Calling all remote adventurers
May 12, 2015 3:33 PM   Subscribe

Where do you travel to feel like you're the only travelers in a peaceful oasis? What I'd really love is an amazing sense of remoteness and quiet.

I'm asking this question because the sweetest, most memorable few days that I have ever had while travelling were in the south of Laos, at the rural edges of a remote national preserve. We stayed at a simple resort with a delicious restaurant; it wasn't a five star sort of place, and it didn't need to be. Days were spent hiking and learning to motorbike and exploring a mountainous landscape that was still wild and beautiful. It was the start of the monsoon season that year, and at moments it would feel like it was just us for miles and miles despite the smattering of little villages. I'm looking to replicate that experience, where you can just feel like one of the few foreigners or even one of the few people in a place where it's quiet and slow and lovely. It doesn't have to be in true wilderness, just anywhere there's a feeling of peace and isolation. It would be amazing to have a few basic modern conveniences available like plumbing, electricity, and local restaurants if possible.

I'm open to anywhere in the world at any time of year, and the more remote and unexpected it is, the better. Please assume that cost isn't a concern, and please be as specific as you can, especially about time of year and location (e.g., "this one little inn at a rural town in Hokkaido in the summertime" vs. "Japan"). I'd be super excited to hear about places to stay/eat that you've loved and what you did there.

Thanks so much for your help! I'm hoping that this AskMe will become my travel bucket list for the next few years. :)

PS In case anyone is curious, that Laosian resort was Sainamhai Resort in Ban Nahin in mid-June. To get there, you might have to ride next to chickens in a pickup truck (songthaew) for a few hours, but completely worth it.
posted by hotchocolate to Travel & Transportation (31 answers total) 95 users marked this as a favorite
I experienced this most often when I drove the Oregon coast. There are long stretches of wild beach and sand dune areas all the way where there is really no one else around.
posted by bearwife at 3:46 PM on May 12, 2015

Visit Martha's Vineyard after labor day, and stay up-island.
posted by vrakatar at 3:53 PM on May 12, 2015

Iceland outside of Reykjavik.

I went in early June, in 2011, rented a car, and spent a week driving the ring road around the entire island. You can go long stretches without seeing a single other car. You will sometimes be the only person at spectacular waterfalls or geysers. You will often be the only guests at hotels. I was there a tad early for tourist season, but even during peak times (mid summer) I've heard it never gets especially touristed.
posted by pravit at 3:55 PM on May 12, 2015 [12 favorites]

Work has taken me to lots of random remote places. Of the bunch I'd say Bo's Island House on Guanaja in Honduras is probably the most relaxing of the bunch. You can hike to a remote waterfall, bum around in a hammock under a palm tree, dive/snorkel/swim, or just do nothing at all.

The Chilean side of northern Patagonia south of the Calbuco/Osorno volcanoes is also spectacularly beautiful and has few tourists wandering through. There's amazing hiking and fly fishing.

For something in the US I'd say the Lost Coast in Northern California is great. 25 to 30 mile backpacking trails right along the ocean with nobody in sight.
posted by foodgeek at 4:21 PM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

I was fortunate enough to spend time traveling throughout Mongolia back in 2001 for a few months. I have been to many remote parts of the world and nothing compares to Mongolia for pure, splendid isolation. The Gobi Desert will blow your mind.

With the increasing number of Westerners (backpackers, tour companies, NGOs and oil and gas exploration companies) I suspect it has changed a bit since 2001 but I'm betting not too much in terms of its remoteness.

I took the Trans-Siberian Railway from Beijing. I am a woman and was traveling alone on the train and it was a wonderful experience-bring a deck of cards and a flask of your preferred poison to share and you'll be a big hit.

You can also take the train from Moscow. Either drops you in Ulan Bator. Of course you could fly in but after the adventure of the train I wouldn't recommend it unless you are pressed for time.
posted by pipoquinha at 4:24 PM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

I found this at the Feynan Eco-Lodge in Jordan - it's an eco-lodge in the middle of a desert nature preserve south of Amman. I hiked in from a nearby village, down a canyon, for four hours without seeing anyone else until I got close to the lodge itself. There's also access via a 4-wheel drive road from the other direction. While there are other people at the lodge, particularly during certain times of year, as well as bedouin families living nearby, when I was out hiking in the mountains and desert there, I felt wonderfully alone - sitting on top of a ridge watching the sunset and the stars come out - I miss it.

And it was nice to be able to go back to quality vegetarian cooking in the evening.
posted by traveltheworld at 4:30 PM on May 12, 2015

Seconding the Oregon coast, but in the offseason, winter. Beaches with no one around for miles.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:30 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

There are some truly incredible standalone cabanas on Caye Caulker in Belize. Blue water, incredible snorkeling. Low-key island community with a handful of decent restaurants.

We stayed at Colinda's, where you get your own stilt-cabana on a beach at the end of a dirt road about a mile from town, but there a handful of others scattered along the same stretch of shore. There are more private options if you are really serious about the isolation.
posted by 256 at 4:53 PM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh, and also Franklin's on Stone Lake outside of Red Lake in Northern Ontario. This is truly beautiful and full on wilderness. Plumbing and electricity, but no internet (at least not last time I was there).

I understand it gets busy in prime hunting season, but if you avoid that, you may well have the whole place to yourself, aside from Franklin.
posted by 256 at 5:07 PM on May 12, 2015

Seconding the Feynon EcoLodge in Jordan, or the Adrere Amellal Desert Ecolodge in Siwa in Egypt. There's is a small yet bustling town in the oasis but you don't have to go far to get away from it. The landscape is breathtaking, either in the oasis or the surrounding desert.
posted by scrute at 5:24 PM on May 12, 2015

I've never experienced a sense of solitude that compares to walking out onto Lake Baikal in Winter, in absolute silence broken only by the occasional eerie groans and thuds of shifting ice and no sign of humankind anywhere in sight. It's breathtaking. Stay at Nikita's on Olkhon Island. Lovely people, great home style food, and a ten minute walk to the end of the world. (The region has plenty of gorgeous and remote wilderness in other seasons also, and a few more tourists.)

If stark and dry is appealing, the Atacama desert is as large and amazing as advertised. San Pedro de Atacama has great (if touristy) restaurants and a wide range of hotels, but it's a half hour drive to overwhelming and vast wilderness and science-fiction-cover landscapes. Getting out of town without a car is hard.

The Copper Canyon in Mexico is also beautiful and can feel very remote. You're never genuinely far from civilization, but you wouldn't know it. Accommodation and food are basic, but genuinely local. Urique is beautiful and great for day hikes, but not uniquely so. Skip Creel if you're after peaceful wilderness.
posted by eotvos at 5:46 PM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

Chaco Culture National Historic Sight. The ruins are spectacular. Darkest sky I've seen.
posted by thenormshow at 5:50 PM on May 12, 2015

A few stand out:

Pulau Weh, an island off of Banda Aceh, Sumatra. I spent ten days there as part of a longer backpacking trip in the 90s. We slept in thatch huts, napped in hammocks in the afternoon, explored the jungle with the local kids during the day, swam with manta rays in the evening ... it was surreal. It was that perfect island that all the other backpackers were looking for (The Beach was published the next year), only the rest were all looking in Thailand.

Camel trekking in Wadi Rum in Jordan. Per T.E. Lawrence, the desert here is "vast, echoing, and god-like." And riding a camel is a phenomenal way to experience the desert - they are so quiet when they walk, the seem to float on the sand, and all you hear is the sound of the wind on the sand. We did a three day trek: just me, my friend, and a Bedouin guide. I wish we had done five days, so that we could have gone deeper into the wilderness.

I've looked into trekking in other places I've visited, but nothing has come close to this. Most 'camel treks' I've seen are short trips where a grumpy trainer leads the creature on a tether, or worse, in Egypt, with mangy beasts that look mistreated. Rum is protected by one Bedouin tribe. You hike with them, you ride their camels, and you adapt to their culture and rhythms.

Venice on a cold and wet winter's day. I always read that Venice is too crowded with tourists. My Venice is all evening mists and low clouds and empty plazas. The city has a haunting and quiet beauty in the rain. I'll return this summer, for the first time during tourist season, and I'm afraid I might not love her anymore.

And at the top of my bucket list: Siwa, an Egyptian oasis deep in the Sahara.


It looks like two others have mentioned the deserts in Jordan and Egypt while I was working on this. So: me three.
posted by kanewai at 6:26 PM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Agama River Camp / Moon Mountain Lodge (scroll down for a view of the isolation) near Sossusvlei in Namibia, especially in the offseason. Go hike a dune shortly after sunrise and you will feel like you are the only person in a vast Martian landscape.

Then drive up the Skeleton Coast, where most of the trip will be like this in terms of emptiness.

Finally, camp on an island in the Okavango Delta over in Botswana.

Sometimes I look at photos of this trip and can't believe any of those places are real. I've never spent 3 more isolated weeks in my life. There were times I am certain we were the only humans within 500 miles.
posted by raspberrE at 6:48 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

You can find many places in Idaho like this - for example, Lolo National Forest and the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.
posted by knolan at 8:00 PM on May 12, 2015

The places where I have most experienced what you are describing are Isalo National Park in Madagascar in the late fall, camping during the Rongai ascent of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in January, and the Dasht-e Kavir (desert) in Iran in early spring.

The high Arctic, like Greenland or Svalbard might also be good options.
posted by Falconetti at 8:39 PM on May 12, 2015

Any number of eco or hunting lodges in northern Saskatchewan.
Also, the southern side of Huahine in French Polynesia was very much like that 8 years ago, and I think things have gotten even less touristy since then. But there were still paved roads and locals and a daily ice cream treat delivery truck run.
posted by bluebelle at 8:48 PM on May 12, 2015

There are large swathes of Montana that are perfect for this. I don't know if they're still around, but we stayed somewhere with 100 miles of Great Falls, a small ranch that took in visitors and which did six hour trail rides out to an old homestead for overnight trips. There were some larger ranches with land/air strips on the trip out, but I don't remember seeing a single human. Most of Glacier away from the lodges. Shockingly beautiful state in summer; suspect it's just as beautiful though less great for wandering in winter.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:57 PM on May 12, 2015

Two different answers:

Asilomar State Park in Pacific Grove, CA. Especially in the winter. In the summer, it's still quiet but not the same. There are great trails, a beach, a fire pit, and almost no technology. It's my favourite place in California.

Then there's Plett Bay in South Africa. I've been there in June and July and it's peaceful and wonderful. I also loved Aliwal Shoal, which is quiet when it's not surf season. Lots of beauty and quiet.
posted by guster4lovers at 9:13 PM on May 12, 2015

The Australian outback. Like, most of it. Get off the main highways (often not even by much) and it is incredibly remote.

I remember camping on an abandoned homestead's verandah while dingoes howled in the distance.
posted by deadwax at 12:14 AM on May 13, 2015

I came here to say the same thing as pravit, except that we went to Iceland in September, which is also outside of tourist season. The western fjords, in particular, were spectacularly beautiful and totally deserted, except for a few small villages here and there. We stayed in Isafjordur and used it as a base for exploring. The feeling of remoteness was particularly heightened by the road you had to take to get there, a dirt track that wound over the desolate highlands. It looked like the surface of mars, and we didn't meet anyone else.

Looking back at our pictures of the trip (it was our honeymoon) are actually sort of otherworldly, because at no point do any other humans appear. It's just the two of us, individually, and lots of beautifully empty landscape. We look like the last of the human race.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 2:05 AM on May 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh, and you asked about eating, too. Well, if you do go to Isafjordur, the local folk museum (very well done, worth your time) has a restuarant attatched where I ate, two days in a row, the two best meals I have ever had in my life. It is impossible to exaggerate how good it was.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 2:12 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm biased but I reckon remote Western Australia is fantastic. Fly to Perth, get a campervan, make sure you have awesome torches - head lamps are best - and drive out the Great Eastern highway towards Norseman for about 7-8 hours. Take the turn off to Cocklebiddy Caves. Yes, there is a crappy, half-arsed sign in front of a small pile of rocks. This is the entrance to the caves and it's not a terribly difficult climb down, make sure your torches are on and walk down to the water. I swam around with my torch on my head and my, it was the best thing ever swimming under the desert in the still water.
Then you can have a pie at the Cocklebiddy Roadhouse, camp out and consider driving to the south to the coast, another many hours drive past ancient salt lakes, marginal land. Watch out for kangaroos, emus, goannas etc. Go down to Esperance, one of the most beautiful towns on the planet, even if it has dodgy architecture and a big mining port smackbang in the middle of it. I've been a lot of places and Cape Le Grande national park is the most amazing. Climb mountains and drive down to Lucky Bay and onto the whitest sand you'll ever see. Drive along the beach, throw out a line for some beach fishing, swim nude at Thistle Cove. Go to Esperance and have a coffee from Koffee Kat on the foreshore and see the always-there big fat friendly seal. Drive up the other side of town, West Beach and you will just go nuts about the coastline. Twilight Beach is beautiful, 13 Mile Beach and all along that coast is breath-taking. Most of the time empty.

If you were really adventurous and craved the idea of staying in the Twilight Hilton, you could drive east along the beach and cliff trails out towards the nullabor. The TW is a tiny wooden shack with a stove and some stumps to sit up. Only real travellers know about it.
posted by honey-barbara at 4:23 AM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Go fossicking for opals in Western QLD, you are often the only person around for miles. The outback in general is on a scale that is difficult to appreciate until you drive you for twelve hours and everything look exactly 100% the same. Big sky country.

Or go off track remote camping in the gorgeous temperate rainforest of the Green Mountains (note, there are more civilised accomodation and camping options both depending on degree of isolation required).

nthing Namibia, amazing place. Mundulea the most amazing place we stayed at (and we stayed at a few), in terms of being able to walk around, just you, the guide, and the environment. Bruno is an astonishing host.

In Kenya, if you get pally with your guide at Mount Longonot, they can actually organise a small and private camping trip in the bottom of the crater (see picture in link. The "path" is on the right hand side, heh). Note, you need to scramble down the rock face to get there, but buffalos do it, so you should be able to...

Likewise, the local Maasai at Lake Magadi would be delighted to host a private camp for you at the south western end of the lake. Very isolated spot.
posted by smoke at 4:38 AM on May 13, 2015

The most isolated I have ever felt was in Death Valley in the middle of the night. We went last year, and one night saw us strolling around on the Mesquite Dunes at around midnight, which was unearthly. (We also had to explain to our then four year old daughter why desert sand wasn't the best for making a sand castle...)

However, another night, we headed out towards Mosaic Canyon, a narrow little box canyon, a bit too late without really intending to. We got there around dusk and decided to hike in a little bit anyway, until it got too dark to proceed safely. Once darkness fell, it was simply unreal. I have been in remote places, far from people, where I've heard quiet, but there's always been some sign of life -- the hum of a random insect, a slight whisper of leaves or grass in the wind. Here, there was absolutely nothing: no light but for the stars, the walls of the canyon creating a darkness so thick you couldn't see your own hand in front of your face; nothing moving; not a single sound at all to be heard except for the rush of blood in your ears and your own breathing. It could very well have been the end of time for all one could tell. I found it exhilarating. It creeped my wife the hell out. One of the most memorable experiences of my life.

Death Valley as a whole I found an awesome place. If you stay in the paved, marked areas it can be a little crowded, especially during the day. But if you get a little off piste, or go out at night, the character changes intensely. Just remember it's also a place as brutal and murderous as it is beautiful, so exercise care.

Something I haven't done yet, but have put in our short term vacation list for once our daughter is old enough to tolerate it, is to rent one of the remote USFS cabins in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. These things are scattered everywhere there, they're cheap (usually about $30/night), and they're remote. Most of them are up against lakes in tight little valleys, and the only way in or out is to find your way to Ketchikan or Sitka, then charter a float plane to take you and your week's worth of camping equipment -- these things are remote and primitive -- on a 60-120 minute flight to get to the site. (That runs between $1000 and $2000 for the round trip from what I've seen, which means you spend more than you save on the cheap cabin rental, but I think it would absolutely be worth it for the experience).

For reasons that should be understandable, this is waiting until the kid is older than five, but it's on the list because it seems like it would give exactly the experience you're looking for.
posted by jammer at 5:42 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I recently went to Death Valley National Park and my husband and I both noticed how quiet it was. Even with other tourists around, it was unusually quiet. Cars would be approaching on the road and you didn't hear them until they got very close. People walking on gravel ten yards away barely made a noise unless they spoke. Craters of the Moon NP was similar.
posted by soelo at 7:49 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

This fails your modern conveniences "plus," but it's about as remote as you can get. The furthest I've been from anyone was on a raft trip on the Anasek River, a tributary of the Noatak River, outside of Kotzebue, Alaska. We flew in a commercial plane from Anchorage to Kotzebue, then on bush planes onto the river, and then rafted the river for 10 days. The rafting is easy, basically class II riffles, and you're in the foothills of the Brooks Range. You're in tundra, so aside from a few willows along the river, nothing stands over a foot tall as far as you can see (and you can see really far). The wildlife has generally never seen people before, so they're not afraid of you. That's great when you're around caribou (we saw thousands and could almost touch a few of them) and not so great when you see grizzleys, because they're not afraid of you (we saw a dozen, some were too close for comfort). We saw 2 other people when we connected with the main Noatak -- a pair of kayakers in foldable boats. Otherwise, we not only saw no people, we saw no traces of people -- no trash, no trails, no roads, no fire rings, no nothing. Alaska is a very, very big place, and for a few hundred dollars you can get a bush pilot to fly you into the middle of nowhere and back again.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:56 AM on May 13, 2015

A lot of what I do is straight-up camping/backpacking/hiking, so I'm not sure if any of these would meet your preferences, but I figure I might as well share.

North Manitou Island off of the Michigan coast. It's part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, and while the dunes are fun they are crowded. But if you go offshore to the island at the right time of year you might be the only person there.

Go in early to late spring (late May is probably best) so that you avoid the mosquitoes, but it will likely be warm enough to be comfortable and take a dip in the lake. The island can actually be empty this time of year but you may be contending with weather to get to the island as the only way there is via ferry from Leland. Bring extra food in case you are stuck on the island for a couple of extra days. North Manitou is only 7 mi x 3 mi which means it can be a really compact trip for 2-3 days or, if you want to explore the island to its fullest, 4-5 days to poke around and find all kinds of hidden things (the swamp, the beaver dam, various springs, logging roads, farms, gorgeous overlooks on the lake). There is a ton of history you can look into as well. The island used to be populated but everything's abandoned now, so there are tons of interesting things to find at your leisure. Buy a map at Manitou Island Transit in Leland (where the ferry arrangements are made), grab an official brochure, and once you're there take established trails and then bushwhack/estimate where the cool things are. Or actually prepare and look up GPS waypoints, but that's not as fun. There are limited campsites near the ferry pick up/drop off, but you can camp pretty much anywhere on the island so long as you're not on a trail. Bring your own food and water/water purifying device. When you get back to the mainland hit up the Village Cheese Shanty for a delicious sandwich and some cheese curds.

We always camp at the Valley View campsite on the mainland the night before the ferry leaves. There has literally never been anyone else there. There have always been porcupines.

Another favorite is Everglades National Park, but again, we don't bother with the crowds and go offshore. This requires more planning though, because you need permits and camping spots are more limited and get snatched up quickly, and you need to make sure you rent boats (canoe or kayak) in advance. You can camp on beach spots or chickees (elevated platforms directly over the water). You'll want to consult a tidal/wind forecast so that you don't spend your entire trip paddling against everything, especially if you're going to end up going upriver at some point. The rangers are incredibly helpful with this and will give you advice and a print-out of all the info you will need.

You'll need to bring ALL of your water as everything you're going to be paddling on is either salt or brackish. Food, obviously, wetbags, etc. etc. Go in mid-winter (we went on New Year's) because even then if you're camping on the mainland you'll be contending with no-see-ums. But if you're out island hopping on the edge of the Gulf the wind usually takes care of bug problems. You'll see so much wildlife. We got tailed by dolphins after watching them fish and they spent the night off our beach in low tide. We could hear them spraying basically the whole night. You might find coconuts floating in the water; retrieve them and eat them because they are delicious and why not.

There are tons of restaurants once you're back on the mainland, but none of them really stand out to me. Try catching site of manatees at the docks, most manatee sighting areas are labelled somewhere.

Just a couple of my favorite trips. Not sure if you're even remotely into the backcountry camping thing, but something to consider.
posted by nogoodverybad at 8:05 AM on May 13, 2015

Yosemite in winter. The meadows, when covered with snow (i.e., not this year), surrounded by the cliffs and peaks, are like a cathedral.
posted by psoas at 2:28 PM on May 13, 2015

Block Island, October, rent a house anywhere along the coast. It's incredible. Outer Banks in North Carolina around mid-November was awesome too. If you want tropics, I really loved Hawksnest Bay in St. John, USVI. When people mention paradise and I would envision it, that beach was as close as I've ever been to the image I had in my mind.
posted by Shylo at 6:41 PM on May 15, 2015

Lots of Madagascar fit this bill. I once paddled for 3 days in a dugout canoe from Miandrivazo to Bekopaka along the Tsiribihina River. When the sun began to set our guide would pull up to a beach and we'd set up tents. Aside from a fisherman in a canoe every once in a while we were alone for days.

Also on the Western side of Madagascar, I took a speedboat 2.5 hours from Tulear to an area called Anakao. It really wasn't a town, just some buildings far enough away from each other that you felt totally alone. This was a few years back now so maybe it's more developed. But I was the only person at the hotel and my room was a small cabana on the beach with a hammock. For dinner I would walk down the beach and find a little hut where someone was grilling seafood that came out of the water 15 feet away.

Driving the Pamir Highway between Khorog (Tajikistan) and Sary Tash (Kyrgyzstan) I saw only one other group of travelers. Even more remote, the Wakhan Corridor along the Afghan border felt like traveling back 20 years with no electricity and no tourists. Those areas were not luxurious at all, but very slow and peaceful and just quiet. Northeastern parts of Kyrgyzstan are amazingly remote. You can have a guide take you on multi-day horse trips in the mountains. I stayed at a cabin in an area he called Altan Arashan, owned by the man who owned the hostel I stayed at in Karakol. Apart from two hunters carrying dead animals on their horses I saw nobody else. I would climb up the side of the mountain and just stare down at the valley and watch the light change across the trees.

Most of Mongolia feels this way. Up North when you get near the Russian border is just trees and lakes and nobody. I have friends who've gone West and that area sounds even more amazingly remote.

Lake Bunyoni in far South Uganda near the Rwandan and DRC's borders. I stayed at Byoona Amagara in an open air ecodome. It was an 8 hour bus ride from Kampala, then a taxi from a small town to the lake, then an hour canoe ride to the island. I bet there's a lot fancier resort-type places around the lake if you wanted something more luxurious.

Since you said no budget, Nimmo Bay Resort in Canada looks like it ticks the remote/peaceful, luxurious, and foodie boxes. Of course, it's expensive and only accessible by plane or boat. I've never been, but it's on my list of places I would vacation if I were made of money.
posted by Bunglegirl at 8:44 PM on May 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

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