I love just about any travel experience, but there’s something a little extra special about traveling to hard to reach destinations. Remote places on the globe have always fascinated me and today they make me feel like a modern day adventurer. Paris, London and Berlin are all fun to visit, but any trip that involves a score of flight connections, boats or hours of overland transportation to reach my final resting stop never fails to put a big smile on my face. With that in mind, here are a few of my favorite remote travel destinations that I’ve visited so far. And yes, I know that not all of these are too hard to reach and that there are many other, more remote areas on the globe, but these are the ones I have visited and enjoyed exploring. Hopefully in a few years I’ll be able to add in all of those other destinations missing from this list.
If any continent lures travelers with the promise of special moments, it’s Antarctica. Hard to reach and hard to travel around, it’s one of the last few truly adventurous trips still available to us in the modern era. And my own trip to Antarctica did indeed deliver those unique moments in spades. Aside from the impossibly cute (and slightly dirty) penguins though, it’s the seemingly impenetrable landscapes that impressed me the most. After hiking up a snowy switchback path to the top of a hill, I was met with one of the most impressive scenes I’ve ever witnessed. The icy waters extended into the horizon and all I could see were vast quantities of rock, ice and water. It seemed to go on forever and I have never felt smaller in my entire life. Standing there on the bottom of the world, it was an important moment to help quantify the immensity of the planet. It’s a fact that we modern travelers tend to forget. In an age when I can hop on a nonstop flight and be in Hong Kong tomorrow, it seems as if the world has never been smaller. But we forget just how massive this beautiful planet is and how many unique experiences there are to be had. We forget about the small inlets and villages forgotten to time. It was an important moment as it put into context what I do now for a living and how it isn’t just part of my life – it IS my life. This quest to seek new answers and discover new things will never end, just as that horizon in Antarctica seemed to have no boundaries.
Gwalia, Western Australia
Australia is vast, bigger than you realize, and the state of Western Australia consumes an enormous chunk of the continent. To travel around WA is an adventure in its own right, but the remote and sparsely populated Goldfields region is something a little extra special. When I was planning my trip to Western Australia I discovered something that surprised me for just how improbable it is – the home of a former U.S. President in the middle of Western Australia’s vast Goldfields region. Located about half an hour from nothing and 45 minutes from nowhere is Gwalia, a ghost town home to three things: 1) abandoned houses; 2) an active mine and 3) the very comfortable home of Herbert Hoover, America’s 31st President. Before he was President, Hoover was an engineer and worked for a mining company that shipped him around the world many times, including Australia. He built this comfortable country house when he was made manager of the mine, which is adjacent to the property, and today it’s part museum and part bed and breakfast. That’s right, you can venture out to Gwalia, see the mine and spend the night in Hoover’s bed. Definitely odd, but it was also one of my favorite experiences in Western Australia.
I love visiting northern parts of the world, especially during the winter months. Yes, it’s freezing and dark but I think there’s a certain unique beauty to these remote parts of the world, best experienced in their most extreme season. That’s one reason why I found myself in extreme northern Norway in the small town of Alta, located in the middle of nowhere. Known as the Northern Lights Capital of the World, Alta Norway has a long tradition of welcoming those in search of this odd phenomenon, but it wasn’t until my last night that I saw them in their full glory. I was alone on a frozen river, as one does, and quickly found myself surrounded by the giant streaks of light. I had no idea that the Northern Lights could be like that, they seemed to surround me, dancing across the skies and hiding behind the mountains. I stayed there for as long as my frozen hands could stand the elements, not wanting to leave for fear of missing part of the show. Everyone talks about the Northern Lights and we’ve all seen photos of them, but it doesn’t at all prepare you for the actual experience. Magical is a horrible word to use in travel posts, but it’s more than appropriate in this one instance.
Located in the middle of the Pacific is that remarkable island chain known as the Society Islands. The South Pacific is the stuff of travel dreams and for me, it had been a personal mission of mine to visit Tahiti for as long as I can remember. Thanks to movies, books and even songs, Papeete in particular seemed so exotic, so foreign and so remote that it captivated me. Of course, reality is a little different but that didn’t diminish my own sense of wonder as I explored Tahiti and the other islands of French Polynesia for the first time. Not only does it live up to the hype, it exceeds every expectation. I wanted a tropical paradise and I found it, from those dreamy overwater bungalows on Bora Bora to swimming with sharks through perfectly clear waters. But French Polynesia is about so much more than those postcard images. It’s full of people who are amongst the nicest and most welcoming that I’ve ever met. It’s full of jungles and rivers and other beautiful scenes most people don’t know exist. It has a complicated history, a fascinating culture and endless stories to share, if people are curious enough to ask. Tahiti is a special place and even though I had just one short week there, I know it’s not my last experience on those islands. The siren call of French Polynesia wasn’t dampened by my trip, it only grew louder.
Although I’ve spent precious little time in South America, the experiences I have had there are meaningful and special to me. In particular, a trip to the Galapagos a few years ago had the unintended consequence of forever changing my life. Made famous by Darwin onboard the Beagle, the Galapagos is mecca for those of us with a passion for wildlife and natural exploration. There is nothing quite like walking through a field dotted with giant tortoises, or swimming practically nose-to-nose with playful sea lions. When I returned home a new spirit of wanderlust was reawakened, I realized how much I enjoyed adventure travel and wanted to share my experiences with as many people as I could. A few months later I started this web site; I firmly believe that trip to the Galapagos was the intellectual impetus for LandLopers. Without it, I still might be stuck in a cubicle not living the life I was meant to live.
Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania
The 12-mile wide Ngorongoro Crater is not your normal place. Usually referred to as a real-life Garden of Eden, unique conditions in the crater mean that many different kinds of wildlife call this pristine area home all year. While there were some individual moments I know I’ll always remember, the entire day spent there exploring was one of those experiences that define not just a trip, but a lifetime of traveling. It’s a one-stop-shop for African wildlife, from elephants wandering through the lush if not small forests to countless zebra and wildebeests, birds like the flamingo and more fearsome animals like Cape buffalo, hippos and multiple prides of lion. To experience the Ngorongoro is to experience the beauty of Africa in miniature and is natural exploration at its finest.
Extraterrestrial Highway, Nevada
Otherwise known as Nevada State Route 375, this is a 98-mile stretch of road that starts at the intersection of U.S. 93 and the Extraterrestrial Highway and continues west to the intersection of the Highway and U.S. 6. Thanks to the fact that Area 51 rests along the highway, this area has long been known for alien sightings and a fierce belief in life from other worlds visiting the remote Nevada desert. Over the years the road has developed into what it is today, one of the quirkiest but also one of the loneliest stretches of road in the country. Some of my favorite moments were admiring the desert landscapes, enjoying fantastic blueberry pie at the Little A’Le’Inn, visiting (sort of) Area 51, and spending the night at a haunted hotel in Tonopah, Nevada.
What is your favorite remote travel destination?