Distance by Design: Asia’s Open Spaces in 2021

A great big sky full of stars and endless opens spaces are more important than they've ever been before.

Whether cooped up at home or at the office, sometimes you just want to get as far as possible from everything — and recent events have made that more obvious than ever. This renewed longing for the great expanse can find itself in the many tracts, prairies, and deserts of Asia. Whether it’s the frozen wastes of Siberia or the Flaming Cliffs of the Gobi, the inhospitable corners of Asia can be made very hospitable indeed with the right care and attention. A great big sky full of stars and an endless horizon are more important than they’ve ever been before.

Mongolia

Genghis Khan Retreat

After Greenland, Mongolia is the least densely populated nation on earth. Outside of the dense traffic of the capital of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia seems, at first, empty. Also, travelers are spoiled for choice when it comes to landscapes. Want an endless desert? Hop on a camel and ride the singing dunes of the Gobi desert. Mountains? Head up to the snow-capped Altai for nomads and glaciers. Plains? Grab a Royal Enfield and make for the Orkhon Valley.

There’s even wildlife to be had in Mongolia, making places like Ikh Nart ever more popular. Here, the Argali sheep roam freely and abundantly in the hills, along with the Siberian ibex, as well as the corsac fox. 

“The topography of Ikh Nart is really unique and a rugged area of rocky outcrops, felt almost prehistoric,” says Remote Lands Luxury Sales Coordinator Jessica Ng. “Pictures just didn’t do it justice and couldn’t capture the sheer vastness of the landscape.”

Bactrian camel.

Luxury can be hard to come by, but not impossible in the empty spaces of Mongolia, and while there travelers will become intimately familiar with the traditional gers of the nomads. With Remote Lands, these traditional dwellings can be made as comfortable as feasibly possible — while keeping in mind the restrictions of the desert, steppes, and plains of Mongolia.

However, one can have the best of both worlds at the luxury Genghis Khan Retreat found on the fenceless steppe near the Orkhon River in Mongolia, a six-hour ride from the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar. Along with wood-burning stoves and plush beds topped with cashmere blankets, this is the place to experience this country in the most Mongolian way possible: horseback. 

The camp has 90 horses for riding and polo with many horse trekking destinations for daily riding excursions; overnight riding expeditions on horses or 4WD jeeps can also be organized.

Baikal

On the Baikal ice.

For the adventure traveler, Baikal is one of the first places that comes to mind when considering isolated travel in Asia. It’s beautiful and it’s brutal. For locals, the choice time to go is summer, which comes complete with beaches, freshwater diving, and comfortable cultural experiences on Olkhon Island. However, Lake Baikal in winter is for the true adventurer, complete with dog-sledding, tearing around the frozen lake on a Russian UAZ, and some of the most spectacular frozen scenery anywhere in Siberia.

“The wind was roaring and snow was blowing across the surface; huge blocks of turquoise-colored ice, known as ‘hummocks’ were piled up 12 meters high, and icy stalactites grew inside caves that dotted the frozen shoreline,” says Remote Lands Co-founder and COO Jay Tindall of a February trip to Baikal. “Looking down, I could see huge ships completely frozen into the ice, and people riding bikes and dog sleds on the lake below us.”

You could take all the water in all the Great Lakes in the United States and Canada and dump them into Lake Baikal, and it wouldn’t even come close. This is the largest lake on planet Earth by volume, containing more than 20 percent of all the freshwater in the world. The opportunities for adventure on the lake are endless, traversed by hovercraft, car, and — for the truly extreme adventurer — diving into its frozen depths.

Travelers from all around the world come to Baikal to test their mettle on the lake’s frozen ice. There’s even a marathon over the ice from the Baikalsky Nature Reserve on the Eastern shore of the lake 23.2 miles across the meter-thick ice to Listvyanka Village.

On land, things can be made comfortable. After staying at the confluence of the Angara River and Lake Baikal at the Legend of Baikal hotel for a rest, travelers will no doubt be making their way to the famed Olkhon Island for the Baikal View Hotel.

Outside of the main lake area, travelers can go to Ulan Ude to visit with the Old Believers, the curious and colorful examples of Russian heritage in Siberia — and they can really hold their vodka.

Oman

Desert Nights Camp.

Places like Muscat and Salalah are modern cities, but Oman is well off the beaten tourist track, and for those who want to experience the desert in style, this is the place to go. 

More specifically, Desert Nights Camp is the only luxury desert camp in Oman. Whether it’s dune bashing or stargazing, Desert Nights Camp mixes luxury relaxation and exploration. Travelers looking to surf the dunes and tear up the sand with a 4×4 will find the peaceful atmosphere of the camp an oasis of calm, found just a two hour drive away from Muscat, the capital of the Sultanate of Oman. 

Dunebashing with Desert Nights.

To be alone, it’s hard to top the secluded 11 kilometers in the vast isolation of the Omani desert. Outside of the plush Bedoin-style tents, the Exotic Sunset Camel Safari is one of Desert Night’s most popular attractions: the vast dunes of an Arabian desert bathed in the glow of the setting sun from camelback. 

For something a little more in the way of a traditional holiday experience, there’s the isolated Six Senses Zighy Bay Location. Perched on the Musandam Peninsula, the northernmost point of Oman, this luxurious resort is featured along a dramatic coastal cliff face that towers overhead. The first of the Six Senses resorts to open in Oman, the Six Senses Zighy Bay Spa Pool Villa Beachfront features a private pool, garden, and summerhouse totaling 2,650 square feet.