Travel is an addiction – the more you do, the more you want. Even though I’ve been to over 70 countries, there is still much more I would like to visit. Here are my top 10 dream destinations:
Wakhan Valley, Afghanistan
Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor is one of the final frontiers for adventure travelers. While most of Afghanistan is an extremely dangerous country to visit, in the northern tip there is a small sliver of land running between Tajikistan and Pakistan reaching China known as the Wakhan Corridor. Isolated from the rest of the world by mountains and geopolitical realities, this is one of the most remote places on earth making it a “safer” destination which of course is always subject to change. Before traveling, I would need to keep a close watch on the ever changing security situation, but the strange people and beautiful landscapes of this final frontier has captured my imagination. Here are two great guides from serious bloggers that did the trip – Expert Vagabond and Backpacking Man. Side note: I randomly met Backpacking Man hiking in Kyrgyzstan before his trip. Also check out this Flickr album of a girl who traveled there alone.
Pamir Highway, Tajikistan
Just north of the Wakhan Corridor, and a far safer place to visit, is Tajikistan’s Pamir Highway. This road was originally built by the Russians in one of the least populated places in the world to move troops and supplies throughout Central Asia during the Great Game. Now it stands in disrepair serving only the few people that live in this region and adventurous travelers that make the trip. While it sounds remote, venturing here is not as difficult as many think. Its easy to hire a 4 X 4 in Osh, Kyrgyzstan to drive the route through Tajikistan to the capital, Dushanbe. I was there in 2014, but I didn’t have the money to hire a car myself so I didn’t plan to go. When I arrived in Osh, I found a hostel offering to group people together to save money, but by this time I already booked my flight to Turkey and didn’t have the extra time. I guess I’ll just wait until I can combine it with the Wakhan Corridor.
Whether its exploring maze-like medinas or drinking mint tea with Berbers, Morocco just has an ability to capture the imagination. I’ve always wanted to travel to visit this land of enchantment going from Marrakesh to Casablanca by train to see the the colorful bazaars and the desert sunsets in this amazing destination.
Break away regions in the South Caucasus doesn’t exactly sound like a tourist destination for most people, but I’m not like most people. Abkhazia declared its independence from Georgia in 1992, and has since become a psuedo-state. It is only recognized by Russia and a handful of other nations. I want to travel here because its exactly where tourists don’t go. The old soviet architecture and abandoned buildings are an urban explores dream. Not to mention beautiful beaches. Check out this short video documentary of a friend of mine who visited Abkhazia.
Kokoda Track, Papua New Guinea
The Kokoda Track is a 60 mile trail that was originally fought over by the Australian and Japanese forces during WWII. It is one of the world’s greatest hikes as it travels through dense rain forest and passes over mountains with great biodiversity in areas of Papua New Guinea that are only accessible by foot. Hikers get the opportunity to come into contact with remote jungle villages and see decaying WWII artifacts as they were. Check out this great story in the New York Times about the track.
Twelve Apostles, Australia
To the Southwest of Melbourne, the Great Ocean Walk is a 104 kilometer, 8 day hiking trail along Australia’s southern coast finishing up at the Twelve Apostles rock formation. There are seven hike-in campsites spaced at 10-15 kilometer intervals along the track making this an easy self-guided hike along some of Australia’s most beautiful coastline. Even for those not keen on basic accommodation, there are companies offering luxury guided hikes with eco-lodges along the trail.
Wait, Somalia – isn’t that dangerous? Yes it is in certain parts of the country, but Northern Somalia is actually a self-declared state only recognized by Ethiopia, and independent from the rest of Somalia. Going by the name of Somaliland, this region of Somalia requires separate visas which can only be obtained from the Somaliland Embassy in Ethiopia or Somaliland Mission in London. Being separate from the rest of Somalia, Somaliland is actually quite safe and extremely welcoming to tourists because they so desperately want to the rest of the world to know their country is open for business. I found this interesting blog about a girl who traveled alone to Somaliland – you can read more about it here.
Mount Everest Base Camp
The 14-day hike through spectacular mountain scenery to Everest’s South Base Camp has been a dream of mine for quite sometime. At 17,598 ft, this trek is only for the physically fit. While the hike isn’t that long itself, there are many days of acclimatization built-in where people climb up high into the mountains,and return later in the day to build up a tolerance for the thin air at the final stop.
Xinjiang Province, China
While still in the same country as Beijing and Shanghai, Xinjiang, China’s western-most province is another world away from these major cities. This majority Muslim province is culturally much closer to Central Asia. It is known for its Silk Road relics, vast open expanses, and pastoral traders selling everything from horses to goats at the famous Kashgar Sunday Market. Not many tourists put Xinjiang high up on there list, and that’s exactly why I want to go. Read about some more top sights along China’s Silk Road.
Bhutan is a small country located within the Himalayan mountains between China and India. It is essentially the last Buddhist kingdom after Tibet was annexed by China during the Cultural Revolution. And it’s is not an easy country to visit. Up until 1974, excluding a couple bordering countries, no foreign visitors have been allowed. Now the only way to get a visa for Bhutan is by booking an all-inclusive tour through an official government-sanctioned tour operator. This is done to create a “low impact tourism” environment and preserve the unique culture of Bhutan. The government sets minimum tour package rates of $200-$250 per day so that all tours meet a certain standard of quality. While these tours are not exactly cheap, they offer an opportunity to see a culture little affected by the outside world.