There are many benefits to going on a cruise for your next break. You get to see far more than you would on a traditional holiday, don’t need to worry about travel logistics, and can spend your leisure time sunbathing on deck, enjoying the fresh air and gorgeous sea views.
But it’s also true that cruise destinations can be crowded – so if you want to avoid the hustle and bustle, it’s best to stay away from the busiest routes around the Mediterranean and Caribbean. Instead, why not see a cruise as a chance to explore more remote destinations you’ve always dreamed of visiting?
To get you inspired, here are 11 off-the-beaten-track cruise destinations.
1. Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, adrift in the vast South Pacific Ocean, the Galápagos Islands are definitely off-the-beaten-track. This volcanic archipelago is like nowhere else in the world, and if you’re passionate about wildlife, visiting here is the stuff of dreams. The islands managed to avoid human colonisation until the 21st century, and the sense of raw wilderness still pervades.
Charles Darwin famously developed his theory of natural selection here, and the islands remain a living laboratory – the best example of biodiversity in the world. A cruise will allow you to spot sea lions, flamingos, albatrosses, iguanas, turtles, and sharks while, on land, you can trek over lunar-like lava fields, relax on red sand beaches, hike up rocky calderas, and marvel at the power of nature.
2. Tromsø, Norway
Norway is synonymous with beauty and adventure – and if you want to see some of the world’s most dazzling sights, a cruise here won’t disappoint. As the largest city north of the Arctic Circle, Tromsø is the Arctic’s cultural hub, but its natural treasures are just as special. Here, you can see the aurora borealis, and watching these dancing green lights flicker across the sky is unforgettable.
A cruise will also allow you to sail along Norwegian’s stunning coastline, admiring gleaming glaciers, marvelling at dramatic fjords, and spotting whales swimming alongside you. If you like to get active, Norway offers unrivalled hiking and kayaking, while birdwatchers can go on eagle safaris. History and culture buffs will be just as spoilt, as you can learn all about Norway’s Viking past as you cruise.
3. The Cook Islands
If you’re dreaming of warmer, more exotic locations – places where you can swim in turquoise seas, kick back on sugar-white beaches, and relax beneath swaying palm trees – then a cruise to the Cook Islands will definitely tick the box. Far less touristy than Tahiti or Fiji, the Cook Islands boast just as much South Pacific beauty, but they also allow you to experience true tropical remoteness.
Located between Hawaii and New Zealand, these islands were named after Captain James Cook, who landed here in the 1800s and, since then, they’ve become a bucket-list destination. With dramatic mountains and sandy beaches, the lovely lagoons burst with life, and the sacred Marae temples are great places to learn about Polynesian culture. If you’re looking for paradise, you’ll find it here.
Greenland might be the largest island in the world, but most of it is only home to animals. If you’re looking to head north into the stark, frozen world of the Arctic, and to see both natural wonders and rare wildlife, then a Greenland cruise is for you. Encrusted in a thick ice sheet and surrounded by sparkling fjords and a vast network of glaciers, the landscape here is simply astounding.
Cruise past mighty waterfalls, calving icebergs, and pristine beaches, and onshore, trek along green valleys and wide-open wildernesses. Then, delve into the local culture and way of life as you visit colourful settlements, and learn about Inuit and Viking histories. Plus, on a winter cruise, you might be lucky enough to catch the mesmerising northern lights.
5. Ushuaia, Argentina
From the top of the world to the very bottom…the Argentine port city of Ushuaia is known as the gateway into the Antarctic, and if you really want to get off the beaten track, it’s an excellent choice. Located at the southernmost tip of South America, Ushuaia is a place where few tourists have trod before, and it allows you to explore the bleak, desolate beauty of Patagonia as well as the Antarctic.
National parks like the Tierra del Fuego are breathtakingly beautiful, and the rugged, snow-capped mountains, colossal glaciers, and wind-sculpted trees can look otherworldly. As you cruise along the vast icescapes of Antarctica, you can spot penguins in their natural colonies, whales swimming in the depths, and seals basking on ice floes. If you want to visit the ends of the earth, now’s your chance.
6. Halong Bay, Vietnam
Another place that’s otherworldly beautiful – but in a very different way – is Halong Bay. Located in Northern Vietnam, Halong Bay is enchanting – so ethereally dazzling you’ll feel like you’ve sailed into a dream…or onto another planet. This designated World Heritage Site is home to an estimated 1969 islands, which means a cruise is undeniably the best way to make the most of the scenery.
You’ll sail along startling green seas, past towering limestone pillars that rise like monoliths above the water, crowned with forest-topped peaks. You can also stop to swim and kayak in the sea, discover secret caves and wave-eroded grottoes, and visit floating villages. Many cruises stay here for a couple of days, so you can experience the unforgettable magic of watching the sunrise over the misty bay.
7. Borneo, Malaysia
As the third-largest island in the world, Borneo is an excellent choice for a cruise. Home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world, this island has long been popular with wildlife lovers, and the whole island teems with biodiversity – from the sultry swamps and dense jungles to the pristine coral reefs. Though it may be most famous for being the home of the orangutan, Borneo has much more to offer.
Cruises to Borneo allow you to take advantage of its diverse landscape, and they also allow you to discover its fascinating culture. Its patchwork of provinces are populated by different ethnic groups, and you can visit vibrant villages inhabited by indigenous tribes, and learn about the island’s ancient customs and traditions. Packed with culture, wildlife, and stunning scenery, Borneo is unmissable.
8. Northwest Passage, Canadian Arctic
We’ve already seen how cruises can be the best way to visit inhospitable destinations, and another example of that is a Northwest Passage cruise. The Northwest Passage is the sea lane that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, and it boasts some of the most magical and pristine wild scenery you can imagine – as well as a true sense of remoteness.
On a Northwest Passage cruise, you can follow in the footsteps of early polar explorers and admire views of gleaming ice floes, blue-tinged glaciers, rugged, ice-capped mountains, and rolling tundra. You’ll meet Inuit people and learn about their traditions, and spot wildlife including polar bears, musk oxen, walruses, narwhals, and beluga whales. This is a place that’s raw, wild, and wonderful!
9. West African Coast
If you have the time for a longer holiday, why not think about cruising along the West African coast? This is a cruise destination that’s perfect for adventurous travellers, and it offers an incredible amount of variety. Travelling through West Africa isn’t very easy on land, so a cruise is a great way to visit remote destinations and places that may otherwise veer a bit too far off the beaten track.
The west coast of Africa is home to a kaleidoscope of cultures and landscapes – from steaming mangrove swamps and coastal savannahs to dusty deserts and idyllic islands. Most cruises take you to Dakar and Banjul; two exciting, colourful capitals, as well as the beautiful Cape Verde islands. The wildlife is also exceptional, and you can spot hippos, crocodiles, manatees, dolphins, and monkeys!
10. Peruvian Amazon
When you think of cruises, chances are you think of oceans or seas – but rivers are also excellent for cruises. If you love nature and wildlife, why not think about cruising along the world’s most famous river, the mighty Amazon? A Peruvian Amazon cruise allows you to journey into the wildest and most mysterious depths of Earth’s largest rainforest, which is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The Amazon rainforest is home to more than one-third of the world’s animal species and you have excellent chances of spotting sloths, toucans, exotic birds, and pink dolphins. As you cruise, you’ll learn all about the creatures and plants that live here, as well as what life is like in the jungle, and you’ll get to meet remote indigenous communities too.
Located right on the edge of the Arctic, between vast glaciers, smoking volcanoes, vertiginous fjords, and bubbling mud pools, Iceland is another fabulous choice for a cruise. Because the pristine landscapes here edge right onto the urban communities, you’ll be able to explore colourful cities like Reykjavik, as well as the awe-inspiring natural wonders this big, remote island is known for.
Iceland is known as the ‘land of ice and fire’, and the terrain here churns as though it’s alive – from boiling hot springs and thundering waterfalls to roaring rivers and lava-spewing volcanoes. There’s a unique sense of peace to be found here too, and the milky blue lagoons and sparkling ice sheets will take your breath away. Plus, in the sea, you can spot blue whales, humpback whales, and orcas.
From the bleak, desolate beauty of the Arctic to the tropical paradise of the Cook Islands, a cruise can take you to the most remote, spectacular, and inhospitable corners of the earth.
You can visit the depths of the mysterious Amazon rainforest or marvel at the breathtaking panorama of Vietnam’s beautiful bays. Or why not visit places that are just too big to explore overland, like the coast of West Africa?
The beauty of a cruise is that it removes the hassle of travelling while retaining all the wonder and mystery – and as these destinations show, you really can venture off-the-beaten-track, and travel where few have gone before.
For more travel inspiration, why not read our article; 10 otherwordly travel destinations for the ultimate escape.
Have you been to any of these destinations before? Are you tempted by the thought of a cruise? We’d love to hear about your travel experiences in the comments below.