As the entire world is in high anxiety and stress mode, with many of us affected deeply by the COVID-19 virus, it may be incredibly difficult to look ahead, to even consider traveling. But, when this ends, and it will, we will all need to clear our heads, heal our souls, and venture out into the world.
I can think of no better way to do so than to explore nature. Getting out into open spaces, where there’s a gleaming sun, a road to nowhere and maybe more animals than people, has always been a great refresher. So, here are our top suggestions from places we’ve visited in the past, that hopefully will fill your soul in the future.
Luang Prabang, Laos
Deep in the heart of South East Asia, this small city celebrates its natural surroundings and has a deep sense of connection with the world around it. The locals live and thrive here along the Mekong River, and know that the jungle, waterfalls, and amazing sunsets are so very special and amazing.
Local highlights – Kuang Si Falls, Tat Sae Waterfalls, Elephant Rescue Camps, Mekong River. There are also many beautiful Wats (temples) throughout, incredible outdoor markets and historic buildings.
For a truly unique experience, head down to the river, and ask one of the Captains if he will take you down river on his dragon boat for some incredible sights. Or, visit one of the amazing elephant camps, where they rehabilitate and save these wonderful creatures from a life of logging.
Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
A true paradise for Environmentalists, the Galapagos feel a million miles away and unreal. Giant tortoises, blue footed boobies, marine iguanas, white tipped reef sharks, and so many other wonderful creatures are literally everywhere you look. The human residents of these remarkable islands, revere the beauty, history and cultural significance that the Galapagos represent. Besides the amazing animals, expect incredible vistas and other worldly landscapes.
Local highlights – Santa Cruz Island, Isabela Island, snorkel with dozens of white tip sharks, hike to massive volcanic calderas, get lost in nature, see the birthplace of actual Darwinism.
Every experience is unique here. You can be as adventurous as you like, by swimming in the deep ocean with schools of hammerhead sharks, or at the other end of the spectrum, taking a leisurely stroll through local nature sanctuaries.
Gobi Desert, Mongolia
Truly remarkable vistas, incredibly humble people, and the silence of this great desert, invites visitors to reflect and not just look outward at this beautiful place, but inward as well. At just over 500,000 square miles, you can get lost, with your guide, and easily remove yourself from the world, if even just for a short while.
Local highlights – Khongoryan El (Singing Sand Dunes), Bayanzag (Flaming Hills), Yolyn Am Valley, hike, view, hike, view, hike, view.
Some wonderfully unique experiences are staying in a yurt with a local family, riding a Bactrian camel, dinosaur fossil hunting in the Flaming Hills. You absolutely must hike to the top of the Singing Sand dunes and watch the sun set over the ridge, simply stunning.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
Thousand year old temples, luxurious jungles and stunning views, are just part of the intrigue and exotic nature that you’ll find as you venture throughout the region. Although there’s been struggle, war and pain here, one can find true heart and spirit among the Cambodian people, and a true deep connection to the incredible temples of Angkor and the surrounding lush jungles.
Local highlights – Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon, Ta Prohm, temples, temples, temples. Tonlé Sap Lake, Floating Village.
Wake up early and watch the sunrise over Angkor, touristy, but amazing. Visit one of the lesser known temples for some more personal away time and be transported to another time and place. Travel down river towards Tonlé Sap lake and pass through the floating villages for a truly unique and beautiful experience, don’t forget to take a smaller boat side trip through the mangroves.
Whether you’re watching the sunrise over Angkor temples, listening to the sounds of the Laotian jungle, swimming with magnificent Galapagos sea turtles or watching the sunset over the Gobi dunes, we’re sure you’ll find your inner self again, and a place in your soul that just got a little brighter.