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Wild Wonders: Three Unusual Nature Vacations for the Intrepid Explorer

Vacationing is more than an opportunity to kick back and relax. It’s an opportunity to discover more about the vibrant world in which we live, from the bustling cultural melting pots of international capitals to the stunning natural landscapes shaped over billions of years. It’s easy to see why it didn’t take long for us to reach pre-pandemic travel levels once again.

The profound opportunities that international travel presents to us should not be wasted on busy coastal resorts or capital-city tourism – arguably, at least. With a wonderful wild world just waiting to be found, why not go searching for the amazing things that are just a little ways off the beaten path? Here are three of the least stereotypical examples going.

Switzerland

Switzerland is probably the first place that comes to mind when it comes to skiing – and rightfully so, with its imposing mountain slopes and charming altitudinous chalets. But Switzerland can also be a beautiful place to visit to escape the madding crowds, with stunning natural destinations a far cry from the hubbub of the ski resort.

Switzerland is an ideal destination for mountain hiking. The Brienzer Rothorn is a particularly stunning hike, with panoramic views of the Emmental Alps just begging to be seen. The French-speaking side of Switzerland is also a must-visit, with the Chasseral region providing amazing (and temperate) walking routes and rolling hills to behold.

Iceland

Iceland is an off-piste destination, to say the least. It is well-regarded for having one of the most alien landscapes on the planet, thanks to its unusually robust volcanic activity. Indeed, this is partly the reason that Iceland is such a phenomenal place to visit; its bizarre natural landscapes are sublime to witness, especially when those volcanic geysers start spewing again

Lava aside, Iceland’s quieter areas are nonetheless a joy to immerse oneself in. While it is undeniably defined by past geologic activity, Iceland’s national parks are also monuments to Nordic quietude; glacial plains play host to arctic foxes and reindeer, while the seas around them feature majestic orcas and whales. This is a playground for near-Arctic wildlife and rare ecosystems, making it a must-visit for the intrepid-enough adventure vacationer.

Croatia

Croatia is a criminally under-sung European vacation destination, largely due to its proximity to much louder cultural destinations like France and Italy. But for unspoiled wildlands, there are very few European countries that can quite measure up. Hiking and biking tours in Europe will swing through these incredible natural landscapes, at least when they aren’t exploring famous Tour de France routes. 

Many of these natural wonders are protected as national parks, with such parks as Plitvice and Krka playing host to some of the most dramatic forest waterfalls you will ever see in your life. Croatia’s climate is much warmer than many would initially think, leading to rural sites that lean into lush greenery and azure seas.