The Victorians loved letterboxing, travelling around a remote area with just a map and some directions, finding a tin box and in it, a rubber stamp and a log book. They’d stamp their log, enter their details in the log book and head off for the next ‘letterbox’.
The modern world loved the idea of this Victorian treasure hunt and with the advance of technology and GPS in particular, modern letterboxing, now called ‘Geocaching’, was born.
When the first ‘Geocache’ was set in May 2000, no one could have predicted its popularity today where almost every country in the world has at least one of the two million geocaches hidden somewhere, traceable only by the GPS facility on your mobile device.
In a world where IT usually means sitting at home playing games, geocaching is a great form of exercise and has now become a social phenomenon too with a variety of collectables placed in geocaches that tell something about the last person who visited and who left a memento of their geocache experience. Today, you can even book geocaching holidays where you’ll travel around a country by hire car or sometimes bicycle, overnighting at hotels before spending the day searching for geocaches.
In the most popular countries for geocaching, you almost don’t need GPS for there are so many geocache sites, you’re nearly tripping over them. The USA has almost half of the world total with the most recent figures showing 882,000 geocache sites across the country, averaging around 17,000 per state. If you’re an avid geocacher, get yourself a rental car in whichever American state you fancy and get your walking boots on and fire up your iPhone. One of the most famous in the US is a little unusual due to the security concerns over leaving containers at famous land marks. The name of the geocache gives you a clue where it is– The Empire Strikes Back!
Germany has over 275,000 geocache sites and is a favourite of British geocachers who want to take their hobby overseas. Plenty can be found in the beautiful Black Forest but our favourite can be found near the symbol of Berlin and one of Germany’s most famous landmarks. You’ll need to hire a car in Berlin to find it and park nearby before following the GPS coordinates to find the cache.
Canada comes in at number three on the list with 160,000 sites, not that many for a huge country, but if you don’t want to trek for hundreds of miles across the tundra, looking for a geocache in the frozen wastes of the Arctic tundra, there are many more accessible ones. Our favourite is in Toronto where visitors often confuse the name of its location with a famous American news channel. In fact it’s named after the railway company that built it. Once again, you’ll get amazing views when you’ve found it located in one of Canada’s top landmarks.
Having invented geocaching’s ancient predecessor, you’d be surprised if the UK didn’t feature on the list and, if geographical area is taken into account, you’ll find that we have one of the biggest densities of geocaches in the geocache world! There are almost too many wonderful geocache sites to mention but our favourite is Dartmoor, one of the original ‘letterbox’ locations. Stunning views and differing levels of challenge depending on the time of year mean this is one you can do over and over again. One of the most challenging locations is Bala in North Wales where geocachers either love or hate the routes for the geocachers there have taken it upon themselves to make finding the caches very difficult!
In fifth place comes Sweden with nearly 63,000 sites. Our favourite here requires a boat for once you’ve made it to Stockholm, you’ll need to get seaborne to find several on the thousands of islands that make up the Stockholm Archipelago. In summer the ride is beautiful, some choose power boats, some sail and the very brave row their way to the geocache sites.
If you want somewhere more unusual to do your geocaching, consider some of the less well known geocache sites:
You’ll find one site on the Caribbean island of St Eustatius – whilst it’s only one, you’ll spend a long time getting there by plane and sea, one in Eritrea in the Horn of Africa where you’ll have to evade separatists as well as survive hostile environments provided by nature whilst the world’s poorest country Burkino Faso, makes its mark in geocaching with two sites. Whilst geocaching there, many adherents also spend time helping out or giving to the millions of poor people living there.
If you’re tempted, your next step will be to visit the geocaching website (no GPS required!) at www.geocaching.com
then hire a car, book a hotel or take a tent and become one of the millions of people around the world hooked on geocaching!