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more than one bedroom, I will have a cartography room dedicated to my scores of Ordnance Survey maps, my collection of outdated classroom maps featuring names like Rhodesia and Bechuanaland, and my assortment of hulking atlases and creaking globes.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

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 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

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

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The best national parks in the world – by continent

The best way to see the world’s greatest natural wonders is to visit the best national parks in the world. Thankfully, governments around the world have taken steps to preserve their areas of outstanding natural beauty, their diverse animal and marine life, and tracts of pristine wilderness.

From the plains and deserts of Africa to the waterfalls and glaciers of South America, every continent has something different to offer. Here we list the best national parks in the world by continent.

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Chasing the northern lights in Tromso new feat

Chasing the northern lights in Tromso

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.”

I sighed wearily and dragged myself up. It’s true: I didn’t want to go out. We were in the Arctic Circle for God’s sake! It was six in the evening and freezing outside! And dark! And freezing! Continue reading

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7 great travel mysteries from around the world

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. Continue reading

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12 maps that changed our world view

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?
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Cappadocia balloon ride: a fairytale flight

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. Continue reading

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Visiting Pamukkale: tips to know before you go

Pamukkale, though Turkey’s most popular attraction by numbers, is barely known outside its country borders. It’s the iconic architecture of Istanbul and the cave dwellings of Cappadocia that steal the spotlight, but Pamukkale with its cascading travertine terraces deserves attention as well.

Sweeping limestone cliffs of a blinding white hue rise above pools of powder blue. Petrified stakes of limestone hang from chalky roots – like in Superman’s fortress of solitude or a Tim Burton nightmare if his nightmares were good.

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10 epic journeys of discovery

Humans are an intrepid race. For centuries, explorers have disappeared over the horizon in search of new lands and distant shores on epic journeys of discovery. Thanks to these pioneers we’re able to follow in their footsteps now and forevermore.

As a new generation of visionaries – from SpaceX’s Elon Musk to Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson – look forward to new frontiers, we cast an eye back and pay homage to history’s most epic endeavours thus far. Continue reading

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.

It was the names of Amundsen, Livingstone and Magellan and their unfathomable tales of distant lands, high seas and adventure that first inspired me to travel. For modern explorers the poles of inaccessibility represent the outer limits of mankind’s grip on our planet.

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Punta Arenas: following the Ferdinand Magellan route

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Getting drenched on the Iguazu Falls boat ride

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.

We also loved Gullfoss waterfall in Iceland when we visited a few years ago. As such, we were extremely excited about crossing into Brazil and visiting one of South America’s most popular attractions. Continue reading

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Meet the first man to visit every country in the world without flying

If you passed Graham Hughes on the street, you’d most likely mistake him for just another backpacker, or perhaps a student two weeks past a shave. Behind the glasses and the unassuming smile, however, is a man that has achieved something extraordinary: Graham is the first person to visit every country in the world without boarding a plane. He has used boats, cars, buses and trains to visit every corner of the planet, a journey that has taken him four years to complete. Even more extraordinary is the fact that he, originally from Liverpool in the UK, now lives on a private island in Panama, a prize he won through a gameshow. (Yes, we’re seething with jealousy too.)

Graham stopped by Reddit this month and invited readers to ask him anything – and we did. Here’s a roundup of his most interesting answers. Continue reading

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Remote travel: worth the pain?

Peter surveyed our surroundings. “Are you going to be okay here?” he asked nervously, recalling my breakdown at Beverley’s Beach.

We had just finished our tour of the facilities at Mafana Island’s eco lodge off the coast of Vava’u in Tonga. Peter, who has spent months of his life wild camping, was unfazed but I hadn’t dealt with anything so basic since my trip to Bangladesh 20 years ago.  Was I going to cope? Continue reading