With the Instagram epidemic causing over-tourism at sites and destinations throughout the world, it’s more important than ever to start hunting for off-the-beaten-path adventures that mean a more sustainable way of travelling. This not only means searching for unique and unusual places to go, but also reducing your carbon footprint by travelling overland and giving back to local communities along the way.
We got together with Dragoman, a tour operator with a distinct heritage of overland trips through some of the most adventurous landscapes in the world. Dragoman strive to take the road less travelled and operate tours in the most sustainable way possible, respecting the environment, culture, societies and religion along the way. With that in mind, we decided to get together to create a list of the best off-the-beaten-path adventures to go on this year.
The wild Andes trek
Exploring the mystifying ruins of the Incas on a pilgrimage to Machu Picchu is high on the bucket list of many an adventurous traveller, but it’s no secret that this iconic site has been over-populated with tourists in recent years. Why not discover the wild beauty of the Andes on an alternative trail, such as the wild Andes trek, taking you high into the mountains to undiscovered temple ruins and remote Quechua-speaking villages in the Sacred Valley. Only here away from the popular tourist trails will you get a sense of what life was like for the Incas, and how some ancient traditions have remained unchanged in the more remote areas of the mountains.
Overland from northern Ecuador to the Caribbean coast of Colombia and you’ll see a side to Colombia few other tourists have seen. Journey through jungles and trek passed the snow-dusted peaks of the Andes as you pass from one stunning colonial town to the next. You’ll get an unrivalled look into the coffee heartland around Manizales and a real taste of Colombian culture by staying in guest houses along the way. Staying in guesthouses is one of the easiest ways to give back to the community you’re visiting when taking off-the-beaten-path adventures.
The high plains of the Andes
Traverse the seldom-travelled roof of the Andes with an overland trip from La Paz in Bolivia all the way to Chile’s Santiago, crossing some of the Andes’ most spectacular passes along the way. You’ll get a wonderful insight into the life and culture of the Argentinean Gauchos by staying at Dragoman’s working Estancia, where you can explore the area on horseback. This trip also includes some of the highlights of Bolivia – with high being the operative word – such as the world’s highest geyser field and the awesome salt flats of Uyuni.
The secret side to South America
Most people can name check Brazil, Argentina and Chile when talking about South America, but you’re far less likely to come across someone who has visited the smaller countries of French Guiana, Suriname and Guyana, that are tucked above Brazil with a gorgeous Caribbean coastline. These countries are an eclectic mix of colonial European and ex slave descendants and are best explored on an overlanding trip from Cayenne to Boa Vista. Lush tropical jungles, mouth-watering fusion cuisine and indigenous river settlements make this one of the most unique off-the-beaten-path adventures you can take, especially since its unlikely you’ll come across another tourist on your travels!
Backroads of Patagonia
Off-the-beaten-path adventures don’t come much more epic than this. The vast wilds of Patagonia are best explored away from the major tourist trails, as it’s here where the area’s most untouched scenery can be found. A journey from Santiago to the tip of South America in Ushuaia will give you more than enough opportunity for trekking, rafting and biking to your hearts content among some of the world’s most dramatic and jaw-dropping scenery.
Conquering the Caucasus
Georgia is hardly one of the most off-the-beaten-path adventures around these days, however neighbouring Azerbaijan and Armenia get far less foot traffic from tourists and make for an exciting adventure. Take a trip through all three countries to experience their unique remoteness, exploring spectacular lakes, volcanoes and even a cave monastery along the way.
Mongolia is often thought of as one of the last unspoilt travel destinations in the world, in part thanks to the nomadic herders that still tend their flocks on the vast grasslands and the swathes of untouched scenery. Ger encampments provide unique traditional accommodation on an overlanding trip through the landscape, where you can also experience stunning hot springs and breath-taking valleys.
India’s deep south
The sleepy south of India is often overlooked in favour of bustling cities to the north, which is exactly what makes an overlanding trip down south from Mumbai to Chennai so enticing. Paddle through the serene backwaters of Kerala and take in unhindered nature as you make your way to India’s most southerly point at Cape Comorin. This trip is a great chance to take in both sides to India, the hectic hustle and bustle of the cities compared with the slow and steady beaches of Old Goa.
The vast continent of Africa holds delights for many, but few choose to journey to Ethiopia -despite the country playing host to some fascinating natural wonders and rare endemic wildlife. Head to the remarkable technicolour Danakil Depression, known as the hottest place on Earth, and then spend a few days lost in the Simien Mountains, spotting ibex and Ethiopian wolves. This is one of those off-the-beaten-path adventures you won’t forget in a hurry.
Out of Africa
One of the most remote and off-the-beaten-path adventures can be found in Western Africa, where a trip from Senegal through Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone and The Gambia will amaze even the most seasoned traveller. This is a place that few tourists have dared to tread – until now. Check out spectacular waterfalls, pristine beaches and villages so remote few outsiders have ever seen them, all while learning about the fascinating local culture.
More off-the-beaten-path adventures
For more incredible off-the-beaten-path adventures, check out the whole selection of overlanding tours offered by Dragoman. Dragoman tours always aim to take the road less travelled, meaning you can tour more sustainably away from the crowds.
Some of the destinations listed above have minimal infrastructure for tourism and it is not recommended to travel there without the support of a local and knowledgeable guide, who can help you get the best of your adventure. See the full range of trips here.