Ganden and Samye Monastery, Tibet
The high altitude mountain trails bend and twist their way above the clouds. From one vast starkly beautiful valley to another, the trail takes you by frigid glacial lakes and impossibly high mountain peaks. Sometimes the valleys are dotted with yaks and their owners who live in primitive black tents made of yak wool, but for the most part its just you and raw nature. With its deeply spiritual, and intensely alluring culture; this is Tibet at its most authentic. Hiking between these two monasteries is one of Tibet’s greatest passages, a journey that has been preformed for centuries. Prepare to connect deeply with Tibet and its history as you follow in the footsteps of countless Tibetan pilgrims and explorers before you! Read More
Landing into Pyongyang airport after all of the hype and nervous tension you abruptly realise where you are, the nation that is constantly flashed in the media, talked about in political debates, and known as the most secretive nation on earth. It’s quite overwhelming finally being in North Korea, but I can quite honestly say, it was one of the most exciting moments in my entire travel career. My goal for the next twelve days was to photograph as much of the people, history, architecture, and culture of North Korea as possible. This post is dedicated to the more unseen sides of North Korea, no not missile testing and dubious media jaunts, this post is for those who seek to see the real and authentic side of North Korea. Read More
Gunung Bromo, Kawah Ijen, Java
In the far eastern regions of Java lie two extraordinary sites. The first is the massive volcano named Gunung Bromo. The second is the sulphuric crater lake of Ijen. These are two of the most impressive sites in Java, not to mention the whole of Indonesia. Sounds amazing, right? Well like most amazing places it comes with a catch. Bromo and Ijen and very remote places, making accessing here quite difficult and tedious. Transport from Yogyakarta can take up to twelve hours to Bromo and eight or nine from Bali to Ijen. The weather is also a major factor here, as clouds often cover up Bromo and heavy rains make Ijen hazardous. Apart from all these factors, witnessing sunrise at Bromo and the miners of Ijen will be an experience you are unlikely to ever forget.
Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea
In the middle of it all, I pause. The hypnotic, rhythmic tribal war calls, the impossibly vibrant tribal warriors adorned in paint and birds of paradise feathers, and the incessant heat of the midday sun. In this moment of calm, you realize where you are, amidst this dazzling spectacle unfolding around you. I am so happy in this very moment. I spend my life in search of moments like this. As I begin to smirk, the pause ends and I am brought back to the present. Maybe you understand this, maybe you don’t, but all I can tell you is that at that very moment, in the middle of the tribal Mt Hagen show, I have never felt so happy to find such a raw example of human nature and being, here in Papua New Guinea.
Lower Omo Valley, Southern Ethiopia
The sharp look of a war paint covered Ak-47 wielding tribesmen enters my gaze. The deep blast of horns fill the air as women beg to be whipped with tree branches. The dust rises as the hypnotically chanting tribal groups continuously jump up and down. It’s an absolute shock to the uninitiated, a scene from National Geographic documentaries that you watched as a child playing right before your eyes. It takes time to take it all in, but when you do you are filled with a whirlwind of emotions. Who knew such a place on earth, so beautifully primitive and culturally shocking still existed in this day and age. This is the Lower Omo Valley, in Southern Ethiopia. Read More
Chances are you have heard the name “Marrakesh”. Chances are when you think of this name images of a legendary Saharan oasis filled with chaotic bazaars, camels, and snake charmers appear in the back of your mind. If this is what you imagine it to be, then you will not be let down by Marrakesh. Marrakesh has been a traveler’s haunt for many generations. Luring adventurers, explorers, and those who genuinely want a different, more exotic experience. Marrakesh is everything alluring, everything you dream of finding on a true adventure. Marrakesh and Morocco, in general, is a travelers dream.
The continent of Asia is big; from the steamy jungles of South East Asia to the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas, all the way to the scorching deserts of Arabia. The world’s largest continent is quite possibly the most diverse and interesting destinations to travel. Most travelers have heard of Asia’s more popular destinations such as; Thailand, India, China, and Vietnam. But Asia has many secret destinations that retain traditional cultures, incredible food, and are virtually tourist free! Here are a few destinations in Asia that I the Uncharted Backpacker recommend to truly feel like you’ve stepped into another world.
Gobi Desert, Mongolia
The silence of the desert engulfs me as I sit alone, atop the highest sand dune I could find. Shades of gold, purple and black paint a picture across the dunes as far as the eye can see. As the sunset unfolds, the picture begins to change, but the silence remains. In the distance, herds of Bactrian camels graze on the vibrant, desert grass. Beyond, more massive towers of sand and black mountains dominate the darkening, blue sky. This place, so remote and so silent, etches itself in my mind forever. Suddenly, I am consumed by thoughts of the arduous journey that lays ahead. It will test all my skills and experience as a traveler. I am about to cross the Gobi Desert in southern Mongolia.
Jerusalem and West Bank, Israel/Palestine
High above, the church bells begin ring from the Holy Sepulcher. “Allahu Akbar,” blares from the hundreds of loudspeakers throughout the Muslim quarter. Jewish Rabbis glide in-between alley ways, on their way to the Wailing Wall, singing hymns from the Tora. The air fills quickly with the scent of the thick perfume of frankincense.
I stand in the middle of all this, not a Jew, Christian or Muslim. Just a traveler, an observer of culture and life. The energy buzzes though the air like a summer wildfire. This place is special. There is no place like it anywhere else in the world. The dream comes to an abrupt end when you see the heavily armed military police, standing on every street corner, watching the people, watching you. This is Jerusalem. It can only be described with one word: Intense.
Baliem Valley, West Papua
As the fog clears, steep, jungle-clad mountains loom in the distance. Clouds descend into the valley as they are pierced by the rising sun, painting a picture of solitude and serenity. Up until now, I had believed places of such remote and indescribable beauty only existed in fairy tales. As I crawl out from my smoky hut in the early hours of the morning, it takes an enormous effort to convince myself that this place is even real. This is the Baliem Valley in West Papua’s remote hidden interior, a place where true adventure can still be had. A place where travelers earn their stripes and become explorers; leaving all that they thought they knew behind them. Papua will change you; come prepared.