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There remain a few special places that permit you to experience nature as its meant to be, pure, unadulterated and raw. Time to pause and savour the most remote and rugged regions on earth’s surface. Here are our favourites.
Where can you go to really get away from the rattle and hum of 21st-century living? Where do the sounds of nature hold sway over man-made interventions?
It’s becoming an ever-more difficult conundrum. But for one exodus customer, the answer was obvious… and it lay a long, long way from home.
“Wide open spaces, a sense of the outback, and the huge distances between towns…” Janette Hopkins’ wish list was unequivocal. She wanted to really get away from it all. In fact, she was prepared to go to the ends of the earth on her quest to find the ultimate out-there adventure.
And there was one place that offered all the elements Janette craved – and then some. The jagged edge of Argentina’s Deep South: Patagonia.
Here, at the southernmost tip of South America, all bets are off. The landscape a constantly shifting tapestry of high steppe, grassland, mountain and glacier. A heady mix.
And we discover this elemental territory’s unique catalogue of wonders in our Patagonian Highlights trip. For Janette, it’s an experience that ticked all the right boxes.
“It was incredible” she recalls. “The remoteness, the warmth of the people, the empty landscape dotted with little farmhouses and the mountains never too far away in the backdrop…” it’s safe to say Janette’s Patagonian adventure was a roll call of remote and remarkable beauty.
“What I remember most is the fresh, clean air, and the feeling of space,” she says. And as for the sights themselves? “Mount Fitzroy and the peaks of Torres del Paine are quite shy and don’t show their faces all the time, peeking out from the clouds as they see fit. Then suddenly they appear in a blaze of full technicolour.”
Torres del Paine
“You have to walk into the mountains and spend time and a bit of effort to get near them. But when you do, be prepared for them to blow you completely away,” Janette says. “They’re so worth any time or energy expended.”
“What really brought this home for me was when we were on a small boat in the beagle channel watching the seals, sea lions, albatross and penguins. We saw a ship setting off from Ushuaia for the Antarctic, and I thought ‘wow, this really is the world’s most southern city, next stop Antarctica!’ I really am at the end of the earth!”
For Janette, Patagonia was a revelation outpacing even her wildest dreams. But one magical moment stood out: “having had a brilliant day walking through varied terrain, getting closer and closer to Mount Fitzroy, and soaking in all the surrounding beauty, I found myself in the middle section of the group, some up ahead, having gone to try and see condors in their nesting place, others a distance behind.
“As I stood and enjoyed the view across this huge, remote, wide-open valley, three condors wheeled overhead, giving me a perfect aerial display as I watched, undisturbed, in silence. I was so transfixed I didn’t even take a picture!” But then again, some moments attach themselves so strongly to our memories; no photograph could ever beat being there.
Find out more: Patagonia trips
FOUR MORE WILDERNESS RETREATS
Best for starry skies: Namibia
Namibia’s big skies, deep canyons and vast deserts reveal a landscape that is endlessly changing. It’s home to an equally spectacular roll call of wildlife. The best way to experience the wonder of this southwest African country is from the lodges and campsites of Namibia’s national parks.
Find out more: Namibia trips
Best for lunar horizons: Chile
It’s a slim country, but Chile manages to find space for real widescreen wonder within its borders. From the jagged peaks of the Andes – South America’s rugged backbone – to the otherworldly expanse of the Atacama desert (the world most inhospitable), this is a land full of wild, remote and extreme beauty. And that’s before we reach the ice fields, fjords and big skies of Patagonia: the fantastical flourish of South American landmass.
Find out more: Chile trips
Best for lunar landscapes: Iceland
The earth’s inner turmoil is laid bare, on the surface of the world’s youngest country. You’ll literally see the surface of the earth being torn apart, as the European and tectonic plates pull in opposite directions. And you’ll hear the roar of Gulfoss before you catch a glimpse of this stupendous waterfall system.
Find out more: Iceland trips
Best for drama: Yosemite
The scale and grandeur of American west is brought vividly to life on this exploration of five national parks. The majesty of the Yosemite Valley, Grand Canyon and the Navajo’s sacred monument valley will stay with you for life. Hike under the world’s largest sandstone cliffs, Zion Canyon, and swim in the clear blue waters of Lake Powell.
Find out more: Yosemite trips
Learn more about Patagonia travel and wilderness escapes with our below trips.