We should be honest here, this is a more like a list of our favourite places in the world! A swan song to our most memorable travelling experiences; some are close, some far but all have something in common. They allow the visitor to experience some of natures most unbelievable sights and experiences that can’t be found at home. City breaks they are not but unforgettable they are. Read on to discover Mali’s top pick destinations for nature enthusiasts.
If you like days and days of walking then there is nowhere in the world better for a trekking holiday than Nepal. If it's your first visit then the perfect destination is the Annapurna circuit, which is world famous for the variety of activities, dynamic landscapes and generations of like-minded backpackers that come here every year. The circuit has everything from a 5 day trek to Poon Hill or enough routes and challenges for a two month trek enjoying the many side routes, lakes and mountain passes, not to mention jungles, the world's highest lake and world's longest pass at 5416 metres above sea level!
Annapurna isn't always the easiest environment to walk in and much of the circuit is above 3000 metres, which makes it challenging and ultimately, an unforgettable experience. But what makes the circuit easier than most destinations is that it has a long culture of visiting travellers and guesthouses can be found in every village; so there's always hot food, drink and somewhere to rest your head after a long days walking. We have written a piece about preparing for a 3 week trek around the Annapurna circuit here: Coming Soon
If you need some inspiration to urge you to book that flight to Nepal then why not check out our post with 20 photos that will make you want to trek the Annapurna circuit
More information can be found here: Annapurna Tourism Board
Europeans looking for sun, lakes and mountains will be happy about Lake Bohinj as it’s easy to get to. Located in the north-west of Slovenia, it's the main entrance to the Triglav National Park. Getting there is easy, just a three hour train from Ljubljana to Lake Bled, then grab the hourly bus to the sparkling Lake Bohinj. We camped at the campsite of the same name and it was one of the best and cheapest camp grounds we have visited in Europe, made all the better by the young traveller-type folks who spoke great English and knew every trek around the National Park. The campsite offers a nice mixture of wild camping, with scenery under the cover of trees but with all the amenities needed to keep you and your cooking equipment clean. The star of the show is the National Park, which has so many treks to do, rest assured, your legs will be keep very busy. When you need a break from extensive walks, the beautiful lake is the prefect place to unwind, bath and enjoy the company of Slovenian families holidaying there. Lake Bohinj rocks. Need any tips on preparing for a camping trip? Read our blog post on living in a tent.
Jotunheimen National Park
This Norwegian National Park includes the countries highest peaks and covers a huge 3,500km. We visited in July and climbed the mighty Besseggen, which is still one of our favourite treks we’ve ever completed. We would later learn that climbing Besseggen is a right of passage for any Norwegian living in the south of the country. The park offers a range of trekking routes and boat journeys across the fjords where one could choose to wild camp, stay in lodges or even in hotels. We met folks who had been walking the mountain paths for weeks, with just backpacks and provisions. Norway is a beautiful place to visit, surely one of the most serene in Europe but it is an expensive place to travel. We have written a guide on how travel through Norway on a budget here. Don’t be put off by the cost as you’ll get to experience unforgettable peaks, fjords, glaciers and even snow during the summer.
Gobi is one of the most extreme places in the world. Swelteringly hot in the summer months falling to the coldest recorded temperatures in the world through winter, we visited in October and felt the icy chill of minus 15! But none of this detracts from how vast and beautiful this dry open wilderness is. In the summer months the dirt tracks to Gobi are busy with adventurous tourists but travel out of season and you will find far fewer people enjoying this bleak dusty steppe. The Gobi highlights are staying in traditional Nomadic gers, meeting Mongolians and sampling their unbelievable hospitality, climbing the epic Khongor sand dunes and riding camels. The minimum amount of days to visit Gobi is 7 and you’ll visit interesting rock formations, White Stupe, Yol Valley and the Flaming Cliffs on the way. If you have more time and money you should explore more of Central Mongolia. Any tour operator can help you choose the right tour for your time and budget. That said, we would whole heartedly recommend Camel Track. For more information on picking a Mongolian tour read our guide here:
Lake Baikal is a hidden in gem in the huge expanse of Siberia. Firstly, it has the interesting historic backdrop of once being part of Mongolia, as such the array of cultures around the deepest lake in the world is an odd mixture of Russian, Mongol and Asian. Shamanic and Buddhist beliefs are deeply ingrained in it’s history and it's people, which makes the lakes attractions and populace spiritual and quite mysterious. Gazing over the lake you’d believe you were on a beach facing the sea not land locked in the largest country in the world!
Two weeks near the lake will give you ample time to explore Irkutsk, Ulan-Ude, Olkhon Island and Arshan, not forgetting the many smaller villages near the Mongolian border. Many people choose to wild camp in these places, we can certainly recommend doing that. If you need something a little more civilised there are many hostels, guesthouses and inns to choose from. The most scenic way to get to Irkutsk is by Trans Siberian from Moscow or Trans Mongolian from Ulaanbaator, they take 4 or 1 day respectively. You’ll remember those journeys forever. Otherwise a flight from Moscow or Ulaanbaator is the quickest way in and out of Siberia. Summer will always be busier but the weather is normally, and surprisingly very pleasant, hot even! Read about our experiences here:
Torres Del Paine
There is nowhere quite as remote, grand and wild as the ‘end of the world’s’ Torres Del Paine National Park in the Chilean side of Patagonia. Not so easy to get to and yet still busy during peak season it offers one of the worlds best 4/5 day hikes in the ‘W’ trek. Although found in Chile, the easiest way to access the park from Europe is via Argentina. A cheap trip this is not; an initial flight from Europe to Buenos Aires and a second flight from Buenos Aires to El Calafante gets you to Argentina’s half of Patagonia. You’ll need to catch another 8hr bus to into Chile and then another bus into the park! It took us 39 hours, almost continually, to get there but it was worth every second. Once in the park it’s just you, nature and a 5 day trek (or longer if you take the ‘O’ route). You can choose between setting up camp each night in the large campsites or stay in refugee dorms. You’ll be trekking up mountains, spotting wildlife, drinking from the fresh streams and cooking outside on a hob. A walk in the park this is not but a beautiful and simple existence this is. There are plenty of other areas to explore in Patagonia; see Puerto Natales, Ushuaia, El Chaltan and Perito Moreno Glacier or just get lost in this foreign landscape of badlands, peaks and guanacos (llamas'). We have listed some useful information on our trip around Patagonia here:
The Great Wall Of China
Trekking across the Great Wall has been one of our most cherished memories from our travels. We managed to avoid the Chinese crowds by seeking out one of the undeveloped sections of wall. We visited the Jainkou section, which gave us three days of walking routes on the historic wall meeting only a handful of other trekkers. To have a wonder of the world to yourself is as about as amazing as it sounds. The treks themselves are relatively challenging and provide stunning views throughout, the only barriers are getting there and the weather! We have listed all the information you’ll need to get to Xizhazi Village where we started our treks from. In regards to weather mid October is the most reliable, as monsoon season has ended along with China’s annual and national holiday, ‘Golden Week’. Warning, travel in the first week of October at your peril! When you’ve enjoyed the wall for a few days make sure you grab a flight down Kunming on the road to the Tiger Leaping Gorge.
Tiger Leaping Gorge
If you made it to China, love the great outdoors and want to trek one of the worlds most rated routes then get yourself to the deepest gorge in the world. Especially before the government turns it into a fully commercial National, Disneyland, Park. Read our piece on changes in China to understand how beautiful national parks are being ruined. The walk, as it is now, is a raw uncomplicated affair that can be completed over two days. An early start from Lijiang will get you to the parks entrance by 9am. Take the upper route and follow it along the inside of this huge gorge, sandwiched next to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain range. The route provides some challenge but the reason to climb is the continuous view of mountains that will rarely leave your sight over the two days. We stayed at the Half Way Guesthouse, the same place Michael Palin stayed whilst making ‘Himalayas’. Dining on pancakes and beer before finishing the route downwards towards Tina’s Guesthouse and the ferocious water at the base of the gorge. We met some great people on way bound by a worship of this amazing trek, stick it on your bucket list.