breathe while simultaneously playing a critical role in curbing global warming.

Despite their immense value, the largest rainforests in the world are under constant threat. More than half of Earth’s trees have already been lost since humans first began cutting them down.

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movies about south america: che guevara

10 great movies about South America

We look at 10 great movies about South America that offer context around the rich and colourful history of this great continent.

A British education is one of the most valuable things one can have. It instils a broad knowledge of the world ranging from the sciences to the humanities. Unfortunately, in our pursuit for this breadth of knowledge, we lose much of the depth within individual areas.

The subject of history is a notable example. Pupils are taught about the world wars, the monarchy, the industrial revolution and even the history of irrigation (which is, ironically, rather dry), but learn very little about large swathes of the world, South America being a prime example. Most of us know the names of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, General Pinochet and Hugo Chavez, but can share very little beyond the basics. Continue reading

6 charmless South American towns we couldn’t avoid

Travellers go to Latin America hoping, expecting, knowing they’ll be wowed. Home to three of the world’s Seven Wonders, the region has a wealth of both manmade and natural attractions.

Travellers also know that their journey through this vast continent won’t always be full of rainbows and kittens. Amid the bright, great wonders will be dreary days in dull towns with nary a redeeming feature. In South America, finding these two extremes side by side is almost a guarantee, as illustrated below. Tourist towns inevitably crop up close to major sights and more often than not, they’re completely and utterly charmless. Here are six underwhelming South American towns we failed to avoid on our travels. Continue reading

travel-mistakes

7 travel mistakes we made on the road

Seasoned travellers are a special breed. They can pack a backpack in 60 seconds flat, get a great night’s sleep on an airport floor and use nasty commode with all the nonchalance of a Tory politician slashing public funds. They can also devolve into interminable bores (“When I was in Kenya…” ad infinitum), rush through countries just to tick boxes and fall prey to lazy complacency. At Atlas & Boots, we share stories and advice read by over 50,000 people each month but that’s not to say we don’t make travel mistakes from time to time. Here’s what we’ve done wrong on our trip so far. Continue reading

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San Agustin: the mystical funny faces of Colombia

San Agustin in Colombia is a sleepy little town buried in the rolling green hills of the southwestern part of the country. The town unfortunately lacks the pretty and quaint charms of colourful Guatape or adorable Salento, but makes up for it with Colombia’s finest archaeological park within walking distance.

Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, Parque Arqueológico is home to over a hundred 3,300-year-old statues carved from stone by the area’s famous pre-Hispanic masons. Comparable to Easter Island’s Moai statues, although not quite on the same scale, they depict some rather beguiling, if not creepy, animal-human hybrid creatures. Fanged faces smile awkwardly at you from all angles as you wander the forested trails and climb the green hilltops. Continue reading

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Guatape: the best day trip in Colombia

When I’m about to visit a country for the first time, one of the first things I do is scan a guidebook and pick out a few highlights or must-sees. This can be dangerous business as you’re often putting yourself at the author’s subjective mercy. When I first scanned our guidebook’s Colombian highlights I saw colonial towns, national parks and coffee plantations. After a month in Colombia, I can safely say that the best day I had there barely gets a mention in the guidebooks. Continue reading

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26 dos and don’ts of Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena – the very name has an aura of old-world romance; of steamy hot days, winding city roads, and crumpled treasure maps. Its charming architecture and interesting history certainly didn’t disappoint, but it was a baptism of fire after six months in the Pacific.

We quickly learned that there are two rules governing the streets of Colombia. First, do not offer papaya. Second, if papaya is offered, someone has to take it. They don’t mean papaya in the literal sense of course; it’s a byword for your valuables. It reminds tourists (and locals) not to have a camera hanging over their shoulder, a strappy bag slung casually on a chair, a wallet peeking out the top of a pocket. Those are the most important lessons, but we learnt several others during our time in Cartagena. Here’s a roundup for future visitors. Continue reading

Medellin: why you should visit the ex-murder capital of the world

In 1991, there were 17 murders every day in Medellin, Colombia, making it the murder capital of the world. The hunting ground of notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar, Medellin was rife with violent crime and corruption.

You can understand why then my family were concerned when I told them I’d be spending a week there. As if a month in Colombia wasn’t enough to give my mother palpitations, I was now visiting what was once the most dangerous city in the world. Continue reading