- There are beautiful destinations the world over that are challenging to get to.
- The Wave in Arizona only gives out 20 permits a day.
- Machu Picchu in Peru involves a 26-mile hike.
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Sometimes, the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason: it’s hard.
But often, being hard to get to is part of the appeal.
Whether they are super remote, incredibly isolated, or plain dangerous, these are some of the world’s most difficult-to-access – but worthwhile – sites and attractions.
Tiger’s Nest, Bhutan, sits on a cliff almost 3,000 feet off of the ground.
Bhutan, a tiny Himalayan country of only 750,000 people – is generally not the easiest place to get to: its only international airport sits 7,333 feet above sea level, surrounded by 16,000-foot Himalayan peaks. The landing is so dangerous that only a handful of pilots are qualified to fly here.
Furthermore, the government requires visitors to book their trip through a licensed Bhutanese tour operator, get a visa, and pay upwards of $200 a day while there (this includes accommodation, food, transportation, and a guide). All of this is part of their “low volume, high quality” tourism strategy: the isolated country has only been open to tourists since 1974.
Tiger’s Nest, also known as Paro Takstang, is a sacred Buddhist temple, and one of the country’s biggest attractions. It’s also perched precariously on a cliff almost 3,000 feet off of the ground, and 10,000 feet above sea level.
To get to the isolated temple, visitors must hike up steep, mountainous paths for about two hours, then cross a bridge over a waterfall, 200 feet above a sacred pool, before ascending terrifying steps carved into stone.
Visitors must climb down terrifyingly steep ladders to get to Brazil’s beautiful beach Baia do Sancho on the small island of Fernando de Noronha.
Baia do Sancho, a beach on the small island of Fernando de Noronha off of Brazil, is consistently ranked one of the world’s best beaches. In fact, it was No. 1 on TripAdvisor for years.
Fernando de Noronha is a schlep in and of itself. About an hour from mainland Brazil, flights only leave from two cities, Recife and Natal, and they are anything but frequent.
The famous beach is part of the Parque Nacional Marinho de Fernando de Noronha – a national park – and you have to pay a fee to visit, which includes a trip to the park’s offices, which are nowhere near the beach.
Once you finally get to the beach, $53 ticket in hand, you have to walk down a lengthy wooden walkway, climb down a vertical ladder through a small opening before squeezing through a narrow tunnel between rock faces, before climbing down another steep ladder and walkway to the beach.
All this also takes the help and coordination of park rangers with walkie talkies, as the path is so narrow those walking down to the beach must coordinate with those returning from it.
There’s a limit on the number of visitors to Peru’s Machu Picchu to protect the famous ruins.
Machu Picchu, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, is a bucket list item for many travelers, and for good reason.
Made up of around 200 structures, the ancient Incan ruins in Peru sit at 7,800 feet above sea level, dramatically wedged between peaks, valleys, and jungle. Built in the 15th century and abandoned in the 16th, when the Inca Empire was conquered by the Spanish, it wasn’t known to the outside world until 1911.
Today, tourists flock there – despite a difficult, 26-mile hike that typically lasts four days, as well as generally inclement weather, and the altitude they have to contend with as they ascend over 13,000 feet.
Further, UNESCO set a limit of 2,500 visitors per day – and only 500 on the Inca trail – to protect the ruins.
Only 20 visitors are permitted to go to The Wave in Arizona each day, making it one of the most coveted hikes in the country.
The Wave, a sandstone rock formation in Arizona, was catapulted to bucket-list-item fame when Microsoft included it as Windows 7 desktop wallpaper. When hordes of people visited, putting its fragile ecosystem in jeopardy, the Bureau of Land Management decided to implement a cap on visitors.
Today, only 20 permits are dispensed daily, making it one of the most coveted hikes in the country.
If you’re lucky enough to snag one of the rare permits (there’s also a lottery), you have to travel to the border of Utah and Arizona, then drive House Rock Valley Road to the trail head, the last few miles of which are practically a dirt road, which can become impassable depending on the weather.
The hike itself is around 6.2 miles round trip, according to Alltrails, and considered moderate, despite harsh desert conditions.
To see Australia’s Lake Hillier, you’ll need to charter a tour plane or boat.
The stunning pink lake is probably familiar to many as a travel Instagram staple. The bubble gum-colored water is thought to be the product of a special kind of algae, but still somewhat of a mystery to scientists.
Getting that bucket list-worthy snap, however, is no easy feat. The lake is located on Middle Island, one of the Recherche islands, which themselves are off the coast of Cape Arid National Park in Western Australia. It’s 70 miles from Esperance, or an eight-hour drive from Perth.
To see the colorful lake you need to charter a plane or boat with tour operators in Esperance.
Officials at Haleakala National Park in Maui, Hawaii, began limiting the number of visitors allowed after the number of people visiting to see the sun rise skyrocketed.
Often referred to as the “top of the world,” watching the sun rise from Mount Haleakala, Maui’s tallest mountain, is one of the most popular things to do in Hawaii. In fact, Mark Twain once referred to it as the “sublimest spectacle” he had ever seen, according to Travel + Leisure.
Unfortunately word spread, and so many people were clambering up to the peak in the early hours of the morning that officials at Haleakala National Park began limiting the number of visitors allowed.
Only 150 vehicles are allowed into the park every morning, and reservations open two months in advance, with a few last-minute tickets available two days before a given date.
Ciudad Perdida, Colombia, is only accessible by a multi-day hike (three to six days) over treacherous terrain.
Colombia’s “Lost City” was built by the Tayrona people around 800 CE – around 650 years before Machu Picchu. Also known by its indigenous name, Teyuna, the ancient city was abandoned around the time of the Spanish Conquest in the 1500s, to be “rediscovered” only in the 1970s.
Today, Ciudad Perdida, which sits deep in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains, is still only accessible by multi-day hike (three to six days) over treacherous terrain, which, according to Afar magazine, can include: “Biblical downpours. Inescapable heat. Insects that penetrate the skin and require several forceful tugs to release.”
The hike ascending Half Dome in California’s Yosemite National Park can be fatal.
Yosemite is one of the most photographed places in the world, and the views from Half Dome are some of the best in the park. Yosemite Hikes describes it as “the ultimate Yosemite day hike – the one you can’t die without doing, and the one you’re most likely to die while doing.”
It takes almost a full day to ascend Half Dome, making the hike one of the longest and most dangerous in Yosemite National Park.
Over 60 people have died trying, many of them slipping from the metal cables meant to help hikers reach the top, or falling off the “Death Slabs,” huge, slick rocks that become increasingly dangerous during inclement weather.
There’s only one airline that flies to Chile’s Easter Island, though there are only two flights you could take each week — from different destinations.
Easter Island is a volcanic island and Chilean territory in Polynesia. Also known as Rapa Nui, it’s famous for being home to nearly 900 massive statues called moai, which were built between the 13th and 16th centuries, though their purpose remains unknown.
These stunning statues get plenty of people to take on the 2,300-mile trek from Chile to marvel at them.
LATAM is the only airline that flies to Easter Island, and it only offers one six-hour flight daily from Santiago, Chile, and one six-hour flight weekly from Pape’ete, Tahiti.
Just getting to Everest Base Camp, Nepal/China, requires tracking 81 miles round trip.
In recent months, Mount Everest has been in the news for deaths caused by overcrowding – clearly, this hike is a bucket list item for many.
But even just getting to the base camp requires an 81-mile journey round trip, which can take around 12 days. And while this particular part of the hike is classified as easy to moderate, your body will need time to acclimatize to the altitude.
Following 11 deaths this year, going forward Nepali officials reportedly may require climbers to prove their physical fitness, as well as raise the climbing fee from $11,000 to $35,000.
You’ll need a boat — or to book a tour — to see Peru’s Uros floating islands on Lake Titicaca.
The Uros people live on around 120 man-made floating islands on Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake. They have preserved their unique lifestyle for hundreds of years, though tourism has played a large role in sustaining them as of late.
To get there visitors must head to Puno – the nearest big town of which is La Paz, Bolivia, around six hours away – and then book a boat or tour there.
Travelers keen to visit the crater known as the Door to Hell in Turkmenistan will need a letter of invitation just to get into the country.
To get into Turkmenistan, visitors will need a letter of invitation (LOI), as well as a visa. Furthermore, permits are required for national parks and travel within various border zones, so your itinerary must be planned in advance. Oh, and you’ll be accompanied by a guide 24/7, whom you will have to pay for.
The process of obtaining a visa can take up to six weeks, and the rejection rate for some, like the transit visa that allows tourists to travel without a guide, is around 50%.
The Darvaza gas crater is one of Turkmenistan’s most famous attractions, and the result of oil drilling gone wrong in 1971. After accidentally drilling through a pocket of natural gas, which collapsed and became the crater, scientists set it on fire to prevent the gas from spreading. Much to their surprise it’s still burning almost 50 years later, though how much longer is anyone’s guess.
The Door to Hell – as the crater has been nicknamed by locals – is in the middle of the desert, miles from anywhere, and requires an off-road drive through rough terrain, leading people to often get lost, or stuck in the sand. Best viewed at night, you’ll have to camp there and bring all of your own food and gear.
Getting to Antarctica’s Deception Island includes a two-day trip traversing the famously rough Drake Passage.
Antarctica is the poster child for remote but beautiful destinations.With habitation few and far between, this icy tundra is an otherworldly experience.
November through March is really the only time tourists can visit Antarctica, as ice makes ocean travel nearly impossible for the rest of the year. Getting there usually involves a trip to Buenos Aires, then Ushuaia, Argentina, the world’s southernmost city, before a two-day trip traversing the famously rough Drake Passage.
Deception Island – basically the caldera of an active volcano – has been many things; a Norwegian-Chilean whaling station, as well as a scientific research base for Chile, Argentina, and the UK. Today it is mostly abandoned and destroyed, but continues to be a draw for tourists who come to see wildlife such as penguins, and bathe in the island’s natural hot springs.