Here at AH, we like to get off the beaten track. These are just some of the incredible and underrated wonders of the world that are waiting for you to discover them. How many have you visited?
You’ve heard of the great pyramid of Giza, Macchu Pichu and Stonehenge and maybe you’ve visited some of the classic Seven Wonders of the World. You’ve probably also heard of overpopulation. Well, now the challenging “overtourism” phenomenon is gripping popular destinations over the globe and has been slowly manifesting itself over the past two decades. Due to the massive neverending influx of tourists, some are facing the possibility of closing down. For instance, there have been rumours of the sprawling Incan settlement and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Machu Picchu closing permanently. On the flip side, increased tourism to newly discovered, or “forgotten” gems has the potential to encourage locals to take pride in their heritage and invest in the conservation of unique areas.
While tourism is a great thing and provides employment and economic growth, there is such a concept of sustainable tourism, which as the name implies, means a form of tourism that is done right, so that it can be sustained well into the future. Plus, it’s such a great feeling to discover adventure travel destinations that were previously local secrets or who are so remote and challenging to get to that they elude the masses of selfie stick waving tourists. Such hidden spots, practically untouched, will more than likely become gain popularity in the coming years as travelers gain awareness. All the more reason to visit them now. Quick, read on, before the tourists come! Here is our pick of 7 underrated wonders of the world that will surely leave you lost for words.
1. Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Photo by: Fabian Lambeck
This Indonesian archipelago is a great alternative to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s most endangered world heritage sites. Located on the northwest tip of Bird’s Head Peninsula in West Papua, it is known for its beautiful beaches and wealth of coral reef living beneath the surface of its turquoise waters. This jungle jewel is a dream for those who love to snorkel, dive and even meet sharks. Its remote location makes it tricky enough to get to but keeps the tourist numbers down.
2. The “Lost” City of Nubian Pyramids, Sudan
Photo by: Fabrizio Demartis
Did you know that Sudan has twice as many pyramids as Egypt? The Nubian pyramids, also known as the Kushite pyramids, are the remains of a flourishing ancient civilization in Meroe. They receive few visitors and seem to have been forgotten by the modern world. You won’t find a Starbucks here but you will be able to marvel at the impressive structures in near solitude. A 4×4 drive is recommended to reach this majestic destination.
3. Mt. Maelifell, Iceland
Photo by: Ævar Guðmundsson
Rising 2,624 feet from the black sand, the iconic Mt Maelifell is an almost perfectly conical volcano. This breathtaking peak is surrounded by crystal clear rivers in a setting of otherworldly beauty. In the summer it is covered in a lush carpet of bright green moss which it is famous for.
Just getting to this gem is an adventure in itself. Driving the 1332 km ring road of Iceland is probably one of the best driving adventures in the world and it passes by a number of tourist attractions such as geothermal springs and ice caves. But there are some destinations in the cold interior of Iceland that you will have to undertake some 4×4 offroad adventures to reach. Getting to Mt Maelifell is a challenging drive reserved for real adventurers, as it involves crossing shallow rivers and other obstacles.
4. Nan Madol, Micronesia
Photo by: NOAA
One of the most remote and beautiful adventure travel destinations, Nan Madol is a World Heritage Site that represents a “globally significant masterpiece of creative genius”. It is the only ancient city ever built atop of a coral reef and its construction which still stands today is an engineering marvel. A once-great city, it has fascinated travelers for centuries and was the inspiration for the city of R’lyeh in H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.
5. Fish River Canyon, Namibia
Photo by: nike159
Reminiscent of the well-travelled Grand Canyon in Arizona, Fish River Canyon is the largest canyon on the continent of Africa. Its immense size is truly breathtaking and it hosts a spectacular variety of flora and fauna. The hiking trail covers 86km and lasts 4 or 5 days depending on your fitness levels. You will need to be well prepared as there are absolutely no facilities here, just you and the barren, dry landscape.
6. Volubilis, Morocco
Photo by: Subhros
Traveling to this Roman colonial town is like stepping back in time. Its ruins were all but buried until its discovery in the late 1800s and many of its original structures have been restored and well preserved. Its ornate ruins date back as far as the 3rd century BCE and are really a marvel to behold. A great way to experience both the landscapes and cities of Morocco is a new rally challenge from the Travel Scientists, which takes you around the country on a 9-day desert adventure, from Marrakech to the Atlas Mountains.
7. Kuelap, Peru
Photo by: B Locatelli
Touted as “the new Machu Picchu”, it is three times older and the biggest city built in stone in the pre-Columbian era in South America. Embedded 3000m high up in the forest clouds, this spectacular ancient city was forgotten until recent decades because of how difficult it was to reach. The region is barely visited and is starting to gain popularity with tourists, helped by the new cable car links as an alternative to a 9km hike from Tingo Viejo.