From the snow-covered peaks to the crystalline lakes that rest below, the magic of mountains – with their imposing and majestic nature – command respect from us mere mortals, with many attempting daring hikes and climbs to stand atop such marvels.
When it comes to combining travel with adventure, there are many countries across the world that come to mind, from New Zealand to Nepal and Costa Rica to Canada, all offering a heady blend of terrains to explore. When wilderness calls, you may well be looking to those popular hot spots for an active holiday, but if you’ve been there and done that or you fancy ticking some other amazing, but lesser-known destinations off your list, then read on.
Heading off the beaten track and being at one with nature may well appeal to you, so we’ve gathered three countries that are small, but mighty, and offer something other than your typical destination for a holiday with a difference.
Nestled in Central Asia, the landlocked country of Tajikistan borders China, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan and is best known – if you’re familiar with this country – for its rugged mountains, which prove popular for climbing and hiking. In fact, more than 90% of the land is upland with the Fann Mountains in the west of the country near to capital city Dushanbe, proving to be very popular for tourists, both for the one hundred peaks that grace the range, some at more than 5,000 metres high, and the beautiful Alaudin lakes in the Chapdara River Valley. Also popular here is the Iskanderkulsky Nature Refuge, a prominent bird habitat named for Iskanderkul, a turquoise lake formed by glaciers.
There are few countries that don’t need a visa to gain entry to Tajikistan, but the good news is that one can be applied for online by visiting visatajikistan.com – it’s simple to do and means you can visit the country with ease.
This is the country you come to for some true escapism and a lot of adventure along the way.
Boasting a vibrant mix of dramatic landscapes, thanks to its position on the eastern edge of the Himalayas in the north of the country and its lush sub-tropical plains in the south, Bhutan is not a country to be underestimated. This Buddhist kingdom, surrounded by India, China, Tibet, Nepal and Bangladesh, is known for its fortresses (dzongs), monasteries – namely Paro Taktsang monastery, also known as Tiger’s Nest, which clings to a cliffside above the forested Paro Valley – and its commitment to environmental protection and sustainable tourism.
Head to Jigme Dorji National Park to catch sight of a snow leopard, Himalayan black bear or Bengal tiger, a wide range of flora and also visit the fortresses of Lingshi Dzong and Gasa Dzong. The Himalayas in Bhutan reach upwards of 7,000 metres with Jomolhari proving to be a popular trekking route. Expect to pay a daily tariff to visit Bhutan, but what you will receive in return, in terms of unforgettable experiences, will be more than worth it.
They say little thing comes in small packages, and Montenegro really does have a lot when it comes to stunning landscapes. Not only does this Balkan country boast rugged mountains to explore, reaching over 2,500 metres, but it benefits from some beautiful beaches along the Adriatic coast, too. The bay of Kotor resembles a fjord and features fortified towns and coastal churches, and will have you reaching for your camera, while Durmitor National Park is where the adventurers will be headed.
Home to wolves and bears with Bobotov Peak in the Durmitor mountains reaching 2,522 metres high, explorers will also find glacial lakes and the 1,300-metre-deep Tara River Canyon. Hiking, horse-riding, mountain biking and kayaking all provide an exciting ways to explore the beauty that this little country beholds.