best passport to have

World’s most powerful passport 2018

Travelling can be a bureaucratic nightmare for those on restricted passports. Here we look at the best passport to have in 2018 based on the freedom it provides.

Ten years ago, in my first job after graduation, I shared an office with a researcher called Munir who I nicknamed Dr2 because he not only had a PhD but was also qualified as a medical doctor. (I recognise it’s not the wittiest name in the world but it was the best I could do at the time.) Continue reading

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Atlas & Boots’ top 10 posts of 2017

Let’s face it: 2017’s been a bit of a dumpster fire. The consequences of Brexit are becoming clear here at home in the UK while over the pond in the US, Trump’s administration has promised disaster for the environment.

At Atlas & Boots, it’s been a mixed year. On a professional level, we passed 200,000 monthly users on the site, hit a milestone in monthly income and accepted an invitation to become brand ambassadors for Lonely Planet. On a personal level, however, we’ve had serious illness and bereavement in our families. So, yes: a mixed year. Continue reading

rock-hewn churches of Lalibela Ethiopia

Exploring the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela

The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia are the most extraordinary man-made sites in sub-Saharan Africa. Here’s what we learnt from our three days there.

The 11 rock-hewn churches of Lalibela are a focal point and a place of pilgrimage for Ethiopian Christians. In mid-January, during the Timkat (Epiphany) festival, thousands of white-clad worshippers descend on the churches.

For tourists, the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela are an unmissable stop on tours of Ethiopia’s historic northern circuit.
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“This is Africa”: useful mantra or ugly prejudice?

“This is Africa”, or TIA, is used to shrug off a range of inconveniences, but does its casual use perpetuate harmful stereotypes?

Africa, more than any other continent, has a PR problem. Popular culture tells the west that Africa is a land of conflict and famine where progress is slow and corruption is rife. Even the ‘better’ half of Africa is riddled with cliché: the giant red sun, open savannah and fearsome tribes in native garms.

The most pervasive cliché perhaps comes wrapped in a snappy epithet: “This is Africa” or its diminutive form, TIA. 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

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Dead heat: the hottest places on Earth

Having just returned from Dallol in Ethiopia, we’ve seen how hard it is to survive in one of the hottest places on Earth.

The hottest places on earth are in constant flux. They change from year to year and recording techniques – which are often challenged and disputed – change with them. Regardless, the same places tend to crop up again and again, many of them sharing similar characteristics. The hottest places on Earth are nearly always dry, barren, sunny and home to little or no vegetation. 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

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The volcanic seven summits of the world

The volcanic seven summits may not be coveted with the same vigour as the seven summits or even the seven second summits, but the peaks still offer a worthy challenge.

We’ve just returned from Erta Ale volcano in Ethiopia, one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Erta Ale may not be as lofty or as challenging as the following summits, but it did remind us why we stand in awe of volcanoes – active or not. Continue reading

10 tips for photographing local people

At Atlas & Boots, we have photographed some incredible landscapes, from the crackling blue ice of Perito Moreno glacier to the mythical moai of Easter Island. What we’re less good at is photographing local people.

This may be rooted in an article I once read which asked how we in the west would feel if someone stopped in the street to snap a picture of us or our children and then walked off without saying a word. Clearly, we would find this intrusive. And yet the field of portrait photography flourishes with sumptuous pictures of nomads and tribespeople gracing every issue of National Geographic and the like. Continue reading

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24 interesting facts about Russia

Russia has been described as many things: a mother, a winner, a force and a fighter. It is, as Churchill put it famously, a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

Russia is outsize both literally and metaphorically. Aside from its physical bulk, it has loomed as a spectre over the west for decades.

On Peter’s recent trip to this land of secrets, he gathered a wealth of interesting facts about Russia – some well known, others less so. As is tradition, we’ve gathered the best of them below. Continue reading

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World’s best countries for women 2017

The best countries for women in terms of gender equality have been announced by the World Economic Forum in the new edition of its annual Global Gender Gap report.

The 2017 report assesses 144 economies on how well they utilise the female workforce in their country based on economic, educational, health-based and political indicators. The report can be used as an objective analysis of women’s quality of life compared with male peers, and to thereby rank the world’s best countries for women in terms of gender equality. Continue reading

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A complete travel photography gear guide

I’ve been involved in film or photography throughout my career: initially as a camera operator, video editor and AV engineer, later as a teacher in digital media, and now as a travel blogger. I’ve sold stock images for several years on Shutterstock and iStock by Getty Images, and my photography plays a prominent role throughout our travel blog and social channels, particularly Instagram. Continue reading

elbrus kit list

Elbrus kit list: all you need to climb Europe’s highest peak

Our comprehensive Elbrus kit list includes everything you’ll need to conquer Mount Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe.

Mount Elbrus in Russia, at 5,642m (18,510ft), is Europe’s highest mountain and a member of the seven summits, the highest point on every continent. Having just returned from climbing Mount Elbrus with specialists 7 Summits Club, I thought it would be useful to share my entire Elbrus kit list as a point of reference for future climbers. Continue reading

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10 Christmas gifts for travellers

Every year, we write a quick update about where we’re spending Christmas. This year, we’ll be home in the UK, wedged between longer trips to Ethiopia and Djibouti in Nov-Dec and Australia and New Zealand in Feb-Mar.

We’re excited about the travels ahead, but also looking forward to a few weeks at home. It’s not Christmas in Tahiti, but it’ll do just fine.

In another of our yearly traditions, we’ve put together our list of 10 Christmas gifts for travellers, perfect for long sojourns abroad or comfy Christmases spent at home.

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Announcing our new role as Lonely Planet Trailblazers

We reveal the details of our partnership with the world’s biggest travel guide publisher.

Today, we announce our new role as Lonely Planet Trailblazers. Those of you who have followed us from our early journey across the South Pacific will know that we have worked with Lonely Planet periodically, from taking over their Instagram account to co-hosting Twitter chats and running campaigns for third parties. Continue reading