Travel

Armchair travel

We are now in the 21st Century and comfortable armchair travel can take us all round the world without a tourist in sight . . . and without the guilt of degrading where we go or blowing our personal carbon budget getting there, here are some favourites:

Google Street View - Photosphere images of wonderful landscapes all round the world

Oceans Street View - Photosphere images collected by the Catlin Seaview Survey

Google Maps - Explore with Earth View, Maps and the Street View Yellow man

Panoramio - Explore the world in photos (and upload your own)

Google Earth - Download with Sky, Moon and Mars

RADIO: Two Men and a Mule(3 x 28 mins)  From Andean Cloud Forest to Steamy Jungle. Renowned explorers Hugh Thomson and Benedict Allen join forces with their trusty mule, Washington to journey to the extraordinary Last City of the Incas, Espíritu Pampa. Deep down in the Amazon, this is where the Incas escaped when on the run from the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th Century and where the very last Inca emperor, Tupac Amaru, was finally captured and brought back to be executed in the main square of Cuzco. This arduous trek takes them down off the steep slopes of the Andean cloud-forest into the steamy jungle, down stone-laid Inca paths, across raging rivers and landslides as they trek to the last city of the Incas - Espiritu Pampa - 'the Pampa of Ghosts'.

RADIO: Welcome to the Quiet Zone (5 x 15 mins) Photographer Emile Holba explores the National Quiet Zone, 13,000 square miles of radio silence, just a few hundred miles from Washington DC. Imagine a place without mobile phones. Quiet isn't it. People still look at each other when they are talking. It's not a dream. It really exists - in the Allegheny Mountains. No Wi-Fi; no cell phones; no radio signals. Designated a radio wave free area in the 1950s, the area is home to two giant listening stations. One listens to deep space, as far back as milliseconds after the Big Bang - the Green Bank National Observatory; the other is Naval Communications, the NSA listening ear.

TV: BBC2 Great Continental Railway Journeys  Michael Portillo retraces the journeys from George Bradshaw's 1913 Continental Guide. Now runs to three series with lots of exerpts available on the Clips  page. (Loco2  is an online travel agent selling train tickets to thousands of European destinations at the same price as booking directly. )

Travel the Trans-Siberian Railway (From Your Couch)  Dream of traveling the legendary Trans-Siberian railway? Well, now you can do it from the comfort of your living room. Google Maps offers a virtual journey of the 5,752 mile trek from Moscow to Vladivostok.

RADIO: My Family and Other Ibex (30mins). Chemist and broadcaster Andrea Sella returns to the mountain landscape of his childhood to see how this icy world has changed over the past century. In his father's study hangs a photograph that Andrea has always been told was taken by Vittorio Sella, a distant relation regarded by many as the greatest of all mountain photographers. It depicts the Cogne valley in north-western Italy, a place where Andrea, and his father before him, spent summers as a children hiking and climbing the surrounding peaks. Described as, "unspoiled" in guidebooks, on the surface the valley looks just as it did when Andrea was a child. But look closer and things have changed. After a visit to the archive of Vittorio's photographs where he finds a time capsule of the mountains of the late 19th century, he sets out to see the mountains today.

RADIO: Skylarking (30 mins). Cathy FitzGerald meets a prisoner and a paraglider in this airy daydream about the delights of looking up at a big blue sky. Includes cameos from levitating yogis, labradors with wings and freewheeling angels, plus a specially composed score by Joe Acheson and the Hidden Orchestra. Please note Skylarking is a lawn-based, horizontal radio feature best experienced from the comfort of a picnic blanket with a long drink, a soft pillow and a view of the sky.

RADIO: BBC Ramblings, Clare Balding walks with Tristan Gooley on his favourite walk, near Arundel in West Sussex  (30 mins). Tristan is the self-styled 'Natural Navigator', who makes his living teaching people how to orient themselves by using clues and signs within the landscape. En route they take their bearings from the most fascinating and unlikely natural sources, and Clare hears where Tristan's passion for the outdoors began at the age of 10, on a sailing course on the Isle of Wight, and how that eventually led to his current career. Tristan is an adventurer and explorer who has led expeditions across five continents, he's the only living person to have both flown solo and sailed singlehanded across the Atlantic, but West Sussex is his favourite place in the world for an adventure.

RADIO: BBC Nature, James and the Giant Redwoods Part One Ever since he was a boy, James Aldred has loved climbing trees. And over the years, James has dreamt of searching out some of the world's biggest trees including the world's tallest living tree, a Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) in Northern California called Hyperion, which measures 379.3 feet tall. (The tallest tree in Britain is a Douglas Fir in Argyll, Scotland which is about 209 feet tall). Hyperion at nearly 380 feet tall is about 3 times the height of Nelson's Column! Hyperion was discovered on August 25, 2006 by naturalist Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor. The tree was verified as standing 115.55 m (379.1 ft tall) by Stephen Sillett. It's estimated to be increasing in height at about 2cm a year. The exact location of the tree is kept a secret to prevent human traffic disturbing and causing damage to the tree or its environment.

RADIO: BBC Nature, James and the Giant Redwoods Part Two In the second of two programmes, NATURE follows James and three other tree climbers as Michael first leads them to The Grove of Titans; which as its name suggests is a grove of some of the world's biggest trees by mass. Despite the fact that James and the others had seen pictures of the trees in books and on the internet, nothing could have prepared them for the colossal size of these trees. But there was another surprise in store for James when Michael led the way to Hyperion, the world's tallest tree and not only did James get to see this tree, but he also got to climb it. It was a dream come true and an unforgettable adventure.

TV: BBC The Wildest Dream: The Conquest of Everest  British explorer George Mallory was obsessed with becoming the first person to conquer the untouched Mount Everest. He was last seen 800 feet below the summit in 1924 as the clouds rolled in and he disappeared into legend. His death stunned the world. In 1999, renowned mountaineer Conrad Anker discovered Mallory's frozen body high in the mountain's 'death zone'. Remarkably, all of Mallory's belonging were found intact on his body. In this film, Anker returns to Everest to solve the mystery of Mallory's ill-fated expedition in 1924. The explorer's tragic story is retold through his poignant correspondence with his wife, Ruth, as well as previously unseen photos and archive footage. Alongside this narrative, Anker and companion Leo Houlding retrace the original North East ridge route to Everest's summit taken in 1924 to discover whether the original expedition could actually have made it to the top. In their attempt, the modern day adventurers must free climb the infamous Second Step - a 90 foot sheer rock wall.

TV: BBC Wild Arabia - Episode 1: Sand, Wind and Stars  Few places on earth evoke more mystery and romance than Arabia. This enters the forbidding wilderness and reveals a magical cast of characters. From the snow-white oryx that inspired the myth of the unicorn to the long-legged jerboa leaping ten times its own body length through the star-filled Arabian nights. Horned vipers hunt glow-in-the-dark scorpions, while Bedouin nomads race their camels across the largest sand desert in the world.

TV: BBC Wild Arabia - Episode 2: The Dhofar Mountains  In a remote corner of southern Arabia one mountain range holds a remarkable secret. Swept by the annual Indian Ocean monsoon, the Dhofar mountains become a magical lost world of waterfalls and cloud forests filled with chameleons and honey-badgers. Off-shore rare whales that have not bred with any others for over 60 thousand years and green sea turtles come ashore in their thousands, shadowed by egg-stealing foxes. Heat-seeking cameras reveal, for the first time ever, striped hyenas doing battle with Arabian wolves. Meanwhile local researchers come face to face with the incredibly rare Arabian leopard.

TV: BBC Wild Arabia - Episode 3: Shifting Sands In a rapidly changing Arabia, wildlife finds surprising opportunites and allies.

TV: BBC Africa with David Attenborough

RADIO: BBC Roger Law and the Chinese Curiosities  Roger Law travels through China to find some unexpected corners of the country's rich and varied culture.

VIDEO: The Words of Captain ScottThe ill-fated epic expedition to the South Pole told through the diaries and letters of Captain Scott and his fellow explorers.

TV: BBC Brazil with Michael Palin

DVD: BBC Sahara with Michael Palin

VIDEO: Michael Palin on You Tube

TV: Channel 4 Kevin McCloud's Grand Tour  - Watch Clips. A clip looking at Florence's Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore  (Florence Cathedral) and the its amazing dome built nearly 600 years ago by Filippo Brunelleschi.

TV: Channel 4 Ottolenghi's Mediterranean Feast - Episode 1 Morocco  Yotam's journey starts in Morocco's most vibrant city, Marrakech, where he discovers the secrets of the tagine and explores the delicious street food. Yotam leaves Marrakech to visit the Atlas Mountains, where he meets and eats with the Berbers and learns their age-old method of making couscous.

TV: Channel 4 Ottolenghi's Mediterranean Feast - Episode 2 Istanbul  Yotam's journey continues in Turkey's most historical and cultural city, Istanbul. He tastes fish from the magnificent waters of the Bosphorus, is amazed by beautiful local vegetables and samples mouth-watering street food.

TV: Channel 4 Ottolenghi's Mediterranean Feast - Episode 3 Tunisia  In one of North Africa's most popular holiday destinations, Yotam dines on the freshest fish, discovers the national obsession with fiery harissa paste, and samples spicy merguez sausages. Yotam's journey begins with a trip to an unusual open-air restaurant - set in an idyllic cove and managed by a hermit.

TV: Channel 4 Ottolenghi's Mediterranean Feast - Episode 4 Israel  Yotam's Mediterranean journey concludes where he grew up - Israel.  In Tel Aviv, Yotam explores the national obsession with hummus and begins by making the popular Mediterranean dish shakshuka, where eggs are gently poached in a spicy sauce of tomatoes, onion and hot chili peppers. Tel Aviv enjoys an enviable coastal location, and a morning fish market provides the best catch for Yotam's next recipe, which is grilled fishcakes with a creamy beetroot and horseradish relish.

RADIO: BBC The Last Days of Detroit  Mark Binelli's portrait of a city in post-industrial decline. The city of Detroit has suffered like no other US city; it's post-industrial decline, rapid and relentless, chronicled by photographers and journalists alike. After a break of 16 years, Mark Binelli returned to live in the city whose suburbs he grew up in. He found an urban prairie, with 90,000 ravaged and empty buildings, a school system that was impoverished and a crime rate second to none in the US. But Binelli also discovered a new Detroit emerging; with urban farms and a vibrant arts scene. Is a new future, he wondered, being wrought on the post-industrial frontier? Book Review

TV: BBC Monty Don's Italian Gardens

TV: BBC Monty Don's French Gardens

AUDIO: Conversation with Bill Bryson  Bill Bryson is a kind of travel writer in all his books - even if the travel is through his childhood, or the world of science, or the history of private life.

23/05/10 - Brill Bryson's At Home: A Short History of Private Life  A history of the world without leaving your armchair

31/01/13 - Will Self: the joy of armchair anthropology  When enjoying the luxuries of a western city, I like nothing better than to read accounts of the !Kung bushmen and Ik tribe. Call it comfort savagery. My latest armchair travels are with Jared Diamond

The impact of tourism

06/09/17 - RADIO: Costing the Earth: Tourist Tide (30 mins) Can beautiful places welcome mass tourism without environmental destruction? Tom Heap reports. There's been a summer of discontent in some of Europe's most popular tourist destinations. In Venice and Barcelona there have been a series of protests over their inundation by visitors. In the capital of the Basque country, San Sebastian, 'tourists go home' graffiti has appeared. Dubrovnik is capping the number of visitors allowed in the old city. Even the Isle of Skye told people not to come unless they had accommodation already booked. So how can the most popular places find a way to continue attracting visitors and their cash without destroying the beauty that was so appealing in the first place? Tom travels to Orkney which has become the most popular cruise destination in the UK and to Amsterdam which is trialling innovative ways to spread its millions of visitors beyond the Rijksmuseum, the coffee shops and the Red Light District.

16/11/16 - RADIO: Costing the Earth: Cruising: A Dirty Secret (30 mins) A new cruise ship terminal is planned for Greenwich. Enderby Wharf will bring holiday makers right into the heart of the UK's capital city. Greenwich is an existing pollution hotspot. Heavy traffic from nearby Trafalgar Road and the Blackwall Tunnel mean that air quality limits are frequently breached. Bringing a cruise ship into the area will further exacerbate the problem, increasing traffic bringing goods and services to the terminal. Residents have raised concerns that visiting ships would burn 700 litres of diesel an hour whilst in dock. That's the equivalent of over 650 HGV lorries idling in an already polluted part of the city. At least 9000 Londoners already die prematurely each year as a result of breathing dirty air. Southampton is a city built around its docks and so Tom Heap visits the Solent to find out how bad air pollution from cruise ships can be and asks what can be done by the industry to cut down on harmful emissions when the ships are in berth.

25/04/14 - Everest Avalanche Appeal In the early hours of Friday 18 April, an avalanche struck and 13 Sherpas lost their lives in the Khumbu Icefall on Everest.  Three more Sherpas are missing, and must be assumed dead.

01/06/13 - Maxed Out on Everest - How to fix the mess at the top of the world.

Book Review: The Final Call by Leo Hickman - In search of the true cost of our holidays. Read the eBook

Wildlife Trade: Use Humane Society International's  interactive map to learn more and sign the pledge  to avoid contributing to this trade. Every year billions of animals are inhumanely captured and killed to provide for entertainment, and to make products for people to buy here and around the world. It’s called the international wildlife trade, and you can help stop it by avoiding products and experiences that come from these abused animals.

01/06/13 - Ecotourism Playing Key Role in Mongolia's Transition to Green Economy  Mongolia's 2.1 degree centigrade rise in temperature over the last 70 years has led to drier conditions and degradation of pasture land, placing pressure on traditional herder communities. "Climate change is happening before our eyes: it is getting dryer every year and the winters are getting longer; our pastureland can't support as much livestock and the herders now realize animal husbandry is not the only way to live," says Mr. Dashpurev. "They have guest yurts, and can take in in paying tourists for a traditional experience. The trust also contributes to the cost of solar panels to provide power and buys produce from them." For Mr. Dashpurev, there is no choice but to start looking to a greener economy that adapts to the changing conditions and does not contribute to further climate change through the mining and burning of such resources as coal.

06/03/13 - Tough times for Egypt Tourist Industry  Luxor has become particularly dependent on tourism and both people and animals are suffering from the political instability which makes the tourists stay away.

24/10/11 - The mission to clean up Mount Everest Environmentalists in Nepal are pressing the government to keep the Himalayas free from litter.

Why do we travel?

Book Review:  The Art of Travel  by Alain de Botton - As the scope of our travel widens and we become more efficient at getting there, and as the material standards of hotels and resorts improve, a predictable paradox emerges: the experience itself is tinged with disappointment.

Top 10 countries killing the planet

11/05/2010 - The study, Evaluating the Relative Environmental Impact of Countries, uses seven indicators of environmental degradation: natural forest loss, habitat conversion, marine captures, fertilizer use, water pollution, carbon emissions and species threat.