Step Off the Beaten Path and Find Adventure in These Five Places

Last updated on July 16th, 2021

Featured image: A sailboat floating past icebergs in Disko Bay, Greenland / Photo by Kertu on Shutterstock

Gems to explore, as recommended by JourneyWomen

By Amanda Burgess, Editor, JourneyWoman

What makes a place off the beaten path? It’s not only the less-explored corners of the world. The stumbled-upon unique experiences. It’s about places that can offer you a touch of the wild and otherworldly. Places that may get pushed to the bottom of your bucket list because they’re easier to get to or language is less of a barrier.

In our recent Once-in-a-Lifetime Dream Travel survey, you identified less-travelled places you think every traveller should visit. At first, our editorial team was surprised to find the five destinations below on the list. After all, we’re Canadian – even the less-explored corners of home are still home. Of course, there’s no better time than now to discover all those corners have to offer. Or head to places on the other side of the globe that feel like home.

Get your bookmarking finger ready and read on as we present the next five in our ongoing series of Less-Traveled Places. 

1. Svalbard Islands, Norway

An archipelago that sits halfway between Norway and the North Pole, Svalbard is a collection of remote arctic islands that include Spitsbergen, Nordaustlandet, Edgeøya, Barentsøya, Prins Karls Foreland, Kvitøya, Kong Karls Land, Bjørn Island, and Hopen. In this rugged arctic wilderness, you’ll find polar bears, indigenous Svalbard reindeer, arctic fox, walrus, seals and whales…and the world’s northernmost sushi restaurant, Nuga Sushi. Almost two-thirds of Svalbard is protected land — national parks, nature reserves, bird sanctuaries, and a geotopical protected area — and adventurous travellers can enjoy outdoor activities such as snowmobile tours, skiing, dogsledding, hiking, and boat tours.  If not for the warming influence of the Gulf Stream, Svalbard would be as abundant in surrounding icebergs as Greenland. The cold, dry climate gives Svalbard several clear nights, making it an optimal Northern Lights viewing spot…but you won’t spot them in summer months. Random fun fact: A former coal mine in Longyearbyen was transformed into a seed vault in 2008. It contains copies of every seed in the world so a global crisis won’t wipe them all out. And in case you’re looking for a new place to hang your hat, Svalbard is outside of the Schengen area, which means everyone has the right to live and work there, regardless of citizenship. With a population of under 3,000, Longbearyen is remarkably diverse as a home to people from more than 50 countries.  

The Northern Lights dance around lit up cabins in Svalbard, Norway

The Northern Lights dance around a lit-up cabin in Svalbard, Norway/ Photo by ginger_polina_bublik

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2. Tasmania, Australia

What’s more off-the-beaten-path than an island with tongue-in-cheek place names like Eggs and Bacon Bay, Trousers Point, Penguin, Milkshake Hills, Stinkhole, Granny’s Gut, Awesome Wells, Satan’s Lair and Lovely Bottom? It’s not only its place names that make Australia’s island-state Tasmania unique. With over 2,000 kilometres of hiking trails, more than 42% of the state is World Heritage Area, National Parks, and Marine/Forest Reserves. It boasts some of the world’s cleanest air quality year-round. Unlike some of Australia’s other states, it experiences four distinct seasons, with snowfall in winter (June to August). You can explore Australia’s past as a penal colony at five of the 11 convict sites that were recognized on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2010. Port Arthur offers a sobering glimpse into penal settlement life, with several original buildings, including a guard tower, church, prison and hospital, still standing.

Our friends at Discover Tasmania have given us the scoop on some of the best things to see and do in Tassie:

Tasmania has some incredible islands, including Maria National Park, where wombats roam free!

Wine and whisky tours abound.

Kayaking with platypus give you a rare opportunity to see these amazing marsupials up close!

Beginners or beyond, you can mountain bike on world-class trails through ancient, pristine rainforest, then enjoy a new Scandi-style sauna on the lake (which you can jump into to refresh).

If you’re into hiking trails with a difference, you can embark on yoga, art and seed collection walks.

Finally, if you’re an art buff, you won’t want to miss MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art, considered one of the world’s best private art museums. It has summer and winter festivals, as well as its own winery, Moorilla.

On top of Mt Amos over looking Wineglass Bay, Tasmania

On top of Mt. Amos overlooking Wineglass Bay, Tasmania / Photo by Visual Collective

3. Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada

In Canada, there’s no hospitality like East Coaster hospitality, with Newfoundland leading the Whatta ya’at b’y? pack. If you don’t understand what that means, no worries – Newfoundland and Labrador have their own dictionary to help those who come from away. The province was the recipient of the first-ever transatlantic radio message, sent by Marconi in 1901 and received at Signal Hill, so Newfoundlanders come by their gift for the gab naturally. Gander International Airport, on the route from New York to London, was once the world’s busiest airport – since most planes had to refuel to make a transatlantic flight. The week after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the 9,000-person town of Gander re-entered the limelight when it housed and cared for 6,700 passengers from 38 rerouted and grounded planes. The story is immortalized in the hit Broadway musical Come From Away.

Newfoundland gives Tasmania a run for its money with cheeky place names: Heart’s Desire, Come by Chance, Dildo, Witless Bay, Jo Batt’s Arm, Tickle Harbour, Blow Me Down, Conception Bay, Exploits, Happy Adventure and Virgin Cove, to name but a few. The province churns out musicians (nothing like an East Coast celidh, except an Irish one) and artists. For the arts-inclined, there’s Quidi Vidi Village Plantation – a crafts-based business incubator and boutique shop on a wharf in the fishing village of the same name. Animal lovers can spot Newfoundland’s official provincial bird – the comical-looking puffin, which looks something like a cross between a penguin and a toucan – at one of several protected nesting areas. The largest Western Atlantic colony of this adorable seabird is in Witless Bay, south of St. John’s.

The coastal cliffs on Cape St Mary in Newfoundland

The coastal cliffs on Cape St Mary in Newfoundland / Photo by wildnerdpix

More things to see and do in this fair province, as recommended by our friends at Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism:

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4. Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada

Perched just above Hudson Bay off the coasts of Nunavut and northern Quebec is Canada’s largest island – the fifth largest in the world. To put that into perspective, Baffin Island is larger than Spain. There are only two places you can fly from to reach this rugged arctic gem: Ottawa or Montreal. Baffin Island has been inhabited by Inuit peoples – which make up 70% of the population – for over 3,000 years. The rich culture of the Inuit is celebrated through annual festivals, events and art showcases, including the Nunvut Arts and Crafts Association summer festival, The Alianait Arts Festival, and the Toonik Tyme Festival, featuring traditional Inuit art, throat-singing, dancing and a community feast. You can learn more about Inuit history, culture and art at the Unikkaarvik Visitor Centre’s museum and the Nunatta Sunakkutaangit Museum.

In summer months (late June and early July), the island has almost 24 hours of sunlight, and only a few hours of light on its shortest days in December. You can see the Northern Lights from the island between October and April. 

For more to explore in Baffin Island and Nunavut, click here.

Breidablik Peak and Mount Thor across Summit Lake on Baffin Island

Breidablik Peak and Mount Thor across Summit Lake on Baffin Island / Photo by Ed Dods

5. Greenland

Geographically part of North America and politically part of Europe as a sovereign state of Denmark, Greenland is the world’s largest island, discovered by Vikings in the 10th century. Its land is almost 80% glaciers and an ice-cap, with the ice-free landmass almost as large as Sweden. The entire northeast of the island is a National Park – the world’s largest – covering 971,245 square kilometres (375,000 square miles). To put that into perspective, that’s 100 times larger than Yellowstone National Park in the US. Most visitors to the park come via an expedition cruise to experience the Arctic Big Five: Dogsledding, Northern Lights, Ice & Snow, Pioneering Culture, and Whales. Glacier buffs can get their fix with the Northern’s Hemisphere’s most productive glacier, the Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Adventurers can take boat tours sailing among the massive icebergs, or see them from the sky on a helicopter flight. You could spot eagles, foxes, arctic hares, whales and seals on your expedition – and from mid-August onwards, might catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights. History buffs with an interest in Indigenous and Viking lore will be captivated by Qaqortoq, Greenland’s largest town, which has been inhabited for close to 4,300 years. The Qaqortoq Museum offers a glimpse into the ancient past with its collection of art from the Dorset, Thule and Norse cultures. For a touch of luxury, you can visit the Uunartoq hot springs – a heated outdoor spa on an uninhabited island in southern Greenland. You’ll feel like you’re at the edge of the world basking in 100°F (38°C) water, with icebergs and mountain peaks as your I-can’t-believe-I’m-seeing-this backdrop.

More things to see and do, from our friends at Visit Greenland:

Kayak among icebergs in Aasiaat

Imagine kayaking through thin island channels, weaving between sparkling icebergs, and perhaps a chance encounter with an underwater giant. You can spot whales all year round here, with bowheads holding down the winter fort, and humpback, minke, and fin whales migrating back in summer months. Ask your boat’s captain where the whales love to hide.

See Ammassalik Island by air

Jump into a helicopter and soar above the island, where you can soak up views of mountains, glaciers, fjords before landing on Mitivagkat Glaciers, an original part and the ancient Greenland Ice Cap. Breathe in the pure arctic air that gives you unparalleled visibility to more than 200 kilometres of coastline. A must for photographers.

An iceberg in Scoresbysund, eastern Greenland

An iceberg in Scoresbysund, eastern Greenland / Photo by twenty20photos

What off the beaten path destinations pique your curiosity and spark your sense of adventure? Share them with us!

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Amanda Burgess, a Toronto-based writer and creative strategist whose bags are always packed for her next adventure, is our Editor at JourneyWoman. She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), and a Certified Cancer Journey Coach who creates a safe space for cancer patients and caregivers to design their dream lives – while living with cancer, and on the other side of it.

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