5 hiking trails around Ella, Sri Lanka

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Some of the best scenery in Sri Lanka awaits you on the hiking trails around Ella in the Hill Country

Many people head to Sri Lanka for the beaches – and the country does have some of the finest in the world – but it was Sri Lanka’s Hill Country that really captured our imagination. Carpets of tea plantations and alpine forests emerge from creeping morning mists to reveal some of the most beautiful scenery in the country (if not the world).

Climbing Galdhøpiggen in Jotunheimen National Park, Norway

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Climbing Galdhøpiggen, the highest mountain in Norway, Scandinavia and Northern Europe

I set out on a hiking trip to Jotunheimen National Park in Norway intent on climbing Galdhøpiggen, the highest mountain in Norway, Scandinavia and northern Europe.

Before we started Atlas & Boots, I used to take a hiking trip every summer from our base in the UK. Usually, I would grab a couple of shorter trips on home soil throughout the year and then head off in the summer to find more challenging terrain.

Sometimes, it was an exotic destination like Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and other times it was closer to home in Europe. In one of my many trips to Scandinavia, I set my sights on Norway.

10 best countries for hiking

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We take a look at the best countries for hiking, what makes them great trekking destinations and, of course, their finest trails.

1. USA

Best trails: Pacific Crest, Appalachian and Continental Divide
Known for: Great Plains, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Redwood Forest

The seven second summits: a tougher challenge

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The seven second summits are considered to be a much harder mountaineering challenge than the more popular seven summits

Previously, I’ve  written about my dream of climbing the seven summits and laid out a realistic if not deeply challenging and expensive program of how to achieve that goal.

This week I look at the seven second summits; the second-highest mountains on each continent. The highest summits are a dream of mine, but I draw the line at the second-highest – they’re simply too scary for an amateur enthusiast like me!

US national parks: 20 weird and wonderful sights

US national parks offer a delightful assortment of sights, from trees that existed at the time of dinosaurs to the most active volcano in the world

As spring takes hold in earnest, nearly all US national parks are preparing for a special week.

The National Park Service turns 100 years old this year and, to celebrate, is offering free entrance to over 120 US national parks and monuments on select dates. These include 16-24th April for National Park Week, 25th-28th for the official National Park Service birthday, 24th September for National Public Lands Day and 11th November for Veterans Day, as well as Martin Luther King Jr. Day which was on 18th January.

To help promote this fantastic celebration of the great outdoors, Atlas & Boots has hand-picked 20 weird and wonderful sights from a number of US national parks that you can see for free next week.

5 multi-purpose products to help you pack lightly

I have a rule about restaurants: if one offers two markedly different types of cuisine, I won’t eat there. Think Thai restaurants that make pizza, or British gastropubs that offer Indian curry. More often than not, instead of doing one cuisine well, these multi-purpose restaurants will do two cuisines badly and are simply best avoided.

For a long time, I applied the same philosophy to multi-purpose products. But then I started packing for our trip.

It’s a predicament many a traveller has faced. When embarking on a long-term trip, every inch of space counts. To help future travellers pack lightly, we’ve put together a list of well-loved multi-purpose products that are ideal for travel.

Edurne Pasaban: the travel that changed me

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Edurne Pasaban made mountaineering history when she became the first woman to climb all 14 of the eight-thousanders – the only mountains on the planet above 8,000m.

She has a degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of the Basque Country, a Masters in Human Resources Management from ESADE Business School and is Associate Professor at the Instituto de Empresa.

Here, Edurne Pasaban tells Atlas & Boots about the travel that changed her.

Sherpa film review: has it put me off climbing Everest?

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Is the plight of the Sherpa set to change with the release of Jennifer Peedom’s BAFTA-nominated and exhilarating new Sherpa film?

Let’s be clear about this: I have neither the skills nor the money to climb Everest. I’ve spoken several times about my long-running ambition to climb the seven summits, but I’m not so naïve that I can’t see it may forever remain a distant dream.

Naturally, this doesn’t stop me dreaming and I expect the allure of standing on top of the world will never really dissipate. However, after watching BAFTA-nominated documentary Sherpa, I am considering whether foreigners should be on the mountain at all.

Sherpa charts the Everest story from a perspective rarely seen and subtly asks the question: is continued foreign obsession with Everest bad for Nepal, Khumbu and the Sherpas?

How one 30-minute meeting changed my life

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No-one likes to admit that they live an ordinary life. In our 20s, most of us are convinced that we’re different; that we will ‘make it’, whatever ‘making it’ actually means.

In our 30s, we realise that we’re not unique, that our lives are disconcertingly similar to nearly everyone else we know. We wake up earlier than we desire and surrender copious hours to our employers. We try our best to eat healthily and exercise, but we so often can’t find the time. We hold together the threads of life and try to weave them into something cohesive  –  all the while leading ordinary lives.

The travel that changed me: Mike Horn

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Mike Horn and list of accomplishments as a solo explorer are unparalleled so we are privileged to have him talk to us about the travel the changed him

The great explorers Roald Amundsen and Ernest Shackleton would surely look upon Mike Horn with approval and admiration. He is arguably the world’s greatest modern-day explorer.

The South African-born Swiss explorer and adventurer has probably seen more of the world than any other person on Earth.

How to use a compass and map: a simple guide

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This guide on how to use a compass and map should be enough to get you started and give you the confidence to use the skills for yourself in the hills

As a schoolboy I was lucky to learn how to use a compass and map. I then spent the best part of two decades putting these basic skills to use throughout the British countryside, without ever really having them tested.

It wasn’t until a white-out on top of Scotland’s Ben Nevis during a winter mountaineering course that I really learnt how critical these skills are. Luckily for us (or rather thanks to the course’s well-planned itinerary), we had spent the previous day refreshing our navigation skills in a less hostile environment.

Visiting the end of the world at Tierra del Fuego

There are few places in the world that evoke the old-world romance of true exploration. They inspire nostalgia for a time we never knew, for places to which we’ve never been. We know their names and have heard their tales in the way we’ve heard of Neverland and Narnia: shrouded in layers of myth and lore. Cartagena, Antarctica, the Northwest Passage and Vinson Massif. Even the men sounded greater then: Drake, Amundsen, Livingstone and Shackleton.

Training for Kilimanjaro: 7 tips for a successful summit

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You should never underestimate a mountain, and training for Kilimanjaro should be the same as preparing for any challenge

Last year, a good friend from back home in Norfolk (where it’s pretty flat) decided to climb Kilimanjaro and asked me for some advice. I certainly felt the trek was challenging but I’d had plenty of trekking and mountaineering experience before so was a bit blasé with my advice.

6 best Torres del Paine hiking trails, Chile

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Torres del Paine hiking trails are some of the best hiking trails on the continent, if not the world

In 2013, National Geographic ranked Torres del Paine National Park in Chile as the fifth most beautiful place in the world.

Unfortunately for me, Torres del Paine represents one of my travel regrets from our big trip. We got our timings wrong and saw relatively little of some of the most dramatic scenery in Chilean Patagonia.

Altitude sickness symptoms and how to avoid them

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Being young, fit and healthy doesn’t mean you won’t suffer from altitude sickness symptoms. Here’s how to identify, treat and prevent them effectively

Gracie is a student at Johns Hopkins, which offers one of the best medical training programs in the world. She is slim, fit and active. She doesn’t smoke, rarely drinks and always watches what she eats.

She should have been the last person in our group to get altitude sickness symptoms and yet there she was, wide eyed and pale faced at breakfast after a restless night of nausea at the foot of Cotopaxi Volcano (3,500m).

Experienced climbers know that altitude sickness doesn’t discriminate. The young, fit and healthy can suffer just as easily as the old, soft and pasty, which is why everyone should be aware of the symptoms before attempting a climb or trek at height. Here’s a primer to help you prepare.

Testing my limits on Cotopaxi Volcano

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I knew it was going to be cold. I knew it was going to be hard. What I didn’t know is that I’d want to give up after a mere 10 minutes on Cotopaxi Volcano. Our altitude of 4,500m mixed with unusually harsh weather made every breath difficult, every step a labour. As the wind slapped my face, I closed my eyes and wondered not for the first time why I had let Peter talk me into this. Glaciers were his thing. Trekking in freezing cold weather was his hobby. I like adventure, sure, but not when it hurt this much. I prefer my adrenaline 10 degrees above freezing, thank you.

Guatape: the best day trip in Colombia

A quaint and charming town awaits you in Guatape with colourful streets and quiet piazzas, while La Piedra Del Penol offers the best views in the land

When I’m about to visit a country for the first time, one of the first things I do is scan a guidebook and pick out a few highlights or must-sees. This can be dangerous business as you’re often putting yourself at the author’s subjective mercy.

When I first scanned our guidebook’s Colombian highlights I saw colonial towns, national parks and coffee plantations. After a month in Colombia, I can safely say that the best day I had there barely gets a mention in the guidebooks.

Our unexpected great American road trip

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In two weeks, we have crossed four states on our American road trip, seeing an array of landscapes straight out of the movies

We never even planned to be in the US!

In fact, we should have been about 3,000 miles further south by the time we rocked up on Venice Beach in LA, mixing with the crowds of hippies, hipsters, tourists and homeless. I’ll admit that with my two-month old beard, huge backpack and threadbare flip flops, I blended in most with the latter.

In the two weeks since our arrival, we have crossed four states on our American road trip, seeing an array of landscapes straight out of the movies. From snowcapped mountain ranges to tumbleweed-strewn deserts, from glitzy casinos and roadside motels to the empty and silent towns of the Midwest, we saw it all. And it was magical.