See Hard-to-Reach Destinations
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30 Spectacular Photos of Hard-to-Reach Places

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See Hard-to-Reach Destinations
Rui T Guedes/istockphoto

Can’t Get There From Here

Long before everyone was encouraged to stay home, travel was trickier in some parts of the world. Many gorgeous places rarely see tourists because they’re too remote, politically risky, expensive, or light on the infrastructure that makes trips doable. Others are almost entirely closed to visitors. Still, nothing can stop us from ogling these beautiful places from the comfort of our homes. Here are 30 of the most gorgeous places you’ll probably never see with your own eyes.

Related: Stunning Photos of Every National Park in America

Havasu Falls, Arizona
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Havasu Falls, Arizona

One of the most stunning waterfalls in the United States is also one of the hardest to visit. Havasu Falls are on the Havasupai Reservation near the Grand Canyon, and the tribe strictly controls access. Permits, which require an overnight visit, sell out quickly, and if you do snag one, you better be in good shape: It’s a 20-mile round-trip hike, with tough terrain and the hot Arizona sun to contend with.

Ciudad Perdida, Colombia
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Ciudad Perdida, Colombia

An alternative to overrun Machu Picchu, Colombia’s Ciudad Perdida, or “Lost City,” predates its larger Peruvian sibling by more than 600 years. Archaeologists didn’t discover the site until the 1970s, and most tourists will still never lay eyes on it, since getting there requires a punishing 27-mile hike through the mountains.

South Georgia Island
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South Georgia Island

Called “the last godforsaken place” by Outside, this isolated speck of British territory is more than 1,000 miles east of South America’s southern tip. It’s noted as a breeding ground for king penguins, seals, and seabirds, and has no permanent inhabitants.

Bhutan
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Bhutan

This mountainous Buddhist kingdom sandwiched between India and China is a peaceful throwback — there are no traffic lights, for instance, but plenty of monasteries. The number of tourists is strictly controlled, and visitors must pay a compulsory $250 a day, no matter their itinerary.

Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia
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Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia

Most sights on the Kamchatka Peninsula, a “volcanic Eden” that stretches for 800 miles in northeastern Russia, are inaccessible except for by helicopter. The region boasts at least 300 volcanoes, 10% of them active, and is mostly unspoiled wilderness with abundant eagles, orcas, bears, and salmon.

Svalbard Islands
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Svalbard Islands

This Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean has at least as many polar bears as people and is home to the Global Seed Vault, meant to help restore the world’s crops in case of widespread disaster. The town of Longyearbyen, the world’s northernmost permanently inhabited community, gets 24 hours of sun in the summer, but 24 hours of darkness in the winter.

Bora Bora, Tahiti
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Bora Bora, Tahiti

While Bora Bora is certainly a popular destination, it’s still off limits for all but a fraction of vacationers due to sheer expense. This Tahitian island known for its over-water bungalows is one of the priciest, most far-flung destinations in the world, and an average hotel room once clocked in at $855 a night.

Faroe Islands
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Faroe Islands

These remote, self-governed Danish islands halfway between Norway and Iceland are certainly off the beaten path. Sheep outnumber people, but there are plenty of craggy mountains, turf-topped houses, puffins, and tumbling waterfalls (including the stunning Mulafossur) to make the trip worthwhile.

Darvaza Gas Crater, Turkmenistan
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Darvaza Gas Crater, Turkmenistan

Central Asia’s Karakum Desert holds one of remote Turkmenistan’s oddest features: the Darvaza Gas Crater, or “The Gates of Hell.” The 230-foot-wide hole has been burning for 40 years, after a Soviet rig hit an underground gas cavern. In an effort to head off poisonous fumes, the Soviets set the hole on fire, thinking it would burn out within a few weeks. It didn’t. Visiting Turkmenistan remains tricky for most tourists, as obtaining a tourist visa requires an official letter of invitation.

Angel Falls, Venezuela
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Angel Falls, Venezuela

Venezuela has become too unstable for most tourists to visit in recent years, but one of its marquee attractions has always been tough to see. To get a glimpse of Angel Falls, the world’s tallest waterfall at 3,212 feet, visitors must pay to hop on a tiny plane to a village in the middle of Canaima National Park — there are no roads. After that, they must join a guided tour that takes them three hours upriver, as long as there is enough water to make the trip possible.

Acacus Mountains, Libya
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Acacus Mountains, Libya

The Acacus Mountains are a dramatic corner of the Sahara carved by desert winds and abrupt floods. The remote area in southwestern Libya, also known for pictographs dating back as far as 12,000 B.C., is reachable only by 4x4, and Libya remains largely off limits to most tourists because of terrorism and civil unrest.

Easter Island
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Easter Island

Easter Island’s popularity with tourists belies just how remote it is: a staggering 2,200 miles from the coast of Chile. It’s also the closest landmass to Point Nemo, the point in the Pacific Ocean farthest from any land. Still, this small dot in the Pacific draws visitors eager to see the hundreds of mysterious moai, statues carved by indigenous people close to 1,000 years ago.

The Empty Quarter
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The Empty Quarter

Dunes as far as the eye can see make up the Rub‘ al Khali, otherwise known as The Empty Quarter, which stretches over a third of the Arabian Peninsula, including vast swaths of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates. Many of its 250,000 square miles remain unexplored, and it’s the largest area of continuous sand in the world.

Danakil Depression, Ethiopia
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Danakil Depression, Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s forbidding answer to Yellowstone, the Danakil Depression is full of technicolor springs, volcanoes, salt plains, geysers, and other alien features. The area has seen temperatures as high as 122 degrees, but extreme heat isn’t the only danger: The area is “largely lawless” and visitors must have military escorts.

Montserrat Exclusion Zone
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Montserrat Exclusion Zone

Once bustling with tourists, half of the Caribbean island of Montserrat is a strictly controlled exclusion zone after a series of volcanic eruptions buried the region in the late ’90s. The island’s capital, Plymouth, is now a modern-day ghost town covered in ash, and the Soufriere Hills volcano continues to erupt to this day.

Socotra Island
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Socotra Island

A third of the plant life on this “most alien-looking place on earth” in the Indian Ocean is unique to the island, part of Yemen, according to Atlas Obscura. That includes the umbrella-like dragon’s blood tree, probably the most iconic example. Roads are few and far between here, and most travel to turbulent Yemen has been a no-go for U.S. citizens for quite awhile.

The Amazon Rainforest
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The Amazon Rainforest

The Amazon is so large, it could be home to as many as 50 tribes that have never had contact with the outside world. The river itself snakes nearly 4,000 miles from mountainous Peru to the Atlantic, and some of the vegetation surrounding it is so dense that it takes up to 10 minutes for rain to reach the ground.

Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland
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Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland

This Danish territory is the world’s largest island — 860,000 square miles — but most of it is inaccessible to visitors, and there are only about 58,000 residents. Colorful Ittoqqortoormiit is the most isolated town in an already isolated place, and sea ice blocks ships from visiting for all but three months of the year.

The Australian Outback
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The Australian Outback

It might not be that the Outback is hard to reach, necessarily — after all, the term is often used fairly loosely to describe any remote part of Australia. It’s that its enormity (roughly the size of the continental U.S.) is so hard to fathom, and that conditions are so unforgiving for anyone who really wants more than a glimpse of the continent’s interior. Because of that, visitors are encouraged to plan fuel stops in advance, and always carry an abundance of water.

K2, Pakistan
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K2, Pakistan

The world’s second-tallest mountain is nicknamed “the savage mountain” for good reason: It’s far more difficult than Mount Everest to climb, with mind-boggling steep cliff faces, and a location so remote that just getting there is an expedition in itself. Nearly 30% of climbers die trying to reach the top, compared with 4% who try to summit Everest.

Kiribati
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Kiribati

One of the least-visited nations in the world is simply much too far from everything — neighbor Fiji is “only” 1,400 miles away — to be a major tourist draw despite its Pacific scenery. This low-lying chain of atolls is also under direct threat from rising sea levels, which not only threaten the limited land area, but crops and the fresh-water supply.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota
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Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota

Seeking solitude? The Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota stretches for more than 1 million acres along the Canadian border, offering 1,175 lakes and some of the largest swaths of uncut forest in the eastern U.S. Visitors must have permits to enter, motor boats are largely prohibited, and there are no homes or roads to spoil the view.

Saint Helena
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Saint Helena

There’s a reason Napoleon was exiled here: This volcanic island, a British territory in the South Atlantic, is a staggering 1,200 miles from southwestern Africa, the nearest stretch of continental coastline. Until late 2017, the island was reachable only by a five-day voyage from Cape Town, but it now has an airport, nicknamed “the world’s most useless.”

Mount Murphy
Mount Murphy by Stuart Rankin (CC BY-NC)

Marie Byrd Land, Antarctica

Most people will never lay eyes on this continent, let alone one of its most remote portions: Marie Byrd Land. Called “the largest no man’s land on Earth” by Atlas Obscura, this particular chunk of Antarctica is so inhospitable that it has gone unclaimed by any nation, and most of it has been mapped by air only.

Nunavut, Canada
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Nunavut, Canada

Recognized as a Canadian territory in 1999, this vast Arctic land is the size of Western Europe, yet has only about 33,000 permanent residents, or one for every 25 square miles. It’s inaccessible by car — no roads from the rest of Canada or between its own communities — but you may be able to get around by snowmobile or dog sled.

Altai Mountains, Mongolia
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Altai Mountains, Mongolia

The desolate Altai Mountains in western Mongolia are a far-flung part of an already far-flung nation, and getting there without an experienced guide is unlikely. One of the reasons for this off-the-beaten-path trek: A chance to see the region’s famous hunters, who domesticate and train golden eagles to kill foxes and other animals to feed their nomadic tribes.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda
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Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda

Despite its imposing name, Bwindi is one of Uganda’s main tourist draws because of its large population of mountain gorillas. But you have to be willing to put in the work to see these majestic creatures: The terrain is steep, muddy, and unpredictable; trekking permits are expensive and sell out fast; and you’ll need a machete-wielding guide to ensure you don’t get lost.

Cape York, Australia
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Cape York, Australia

While most people think of the Australian Outback as the continent’s most remote region, it has some competition in Cape York, or “The Tip.” This northern peninsula is largely off limits except to those with a sturdy 4x4. Things you won’t find: Roads in good condition, reliable cell service, or frequent gas stations. What you will find: A number of stunning national parks, aboriginal culture, crocodiles and other wildlife, and plenty of solitude — the area gets only about 60,000 visitors a year.

Oymyakon, Russia
Oymyakon, Russia by Ilya Varlamov (CC BY-SA)

Oymyakon, Russia

The Siberian village of Oymyakon, in the frigid Russian republic of Yakutia, has the dubious distinction of being the coldest permanently inhabited place on Earth, according to Atlas Obscura. Kids reportedly go to school unless it’s -60 degrees or colder, and record lows have hit -96. Permafrost means crops are a no-go, so locals eat a lot of reindeer and horse meat.

Pyongyang, North Korea
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Pyongyang, North Korea

Following the death of student Otto Warmbier, U.S. citizens were barred from visiting this reclusive communist nation, a ban that remains in effect. Before the ban, it was possible to join relatively inexpensive state-sponsored tours. Of course, such tours always included North Korean minders who were charged with ensuring tourists didn’t stray from tightly controlled itineraries.