Outdoor Utopias

Photo credit: www.geograph.org.uk

Smoo Cave, Durness, Scotland
Located on the northern end of Scotland, Smoo Cave is a naturally formed sea cave characterised by dramatic limestone that has been weathered away by water erosion. The cave’s outer chamber opening (the largest in the UK) was created by the fierce action of the sea, whilst the smaller inner chambers were fashioned by freshwater runoff which culminates with a stunning 20 metre high waterfall.

Smoo Cave is a popular destination with hikers and campers and hotels near the site are few. Durness, the nearest village, is 2 km away. In the immediate vicinity, there are facilities for day hikers such as a car park, toilets, stairs and walkways. In Durness, there is a camp ground for caravans and tents alike at Sango Sands Oasis. A cheap alternative to a pricey hotel, prices for a pitch at the Sango Sands start at £6.50 per adult. If camping isn’t your cup of tea, you could always splash out at for a plush room at Mackay’s which will set you back at least £125.00 per night.

Photo credit: www.havasupaitribe.com/

Waterfalls of Havasupai, Supai, Arizona USA
The waterfalls of the Havasupai are often overlooked by its more famous neighbour, the Grand Canyon. Located 65 miles north of the historic stretch of Route 66 between Kingman and Seligman, you will definitely want to hire a car to reach the canyon’s access point. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, you have three ways to descend into the canyon: hike, horseback or helicopter. The hike is 8 miles (12.8 km) from the top of the canyon and another 2 miles (3.2km) to the campsite. The terrain is rugged and is only for the serious hiker to try and undertake.

If the hike or horseback options are too difficult, you can always splurge on a helicopter trip down and back that will set you back $85 (£55) each way. Once you’re in the canyon, there are five waterfalls to hike to and swim in. Water temperatures average at about 21C and swimming is definitely encouraged. Accommodation is limited to tent camping (£14 per person, per night) and a lodge (one family room sleeps four at £92 per night). All persons entering the park are also subjected to an entrance fee of £22.

The lodge has no restaurant, although there is a separate eatery in the village. Unfortunately, the quality is not very good according to reviews on travel sites. You are allowed to pack in your own food and there is unlimited, unfiltered spring water available.

Regardless, the lack of quality amenities is overshadowed by the views and incredible hiking in one of those most beautiful spots in the United States.

Verzasca River, Pizzo Barone, Switzerland
If you’re an avid scuba diver and are looking for the unusual and something closer to home, then you might want to check out the Verzasca River valley in Ticino, the Italian-speaking region of southern Switzerland. The crystal clear water of the river cuts a deep swathe through a rocky ravine. Because the water depth doesn’t exceed 10 metres, the water is a vibrant turquoise colour and clear enough to take underwater photographs of your exploits.

Accommodation choices are most plentiful in the city of Ticino, which is 9 km to the southwest, Sonogno at 7km to the southwest or Faido, 9km to the northwest. Because facilities are few, you should bring your own scuba equipment if you are there to dive or find a tour guide who operates in the area and provides all of the equipment as part of a package.


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