SIX DREAM DESTINATIONS – where’s yours?

The fewer the people, the more popular it becomes.


This week the Sun-Herald newspaper in Sydney asked six travel writers to choose their dream destinations.

I was flattered to be on the invitation list and had little difficulty picking my current favourite place on the planet. I was surprised to see most of my fellow writers, all of whom get around a bit, joining me in choosing ‘great escape’ locations.

I expected that the glamour, culture and buzz of Paris, London or New York, or perhaps the beauty of Prague or Vienna would push them to the top of somebody’s list. My colleague Julietta Jameson nominated Rome – a worthy inclusion and she writes about it very well.

Or maybe someone would gush over the life-changing cultural experience of their trip to India or the week they spent living with an Amazon tribe.

But no, most of us picked a dream destination featuring nature and wildlife. The Galapagos Islands, Botswana, Tikehau in French Polynesia and Banda, Indonesia all made the cut.

I went for Viknaslodir, Iceland:

There are places you go to meet fascinating people and places you hope to meet nobody at all.

If your dream destination involves escaping the teeming crowds, Iceland is your kind of place. Imagine half the population of the Hunter Valley sprinkled round the rim of an island bigger than Tasmania, only with worse weather.

No-one lives in the volcanic mountains of Iceland’s north-east corner, the Viknaslodir region. A few hardy fishermen eke out an existence on the coast but the hinterland is uninhabited. There are good reasons for this; there’s nothing to eat unless you’re a moss-nibbling reindeer, it’s covered with snow much of the year and there’s precious little shelter from the icy winds. And there’s no wi-fi.

Yet on a clear, warm summer’s day this is one of the most spectacular parts of the planet, an unforgettable experience for those of us lucky enough to have seen it. There is range behind glittering range of rugged mountains, improbably green hillsides, bright wildflowers, waterfalls tumbling out of every crevice and blankets of mist trapped in deep fiords.

It’s a bit of a slog to get there – a flight from Reykjavik across the country in a small plane, a four-wheel drive trip into the mountains and a few hours’ trudging on foot. None of this is insurmountable – a guiding company can organise the logistics, though naturally you do your own trudging.

After that you can have it all to yourself. The edge of the world.

Must see: The midnight sun shining on the snow-capped peaks from July to September.

Must do: Hiking adventures can be arranged through guiding company fifty degrees north. fiftydegreesnorth.com Phone: 1300 422 821

Must stay: You have choice. You carry a tent or you sleep in a Icelandic Touring Association hut. Huts are warm, modern and communal and cost 4,500 ISK (about $36) p.p.p.n. The view makes any discomfort seem trivial. See fi.is

Must eat: You may draw the line at the rotten sharks’ heads Icelanders swear by, but they also have wild salmon on heavy rye bread.

To read about what my fellow writers chose, here’s the link to the article.

During recent discussions with adventure company World Expeditions I learned that the one area of tourism which has continued to grow despite the troubled economic times is active travel. It seems there’s an insatiable demand for the bragging rights to be had from a holiday climbing mountains or kayaking around fiords.

People want to come home with photos of close encounters with whales and cheetahs, and if possible to be able to say they’ve had an ‘authentic’ experience not shared with thousands of others.

The dilemma is that when a place has few tourists, there’s usually a good reason why nobody wants to go there. It will have lousy weather, horrible food and no culture. If a remote area is made accessible by the installation of a few creature comforts, it will often become hideously expensive.

Tourist magnets are popular because they have so much to offer.


Do you look for a cultural experience in your travel, or is having-the-place-to-yourselfness the top priority? All suggestions for dream destinations gratefully accepted!

9 Comments

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9 responses to “SIX DREAM DESTINATIONS – where’s yours?

  1. Good choice Richard. I visited Iceland a couple of years ago but didn’t get much beyond Reykjavik so would really like to go back one day. My dream destinations are to visit as many Greek islands as possible, St. Petersburg (I am going there in May) and Cuba.

    • Thanks for the tips, Andrew.

      Cuba is on my list too. St Petersburg…maybe. We have the branch of the Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam, and I love it.

      The Greek islands, definitely, and I’m relying on your expertise for information about which are the most interesting. A hotel/resort on Rhodes or Cos sounds pretty hellish.

      • Rhodes is large enough to cater for all types of holidays. Two years ago I stayed inside the old town walls and it was delightful especially in the evening when all the day trippers had gone. This year I have cheap flights to Kos and will use it as a springboard to Turkey and some other small islands. Earlier I am going to Corfu and staying in Kamari where the Durrell family lived and while I am there have plans to visit Albania.

  2. I presume Kos is not all about long-leafed lettuce.

    I’m very interested in the Durrell family. Gerald Durrell’s The Overloaded Ark was the first ‘grown-up’ book I ever read. It was a very big deal for me, aged 11 or so.

    Albania – Mother Teresa and what else? A.A. Gill is very witty at Albania’s expense.

    I’ll look forward to your posts, Andrew.

  3. British Columbia is high up on my list, Richard. I have covered part of it, already, but I am planning on going back for the First Nations Circle Tour: from Vancouver to the Rockies and up north through the mountains, back to the coast along the river Skeena, visiting Kitwanga and the Tsimshian, and slowly back to Vancouver by boat along the coast, exploring every possible inlet and island on the way.
    And then Iceland, yes. Iceland is on the list, too.
    -Mina

    • Sounds great, Mina.

      I know Vancouver a bit, and have spent a few days each on Vancouver Island and the West Kootenays – both beautiful wild places. I’ll look up the First Nations Circle tour.

  4. Tim

    A great choice, Richard. It would be high on my list too. For me, the big box left unticked is Machu Picchu – although with my wife about to give birth to our third child, I suspect that’s likely to remain unticked. I’d also love to go back and do more of New Zealand’s big tramps. I’ve only ever done the Tongariro Crossing, and would happily do more.

  5. ayngelina

    Mine is Mongolia. It just seems like one of the very last few truly remote destinations.

    • Excellent suggestion, Ayngelina. I’ve never been anywhere near Inner Mongolia, let alone Outer Mongolia. Have you? It looks great on the National Geographic-type shows – those steppes, and mountains, tents and horses and pointed hats with earflaps.

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