No matter where you’ve travelled in the past, there’s always someone you know who has gone that extra step better. You could be in the midst of telling the most amazing tale of your life – the thrilling story of an inspiring, life-changing trip you recently undertook - but there will forever be that guy who interjects with pristine one-upmanship. You can picture them in your mind now, that singular person who always has the most lavish of adventures. They tell the sort of tales that make everyone in the room visibly intrigued, but quietly enraged with jealously. Wouldn’t it be nice if for once you could get the final word? To go where no-one (that you personally know) has gone before? Well, we may have some ideas about where you can venture next to become the talk of the town. Or at least, amongst a handful of friends. This new series will document a selection of locales that are centred around the idea of the extreme. By extreme, of course, we don’t mean places that would be frequented by the likes of Tony Hawk or the cast of Point Break. We mean the kind of locations that are not typical for the layman to visit. This could be due to their extreme climates and terrain, or perhaps unconventional culture. It could be places that are hidden away, or largely unheard of. Some may even be areas that most people outright fear or can’t handle. This is a collection of possibilities that present some of the most unique experiences our world has to offer. To fit in further with the theme of the extreme, and to cater to all varieties of traveller, each entry in this series will feature two places from diametrically opposing ends of the spectrum. One will be an out-there wild ride of an expedition, and the other will be a quirky but cosy little trip somewhere new. We’ve got you covered, no matter your tastes. So, without much further ado, the first topic on the agenda for this project is extreme cold. Beautiful afternoon at Paradise Bay, Antarctica Peninsula. The captain stopped the boat, and we drift quietly. It is summer in the southern hemisphere. The temperature was -3 AA° celsius. December 28, 2011Picture this, if you will: a white desert that spans as far as the eye can see. Terrain untouched by man on the last empty continent. A land with six months of night, dropping down to and even below -73C. Scenery devoid of anything other than ice, snow and imposing rocks. Wildlife thrives in and around the water’s edge, uninterrupted and uninhibited, against a backdrop of grand precipices, jaggedly lining the horizon. Further inland, life disappears and all is still. Can you feel the cold? The isolation? The sheer wonder of such a place? It almost sounds like the setting of an ambitious fantasy film, but it’s a place you could explore for yourself someday. Out there, in Antarctica, you will feel as if you are on another planet. To be perfectly honest, you might as well be, considering the miniscule number of people that have even witnessed the southernmost continent first-hand. Myths and legends of Antarctica stretch back to antiquity, but it wasn’t actually sighted until 1820. Despite fervent interest after this great find, journeying across the new continent remained an unsurmountable challenge for nearly another century. It wasn’t until the various expeditions that took place between 1907 to 1911 that humans finally managed to reach all of Antarctica’s most imposing geographical landmarks. Since then, Antarctica has been home to intrepid scientists from around the world. None have ever lived there permanently, as the climate can become even harsher during certain months of the year, but there is still a perpetual desire amongst many in the scientific community to brave the elements out of sheer intrigue. Around 5,000 carry out research in the summer, with only around 1,000 electing to carry out their work in the winter. Because of this lack of any real population, it’s the only landmass on Earth that doesn’t belong to anyone – the continent is instead divided into sovereign “territories” that represent the original twelve countries that signed the 1959 Antarctic Treaty. The easiest and safest way to experience Antarctica is via cruise. There are several services that will take you from various countries in the southern hemisphere to all the different regions of Antarctica’s coast. One of the most popular is from the bottom tip of Argentina, all the way to the Drake Passage that leads to the Antarctic Peninsula. Other, more treacherous and rare routes can take you through places such as the Ross Sea and Commonwealth Bay. Whichever path you decide upon, be sure to bring a pair of binoculars with you onto the deck, as you’ll be able to watch whales breach the freezing waters and penguins dive en masse from icy plinths. If you want to get even closer to the action, it’s even possible to go yachting or kayaking closer to the shore. Big cruise shipFor the slightly more adventurous, ski tours can be taken. Mostly these are still alongside the shoreline, but there are some cross-country options. Hiking and mountaineering are also popular choices due to the unrivalled views and challenging routes. Some longer trips additionally include the option to set up camp. It’s fair to say that this form of camping will be a far cry from the variety you’ve experienced by the side of a tranquil lake or at a manic festival. However, if you are a true explorer at heart, there’s even the chance to travel with a trained team all the way to the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station – one of the most remote places on Earth. This location is a true landmark in the history of human exploration, and is also where some ground-breaking research is taking place. Making this trip is comparable to reaching the summit of Everest, only here you’ll get to see a cool legion of international flags and a ceremonial barbershop pole at the end (and there’s an actual building there to get out of the cold, which is always nice). Of course, you could just cheat and take a flight tour in a light aircraft to get there. If I’m being honest, that’s the way I’d choose to do it, but you do you! Antarctica is one of the most visceral sights to behold on this little blue planet, and a real challenge for those who want to push their personal limitations. Most well-seasoned travellers will readily admit that they still haven’t conquered all 7 continents because of this extraordinary place. Antarctica, with all its mystery and natural beauty, still eludes them. Don’t let it elude you, too.

“But wait!” I hear you cry, “I’m just not the adventuring type! I’m a creature of comfort!” Well, that is certainly an issue if you’re looking to buck the trend on a more extreme sort of holiday, but fret not, we still have you covered. Let’s flip the Earth over, and look to the north instead. Unlike in the Antarctic Circle, there’s actually a fair few inhabited areas in the Arctic Circle, all of which are fascinating places. The common options for holidaymakers are places such as Iceland (where tourists flock to see the aurora borealis), or Alaska (because they saw a double bill of Ice Road Truckers and Deadliest Catch). We have somewhere else in mind though: Greenland. The country with the lowest population density in the world, and the highest honour of being included on our list. Our recommended spot to visit is the city of Ilulissat, which lies on the western coast, 350km north of the Arctic Circle border. Now, when we say city, it’s not the sort of city you’re likely used to, as the population here is a meagre 4,500, with the number of resident sled-dogs almost matching that figure. It may be the third largest city in Greenland, but that’s like saying you have the most popular hot dog stand on the moon – there’s not much in the way of competition. To give you a simple indicator of what to expect here, the name “Ilulissat” itself is a direct translation of the native word for “Icebergs”. depositphotos_117904100_m-2015“Icebergs” may potentially be the most apt name ever given to any location in history, as the bread and butter of Ilulissat is the tourism that comes with people wanting to watch the legions of ice that pass by every day. The city is adjacent to the Ilulissat Icefjord, a UNESCO World Heritage site that sheds 20 billion tonnes of ice a year. They travel far, too. Icebergs from this area can make it as far down the Atlantic as New York City. In fact, the one that sunk the Titanic was from here! Some of these monolithic blocks can even reach a kilometre in height, and they can take years to break apart and flow past those onlooking from the comfort of their hotel rooms. Speaking of which, the Hotel Arctic in Ilulissat is the only 4-star hotel in the entire country, and the northernmost 4-star hotel in the world. It has all the modern frills you would expect, but it also has a very big trick up its sleeve. Unlike other hotels, where your options are usually either a room in a big building, or a slightly different room in a big building, the Hotel Arctic allows for a very location-specific and unique alternative. For those who don’t wish to stay in a standard room, they can instead spend their time in an igloo! Inspired in shape and design by traditional Inuit igloos, these modern aluminium-clad versions make for an iconic sight from their perch on the cliff’s edge. Their views are spectacular and the experience is inimitably authentic. Plus, in case you were concerned that they’d be somewhat lacking in comparison to a room, they’re still fully kitted out and contemporary inside, so you won’t be sacrificing anything for the exclusive opportunity. Ilulissat, despite being the more relaxed and accessible of today’s picks, is no less interesting than the more daring option of Antarctica. The city’s brightly coloured wooden houses have a distinct charm to them, and they’re pretty striking against the arctic backdrop. The landscape itself is certainly something to behold, but there is more to Ilulissat than just picturesque scenery. You could go visit some ancient Inuit ruins, or discover a different way of life within traditional villages. There are chartered trips across Disko Bay, and fine cuisine that’s limited to this part of the world (it’s the only place on Earth where you can legally eat whale!). There’s a reason that politicians, royalty, movie stars and musicians from all around the world have come to visit here – it’s a truly magical place. We can assure you that you won’t be remotely disappointed with your choice if you choose to venture here. depositphotos_82638380_m-2015So, that’s it for the first edition of 'To Boldly Go'! Antarctica and Ilulissat are both locations that are bound to be a world away from your usual vacation spots, and the envy amongst your peers will be palpable when they’ve heard of your adventures. That guy, the one who always likes to outdo you? Well, we wish him luck, because he’ll be fresh out of it if you opt for one of these destinations – there’s no beating these places! Or, is there…?

The world is a big place, so there’s a lot of hidden gems still to be discovered. Join us next time when we delve deeper into the old hoppa travel encyclopaedia to tackle a new form of extreme locale!

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