World's 10 most obscure destinations worth visiting

When it comes to off-the-beaten-track adventures, few people know their stuff better than Sophie Ibbotson and Max Lovell-Hoare. Having lived and worked in more than 30 countries, they specialise in exploring parts of the world that few other people reach.

Among their writing credits are the Bradt guidebook to South Sudan, the first commercial publication to cover the world's newest country, and guidebooks to Afghanistan, Tajikistan and the Silk Road. Here they highlight 10 obscure, out-of-the-way destinations that hold a particular appeal to them, along with how to get there - where it's possible.

Meroe, Sudan

Think that the Ancient Egyptians only built pyramids in Egypt? Think again. The Nile Valley continues south deep into Sudan, and the ancient Kingdom of Nubia is home to more than 200 pyramids dating from 800 BC.

They're more modest in size than the pyramids at Giza, but the unspoilt surroundings of Meroe and the ability to have the pyramid fields pretty much to yourself is more than adequate compensation. Archaeological excavations at Meroe have also unearthed Roman bronzes, fine relief carvings and ceramics, many of which are on display at the National Museum in Khartoum. Meroe is a Unesco World Heritage site, though surely one of the least-visited treasures on the list.

For the latest travel advice for travel to Sudan, see

Nukus, Uzbekistan

This sand-swept, Soviet-built city in north-western Uzbekistan is understandably not on the typical tourist trail, but behind its unprepossessing exterior lies an absolute gem: the Savitsky Gallery.

Known also as the Museum of Forbidden Art, this is the world's foremost collection of 20th-century Russian avant-garde painting and includes important works by Sokolov, Komarovskiy and the Amaravella group. The artworks were collected by the curator of the Karakalpakstan State Museum of Art in the Sixties. He acquired banned works from persecuted Soviet artists, often for little or no money, conserving and ultimately displaying them in this remote Central Asian outpost.

Mashhad, Iran

Unless you are a Shia Muslim, the chances are that Mashhad will have passed under your radar. Lying in the north east of Iran, Mashhad is the burial place of Imam Reza and, after Mecca and Medina, one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the Islamic world.

The ninth-century mosque is the largest in the world (by dimension, rather than capacity) and non-Muslims are welcome to explore the courtyards and prayer halls, as well as attend free lectures in English about the shrine's history and the significance of Imam Reza.


Literature lovers should also make a private pilgrimage to the nearby tomb of Ferdowsi, Iran's national poet and author of the Shahnameh (Book of Kings).

For the latest travel advice for travel to Iran, seeĀ

Kakheti, Georgia

You may not have heard of Kakheti but you're almost guaranteed to have enjoyed its most famous invention: wine. The Georgians have been making wine for 8000 years and there's recently been a revived interest in traditional winemaking techniques, with some of the country's best wines now appearing on the wine lists at The Fat Duck, Hibiscus and Nobu.

Highlights of Kakheti include the 3000-year-old Uplistiske Rock City with its industrial-scale wine presses; the Ikalto Monastery where priests kept meticulous viticulture records; fortified sacramental wine cellars larger than the churches they supplied; and the vineyards and wine cellars of Lagvinari, Georgia's premier wine producer.

Kanha Tiger Reserve, India

This year (2015) marks the 150th anniversary of Rudyard Kipling's birth, so it is fitting to include on this list the little-known national park where he was inspired to write The Jungle Book.

The Kanha Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh is still home to a substantial number of Shere Khan's striped relatives (106 at the time of the last wildlife census), as well as leopards, monkeys and a striking array of bird life.

Those who choose to fulfil their jungle fantasies by staying on-site in the Kipling Camp will also meet Tara, the elephant heroine of Mark Shand's bestselling Travels on my Elephant, who is living out her days bathing in the river and being indulged by her many fans.

Socotra, Yemen

This is an extraordinary place, an archipelago out in the Indian Ocean, 150 miles east of the Horn of Africa. The principle island (also called Socotra) has, at least in evolutionary terms, been cut off from the outside world - and so more than one-third of the 825 plant species found here are endemic. These include the evocatively named dragon's blood tree (Dracaena cinnabari) and the more prosaic cucumber tree (Dendrosicyos socotranus).

There are few roads on Socotra but you can pretty much make your way across on foot or by camel in a week, sleeping each night under canvas, or less adventurously on a 4x4 safari.

For the latest travel advice for travel to Yemen, seeĀ

Zanskar, India

High on the Tibetan Plateau, between Kashmir and Ladakh, lies Zanskar - one of the most isolated yet beautiful parts of the Indian Himalayas. Accessible via a two-day drive in summer or a week-long frozen river trek in winter, it is home to ancient Buddhist monasteries, ruined fortresses and palaces, superbly preserved petroglyphs and a multitude of extraordinary hikes, some of which offer the chance to see the elusive snow leopard. Mass tourism is yet to reach the valley and so there are still virgin routes to trek and a significant chance you will be the only foreigner in town.

Kamchatka, Russia

This remote peninsula in the extreme north east of Russia is a natural museum of volcanology with nearly 300 volcanoes, 29 of which are active. It's also listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site. Between the volcanoes runs a 6km-long field of geysers, part of the Kronotsky Nature Reserve, and numerous hot springs. Kamchatka is a pristine wilderness: it is largely unpopulated by humans and has very little civilian infrastructure as until 1990 access was restricted to the Soviet Navy.

This has, however, enabled the native wildlife to thrive, and the peninsula is home to the world's largest concentration of brown bears as well as arctic fox, lynx, wolverine, reindeer and moose.

Cerro de los Siete Colores, Argentina

Outside the town of Purmamarca in northern Argentina is the Hill of Seven Colours, a striking natural geological formation that is part of the Quebrada de Humahuaca mountain range. The unique rainbow colours in the rocks result from the interplay of numerous marine sediment layers and tectonic movement over the past 400 million years, though local legend has it that ancient children painted the stripes on the rocks over the course of seven nights.

The colours are at their most vibrant in the hours after dawn and the best way to explore the area is on foot with a pack of llamas to carry the baggage. Treks start in the 16th-century town beneath the hills, a place that fuses Andean and Spanish traditions.

Listvyanka, Russia

The beach resort of Listvyanka lies on the shores of Lake Baikal in Siberia. The world's largest lake by volume of water, it is a popular summer holiday destination for Russians, who come here to hike, picnic and enjoy water sports.

A branch line of the Trans-Siberian Railway runs all the way around the lake, and it's possible to make the journey by steam train. In the winter months, when the lake is frozen solid, Listvyanka becomes a ski resort with striking views of Baikal.

Alternative winter activities include ice fishing, ice-hole swimming and dog sledding, followed (of course) by a visit to the sauna and vodka to bring your frozen body back up to temperature.

The Telegraph, London