BBC – Travel – The Darvaza Crater: The USSR’s top-secret desert mystery

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The Karakum Desert is a massive expanse of sun-scorched sand dunes covering roughly 70% of Turkmenistan. You could wander through this parched 350,000sq km badlands for days and only see the endless crests and valleys of the Karakum’s barren wilderness. But if you make your way to the desert’s north-central plain, you may stumble upon a truly surreal site: the Darvaza Crater, a molten gas pit that has been spewing fire for decades and is known as “The Gates of Hell”.

The story goes that in 1971 Soviet geologists were drilling for oil in the desert when they hit a

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Boutique hotels in Iran: a new book picks some of the best

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(CNN) — Cultural heritage, great food and… boutique hotels?

Some people travel to Iran for its history — the 24 UNESCO World Heritage sites in the country, for starters. Others go for the living culture — the great food and legendary day-to-day hospitality that regular travelers rave about.

Thomas Wegmann is a little different. For him, the most striking thing about Iran is its hotels.

Not grand seven-star hotels, either, but small, boutique properties run by families — while being absolutely cutting edge.

“In Iran, there’s a superb scene of boutique hotels combining contemporary design with characteristic Persian heritage —

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Barry Ramblers venture to Dinas Powys for summer stroll

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Ten walkers plus dogs Douglas and Bracken joined Naomi from Penarth and District Ramblers at Pen-y-Turnpike Road, Dinas Powys for an evening stroll in the area in beautiful June sunshine.

Setting off across the bridge over the Cadoxton River they tramped the footpath towards the Millfields passing two ponies contentedly grazing in the adjoining field strikingly painted bright yellow with tall buttercups.

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Speeding Barry M4 driver fined nearly £400

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Making their way into the beautiful woodland with its collection of

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