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Tony Wheeler’s Dark Lands



Lonely Planet Co-Founder Tony Wheeler has travelled to virtually every country on earth, including many of the volatile nations on news reporters’ lips. In his new book, Dark Lands, which is being published in Lonely Planet’s 40th year, Tony gives a first-hand account of his experiences of travelling through some of the places most people fear to tread.

The British-born travel pioneer details his adventures in eight challenging countries, from being “detained” for taking photographs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to scoring a speeding ticket in Zimbabwe and visiting Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad in Pakistan.

Tony’s journey through the Dark Lands provides a fascinating account of what life is like in these destinations, with incisive social and political commentary and engaging depictions of the locals and travellers he meets along the way.

Tony’s fascination with visiting countries which most people are keen to avoid led to Bad Lands, a witty first-hand account of his travels through places often perceived as having some of the most repressive and dangerous regimes in the world. Tony explains in Dark Lands: “My first thought, when George W. Bush announced his Axis of Evil, was ‘I want to go there.’ Well, who wouldn’t? He’d inadvertently created an adventurer’s travel wish list: Iran, Iraq and North Korea, three countries that were worse than bad; they were positively evil. My travels through the bad lands turned out to be interesting, educational and, perhaps surprisingly, enjoyable, so a follow-up seemed an obvious plan.”

Following on from the success of Bad Lands, the new title sees Tony visit eight destinations – Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Israel and Palestine, Nauru, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Zimbabwe – and documents the challenges and delights of travel in these Dark Lands in his customary no-nonsense style. The book will appeal to anyone with an interest in the state of the world today.

Tony Wheeler’s Dark Lands is priced £8.99 and published on 30th August. Find out more about Lonely Planet’s travel literature titles here.


Tony wrote his first book and founded Lonely Planet with his wife Maureen in 1973 after they completed a 6 month trip from London across Europe, the Middle East, Asia and into Australia.

A legendary pioneer and travel figure, Wheeler has visited 155 countries and is regularly interviewed about his travels and starting Lonely Planet with media around the world. Tony now splits his time between Melbourne, London and travelling the globe.


Q. Which of the destinations that you visited in Dark Lands surprised you the most?

In various ways they all surprised me, but Pakistan was probably the biggest surprise even though I felt I knew it reasonably well. Despite its ‘scare the visitors away’ image it’s an often beautiful country, with an enormous amount to see and do and very friendly people. No tourists, though; they definitely have almost all been scared away.

Q. What was the highlight of your travels through the Dark Lands?

My dark travels were full of stand-out moments, but climbing to the crater rim of the Nyiragongo Volcano in Congo DRC and spending the night there was simply amazing. It’s the children’s picture book idea of what a volcano crater should be like – a red-hot lake of lava, spitting and bubbling and generally putting on a show.


Tony is available for interview.

Advance copies, extracts and images are available.


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