9 Ultimate Wilderness Vacations

It’s the ultimate escape: unplugging in the great outdoors at a remote retreat, with stunning natural scenes providing the perfect backdrop and larger-than-life activities entertaining the entire family from dawn to dusk. These are the best destinations for wilderness vacations that offer adventure as well as luxury and serenity, with a mix of up-and-coming properties to know and our all-time favorite lodges.

Contact Indagare for assistance planning a wilderness vacation. Our specialists can book you at the property that is right for you and plan great activities.

Best for Fly-Fishing: American West

From Big Sky, Montana to the Grand Canyon, the American West is an iconic destination for a wilderness escape full of hiking and biking in top national parks, horseback riding at stylish dude ranches, Wild West nostalgia and patriotic fun.

Where to Stay: If you loved the Ranch at Rock Creek or Paws Up, add Taylor River Lodge to your list. One of the latest creations from the adventure-focused hotel company Eleven Experience, this Colorado lodge has an undeniable authenticity and sense of place (it runs along the bubbling Taylor River and is surrounded by pine trees). Fly-fishing is the main attraction here, but the property’s all-inclusive program also features hiking, white-water rafting and kayaking, as well as delicious meals, chic cabin accommodations, a spa and a saltwater pool.

Related: Indagare Matchmaker: Dude Ranches

Best for Unplugging: Costa Rica

With one of the world’s strongest national environmental preservation programs (25 percent of the country is protected by the National System of Conservation Area, and the country plans to be completely carbon neutral by 2021), Costa Rica is an outdoor adventure-lover’s Eden, made up of beach, jungle and mountain landscapes. The national motto is “Pura Vida”—which translates to a deep respect for the natural world—and life here is governed by the changes in the seasons and the turn of the tides.

Where to Stay: If you’re looking to escape the hustle of daily life and reconnect with nature, you won’t want to miss the new eco-retreat that opened in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste province (one of only two places in the world that has a dry tropical forest ecosystem). Built into the forest and barely visible from afar, Kasiiya Papagayo offers direct access to pristine, practically virgin volcanic-sand beaches (where sea turtles come to lay their eggs) and rugged mountains, where secret yoga platforms are tucked away for private meditations among the trees, with views of the ocean. The property has fewer than a dozen luxury tented suites, making the experience intimate and private, and the staff promotes a meditative, serene atmosphere. If you desire solitude and silence, you will find it here. Alternatively, Kasiiya’s prime location allows more active guests to fill their days with snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, hiking, zip lining, horseback riding and more. The retreat’s low-impact approach truly delivers on its sustainability promise, protecting the local wildlife populations and giving visitors the chance to observe many species of tropical birds, monkeys, amphibians, fish and more, up-close.

Related: Indagare Matchmaker: Costa Rica

Best for Heli-Touring: Alaska

In the words of Indagare trip designer Sasha Feldman, who recently scouted America’s 49th state: “The single most fitting word to describe Alaska is epic.” Few other places on earth are home to such a wide variety of dramatic landscapes. Here, travelers can heli-ski in the morning, have a picnic lunch on a glacier and salmon fish in the afternoon. Best of all, this ecological wonderland is raw, remote and astonishingly untouched.

Where to Stay: Nestled in one million acres of state-protected forests on Finger Lake, Winterlake Lodge is an intimate, tranquil property with simple but comfortable cabins and an enthusiastic staff, who guide activities like heli-skiing, bear viewing, dog sledding and glacier hiking. Meanwhile, further north, those seeking an über-remote experience will be dazzled by Sheldon Chalet. Built on the only private concession in the mountains of Denali National Park, the Chalet offers unparalleled access to the summit of Denali (and incredible views). Due to the remote location, there’s no access to cell service or WiFi—allowing guests to fully immerse themselves in the property’s elevated cuisine, fascinating history and wealth of adventure activities.

Related: Ten to Know: Alaska

Best for Hiking: Chilean Patagonia

Chilean Patagonia is famous for its bright-blue glacial lakes, plentiful wildlife and snow-capped peaks, so it’s no surprise that the destination tops the list for most outdoor junkies—but the excursions, which range from trekking to fly-fishing and horseback riding on a working estancia, are varied enough to please travelers of all ages and interests.

Where to Stay: Only 25 minutes from Torres del Paine National Park, Tierra Patagonia offers luxurious yet environmentally-conscious rooms with stunning views of the Massif (mountain range) from every window. The property’s private concession stretches to the picture-perfect Lake Sarmiento and is home to puma, condors and guanaco, and guests can visit nearby estancias for scenic horseback rides. For a more remote experience, travelers should not miss the Awasi property, located on a private concession further north.

Related: Indagare’s Favorite Chilean Patagonia Excursions

Best for Desert Exploration: Namibia

Namibia has one of the lowest population densities in the world, and if it weren’t for the occasional herd of elephants, a traveler here might think she was on Mars. Often described as Africa’s final frontier, the landscape consists mostly of desert, sand dunes and huge open spaces—ideal for hiking, driving ATVs, hot air ballooning and tracking big game like lions, rhinos, cheetahs and giraffes.

Where to Stay: One of Namibia’s newest luxury properties, The Nest at Sossus, is unlike any other safari lodge in Africa, thanks to its intimate size and unique design. Modeled after the labyrinthine nest of the desert’s “Sociable Weaver” bird, The Nest is a private villa-style property that accommodates a group of up to eight guests. Just a 45-minute drive from the gate of the protected Sossusvlei pan, The Nest offers exclusive access for game walks and drives with expert guides, a private pool, scenic flights and hot air balloon tours, a private butler and a gourmet chef. In between activities, you can soak in the modern interiors and lounge spaces of the villa, as well as the outdoor art installations, valley views and wildlife-attracting watering holes that surround the entire property.

Related: Just Back from Namibia

Best for Ultimate Indulgence: Iceland

Iceland is a must-visit for its pristine landscapes and top-notch adventure activities such as glacier trekking, volcano hiking, horseback riding, fjord cruising and mountain glamping. This extraordinary island offers otherworldly terrain that is ripe for expeditions, and it is one of the best places to view the Northern Lights, especially from September to April.

Where to Stay: Two high-end properties have signaled the arrival of luxury product in Iceland. A former sheep farm converted into an experiential hotel, Deplar Farm exists in a Narnia-like wonderland on Iceland’s Troll Peninsula. The 13-room property is without a doubt a splurge, but it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience with world-class wilderness guides, summit-to-sea heli-skiing, salmon fly-fishing and countless other activities. For a more relaxed but luxe option, don’t miss the recently debuted Retreat at the Blue Lagoon, a sleek hotel with a 43,000-square-foot spa carved into the famous lagoon’s volcanic rock. It truly delivers, with a robust treatment menu, gourmet dining experiences and private access to nearly 10,000 square feet of thermal waters.

Related: Iceland’s Five-Star Stunner: Deplar Farm

Best for Glamping: Canada

Massive and complex, Canada’s sprawling swaths of scenic wilderness offer travelers a host of idyllic summer retreats, where the focus is on hiking, fishing and soaking in your surroundings.

Where to Stay: Clayoquot Wilderness Retreat was a pioneer in the “glamping” movement and is still one of its best practitioners. Located in the heart of the Pacific Northwest, this tented camp provides a unique wilderness experience with sublime food and service in a gorgeous, rugged setting. Where Clayoquot really shines is in its excursions, which are all led by the fun, young staff guides; nothing is outsourced. For an even more private experience, Nimmo Bay is set on the shores of a secluded bay off of British Columbia, with only nine cabins. This elegantly appointed, intimate wilderness lodge has been family-run for more than three decades. While some guests come for such outdoor adventures as kayaking through the Broughton archipelago or cruising around in a boat to observe the abundant wildlife, the property’s real specialty is its highly regarded heli-fishing program.

Related: Get Your Glamp On

Best for Cultural Immersion: Southeast Asia

Thailand and Cambodia stand apart from other wilderness vacation destinations in that their cultural offerings are just as rich as their outdoor adventure opportunities, making either country the perfect choice for a getaway that combines a few days of city touring with nature immersion.

Where to Stay: Guests at the Four Seasons Golden Triangle Tented Camp get to play ‘mahout,’ or elephant minder, while residing in one of 15 tricked-out tents that overlook Southeast Asia’s Golden Triangle, where Thailand meets Myanmar and Laos. Accommodations are chic and dining is fantastic, as are the Mekong River safaris and myriad opportunities to observe elephants, making it a dream come true for animal lovers. In southern Cambodia, the new Shinta Mani Wild camp is located on 400 acres of previously threatened wilderness, with 15 luxury tents and exceptional off-the-beaten-path nature experiences. The Shinta Mani group worked with the Wildlife Alliance to protect land that had frequent illegal logging to create this truly unique resort. On property, days are spent immersing oneself in the local habitat, whether boating, kayaking, fly-fishing or joining the Wildlife Alliance anti-poaching rangers on their morning surveys (this varies in excitement; some may have a pleasant hike, while others may find wild animals rescued from traps). Other popular activities include cliff jumping at the hotel’s beautiful waterfall and unwinding with spa treatments.

Related: A Journey Through Thailand

Best for Far-Flung Adventure: New Zealand

Whether you picture Lord of the Rings characters in front of soaring mountains or lounging by the fire in a cozy lodge, New Zealand is one of those rare places where reality surpasses the fantasy. The beauty of the landscapes and the breadth of experiences are simply unmatched.

Where to Stay: One of New Zealand’s most epic wilderness experiences is set on 65,000 spectacular acres of private farmland in the middle of the remote Fiordland. Accessible only by helicopter, the intimate, family-run Minaret Station takes advantage of its secluded location and rugged beauty. Visitors can stay in one of four luxurious alpine-style chalets at the resort and explore by foot, boat, helicopter, ski or ATV.

Contact Indagare for assistance planning wilderness vacations. Our specialists can book you at the property that is right for you and plan great activities.

– Elizabeth Harvey on December 17, 2019


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