Alaska, Easter Island, and Fiji are far enough removed for most travelers seeking a “digital detox.” But, there are other places on earth that are so remote and beautiful, they hardly seem real. For those seeking the ultimate in solitude, here are three destinations to add to your bucket list.
Lake Baikal (Russia)
In the middle of Siberia (itself a remarkably remote destination) near the Mongolian border, lies Lake Baikal. The surrounding area is breathtakingly beautiful — replete with pristine rivers, forests, and snow-capped mountains — and a home to over 2,100 animal and plant species. The lake itself holds a number of records. With approximately 20 percent of Earth’s entire fresh water supply (more than all of the Great Lakes combined), it’s the largest freshwater lake in the world. It’s also the clearest and, dating back more than 25 million years old, the oldest. It feels all but impossible to get to. But, once there, you’ll have no problem carving out a slice of natural heaven all to yourself.
How to get there: The only viable points of transport to/from Baikal are through Slyudyanka, Irkutsk, and Ulan-Ude. Most travelers plan a visit as part of a diversion from their Trans-Siberian Railroad journey.
Deception Island (Antarctica)
With a steady stream of cruise ships to Antarctica these days, it feels a little less “off the beaten path.” But, much of the continent and many of the islands that surround it remain largely untrammeled by humans. Located in the South Shetland archipelago, Deception Island is one such island. It’s a place of both beauty and decay with a curious and sordid past. In the early 20th century, it served as a processing station for whales and whale oil. Today, the island is littered with rotting wooden ships and rusted tanks and boilers. It’s also home to Antarctica’s oldest cemetery where 45 whalers were laid to rest. Because the island is a caldera (and an active volcano), its unique shape provides an ideal place for boats to hold up in a storm. This also makes it the best place for Antarctic travelers to take their requisite “polar plunge,” even if the water isn’t quite as warm as most tour providers promise.
How to get there: For most folks, the only way to realistically visit Deception Island is as part of an adventurous Antarctic cruise.
Svalbard Islands (Norway)
Half-way between Europe and the Arctic Circle lie the Svalbard Islands. With less than 3,000 people, the archipelago feels well off the beaten path. But, this tiny Norwegian destination has become a hotspot for adventure travelers in recent years. It now rivals Churchill, Manitoba as the unofficial “polar bear capital of the world,” and thousands of visitors cruise here annually for the chance to spot them. Wildlife aside, it’s a place of pristine geological beauty — beautiful waters, crystal clear skies, and dramatic rocky outcroppings. Coupled with its extreme northern location, it’s among the world’s best destinations to witness the Northern Lights. Not surprisingly, it also serves as the last point of departure for many travelers heading from Europe onward to the North Pole. And, fun fact: Svalbard is also home to the world’s most northern city and humanity’s ultimate emergency stash: the Global Seed Vault.
How to get there: Hurtigruten is the go-to cruise provider for travelers looking to get to Svalbard.