Exploring Hell’s Canyon in Catalonia

Hell’s Canyon in Catalonia reminds us once again why we fell in love with the great outdoors.

“Eat a big breakfast,” said Jordi – four words that told me I’d have a hell of a morning. I’m not one for big breakfasts, but I’ve learned that when an uber-fit mountain guide tells you to have one, you should have one.

I added lashings of pa amb tomàquet to my plate, a simple but delicious Catalan dish of bread, tomato and olive oil. I ate toast and nutella and cheese and crackers and cereal and yoghurt and washed it down with two cups of tea. Then I ate more pa amb tomàquet. There was no way I’d be running low today. Continue reading

Star struck: exploring the world’s Dark Sky Reserves

International Dark Sky Reserves are protected areas that offer exceptionally starry nights. We review the 13 places that hold this hallowed status.

They sound like something out of Star Trek, these ‘Dark Sky Reserves’ – like they may have been conjured one evening in a lively LA writers room. Unlike the ‘Delta Quadrant’ or ‘Delphic Expanse’, however, International Dark Sky Reserves actually exist.

We at Atlas & Boots hadn’t heard of them until our recent trip to New Zealand‘s Aoraki Mackenzie, one of the world’s 13 Dark Sky Reserves. Continue reading

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Happiest countries in the world 2018

The happiest countries in the world of 2018 have been ranked in the latest World Happiness Report. This year, Finland has snatched the title knocking Norway into second.

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a global initiative for the United Nations, has published this year’s World Happiness Report. The SDSN employs an international group of economists, neuroscientists and statisticians to survey citizens on their subjective wellbeing and produce a comprehensive annual list of the happiest countries in the world.

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10 long-distance hiking trails from around the world

We look at some of the finest long-distance hiking trails from around the world.

I’m always looking for new outdoor challenges (to add to my current bucket list of climbing the seven summits and sailing the Pacific Ocean). Completing some epic long-distance hiking trails sounds like the perfect challenge for me.

Traipsing along quiet hiking trails in the backcountry for weeks on end is my idea of heaven (and I dare say Kia would enjoy the time away from me too!). But, which one to choose? Continue reading

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Salt of the earth: visiting Lac Assal in Djibouti

We visit Lac Assal in the Afar Depression where three diverging tectonic plates have created some of the strangest sights we’ve seen.

Lac Assal in Djibouti is wickedly deceiving. At first, it appears as a glorious expanse of blue-green water and blinding white sand, easily mistaken for a Maldivian beach. Behind the facade, however, lies a painful lesson: the vast white plain is not sand at all but salt: jagged shards that bristle on skin and leave you itching for water. Continue reading

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Lac Abbé in Djibouti: apocalypse wow

Lac Abbé in Djibouti is both desolate and apocalyptic. Seeing this eerie moonscape is a surreal experience like little else on Earth. 

It turns out that the 1968 film Planet of the Apes was not filmed in Lac Abbé in Djibouti, as proudly claimed by several guidebooks, numerous blogs, countless Djiboutian tour guides and even international newspapers. The producers didn’t even leave the Western United States.

This is a crying shame firstly because Lac Abbé is a suitably apocalyptic filming location and secondly because there goes Djibouti’s only claim to fame. Continue reading

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Poorest countries in the world – ranked

Africa dominates the ranking of the poorest countries in the world based on the latest data from the World Bank.

Last year, we spent a month travelling through Ethiopia. Growing up in the eighties, we were only too aware of the struggles Ethiopia had faced historically: political unrest, civil war and, of course, famine.

However, in 2017, Ethiopia had the fastest-growing economy in the world and was named by Lonely Planet as one of its Best in Travel countries of that year. Change is happening, but it’s still slow.  Continue reading

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Arctic vs. Antarctic: how to pick your polar adventure

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. Continue reading

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In search of the source: visiting the Blue Nile Falls

The Blue Nile Falls in Ethiopia may not be a match for its grander neighbours, but following the footsteps of famous explorers still makes for a fine day out.

The Blue Nile Falls – or Tis Abay in Amharic, meaning “great smoke” – is a somewhat poor relation to the famous waterfalls found in listicles. It’s no Angel, Iguazu, Victoria or Niagara, but the 42m-high (138ft) Blue Nile Falls still offers a dramatic display. Continue reading

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Danakil Depression tours: what to know before you go

Danakil Depression tours provide a fascinating look at a remote part of the world. We lend some insight into what you should know before you go.

By certain measures, the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia is considered to be the hottest place on earth with temperatures regularly reaching 45°C (113°F). Despite the challenges involved in visiting such a remote and hostile environment, there are numerous Danakil Depression tours on offer.

Surprisingly, tour companies tend to provide very little information for their would-be customers. Key information such as what to expect and what to pack is missing from most tour company websites. Continue reading

Dallol in Ethiopia, the hottest place on Earth

Dallol: visiting the hottest place on earth

We visit Dallol, a collapsed volcano crater filled with acid ponds, poisonous chlorine and sulphur gases, inside the Danakil Depression of Ethiopia.

I wasn’t daunted at the prospect of visiting Dallol, dubbed the hottest place on Earth. Despite its temperatures regularly reaching 45°C (113°F), I knew that after visiting Erta Ale volcano in the region, Dallol would be a walk in the park – if the park was a collapsed volcano crater filled with acid ponds and geysers, poisonous chlorine and sulphur gases.

Dallol lies 116m (380ft) below sea level in the Danakil Depression of the Afar region in Ethiopia and is part of the East African Rift where three continental plates are being torn apart. Continue reading

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10 best outdoor magazines

Outdoor magazines are a well-deserved indulgence for those who love hiking, camping, climbing, wildlife and the great outdoors. We list our favourite below.

One thing I dearly miss from my less-nomadic life is magazines. In the age of internet clickbait, printed publications still have an allure that a computer or smartphone screen just can’t replicate. Whether through fascinating features on the latest first ascent, a thru-hiker’s account of a long-distance hiking trail or stunning photography from the world’s protected lands, outdoor magazines have always piqued my imagination. Continue reading

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Map projections: why the same world looks different

We explore the most common map projections in use today, how they work and why they make the same world look so very different.

Kia is usually described as the geek in our relationship. She’s the one with a computer science degree, she’s the one with the editor’s eye and she’s the Star Trek fan who describes herself as Seven of Nine… which is cool apparently? A friend of hers recently described her as “the one who puts the apostrophe in rock ‘n’ roll”.

That said, I have a few streaks of geek in me too. I’m a bit of a history nerd and can talk at great length about photography lenses and filters. But above all, I love maps. One day, perhaps when we win the lottery and can afford a house with more than one bedroom, I will have a cartography room dedicated to my scores of Ordnance Survey maps, my collection of outdated classroom maps featuring names like Rhodesia and Bechuanaland, and my assortment of hulking atlases and creaking globes. Continue reading

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Colossal coasts: 10 largest islands in the world

We take a look at the largest islands in the world, from deserted Ellesmere Island in the Arctic Circle to metropolitan Honshu in Japan.

We’ve spent a fair amount of time on islands. Not only were we born and raised on one, but island destinations appear to be a reoccurring theme on our travels.

In 2014, we started Atlas & Boots with a six-month journey across the South Pacific via Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Hawaii. Our latest extended trip has seen us spend a month in Sri Lanka shortly followed by another in Mauritius. Continue reading

Mountains for mortals: 12 non-technical mountain climbs

As a climber, I have completed several indoor climbing and winter mountaineering courses but my technical climbing skills still leave a lot to be desired. I have mastered basic rope, ice axe and crampon skills but don’t practise them as often as I’d like. All too often I only find time for some wilderness backpacking in Europe or low-altitude scrambling in the UK. Regardless, I still have high hopes of climbing the seven summits. One day…

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The world is not getting better

Life for humans may be improving but what about everything else that shares our planet?

In trying times, social media users tend to share think pieces, charts and graphics proving that humanity has never had it so good.

These graphics focus on the growth of lovely things like basic education, literacy, democracy and vaccination, and the decline of awful things like extreme poverty and child mortality.

The charts are often accompanied by pithy captions like “awesome proof that humanity hasn’t actually botched it.” Continue reading

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12 of Earth’s most remote places and communities

Whether it’s astronomical distances, inhospitable climates or extreme terrains that define these remote and hostile lands, there’s one thing they all have in common: they’re on my bucket list. That and the fact that people live there.

It’s highly unlikely I’ll actually make it to many (if any) of these far-flung desolate realms, but I salute the hardcore residents who carve out an existence in the most remote places and communities on Earth. Continue reading

Visiting Kon Tiki, the raft that crossed an ocean

In 1947, Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl crossed the Pacific Ocean on Kon Tiki, a rudimentary raft made of balsa wood. We took a trip to see the legendary vessel.

“Your mother and father will be very grieved when they hear of your death,” Thor Heyerdahl was told as he prepared to cross the Pacific by raft.

The raft’s dimensions were wrong, it was so small it would founder at sea, the balsa logs would break under strain or become waterlogged a quarter distance into sea, gales and hurricanes would wash the crew overboard, and salt water would slough the skin right off their legs – there was no end to the warnings. Continue reading