10 Great Places that Veer Off the Beaten Path

The Dog Days of August are upon us. Does everything seem a bit blah, a little "been there, done that"? Shannon Stowell, president of the Adventure Travel Trade Association and co-author of the new Riding the Hulahula to the Arctic Ocean: A Guide to 50 Extraordinary Adventures for the Seasoned Traveler, may have the cure. He shares his list of favorite off-the-beaten-path destinations with Tim Smight for USA TODAY.

Channel Islands National Park, California

Just a short boat ride from the coastal town of Ventura, Southern California's Channel Islands are home to more than 2,000 species of plants and animals — and the waters around them teem with life, as well. "Kayakers can view thousands of sea birds, dolphins, sea lions and even spouting whales," Sowell says. The islands also feature hiking trails, diving and snorkeling coves and tide pools. 805-658-5730; nps.gov/chis

Jalapão region, Brazil

Located in the northern heartland of Brazil, the Jalapão region is one of South America's "hidden gems," Stowell says. "I love this area for its incredible scenery, friendly people and diverse flora and fauna. Here you can take guided excursions through the jungle wilderness — a land where panthers, anacondas and capybaras (the largest living rodent in the world) roam free — starting or ending with a stay at a comfortable safari camp." braziltourism.org

Yukon River, Canada

If you read Jack London as a kid and never quite got it out of your system, this may be just the destination for you. "Boarding a custom-designed riverboat in Whitehorse, you can cruise through more than 370 miles of Yukon wilderness to Dawson City," Stowell says. "It's a great opportunity to view wildlife, meet locals and explore historical and geological sites." 800-661-0494; travelyukon.com

Ancient African ruins, Kenya

The islands off Kenya's north coast feature some of Africa's most ancient historical sites. "A visit here will give you wonderful insight into that history," Stowell says. "You can sail to the islands in a traditional dhow and explore the ruins up close." Tours can include kayaking through lush mangroves, visiting a turtle-breeding project, snorkeling pristine coral reefs and kicking back on palm-fringed beaches, with nights spent in comfortable safari-style camps. magicalkenya.com

Alpine trails, Switzerland

"A country that's well-known for efficient transport, Switzerland has again raised the bar — this time for adventure travelers," Stowell says. "The alpine nation now boasts a brand-new, national trail system supported by detailed route guides. There are more than 12,000 miles of interconnected hiking, cycling, canoeing and mountain-bike trails, with accessibility from more than 18,000 stops on Switzerland's public transport network." A wide range of accommodations are available, as well as luggage transportation and sports equipment rental. switzerlandmobility.ch

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

OK, so Yellowstone isn't exactly off the beaten path. Each year, thousands of tourists visit the USA's oldest national park. But most of them drive to the major tourist sites, emerging from their cars only for short strolls. Experiencing the park's grandeur by bicycle gives visitors a whole new perspective — not to mention saving all that gas money. "Just imagine riding alongside beautiful Yellowstone Lake, with bald eagles soaring overhead and elk grazing nearby," Stowell says. 307-344-7381; nps.gov/yell

Spitsbergen Island, Norway

This is a great jumping-off point for exploring the Arctic. Catch an ice-breaking ship in the town of Longyearbyen on the Norwegian island of Svalbard (just south of the Arctic Circle), then circumnavigate the island of Spitsbergen. "You'll see breathtaking fjords, jagged peaks and huge glaciers — not to mention whales, polar bears, seals and thousands of seabirds," Stowell says. visitnorway.com

'Lawrence of Arabia' trail, Jordan

You've seen the movie — now you can trace the steps of the real-life T.E. Lawrence via camel, jeep and on foot. "Begin your tour in Jordan's Eastern Desert, where you can visit castles that Lawrence stayed in," Stowell says. "You can follow his route through the Wadi Rum desert sands on an all-day camel ride, overnight in authentic Bedouin tents, and then hike through the Beidah Mountains to the ancient city of Petra." visitjordan.com

Choquequirao, Peru

Most vacationers have heard of the Inca Trail, which winds through the Andes to the awe-inspiring archaeological site of Machu Picchu. But there are many other breathtaking mountain treks to discover in Peru. "One of the best is a three-day hike to Choquequirao, Machu Picchu's sister site, which is still being excavated," Stowell says. "The site overlooks the Apurimac River and offers unbeatable 360-degree views of the surrounding mountain ranges." peru.info/perueng.asp


"The legacy of Genghis Khan is nearly palpable in this seldom-visited, remote corner of the world," Stowell says. "Exploring this extraordinary land on horseback is a unique way to connect with that past." Guided horseback trips include a visit to Karakorum, the legendary 13th-century capital of the Mongolian Empire. When not in the saddle, travelers can spend the evenings in lodges or traditional Mongol tent camps. www.mongoliatourism.gov.mn