The oldest cities in the world

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.
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17 interesting facts about Paraguay

The most interesting facts about Paraguay we learnt during our visit to the country.

American essayist P.J. O’Rourke once quipped that Paraguay was “nowhere and famous for nothing.” He then took a business trip there, fell in love with the country and promptly moved there.

While we can’t say we felt the same striking attraction, we certainly appreciated Paraguay’s history and authenticity. The small and struggling country is a steamy subtropical land of remarkable contrasts with a tragic and torrid history filled with violence and loss.

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best Torres del Paine hiking trails, Chile

15 interesting facts about Chile

We share the most interesting facts about Chile collected on our breathtaking visit to this incredible country.

There is a tale that Chileans are fond of telling tourists. When God created the world, they say, he had a little bit of everything left over: deserts, lakes, mountains, glaciers and volcanoes, so he tossed it all together and created Chile.

This slither of land in South America is indeed one of the most diverse in the world. From the arid and alien landscapes of Atacama Desert to the lush greenery of the Lake District, Chile has something for everyone.

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interesting facts about bolivia

17 interesting facts about Bolivia

A selection of the most interesting facts about Bolivia we picked up during our visit.

Before we went to Bolivia, my entire education on the country came from this scene from the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Although our arrival in the country wasn’t quite as displeasing as Robert Redford’s, Bolivia did prove one of the more challenging countries we’ve visited. Cold showers, uninspiring cuisine and high altitude were just some of things we battled.

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15 interesting facts about Peru

Peru’s Machu Picchu tops bucket lists everywhere, most recently appearing at number three on Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist, a compilation of  500 unmissable attractions across the world ranked by the publisher’s global community of travel experts.

There’s no doubt that our Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu was one of the highlights of our trip around the world, but there’s certainly more to Peru. From gargantuan canyons to archaeological enigmas, this South American gem offers an abundance of culture and adventure. Here are the most interesting facts about Peru we picked up on our trip across its lands. Continue reading

words that don't exist in English: British flag

10 delightful words that don’t exist in English – but should

There are few nations preoccupied with social decorum as deeply as the Brits. We can have entire conversations consisting solely of the word ‘sorry’, we express our anger by apologising and when we’re really rageful we do such radical things as refusing to offer tea.

Our inability to cope with testing social situations is perfectly summed up in this delightful anecdote by The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy author, Douglas Adams.

English is a rich and diverse language but, alas, in some situations it leaves us lacking. Here, we describe 10 foreign words that don’t exist in English each of which perfectly describes a very real predicament. Continue reading

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18 interesting facts about Ecuador

A list of the most interesting facts about Ecuador we learnt during our time there.

Despite its relatively small size compared with local giants Brazil and Argentina, Ecuador is home to an astounding array of wonders that include picturesque colonial towns, Amazonian rainforest, the spectacular peaks of the Andes and of course the fragile but alluring Galápagos Islands

Whether it’s nature, wildlife, culture, anthropology or language, this diverse country is sure to impress.

Here are the most interesting facts about Ecuador we picked up on our journey through its lands (and seas).

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Adjusting to life in a tiny French village

There are certain connotations attached to country life. It’s either bourgeois and boring (if you adopt it) or insular and provincial (if you were born into it). Five years ago, the thought of spending several months in a tiny French village with nothing more than a bakery and a corner shop would have worried me. After a year on the road, however, it seemed like the perfect intermediary between the sweeping highs of travel and the challenges of city life. And, so, after a fleeting visit home, we packed our bags and moved to France for a few months. 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

Rio de Janeiro: the world’s most photogenic city?

We are ensconced in a small Copacabana hostel, the worst accommodation we’ve had in months. Contrary to the decidedly lovely pictures on the hostel website, our bedroom is tiny, stuffy, smelly and inexplicably noisy. With maddening frequency, a loud foghorn judders through the water pipes, keeping us up all night long. We don’t know what it is; just that it’s drip-driving us crazy. Continue reading

10 quirky things to do in Buenos Aires

After several weeks in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego at the southern reaches of the inhabited world, we were very much looking forward to thawing out in Buenos Aires, the “Paris of South America”. We arrived in the bohemian area of San Telmo an hour early and stood on a street corner, wondering where to go to await our host and the keys to our lovely apartment.

We saw a Starbucks sign glittering seductively in one corner and trudged towards it, backpacks growing weary on our shoulders. Alas, just as we arrived, the Starbucks shutters went down and the staff closed shop for the evening. Continue reading

24 interesting facts about the world’s least known countries

This is a subjective topic I know. What counts as an interesting fact? What counts as one of the world’s least known countries? There is no scientific answer but when this question was posed on Q&A site Quora, it certainly threw up some noteworthy particulars about some of the more obscure sovereign and not-so-sovereign states of the world. Below I’ve picked out some of the most interesting. Continue reading

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How do you really get to know a country?

As Kia and I enter the last few weeks of our big trip, naturally we are wondering how well we have come to know the countries we have visited. Over the last year or so, we have spent anything from just a few hours in a country to over two months and everything in between.

So, how do you really get to know a country? The answer is of course largely subjective, based on personal opinion rather than a delineated system. That said, there are certain factors that will always help or hinder. Continue reading

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6 interesting Easter Island facts

We examine the island’s history and explain some of the most interesting Easter Island facts. This remote Pacific island is not only beautiful but full of mystery. 

First thing’s first, Easter Island is far. Very, very far. 

Map of Easter Island

In fact, it is one of the most remote communities in the world. Its closest inhabited neighbour is Pitcairn, 2,000km (1,200mi) to the west while the nearest continental land lies in Chile at a distance of 3,700km (2,300mi). In short, it’s not a short hop.

And so the question one must ask is: are the Easter Island statues worth the slog? Are these great hunks of rock worth the expense of a long voyage? Continue reading

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14 cheap things to do in Santiago, Chile

After two months of continuous travel, we decided to take a few days of downtime in Santiago. We had spent no more than two nights in any one place as we raced to get to Patagonia before winter and as a result were feeling pretty fried and in desperate need of some comfort – especially after the challenges of Bolivia. With this in mind we decided to rent a super-modern self-catering apartment in central Santiago for a few days. 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

things about the British

Checking my privilege: why travel reminds me I’m not as smart as I think

I never felt poor until I went to university. I was one of eight siblings that grew up in a Tower Hamlets council house (vouchers for my school uniform, free school meals), but I never felt that my family was poor until I entered higher education. There, my peer-set changed from Bengali girls like me to those whose families owned second homes, second cars and even thriving businesses – not international conglomerates like you might find at Oxbridge, but impressive nonetheless: a diamond shop in west London, a doctor’s surgery in Surrey, an accountancy firm in Redbridge. Continue reading

La Paz walking tour

10 things we learned on the La Paz walking tour

Few cities have a setting as dramatic as La Paz. At 3,650m above sea level, it is often called the the world’s highest capital even though this isn’t strictly true. The country’s official capital is Sucre which lies 690km to the southeast. Nevertheless, La Paz has long been Bolivia’s political and commercial hub, and a customary stop for tourists. The sprawling city is cradled in a canyon, offering dramatic views of the Andes in the distance. The curves of its valley are blanketed by the makeshift housing of the poor, stubbornly clinging to the steepest of inclines. It is in essence a city of two tales: on one hand, a modern metropolis with cable cars transporting its citizens to dizzying heights; on the other, a rickety old town wedded to beliefs verging on alchemy. Continue reading