“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.” – James Michener
1. The Himalayas
The awe-inspiring mountain range that is the Himalaya covers five countries: Pakistan, India, China, Nepal and Bhutan. It is one of the youngest mountain ranges on earth. Despite its youth, it’s going through one of the fastest growth spurts of any mountain range. The mountains are formed by the collision of the Indian tectonic plate with the Eurasian plate which in turn pushes the formidable mountains further into the heavens. With approximately 15,000 glaciers, the Himalayas are home to the third largest deposit of glaciers in the world after Antarctica and the Arctic.
2. Chiloé Island
Not a city, nor a country, but it might as well be its own planet. An island off the West coast of South America, Chiloé is an oft-overlooked place in Chile. Even most Chileans don’t pay much attention to the place. The island is famous for its beautiful wooden architecture; most notably the uniquely-designed wooden churches which have earned a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. The palafitos (wooden houses on stilts hovering over the shallow harbor) have garnered the provincial capital of Castro much fame with their vibrantly colorful beauty.
3. Iquitos, Peru
Not the prettiest city in the world by any stretch of the imagination, Iquitos is dusty, wild and has its share of suspect characters. The city, however, is nothing if not interesting. The reason? Perhaps, it’s due to the city being surrounded by the world’s greatest rainforest, the Amazon rainforest. Adding to the city’s mystique is the fact that it is the largest city in the world inaccessible by road. Cargo boat, plane or a long slog through the green inferno is the only way in or out.
4. The Scottish Highlands
A ruggedly beautiful region in the far north of Britain, the Scottish Highlands have long seduced the world with its striking landscapes which has inspired both a sense of mystery and awe. For most of its history of human habitation, the highlands had long been considered a region occupied by barbarians–“savages” in the minds of the occupying Romans to the south. The isolation of the region and the sheer number of hiding places led to a degree of autonomy from England which in turn led to a state of constant feuding and rivalries among the highland clans; something strikingly similar to the tribal tit for tat violence still seen today in Afghanistan. No need to fret however as the highlanders seemed to have hashed out their differences.
5. The Okavango Delta, Botswana
With a low crime rate, vast wide open spaces, a tiny population, an extensive wildlife-filled savanna, a low tourist to wildlife ratio, and some of the last surviving hunting bushmen in the world, Botswana can be described as a naturalist’s dream. The Okavango Delta in the north of the country is a large region where the Okavango river meets the desert and forms a massive oasis which rises and falls annually. This inland delta attracts animals form all around and at certain times of year, can be described, without exaggeration, as the home of the largest concentration of wildlife in Africa.
6. New Guinea (The whole island)
With upwards of 1,000 different languages spoken within a population of just over 8,000,000, New Guinea is easily the most linguistically diverse place on earth. The world’s second largest island is divided between two nations, Indonesian West Papua on the Western half of the island and Papua New Guinea on the Eastern half of the island.
The biodiversity of the island is nothing short of remarkable: lowland tropical rainforest, montane rainforest, wetlands, mangrove forest, lake and river ecosystems, savanna, equatorial glaciers at higher altitudes, alpine tundra and some of the most pristine coral reefs in the world.
Call it Burma. Call it Myanmar. Call it whatever you want. More importantly, call it your next destination. Long kept on strict lock down under the country’s oppressive military government, the country is slowly unshackling its chains and revealing many of its long-held secrets. The country still has a long way to go in terms of tourist infrastructure, but the journey to some of the more remote parts of the country is part of the charm.