I’ve officially travelled the world. Here’s what I’ve learnt

lessons from travelling the world

Seven years ago, I asked a question on Quora: what qualifies as having travelled the world? It prompted an interesting discussion there and, later, here on our own site. We decided that it wasn’t the number of countries visited or borders crossed that mattered, but the number of Risk map regions you had seen. The logic was that visiting half of the 42 Risk regions would offer a better sampling of the world.

Swimming with whale sharks in Djibouti

interesting facts about Djibouti whale sharks in djibouti close upAtlas & Boots

Swimming with whale sharks in Djibouti promised to be the highlight of our trip – but would it live up to the hype?

I’m a pessimist and Peter’s the opposite, so while he was brimming with anticipation at the prospect of swimming with whale sharks in Djibouti, I sat dolefully in a corner wondering if a) we would even see a whale shark and b) if I would be able to keep up with it.

Arctic vs. Antarctic: how to pick your polar adventure

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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.

Visiting Erta Ale volcano: the ‘hike to hell and back’

Erta Ale has been described at as the hike to hell and backAtlas & Boots

Erta Ale in Ethiopia is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and looms above a deadly desert. We ask if it’s worth the risk

The 4×4 steams across the desert, lurching over rocks and cracks. Sand whips against the window, almost liquid in its motion. Immediately behind me sits our military escort: two men with automatic rifles slung casually across their laps.

I hate to say it, but there is a distinct sense of lawlessness in the air. I hate to because this is Africa and, for centuries, westerners have come to the continent to gather tales of risk and adventure for recounting at dinner parties over and cheese and wine.

I don’t want to be that guy, but it’s true: here, in the Danakil Depression in the Afar Region of Ethiopia, it really does feel like anything could happen.

Mont Saint-Michel tips: 10 dos and don’ts

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Essential Mont Saint-Michel 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.

World’s most stunning big wall climbs

The Tsaranoro Massif is known as 'Africa’s Yosemite'Dreamstime

It was five years ago that I first came across a big wall climber. A tiny speck on the side of a gigantic granite wall, the climber was bivvying in Yosemite National Park, the Holy Land of big wall climbing.

I couldn’t comprehend how someone could sleep tacked onto the side of a wall, suspended thousands of feet above the ground, sometimes in treacherous weather conditions.

The most extreme places on Earth

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We explore the most extreme places on Earth. Crazy destinations where humans find ways to exist in harsh and hostile environments

I’ve always been fascinated by tough environments and particularly by the explorers who have braved them. When researching the most remote places on Earth I came across several extreme environments that simply were not designed for human inhabitation or travel.

However, we humans are a race of perseverance and often find ways to exist in these harsh and hostile lands. Here are just a few of the most extreme places on Earth.

The countries we most want to see

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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.

Chasing the northern lights in Tromso

We travelled 350km north of the Arctic Circle to chase the elusive northern lights in Tromso. Here’s what happened

I pulled the duvet up over my head and huddled against the headboard.

“I don’t want to go out,” I said, the words hot and sulky beneath the cover.

Peter pulled the duvet off the bed. “Come on, we’ve got to go.”

11 cool passport stamps of the world

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Some unusual passport stamps to collect on your travels including microstates, geographical landmarks, inaccessible lands and a range of historical sights

It may not be fashionable but I’m a bit of a box-ticker when it comes to travel. I have a list of the countries I’ve visited and I keep track of memorable places such the highest, lowest and driest I’ve visited. I’m also rather proud of my passports (past and present) that have filled up with the stamps I’ve collected.

US national parks: 20 weird and wonderful sights

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US national parks offer a delightful assortment of sights, from trees that existed at the time of dinosaurs to the most active volcano in the world

As spring takes hold in earnest, nearly all US national parks are preparing for a special week.

The National Park Service turns 100 years old this year and, to celebrate, is offering free entrance to over 120 US national parks and monuments on select dates. These include 16-24th April for National Park Week, 25th-28th for the official National Park Service birthday, 24th September for National Public Lands Day and 11th November for Veterans Day, as well as Martin Luther King Jr. Day which was on 18th January.

To help promote this fantastic celebration of the great outdoors, Atlas & Boots has hand-picked 20 weird and wonderful sights from a number of US national parks that you can see for free next week.

Most active volcanoes in the world

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From stewing lava lakes to lethal eruptions, we chart the most active volcanoes in the world

Volcanoes are inarguably nature’s most fearsome wonder. They feature in tales of ardour and heroism, tower terrifyingly above humble settlements and whisper threats of violence and destruction. They are overwhelming in both sight and sound and uniquely exhilarating for the intrepid observer.

The world’s most active volcanoes in particular offer a terrifying beauty irresistible to thrillseekers.

The oldest cities in the world

oldest cities in the world

The Middle East is home to the oldest cities in the world, some which are flourishing and some which are fighting. We take a look at the very oldest ones

There’s a certain aesthetic attached to the oldest cities in the world: bustling souks beneath a bright blue sky, flowing garments made of whispery white cotton, stone masonry painted yellow by the sun.

In reality, however, the oldest cities in the world have faced deep unrest throughout their long histories. Tragically, some are still uninhabitable. The Syrian town of Aleppo, for example, is likely the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world but rages with civil war today. Damascus too is categorically off limits.

15 crazy roads from across the world

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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).

10 real-life fairytale buildings

Eye catching, heart halting, jaw dropping: 10 real-life fairytale buildings straight from a Grimms’ tale

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.