Wilderness vacations travel guide


Wilderness vacations are ones where WIFI stands for Wild, Isolated, Fun, Immaculate. Swap pristine suits for pristine environments. Instead of smart phones just feel smart about the fact that you just embraced the adventure. Swap heated meetings for hot springs in Iceland. Feeling at the end of your tether? Heading to the end of the earth in Patagonia instead. Read more in our wilderness vacations travel guide to discover our WIFI passwords. Beautiful words that evoke wilderness in themselves. Taiga, Kamchatka, Etosha, Guyana, Sahara. Read more about some of our favourite WIFI spots and then see if you get a good connection.
Wilderness vacations are...

a bit down and dirty, up close and personal. Swipe right if you like that sort of thing. Go on, go wild.

Wilderness vacations aren't...

all long haul. You can find pristine landscapes within Europe, from Montenegro to Finland. Think of wilderness as the EU’s fifth freedom.

Is a wilderness vacation for you?

Responsible Travel recommends

Go on a wilderness vacation if…

… you love the idea of roughing it, but with the guiding hand of local experts and wilderness gurus.

… you seek solace in silence. These vacations are way off the normal trekking tourism trails.

… you are fit. Although you don’t need to be a marathon runner, a good level of fitness is recommended. We have wilderness trekking vacations for those who want to really go for it.

… names like Patagonia, Palawan and Papua New Guinea get your feet coming out in an itchy rash.

Don’t go on a wilderness vacation if...

… you don’t like camping. Canvas is your best friend on many of these trips.

… bugs and wildlife bother you. You don’t have to be Bear Grylls, but the wilds do bring creatures of all sorts out to play.

… you don’t like extreme temperatures. We’re talking Mongolian deserts, Guyanese tropics and Patagonian ice field-type of temperatures.

… you are addicted to WiFi. These vacations are about digital detox, big time. Password: Let it go.

Types of wilderness vacations


Wilderness trekking

The world’s truly wild places are few and far between these days as we humans tend to get everywhere, with plenty of mountainous walking routes where you bump into fellow ramblers. Which is fine, but not always what you are seeking. Wilderness trekking vacations take place where you will meet virtually no other hikers and in locations that are almost raw in their beauty, such as serious trekking in Patagonia, hut to hut hiking in far out Finland, the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea or the Maliau Basin of Borneo.

Wilderness adventure

As well as hiking in wilderness areas, adrenaline seekers may want a little bit more while they are out there in the wilds. Small group vacations that take you mountain biking on the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, canoeing in the Algonquin Provincial Park in Canada, on a dog sledding expedition in Spitsbergen, learning survival skills on a desert island in French Polynesia, or wilderness sailing and skiing in the Lofoten Mountains of northern Norway might appeal.
We asked travel writer Dervla Murphy, a big fan of wilderness places, about the best place she has woken up: “In my tent on an uninhabited stretch of high puna in the Peruvian Andes when I woke as the sun was rising over a crenulated 20,000ft summit in the near distance.” Dervla inspires all of us to find the feral within, in her Folks we Love interview.

Wild Taiga

Extending along the Russian border in the east, these thick forests, lakes and rivers – habitat for bears, deer, wolves and moose – are about as epic as it gets within Europe. Wild Taiga is the name given to the ancient, subarctic conifer forest which, particularly in winter, feels utterly frozen in time. Stretching from Kuhmo to Suomussalmi it dominates Finland’s Kainuu region and wilderness experiences include hut to hut hiking in Hossa National Park, snow shoeing in Kylmäluoma Hiking Area or going on a bear watching trek in Oulanka National park.


If desert landscapes are calling you, then we have a wonderful array of experiences on offer, such as a four-day camel safari in the Moroccan Sahara, or through the ancient lands of Nubia in both Egypt and Sudan. Others adventures are in countries which may be more known for mass tourism, but with deserts well off the beaten track, such as Oman.
Here, the desert folds of Wadi Bani Khalid are well protected by the Bedouin people, who will welcome you with open arms in their camps. Similarly, few things can prepare you for the greatness of Wadi Rum in Jordan when you see it for the first time spread out before you. Same goes for the star filled skies above you at night. Other desert great experiences include the Gobi in Mongolia, the Badain Jaran in China and the Atacama in Chile.
On a trekking vacation in Jordan’s Wadi Rum desert, one of our travelers Jill Marquis shares these lovely thoughts: “Half of me wondered whether I would find that huge space of the desert intimidating, but actually I found it so liberating. I thought it was wonderful... We were quite a small group, only five of us, so I didn't feel lost, I didn't feel intimidated, and I was overawed by all that space, but it was liberating. There was just no one else around, apart from the odd jeep in the distance, so essentially we were on our own.” Read more in Jill’s full interview.


As well as some of the classic routes, such as small ship cruises around Spitsbergen or camping in remote parts of Alaska, those who want to stretch those expedition muscles just that bit more have wonderful options. Unheard of by many, places like the Chukotka coast and Wrangel Island in far eastern Siberia really are a beautiful place to be ‘banished’ to on expedition cruises. See our >Arctic and Antarctic guide for more details of our polar wilderness vacations.


Unsurprisingly, in places so little touched by humans, wildlife is often a big feature – such as seeing penguins on New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands, bears in Finland’s Wild Taiga, zebras and giraffes in Namibia, and myriad mammals in Manu National Park in Peru, from elusive jaguars to monkeys. For more details on these wildlife vacations, with naturalist guides, see here.
Photo credits: [Topbox: Leonardo Angelini] [Wilderness trekking: Douglas Scortegagna] [Dervla: Marturius] [Desert: Randy Tarampi] [Polar: Anita Ritenour] [Helpdesk: Teddy Kelley]
Written by Catherine Mack
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Experience the wilderness by car, snowmobile, skies, huskies

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Kamchatka vacations, small group tour

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Explore Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula

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A stunning island hopping adventure in a forgotten Paradise

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Iceland Aurora self drive vacation

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Explore the spectacular wilderness and mountains of Patagonia

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Botswana's premier game parks, Okavango Moremi Savuti Chobe

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Photo credits: [Page banner: Topich]