Lowest point on Earth: visiting the Dead Sea

Peter loves collecting titles. So far, we’ve seen the driest place on Earth (Atacama Desert), the hottest place on Earth (Death Valley), the northernmost capital in the world (Reykjavik), the highest capital in the world (be it La Paz or Quito), the highest point in Africa (Mt. Kilimanjaro), the seven world wonders, the tallest mountain in the world (Mauna Kea), the end of the world (Ushuaia) and the international date line.

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.

22 books about obsessive searches

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We list some excellent books about obsessive searches – perfect reading for your own journeys of discovery

All travel to some extent is about searching. It may be a deep and yearning search for fulfilment, a soul-wrenching quest for absolution, or something far more base (Thailand, anyone?).

For some, travel is a way to silence an echoing need, be it for knowledge, enlightenment, glory or revenge. These obsessive searches take travellers on great journeys across the wild, usually giving rise to incredible tales of incredible lands. At times, these tales are humbling; at others, they are exasperating but never are they boring.

Natural wonders vs manmade sights

natural wonders: pyramids of Giza

Atlas & Boots host Lonely Planet’s #LPChat

In August, we hosted Lonely Planet’s #LPChat on Twitter to celebrate the release of their [easyazon_link keywords=”lonely planet 500 best” locale=”US” tag=”atbo0c-20″]Ultimate Travelist, a list of 500 unmissable attractions across the world ranked by their global community of travel experts. The subject in question was natural wonders vs manmade sights.

10 places to see before they’re gone – or perhaps not

Diving the Galápagos

Friends and readers often ask us about the Galápagos. Is it worth the expense, they say. Would you recommend going?

The truth is it’s hard to encourage people to visit when we’ve seen first hand the damaging effects of human presence on the islands. Equally, it’s hard to discourage people from visiting because a) it would be hypocritical and b) underneath the frenzied tourism lies a unique destination with some of the best beaches we’ve seen and the best diving we’ve ever done (sharks, rays, sea lions and turtles). Clearly, the islands are worth a visit.

8 things to do in Puerto Natales, Chile

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“We wanted an adventure holiday, but we wanted to come back in the evening to somewhere cozy and comfortable,” said Matt and Kirsty, two Americans we met during our stay in Puerto Natales.

Like them, we visited the windswept plains of Chilean Patagonia out of season meaning multi-day treks through Torres del Paine were out of the question. But that didn’t put a complete dampener on our experience. There was still plenty of adventuring to be enjoyed outside of Torres del Paine National Park without spending our days stomping along a hiking trail with only a fitful night’s sleep under canvas (not that I mind that of course).

Visiting Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

perito moreno glacier

Perito Moreno Glacier is one of nature’s most glorious wonders. We see if it lives up to the legend and share tips on how to get there and when to go

Before writing this post, I lamented to Peter that once you’ve been travel writing for a while, it’s hard to come up with fresh superlatives.

“I mean, you can’t say gaze-catching instead of eye-catching and you can’t say stride-stopping instead of heart-stopping, can you?” I asked, forlornly sipping my tea. The cause of my dilemma was Perito Moreno Glacier, a sight so overwhelming it’s utterly, er, step freezing. Nevertheless, I shall try my best to describe what followed our foray to this giant Argentine wonder.

6 best Torres del Paine hiking trails, Chile

best Torres del Paine hiking trails, Chile

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.

6 interesting Easter Island facts

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We examine the island’s history and explain some of the most interesting Easter Island facts. This remote Pacific island is not only beautiful but full of mystery

First thing’s first, Easter Island is far. Very, very far. 

Map of Easter Island

In fact, it is one of the most remote communities in the world. Its closest inhabited neighbour is Pitcairn, 2,000km (1,200mi) to the west while the nearest continental land lies in Chile at a distance of 3,700km (2,300mi). In short, it’s not a short hop.

And so the question one must ask is: are the Easter Island statues worth the slog? Are these great hunks of rock worth the expense of a long voyage?

How to visit the Galápagos on a budget

HOW-TO-VISIT-THE-GALAPAGOS-ON-A-BUDGET

We thought twice about writing this post. The Galápagos were once an exclusive destination, but are now teetering on the precipice of mass tourism. We wondered if posts like this were contributing to the devolution of this once-secluded paradise. But, as we said in Eco-friendly tourism in The Galápagos, independent travel to the area is arguably more eco-friendly than visiting on a 100-strong cruise ship. If you’ve always wanted to visit, consider doing it yourself. Not only will you have more flexibility, you won’t have to spend several thousand pounds on your visit. Here’s how we saw The Galápagos on a budget and how you can too.

10 things to do on San Cristóbal, The Galápagos

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The great thing about San Cristóbal is that there are so many sights within walking distance of the main town, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Many of these offer abundant wildlife opportunities that (usually) don’t cost a penny. We spent three days exploring the island’s many natural wonders and didn’t break the bank. If you’re lucky enough to visit The Galápagos, take the time to head over to San Cristóbal and visit these lesser-known but never underwhelming sights.

Eco-friendly tourism in The Galápagos

eco-friendly-galapagos

It’s a dream destination for many: the pristine islands of The Galápagos, haven to some of the world’s most unique and rare species of animal – or so we thought. There were certainly pristine sections of the islands but there were also roadworks in Puerto Ayora, broken beer bottles at Cerro Tijeretas, plastic bottles on Tortuga Bay and, saddest of all, a baby seal playing with a plastic spoon.

Swimming with Galápagos penguins

SWIMMING-WITH-GALAPAGOS-PENGUINS

I once asked Peter how often people have to take in their cats to be trimmed.
He looked at me, confused. “What do you mean?”
“To trim their fur. How often do you have to do it?”
“Erm, normal people don’t trim their cats.” He started to laugh, amused as ever by my lack of knowledge when it comes to nature  especially when as pedestrian as looking after a cat.

Diving the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Diving the Galápagos Islands

Having just completed my PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course, I was keen to put my new skills to the test. Diving in the Galápagos Islands seemed the perfect way to do this

We were pretty much winging our trip to the Galápagos Islands but we decided to pre-book our first hotel as well as our diving. In the spirit of the Galápagos, we decided to break our budget for our first stop, and so checked into the rather luxurious Royal Palm Hotel in the centre of Santa Cruz island. It was nice to be away from bustling Puerto Ayora, cocooned within lush gardens with epic views across the island.

Horse riding in Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Horse riding in Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Our Ecuadorian guide smiles at the motley crew of would-be horse riders assembled in front of him. In Spanish, he asks if anyone has any experience. A few people shuffle their feet nervously. When no-one else speaks up, I put up my hand reluctantly.

“Yo tomó doce clases hace dos años,” I tell him in my faltering Spanish, explaining that I took 12 lessons two years ago.

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.