Most places you see on wildlife and nature documentaries are unattainable for the everyday globetrotter. Extreme environments found at extreme locations – the glaciers of the Antarctic, the heights of the Himalayas, and the inner depths of the Amazon. But some places really are within reach for the curious, yet dedicated world traveler. Mother nature as you never seen her before.
1 Los Glaciares, Argentina. With a roaring sound echoing for miles, the ice wall of the Perito Morena glacier slowly pushes forward. It suddenly breaks, releasing a chunk of ice into the lake, sending waves of water thundering towards the shore. The Los Glaciares National Park in southern Argentina is the closest you will ever get standing on the South Pole, and the largest mass of ice found outside of Greenland, Iceland, and the Antarctic.
2 Andean Mountains, Bolivia. Driving through Valle de Dalí in southwestern Bolivia is like entering a Salvador Dalí painting. A surreal and monochromatic landscape, sweeping cross the horizon like a wave of clay on a canvas painting. Endless miles of dry and barren land, until you reach the Laguna Cororada. A red shimmering lake attracting thousands of pink flamingos, crowding at the shore with the occasional llama.
3 Song-Kul Lake, Kyrgyzstan. Have you ever slept in a traditional yurt by a remote lake at 3,000 meters height? Woke up to the sound of eagles circle above you? Or had a splash of fresh horse milk in your morning cappuccino? The remote high-altitude Song-Kul Lake offers a unique nature experience on the heights of the Kyrgyzstan mountains. A place far away from modern society, where you can experience all the four seasons in just one day.
4 Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia. With ten thousand square kilometers of shining white salt, the Uyuni Salt Flats in southern Bolivia is so smooth it is used by NASA to calibrate satellites orbiting the earth. But it’s the post-rain reflections that create an experience of its own. A 360-degree of nothingness and the largest mirror in the world, that, for the lucky visitor, creates the illusion of walking on water.
5 Darvaza, Turkmenistan. The burning gas crater in the heart of Turkmenistan is probably the most unique place you will ever encounter. A 70 meter wide opening into the Karakum Desert, referred to as the Gate to Hell, so hot you can’t approach it on a windy day. Accidentally set on fire in 1971, the Darvaza Gas Crater was believed to burn out in a couple of days. Today, 50 years later, it’s still burning.
6 Torres del Paine, Chile. Few other things will get you so alive as a trek through Torres del Paine in northern Patagonia. The Magellanic subpolar forests feel like entering into another world, a mystifying place home to roaring waterfalls, blue-green lakes, and free-ranging llamas. Get a glimpse of the three granite peaks at Torres del Paine, just as the sun breaks through the clouds, and you are left with a spiritual, almost metaphysical experience.
7 Tongariro, New Zealand. Of all the trails and treks of New Zealand, Tongariro is the wildest, toughest, and most unique experience. The warning sign at the Mangatepopo starting point simply has one question: “Are you fit enough?”. If you are, the 19.4 kilometres Tongariro Alpine Crossing takes you along boiling lakes, red coloured mountains, and a volcanic crater at 1862 meters above sea level. Look inside and get mentally teleported to the surface of Mars.
All images © 2021 Erik Ekberger. Travelgrapher is a registered trademark. All rights reserved.
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