visiting kolmanskop namibia

Visiting Kolmanskop, the ghost town in the Namib Desert

Once a booming diamond town, Kolmanskop has long been abandoned to desert sands. We took a trip to its eerie scenes.

Our trip to Namibia was a long time coming. Almost two years ago, we published a list of the countries we most want to see. At the top of Peter’s list was Namibia, but due to family circumstances, we delayed the trip until we could commit a decent length of time. Finally, at the tail end of this year, we made it to Windhoek to start a 17-day self-drive safari. Continue reading

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Sydney Bridge Climb: is it worth it?

The Sydney Bridge Climb is one of Australia’s most iconic activities – but is it worth the cost and effort? We braved some boiler suits to go and find out.

The Sydney Bridge Climb, if nothing else, is a lesson in sheer forcefulness. When its creator, Paul Cave, first put forward proposals for the climb, regulators replied with a list of 60-something reasons why it simply wasn’t possible.

Cave’s proposed blue suits would distract drivers, they said. Dropped items would cause accidents, and climbers would fall and hurt themselves. The list went on. 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

Mont Saint-Michel: 10 dos and don’ts

Essential tips for visiting the most fantastical building in France.

When it comes to French architecture, there are myriad contenders for the throne. The most notable is the Eiffel Tower, a world-famous symbol of Gallic ingenuity.

Then there’s the Louvre, possibly the most famous museum in the world. After that we have the Notre Dame and, in any chosen order, the Arc de Triomphe, Sacre Coeur, Palace de Versailles and the Pantheon.

Less famous but more impressive is Mont Saint-Michel, Normandy’s abbey on a rock in a bay. Continue reading

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The bizarre Shwe U Min Natural Cave Pagoda, Myanmar

We visited Shwe U Min Natural Cave Pagoda of Pindaya, one of the most bizarre experiences of our trip to Myanmar

After a long, hot morning in the saddle, our group of nine cyclists arrived in the town of Pindaya. We’d covered around 40km (25mi) through Myanmar’s Shan State and were looking forward to some respite from the intense sun. I knew nothing of the Shwe U Min Natural Cave Pagoda but the idea of descending below ground and escaping the devilish heat sounded very appealing. Continue reading

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Idyll worship: Mount Popa’s monastery on a volcano

We visit Taung Kalat, the surreal Buddhist monastery on Myanmar’s Mount Popa.

Mount Popa may as well have been Mount Doom. It loomed on our cycle itinerary, taunting me with defeat. As a newbie cyclist (and certainly the weakest in our group), I found the prospect of cycling 83km (52mi) uphill under the baking Burmese sun more than a little daunting.

Thankfully, our support vehicle was always close by, offering both solace (“I’m here if you need me”) and seduction (“you can quit right now if you want”). The latter proved too much and soon I relented, swapping two wheels for four while the group struggled on. Continue reading

Cycling Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka’s ancient capital

We very nearly didn’t make it to Anuradhapura. Our schedule in Sri Lanka was pretty packed and even though we had a whole month in the country, our itinerary of Colombo, BentotaGalle, Yala, Udawalawe, Ella, Adam’s Peak, Sigiriya, Kandy and Trincomalee and  meant that we had no more than three days in each place.

It was by chance that I saw a tweet picturing Jetavanaramaya Dagoba in Anuradhapura along with a caption explaining that it was once the tallest building in world after the Egyptian pyramids. Given my part-time passion for architecture, there was no way I was visiting Sri Lanka without seeing this storied structure in Anuradhapura. Continue reading

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Things to do in Oslo: 17 dos and don’ts

We went to Norway to see the northern lights but couldn’t leave without a few nights in the capital. There are plenty of interesting things to do in Oslo. The city is home to a blend of fascinating heritage, intriguing museums, vibrant art galleries and excellent access to the countryside, all set amid a serene waterside location.

Norway is the land of vikings, polar exploration, the Nobel Prize and Edvard Munch – and it’s all on display in Oslo.

Below, we offer tips and suggestions for the best things to do in Oslo – and a few to avoid along the way.

Continue reading

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8 short but sweet Cappadocia hikes

Hiking around Cappadocia in Turkey is a unique experience offering some of the most surreal scenery in the world. There are numerous options available, from brief walks to full-day treks and beyond. Below, we take a look at some short but sweet Cappadocia hikes offering excellent vantage points with extraordinary views.

We hired a car and sought out the trails on our own. If you prefer, you can opt to book a Cappadocia hiking tour that will cover all the below. Voyager Balloons offer customised itineraries and are a good option if you don’t have transport. Continue reading

Temple of Artemis: should Britain give back its stolen treasures?

I squinted at the map on my phone, reading the tiny numbers in the afternoon glare of an unforgiving sun. The Temple of Artemis was definitely marked on the map – number 23.

We had spent the morning at Ephesus, Turkey’s iconic archaeological site, and were now in search of the Temple of Artemis, one of the famed seven wonders of the ancient world.

We had walked down three different paths and hit boundaries of the site, unable to locate the seemingly mythical temple. Eventually, we traipsed to the South Gate, arms held out at unnatural angles to let air around our sweating skin. We were welcomed at the gate by a typically gregarious Turk who cheerily told us the Temple of Artemis wasn’t in the complex of Ephesus at all but 3km away, back near town. Continue reading

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Ayasofya: 7 tips for visiting

Ayasofya (or Hagia Sophia in Greek) is one of Istanbul’s most iconic structures. It graces travel brochures and glossy magazines and has even made a cameo in video game Assassin’s Creed.

The 1,500-year-old structure is considered the most important of the Byzantine era and is one of the world’s great monuments. Completed in 537 AD, Ayasofya was the world’s largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years, until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520.

Ayasofya and its central dome, a giant 32 metres (105ft) in diameter, stands sentry over Istanbul, offering beguiling views both inside and out. Here’s how to make the most of your time there.  Continue reading

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The Blue Mosque dress code and tips for entry

The third or maybe fourth time I met Peter’s parents, I spent 10 minutes beforehand fretting that my top was too low.

Peter rolled his eyes. “For God’s sake, my mum wears lower-cut tops than that!”

I laughed, flung on a cardigan and readied to leave. His family are thankfully far more liberal than mine.

My neurosis about modesty – a hangover from my Muslim roots – sees me pinning together anything lower than a vicar’s collar any time I visit my Mum. Knowing this, you’ll understand why I was in a tizz over the Blue Mosque dress code and associated etiquette during our recent trip to Istanbul. Continue reading

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Jerash ruins of Jordan: a once great Roman city

The Jerash ruins of Jordan are said to be the best-preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy. At just 48km (30mi) north of Amman, Jerash is a great day trip from the capital. 

The modern city of Jerash sits alongside Gerasa of Antiquity, an ancient city housing some of the finest Greco-Roman architecture in the world. The city is positioned in Jordan’s countryside of fertile rolling hills and valleys filled with olive, plum trees, fig trees, pine forests and wheat crops. Continue reading

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Visiting the historic quarter of Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

We earmarked Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay as a place in which to stop and take a breather from our hectic travels. Much like our time in Tahiti in the South Pacific, we thought it would be an ideal place in which to pause for a few weeks and reset before continuing onto another chapter of our trip.

Unfortunately, by the time we reached Buenos Aires in Argentina – just 50km across the Río de la Plata – we were running desperately short on both funds and time. Therefore, what should have been an extended stay with some much-needed downtime turned into a brief stopover with little more than a whistle-stop tour of the major sights of the historic quarter (Barrio Histórico). 

Nonetheless, what we saw in Colonia del Sacramento, we liked. Continue reading

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Geeking out at Itaipu Dam

Peter thought I was joking when I suggested booking the special extended tour of Itaipu Dam. The mega-structure, split geographically and politically between Brazil and Paraguay, is one of the world’s largest hydroelectric projects. With 18 massive turbine generators and a reservoir stretching 160km (100mi), Itaipu Dam generates 90 million megawatt hours of energy every year. To put that into context, Brazil would have to burn 536 thousand barrels of oil per day to obtain equivalent energy from thermoelectric plants.

Naturally, I wanted to know more. Continue reading

7 cultural faux pas in London

On every corner: the extraordinary history of London

London lacks many things: picnic weather in July, a resilience to winter snow, an effective solution to the hipster invasion. What it does have in abundance – more so than almost any other city in the world – is an inexhaustible well of intriguing history. It spills forth from domes and spires, flows amid the currents of the River Thames, and rushes through the veins of our subterranean network.

In fact, so bountiful and broad is the history of London, one could easily walk past something different every day without realising its significance. Here we list 10 extraordinary historical sites hidden beneath a banal facade. Continue reading

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The Uros floating islands of Lake Titicaca, Peru

When we set out for this trip nearly a year ago, I knew that there would be certain places, certain experiences that would leave me awestruck. I knew I’d be wowed by Machu Picchu, stand in awe of Easter Island’s giant statues and gaze open-mouthed at Perito Moreno in Argentina. What I didn’t expect is that I’d be similarly lost for words on the man-made Uros floating islands of Lake Titicaca. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of them before arriving in Peru.

I guess that’s one of the wonders of travel: discovery. The floating islands of Uros are certainly one of the most charming discoveries of our trip so far. Here’s why. Continue reading

10 real-life fairytale buildings

One of the best parts of travel is visiting a surreal place previously seen only in pictures. Whether it’s an unknown abode hidden in the hills of Portugal or an iconic structure plastered in the pages of National Geographic, these places are eye catching, heart halting, jaw dropping. In short, they could be straight out of a storybook. Here are our favourite fairytale buildings from across the world. Continue reading