At the sprightly young age of 41 I realise I’m very fortunate to have seen as much of the world as I have. However my curiosity to explore more of our planet grows with each passing year and with each story I hear about a new place. Reading travel adventures is a great source of ideas. One of my favourite pastimes is studying maps and globes, and these provide me with some of the most unusual, yet strongest, travel urges. Here are just five places that I know very little about, but that I would love to visit if only for their alluring names and the emotions that their names evoke.
1. Fray Bentos
Those of us who grew up in the UK will be familiar with Fray Bentos pies; cheap meat, cheap tins, and perfect food for students. But did you know that there is a fairly large city in Uruguay that is named after the pie? Ok, it’s probably the other way round, but in any case I was amazed to make this discovery when travelling on a bus towards Montevideo. Our visit to Uruguay was only fleeting and didn’t allow for a detour to Fray Bentos, but it’s certainly a place I’d love to visit. I expect there won’t be a pie in sight though.
2. Attu Island
One of the outermost Aleutian Islands, this tiny dot on the map is one of the most inaccessible places on the planet. I have heard of bird-watching trips that take place there, although the journey to reach it sounds positively hellish. Attu Island was also the place of the only land battle of WW2 that took place on American soil. Why the fascination? My wife is known by the name Attu to her family, and having found her namesake island on the map I feel it right to take her there one day. It will be one very big (and uncomfortable) adventure…
3. Wallis and Futuna
Located in the South Pacific, a few hundred miles north east of Fiji, I had never heard of the existence of these islands until recently. I’m not quite sure what the image is that the name best conjures, but it’s not of a tropical paradise; something that the location on the map suggests it might be. Besides which, I’ve never met anyone who has been there.
Anyone who played the board game Risk will be familiar with Yakutsk. A wild, remote corner of Siberia, this area is home to some of the coldest temperatures on Earth. If you read this feature from the Independent by Shaun Walker and are not deterred from wanting to go there, then you probably share my weird fascination with this place of extremes. Given the severity of the conditions in Yakutsk, I suspect that this may be a solo journey.
5. Sao Tome and Principe
If we think of islands off the coast of Africa, thoughts may turn to Zanzibar, or perhaps further afield to Mauritius and the Seychelles. Lesser known are these tiny islands nestled in the ‘armpit’ of Africa (meant in the nicest possible way). Once a Portuguese colony and now a melting pot of cultures, the Sao Tome and Principe Islands are only slowly opening their doors to the world of tourism. Not so easy to reach, these islands represent an adventurous destination that is worth a look in the next few years.
What is the strangest place you have a desire to visit?