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Hooked on Unusual Travel Destinations: Seeking Unique Travel Experiences

We all want to visit unusual travel destinations, don't we? Many of us want to have unusual vacations and visit places where we can maintain an illusion of discovery, of being the first to leave our footprints, of heading off the beaten path.

Have you ever had that feeling?

Unusual travel destinations - Sahara DesertOf course people have been here before - I was! But it certainly didn't feel that way here in the Sahara...

I have, a very few times. Perhaps crossing an abandoned national park in the center of Nigeria. Or tiptoeing across the sands of Mozambique's Bazaruto Islands. Or getting lost in the Amazon rainforest.

Too often, travel disintegrates into a copycat game of poking a camera through a herd of other cameras. When a place is beautiful, people want to visit. We're like that. We congregate - until we get fed up and want to set off on our own.

Isn't there anyplace we can still feel like explorers of nature or of the human condition, places so foreign or unusual that we feel transported to another world, even for a moment?

Maybe, just maybe... these might qualify.

Polar Travel
The polar areas are fast being overrun by visitors but they remain remote enough to avoid all but the hardiest and most adventurous (and often, the wealthiest). When was the last time you thought of mushing in the Far North? Riding an icebreaker in the Arctic? Gazing at and listening to the calving of glaciers - while we still have glaciers?

Food Travel
Many of us allow our tastebuds to guide out travels and enjoy what is known as food tourism, taking off to Japan to find the best sushi, Lyon for the best escargots or Spain for the perfect tortilla. Going somewhere just for food is unusual, especially so if your goal is to learn, for example about spices in Zanzibar or wine in Burgundy. 

Unusual travel destinations - food travel and piles of cheeseA market in Genoa - many travelers to Italy are on a food pilgrimage

Spiritual Travel
For many, travel is a quest, often a spiritual one, an act of seeking a place of comfort and understanding for the soul. Finding such comfort is often the goal of travel to the Ganges River in India; Adam's Peak in Sri Lanka; or walking the Camino de Santiago. The world is full of spiritual places and travel to sacred sites is an ever popular adventure.

Supernatural Travel
If you believe in the supernatural you'll be intrigued by the possibilities of ghost tourism and the discovery of haunted or otherworldly places, as I did in Dublin. Most destinations have an otherworldly backstory and their exploration by mere mortals surely qualifies as unique travel.

Movie Travel
It can't really be considered unusual anymore and has gone mostly mainstream but movie tourism is the visit of sites where filming has taken place - and yes, it is great fun. Haven't you ever wondered about James Bond's exotic islands or Harry Potter's Platform 9 3/4?

unusual travel destinations - harry potter platform

Travels in Nature
To me this is the most unusual and extraordinary of travels, the times in which I can feel most at one with my surroundings. Walking through forests populated only by animals, stepping across windswept sand or hearing the crunch of snow in the silence are experiences unusual enough to satisfy any explorer or adventurer DNA. Wildlife travel can take you to unique places in the world, chasing gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda, following turtles in the Galapagos Islands, watching whales off Vancouver Island or looking for primates in Borneo. And my favorite, as yet unfulfilled, is to see the lemurs of Madagascar.

Unusual Transportation
Sometimes it's more about how you travel than where you go, especially if getting there is most of the fun and you're using unusual transportation. Of course you can drive or fly but what if you could take a dogsled or ride a camel to get to your destination? Wouldn't that be a memorable experience?

Historical Travel
Perhaps you're a history buff and you seek to understand past civilizations. You may well go to Rome but rather than throwing pennies in the Trevi Fountain you'll be spending your time at the Colosseum and Forum. Or why not something even less frequented, like Volubilis in Morocco, or the statues of Easter Island?

Unusual travel destinations - ruins of VolubilisThe ruins of Volubilis in Morocco... not too hard to get to but you won't be fighting crowds here

Space Travel
You'd certainly be doing something unusual if you headed to the Yukon or Scandinavia for some star gazing or Northern Lights, but if you're an avid space fan, you could actually experience space travel, which - in the unlikely case you can actually afford it - has actually become a reality. But you may have to wait until the price tag comes down a smidge.

Travel to Remote Areas
The more remote, the more unusual the travel because distance costs money and the 'faraway' isn't accessible to everyone. It's easier to get to Iceland than Greenland, the Faroe Islands and Outer Hebrides are less frequented than the Greek Islands, and a nip into the Saharan fringes of Morocco is by far simpler than getting to a camp in Mongolia's Gobi Desert. The more remote the more unusual, but not necessarily better - just different. My most recent semi-remote journey, to Lake Song-Kul in Kyrgyzstan, reminded me how wonderful (and frustrating) it was to be cut off from the world for a few days.

Adventure Tourism
Adventure by its very nature is unusual - it is definitely not something we experience daily, whether it's an adventure sport (like whitewater rafting) or an adventurous journey (hiking the Haute Route between France and Switzerland or walking most of China's Great Wall). The mere act of conclusion or arrival is a stamp of victory over the unusual.

Grief Tourism
It's a terrible name for it but sadly accurate. Here are some examples: 

  • Disaster tourism, which banks on the misery of others. In this case people flock to the sites of floods, hurricanes or other natural disasters, an increasingly popular type of travel. 
  • Dark tourism, travel to sites somehow linked to grief or death, like World War II's concentration camps or Cambodia's Killing Fields.
  • Slum tourism, visits to poor areas which movies like Slumdog Millionaire have made popular, whether Mumbai, the favelas of Rio or the townships of Johannesburg. 

Dangerous Travel
It is still unusual to travel to dangerous places (and that's a good thing). But if you feel so inclined (and I hope you don't, really) then hitting some of the world's strife spots would indeed qualify as unusual. Please, though, stay out of harm's way.

And let's not forget... sometimes we seek the exotic and unusual when it's sitting right beneath our feet. 

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