Though Jon Krakauer rendered the phrase immortal in his nonfiction account of an ill-fated young man who ventured into the Alaskan wilderness, the allure of going ‘into the wild’ predates his book’s 1998 publication date. (Though, of course, Alaska is featured on our list, because—why wouldn’t it be?)
This call of the wild (to borrow from another author, Jack London), has been around since time immemorial. It’s a transcendent impulse, memorably chronicled by the late poet, Mary Oliver: “I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”
The desire to immerse oneself in nature is to venture far enough to feel a connection to all other living things. This longing is captured in the words of Walt Whitman, whose long poem Leaves of Grass is perhaps the definitive text on the subject: “I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable, I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.”
But where to sound your barbaric yawp these days that hasn’t been inundated with Instagram influencers and hyper-geotagged sunset spots, the detritus of our digital world rendering it increasingly impossible to merely exist in the present?
Well, would-be traveler: Fear not. We’ve rounded up some of the most pristine and breathtaking landscapes from around the globe to satisfy even the most discerning outdoors-enthusiast. Read on and prepare to be inspired for your next vacation—preferably one in which WIFI, and cell service, is exceedingly optional.
We are starting our list in Central America, in the (criminally underrated) and devastatingly lush country of Belize. With its vivid combination of dense jungle and the Caribbean Sea, the wild beauty of Belize is reminiscent of Tulum ten years ago—before the influencers, and the pervasive house music, before it became one of the most well-known bohemian getaways on the planet.
In Belize, there is still much left to be discovered. While much has been made of Ambergris Caye as of late, and the diving opportunities off the coast at the Great Blue Hole to be particular, the Cayo district remains blissfully undiscovered to many would-be visitors.
Book a room at Caves Branch Jungle Lodge and try to adapt to the lack of WIFI in the evenings before heading out for a day of black hole jumping in the Mayan mountains. Repel 300 feet down a jungle canopy to explore the darkened caves below—it will feel like you’ve discovered an entirely new (yet thoroughly ancient) world.
Another benefit of traveling within Belize is that you can visit a wide range of beautiful natural environments (see Paradise Beach, above) without having to suffer much inconvenience regarding travel time.
The country only measures 170 miles from north to south, an incredible fact considering the diversity of its ecosystems. And even the highways in Belize are gorgeous: Hummingbird Highway, in particular, is known as one of the most beautiful streets in the world. Which is all the better to appreciate the glory of your natural surroundings, of course. We told you Belize was underrated.
Prince of Wales Island, Alaska
Southeastern Alaska is a paradise for any wilderness lover who happens to appreciate their evergreen islands interspersed with a rollicking population of aquatic animals, ready to breach out of the water at seemingly any moment. (See below for reference.) The beauty of Alaska’s rightfully-celebrated Inside Passage cannot be overstated.
Travelers should fly into Ketchikan to begin their journey— the historic town, located on Revillagigedo Island, is merely an hour’s flight from Seattle, though you will feel transported away from the concerns of the continental United States immediately.
Sign up for a flightseeing tour in Ketchikan with Taquan Air to explore the misty fjords before heading over to the nearby Prince of Wales Island to go entirely off the grid. As a member of the Alexander Archipelago in the Alaska Panhandle, the island’s landscape is lush and green, and gloriously undisturbed.
Book a stay at Waterfall Resort to reconnect with nature the proper Alaskan way: by fishing for King Salmon, of course. The resort accounts for 52 acres along Alaska’s famed Inside Passage, and it’s difficult to overstate the solitude and tranquility such a location offers its guests.
And you don’t need to be a devoted angler to appreciate the experience- the meditative moments at sea, scanning the grey water for a whale to surface or watching the clouds evaporate behind the mountains, are more than worth the cost of your reservation. Plus, as a guest of the resort, you will be visiting during the summertime and therefore bearing witness to another magical phenomenon annually occurring in this part of the world—the midnight sun.
On a clear day, the brilliance of the (much-prolonged) sunset is enough to take your breath away. Even the most world-weary explorer will feel humbled by the vast wildness of the landscape. After all, there’s the great outdoors, and then there’s Alaska. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Our final choice is a no-brainer to anyone lucky enough to have witnessed the beauty of the “Nature Island” of the Caribbean with their own eyes. For many others, however, Dominica remains an unknown quantity, a tropical paradise that remains miraculously undiscovered in this day of social media overexposure and incessant geotagging. In fact, many still confuse the island with the vastly more developed landscape of the Dominican Republic.
Luckily for the readers who have thus far remained unaware of the country’s existence, we are here to let you in on the Caribbean’s best-kept secret, But first, we need to make sure you’re pronouncing the island nation’s name correctly. Its Dominique-ah, a sound not dissimilar from the moniker of its neighboring island, Martinique.
But that’s where the similarities end—at least to Dominica residents who, in the wake of hurricanes and many other natural disasters (it;s the Nature Island, remember?) remain #DoninicaStrong. Visit Morne Trois Pitons National Park one morning and embark on the most challenging (and rewarding) hike in the Caribbean—a roughly eight-hour round trip trek to the Boiling Lake, the second-largest in the world after New Zealand.
Spend the following morning on a boat (we recommend captain Jerry Daway) to go whale watching (and rum punch sipping) off the coast of Roseau. Don’t be surprised if the only other vessels you spot out at sea belong to the likes of National Geographic or Animal Planet.
Dominica is the whale watching capital of the Caribbean, home to a year-round population of sperm whales known to frolic, undisturbed, by a passing boat for hours at a time—making this island a veritable paradise for both the marine animals and their appreciators alike. Who said Alaska had the market cornered on aquatic wildlife?
But there’s no need to pick favorites. We recommend you add all three destinations to your bucket list immediately, if not sooner. Cheers to your next adventure.