Happiest countries in the world 2019

The happiest countries in the world 2019 have been ranked in the latest World Happiness Report. This year, Finland holds on to the 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.

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Most dangerous countries in the world 2019 – ranked

The most dangerous countries in the world have been updated for 2019. Read our insights from the study and browse the rankings below.

The world has become slightly less dangerous for the first time in five years, according to the latest Global Peace Index (GPI) report. However, over the last 10 years the world has become more dangerous overall with the average level of global peacefulness deteriorating by 3.78%.

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19 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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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.

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Santa Elena Cloud Forest: a fairytale hike in Costa Rica

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.

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Withering heights: saving Monteverde Cloud Forest

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.

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Our epic self-drive safari through Namibia

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. Continue reading

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23 tips for visiting Sossusvlei in Namibia

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.

The photographs created a surreal Disney-esque scene that I was never quite sure was real. Well, it’s real alright.  Continue reading

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Visiting Kolmanskop, the ghost town in the Namib Desert

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. Continue reading

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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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

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

In 2017, we spent a month travelling through Ethiopia and Djibouti. 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.

By 2017, however, Ethiopia had the fastest-growing economy in the world and was named by Lonely Planet as one of the best countries to visit that year. Change is happening, but it’s slow.

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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