Places like Bali, Chiang Mai, Boracay and Hoi An are no doubt great getaway destinations when you need to unplug for a while, and just lie on the beach with a good book.
But to really go off the radar and take your R&R game to the next level, you might have to look a little further afield – to lesser-known islands or sleepy coastal towns; secluded beaches and mountainous retreats only reachable with some careful planning.
done part of the homework for you: below is our round-up of the five most far-flung lands in the world.
Easter Island, Chile
With its inscrutable moai statues, Easter Island (aka Isla de Pascua in Spanish or Rapa Nui, in its local name) must be one of the most captivating destinations there are. No one knows exactly why its local people — a Polynesian society thought to have settled here around the 800 to 1200 A.D — carved its famed stone blocks into head-and-torso figures, each one some 13 feet (4 meters) tall and 14 tons heavy — a mystery that has undeniably added to the islet’s aura of cool.
Laying some 2,300 miles (3,700 kilometres) west of Chile and 1,100 miles (1,770 kilometres) from the nearest neighboring island, getting to this remote island is easier than it used to be in centuries past: long flights service Rapa Nui from Santiago in Chile and Tahiti, though the journey is still quite afield.
Togean Islands, Sulawesi, Indonesia
World-class snorkelling, unspoilt beaches, crystal clear waters and no internet connection (or very limited at best): the Togean Islands are a tropical paradise you might never want to leave – and not just because getting there is quite the mission (literally: the islands have no airport, so the only access is by boat either from Gorontalo or Ampana, which have limited domestic flight connections themselves).
Located in in the middle of the Tomini Gulf, in central Sulawesi, this group of islets is one of Indonesia’s best-kept secrets, with only a few family-run guesthouses (though plenty of hammocks), welcoming locals and nothing but big, wild, lush nature.
There isn’t much to do here: you come to the Togeans to embrace relaxation in the true sense of the word, grab a cold beer by the beach, play with stingless jellyfish and dive among stunning marine life and coral formations. Which, coming to think about it, is actually more than enough for a truly amazing vacation.
According to the Tibetan Buddhist scripture ‘Bka’gyur’, Motuo (or Medog), or ‘hidden lotus’ in Tibetan, is Tibet’s purest and holiest region. Located on the southern slope of the Himalayas, it offers breathtaking high-altitude treks and snow-capped mountains, waterfalls, untouched forests and steep canyons, with the occasional striking Buddhist stupa on the way.
Your springboard into the area — which takes three to four days to reach — is Paizhen town, a tiny cluster of houses that couldn’t feel more far removed from 21st century urban life.
From there on, it’s an arduous but striking 78 kilometres (48 miles) walk through one of Tibet’s most beautiful landscapes, sleeping in local guesthouses, and waking up surrounded by clouds and mist, lofty peaks and untouched nature.
Until 2013, there was no highway connecting the rest of Tibet to Motuo. Luckily, ‘all’ you have to do now is catch a bus to Paizhen once you fly into Lhasa, then start your trek (with a guide) from there.
Mafia Island, Tanzania
Zanzibar might be Tanzania’s most popular beach destination, but if you yearn for an altogether more remote holiday – think no other tourist in sight, chill mood for days, nothing but you, white sand and the deep blue sea – then Mafia island is your place.
This slice of virtually unknown paradise in the Indian Ocean flaunts some of the richest reefs in the world (perfect for diving) and a lush ecosystem home to exotic birds, wildlife and plants.
Travellers can choose between a gamut of activities: sailing in traditional dhows and ngalawas to nearby islets; scuba diving and snorkelling; birdwatching, cycling or our personal favourite: sunbathing on miles of empty sand banks and beaches.
There’s more: evidence of Mafia’s trading past can be found in ruined settlements across its surrounding islets, which you can visit and pretend you’re Indiana Jones.
The easiest way to get to Mafia Island is by plane from Dar es Salaam, which takes approximately 45 minutes.
On the Svalbard Islands of northern Norway, Longyearbyen is the northernmost proper community in the world with a significant population: some 2000 residents call this surreal piece of land home.
A former coal mining town, the small settlement is now the cultural and commercial centre of the Svalbard Islands, and boasts the northernmost ATM, church, museum, radio station, airport, and university in the world. It is also, from a traveller’s perspective, the getaway point into Barneo, a private Russian temporary ice base relatively close to the North Pole, used largely for tourist excursion purposes, just a 2.5-hour flight north.
A few fun facts about Longyearbyen: because if its freezing temperatures, it is forbidden to bury bodies because the extreme cold stops them from decomposing. Cats are banned from the city, as they are a threat to endangered Arctic birds; and all houses are built on stilts, so that when the island’s layer of topsoil melts in the summer they don’t sink and slide away. Intrigued? The most common route to reach it is to fly via Oslo, on a 3-hour flight.