Star struck: exploring the world’s Dark Sky Reserves

Stars shine over the South DownsDreamstime

International Dark Sky Reserves are protected areas that offer exceptionally starry nights. We review the 16 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.

Happiest countries in the world 2020

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The happiest countries in the world 2020 have been ranked in the latest World Happiness Report. For the third year running, Finland holds on to top spot

Happiness is a nebulous thing; hard to grasp and harder to hold onto. Scientists, economists and philosophers have defined it through the ages as a combination of different things, among them health, wealth, companionship and security.

Map projections of the world: which one is the best?

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We explore the most common map projections of the world, how they work and which one is the best

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”.

Non-technical mountain climbs: 12 trekking peaks

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There are no ‘death zones’ on these non-technical mountain climbs but they offer plenty of challenges for mere mortals like me

As a climber, I have completed several indoor climbing and winter mountaineering courses but my technical climbing skills sill 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.

Most peaceful countries in the world 2020

most peaceful countries in the world 2020

The most peaceful countries in the world have been updated for 2020. Read our insights from the study and browse the rankings below

Global peacefulness has declined for the fourth time in the last five years, according to the latest Global Peace Index (GPI) report.

The GPI report is the only statistical measure of its kind and makes it possible to rank 163 independent states based on how peaceful they are. The 163 states cover over 99.7% of the world’s population and are assessed using 23 indicators, each banded or normalised on a scale of 1-5.

Poorest countries in the world – ranked

interesting facts about Ethiopia poor countryAtlas & Boots

African nations dominate the ranking of the poorest countries in the world based on the latest data from the World Bank

We all have preconceptions about places. Take Ethiopia for example. As children of the eighties, Kia and I were only too aware of the struggles Ethiopia has faced historically: political unrest, civil war and, of course, famine.

It was easy then to imagine a vast desolate dust bowl ahead of our visit in 2017. 

19 interesting facts about Ecuador

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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).

Canyoning in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Canyoning in La Fortuna with its waterfall rappels and cavernous ‘falls’ proved to be Costa Rica’s biggest thrill of all

Beneath the hulking slopes of Arenal Volcano in northwestern Costa Rica is the small town of La Fortuna. With a wealth of natural attractions nearby including lush rainforest, extensive hiking trails, myriad hot springs and two gargantuan volcanoes (Cerro Chato is also within easy reach), it’s not the town itself that draws visitors to this green district of Costa Rica.

Santa Elena Cloud Forest: a fairytale hike in Costa Rica

Cloud forest covers only 1% of global woodlandAtlas & Boots

Santa Elena Cloud Forest was the highlight of our trip to Costa Rica. Here, we try to explain why

If you Google ‘best things to do in Costa Rica’, it’s unlikely you’ll find Santa Elena Cloud Forest among the top results, which is strange given that it was the best part of our nine-day visit.

Had we been travelling independently, we may have skipped it entirely. As luck would have it, our National Geographic Expedition to Costa Rica included a visit to Santa Elena Cloud Forest as a core activity.

Withering heights: saving Monteverde Cloud Forest

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We visit Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica and learn that despite its visible vibrancy, there’s more to it than meets the eye

In some ways, Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica is its own worst enemy. This dark and dripping place teems with life. Strangler figs tower above the forest floor, their trunks as sturdy as stone. Lush mosses and filmy ferns carpet the canopy in green while spindles of yellow justicia and vibrant red passiflora add a slash of colour.

Our epic self-drive safari through Namibia

Safari in Etosha National Park Namibia 25

Our self-drive safari through Namibia showed us the finest wildlife and landscapes this arresting country has to offer

I landed in Namibia three days ahead of Kia. She had some book-related business to wrap up in London so I arrived alone to begin a 17-day self-drive safari through Namibia with Wild Dog Safaris.

We’ve always had mixed feelings when it comes to organised tours. We’ve often preferred to piece together our trips independently to make sure we see exactly what we want. That said, there are some parts of the world – be it for logistical or security reasons – where an organised tour just makes more sense.

23 tips for visiting Sossusvlei in Namibia

elf-drive safari through Namibia SossusvleiAtlas & Boots

Our tips for visiting Sossusvlei will ensure your visit to Namibia’s most popular attraction is as exhilarating as it should be

Last year, Kia and I shared a list of the countries we most want to see. First on my list was Namibia, largely because of Sossusvlei. I’ve been desperate to photograph this incredible landscape ever since I saw the stark silhouettes of its seemingly petrified trees pitched against a brazen blue sky and vibrant desert dune in a National Geographic photo essay years ago.

Visiting Kolmanskop, the ghost town in the Namib Desert

Swallowed by sand in Kolmanskop ghost townAtlas & Boots

Once a booming diamond town, Kolmanskop has long been abandoned to desert sands. We took a trip to its eerie scenes

Our trip to Namibia was a long time coming. Almost two years ago, we published a list of the countries we most want to see. At the top of Peter’s list was Namibia, but due to family circumstances, we delayed the trip until we could commit a decent length of time. Finally, at the tail end of this year, we made it to Windhoek to start a 17-day self-drive safari.

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.

10 long-distance hiking trails from around the world

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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?

Salt of the earth: visiting Lac Assal in Djibouti

interesting facts about Djibouti Lac AssalAtlas & Boots

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.