17 interesting facts about Catalonia

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We share the most interesting facts about Catalonia gathered on our recent trip to the Catalan Pyrenees

Located in Spain’s far northeastern corner, the Pyrenean mountains serve as Catalonia’s border with southern France and Andorra. Catalonia is both an autonomous community within Spain and a historic principality that once extended into France.

20 interesting facts about Ireland

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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.

24 interesting facts about Australia

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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.

Exploring Cooktown, Captain Cook’s historic landing site

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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.

Crowd control: the world’s least densely populated countries

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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.

World firsts: exploring UNESCO’s original World Heritage sites

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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.

17 interesting facts about Djibouti

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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.

22 interesting facts about Ethiopia

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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.

Exploring Gondar castle in the ‘Camelot of Africa’

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Ahead of a three-day trek in the Simien wilds, we take a breather to explore the magnificent Gondar castle

Gondar castle is improbable. It’s improbable in size, style and design, but mostly in location. After all, this is Ethiopia and if TIA is to be believed, we should be looking at desertscapes dotted with baobab trees, not a Camelot in the sun.

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?

15 best books about Myanmar

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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. 

22 interesting facts about Myanmar

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We reflect on the interesting facts about Myanmar we learnt during our cycling tour through the country

As a tourist destination, Myanmar may be young, but it is rich in history and culture. After decades under oppressive military rule, the country is finally opening up. Tourist numbers are beginning to swell, exiles are returning from the wild and a wave of uncensored media is increasingly available to a newly optimistic population.

A break from Buddhism on Inle Lake, Myanmar

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The variety of things to do on Inle Lake provides a different look at life in Myanmar

Burma without Buddhism would be like Rome without religion: a land shorn of identity, bereaved of its most vivid colours. There’s no question that Buddhism with its extraordinary monuments and monasteries makes the country what it is: spiritual, mystical and all those other adjectives western writers apply to eastern exoticism.

Burma, now known as Myanmar, is the East of the brochures: of mists rising on tranquil lakes and berobed monks in echoing chambers. Myanmar does not disappoint. But, much like Angkor Wat in Cambodia, it can wear out all but the most avid temple goers.

With this in mind, I was pleased to have a day on Inle Lake with plenty of variety. There were stupas and monasteries (naturally), but also extraordinary locals that provided a tiny slice of life on the lake.

Hiking to Yazakyi Monastery in Myanmar

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We hiked to Yazakyi Monastery above the Burmese village of Pindaya and found a picturesque settlement straight from the pages of National Geographic

On my last visit to London, I asked my niece to grab a tenner from my wallet for the pizza fund. (We have a family of eight siblings and 21 nieces and nephews, so ordering pizza requires a basic level of crowdfunding.)

She rifled through my wallet, first pulling out some US dollars, then my tattered entrance card to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, then the business card of a tourism official in Malawi. She smiled cheekily and said, “Ada marayreh?”.

The Bengali phrase – which loosely translates to ‘flouncing about’ or ‘gallivanting’ – is usually used pejoratively by prim auntie-jis to chide young women for venturing outside and being seen in ‘improper’ situations (e.g. walking with a boy, entering a cinema, going on holiday).

Bicycle diaries: a cycling tour of Myanmar

Our cycling tour of Myanmar provided the perfect insight into Burmese culture coupled with the kind of outdoor adventure we love

Readers of this blog will be well aware that I prefer my adventures on two feet rather than two wheels. Given the choice, I will usually opt for hiking instead of biking. However, when we had the chance to spend two weeks cycling Myanmar with G Adventures I wasn’t going to pass on the opportunity.

15 best books about Sri Lanka

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We wrap up our series on the tiny tropical island by perusing the best books about Sri Lanka 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 Sri Lanka, I chose Roma Tearne’s Brixton Beach. Tearne, a Sri Lankan born novelist living in Britain, provided the perfect introduction to our trip.

How to find calm amid the chaos in Colombo, Sri Lanka

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Colombo isn’t as frenetic as other Asian capitals, but it’s still a busy working city. Here are five ways to find calm amid the chaos at any time of day

Home to nearly six million people, Colombo is the commercial capital and largest city of Sri Lanka. There is no metro or tram system so there’s no escape from the rumbling buses, tooting tuk-tuks and tinted cars that clog the wide boulevards.

Things to do in Bergen: 7 sights not to miss

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We take a look at the best things to do in Bergen, Norway – an excellent blend of nature, culture and exciting city living

Seven fjords, seven hills and an old-world fishing wharf help make Bergen in Norway the perfect destination for a weekend getaway.

Bergen may be one of the rainiest cities in Europe but it’s also a vibrant cultural center with superb access to the western fjords. The city offers an excellent blend of nature and culture and, despite the damp, we loved it. Here’s what we suggest for a long weekend.