20 places to travel if you like a challenge

written by Freya Godfrey

updated 4.08.2021

Travel isn't always easy, but in these destinations it's certainly a little more challenging. Here are some of the world's more difficult destinations that are totally worth the effort.

1. Chipaya, Bolivia

High on the windswept plains of Bolivia, the Uru Chipaya are one of the oldest peoples of South America, having survived for thousands of years on such arid land that even the Incas avoided. Living in huts made of mud and straw, you won’t find any modern comforts in Chipaya, but you will experience an ancient culture that has hardly changed its customs or dress for millennia.

Bolivian village

© aaabbbccc/Shutterstock

2. Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russia

Known as the ‘Pearl of Siberia’, Lake Baikal is the world’s oldest and deepest lake. In winter, the water freezes over and its uneven icy surface stretches as far as the eye can see. It’s best to travel by car to reach the most isolated ice grottoes but be careful; cracks, slabs of ice and a dangerously slippery surface mean it's best to hire an experienced driver. Although, if you really want to test your perseverance, try walking across the lake.

Sacred rocks Shamanka on the Olkhon island. Baikal, Russia © Marina Khlybova/Shutterstock

3. Aldabra, Seychelles

Incredibly isolated and wonderfully untouched, it’s no surprise that David Attenborough described Aldabra as one of the wonders of the world. With no regular ship or air services, the intrepid traveller will need to organise their own transport to reach the remote paradise. Strong tides around the island and challenging terrain are worth braving for the vibrant sea life and chance to spot an endangered giant tortoise.

4. Derweze, Turkmenistan

Deep in the barren Karakum desert, you’ll find the otherworldly Door To Hell, a fiery natural gas crater that has been burning for more than forty years. The mesmerising sight is visible for miles, and is best visited at night when it juxtaposes stunningly against the dark sky.

Derweze, Turkmenistan

5. Easter Island, Chile

Once the home of the Rapa Nui, Easter Island is one of the most isolated inhabited islands on Earth. The landscape is dotted with imposing moai statues, relics of its ancient Polynesian culture. The Rapa Nui devastated the island’s natural resources, destroying its environment, so the rugged terrain can be testing, particularly in bad weather.

Things not to miss: Ahu Tongariki, Rapa Nui, Easter Island, Chile.

© Shutterstock

6. Kungsleden, Sweden

If we asked you to think of Western Europe’s last remaining wilderness areas, you might not have Sweden in mind. But in the far north of Swedish lapland, the atmospheric and grandly-named Kungsleden, or King’s Trail, is a stunning area of untouched natural beauty. Although much of the trail is well-adapted for hikers, try a route through Sarek National Park, where there are no marked trails, for a real challenge.

Kungsleden, Sweden

7. Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland

Ittoqqortoormiit, on the eastern coast of Greenland, is the country’s most isolated and undisturbed region. The neighbouring sea freezes over for nine months of the year, making it even harder to access, but visit in winter to experience it at its best. The colourful houses on the shore poke out above thick snow and the ice can reach six feet deep. Roads become unusable, so dogsleds and ski-mobiles are the preferred form of transport.

Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland

8. Alert, Nunavut, Canada

Canada’s Nunavut is its largest but also least populous territory. Inaccessible over land and with a largely polar climate, Nunavut boasts Alert, the most northerly permanently inhabited place in the world. Go to see the gorgeous midnight sun and mesmerising northern lights – a trip that’s certainly worth the effort.

20 places to travel if you like a challenge: Traditional Inuit cargo sled or Komatik, Nunavut, Canada.

© Sophia Granchinho/Shutterstock

9. Macquarie Island, Subantarctic Islands

Sitting between New Zealand and Antarctica, the remote, icy and utterly fascinating subantarctic islands are filled with rare and endangered species. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997, you’ll find fur and elephant seals as well as royal, king and gentoo penguins on Macquarie Island.

King Penguins have a stronghold on Macquarie Island, between Australia and Antarctica

10. Salavan, Laos

Wide open spaces, spectacular waterfalls and mountainous terrain characterise the Lao province of Salavan. Despite the stunning scenery, little tourism infrastructure or transport means that its remote villages still attract only the most intrepid travellers.

Tad Lo waterfalls in Salavan province in southern Laos

11. Northwestern Laikipia, Kenya

Beautiful, wild and unexplored, northwestern Laikipia is one of the best places in Kenya for safaris. There are limited accommodation options so it's a great place to try wild camping, though be aware that wildlife in this area roams freely and isn't confined to the bush. You'll need a local guide for protection if anything dangerous comes too close. Look out for lions, elephants and giraffe as well as aardwolves, aardvarks and hundreds of bird species.

Northwestern Laikipia, Kenya © Shutterstock

12. Kolsai Lakes, Kazakhstan

Thousands of metres above sea level, the clear blue waters of Kazakhstan’s idyllic Kolsai Lakes are an impressive sight. The long road from Almaty is poor, and there’s little infrastructure, but prepare yourself for the remote slopes with plenty of supplies and you'll experience a rewarding and picturesque hike through the green alpine forest.

Panoramic view of the turquoise water of the Kolsai lake, Kazakhstan

13. Gobi desert, Mongolia

Gobi means ‘waterless place’ and the Mongolian desert’s extreme temperatures and barren, rocky landscape make it a harsh, unforgiving environment. Stay in a Mongolian nomad’s distinctive felt yurt for a unique experience away from civilisation.

14. Batanes, The Philippines

Powerful waves pummel the shores of the ten tiny islands of the Batanes, which boast more lighthouses than anywhere else in the Philippines. Plan your visit carefully, as the islands are prone to wild storms and typhoons. If you do get caught out, escape the hostile environment by finding refuge in a traditional stone Ivatan house.

Mahatao Hilll at Batan Island , Batanes, Philippines

15. Tiger’s nest monastery, Bhutan

Brave the 3000ft climb up a mountain to Takstang Palphug and you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views from arguably the most breathtaking Buddhist monastery in the world. Built into the rock, the four main temples are accessed by narrow passages, unstable bridges and stone stairways. Perched on the edge of a cliff, this is not a trip for not for the faint-hearted.

16. Choquequirao, Peru

High above the Apurimac, discover the magnificent remains of ancient Incan city Choquequirao. A three to four day trek through the Peruvian cloud forest means that, unlike the daily crowds at Machu Picchu, you’ll be among the few visitors to these awe-inspiring ruins.

17. Knivskjellodden, Norway

The wild, harsh winters of Knivskjellodden may not immediately entice travellers, but the dramatic landscape will both enthral and bewilder. Trek the northernmost trail to write your name in the hiking association’s minute book.

Intense northern lights, Aurora Borealis at a bay near Honningsvag and the Nordkapp, North Cape, Finnmark, Norway

18. North Korea

One of the most inaccessible countries in the world, tourist visits to North Korea are run by government-sanctioned tours. While the country can be dangerous, travel safely and consciously and you’ll be given a fascinating insight into a very different culture.

North Korea

19. Cape York Peninsula, Australia

Prehistoric rock art, tropical rainforests and eucalypt woodland; Cape York Peninsula is like nowhere else on Earth. It’s virtually inaccessible in the wet season, and even in summer you’ll need to endure a rough, bumpy four-wheel drive to reach the peninsula. Once there, pitch a tent and make the most of the wild but beautiful landscape, which is ideal for adventure sports, and is bordered by the Great Barrier Reef on its eastern coast.

Beautiful beach at the most northern point of Australia, Cape York

20. St George Island, The Pribilof Islands, Alaska, USA

Sometimes called the ‘Galapagos of the North’, the Pribilof Islands are located in the Bering Sea three hundred miles from Alaska’s coast. Abundant with fur seals and birdlife, the unspoilt rolling hills are a photographer’s paradise, but harsh winds, rain and thick fog will make for an even more adventurous trip.

St George Island, The Pribilof Islands, Alaska
Freya Godfrey

written by Freya Godfrey

updated 4.08.2021

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