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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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10 weird and wonderful sights in Cornwall

From Arthurian legends to dramatic moorlands, we share the best sights in Cornwall for a quintessential English break.

Cornwall may not be on par with diving in Djibouti or volcanoes in Vanuatu, but it holds a special place in my heart. It was in Cornwall that I took my first trip away from my parents (at the age of 10 on a school residential).

In fact, visiting Cornwall was my second holiday ever. I’d never been hiking, never been camping and had seldom seen a beach, so Cornwall was a complete novelty.

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17 interesting facts about Eswatini (Swaziland)

We share the most interesting facts about Eswatini collected on our brisk but beguiling sojourn into ‘Africa’s newest kingdom’.

We had been in southern Africa for nearly three weeks by the time we arrived in Eswatini, our fourth country of the trip. Having spent two weeks driving around Namibia and exploring Etosha National Park, one of Africa’s great wildlife destinations, we thought we’d seen all the African wildlife we were going to see.

What could 36 hours in Eswatini possibly show us that a 17-day Namibian safari did not?

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18 interesting facts about Costa Rica

We share the most interesting facts about Costa Rica collected during our visit to this diverse destination.

The tiny republic of Costa Rica is a Central American success story. Democratic, prosperous and stable, the country is an oasis in the midst of an often-turbulent region of the world.

We visited Costa Rica for nine days on our first ever National Geographic Expedition. Highlights included clambering the slopes of a misty volcanic peak, hiking through fairytale cloud forest in Santa Elena, searching for sloths in Manuel Antonio National Park and planting trees at the Monteverde Institute.

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World’s most powerful passport 2019

Travelling can be a bureaucratic nightmare for those on restricted passports. Here we look at the best passport to have in 2019 based on the freedom it provides.

Ten years ago, in my first job after graduation, I shared an office with a researcher called Munir who I nicknamed Dr2 because he not only had a PhD but was also qualified as a medical doctor. (I recognise it’s not the wittiest name in the world but it was the best I could do at the time.)

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17 interesting facts about Lesotho

We share the most interesting facts about Lesotho collected on our brief but breathtaking visit to the ‘Kingdom of the Sky’.

We had only 36 hours in the tiny Kingdom of Lesotho, but it turned out to be a gem of a trip, throwing up plenty of surprises along the way. We reached Lesotho via the twisty Sani Pass with a local expert from Roof of Africa.

Lesotho is tiny and one of the least known countries in the world, yet it is a land full of fascinating facts. A mere 36 hours was nowhere near enough and we’ve pledged to return one day.

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20 interesting facts about Ireland

We share the most interesting facts about Ireland, gathered on a short hop to the country’s Reeks District.  

My latest trip to Ireland took me to an area of the country I had never visited: the newly renamed Reeks District. I spent my time hiking, kayaking, surfing and learning that there’s much more to Ireland than wild waters and high hills.

The island has a reputation rich in history, tradition, literature and music, not to mention its charismatic and friendly people. Over the years, I’ve picked up numerous interesting facts about Ireland. Here, I share my favourites. Continue reading

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6 characteristics that define human nature

It was on a hike across Isla Del Sol in Bolivia a few years ago that I first wondered how many animals walk for pleasure – not to hunt or feed, not to find shelter or warmth, but to enjoy the act of walking itself.

I asked the question on Quora to rather unsatisfying results. The question arose again on our recent Abel Tasman hike and led me to wonder what other characteristics are unique or largely restricted to humans. This in turn led me to an old issue of New Scientist magazine and a fascinating set of articles on the six things all humans do. Some are obvious, some are amusing. All trigger a flush of recognition and a sense of belonging. 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

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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

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Crowd control: the world’s least densely populated countries

Are those living in the world’s least densely populated countries happier than those living in more crowded ones? 

Finland was recently named the happiest country in the world. As with previous years, it is clear that developed, conflict-free nations with stable governments tend to rank higher in these indexes.

What’s interesting is that many of the world’s happiest countries also have relatively low population density. Finland, Norway, Iceland, CanadaNew Zealand and Australia all have fewer than 20 people per square kilometre (followed closely by Sweden with 22.12), and all appear in the top 10 happiest countries. 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

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17 interesting facts about Djibouti

From eerie landscapes to magnificent marine life, we take a look at the most interesting facts about Djibouti.

Before we explored Djibouti, I would have struggled to point to this tiny speck of a nation on a map. Situated in the Horn of Africa among some volatile neighbours, the country is unlikely to appear on many bucket lists – a shame given its wealth of beauty.

Djibouti is home to the otherworldly landscapes of Lac Abbé and Lac Assal, fascinating diving, magnificent marine life including whale sharks as well as a charming wildlife sanctuary. Continue reading

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Things to do in Djibouti City

We take a look at the best things to do in Djibouti City – the country’s sole metropolis.

Let’s face it: you don’t come to Djibouti, a tiny speck of a country in the Horn of Africa, to visit its city. You come to Djibouti to swim with the whale sharks, see the belching chimneys at Lac Abbé and frolic in the gin clear waters of Lac Assal, the lowest point in Africa.

That said, if you have a few hours spare, wandering the capital is worth the time. As you will no doubt be told during your stay, Djibouti City is virtually crime-free given the heavy military presence and is therefore largely safe to explore on foot – which is exactly what we did. Continue reading

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22 interesting facts about Ethiopia

From violent volcanoes to luminous lakes, we take a look at the most interesting facts about Ethiopia.

Ethiopia’s unique mix of fascinating history, deep-rooted identity, incredible natural wonders and rare wildlife makes its one of the most intriguing places on Earth.

The country is home to landscapes as diverse as deserts, volcanoes and highlands, architecture ranging from rock-hewn churches to medieval-style castles, and wildlife that includes rare species such as the gelada baboon, the walia ibex and the Ethiopian wolf. Continue reading

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World’s best countries for women 2017

The best countries for women in terms of gender equality have been announced by the World Economic Forum in the new edition of its annual Global Gender Gap report.

The 2017 report assesses 144 economies on how well they utilise the female workforce in their country based on economic, educational, health-based and political indicators. The report can be used as an objective analysis of women’s quality of life compared with male peers, and to thereby rank the world’s best countries for women in terms of gender equality. Continue reading

21 interesting facts about Mauritius

We share the most interesting facts about Mauritius, gathered on our month-long journey across the stunning country.

After trips to the Maldives, Fiji and French Polynesia, we wondered if Mauritius would live up to the established standard. The vision peddled in brochures is of course of great blue lagoons and powdery white beaches, but unlike the aforementioned places, Mauritius comprises one main island instead of a great swathe scattered across the ocean. Would true seclusion be hard to find? Continue reading

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15 best books about Myanmar

We wrap up our series on this extraordinary country by browsing through the best books about Myanmar and the insights offered within their pages.

Before I visit a country, I like to read a book or two about the destination to get a sense of the place and culture. For Myanmar, it had to be George Orwell’s Burmese Days, a dark and fascinating insight into British colonial Burma and the disgust Orwell felt towards the system he was a part of.  Continue reading