The allure of wide-open spaces, sweeping vistas, and untamed wilderness is as strong as ever. The serenity and vastness of these landscapes is a chance to escape from the stress and routine of city life. The silence and solitude offer an opportunity to slow down and unplug. Here, some inspiration to sketch out a plan to reassess, recover, and rediscover the world’s last isolated places.
By IRENE RAWLINGS
LENÇÓIS MARANHENSES NATIONAL PARK
Explore the wild and remote northeast coast of Brazil. Here, the vast Lençóis Maranhenses National Park stretches 40 miles up the coast and 30 miles inland. Its name in Portuguese translates to “bedsheets” because the area is an ephemeral sea of brilliant white dunes that are dotted by hundreds of azure freshwater lagoons during the rainy season (January–June). The base for exploration is the resolutely rustic Atins, a small fishing town that borders the national park. The streets are made of sand and there are virtually no lights at night. It may not remain under the radar much longer, as the international kitesurfing crowd has discovered it. Visit between June and August, when the lakes are full and the heat is less intense.
Fly into Sao Luis and take private land and boat transfers to Atins or Santo Amaro.
NOT TO MISS
Naya Traveler (nayatraveler.com) organizes tailored trips to Brazil and Lençóis Maranhenses that can include four-wheel drive excursions, kitesurfing, and moonlit horseback tours of the park. From $1,200/person/day.
Cross miles of golden dunes to reach ancient Siwa—a remote oasis of mineral springs, salt lakes, and endless groves of olive and palm trees. According to legend, Cleopatra actually bathed in Cleopatra’s Pool, the naturally bubbly freshwater springs you can still soak in today. You can also go sand boarding, ride Arabian horses in the Great Sand Sea (straight from scenes in The English Patient), and imagine when Alexander the Great consulted the oracle of Ammon at the temple here after he’d conquered Egypt. October to April is high season.
Drive nearly 12 hours from Cairo or fly by private helicopter service (helicopter4you.com).
Taziry Lodge ($380/person/day, all-inclusive; taziry.com) is an authentic eco-lodge with thick adobe walls, handwoven rugs, and organic Siwa-Moroccan cuisine. There’s also the desert-chic Adrere Amellal ($700/person/day, all-inclusive; adrereamellal.com).
NOT TO MISS
Abercrombie & Kent (abercrombiekent.com) will craft a tailor-made trip to Siwa (including an overnight in Alexandria). From $10,000/person.
Svalbard, an archipelago in the Arctic Circle, just 650 miles from the North Pole, is one of the most remote regions in Norway. Longyearbyen’s population of 2,550 is outnumbered by its 3,000 polar bears and the sun never sets during polar summer from mid-April to late August. The historic Huset restaurant is famous locally for its flavor-forward Arctic cuisine (expect reindeer burgers and eider duck eggs) and 20,000-bottle wine cellar.
Take a three-hour flight from Oslo.
NOT TO MISS
Tallship Company’s (tallship-company.com) three-masted sailing ship navigates among steep fjords. Zodiac safaris venture out to view polar bears, walrus colonies, blue whales, and belugas. Sometimes narwhals can be spotted from the deck. From $3,500/person/week.
Find some of the United Kingdom’s most dramatic sea cliffs and sea stacks in this tiny, barren, wildly beautiful archipelago. The area, located 100 miles west of the Scottish mainland, was abandoned in the 1930s. So although no humans live here, it’s home to millions of birds. The northern gannet colonies are so dense that, from a distance, they look like snow. Climb to the highest point on the island, the 1,400-foot summit of Conachair, for a 360-degree view. Based on weather patterns, May and June are the preferred months to visit.
Traveling by boat, it’s 2.5 hours from Harris and 3.5 hours from Skye. The seas around St. Kilda are notoriously rough and sometimes it can be too dangerous to disembark.
Several historic stone cottages have been refurbished for overnight guests and there’s a basic tent-camping site; both are administered by the National Trust for Scotland (nts.org.uk).
NOT TO MISS
Local outfitter Sea Harris (seaharris.com) arranges private charters, overnight stays, a climbing guide, and a personal chef.
FRANK CHURCH RIVER OF NO RETURN WILDERNESS
It can take hours of driving to reach this remote area, one of the largest wilderness areas in the lower 48 states. The wild and scenic Middle Fork of the Salmon River flows through it—100 miles of thrilling rapids, clear pools, natural hot springs, pine forests, and towering granite cliffs—cutting a gorge deeper than the Grand Canyon. The area is home to wolves, bears, and native cutthroat trout. About seven launches are allowed per day, so it is possible to float the river in nearly complete solitude. From June to September is the season, although the river runs high in early summer, which intensifies rapids.
Drive 26 miles on dirt roads from Challis, Idaho, or fly into the Indian Creek Airstrip, a backcountry dirt landing strip.
Reserve designated campgrounds (fs.usda.gov) or book with a certified outfitter who arranges all the details—including permits.
NOT TO MISS
Sun Valley–based Far & Away Adventures (far-away.com) offers guided “glamping” river trips, with carpeted walk-in tents, comfy cots, and flannel bedding. Morning coffee is brought to your tent. Riverside, enjoy chef-cooked lunches and dinners with wine. $3,500/person/six days.
Green grass, ferns, and mosses blanket this lonely 3.5-acre island. You can wander meandering roads for hours without seeing another soul. But you are not the first to visit, as you notice the distinct remains of prehistoric ring forts. Dry-stacked stone fences crisscross the land, divided into hundreds of small farmettes—some grazing a single cow. There are towering cliffs to marvel at and deserted beaches to explore. Come upon a thatched pub, designated by the bright sounds of traditional fiddle music, and order the gin distilled with dillisk, a locally foraged seaweed. The PADI-certified can dive from here to some of Ireland’s most spectacular underwater terrain and expect encounters with ancient-looking, harmless-to-humans basking sharks.
From Rosseveal (near Galway City) travel 40 minutes by Aran Island Ferries (aranislandferries.com). The daily, 10-minute flights via Aer Arann Islands (aerarannislands.ie) are convenient, but frequently canceled due to fog.
At Inis Meáin Restaurant and Suites (from $3,000/four nights, all-inclusive; inismeain.com) stay among five sleek accommodations and dine at an award-winning restaurant in a low-slung stone building. Open March–October.
NOT TO MISS
Stock up on stylish wool, linen, and cashmere Aran fishermen–inspired sweaters at the Inis Meáin Knitting Company’s factory store (inismeain.ie). g
The only way to get here is by boat through a thick tropical forest, which acts as a protective shield for vulnerable tribal culture and important archaeological sites. Like legendary paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey, you can paddle down the river for one-on-one visits with the elaborately painted Kara tribe, the rasta-coiffed Hamer people, and the lip-plate Mursi. End each day at an open-air dinner under the African skies before falling asleep to the sounds of nature. It’s best to visit during the dry seasons: August to October or December to January.
Fly into Addis Ababa, travel by private land transfer to Omo Valley, and private boat down the Omo River.
Lale’s Camp (from $29,295/two people/five nights, all-inclusive; journeysbydesign.com), a comfortable tented camp with a traditional safari feel on the eastern bank of the Omo River.
NOT TO MISS
Naya Traveler (nayatraveler.com) organizes individually tailored trips to Ethiopia and the Omo Valley. From $900/person/day.
More Off-the-Map Destinations
MINNESOTA BOUNDARY WATERS
Over a million acres of pristine wilderness to hike or explore by canoe. fs.usda.gov
Book a berth on MV Silver Supporter to visit these four remote South Pacific islands populated by just 50 people—descendants of the 18th-century HMS Bounty mutineers. visitpitcairn.pn
ALDABRA ATOLL, SEYCHELLES
One of the Outer Islands and virtually untouched by humans, it’s home to more than 150,000 giant tortoises and is a breeding site for green and hawksbill turtles. seychelles.travel
DECEPTION ISLAND, ANTARCTICA
Visit an abandoned whaling station on an active volcano. Enjoy the snowy, peppered-with-penguins landscape from one of the hot springs. deceptionisland.aq
TORNGAT MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK, CANADA
Explore this vast, Inuit-run nature reserve in Arctic Labrador from a fenced-in base camp (protection from the omnipresent polar bears). thetorngats.com
Tour the frozen tundra via reindeer sleigh. Winter temperatures regularly plunge to negative 50 degrees Fahrenheit with knee-deep snow. visityakutia.com
This 180-square-mile, Catalan-speaking nation full of craggy cols and high-perched lakes is sandwiched between France and Spain in the Pyrenees. It’s known for its legendary technical climbs. visitandorra.com
ROCK ISLANDS, PALAU
Hundreds of rocky, difficult-to-reach islands with blue lagoons, coral reefs, and the famous Jellyfish Lake—full of harmless jellyfish and safe to snorkel. pristineparadisepalau.com