Confession – I like to travel. I dream of distant lands, faraway places, bustling metropolises that vibrate to their own special, unique cultural beats. The world is a big place, and from the fiery Darvaza Crater in Turkmenistan to the remote Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan, I have amassed a hefty list of Places-To-Visit in my lifetime. Below are a few of the wilder ones.
Tristan da Cunha Island
The loneliest island on Earth. With the nearest land mass 2430km away, Tristan da Cunha is as remote as it gets – so remote that cartographers cannot draw it on most maps. The island, a mountainous and rocky volcanic outcropping, supports 270-odd British citizens. One telephone, one fax machine, and one mail delivery each year from the RMS St. Helena a year, the only mail ship in the world.
Darvaza Crater – Darvaza, Turkmenistan
As locals say, the door to hell. It was 1971, and a group of Soviet geologists discovered an underground cavern in central Turkmenistan that was rich in natural gas. Unfortunately, the cavern collapsed, destroying the drilling rig and creating a large, yawning hole with a 60 meter diameter. More than 30 years later, the pit still burns, creating an apocalyptic landscape that, after dusk, attracts thousands of spiders from around the desert. I’m sure my mom would dig that.
Manikarnika Ghat – Varanasi, India
In 2006, I was fortunate enough to visit Varanasi, one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. According to Hindu mythology, Varanasi was founded by the Hindu deity Lord Shiva, and those that are cremated at the Manikarnika Ghat are supposedly granted instant nirvana. The city draws over one million pilgrims a year. The funeral pyres dominate the “burning ghat”, ghat meaning the flight of steps leading down to the Ganges River, and surrounding markets sell all the essentials required for a proper cremation – wood, ghee, clothing, offerings to deities, etc. It’s a wild experience.
Namib Desert – outside of Swakopmund, Namibia
Considered one of the oldest deserts in the world, the Namib Desert boasts some of the largest sand dunes in the world, making the location a sandboarder’s paradise. A paradise without foliage of course. The timeless and shifting dunes reach heights of over 300 meter, sure to challenge even the most skilled riders. Sounds fun!
Blue Lagoon – Grindavík, Iceland
One of the most frequented destinations in Iceland, the Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa with an average water temperature of just over 100°F. Toasty. The superheated water is sourced near active lava flow and after being routed through turbines to generate electricity, the water is fed into the lagoon. The water is reputed to have medicinal properties, and bathers are required to adhere to a strict hygienic code, showering both before and after bathing. Don’t forget your towel.
Atlantic Road – Norway (Atlanterhavsveien)
The Atlanterhavsveien, or Atlantic Road, is the second-most visited scenic road in Norway (after the Trollstigen), stretching 5 miles and connecting the island of Averøy to the mainland city of Eide. The road spans several small islands, landfills, skerries and eight separate bridges. Both tourists and locals can often be seen fishing for saltwater fish, mostly cod, directly from the road. Drivers beware. Fun fact – while the road was being built from 1983 to 1989, no less than 12 hurricanes hindered construction.
Wadi-us-Salaam – Najaf, Iraq
Wadi-us-Salaam is undoubtedly the largest Islamic cemetery in the world, home to the graves of many Prophets and revered followers of Islam. Located in Najaf, Iraq, one of Shiite Muslim’s holiest cities, nearly all Shi’as in Iraq request burial in Wadi-us-Salaam. Approximately 5 million bodies are already buried throughout the 1500 acre grounds, so personal space may be limited.
“Tree of life” – Tsavo National Park, Kenya
Tsavo National Park was declared protected territory in 1948 and covers 8,200 square miles in southeastern Kenya. This acacia tree – deemed the “tree of life” – stands solo in the wild, thorny expanse of sun-blasted savanna. One can only imagine the paltry refuge it’s shade provides to animals seeking to escape equatorial rays. The image comes from Yann Arthus-Bertrand, a prolific French artist renowned for his aerial photography. What a shot, yea?
Taktshang Monastery – Paro Valley, Bhutan
Talk about remote – Taktshang Monastery, or Tiger’s Nest Monastery, is located several hours away from Bhutan’s only airport. While you can walk close enough to snap some photos, you probably won’t be granted access inside. Erected hundreds of years ago on the side of a 10,000ft cliff, Tiger’s Nest is positioned precariously on a ledge 2,000ft above the valley floor. As outlined by national law, one cannot travel around Bhutan without a guide, and many tourists shy away from the daily costs associated with following these rules.
Grand Bazaar – Tehran, Iran
The Grand Bazaar is the world’s largest bazaar, with many corridors ranging over 10km in length. Despite historical significance throughout the 19th century as a hubbub of banks, mosques, financiers and guesthouses, most of the bazaar was constructed rather recently. In fact, you could call the Grand Bazaar one of the newest in the Middle East. Iranians trade, among other goods, precious metals, spices, paper, carpets, and a wide variety of modern products. Locked and guarded at night, the bazaar experiences peak traffic at midday and between 5pm-7pm in the early evening. Haggling is encouraged!
Which places would you like visit?
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