From far-flung wildlife encounters in Alaska to experiencing the deserted beauty of Namibia’s Skeleton Coast, armchair escapists can spend time at home dreaming of, and planning for, their next bucket-list adventure.
Hills Balfour has rounded up a selection of 12 remote destinations and wilderness experiences which offer ample space to roam, rejuvenate and relax.
Gaze at grizzly bears in Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska
The vast open spaces of Alaska’s national parks are a haven for all manner of flora and fauna, and nowhere encapsulates this more than Katmai National Park and Preserve, renowned for the richness and diversity of its wildlife. Around 280 miles south of Anchorage, this National Park offers thousands of square miles of pristine wilderness and the world’s largest population of grizzly bears. There are spectacular grizzly bear viewing opportunities at Brooks River, where they congregate each summer to catch salmon on the falls and bathe. Katmai tours and wildlife safaris are offered all summer, culminating in a trip to Brooks Lodge with special platforms overlooking the river.
Marvel at Namibia’s skeleton coast
Namibia, one of the least densely populated countries in the world, is the ideal place escape to for a remote adventure. The word Namib translates to ‘vast place’ and the destination is home to desert pans, towering dunes and rugged coastlines. Skeleton Coast, an apt name for the over-worldly stretch of sand on Namibia’s northern coast, is nestled between the Kunene River and the Ugab River. The beautiful area is a photographer’s dream, peppered with historic shipwrecks, fascinating whale bones and lined by a wild ocean. Despite the dramatic harshness of the environment, an array of wildlife species have managed to make it their home. Visitors are likely to spy black rhinos, lions, giraffes and the odd giant shadow of a desert elephant looming dark and mysterious on the horizon. Guests can stay at luxury oasis, Shipwreck Lodge, nestled within the dunes with views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Discover Mauritius’ stunning western peninsula
At the tip of the westerly peninsular of Mauritius is the astonishing sight of Le Morne; the stand-alone mountain which overlooks an exceptionally beautiful lagoon, famous for its sunsets. Rich with history, Le Morne proudly represents a resistance to slavery. It formerly stood as a shelter for escaped slaves, and so its incredible universal values led it to being inscribed a UNESCO World Heritage site. Just south of Le Morne lies Black River Gorges, a national park and magnificent area for spotting the island’s native species. Formerly the prime hunting ground of Mauritius, the area has been a protected reserve since 1994 after an incredible 300 species of flowering plants, nine endemic species of bird and an overwhelming population of fruit bats which numbered over 4,000 were recorded. As well as this, endangered species such as the Mauritius kestrel, the echo parakeet and the pink pigeon all roam freely here. Among other opportunities for sightings are the wild boar, macaque monkeys and deer. Yet perhaps the most spectacular sight of all in Black River Gorges National Park is of the outstanding landscape. A hike to the top will provide panoramic views of the island and opportunities to see the canyon curving beautifully down the mountains.
Take in the Dolomites from a Trentino Treehouse
Perfect for getting off the grid and escaping to the beautiful Dolomite Mountains of the Trentino region in northern Italy, the Treehouse has no Wi-Fi or TV allowing visitors to get back to nature and surround themselves with pure wilderness. This new Treehouse accommodation is located near the town of Val di Fassa from where visitors can embark on the Dolomiti Panorama Trek, a 200km circular trekking trail linking Val di Fassa with Val di Fiemme and Primiero that takes in the Marmolada glacier. The Treehouse is offered on a bed and breakfast basis and features a double bed, bathroom with jacuzzi and sun terrace with spectacular mountain views.
Wildlife watch in the wilderness in Manitoba, Canada
Nestled in the province of Manitoba, in the heart of Canada, Churchill is the polar bear capital of the world and wildlife lovers can travel to the remote, small town to witness the magical creatures in their natural habitat. Guests can stay at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge, overlooking the Arctic ocean, with the Boreal Forest as its back garden. Here, the remoteness of the lodge provides guests with exclusive access to one of the most pristine wilderness areas in the world and is perfectly positioned to view various animal encounters, from polar bears, black bears, wolves and moose, all of which call this coastline home.
Experience the disappearing island in Bahrain
Travellers to Bahrain can escape to one of the world’s smallest nations and immerse themselves in its treasures. Bahrain comprises of 33 natural islands, which can be explored by boat including the ‘disappearing’ island of Jarada. Jarada is a secluded, picture perfect tidal island, appearing in the ebb and disappearing with the tide. Blessed with golden sands and surrounded by crystal clear waters, travellers can take a picnic and snorkel and enjoy the island…while it’s there!
Dive into the coral reefs of American Samoa
When it comes to finding a remote paradise, American Samoa is one to remember. Located deep in the South Pacific, this U.S. Territory is blessed with tropical rainforest, white sandy beaches, and coral reefs. American Samoa offers a tropical escape for those wishing to lounge on a beach, practice yoga on a mountain top, hike the National Park, visit historical World War II sites or dive in the Marine Sanctuary. Underwater and coastal splendours await visitors across American Samoa and the pristine waters of the National Marine Sanctuary typify this more than anywhere else. This protected area is one of the island chain’s most popular scuba diving spots, home to life-filled coral reefs that draw a variety of marine animals to view such as migrating whales and turtles.
Find serenity in Hakone, Japan
Just an hour outside Tokyo, and located within the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, Hakone is renowned for its tranquil woodlands and open spaces, hot springs, shrines and stunning views across Lake Ashinoko and Mount Fuji. Here is the place to escape the crowds and roam free, fit with excellent hiking trails to take in forests and waterfalls. Here, instead of being cooped up inside, visitors can enjoy the Hakone Open Air Museum. Japan’s first open air museum successfully balances nature and art by exhibiting various sculptures on its grounds so visitors can enjoy the art as well as the views of the surrounding valley and mountains. The Prince Hakone Lake Ashinoko is the perfect base from which to explore this area of natural beauty. The quaint hotel sits on the edge of the lake with each of the rooms boasting ceiling to floor windows, with views of Mount Fuji and the lake on one side and woodlands on the other. The property also has its own outdoor onsen (hot spring) with undisturbed views of Mount Fuji and is close to the Hakone Shrine and Torii Gates – from the gate, there are a series of steps flanked by lanterns through the forest to the main building of the shrine which sits among the tall trees.
Switch off at Arowhon Pines Resort in Ontario, Canada
Canada’s oldest provincial park, Algonquin, is Ontario’s most famous, yet remains pristine and a tranquil place to escape to when the world gets a bit too much to handle. Located just over a three-hour drive north of Toronto, the park provides a perfect outdoor adventure playground, with lakes, maple hills and rocky ridges as the backdrop. The park offers plenty to keep visitors entertained too with hiking trails, canoe routes, SUP boards, boating, fishing, mountain biking and lots more. For somewhere to stay the night, head to Arowhon Pines Resort which, thanks to a ban on TV’s and mobile phones, offers a quiet place to digitally detox too. The secluded resort sits on the idyllic Little Joe Lake and is one of a handful of resorts within Algonquin’s protected lands. Guests will love its traditional log cabin style and will be swept away by the surrounding natural beauty. Explorers can rest weary legs back at the resort dining on impromptu summer barbecues by the lake and as night draws in, they can put their feet up with a nightcap around the fire pit listening to wolves howling in the distance.
Escape to Qatar’s UNESCO-listed Inland Sea and stay overnight in a luxury Desert Camp
South from Qatar’s capital city, Doha, is Khor Al Adaid (the Inland Sea) natural reserve. This inlet of the Persian Gulf lies on the border with Saudi Arabia and is surrounded by a vast unspoilt desert landscape and is a UNESCO-listed natural reserve. This impressive phenomenon is one of the few places on earth where the sea encroaches deep into the heart of the desert and boasts its own indigenous ecosystem home to a wide variety of marine life, including turtles and dugongs. The region also attracts species of birds including long-distance migrant waterfowl in winter and ospreys. This tranquil expanse of water can only be reached on a desert safari by 4×4. Tours can also include camel rides, quad biking and sand-boarding before spending the night in a desert camp under the stars, enjoying a delicious Bedouin-style barbeque. The luxury Regency Desert Camp is a blend of traditional design coupled with modern comfort. A traditional Arabian lounge serves as the focal point of the camp where guests can immerse themselves and enjoy meals under the night sky.
Get behind the wheel on a desert road trip through Arizona
A road trip offers the chance to take back control and depart on a real adventure. When choosing a destination, Arizona ticks plenty of boxes with its wide-open roads, breath-taking views and bucket-list attractions. Rental cars can be hired from Phoenix and driven north-west through the desert to the Hualapai Mountain Park for an overnight stay, taking in the fresh mountain air and far-reaching views. The next stop has to be the state’s must-see, the wild Grand Canyon National Park, which is a hiking paradise for both families and expert expeditions. Heading back towards Phoenix, a stop at the spiritual desert town of Sedona offers iconic red rock landscapes, energy vortexes and impressive artwork housed in the town’s art galleries. Before reaching Phoenix Airport for the journey home, travellers can stretch their legs one final time at Camelback Mountain, near Scottsdale, where they’ll will feel a million miles away from the Phoenix Valley below.
Hikers delight in Puerto Rico’s El Yunque tropical rainforest
This natural treasure in Puerto Rico is an excellent destination for those who want to be immersed in nature. El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest Service and its name is a reference to Yuke, what the indigenous Taíno people defined as “white lands.” With an average rainfall of 120 inches a year, El Yunque has a diverse ecosystem, home to hundreds of native plant and animal species. One of the most popular activities in El Yunque is hiking to one of the natural pools to cool off with a swim. Travellers can head over to La Coca trail and trek down to one of several ponds along the route for the perfect cool down. For fun in the form of a rope swing, the El Angelito trail, offers a 4km hike ending with a an option dive into its lagoon.