7 far-flung and obscure spots to add to your bucket list
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Editor’s note: The team at The Points Guy loves to travel, but now is not the time for unnecessary trips. Health officials note that the fastest way to return to normalcy is to stop coming in contact with others. That includes ceasing travel. We are publishing travel deals and destination content because we should all use this time to think about and plan our next adventures. TPG doesn’t advise booking trips for travel until summer or fall — and even then be mindful of cancellation policies.
One day, travel will indeed bounce back — so start getting ready by choosing those bucket list destinations you’d like to visit. After these past few months of being grounded due to Spain’s government-mandated coronavirus lockdown, I realized just how much I’ve taken travel for granted.
I’ve taken this time at home to think carefully about what it is I really want to see, visit and experience once I’m able to travel again (and I feel safe enough to board a long-haul flight — or any flight). I might skip some of the more typical bucket list haunts (though there’s nothing wrong with heading straight to Vatican City, the Egyptian pyramids, Machu Picchu or the Maldives) in lieu of some lesser-visited, more obscure but equally impressive bucket list spots.
If you want to see some incredible wonders without the crowds of people and hordes of tourists, add some of these far-flung destinations to your travel bucket list.
1. Raja Ampat, Indonesia
The perfect alternative to busy Bali, Raja Ampat is a dream for divers, sustainable travelers or anyone who’s looking for exotic Indonesian islands with pristine beaches and clear waters teeming with some of the unique marine life in the world, including thousands of different coral and fish species.
The island archipelago is located off West Papua and features well over 1,000 islands. The main ones though, are some of the easiest to visit (Missol, Waigeo, Batanta and Salawati), as you first fly into Sorong (SOQ) and then ferry over to the islands. The islands are positively dreamy — think rugged jungle and mountain terrain hiding secret white-sand beaches. Views of limestone cliffs jutting out of the sea may trigger thoughts of Thailand’s Koh Phi Phi or Vietnam’s Halong Bay — but minus tourists.
2. Choquequirao, Peru
If lining up with thousands of other tourists to see Inca wonder Machu Picchu doesn’t seem appealing in a post-coronavirus world, we get it. For those who really love to get lost in the wilderness, Choquequirao may be a better choice.
Ruins of another ancient Inca city, Choquequirao, still remain rather lost and unknown, requiring a grueling two-day hike up to reach it (similar to the Inca Trail, but way before it was popular) from the town of Cachora in Peru.
It’s worth it though when you admire those crumbling ruins separated into 12 distinct areas without tourists ruining your selfies. Unlike Machu Picchu, which now charges a hefty entrance fee, going inside Choquequiraro is free of permits and entrance fees and lacks all the hassle of lines, crowds and tourist infrastructure. If you still want just a little bit of that though, Cusco and the Sacred Valley aren’t too far away.
You may have a Big Five safari jaunt on your bucket list in a spot like South Africa, Kenya or Tanzania. And while those are definitely incredible ways to see some very special wildlife, an alternative African destination that’s just as fascinating but for very different reasons is Ethiopia. And, you can still have a “safari” type experience, but instead of spotting the Big Five, you’ll catch sight of the rare and special Simien fox, the Gelada monkey or Walia ibex.
Up north, you can visit the famous city of Gondar known for its walled fortress and castle, and then continue on to the Simien Mountains to spot some of the aforementioned endangered species. South of Addis Ababa, the Bale Mountains National Park has glacial lakes, swamps, forests and volcanoes — and over 22,000 species of butterflies.
Although Antarctica is larger than Europe, it’s one of the most remote bodies of land in the world. Those who love adventure and cruises may want to visit via ship, but note that this trip is definitely not cheap.
You may want to combine your Antarctica adventure with a trip to Argentina, as Ushuaia is one of the major cruise gateways for Antarctica. (You can also get there from Chile or New Zealand.) There’s always the busier hub of Buenos Aires to start from, but wine lovers may enjoy heading to Mendoza to tour vineyards and sip Malbec instead.
“You’ll have the best chance of seeing unique animals including baby penguins, whales, seals and a variety of bird life between the months of November and March. And, the Drake Passage waters will be calmer,” she said.
5. San Andrés and Providencia, Colombia
These two Colombian islands make for the perfect, blissful island escape. Located off the coast of Honduras in the Caribbean Sea but belonging to Colombia, Creole/Caribbean culture has meshed with Latin vibes to create a relaxed, reggae island culture.
Once you leave the main town of San Andrés City, you can chill out on white-sand beaches, where your only neighbors are shells, crabs and perhaps a local child collecting the aforementioned objects. From San Andrés, ferry (or take a puddle jumper) over to the quieter, colorful Providencia (just eight square miles), which has some of the best snorkeling in that corner of the world.
6. Tremiti Islands, Italy
While Italy’s Puglia region is no longer under the radar (remember when Matera was named Italy’s 2019 capital of culture?), the Tremiti Islands remain relatively unexplored, at least when it comes to international tourism. The small archipelago in the Adriatic Sea just off the Puglian coast isn’t like any Italian island you’ve ever been to, so don’t expect Capri’s sophistication or Sicily’s culinary scene here.
But for those looking for a destination that feels far-flung but is actually a part of Europe, the Tremiti Islands more than suffice. You can fly to Pescara or Bari, and find yourself on these surprisingly exotic islands (San Domino, Cretaccio San Nicola, Capraia and Pianosa) shortly thereafter, following a drive and a boat ride. Part of the Gargano National Park, the islands are known for excellent diving, as well as a number of 11th-century castles, fortresses, convents and other historical spots — even those karst limestone cliffs that are often associated with islands in Southeast Asia, but with denser pine foliage similar to the Balearic islands like Ibiza or Menorca.
7. Faroe Islands, Denmark
If you’re itching to get out into nature, head to one of the 18 different Faroe Islands, located between Iceland and Norway in the Atlantic. Although the islands are part of Denmark, their topography is more like Iceland — think remote volcanoes, cliffs and even glaciers. Take a slow ferry over, or fly to Vagar (FAE).
Once you get to the islands, you can do all sorts of outdoor activities ideal for social distancing, all while seeing epic natural wonders as opposed to people. Bike or hike, explore the snow-capped mountains, watch as sheep lazily graze green pastures or visit one of the most famous spots, the Mulafossur Waterfall. Plus, there are puffins everywhere — in fact, the islands are known for having immense diversity when it comes to bird species.
My post-coronavirus bucket list looks a little different from it did before. Instead of focusing on more popular, crowded tourist destinations, I’ll aim to take those trip-of-a-lifetime style vacations but in lesser-visited destinations that are a little more far-flung.
Featured photo of the Faroe Islands by Marc Perrella/Getty Images
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