Where to go on a wilderness holiday

We don’t need to travel as far as the Arctic or the game reserves of Botswana to find the wilderness, with areas to be found on every continent. But it’s important to remember that while true wilderness has minimal human infrastructure, that certainly doesn’t mean that no one lives there. Which is why, if the opportunity allows, there’s no better way to discover and understand these places than with guides from Indigenous communities. They can explain everything from how the wilderness informs their culture, to the usage of medicinal plants, and how managing wildlife populations can keep ecosystems in balance.

1. Alaska

You do get coachloads of tourists and giant cruises in Alaska, but so much remains wild, too. Get well off the beaten path and canoe, camp or hike in Denali National Park. Or combine a husky sled adventure with Northern Lights chasing. Wrangell-St Elias National Park is another world completely, with 150 glaciers and nine of the highest peaks in the USA. Alaska’s vast; voracious wilderness seekers won’t go hungry.

2. Arctic

Wilderness holidays often have an exhilarating and unnerving ‘anything could happen out here’ vibe, and few places promise that so much as the Arctic. Cruises around Spitsbergen and Franz Josef Land roam vast expanses of emptiness that you are nevertheless glued to because you never know when you’ll spot whales or polar bears stalking the shore.

3. Botswana

If you want the feel of true wilderness on your African safari then look to Botswana. In groups limited to just 12, plus guides, you can camp wild in remote unfenced areas while exploring wildlife destinations such as the Okavango Delta, Chobe National Park, the Savuti Marshlands and Moremi Game Reserve. In comparison with many safaris, this is a much more raw experience.

4. Canada

As you’d expect from a vast country where most of the population lives in cities along the southern border, Canada gets wild. The Rockies and national parks such as Banff and Jasper are an ideal taster to the Canadian wilderness, while for a deeper immersion you can opt for kayaking alongside orcas or camp and cruise in the Arctic with polar bears and narwhals coming into view.

5. Finland

Northern Finland’s pristine wildernesses are governed by the principle of ‘Everyman’s Right’ – for the most part you can hike or snowshoe wherever you want, but be responsible with it. In Finnish Lapland, you have swathes of family-friendly winter activities and Sami culture to explore. Further south in the Wild Taiga region, the focus is on wildlife watching, specifically elk, wolves and bears.
The Guianas

6. The Guianas

This South American region is made up of Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. Already sounding exotic, right? Wait until you hike with a local expert for days into dense virgin rainforest to stunning waterfalls, past bromeliads and birds of every description. It takes three to trek to Kaiteur Falls – the tallest single drop waterfall in the world, five times higher than Niagara. For small countries, they do big wilderness.

7. Iceland

Iceland is firmly on the tourist trail, but you can escape the Golden Triangle with a self drive holiday by 4WD into the Highlands. Here amid remote parks, sprawling desert and thermal baths in the middle of nowhere you can sense the raw power behind Iceland’s geothermal landscapes. You’ll also experience what it was like to explore this majestically beautiful country before tourism took hold.
Kamchatka, Russia

8. Kamchatka, Russia

Where? Exactly. Well, you wanted wilderness and you got it. Right out there on the eastern edge of it all, that’s where. This peninsula is like nowhere else in Russia – with island habitats for polar bears, active volcanoes, an orgy of ornithology and marine wilderness like no other. It’s wacky in its wildness.

9. Patagonia

The end of the Earth for many, this is one vast region shared between Chile and Argentina. Go trekking in the Lake District or Torres del Paine National Park, or enjoy a marine expedition to Cape Horn to see whales or penguins. Horse riding is the Patagonian way to go, and you’ll feel on top of the world hiking on glaciers at Los Glaciares National Park.

10. Poland

Eastern Poland’s Bialowieza Forest is one of the last vestiges of primeval forest in Europe, made a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve to protect its biodiversity. Wilderness holidays here allow you to discover the forest and its huge, ancient oak trees on foot or on bicycle, while guided safaris take you in search of European bison and the tracks of lynx and wolves.

11. Sweden

You don’t need to travel far beyond the cosmopolitan city of Stockholm to find yourself in Sweden’s wilderness. Stay in a forest ecolodge for moose tracking, foraging for berries and mushrooms, and wolf-howling tours. Or, if you really feel like getting away from it all, try a kayaking tour around the Saint Anna Archipelago, where you can wild camp on any island that takes your fancy.

12. Tasmania

Tasmania boasts some of the world’s most accessible wilderness, which encompasses some 20 percent of the island. Logging remains a threat to native forests, and nature tourism in places such as the Tarkine rainforest is still vital to encourage their protection. There’s wildlife everywhere you turn, as well as epic multi-day wilderness treks, some of which explore Indigenous heritage.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Wilderness or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Eelco Bohtlingk] [Alaska : Jacob Vizek] [Arctic: Willian Justen de Vasconcellos] [Botswana: Colin Watts] [Canada: John Lee] [The Guianas: Bill Cameron] [Iceland: Serey Morm] [Kamchatka, Russia: Daniil Silantev] [Patagonia: Snowscat] [Poland: Jacek Karczmarz] [Sweden: Julien Lanoy] [Tasmania: O'Cker]