Despite the fact that the humans have covered most of the world in networks of asphalt, there remain a handful of untouched places so untamed and off-the-beaten path that you can only reach them by foot. For these epic landscapes only accessible to those willing to stride out and walk there under their own steam, the journey is as memorable as the destination.
From volcanic lakes to rural monasteries, here are nine far-flung destinations you can only reach with endurance and your own adventurous spirit.
The Narrows - Utah, USA
One of America’s most legendary canyons, the Narrows in Zion National Park is noted for it's majestic walls and spectacular ochre tones that change as the light shifts above. A full day hike (which can be extended to two days – wilderness permit and camping equipment required) is the only way to see the incredible gorge. Casual hikers should take the “Bottom Up” route that begins at the Temple of Sinawava, while those looking for more of a challenge can opt for the “Top Down” route beginning at Chamberlain's Ranch.
Barn Bluff - Tasmania, Australia
Often overlooked in favor of its celebrated neighbor Cradle Mountain, Barn Bluff (or “Barney” as its affectionately known) is Tasmania’s fourth highest peak. Offering an equally epic multi-day hike, the boulder-strewn summit is visible from most areas of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park and is accessible only via Overland Track and Waterfall Way.
Hornstrandir - Westfjords, Iceland
There are no roads, no hotels, and no permanent residents in the remote region of Hornstrandir which sits in Iceland’s northwest thumb. Remote, rugged, and beautiful, the landscapes here are everything you’d imagine Icelandic terrain to be with peaks that are snow-capped most of the year. Iceland’s last remaining corner of inhospitable terrain, the hiking here is world-class and an exhilarating experience as you can spend the whole day walking without seeing a single other soul.
Mont Saint-Michel - Normandy, France
Perched on a rocky outcrop that's surrounded by the tempestuous tides of the English Channel, Mont Saint Michel stands alone amidst an ever-changing marinescape of vast, shifting sandbanks. A Gothic-style Benedictine abbey, it was built on dry land, however over the years, the sea levels rose cutting it off from the mainland. Now the only way to access the island is on foot along a sandy causeway which is revealed during low tide.
Motuo - Tibet, China
The only county in China that is completely inaccessible by road (a highway was constructed in 1993 promptly to be swallowed up by the surrounding jungle), Motuo is located on the southern slope of the Himalayas and inhabited by the Menba and Luoba people. According to the Tibetan Buddhist scripture “Bka’gur”, Motuo (meaning “hidden lotus”) was considered Tibet’s purest and holiest region and as such the only means of access is on foot via a 200-meter-long suspension cable, 100 meters above the ground.
Supai - Arizona, USA
A tiny town in the state of Arizona, Supai is the perfect place to settle if you’re keen on getting away from it all. Getting to the town is a challenge to say the least as there’s no road access, and to complicate things even further it is located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. To prove just how off-the-grid this truly is, it's the only place in America where mail is still delivered by pack mule.
Preikestolen - Norway
Known as “The Pulpit Rock,” the steep cliff face of Preikestolen stands 1.981 feet above the Lysefjord fjord. One of the most visited natural attractions in Norway, that view is only accessible via a 3.8 km trail through the spectacular Ryfylke region where tranquil vistas of lush valleys and dramatic fjords abound. The panoramic landscape from the top of the 25 m viewing plateau makes it worth the effort, though.
Laguna Verde - Bolivia
A vibrant azure lake resting inside the 400 m wide summit crater of Volcan Licancabur, a stratovolcano in northern Chile that shares the border with Bolivia, Laguna Verde is one of the world’s highest bodies of water. Noted as the site where NASA scientists discovered Mars-like conditions at the crater’s edge, the lake is accessible via an eight-hour hike from San Pedro de Atacama in Chile or as a day trip from Salar de Uyuni, the famous Salt Flats in Bolivia.
Paro Taktsang - Bhutan
The holiest site in Bhutan and the birthplace of the Buddhism in the country, the Taktsang Monastery hugs the side of a cliff 3000 feet above the Paro Valley. A two-hour climb consisting of vertical switchbacks and steep terrain is required for those keen on meditating within the serenity of the Tiger’s Lair (so-called as Guru Rinpoche materialized there some 1,300 years ago on the back of a flying tigress). The trail begins a few kilometers from the city of Paro.