10 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 10 best destinations for ultimate wilderness vacations that offer adventure as well as luxury and serenity, with a mix of up-and-coming properties to know—including the new The Green O in Montana, opening this summer—and our all-time favorite lodges.

Contact your Indagare Trip Designer or Indagare if you are not yet a member to start planning these ultimate wilderness vacations—this year and beyond. Our team can match you with the accommodations and activities that are right for you and provide information on Covid-19 travel safetydestinations that are open to travelCovid-19 hotel policies, transportation options, private villas and charters and more.

Best for Fly-Fishing and Horseback Riding: American West

States including Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah are currently open to all American travelers.

Where to Stay: If you loved Taylor River Lodge or The Ranch at Rock Creek, add the new The Green O, opening June 1st, to your list. This sophisticated, adults-only retreat is located in Montana’s remote Greenough township, on the southern edge of the 37,000-acre Paws Up Ranch (also home to fabulous sister lodge The Resort at Paws Up). The new property will feature 12 design-minded, freestanding “hauses”—including elevated tree houses, forest homes with floor-to-ceiling windows offering 180-degree views, and “Green Hauses” with living garden roofs. Outside of the accommodations, entertainments will include a seasonal dining concept from Executive Chef Brandon Cunningham; a serene spa, located within a collection of tents to promote immersion in nature; access to 100-plus miles of trails for hiking and riding, as well as 10 miles of the Blackfoot River for fishing and kayaking; and adventure activities like archery, ATV tours, rappelling, shooting and whitewater rafting. Plus: guests will be able to explore to the full expanse of Paws Up Ranch. Explore our special offer package or contact us to reserve your haus today!

Related: Melissa’s Spotlight: A Family Trip in the American West During Covid

Best for Unplugging: Costa Rica

Costa Rica is currently open to American travelers.

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 is a leader in its plans to be completely carbon neutral), 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: Spring Break Vacation Ideas for 2021

Best for Heli-Touring: Alaska

The state of Alaska is currently open to all American travelers.

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: Where to Go in 2021

Best for Hiking: Chilean Patagonia

Chile is currently open to American travelers.

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 Signature Hiking in Chilean Patagonia Itinerary

Best for Desert Exploration: Namibia

Namibia is currently open to American travelers.

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: Safari Stories from East Africa, During Covid

Best for Wildlife Viewing: Botswana

Botswana is currently open to American travelers.

The ultimate destination for a picture-perfect safari, Botswana is home to some of the most spectacular wildlife viewing in Africa, and it has set the example for other nations as a model for sustainable development. The country’s low volume, low impact approach to tourism has resulted in some of the most exclusive luxury camps in Africa, with a real sense of remoteness in their lack of fences within vast private concessions.

Where to Stay: Whether you are searching for elephants or leopards, there are plenty of spectacular lodges to choose from. In the Okavango Delta—one the country’s most lush regions and a must-visit for any itinerary—Abu Camp offers an unparalleled up-close-and-personal encounter with elephants (as well as one of the most luxurious stays in Botswana) on a a concession of 450,000 acres. Comprised of only nine guest tents, Dereck and Beverly Joubert‘s Selinda Camp offers a boutique experience in the Selinda Reserve, with both land and water activities on the nearby lagoon, and a special focus on conservation. For a new experience, the recently opened Xigera (pronounced kee-jera) is tucked away on a remote island called “Paradise” in the Moremi Game Reserve, and it is completely solar-powered, with 12 spacious, air-conditioned, design-minded canvas suites decorated with the work of southern African and Marrakech-based artisans—plus a pool, spa and gym, and a fantastic baobab tree house where you can experience the bush under the stars.

Related: Elephants of Botswana: Safari and Conservation Insider Journey with Colin Bell – October 2021

Best for Ultimate Indulgence: Iceland

Iceland is currently not open to American travelers.

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: How to Build a Bucket List for Your Life

Best for Glamping: Canada

Canada is currently not open to American travelers.

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: Covid Travel Outlook 2021: Indagare Travel Sentiment Survey Results

Best for Cultural Immersion: Southeast Asia

Cambodia is currently not open to American travelers; Thailand is currently not open to American travelers.

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: Best New Hotels of 2021: Our Top Picks from Around the World

Best for Far-Flung Adventure: New Zealand

New Zealand is currently not open to American travelers.

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.

Related: Covid Family Travel Safety Tips 

Contact your Indagare Trip Designer or Indagare if you are not yet a member to start planning these ultimate wilderness vacations—this year and beyond. Our team can match you with the accommodations and activities that are right for you and provide information on Covid-19 travel safetydestinations that are open to travelCovid-19 hotel policies, transportation options, private villas and charters and more.

– Elizabeth Harvey on March 17, 2021


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