If you're smart, you've made the choice to stay at home the past few weeks…
Sometimes travel is all about the hustle and bustle of capital cities, bartering in busy bazaars and meeting fellow travellers. But, equally, it can be about enjoying perfect solitude, visiting places where the only noise might be a rushing waterfall, the chattering of monkeys high in the treetops or the howl of the wind atop dramatic cliffs. Even in these hectic times, there are still stunning places where you can get away from the maddening crowd and simply drink in the beauty of Mother Nature. Here are just a few of the areas that put you in the heart of wonderful wilderness:
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Looking like a set from a science fiction movie, these lunar-like salt flats in south-west Bolivia cover a whopping 4,000 square miles. They are a mecca for photographers who come to capture the truly unique landscape. In summer, the flats are blindingly white while, after the rains, the clouds are reflected so the area looks like one giant mirror. There’s even a hotel on the edge of the plains, which is built entirely of salt.
The Scottish Highlands
With atmospheric heather-clad moors, castles crumbled to ruins, mythical standing stones, shaggy and horned Highland cows and, of course, tales of prehistoric creatures still living in its lochs, the Scottish Highlands is a place like no other on earth. And, along with vast and rolling countryside, the coastline which zig-zags around the Highlands is equally breathtaking. Embo beach, which sits just in front of Parkdean’s lodges at Grannie’s Heilan’Hame, is a sweep of find white sand. Take a stroll along the shoreline and you might be lucky enough to spot dolphins and seals playing in the North Sea.
The Great Bear Rainforest, Canada
Stretching across more than 20 million acres, the Great Bear Rainforest is the biggest coastal temperate rainforest on earth. Virtually roadless, it is home to grey wolves, wild salmon, ancient cedars and, of course, bears. Along with grizzlies, there are population pockets of the elusive Kermode bear, or spirit bear, a subspecies of the North American Black Bear, but with white or cream coloured coats, which make them look more like polar bears. You can join an eco-tourism tour to try to spot some of these creatures in their natural habitat.
So off-the-beaten track, that the Galapagos are famed for their wealth of endemic species, studied by Charles Darwin during his voyage of the Beagle. Straddling either side of the equator in the Pacific, the wildlife sites here are never crowded as small groups are taken out with tour guides, and allowed to visit in shifts to limit the environmental impact. Choose a tour which takes you to some of the more remote islands, including Genovesa in the far north, a partially-submerged volcano dubbed the island of birds.
The Isles of Scilly
Another one in the British Isles, but to the extreme south this time. If you were parachuted into the Isles of Scilly and asked to say where you were, temperature notwithstanding, you might very well say the Caribbean. There are swaying palm trees, turquoise seas and pristine sweeps of white sand, which you could have all to yourself. Beady Pool Beach, a secluded cove on the eastern side of St Agnes or Pelistry Bay on the eastern shore of St Mary’s offer get-away-from-it-all spots, which are very often deserted outside the holiday season.
Whether you opt for the windswept beauty of Scotland, the wildlife havens of the Galapagos or the pristine sands of the Scilly Isles, venturing off the beaten track can be one of the most uplifting travel experiences you can have.