Off the Beaten Path: Top Overlanding Destinations in Nature's Playground

More and more people are turning to overlanding, and it's no surprise. Nature wasn't prioritised for many of us growing up in urban cities. For some, the relentless chase of materialistic possessions brings little joy. Others simply crave an escape from the madness of everyday life, seeking solace in the quiet. 

For many drawn to overlanding, there’s beauty in the uncertainty, in relying on oneself, in experiencing unexpected challenges, and in breaking away from the norm. Besides, the world remains wild and untamed, brimming with hidden back roads and undiscovered lands.

Here are five overlanding destinations worth considering, whether for a one-off adventure or as part of a lifestyle. Some of these places are seldom mentioned in textbooks, let alone on bucket lists.

1. The Largest Salt Flat in the World - Bolivia

Every day in Bolivia's stunning landscapes is an adventure like no other. Some days, it's winding roads through majestic mountains. Others, it's driving through lush Amazon landscapes.

Explorers can navigate through the skeletal slopes of Andean peaks, the desolate plains of the altiplano, and the tree-less rocky desert. Jaw-dropping sites are scattered along the way. One of them is the Laguna Colorado, captivating with its crimson hues and teeming with elegant flamingoes. Adding to the allure of a Bolivian expedition is a unique opportunity: retracing the last path trodden by Che Guevara, famed for his transformative motorcycle voyages throughout South America.

That said, arguably the most remarkable highlight of a Bolivian expedition is the awe-inspiring Salar De Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flats. For explorers, it's a historic day as they witness the vast white expanse beneath their wheels. The Bolivia salt flats evoke a surreal sensation akin to gliding across a frozen sea. Along the journey, stops offer glimpses of captivating natural wonders found nowhere else on Earth.

The Bolivian expedition dares you to exceed your boundaries. It tempts explorers with a taste of the extraordinary, which may beckon them to stay longer.

2. Canyons, Deserts & Salt Flats - Argentina

There remain a handful of overlanding destinations on Earth where you can make a pioneering journey. Argentina’s Atacama Plateau is one of them. Here, you can encounter wildly striking and desolate landscapes, all in the comforts of your trusty 4x4. 

Undoubtedly, the most fascinating facet of the expedition is steering your vehicle through some of Argentina’s iconic salt flats. A day at the flats feels akin to traversing the moon’s surface. Then there are the Mars-like landscapes in the Puna region, dotted with canyons and caves. The Atacama plateau expedition is almost celestial, providing a space-like experience without ever leaving Earth.

As if that weren’t ample, the Argentinian adventure transforms explorers’ colour spectrums. It showcases landscapes reminiscent of a child’s colouring book. Explorers can witness turquoise lakes, vivid-hued mountain ranges, and dazzling geological formations such as Quebrada de las Conchas and Quebrada de las Flechas.

These sights can be a lot to process. But it's an invitation to pause, reflect, and fully absorb the magnificence of the world around you.

3. Arid Savannahs - Kalahari Desert, Africa

The Kalahari, a semi-arid sandy savannah, stretches across multiple countries, including Namibia, South Africa, and Botswana. Overland travel here echoes the adventure depicted in the iconic film The Gods Must Be Crazy.

Adventurers can drive along dusty roads, arid river beds, and salt flats. For wildlife enthusiasts, this expedition is a treasure trove. Picture the experience of hearing the roar of black-maned Kalahari lions echoing through the silent night. In Kalahari, one can encounter Africa's three big cats—cheetahs, leopards, and lions, amidst herds of springbok and gemsbok.

Experiencing raw beauty in the Kalahari desert calls for remote camping. Equipped with rooftop tents and portable field showers, a trusted vehicle becomes the perfect tool for immersing oneself in the African wilderness.

That said, the expedition isn't solely about wildlife and camping. It's packed with many other highlights, with climactic moments scattered throughout the journey. For instance, there are the salt pans of Makgadikgadi and Naxi. The vast, shimmering expanse of salt may conjure feelings of freedom for many. It underscores the notion that the Earth is indeed a huge playground.

Nomadic Road's tri-nation overlanding journey through the Kalahari desert is an expedition like none other.

4. Frozen Lake Baikal - Siberia

Driving on a lake sounds like an idea that defies all logic. But amidst Siberia's winter, it's entirely plausible. The frozen Lake Baikal, with its deep blue waters, is encircled by jagged mountains and abundant wildlife. Plummeting to depths of up to 1,637 metres, it holds nearly one-fifth of the planet’s unfrozen freshwater reserve. Driving across its frozen surface feels surreal—a journey across thin ice, both figuratively and literally.

But a journey to Lake Baikal in Siberia reveals more than meets the eye. On the picturesque Olkhon Island lies Khuzhir, the sole inhabited village on the island. It serves as a gateway to the natural marvels and cultural heritage of this remote Siberian gem. Traditional wooden houses adorn the landscape, seamlessly blending with the surrounding wilderness. 

Depending on the month you travel, temperatures can drop as low as -30 degrees Celsius. However, therapeutic hot springs like Khakusy offer a serene sanctuary amidst the icy terrain.

In the tranquil coves of the Ushkan Islands, submerged mountains emerge from the northern embrace of the archipelago. These islands host their own unique flora and fauna, further enhancing their mystique and allure.

An overland expedition in Baikal isn’t for the faint-hearted. It isn’t for those chasing Instagram likes. This expedition demands thick skin and thicker clothing.

5. Rocky Trails & Sandy Tracks by the Coast - Southern Madagascar

Southern Madagascar awaits seekers of untamed wilderness. The region presents formidable challenges, from rocky trails, and desert plains to long stretches of dirt roads so narrow that one can’t reverse. Yet, the rewards are immense: breathtaking seascapes and encounters with unique endemic species wait for the intrepid traveller.

When overlanding in this region, encounters with native wildlife are plentiful. Night safaris offer close encounters with Spotted Lemurs, their eyes gleaming in the darkness. Prepare to be mesmerised by other captivating sightings, such as the majestic radiated tortoises, elegant pink flamingoes, and mysterious eyeless fish dwelling in the enchanting baobab forest.

And that's just the beginning. The landscapes and terrains on this expedition are equally exceptional. Take Itampolo, for example, where breathtaking views of the emerald-green waters of the Indian Ocean await. If you're inclined towards deep conversations or epic sword (or lightsaber) fights atop the cliff, we get it. The atmosphere here inspires introspection and liberation, akin to the dramatic endings of films.

Southern Madagascar offers a solid blend of landscapes, wildlife, and cultural experiences. At Tsimanampetsotsa, for instance, explorers can interact with the Malagasy first-hand. It’s an opportunity to peek into an entirely new way of living and experience hospitality at its finest.

Where Freedom Guides the Way

Overland travel is a test of resilience. Familiar comforts like wired fences, grocery shops, and Google Maps may not accompany you. Car mishaps aren’t uncommon, and explorers confront the unforgiving forces of Mother Nature. Predictability and comfort become distant notions in this rugged journey.

Yet, an increasing number of individuals are embracing overland expeditions for the freedom they provide. These journeys let explorers set their own schedule and discover hidden gems. It's the pride of accomplishing what you once thought impossible. A chance to escape everyday stress and step out of your comfort zone, finding unexpected comfort in the unfamiliar.

Nomadic Road's overlanding adventures are crafted to give explorers that sweet taste of freedom. This is consistent across all expeditions, regardless of destination. We value planning in overlanding while also cherishing the beauty of the unplanned. Our expeditions are crafted with that delicate balance in mind.

A Nomadic Road adventure isn't your typical luxury getaway. It's an opportunity to conquer lands you never thought accessible and disconnect from the grid for a few days. Whether it sparks transformation or not, one thing is certain—you'll depart with unforgettable experiences to share.

Explore more stories for inspiration and embark on your next overlanding adventure with Nomadic Road.