NEW YORK – Most of today’s tourists stick to trendy hotels, ritzy restaurants and absurdly crowded cities.
But travelers? They’re a different story. They know that true highs are hiding in less-trodden and incredibly remote places. This planet boasts stellar natural wonders and travelers want to explore them all.
They need some wide-open spaces — and we’ve got a bucket list that definitely hits the spot.
Hadrian’s Wall Country, United Kingdom
Back in the second century, the Roman emperor Hadrian commissioned a 73-mile wall that stretches from coast to coast in what is now northern England. Its path includes a series of ruinous Roman forts and towns.
Námafjall and Hverarondor Hverir, Iceland
Hot springs, fumaroles and boiling mud pots make this volcanic wasteland both “strange and fantastic.”
The Namib Desert, Namibia
Larger-than-life sand dunes are the ultimate thrill in a desert some 43 million years old. Be on the lookout for fairy circles — mysterious, patterned rings that appear in the sand have scientists stumped.
Yosemite Valley, California
Waterfalls, stargazing, lakes and the infamous Half Dome hike make this THE spot for Californian nature junkies.
Göreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia, Turkey
When this World Heritage site overwhelms you with its vastness of fairy chimneys and hot air balloons, hide out in a cozy cave hotel.
The Scottish Highlands
This blazing green landscape is dotted with castles, battlefields and Loch Ness, home of that pesky water beast.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
The world’s largest salt flat has a hotel made of salt. Oh, and it doubles as a giant mirror when wet.
Rub’ al-Khali, Arabian Peninsula
This desert — aka the world’s largest area of continuous sand — touches FOUR COUNTRIES on the Arabian Peninsula. Much of it remains unexplored (but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a swing at it!).
Schnebly Hill Road, Arizona
Thirteen miles of intense switchbacks guide drivers through the vast remnants of a primal sea that existed here hundreds of millions of years ago. It used to be covered in lava — but now it serves to link the city of Sedona with Interstate 17.
Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
On 938 square miles of grassland, you could run into lions, cheetahs, leopards, elephants, buffalos, zebras or hippos. From July through October, you’ve got a shot at catching the Great Wildebeest Migration.
Joshua Tree National Park, California
Nearly 800,000 acres span a low desert (the Colorado) and a high desert (the Mojave). The latter is dotted with Joshua trees, named for branches that Mormons compared to Joshua’s outstretched arms. Catch a break from the heat in one of five fan palm oases.
Hitachi Seaside Park in Hitachinaka, Japan
Plants range from red to blue to green at this Seuss-like paradise near the beach. Cycling paths meander through the foliage.
The Drakensberg, South Africa
Four valleys and a national park make up this massive expanse of hills and peaks (home to the second-highest waterfall in the world). You can climb all over them!
Wadi Rum, Jordan
Imagine a camel trek (or better yet, a camel race) through a minefield of 5,700-foot rock formations in the “Valley of the Moon.”
Menindee Lakes, Australia
Four lakes — popular with fishermen and water skiers — supply water to nearby orchards and farms. On the banks of the lakes, you could sleep on a farm or in a converted train car.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona and Utah
John Wayne rode horseback over this siltstone basin in the movie “Stagecoach.” You might be more interested in a Jeep tour.
The Red Beach in Panjin, China
A peculiar breed of seaweed turns the world’s largest wetland and reed marsh a deep shade of red in the fall.