It’s been a hectic year. Here are seven destinations in which you can seek a brief respite from politics.
Miles from Washington D.C: 2,903
Stay: Midgard Hut
Iceland is close enough to easily access from North America or Europe, yet far enough to feel a safe distance from the apparent madness of the modern world. A land of fire and ice, Iceland has a tiny population of just over 330,000, mostly in and around the capital Reykjavik, so the rest of the island is blissfully untouched.
November is the beginning of the period in which you can see the Northern Lights in Iceland. The remote, rustic Midgard Hut is located far from any light source, which makes it an incredible place to watch the dancing lights that sporadically illuminate the night sky.
During the day, drive pumped-up super jeeps or ride snowmobiles around the surrounding highlands. For those really nervous about what might happen post-election, Midgard even runs a survival course.
Miles from Washington D.C: 7,591
Stay: Sandibe Safari Lodge
In the biodiverse, unspoiled Okavango Delta of Botswana, it’s difficult to remain distracted by the current political climate when you have lions roaring in the night, wild dogs chasing impala across the plains, leopards stalking through the undergrowth and hippos wallowing along the waterways, all right on your lodge’s doorstep.
Botswana’s land is protected to an extent that allows it remain truly wild. In any of the delta’s lodges and camps, you’ll become immersed in the immediate surroundings – not least because there’s often no wi-fi or internet. Sandibe Lodge is one of the most removed lodges in the delta, its structure representing the elusive pangolin and the interiors decked out in natural tones and materials to suit the landscape.
Take advantage of the watery environment with a mokoro (a dug-out canoe) safari through the delta, spotting tiny lilac-breasted rollers perched on the rushes and even elephants drinking from the river. A morning game drive might reveal herds of buffalo or a lion pride settling down after a night of hunting, and evenings are spent enjoying al fresco drinks under the stars.
Miles from Washington D.C: 13,492
A lesser-visited, land-locked country tucked between Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and China, Laos is still largely off the main tourist track. Luang Prabang is the country’s most popular town, yet still retains a calming, low-key vibe that suits those who want to get away, but need the facilities and buzz of a city.
Set on the banks of the Mekong River, UNESCO-protected Luang Prabang is an old French colonial town peppered with glittering, golden temples and surrounded by forests where waterfalls cascade through the greenery into turquoise pools. At dawn, orange-robed monks file through the streets receiving alms that the locals hand out; visitors can participate in this traditional custom, too.
Just outside the centre of Luang Prabang, Amantaka reflects the French history of the town in its colonial-style buildings. Relax on your private terrace or in the peaceful gardens, adapting to the country’s slow pace; Lao people joke that Laos PDR (People’s Democratic Republic) stands for Laos: Please Don’t Rush. Where better to toss the weight of the world to one side and enjoy being in the moment?
Miles from Washington D.C: 9,257
Stay: The Alexa
Slip into an entirely different world in eastern Indonesia, where the main attraction is what lies beneath the water’s surface. Yacht charters cruise around the islands of far-flung Raja Ampat, affording access to some of the world’s best dive sites.
Very few people live in this area, but the sea holds possibly the richest variety of marine life in the world. Wildlife sightings might range from any of the five species of turtles or groups of manta rays being cleaned by black-lipped butterflyfish to pygmy seahorses or the seabed-dwelling wobbegong shark.
For the ultimate secluded escape, board the Alexa, a luxury phinisi yacht designed just for two. The crew includes a chef to prepare fresh seafood barbecues on deserted beaches, diving instructors to reveal the serene underwater world and yoga instructors to guide you into a zen-like, mindful state.
Miles from Washington D.C: 6,243
Stay: Tierra Patagonia
Windswept, wild and beautiful, Patagonia presents a tempting opportunity to up-sticks and live the life of a gaucho, galloping carefree across the plains. For those slightly less impulsive, it’s a destination in which you can really switch off.
Chilean Patagonia is home to the magnificent Torres del Paine National Park, where the scenery is endlessly awe-inspiring and worthy of all your attention. A local guide will take you far off the beaten path, leading you along a trail on which you’ll see no one else until returning to your wilderness lodge late in the afternoon.
Tierra Patagonia is a slick accommodation option, with its wooden, wave-like design and sublime outlook across Lake Sarmiento and the snow-capped jagged peaks beyond. Spend the day playing gaucho and learning about the land, before retreating to the lodge for a large glass of red wine by the fire.
Miles from Washington D.C: 7,445
With soaring rust-coloured sand dunes, a surf-smashed coastline and striking tribes, Namibia is a vast country with an array of arresting scenes. A sense of real remoteness is difficult to find on our increasingly populated planet, but it’s something that Namibia offers in epic proportions.
Much of Namibia’s desert is best witnessed from the sky, so hop in a light aircraft or hot air balloon to appreciate the true scale of the landscape. The NamibRand Reserve is where you’ll be able to set foot on the world’s oldest desert; the luxury tents of eco-friendly Wolwedans are located here, a romantic, isolated base for experiencing this region.
Head out on walking safaris along the reserve’s trails to learn about the land’s history and its flora and fauna with a picnic lunch under the camel-thorn trees along a dry riverbed. Riders can saddle up and explore the area on horseback, returning to the camp to watch the sun go down and spending the night out in the open in one of the camp’s star-gazing beds.
Miles from Washington D.C: 10,569
Stay: Longitude 131°
Escape into the otherworldly wilderness of the Australian outback, where the red, dusty landscape stretches far beyond the horizon and night time reveals the Milky Way smudged across a star-strewn sky. Stay in the luxurious tents of Longitude 131° – tents good enough for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, mind – with canvas roofs and glass walls, overlooking Uluru, Australia’s sacred icon.
From here, you can walk around the perimeter of Uluru, learning about the history of the Aboriginal people and the significance of the ancient rock. Drive out for a hike through Kings Canyon and return to sip chilled Australian riesling as the sun sets.
Located on the other side of the world from the White House and totally removed from the cities that most of us call home, the Red Centre makes it easy to imagine – at least momentarily – that the most important decision this month is which wine to pair with dinner.