Estimated reading time: 17 minutes
No city is more romantic than Paris.
New York City fascinates everyone who visits.
But these are all places made by humans. Some of you may crave something a little more natural.
The misty Congo rainforest. Ice-riddled fjords of Greenland. Snow-capped peaks in northern Pakistan. In every corner of this globe, abundant natural beauty awaits. All it takes is for you to be brave enough to find it.
These 11 destinations are the perfect starter pack for your next pristine nature vacation.
Let’s check them out.
A gorgeous Saharan sunrise. Riding camel back through ancient Meroë pyramids. Camping under a canvas of infinite stars. Crossing the mighty Nile River—does it get much better?
If you’re looking for a desert paradise with pyramids rivalling those in Egypt, go to Sudan. The often-overlooked Nubian pyramids of Sudan are just as gorgeous as those made by the Egyptians, and there are twice as many of them. The greatest collection of these artefacts lies in the ancient city of Meroë, with over two hundred pyramids still standing proud today.
A meandering camel ride amongst these pyramids will transport you thousands of years to the past, and an overnight stay on the site will give you a spectacular show of stars completely untouched by light pollution.
Let’s not forget the Nile. The longest river in the world snakes through all of Sudan, providing water for an otherwise dry country. Birds of different kinds nest along its shore, and many Sudanese make a living from its resources.
If you want a vacation to the Sahara Desert and Nile River, with pyramids thrown in the mix, Sudan is the perfect destination for you.
Do you like families of Western Lowland Gorillas?
What about the elusive African Forest Elephants?
Jungle as far as the eye can see?
If you answered yes, yes, and yes, then the Central African Republic is your place.
Beneath the headlines of civil war and poverty is a nation with a thriving wildlife population. Endless arrays of green fill every corner of this landlocked African country.
Wedged between the Republic of Congo and Cameroon in the southwest corner of the C.A.R. is Dzanga-Sangha National Park.
An abundance of wildlife lives here. Forest elephants, lowland gorillas, and mangabeys are just a few of the dazzling species in this vast wilderness.
You’ll also witness the great Sanga River, which is rivalled only by its cousins, the Nile and the Congo, in terms of beauty, size, and wildlife. A boat ride across this massive waterway is a peaceful experience that will show you some of the largest tropical rainforests in the world.
If you’re hungry for an African wildlife adventure unlike any other, then the Central African Republic is a must.
If you’re looking for somewhere that looks like a different planet, go to Socotra.
It’s described as the most alien-looking place on Earth, and rightfully so.
There are plants and animals here found nowhere else.
This island’s crown jewel of biodiversity is the Dragon’s Blood Tree. Thousands of these peculiar yet extraordinary trees grow all over Socotra. Witnessing these giant natural wonders is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you get the chance to visit, take it!
There is so much more to Socotra: dunes, coral reefs, bottlenose dolphins, Blue Baboon Tarantulas, and caves home to massive stalactites and stalagmites—Socotra has it all. And so much more.
Less than 1,000 people visit this island in a year—the perfect nature vacation.
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
With gorgeous Islamic architecture, delicious food, and kind people, can Pakistan get much better?
Some of the tallest mountains around live in North Pakistan. Snow-covered caps kissing the heavens are common along the Karakorum Highway, a 1,300 KM highway from Islamabad to China.
Driving this winding road will take you to Khunjerab Pass, the highest border between two countries in the world.
If that isn’t enough to satisfy your need for nature, there’s the Hunza Valley with massive glaciers and mountain villages.
Pakistan is a hotspot of natural wonder and contradiction. With the desert in the south and the mountains in the north, it’s the perfect destination if you want to taste a little bit of everything Mother Earth offers.
The Land of the Thunder Dragon.
This tiny nation crammed between India and China punches above its weight in terms of natural beauty.
It’s no surprise why.
Bhutan is the only country with a constitutional obligation to protect the environment. 60% of its land is protected from human encroachment. This commitment to conservation has created an ecological hotspot teeming with Asiatic animals rarely found elsewhere. Snow leopards, elephants, and royal Bengal tigers are three of the many incredible species which roam around the sophisticated protective systems Bhutan has enshrined in its constitution.
Such profound protection is paying dividends for this Buddhist nation.
Ecotourism is one of the country’s top industries, and native Bhutanese people are guaranteed a right to clean air and water.
It’s a win for the people. It’s a win for the planet.
Bhutan has set a precedent for conservation. Hopefully, other countries will soon follow suit.
Eritrea is known primarily for one thing: Being incredibly unwelcoming to foreigners.
But once you’re past the borders, a country of friendly folks and surprising beauty awaits you.
There’s Massawa Island. Here you can see Italianesque architecture and waves from the Red Sea lapping against empty beaches.
Let’s not forget the Dahlak Archipelago, comprised of one hundred and twenty-six islands. Almost all of them are uninhabited.
These bite-sized chunks of land are surrounded by wildlife. Marine life flourishes in the coral reefs and shoals just off the islands. Sharks, turtles, dolphins, and the gentle dugong frequent these untouched waters. While above, you can see sea birds of various kinds floating on the warm thermals.
It’s the last place in the world you’d expect to find such a wealth of wildlife, but don’t let the strict entry restrictions of Eritrea stop you. It’s a country with rewarding little bits of natural beauty everywhere, so long as you’re willing to get there.
Out of all the “Stan” countries, Turkmenistan is by far the strangest. From its marbled capital of Ashgabat to its largely empty countryside, the whole country gives off a sense of grandeur.
This is best seen in its landscapes.
In the Kopetdag Mountain Range, camels graze like cattle in a pasture.
Gara Bogaz Gol Bay offers views taken straight from Mars.
The Darvaza gas crater is a never-ending cauldron of flames and boiling mud.
If you want to see wildflowers one day and desert dunes the next, pay a visit to Turkmenistan.
What’s better than visiting the Sahara Desert?
How about cruising through it on an iron ore train?
There’s only one country to do that: Mauritania.
Thirteen hours on a train isn’t most people’s idea of fun. But if you’re an adventurous spirit, you’ve got to try it. There’s nothing more rewarding than catching the sunrise as you cruise through the shifting landscapes of the Sahara Desert. Zero modern amenities with endless amounts of excitement.
That’s just the tip of the Mauritanian iceberg.
Coast of Mauritania
Mauritania is also host to some pristine oases, such as the Terjit Oasis. As well as stretches of coastline without a person in sight. You can see the Banc d’Arguin National Park right along the border with Western Sahara. This sprawling park is a vital sanctuary for migratory birds, and its fisheries are an economic lifeline for the local population.
Riding a train through the desert and quiet coastlines with great views of the Atlantic Ocean—Mauritania is where this dream becomes a reality.
The heart of Africa.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has no shortage of space. It’s huge. We’re talking 2,344,858 square kilometres huge.
Where do you even begin?
The D.R.C. is one of seventeen megadiverse nations. Its borders harbor chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, elephants, buffalo and okapi.
The landscape is as varied as its species. Most of the country is in the Congo River basin, composed almost entirely of the Congo Rainforest. In addition, there are savannahs, massive mountains, and plateaus that extend to the horizon.
In the east is Virunga National Park. This mountainous jungle contains some of the last Mountain Gorillas in the world—Uganda and Rwanda are the only other countries home to these cousins of humanity. This park also has the Nyiragongo Volcano. Its main crater has a lava lake that’s been bubbling for centuries. Witnessing Virunga and its beauty is an experience that will stay with you forever.
Pictures best express the glory of this behemoth. Check them out.
Leave Kruger and the Serengeti for the hordes of tourists.
The African nation of Chad is the perfect place for an authentic, off-the-beaten-track safari.
Zakouma National Park is home to many animals people associate with Africa.
Four of the Big Five live in Zakouma, along with hyenas, crocodiles, and so many birds that they almost block out the sun.
Simply put: It’s as gorgeous as any other African national park and is much cheaper.
Beyond the park, Chad also has various lunar-like rock formations. They serve as a backdrop for villages that seem frozen in time.
Travelling here is demanding in every sense of the word. Chad will push you out of your comfort zone. But if you’re prepared for it, this country will show you a side of Africa that most people choose to ignore.
Where the glacier meets the sky, the land ceases to be earthly, and the earth becomes one with the heavens; no sorrows live there anymore, and therefore joy is not necessary; beauty alone reigns there, beyond all demands.”— Halldór Laxness
A more perfect description of Greenland doesn’t exist.
The whole island gives off feelings of wonder and peace. It is the perfect fusion of Arctic light, raw nature, and ice-carved landscapes. To witness the vastness of Greenland is to dive head first into a land free from humanity. It’s the largest island on the planet, and only 56,000 people live there.
Sprawling glaciers are everywhere. Artic critters roam around the tundra. Inuit villages pepper the landscape infrequently.
Once you’ve gone to Greenland, you’ll understand how no sorrow lives there. People and the planet live as one. Hopefully, you’ll carry that understanding with you for the rest of your life.
Trust us, Greenland will stay in your heart forever.
It’s the most extraordinary nature vacation you could ever take.
We do tours to over 35 different countries. Supporting the local economy, protecting the environment, and giving you an unforgettable adventure has been our mission since day one.