Think you're well travelled? How many of these places have you been to?

12 April 2016

Think you're well travelled? How many of these places have you been to?

First up, let's check your travel CV. How many of these eight regions have you been to?

  • Azerbaijan, Georgia & Armenia
  • Northern Brazil
  • Mongolia
  • Western Balkans
  • Bhutan
  • Turkmenistan
  • Taiwan
  • Tibet

If you've been to one, two or three of these places, we'd call you well travelled. Four to six – extraordinarily well travelled. Seven or eight – not sure if we believe you.

We're tipping no-one reading this has been to all eight. (If you have, maybe you'd like to contact our HR department about applying for a job in travel?)

Anyway, the point here is not travel one-upmanship. The point is that there is plenty of the world left to see, no matter how much travel you've done.

We've chosen our eight favourite remote and unusual trips from our hottest 100 trips and have uncovered one fascinating fact about each place. So here you have eight things you didn't know about eight places you (probably) haven't been.

The trip: Azerbaijan, Georgia & Armenia

This trip is a glorious wander through the beautiful Caucuses Mountains – through ancient towns, archaeological sites, cave cities and cathedrals. The itinerary for this trip reads like about six trips crammed into one. Each day is something like: “walk around UNESCO-listed old city, visit palace and old market square, tour the peninsula, visit continuously-burning fire mountain, explore medieval fortress.” We're not even joking. So much to see, it's intense. Take this trip and you will be exhilarated and exhausted all in one.

The interesting fact:

This region is home to quite a few cave cities – similar to the cave towns of the Cappadocia region of Turkey. Visiting the cave cities of Uplistsikhe and Vardzia you can see dwelling quarters, wine-cellars, bakeries, pharmacies, theatres and churches – all hewn out of rock.

The trip: Northern Brazil

Beaches, waterfalls, trekking, sand dunes and partying. This trip is classic Brazil – but takes the less-travelled northern road. Stop at the town of Jericoacoara, where a simply stunning beach sits hidden behind rolling sand dunes and red rock outcrops. While you're here, you'll take a 4WD trip through the dunes to visit Lagoa do Paraiso – this is surely where every paradise beach photo in every travel brochure was every taken. White, white sand, the palest aqua water, thatched umbrellas, hammocks hanging over the shallow water and casual beachside cafes. This trip might be remote and unusual but you're not roughing it in any way.

The interesting fact:

Until 22 years ago, Jericoacoara was a remote fishing village with no roads, no electricity and no phones. Then, in 1994, The Washington Post declared it one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world and its popularity soared. Happily, the government designated the area a National Park in 2002, protecting it from further development. These days the town has electricity and hot water but it is still only accessible by 4WD journey along a sandy track.

The trip: Wild Mongolia

This is a remote, wild and beautiful land, of pristine wilderness, craggy volcanic peaks and quirky cities. There are lake regions rich with wildlife, soothing hot springs and quiet monasteries. Nomadic families really do live in ger tents in isolated grasslands, where the horsemen herd camels, horses and yaks. This place is everything you imagine, but more so.

The interesting fact:

Around 30% of Mongolia's population is nomadic. Mongolia is one of the least populous countries in the world, with a population of only around 3 million people across 1½ million square kilometres. (That's less than 2 people per square kilometre. For comparison, Australia has over 3 people per square kilometre, Vietnam has 268 and Taiwan has over 647.)  And there are more horses than people in Mongolia.

The trip: Western Balkans Unveiled

Here's an interesting fact: this trip to Western Balkans actually goes to Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania. Who knew that was the Western Balkans? On this trip you'll walk the city walls of Dubrovnik, cruise across beautiful Lake Ohrid, explore Roman ruins and ancient castles, and wander the alleys of beautiful old towns.

The interesting fact:

Pristina, the capital of the Kosovo, is home to the world's only large statue of Bill Clinton. Weird, no? They erected it in 2009 to acknowledge the support the president gave to their struggle for independence.

And bonus interesting fact for those familiar with the plot of '80s movie Back to the Future: there's a clock on the old railway station in the city of Skopje which is permanently stopped at 5:17pm – the time an earthquake struck the city in 1963.

The trip: Bhutan Dragon Kingdom

Bhutan is a landlocked country, wedged between China and India, at the eastern end of the Himalayas. The landscape ranges from spectacular 7000-metre peaks to subtropical plains and it's a calm and quiet country with a rich cultural heritage. This trip is a gentle wander through monasteries, Himalayan valleys and remote villages. A visit to the unique Tiger's Nest monastery will be one of the highlights.

The interesting fact:

Paro Taktsang or Tiger's Nest monastery is in a spectacular location, clinging to the cliff face 900 metres above the Upper Paro Valley. The story goes that in the 8th century, Guru Padmasambhava flew to a cave in this cliff on the back of a tigress. He meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours. Tenzin Rabgye, said to be a reincarnation of Padmasambhava, built the monastery complex around the cave in 1692.

The trip: Turkmenistan Discoverer

This trip lets you step right into another world, where time moves at a slower pace and history is all around you. Travel along the old Silk Road, through black sand deserts, medieval towns and prehistoric sites. Explore the white marble city of Ashgabat, the incredible UNESCO-listed walled towns of Merv and visit the burning crater of the 'Door to Hell'.

The interesting fact:

Turkmenistan is home to the Darvaza Crater, often called the 'Door to Hell' – a 70-metre burning hole in 'the floor' of the Karakum Desert. It literally looks like the earth has opened up and you can see the brutal fires of hell burning inside it. Actually, the burning hole was created by people, not Beelzebub. In 1971, engineers were drilling in the area, thinking it was an oil field. It was, in fact, a natural gas field – and the ground collapsed into an underground cavern under the weight of the drilling equipment. Geologists were concerned about the spread of methane gas and so they lit the gas to 'burn it off'. They thought it would be gone in a week or two but it has been burning ever since.

The trip: Treasures of Taiwan

The small island of Taiwan sits off the coast of China, between Japan and Phillipines. It's densely populated, has staggeringly good food, a serious tea drinking culture, great hiking through lush mountains, beautiful lakes and deep valleys, a lot of great markets, over 15,000 temples and is a pretty progressive democracy. Sounds good, right?

The interesting fact:

Actually, here's two interesting facts about two of Taiwan's most famous landmarks.

Fact one - Taipei 101 is a towering landmark building in Taiwan's capital, Taipei. When it was finished in 2004 it claimed the title of world's tallest building, at 509 metres. It held the title until the completion of Dubai's Burj Khalifa in 2009, which measured up at 828 metres. (828 metres! That's over 300 metres taller than Taipei 101! Bizarrely tall.)

Fact two - Taroko Gorge is a spectacular 18-kilometre-long gorge which is famous for its marble walls. The rock that you can see now in the gorge started forming over 200 million years ago, as sediment laid down at the bottom of the ocean. Over the millions of years, it hardened into limestone, metamorphosed into marble, and was then pushed up above sea level by tectonic plate movement. Then the force of the Liwu River carved the gorge through the marble. Et voila! That's how you make a marble gorge.

The trip: Tibet Unplugged

Remoteness guaranteed on this trip. It will take you overland across the Tibetan Plateau, through the majestic Himalaya. Along the way, explore the laneways of Kathmandu, mingle with red robed monks, stay in mountain villages, take a gentle hike to Everest Base Camp, visit monasteries and explore the former home of the Dalai Lama, the incredible Potala Palace, in Lhasa. It's a peaceful and spiritual journey amongst stunning landscapes.

The interesting fact:

The Tibetan Plateau is the highest area on earth – the average altitude of the tablelands is 4950 metres above sea level. It's a massive ice store – the third largest in the world after the two poles – and is a huge water storage for Asia. The Yangtze, Yellow River, Indus River, Mekong, Ganges, Salween and the Yarlung Tsangpo River all have their heads in the Tibetan Plateau.