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The coolest expedition lodges on every continent

Sept. 16, 2022
12 min read
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Sure, there's nothing quite like visiting a bustling metropolis, from Tokyo and its neon lights to Paris and its historic architecture. But sometimes, you just want to get away from it all, to head out into the wilderness and connect with nature. In that case, an expedition to a remote corner of the globe might be the trip for you.

Fortunately, you don't need to pitch a tent and set up camp to spend time in a far-flung destination. In fact, all seven continents are home to incredible expedition lodges, from Africa's luxurious safari camps that blend seamlessly with nature to Antarctica's Space Age pods that seem like alien outposts.

If you're looking to venture far afield to experience the most adventure properties in some of the most extreme places on Earth, these 12 lodges represent the coolest accommodations on every continent.

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Africa

Time + Tide Chinzombo in Zambia

At Time + Tide Chinzombo, just six tents sit beneath msikizi trees on the Luangwa River in Zambia, their expansive decks with private plunge pools opening to the water. From here, take a quick boat ride across the river to reach South Luangwa National Park, a destination known for its abundant populations of hippos and leopards, though you can find African elephants, lions, leopards and Cape buffalo in the park, too. Game drives — and, occasionally, boat cruises, depending on the season — are the main safari activities outside of camp, but don't miss your chance to sleep beneath the stars: a guide and a chef will accompany you to a dry, sandy riverbed in the park where you can spend the night gazing at the Milky Way above. A tent can be booked from $1,150 per person, per night, which is inclusive of all meals and activities.

andBeyond Sossusvlei Desert in Namibia

Suites at &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge afford views of an otherwordly landscape. ANDBEYOND

If you've ever wanted to take a trip to Mars, the Sossusvlei Desert Lodge might be the closest thing you can get right now to such a journey, and you can find it right here on Earth. In this part of the Namib Desert in Namibia, towering red tunes sit in front of a backdrop of rocky red mountains — it's like a vision from an intergalactic vacation. And at the &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert camp, the property takes a science fiction-meets-bushcamp look, with stone-and-glass architecture and minimalist decor. You'll also be quite alone here, just as you would in space: The camp is the only property on the 31,419-acre private reserve. And the stargazing is phenomenal, aided by the on-site observatory and the skylights above the beds in each of the 12 suites. Book your stay from $683 per person per night. The rate includes three meals a day, activities such as desert drives, dune walks and e-biking, a selection of beverages including local spirits and beers, and round-trip airstrip transfers, plus other amenities.

Asia

Three Camel Lodge in Mongolia

Three Camel Lodge is the only luxury eco-lodge in Mongolia's vast Gobi Desert, and it's the best place to immerse yourself in the cultural history of the country's nomadic peoples and the beauty of the steppe. Surrounding the temple-like lodge, where guests find the main restaurant and bar, are 40 traditional structures called gers (or yurts). These are the guest accommodations, and they're made by hand by local artisans, filled with polychromatic wood furniture, and outfitted with modern comforts like en-suite bathrooms. There's no Wi-Fi here, though — all the better for being entirely present during activities like horseback riding, lessons in nomadic archery and cooking classes for traditional Mongolian cuisine. You can also visit the small village of Bulgan, which is a hub for nomadic families. Rates start at $882 per night and include all meals and nonalcoholic beverages, scheduled excursions, round-trip airport transfers and more.

Como Uma Paro in Bhutan

Como Uma Paro offers wellness treatments and luxury accommodations for adventure travelers. COMO HOTELS AND RESORTS

The mountainous Kingdom of Bhutan is the perfect destination for adventure seekers — particularly travelers who want to stay somewhere luxurious and comfortable after a long day (or week) of outdoor activities, from a hike to the iconic Tiger's Nest monastery to scenic helicopter flights. The boutique Como Uma Paro property, for instance, can organize multiday treks through the mountains for guests, who can then return to the property for pampering in the Como Shambhala Retreat, the brand's signature wellness center. Treatments range from Ayurvedic massages like shirodhara, during which oil is poured on the forehead in a steady stream to promote mental clarity, as well as a Bhutanese traditional hot stone bath. The hotel is designed in the style of a traditional Bhutanese village — there are 20 rooms in the main lodge and nine freestanding villas on the 38-acre property. Rates start at $606 per night.

Australia and Oceania

Berkeley River Lodge in Australia

You'll have to hop on a bush flight from Kununurra or charter a private boat to reach Berkeley River Lodge, the most remote property on the Australian mainland. Set on the ancient Kimberley Coast atop a sand dune overlooking the Timor Sea, the 20-villa property is the perfect base camp for exploring the rugged region by boat, helicopter or a 4WD vehicle. Keep an eye out for seasonal waterfalls that line the basalt columns of the river gorge. Sadly, you're not able to swim in the ocean, as some of Australia's famed aquatic wildlife resides in this region (think: saltwater crocodiles, bull sharks and venomous Irukandji jellyfish), but those brave enough can take a dip in certain spots in the river. And, for a little less of an adrenaline rush, there's a beautiful oceanfront lap pool for leisurely swims. Book a room at the all-inclusive lodge from $1,954 per night.

Minaret Station in New Zealand

Stars shine over Minaret Station, where most guest activities require a helicopter. FREDRIK LARSSON/MINARET STATION/FACEBOOK

There's only one way to get to Minaret Station: a helicopter. The alpine lodge is located in a mountain-lined glacial valley near Lake Wanaka with zero road access, which means many of its activities are helicopter-based, too. For travelers seeking an adrenaline rush, there's heli-skiing and mountain biking across the South Island. For those craving something a little more relaxing, there are mountaintop Champagne picnics and backcountry fly fishing. Back at the lodge, guests can relax in one of four private chalets, which include hot tubs and a private deck. Meals here are a gourmet experience based on the freshest ingredients, whether that's Te Mana lamb or the catch of the day, and can be enjoyed in the main building or in the chalet. Rooms, which feature plaid upholstery, white-washed wood ceilings and cozy accents like a fleece beanbag, start at $1,930 per night. The rate includes pre-dinner drinks and canapes; daily breakfast, lunch and a multicourse dinner; private guides for hiking and more.

Europe

Nordenskiold Lodge in Svalbard

The remote archipelago Svalbard is most frequently visited by cruise or expedition ship, but you can also explore the destination by land. Get close to the Nordenskiold glacier with a stay at Nordenskiold Lodge, the world's northernmost commercial cabin, set in a rocky glacial moraine some 100 miles northeast of the town of Longyearbyen. There are five guest rooms in the lodge that can each accommodate two people (10 guests total). In the summer, the lodge is accessible via boat, but in the winter, you'll have to make the journey by snowmobile or dog sled. Out here, it's all about nature: polar bears, Arctic foxes, seals and beluga whales all call this region home. Spot them on a hike, by kayak or from the comfort of the minimalist lodge, which might not have running water or electricity, but does have a sauna and impeccable Scandinavian decor. (Don't fret: There's also an indoor toilet.) Stays must be booked as a multiday expedition package through Basecamp Explorer, and most tours have a minimum of four guests. You can book the full tour for exclusivity; otherwise, you'll likely be traveling with a small group. Rates start at $2,037 per person for a three-night stay, which includes meals and activities.

North America

Ultima Thule Lodge in Alaska

Ultima Thule Lodge offers five comfortable cabins in a spectacular, remote setting. ULTIMA THULE LODGE/FACEBOOK

Anything can happen at Ultima Thule Lodge, and we mean anything. There are no set itineraries for guests who stay at this remote Alaskan lodge in the Wrangell/St. Elias Mountains, which is only accessible by bush plane — it's 400 miles from Anchorage, and 100 miles from the nearest paved road. All activities are dependent upon the day's conditions, as guests must be flown to different sites, but they could range from exploring an abandoned gold mine to paddling an inflatable pack raft on a glacial lake. It's all up to the guides and the guests. Back at the lodge, which has just five cabins, guests can enjoy comforts like electricity and hot running water. The cabin's decor stays true to the wilderness lodge aesthetic — you'll find plenty of antlers and sheepskin rugs — but it's all styled with a contemporary edge. The price starts at $10,000 per person (based on double occupancy) for a four-night stay, which includes air transfers to and from the lodge, daily adventures with the bush-plane, Alaskan cuisine and more.

Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge in Canada

Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge is Churchill Wild's most remote wilderness lodge, which is saying something for an adventure company known for its remote wilderness lodges. It's located on Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada, and yes, there are polar bears. But they aren't the only animals you'll see here. Black bears live here, too, as do wolves, moose, seals and beluga whales — this is a full-on Arctic safari, after all, which can be taken by ATV or on foot, depending on the season. Within the lodge, amenities are plush, from satellite Wi-Fi to "tundra-inspired" cuisine (think: caribou tenderloin and wild Arctic cranberry cake). Rates start at $10,841 per person for an eight-night safari, which includes airfare, accommodations, all meals, excursions and guide services.

South America

Tierra Atacama in Chile

Luxury rooms at Tierra Atacama include panoramic views and an open bar. TIERRA HOTELS/FACEBOOK

The Atacama is one of the best places in the world to go stargazing, thanks to the area's minimal light pollution and crystal clear air at a high altitude. And that's exactly what you should do at Tierra Atacama, one of the most luxurious lodges in the desert. But when the sun's out, you have your pick of activities, from visiting colorful salt lakes to hiking volcanoes and biking through canyons. Or, you can stay at the lodge and indulge in its wellness offerings, from massage therapies to yoga and meditation classes. Perhaps you just want to relax in the comfort of your desert-chic room; each has a spectacular panoramic view. Room rates range from $1,800 per person for a two-night stay, which includes transfers from the Calama Airport (CJC), buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner, an open bar and two half-day excursions or a single full-day excursion, all of which take place in small groups with other guests.

Mashpi Lodge in Ecuador

Drive some 70 miles of windy roads from bustling Quito and you'll end up deep in the cloud forest, which is where you'll find at the 22-room Mashpi Lodge. The eco-boutique hotel feels something like a contemporary treehouse, with sleek architecture set among the trees. And while the hotel itself is beautiful, you're here for the flora and fauna; there are a number of trails throughout the private reserve that bring you up close to some 400 species of birds that live here, plus all sorts of frogs (a brand new species was discovered here in 2019) and flowering plants like orchids. Even when you're in your minimalist guest room, you'll feel connected to nature, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows that let you peek into the canopy. Book a stay from $1,400 per night.

Antarctica

White Desert Echo

KELVIN TRAUTMAN/WHITE DESERT

While tens of thousands of visitors head to Antarctica each year, nearly all of them do so by cruise ship, and hardly any of them spend the night on land. But you can actually take a land-based trip to Antarctica, thanks to the company White Desert, which operates camps across the continent. Its Echo camp looks as if it's from a different galaxy — seven futuristic pods (six guest accommodations and a common space) serve as the home base for intrepid explorers, who spend their days visiting a nearby emperor penguin colony, ice climbing, cross-country skiing or other freezing-weather activities. It's even possible to schedule trips to the South Pole. Expect to spend $65,000 per person for a five-day trip, which includes round-trip flights from Cape Town, South Africa, on a private jet.

FEATURED PHOTO COURTESY OF COMO HOTELS AND RESORTS

Featured image by PHOTO COURTESY OF COMO UMA PARO
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
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  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

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  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

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  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases