Forget the travel guide! This is a list of some of the most remote, exotic and inaccessible destinations in the world. You won’t meet anyone who has been there. Nor will your friends understand why you would want to go there. But if you crave adventure and shun the beaten path, you won’t find many places as unique as these:
Go there instead of: Alaska
Appeal: At over 80 degrees in latitude, this is one of the closest points you can get to the North Pole on land. Home to the northernmost civilian settlements, this archipelago is permanently covered in polar ice caps, like Antarctica. It is also home to the highest concentration of polar bears.
What to do: Multi-day backcountry ski touring treks with pulkas (sleds) and guides will give you a taste of real polar expeditioning in the arctic landscape. Take a ride on one of the icebreaker boats that operate on the islands, and do a seaborne visit of the icy coasts. Take a detour to visit Pyramiden, an abandoned soviet mining ghost town. And why not stop to take a photo next to the daunting entrance of the doomsday seed vault, which safely stores seeds from over 10 000 crop plants to be used to repopulate our fields in the event of a global calamity. If you’re a runner, you may also enjoy chalking up the world’s northernmost marathon to your list of accomplishments.
What to see: Arctic landscapes, polar bears, abandoned villages. Midnight sun.
Travelling: Regular flights from Norway allow visitors to get there relatively easily.
Tristan da Cunha
Go there instead of: Galapagos Islands
Appeal: This is the most isolated place in the world. The archipelago is further from another piece of land than any other on Earth. With a total population of 264, the inhabitants of the only settlement, Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, live in profound isolation.
What to do: Time your visit with wildlife wonders. See the Rockhopper penguin colonies or the nesting of the Yellow-Nosed Albatross. Stay at the home of an islander and experience the unique life of extremely isolated settlements. Hike and explore the flora of the mountain.
What to see: Seabirds and wildlife. Endemic plant species. The most remote settlement in the world.
Travelling: This one’s a bit tricky. The last remaining Royal Mail Ship (UK) services Tristan da Cunha but only once a year, which means a long stay if you don’t have another way back. It may be possible to hitch a ride with one of the fishing vessels that visit the island from Cape Town a bit more regularly. Be sure to carefully check all the requirements and to obtain proper visiting permissions in advance.
Go there instead of: Nepal, Tibet
Appeal: This hermetic mountain kingdom is intentionally one of the most traditional countries in the world. Perched at the top of the Himalayas, this highly isolated country is home to an extremely devout Tantric Buddhist people who still rely (more than 50%) on subsistence farming and who carefully guard their beautiful culture.
What to do: Trekking! Multi-day treks through the Himalayas are offered by the government tourist agency. Some of the mountains tower higher than 7000 meters, but going above 6000 meters is forbidden as this is thought to be the dwelling place of the Gods.
What to see: Breathtaking Himalayan mountains. Ancient Buddhist monasteries perched in the precipitous mountainsides. Cultural rituals. Nomadic yak herders.
Travelling: You can fly to the Capital Thimphu from India or Thailand. From there it is recommend to use the state touristic agency to organize treks into the mountains. There are strict rules for visitors so make sure you conform to all requirements before leaving.
Go there instead of: Tahiti
Appeal: Those who are familiar with the incredible story of the Mutiny on the Bounty will be amazed to learn that the mutineers never left the island that they settled in rebellion. They still live there today. All 56 inhabitants of Pitcairn Island are direct descendants of the bounty mutineers. Their language, which they developed through isolation from the world, has one of the smallest speaker-base yet it is spoken by everyone there. Besides the fascinating people, the island offers all the tropical exoticism of Polynesian islands.
What to do: Stay with local islanders and live the tropical lifestyle. Rent a quad bike and visit the island. Take a tour on a Polynesian longboat and visit the uninhabited adjacent atolls. Snorkel around the coral.
What to see: Islanders. Coral. Sunshine. Tropical forest.
Travelling: Due to the lack of airport or large harbour, the best way to reach the island is with a chartered longboat from Mangareva. You can reach Mangareva by plane from Tahiti. There are strict rules for visitors so be sure to follow the official instructions.
Ancient city of Niya
Go there instead of: Tunisia / Sahara
Appeal: Located in remote part of the Taklamakan desert, this is one of the most inaccessible relics of the world. To get there requires a mounted camel expedition through rolling sand dunes and a high level of commitment. Along the way, visit the tiny desert Oasis town of Minfeng deep in the Uygur Autonomous Region of China and witness the rapidly changing Han/Uygur demographics of Xinjiang. For a bona fide desert experience, it doesn’t get much more real than this. This part of the world is changing fast, so it’s worth seeing while it is still ‘wild’.
What to do: Mount a camel expedition to visit the ruins of the second-century town of Niya. Multi-day trekking in the desert. Meet the Uygurs of the desert and experience their unique culture. Try to trade in the Minfeng bazaar on a Sunday. Drive a part of the cross-desert highway, the longest desert road in the world.
What to see: The intense desolation of the Taklamakan desert. Endless sand dunes. Uygur culture and architecture. The ruins of an ancient town on the silk road.
Travelling: Access to this part of the world is regulated by Chinese authorities and the rules change quickly; make sure you obtain all proper permissions in advance –it may not be cheap. You must first travel to mainland China. From there you can make the terrifying flight to Kashgar. If you survive that, a bus can take you to Minfeng.