You know what they say: travel’s not the same, any more – everywhere’s getting just like everywhere else.
That’s because ‘they’ probably haven’t been to these, by turns, spellbindingly beautiful, astoundingly different or just dauntingly remote destinations worldwide.
Let’s hope they don’t. For this kind of travel, it’s a case of the fewer other folk the better. (Plus, ‘they’ do kind of sound like killjoys… )
Lake Orta, Italy
I always thought George Clooney looked a little dippy. Maybe that’s why he chose Lake Como for his (and now Amal’s, of course) grandiose holiday pile, rather than this idyllic spot a few hundred clicks to the west that the Italians didn’t, ahem, tell him about.
Omertà is probably taking it a bit far – not to mention being a dreadful ethnic cliché – but you can see why folk would want to keep this serene, mountain-girt lake, with its enchanted, wildflower-draped island, to themselves.
Pluck this getaway now – halfway up the Brazilian coast, Jericoacoara’s a juicy travel secret suspended in the sweet spot between ramshackle hippy hideaway (the way much of Mexico used to be) and the fully-fledged resort lurking in its DNA that let’s hope never gets expressed.
Difficulty of access helps: you can only get here along unpaved dune paths. By day there are underpopulated little beaches and lagoons to explore; then the mellow, swinging nightlife draws you in. Accommodation is generally simple and good.
From a Brazilian beach retreat that could serve to define ‘laid back’ in a pictorial dictionary, to frozen arctic wastes that inspired Philip Pullman to write the fantastical ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy. No wonder they did: with its sub-zero coal mines, a giant seed repository intended to plant the world anew if catastrophe strikes and, famously, more polar bears than people, Svalbard already seems like a surreal and chilly fairytale.
You can fly to, or cruise around, this Norwegian archipelago halfway to the north pole. However, you get there, though, a trip to this magical spot will be one of those handful of trips you never forget.
Durmitor National Park, Montenegro
Tiny Montenegro’s basking in the limelight just now but the new attention hasn’t spoiled its charms: swathes of unspoilt mountain country where wolves and bears roam and the herb-drenched air feels like some miraculous, health-bestowing drug; a bevy of jolly beaches; and unpretentious folk who’ll readily welcome strangers to the feasting table and who, alas, have generally not heard the term ‘gluten-free’.
Mani Peninsula, Greece
Here’s a paradox: travellers in their droves spends hours, days sometimes, shipping out to one or the other of Greece’s 6,000 islands when, these days, you can find a more ‘authentic’ Greek experience if you stay on the mainland. Trek out to the Mani Peninsula, crucially going beyond the popular Diros caves (understandable crowd-pullers, their stalactite-thick ceilings are among the most spectacular natural cathedrals on the planet) and you’ll find a wild territory where Greeks, let along fellow tourists, on the road are rare.
There are few better parts of Europe to reconvene with yourself than in this territory of snoozy fishing villages beside white-pebble beaches, fresco-rich Byzantine churches and, strikingly, an abundance of fortified vendetta towers speaking of a razor-edged past.
Cíes Islands, Spain
Now here are some islands to stick a pin through on your map of places-not-to-be-bothered-by-other-pesky-tourists. Crucial to the Cíes archipelago’s – aka the ‘Galician Seychelles’ – qualification to be on the list is its location within a national park where visitors are limited to 2,200 a day.
Oh, and look in vain for map symbols. You’ll find no hotels, cars or even bikes here, just a few simple restaurants. The place wins a comparison with tropical climes thanks to its blazing-white sand beaches and jade-green sea, although a bracing plunge into the Atlantic will remind you where you are.
The Southern Islands, Cambodia
Welcome to a part of the world likely to induce goggle eyes, excitable twitching and other signs of fever in hotel property developers, such is its picture-postcard exploitability. In fact, developers have already had the palsy and are recovering: mainstream tourism is set to descend on these Cambodian reaches that are currently recommended for peerless beach-lounging, admixed with jungle exploration and, for those who see the appeal of them, the odd rave.
Thankfully this settlement at the ends of the Earth (it’s the world’s southernmost city) isn’t lacking in pioneering vibe. While the town itself is a functional place with souvenir shops predictably trumpeting its location, it’s the wilderness beyond that compels. On a simple canoe trip you might soon find yourself paddling beside albatrosses and petrels, among the rest of the region’s cawing wildlife splendour; don’t be surprised if a sea lion also joins the party.
Travel further to the penguin colony at Useless Bay, feast on king crab or claim a glacier or deserted island as your own for the day.
You’re slap bang in the middle of nature’s creativity engine in Madagascar. Incredibly, 5% of the world’s plant and animal species are found only here. Among them are the bulbous boab tree, bewitching lemurs and a riot of orchids, yet so basic is the poor country’s infrastructure that only a few intrepid souls get to enjoy this evolutionary spectacular every year.
Road trips here are, however, extraordinary, if you can cope with relentless juddering and hit-or-miss supplies; some of the most unforgettable resorts can be reached only by plane or boat.
Flores, the Azores
No wonder early travellers thought the Azores might be the mythical land of Atlantis. Part of Portugal plunked in the mid-Atlantic, the islands can feel not quite real with their pools of bubbling laval mud, steam-seeping crevices and – a more recent arrival – a failed luxury hotel turned quirky tourist hit slowly being reclaimed by the jungle.
Lonely lagoons, wildflowers and whaling industry relics are your rewards on the islands of Flores, one of the remotest parts of this already remote archipelago, when you really crave a hit of soulful isolation.