The world has never been more accessible than it is today, so your next big adventure is easily within reach. If you’re ready to climb craggy peaks, dodge polar bears or get deep into the jungle, these intrepid destinations should be at the top of your list..
Atacama Desert, Chile
For an out-of-this-world adventure, look no further than the Atacama Desert in western Chile. With jagged ravines, billowing geysers and arid salt flats, there’s an extra-terrestrial quality to its landscapes that NASA once harnessed to field test Martian rovers. As one of the driest places on the planet, there’s very little in the way of human development surrounding its barren plains. That said, the resulting lack of light pollution makes the sky perfect for stargazing.
Ciudad Perdida (Lost City), Colombia
Deep in the jungle-swathed mountains of Sierra Nevada lies La Ciudad Perdida, Colombia’s fabled ruined city dubbed “the new Machu Picchu”. Built in 800AD by the indigenous Tayrona tribes, it was abandoned following a run-in with Spanish conquistadors and largely forgotten, until looters rediscovered it in the 1970s. You’ll need to make like Indiana Jones if you want to see it for yourself, as the high-altitude trek up involves a three-day trudge through humid cloudforest.
The Gobi Steppe, Mongolia
The Gobi Steppe was once home to some of the largest herds of horses the world has ever seen, and even today there’s barely a trace of human activity. Nomads live here in felt tents called gers, and you can channel your inner Genghis Khan with a ride on a Mongol horse and a hearty bowl of airag (fermented mare’s milk). Head to Ulaanbaatar in July for the Naadam festival, where locals compete in macho sports like wrestling and horseracing.
Tongariro National Park, New Zealand
Set atop volcanic fields, the landscapes of the Tongariro National Park almost seem alive. Vents hiss with gas, scree slopes shift under tumbling rocks and geothermal springs emit thick wafts of sulphur – altogether, the effect is otherworldly. The park is home to New Zealand’s top day-trek, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which makes for a great adventure. You can hike past emerald lakes and steaming craters before reaching Mount Ngauruhoe, which featured as Mount Doom in The Lord of the Rings.
Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway
Svalbard is one of Europe’s last great wildernesses, an untamed Norwegian archipelago 650 miles from the North Pole, where polar bears outnumber people and stocky reindeer regularly trundle into town. The primary settlement, Longyearbyen, sits high above the Arctic Circle amid rocky crags and ice-clogged fjords. It spends several months of the year in the eerie darkness of the polar night, which is perpetual during this time save for the ethereal glow of the northern lights.
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea has stunning snow-capped mountains and jungles teeming with birds of paradise, yet it’s still largely undiscovered. One of the highlights here is attending a sing-sing, when local tribes don colourful headdresses in a celebration. Travelling here is tricky due to the lack of infrastructure, so it’s best to take an experienced guide – many tribes speak their own languages and have only recently been in touch with the outside world.