The Earth is a beautiful place but most of it is still undiscovered by the majority of us.
Some places become famous and over run with tourists because governments decide to put focus and resources into tourism, because newly published tourist guides provide an illusion of attainability or safety (yes, the Lonely Planet has a relevant impact on the fate of some less visited places) or because some action or event puts them on the map. Here I wanted to highlight some of the off-the-beaten-path destinations and incredible places I have had the privilege of experiencing in the hope that they will now be on your map
1. Yasur active volcano, Vanuatu
Brace yourself for one of those experiences that you literally shake your insides. After a strenuous car ride across the island of Tana in Vanuatu only a short walk up the rim will reveal an active crater exploding lava. No words can describe the feelings of standing there or sitting on the ashes to see the sun go down while listening to the Earth’s guts.
2. Meroe pyramids, Sudan
Everyone has heard of the pyramids in Egypt, the are probably one of the most photographed icons in the world and are sure to sit on everyone’s bucket list. But did you know that Sudan has even more pyramids and that some of them are in perfect state? You are also likely to be the only one there if you venture into the desert to see them.
3. Kaya Mawa island, Malawi
When we conjure images of beaches in Sub-Saharan Africa we think of Tanzania’s Zanzibar, of the stunning photos of Mozambique or of Cape Town’s upbeat Camps Bay. To the most experienced travelers less popular places such as Mombasa in Kenya or some parts of Namibia and South Africa may also bring back fabulous memories but few will remember that Malawi has a large lake with sandy shores that feel just like being on the beach without the salty water. And for even more idyllic encounters fly into Lake Malawi and land on the little island in the middle of the lake where beautiful rooms carved out of stone dot the Kaya Mawa resort. Do not miss the chance to peek into the Honeymoon room which can only be accessed by boat at high tide. Isolation is guaranteed. And at night, enjoy romantic private dinners around the property with just candles and the infinite sky above you
4. Nosy Be, Madagascar
The largest and most visited island in Madagascar. Hire a yacht and cruise through the many islands in this archipelago which you will share with the local fishermen. Tourism, even in the most developed area of Madagascar, is still incipient and the waters and beaches taken out of a postcard.
5. Tree climbing lions, Uganda
Uganda is not as well known for safaris as its East African peers but it has some hidden gems, especially in terms of the elusive lion usually hard to spot but abundant in Queen Elizabeth National Park where they are often photographed hanging around on top of tree branches. It is unclear the reason behind but you are sure to smile at the sight of such large animals trying to hold on tight one leg to one side a tail to the other.
6. Sana’a, Yemen
Much is heard about Yemen these days with violence and terrorists attacks taking the spotlight but the capital, Sanaa, is a UNESCO World Heritage gem. More should be made famous of this country beyond dangers and violence so this is my contribution. Be careful though, almost every country’s travel advisory will advise against any travel to Yemen but the capital tends to be generally safe.
7. Valle de la Luna, Chile
A moon-like landscape of rock formations and drawings surrounded by the Atacama desert and salt lakes. El Valle de la Luna in northern Chile feels like the backdrop to a Star Wars movie. Altitude sickness is likely to hit you if flying directly from Santiago like I did and that will make the entire experience even more otherworldly
8. Roatan, Honduras
Roatan sits on the second largest reef in the world after the Australian Great Barrier Reef and it is truly a beautiful place untouched by tourism. Since the Hurricane Mitch destroyed 70% of the infrastructure in the country Honduras hasn’t yet recovered. Sadly, violence and murder rate, at the highest level in the world, do not paint an attractive picture of the country but Roatan and the surrounding islands are sure to be one of the most memorable trips and you will likely be the only one enjoying the turquoise waters and the fact that the Reef boasts 85% of the Caribbean marine life. Hire a bamboo hut on the beach for close to nothing and watch the day pass by or take a water taxi to visit neighbouring isolated beaches. Shhh…don’t tell anyone!
9. Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
A picture perfect island with a high concentration of dolphins and sharks and an incredibly rich reef. Life goes by slowly in Fernando de Noronha and because of the tourism tax and relative isolation the island is visited by very few people but those who uncovered the secret will be rewarded with surreal images that are hard to believe and with true island life that will immediately put you into the right mood
10. Jellyfish Lake, Palau
A lake full of jellyfish that are harmless to humans in one of the smallest and youngest countries in the world with only 20,00 inhabitants. Palau will not disappoint and if you make it half way across the ocean to its shores be ready for a treat. The rock islands and many other attractions are all taken from a magic book. At jellyfish lake you are allowed to jump in and swim with the millions of jellyfish. Go on, play with them!