The US national park service was reportedly banned from tweeting following its anti-Trump retweets

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.

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22 books about obsessive searches

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.

Baños, Ecuador: why a little research goes a long way

There’s a certain romance attached to the ‘just turn up and see’ style of travel. It upholds the carefree, let-me-roam, Alexander Supertramp way of seeing the world; the travel touted by inspirational posters and idealised Instagram accounts, surfboard in one arm, skinny-limbed woman in the other.

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Natural wonders vs manmade sights

Atlas & Boots host Lonely Planet’s #LPChat

In August, we hosted Lonely Planet’s #LPChat on Twitter to celebrate the release of their 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.

Diving the Galápagos

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

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.

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8 things to do in Puerto Natales, Chile

“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).

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6 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.

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How to visit the Galápagos 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.

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10 things to do on San Cristóbal, The Galápagos

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.

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Eco-friendly tourism in The Galápagos

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.

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Swimming with Galápagos 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

Diving the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

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.

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Off the beaten canyon: exploring Grand Canyon’s hidden gems

There’s something familiar about the Grand Canyon. Its dramatic landscape and red-gold hues have been depicted in movies, posters, pencil cases and postcards. It’s a recurring symbol of the road movie, a faithful slice of wholesome Americana – and, yet, when you see it for the first time, it’s still daunting, still overwhelming.

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Things to do at the Grand Canyon, USA

To make your visit as easy as possible, we put together the top things to do at the Grand Canyon – one of America’s greatest attractions

A trip to the Grand Canyon can be overwhelming, not only because of the incredible vistas on display but the sheer range of activities, hikes, trails and viewpoints to choose from.

To make your visit as easy as possible, we put together the top things to do at the Grand Canyon during your trip. Note that numbers 1-4 can be done in a single day but you will need several days should you wish to do the rest.

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Our unexpected great American road trip

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.

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Swimming with humpback whales in Tonga

Swimming with humpback whales in Tonga was a truly humbling experience that very nearly didn’t happen for us! But luck was on our side that day

It was late October, approaching the very end of Tonga’s whale watching season. We had been delayed in Samoa about a week longer than expected and arrived in Tonga just two days before the last day of the season.

Desperate not to miss our opportunity to swim with whales, we hastily flew north to the Vava’u Islands, one of the best places to see the humpbacks. These majestic creatures migrate north from the Antarctic every summer to breed in warmer waters, heading back as soon as their young are strong enough for the journey.