Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea has stunning snow-capped mountains and jungles teeming with birds of paradise, yet it’s still largely undiscovered. One of the highlights here is attending a sing-sing, when local tribes don colourful headdresses in a celebration. Travelling here is tricky due to the lack of infrastructure, so it’s best to take an experienced guide – many tribes speak their own languages and have only recently been in touch with the outside world.
Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania
Beside Lake Tanganyika in western Tanzania, Mahale Mountains National Park is arguably the best place to track Africa’s last remaining wild chimpanzees. There are around a thousand living here in the lowland forests, including the habituated Mimikere or ‘M’ group. But reaching them is no easy task: the journey involves a steep and strenuous climb through dense vegetation. As Tanzania’s most remote national park, Mahale Mountains has no roads and is only reachable by boat or chartered flight.
Myeik Archipelago, Myanmar
For years, the jungle-clad Myeik Archipelago in southern Myanmar was completely off-limits to outsiders, and even today only tour boats are permitted. The unspoiled group of around 800 islands is home to the Moken sea gypsies, who cruise the tropical bay in kabang boats and free dive for pearl oysters and sea slugs. It’s unclear how long the islands will remain untouched, with investors lining up to kick-start development. For now, getting here is still very much an adventure.
While historic tales of polar exploration are fraught with shipwrecks and disasters, Antarctica is rapidly emerging as a popular adventure travel destination. The native wildlife is one of its principal draws – with seals and macaroni penguins living on land and killer whales patrolling the deep – as is the chance to do the Polar Plunge, where you dive into freezing waves amid gigantic, tabular icebergs. Naturally, it’s not for the faint-hearted.
The Galapágos Islands, Ecuador
Once considered a forbidding archipelago, the Galapágos Islands only came to the fore when Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species. The unique wildlife here has evolved to be fearless, stemming from the lack of predators on the volcanic isles, so you can easily snorkel with marine iguanas or share the rocky outcrops with groups of giant tortoises. The islands have recently become more popular, but strict controls on tourists mean the human footprint is kept to a minimum.
The Dolomites, Italy
The Dolomites in the northern Italian Alps have one of the highest concentrations of via ferrata in the world, giving hikers access to the craggy peaks without the need for high-tech equipment. The steel cables, ladders and suspended bridges are free to use, though you’ll need a good head for heights – many will take you along exposed mountainsides past sheer drops. They vary in difficulty but, at the very least, you should expect a tough climb lasting several hours.
Northern Territory, Australia
With stifling heat, sun-baked landscapes and crocodile-infested waterways, the Northern Territory is Australia at its rawest. The waterfront city of Darwin is the gateway to the Outback, and from here you can adventure deep into the Red Centre in search of one of the world’s most remote natural wonders – Uluru, the iconic six hundred-million-year-old monolith. You can hit the dusty russet trails in a 4x4 along the way, stopping to admire Aboriginal rock art or the odd passing cassowary.
Hemis National Park, India
Snow leopards may be notoriously tricky to spot in the wild, but Hemis National Park is rapidly establishing itself as a big cat hotspot. Join a guided tour and you can clamber across punishing terrain at dizzyingly high altitudes, pitching camp along the route and using binoculars to search for tracks in the snow. The best time to go is during winter, when the leopards roam lower to the ground – though bear in mind that temperatures hover around -10.
Tetchy and unpredictable, the communist state of North Korea only recently opened its doors to visitors with its own unique brand of totalitarian tourism. Currently it’s only possible to travel by bus with two state-approved guides, who will lead a sugarcoated tour and do their best to prevent you from chatting to locals. Even so, some intrepid travellers can’t resist getting an insight into the world’s most secretive country – however bizarre and unsettling it may be.