A world away…
While this ancient northern landscape has spanned millennia, it’s only been a Canadian territory since 1999. One of Canada’s coldest and most sparsely populated areas, Nunavut is home to just under 39,000 people, around 0.1% of the country’s population. Yet it’s huge – roughly the size of Western Europe – meaning its beautiful land remains largely untouched. This wilderness is home to an abundance of wildlife including polar bears, walruses, beluga whales, muskox and packs of Arctic wolves that freely roam the landscape.
Daintree National Park, Queensland, Australia
Founded in 1981, the national park has been a World Heritage Site since 1988, valued because of its exceptional biodiversity. Home to a 110-million-year-old rainforest, it’s one of the oldest ecosystems in the world and has remained mostly untouched. The park is also home to thousands of plant species, 430 bird species and trees that are more than 2,500 years old and were previously thought to be extinct. See 40 of Australia’s most stunning natural wonders here.
An archipelago of 115 islands, this country in the Indian Ocean is home to some of the most pristine natural wonders in the world. Just about 50% of its territory is allocated for conservation and it’s one of the world’s leading countries when it comes to the protection of threatened species. Thanks to the unspoiled beaches and jungles, Seychelles also hosts some of the largest seabird colonies in the world as well as the national bird of the country, Seychelles black parrot, that is now protected.
Fiordland, New Zealand
Dominated by steep, snow-capped mountains, deep lakes and waterfalls, Fiordland has never had a significant permanent population, keeping it virtually untouched. Even native Maori people only visited this part of New Zealand to hunt, fish and collect the precious jadestone. Home to Milford Sound, one of New Zealand’s most famous fiords, Fiordland is the largest national park in the country and one of the largest in the world.
The Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
The Galápagos is an isolated group of islands 605 miles (973k) off the west coast of Ecuador. Famous for being the place that inspired naturalist Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species, the diversity of wildlife here is mind-blowing. The archipelago is a harsh and remote land where species have adapted to survive. The Galápagos is home to over 300 different reptile species and birds such as the Blue-Footed Booby – 50% of the world’s breeding pairs live here.
Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve, Madagascar
The word tsingy translates as the place where one cannot walk, a name that indicates just how impenetrable this place can be. In fact, the Tsingy de Bemaraha – Madagascar’s most extensive plateau of limestone karst pinnacles – is untouched by humans, except for a few trails and bridges. The formations are around 200 million years old and the reserve’s little-disturbed forests, lakes, mangrove swamps and canyons are an ideal habitat for all manner of wildlife – there are 11 different kinds of lemur and 45 endemic species of reptile here.
The Ifugao rice terraces, the Philippines
The Kamchatka Peninsula, Eastern Russia
With its glaciers, geysers and volcanoes, the Kamchatka Peninsula on Russia’s far eastern coast is a land of wild extremes. A former Soviet military area, it is sparsely populated but for an estimated 15,000-30,000 bears who live on the peninsula and come to Lake Kurile to feast on gigantic pink salmon. Kamchatka is also home to 29 active volcanoes that are very much alive and kicking. In fact, there are more volcanic eruptions here than anywhere else on Earth. Discover more of the world’s most incredible active volcanoes.
Until recently Ethiopia’s well-documented struggles have dominated the limelight, which means its many treasures have remained little-known. A country with nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, it’s rich with incredible and untouched sights. With its lakes of molten lava, boiling volcanoes and gigantic salt plains, the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia’s northern Afar region could be straight out of a sci-fi film while Dallol’s sulfur springs take the eerie lunar landscape a step further.
Mount Roraima, Venezuela, Brazil & Guyana
Towering above the clouds, the majestic Mount Roraima is a natural border between Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana in South America. Around two billion years old, the flat-top mountain is considered to be among the oldest in the world. At 9,220 feet (2,810m) it’s also the highest tepui (South American table-top mountain) on the continent. The otherworldly looking natural wonder is also said to be the inspiration behind the plateau with dinosaurs and ape-men in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1912 novel The Lost World. Take a look at more of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders here.
Rock Islands, Palau
The Antarctic Peninsula
The Antarctic Peninsula is an isolated, virtually uninhabited, frozen landmass. Wildlife in the Antarctic Peninsula is most active in the austral summer months, and penguins migrate here to breed and feed on Antarctic krill, fish and squid. The region is sadly experiencing the impact of climate change that’s evident in the major increase in CO2 absorption levels recorded over the summer months in the peninsula. The shift could lead to more CO2 in the air and more global warming worldwide, highlighting the need for tighter monitoring of the area.
Papua New Guinea
South America’s vast Patagonia region is as off-the-beaten-track as it gets. One of the world’s last true wildernesses and roughly twice the size of Spain, it’s a collection of deserted beaches and expansive national parks. Los Glaciares National Park in southern Patagonia, close to the Chile-Argentina border is dominated by the towering Monte Fitz Roy, while the incredibly beautiful Perito Moreno Glacier is famous for the spectacular cracking and crashing of the fracturing ice.
Picture-perfect Albania is a hugely overlooked country in southeastern Europe. It has a dazzling coastline and rugged interior, and for now, beauty spots like dazzling Lake Koman, the picturesque remote valley of Valbona (pictured) and UNESCO World Heritage Site Berat, a wonderfully timeless town in central Albania where Ottoman houses line the hillside beneath the 14th-century citadel, remain untouched.
Kyrgyzstan is often overshadowed by its neighbors, China and Uzbekistan, but the advantage is that it remains unspoiled. A stopping point on the Silk Road – the ancient trade route between China and the Mediterranean – it’s a country with breathtakingly wild mountains contrasted by flower-filled valleys. Some of the most stunning sights include the Ala Kul lake, 11,482 feet (3,499m) above sea level in the Tian Shan Mountains, and the Skazka Canyon – the name means Fairy Tale Canyon and, with its bright red rock formations and winding sandy passageways, it’s easy to see why.
Often referred to as the alien island, Socotra is located off the coast of Yemen. Around 800 species of plants and flowers exist here, a third of which can be found nowhere else on Earth. The most distinctive of all are the dragon blood trees, dominating much of the landscape on the island. The strange and mysterious formations might seem like the stuff of science fiction, but they’re very much real. These peculiar, mushroom-shaped trees, scientifically known as Dracaena Cinnabari, got their more common name from the red resin which is used for medicine and dyes to this day. Check out these stunning photos of the world’s most beautiful trees.
On the southwestern coast of the African sub-continent, sparsely populated Namibia is home to otherworldly landscapes that include startling canyons, vast ever-changing sand dunes and Dead Vlei, an eerie “dead marsh” in the central Namib Desert (pictured). Opposing southwest and north winds have sculpted the Namib Desert’s colossal vivid-red sand dunes, which are the world’s tallest and oldest. The wilderness of Etosha National Park is also home to four of Africa’s Big Five – lions, leopards, rhinos and elephants, but not African buffalo.
Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada
Bazaruto Island, Mozambique
Lying off the coast of southern Mozambique, Bazaruto is the largest island in the Bazaruto Archipelago and is part of the Bazaruto National Park. A sandy paradise, the island is defined by rolling golden sand dunes and is surrounded by incredibly clear, turquoise blue waters, which are home to countless animals. Thanks to the minimal human presence in the area, the marine life is rich with fish, reef sharks and moray eels as well as marlins and the largest and last remaining population of dugong in East Africa.
Guyana in South America is all too often known for its political instability with its natural wonders rarely getting a spotlight. The lush dense jungle has no roads or hotels, the rainforests here are home to tapir, macaws, squirrel monkeys, anaconda, giant otters and golden frogs, to name but a few and its crown jewel is the magnificent Kaieteur Falls. Some 30,000 gallons of water cascade over the 741-foot (226m) drop, making it one of the highest waterfalls in the world. Now see more of the planet’s most beautiful waterfalls here.
Jiuzhaigou National Park, China
With its snowy mountains, multicolored lakes and 17 cascading waterfalls, Jiuzhaigou National Park in China’s Northern Sichuan Province is a wondrous, fairy tale world. In Rize Valley there’s the Five Flower Lake. Its shallow waters are so impossibly clear and blue that you can still see about 130 feet (40m) underwater so it’s not surprising locals consider it to have holy properties. With sub-zero temperatures, winters may be chilly here, but the frozen waterfalls and ice-crusted lakes make for an equally enchanting spectacle. Now discover the most magical places on Earth.
Lord Howe Island, Australia
Around 434 miles (700km) northeast from Sydney lies Lord Howe Island, an idyll of vanilla-colored beaches and crystal-clear waters. To preserve its natural beauty, under normal circumstances only 400 visitors are allowed at a time and it’s home to just 350 permanent residents. Lord Howe is so remote there’s no mobile phone reception, but the wildlife makes up for it with over 500 species of fish swimming about.
The Irrawaddy Delta, Myanmar
The 21st century has barely impacted Myanmar, largely because the country has only just opened up to the outside world. But while Bagan and its glorious ancient temples are well-known, the Irrawaddy Delta region remains virtually untouched. The nine tributaries and the maze of smaller creeks that make up the Irrawaddy Delta cover over 3,800 square miles (9,841sq km). Here, thatched houses stand on stilts to protect them from the monsoon, fishermen hunt on the creeks for their daily catch, while rice farmers plow rice fields using bullock-driven carts.
Dubbed the coldest inhabited place on Earth, Oymyakon is certainly not for the faint-hearted. The town of 500 residents is located in the Republic of Sakha, in northeast Russia and during the winter months the mercury drops to an average of -58°F (-50°C). During the shortest days of the year, the town is plunged into 21 hours of darkness every day. It gets so cold that your saliva and eyelashes will freeze over after just a few minutes of walking outside and it’s impossible to grow crops due to the extreme weather.
Oman is one of Middle East’s most underrated destinations and is at the top of our travel list once it’s safe to travel again. The charming low-rise capital of Muscat is a port city with incredible architecture, including Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and the Royal Opera House Muscat, but the real appeal lies in Oman’s dramatic wild sceneries. It’s particularly enticing in northern Oman where desert sands give way to rugged mountains and unique landforms, like Wadi Tiwi and its dazzling turquoise lagoon water.
Supai, Arizona, USA
Nestled inside the Grand Canyon is Supai, the capital of the Havasupai Indian Reservation that’s often billed as the most remote community in the lower 48 US states. The area is inhabited by just 201 residents of the Havasupai Tribe and is currently closed to visitors (though do check for regular updates). The highlight of the untouched area is definitely the pristine waterfalls. There are five in total: Navajo Falls, Fifty Foot Falls, Beaver Falls, Mooney Falls and Havasu Falls, pictured here.
Atacama Desert, Chile
Often mistakenly cited as the driest place on Earth, Chile’s Atacama Desert isn’t far off it. One of the world’s strangest landscapes, its 40,000-square-mile (103,600sq km) expanse is defined by salt basins, red rocks, sand and soil so lifeless that NASA can carry out its Mars ground tests here. Although Atacama is very sparsely populated and living conditions aren’t ideal, many species have made it home, including the Andean flamingos, living in the high-altitude salt flats.
Hang Son Doong, Vietnam
The world’s largest cave, Hang Son Doong is so big it’s even got its own localized climate and clouds, a rainforest and a river. Only properly discovered in 2009, the cave is so large a 40-story skyscraper could fit at its highest point and at the widest point a Boeing 747 could glide through easily. Located in the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, less people have seen the inside of this magical cave than have stood at the summit of Mount Everest.
Now check out the most mysterious places on Earth
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