Features // Nature

A floral wave of cherry blossoms, Japan
A floral wave of cherry blossoms, Japan

The arrival of the sakura, or cherry blossom, has long been a profound yet simple Japanese lesson about the nature of human existence. For centuries, poets have fired off reams of haiku comparing the brief but blazing lives of the flowers to those of our own – a tragically fragile beauty to be treasured and contemplated. In Japan,…

Trekking to Door Mountain, Iceland
Trekking to Door Mountain, Iceland

At the wild and sparsely inhabited eastern edge of Iceland, the granite crag of Dyrfjoll towers above the natural amphitheatre known as Stórurð (the Elves’ Bowl). One edge is sharp and steep, the other a flattened tabletop, and in between, the giant square gap that earns the whole its name: Door Mountain. Hewn by a glacier millions of years…

Island-hopping among the dolphins in Venezuela
Island-hopping among the dolphins in Venezuela

We were barely five minutes from the shore when the dolphins appeared, their splashing visible along the distinct line between the earthy-red of the landmasses and the deep blue of the Caribbean. At the tiller, Jhonny (the silent Spanish “J” affording him an unusual title) made a beeline for them, attracting their attention by rhythmically…

Get down and dirty in Dalyan, Turkey
Get down and dirty in Dalyan, Turkey

Stepping off the boat at Dalyan’s mud baths, you’ll be forgiven for wishing you hadn’t. But don’t be put off by the revolting rotten-egg stench of the sulphur pools – after a revitalizing day here, you’ll be gagging for more. The instructions are simple – roll in the mud, bake yourself in the sun till…

Four Seasons in Slovenia
Four Seasons in Slovenia

Sandwiched between Italy, Croatia, Hungary and Austria, Slovenia might be small but it’s a surprisingly diverse country. Venture just an hour or so from the compact capital, Ljubljana, and you’ll find nearly 50 kilometres of sunny Adriatic coastline, tranquil wine regions and the stunning Lake Bled, backed by the soaring Julian Alps. Travel a little further and you’ll hit the dramatic Logarska Dolina,…

Hiking the Besseggen Ridge
Hiking the Besseggen Ridge

As trekking goes, the beginning of the Besseggen Ridge is a breeze. Sitting on the bow of a little tug as it chugs along picturesque Lake Gjende in central Norway’s Jotunheimen Nasjonalpark, you’d be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss is about – this is, after all, Norway’s best-known day hike, in the country’s…

Braving Torres del Paine national park, Chile
Braving Torres del Paine national park, Chile

You have to keep your head down. Despite the spray-laden wind, it’s tempting to lift it above the rim of the boat and look ahead, so you can see the foam-capped waves racing past as the Zodiac inflatable roars upstream. Soon, in the distance, a towering peak of rock rises up. As you get closer…

Hearing wolves howl, Sweden
Hearing wolves howl, Sweden

Deep in the Swedish birch forest your mind can begin to play tricks. As the shadows lengthen and a chill creeps into the pine-scented air you’re reminded of the folk tales that originated here, from gnomes and trolls to the siren call of the Tallemaja or “Lady of the Woods”. But there is one much-mythologized creature very much…

Taking a dip in the Yucatan’s cenotes, Mexico
Taking a dip in the Yucatan’s cenotes, Mexico

The Yucatán Peninsula can be unpleasantly muggy in the summer. At the same time, the low-lying region’s unique geography holds the perfect antidote to hot afternoons: the limestone shelf that forms the peninsula is riddled with underground rivers, accessible at sinkholes called cenotes – a geological phenomenon found only here. Nature’s perfect swimming spots, cenotes…

Extreme hiking in Iceland: the Laugavegur trail
Extreme hiking in Iceland: the Laugavegur trail

In an adventure only for the bravest hikers, David Leffman tackles the rhyolite hills, black sand deserts and the icy glacier caps of the 55km trail from Landmannalaugar to Skógar. Whiteout. Five hours into a five-day hike and I was already stuck in a blizzard, barely able to see my feet through the stinging wind-driven…

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