There are so many amazing places in the world to visit. One lifetime isn’t enough to really experience all of them. I have a short list of top destinations, as well as a longer laundry list of other places I hope to see. The more I read and see online, though, the longer the list becomes. 

Newfoundland is one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited. The Canadian island wasn’t even on my radar until I started planning a trip to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia in 2015. Suddenly, after reading up on “the most Irish island in the world“, I found myself with the desire to take the ferry across to Newfoundland. The island only sees a half million visitors per year. For comparison, over 43 million people paid a visit to Toronto. 

We did, and it was amazing. Newfoundland is an odd-the-beaten-path destination, and there are many more like it around the world. Sure, I want to visit Athens, Amsterdam and Austria like many. But there are other places, harder to get to places, that fascinate me more. Here are five far-flung destinations I hope to visit someday.

Mongolia

Sandwiched between China and Russia, the glory days of this land-locked Asian country may seem behind them. Hearing the name conjures up historical images of Mongols hordes invading China to the south and Europe to the East. Well, it does for me (or maybe I just played a bit too much Age of Empires as a teen). 

The nomadic life is still alive and well on the Mongolian steppe. While urbanization has certainly taken a toll on Mongolia, there are still plenty that live life as nomadic herders. The country is vast, beautiful, and I would love to explore and experience it. 

Svalbard

Svalbard is essentially at the top of the world. There are few other places you where you go that are farther north. The Norwegian archipelago is an excellent spot if you’re looking to visit the Arctic. From the polar bears, to the arctic fox, to the many bird species that visit during the summer, there is plenty of wildlife to see on Svalbard’s stark shores. 

But that is not all that is locked away in the frigid north. Svalbard also houses the world’s seed bank. The islands are also home to a number of scientific research stations and the world’s northernmost institution of higher education. 

Just make sure you visit in the summer. Winters can bring temperatures of -20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Tierra del Fuego

At the opposite end of the earth you’ll find Tierra del Fuego, literally from Spanish: land of fire. This national park at the extremity of Argentina has long fascinated me. I’d love to include it as part of a larger itinerary including Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia, considering how far you have to go to get there. The closest I’ve been is Buenos Aires, and Ushuaia is still more than a 3-hour flight. 

Tierra del Fuego offers some amazing natural beauty, as well as abundant wildlife. From penguins to whales, there is much to enjoy. The Irish friends we met in Buenos Aires visited here, as well as El Calafate, during their two-week holiday, and I was just a little jealous. 

Kyrgyzstan

This mountainous country is my top pick out of all of Central Asia (unless you consider Armenia Central Asia?). It is mountainous, rugged, and doesn’t see a whole lot of international tourism. There is quite a bit of variation among the ‘stans’, but Kyrgyzstan is my top pick of the bunch. It’s the terrain more than anything.

You might think there is a lot of danger traveling to central Asian countries. There have been awful reports from some, but on the whole, Kyrgyzstan is on the safer side, at least relative to some of its neighbors.

Madagascar

No, not the movie, which is what the name would first conjure up in my kids’ minds. The African island of Madagascar is quite the trek from the United States, but you can at least get there with a single stop in Paris from many U.S. airports. 

The primary draw of Madagascar is the unique wildlife endemic to the island. There are numerous species that exist nowhere else in the world. Lemurs and fossa may top the list, but there are a lot more. It should come as no surprise that there are a number of national parks and nature reserves. The Avenue of the Baobabs looks super cool as well. 

Conclusion

My Google Map of pins is growing the more I read about amazing places all around the globe. I love pinning a cool national park or small town off the typical travel circuits. It lets me forget about it and experience the excitement months later when I review the map and think, “oh yeah, I forgot about that cool place!”

What are some off-the-beaten-path destinations you find fascinating?