Europe’s best hikes for first timers

Mont Blanc is one of Europe's best hikesCreative Travel Projects/Shutterstock

From easy city walks to harder challenges in the great outdoors, we share 10 of Europe’s best hikes for first timers

When Peter headed to Argentina in January to climb Aconcagua (his third of the seven summits), a friend of mine asked why I wasn’t joining him.

Climbing mountains is his thing, I explained. I’m perfectly comfortable below 4,000m. She frowned and said, ‘I thought you’d want to go because you’re always out hiking.’

Ella Rock: how to hike it yourself (unguided)

Ella Rock how to hike it yourself lead image and view from topAtlas & Boots

A guide to hiking Ella Rock by yourself, including detailed directions, a downloadable route map, a video and a list of essential tips

Ella in Sri Lanka is beautiful, they said. ‘The closest thing to an English country village’ and the perfect place to slow down, we’d read.

I dolefully thought of this when darting across the thundering traffic to dodge yet another taxi driver insisting on taking me somewhere I didn’t want to go. The main street, stacked with milkshake huts and charm-free cafes, is a loud and roiling stretch of conveniences set up for the tourist alone.

Stewards of the wild: 10 famous environmentalists that give us hope 

Jane Goodall is one of the most famous environmentalists of our time.The Nature Conservancy/Fair Use

We profile 10 famous environmentalists, from the girl who lived in a tree for two years to the sea captain faced with Interpol arrest

I recently read a fact that stopped me in my tracks: in optimum conditions, some trees can live forever. They are vulnerable to predators, disease and natural disasters, but unlike humans, these ‘biologically immortal’ trees rarely die simply because they get old.

Wall diving in the Turks and Caicos: a glimpse at the abyss

Peeking into the blue while diving in the Turks and Caicos

Diving in the Turks and Caicos will no doubt lead you to its famous wall. There you will stare into a literal abyss that dives 2,000m to the bottom of the sea

There’s a moment in the Jude Law film Black Sea where a deep-sea diver falls off a murky underwater ridge and careens into the pitch-black depths of the ocean. For someone who struggled to learn to dive, the idea was pretty bloody terrifying. 

Of course, in recreational diving, this sort of thing doesn’t happen – especially when you dive no deeper than 18m. Nonetheless, I was reminded of this scene when wall diving in the Turks and Caicos on the ninth day of our Caribbean cruise.

Is it time to stop using Airbnb? 

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After spending years on the platform, we ask if it’s finally time to stop using Airbnb

When we moved to the countryside in 2018, our new neighbours welcomed us with palpable relief. 

‘We’re so pleased you’re not turning it into a holiday home!’ they told us. 

They, like the vendor, had feared that the London couple buying this quirky, crumbly 300-year-old cottage would promptly list it on Airbnb and head on back down south.

Eye-opening moments from our Caribbean cruise

After a busy year of trekking and writing, we decided to treat ourselves to a touch of indulgence

I’m not going to lie: I was in two minds about our Caribbean cruise. We had initially planned a cruise in Alaska but it clashed with commitments around my book. We pushed back our dates to December and were left with one obvious destination: the Caribbean. 

Atlas & Boots’ top 10 posts of 2019 

puffins arguing on Mykines, Faroe Islands

Our top posts of the year resonated strongly with readers across the globe. Here, we share what hit the top 10

This year has been a strange one. I’ve been at home for most of it launching my novel Take It Back and writing its follow-up. Meanwhile, Peter has travelled without me to countries I really want to see: Nepal, Greenland and Pakistan

10 mispronounced country names

From Kiribati to Kyrgyzstan, we list the most commonly mispronounced country names

When Donald Trump mispronounced Namibia asNambia’ in 2017, he became the subject of widespread ridicule. Journalists wondered if he meant Zambia or Gambia while social media users mocked up memes and one enterprising tweeter took the opportunity to pitch a new title to Lonely Planet. 

The travel that changed me: William Dalrymple

From the footsteps of Marco Polo to the dream destination he hasn’t yet seen, author William Dalrymple tells us about the travel that changed him

William Dalrymple was born in Scotland in 1965. At the age of 22, he set off to follow on foot the outward route of Marco Polo from Jerusalem to Mongolia. The journey inspired In Xanadu, the highly acclaimed bestseller which marked the beginning of a long and illustrious career.

Why Greta Thunberg makes us so uncomfortable

Greta Thunberg on a poster

Greta Thunberg, a school-age climate activist has made us face some harsh home truths

Greta Thunberg is a threat. She’s a threat to the multi-billion dollar livestock industry and the mighty fossil fuel lobby.

In fact, she’s a threat to our very way of life. She calls into question the idea that we – as free-willed, self-determining individuals – should have the right to consume as much as we want, be it travel, food or leisure. 

Announcing Kia’s new book: Take It Back

Take It Back is a gripping courtroom drama perfect for fans of Apple Tree Yard, He Said/She Said and Anatomy of a Scandal

The day I got a book deal started inauspiciously. Our group of 13 had camped for a night in the Australian Outback after battling broken air conditioning in 40°C heat, a cracked windshield, a change of vehicle and an alarming array of bugs at night – as well as a snake and dingo. 

As a traveller, not travelling

Kia takes stock of the past year and shares what it’s like to stay in one place

The last 12 months have brought immense amounts of change for us here at Atlas & Boots. A year ago, Peter and I were living out of Airbnbs while house-hunting in the Yorkshire Dales. We viewed 22 properties, put half-hearted offers in for two of them and then saw our 23rd house which we fell in love with. It wasn’t perfect (no outdoor space and in need of a lot of work), but the 300-year-old stone cottage with its wooden beams and cobbled street seemed perfect for a writer. If you stick your head out of the skylight, you can even see a castle. 

Hiking Sørvágsvatn Lake, Faroe Islands

Hiking-Sørvágsvatn-Lake-house-2Atlas & Boots

Blessed with a spell of good weather, we set off to Sørvágsvatn where the largest lake in the Faroe Islands stretches into ocean

Sometimes, in the dead of British winter, I’ll console myself with the fact that at least I’m not on Cotopaxi. At least I’m not on Cotopaxi. Our 2015 glacier hike on Cotopaxi Volcano was probably the coldest I’ve ever been. My fingers were rendered immobile and my feet were hunks of ice and still we trudged on through rain, sleet and snow.

In search of puffins in Mykines, Faroe Islands

puffins arguing on Mykines, Faroe Islands

We journey to Mykines, the westernmost island of the Faroes in pursuit of its famous puffins

“We do not have bad weather,” says the Faroe Islands website.

“Just a lot of weather.”

Adrift in the Atlantic Ocean, halfway between Iceland and Norway, the 18 islands of the Faroes do indeed have weather. It is palpable here: an ever-looming presence that snatches away your car door, rattles against your window and cries shrilly into quiet lulls.

Visiting Boulders Penguin Colony, Cape Town

It's clear why tourists flock to Boulders Penguin ColonyAtlas & Boots

Boulders Penguin Colony near Cape Town is home to 3,000 African penguins – but does it live up to the hype?

The ‘African Penguin’ is a contradiction in terms. Somehow, the hottest continent on Earth is home to a bird most often associated with the coldest: Antarctica. And yet, the three species of penguin I’ve seen have all resided in warm climes: the Galápagos Penguin off Isabela Island which lies right on the equator, the Little Penguin in super-dry, super-hot Australia and now the African Penguin in Boulders Penguin Colony in South Africa.

North Sentinel Island: a timeline of the world’s most isolated tribe

Sentinelis lined up on the shore of North Sentinel Island, ready to fight off visitorsChristian Caron/Fair Use

On a map, North Sentinel Island looks like any other idyllic spot in the Indian Ocean. Fringed with beaches and crystal cobalt waters, it lies in the Andaman archipelago of the Bay of Bengal.

North Sentinel Island, however, is unlike any other. It has been described as ‘the hardest place in the world to visit’, ‘the world’s most dangerous island’ and home to ‘the most isolated tribe in the world’.

These sensational labels can’t be qualified conclusively, but they do hold some truth. For an estimated 60,000 years, North Sentinel Island has been home to a fiercely independent tribe that has violently rejected contact with the outside world.

The ultimate guide to packing light

ultimate guide to packing light feat image

Some would argue that overpacking is a rite of passage, but there is an easier way. Here are 12 tips for packing light

I started our big trip across the South Pacific and South America with a 45-litre backpack weighing 13kg. Over the course of the trip, I managed to drop a fair bit of weight and get my bag down to 10kg. Evidently, I had failed in packing light from the start.

In some ways, overpacking is a rite of passage: you have to do it to learn how not to do it. Of course there is an easier way. By gleaning advice from other travellers and being strict with yourself, packing light will become far easier. Here’s where to start.

Manyeleti Game Reserve: our first safari in South Africa

Manyeleti Game Reserve lions 6

A safari in South Africa is said to be the ultimate wildlife watching experience. We went to Manyeleti Game Reserve to see for ourselves

Our safari in South Africa was always going to be strange. Our expectations were buoyed by the myth and drama of this renowned destination but equally subdued by our safari in Namibia which was simply unsurpassable. With this in mind, we knew that South Africa would both delight and disappoint us.