In search of the source: visiting the Blue Nile Falls

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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.

Leap of faith: hiking to the vertiginous Tigray churches

Tigray churches over the plains

To reach the Tigray churches of Ethiopia, one must scale sheer rock, inch along narrow ledges and skirt around yawning chasms – all in bare feet. Naturally, we leapt at the chance

I was feeling uncharacteristically nervous. It wasn’t the narrow ledges with sheer drops that had me spooked, but the prospect of climbing with ropes – something I’d never done before.

Danakil Depression tours: what to know before you go

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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.

Dallol: visiting the hottest place on earth

Dallol in Ethiopia, 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.

Best outdoor magazines: 10 mags for between adventures

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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.

Map projections: why the same world looks different

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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.

Largest islands in the world: 10 colossal coasts

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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.

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.

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.

Chasing the northern lights in Tromso

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We travelled 350km north of the Arctic Circle to chase the elusive northern lights in Tromso. Here’s what happened

I pulled the duvet up over my head and huddled against the headboard.

“I don’t want to go out,” I said, the words hot and sulky beneath the cover.

Peter pulled the duvet off the bed. “Come on, we’ve got to go.”

7 great travel mysteries from around the world

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If there’s one thing I enjoy more than a good adventure yarn, it’s a good adventure yarn with a mysterious ending. Here are some of my favourite travel mysteries from around the world (and one from  outside of it).

1. The Abandoned Mary Celeste

This now infamous ship was sighted on 4 December 1872 near the Azores on course for Gibraltar. The crew of the Dei Gratia, another vessel following a similar course, spotted the ship through a spyglass, noting that it was sailing “erratically, yawing slightly and her sails were torn”. As the Dei Gratia approached the eerily empty ship, its crew saw that there was no one at the helm or even on deck. The ship was taking on water but still seaworthy. The cargo of 1,701 barrels of alcohol was untouched and the ship’s clock was still ticking. The captain’s log was on board but no entries made since 24 November – some 10 days previously. There was no sign of a struggle – only a missing lifeboat and a frayed rope trailing from the stern of the ship.

12 maps that changed our world view

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In ode of this great instrument of adventure, we run through 12 maps that changed our world view starting where else but Greece?

There are few things that evoke the romanticism of adventure quite like a map – especially old maps. Full of exotic names (Persia, Abyssinia, Rhodesia!) and olde worlde lettering, they are reminiscent of a time when men sacrificed their lives for adventure and exploration.

Maps ignite hopes and inspire dreams. They encourage one to sail away from the safe harbour and, in the words of Mark Twain, to explore, to dream, to discover.

In ode of this great instrument of adventure, we run through 12 maps that changed our world view starting where else but Greece?

Cappadocia balloon ride: a fairytale flight

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A Cappadocia balloon ride gives passengers an unrivalled perspective of the area’s unique landscape of fairy chimneys, towering boulders and ridged valleys peppered with caves

We had already spent three days exploring the lunar-like environment of Cappadocia. We had hiked, driven, ‘caved’ and ridden our way around Göreme National Park (the modern encompassment of the historic region of Cappadocia) and were soon ready for a full, unobstructed view from above.

Poles of inaccessibility: the middle of nowhere

The poles of inaccessibility are arguably the true last frontiers for explorers. But where and what are they?

I’ve long been fascinated with the most remote places on Earth and the epic journeys of discovery to reach them. I’ve spent countless long mornings lying in bed leafing through giant reference books on the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration and even longer afternoons poring over immense maps detailing epic quests across untamed oceans.

Punta Arenas: following the Ferdinand Magellan route

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Punta Arenas overlooks the Strait of Magellan on the Ferdinand Magellan route and is home to the most famous ships in the history of navigation

The sprawling city of Punta Arenas, situated on the historic Ferdinand Magellan route, is not easy to define. It’s possible that the city itself is confused about its identity. Once a penal colony, it is today part roughneck, part modern metropolis, part open-air maritime museum.

The town’s position overlooking the coarse and inhospitable Strait of Magellan – the most important natural passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans – makes it essential to Chile’s maritime trade and provides access to the Antarctic peninsular.

5 tips for visiting La Mitad del Mundo

It is estimated that 90% of the world’s population live in the northern hemisphere. Prior to our big trip, the closest I came to the equator was Baros Island in the Maldives and had never actually visited a country south of the divide. Six months in the Pacific changed that, particularly our last-minute cruise on which we crossed the equator back into the northern half of the world. Two months after that, we found ourselves in Ecuador right by its eponymous equator.

Iguazu Falls boat ride: drenched beneath a natural wonder

The Iguazu Falls boat ride experience was frantic and completely exhilarating! Getting beneath the roaring cascades was like nothing I’ve ever experienced

Atlas & Boots recently co-hosted Lonely Planet’s natural wonders vs manmade sights #LPChat debate on Twitter.  We were both firmly in the natural wonders camp, with Mt Yasur volcano in Vanuatu and Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina among our top travel experiences of all time.