No insurance company will cover you for these vacations
Five of the most extreme holidays imaginable
The Coldest Place On Earth
\nWhere: Oymyakon, Russia
\nFor... the adventurer without the holiday allowance left to make it to Antarctica.\nDeep within the icy, frostbitten heart of Siberia lurks the coldest inhabited place on the planet. Oymyakon, in the Sakha Republic, once had an air temperature recorded at –71.2C. There’s even a plaque dedicated to the “Pole Of Cold”. Its native water freezes, so everything is imported from Yakutsk – a two-day drive away – while it takes several days of bonfires and digging to bury the dead. You’ll also have to get used to eating frozen meat and braving the Arctic chill to go to the bathroom in outhouses – because all the indoor plumbing freezes.
\nHow to get there: Well, that’s an experience itself. You’ll need to depart from Yakutsk and know some basic Russian to book a taxi – or blag a ride aboard one of the tankers that transport water to town. Then, it’s a desolate 20-hour drive north-east across the Siberian wilderness and frozen rivers of the Road Of Bones – a highway erected over the skeletons of the Gulag labourers who built it during the Stalinist era.
\nWhere you’re staying: There are no hotels in Oymyakon – so you’ll have to stay with a local family. Don’t forget your phrasebook.
\nItinerary: Once you’ve paid your respects at the Pole Of Cold memorial, go for a spot of ice fishing and then warm yourself up at the thermal spring on the town’s outskirts. Before you leave, pick up some local delicacies from the only store in town and collect your certificate from the mayor of Oymyakon – handed out to the few who make the trip each year.
\nApproximate cost: AED12,000 (flights, heavy-duty winter clothing and a lot of emergency and spending money)
The Hottest place on Earth
\nWhere: Death Valley, US
\nFor... the sun-worshipping winter-in-Dubai veteran\nTurns out one of the most inhospitable places on the planet is in the good ol’ US of A. A two-hour road trip from the Vegas Strip into the Californian border takes you to Death Valley, where the mercury melts thermometers and the desert floor radiates super-heated dry air. It usually hits 50C in the summer, which probably feels like home.
\nHow to get there: Simple. Take the US-95 north from Vegas, then south on the NV 373, then follow signs to Death Valley Junction.
\nWhere you’re staying: At the wonderfully named Furnace Creek, you can get a room for AED400 a night. Air-con is – mercifully – included. So too is an outdoor pool.
\nItinerary: You’ll need to wake up early if you want to get things done before you’re turned into vapour. A 15-minute drive south from Furnace Inn takes you to Dante’s View – where you can see the highest (Mount Whitney) and lowest (Badwater) points of mainland US simultaneously. There’s also a golf course made in a field of salt crystals within the Mojave Desert, and Racetrack Playa – where boulders mysteriously roll across its sun-baked surface.
\nApproximate cost: AED9,000 (covering flights to Vegas, SUV rental, petrol and a hotel for three nights)
The Fattest Place On Earth
\nWhere: Nuku’alofa, Tonga
\nFor... the ultimate XXL-sized blowout\nThe traditional diet of Tonga is what you’d expect from a Pacific island nation: fish, vegetables and coconuts. But then came the Western imports. Now, a typical Tongan breakfast is an ice cream sandwich, followed by mutton flaps densely layered with fat for lunch, and barrels of corned beef for tea. Tongans – who typically eat six meals a day – prefer their men big. They’re practically worshipped over there – you’re actually encouraged to stuff your face with as much junk food as you can cram into your hands at any one time, and let your pot belly swell. The main island of Tongatapu is only 100sq m yet boasts every cuisine under the sun. So bring an empty stomach – and a stuffed wallet.
\nHow to get there: Tonga’s Fua’amotu airport is served by Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia from Auckland and Sydney. With the 13-hour time difference, reaching Tonga is a three-day trip.
\nWhere you’re staying: Seaview Lodge in Nuku’alofa, Tonga’s capital, gives you easy access to all of the country’s culinary delights – plus picturesque views as you smother your face with barbecue ribs and deep-fried chicken. It’s actually pretty – the country, that is.
\nItinerary: Head along the northern seafront, which is lined by restaurants like Little Tokyo, Little India and Little Italy (where you can order a 45cm blue cheese pizza). For breakfast, head to one of the most popular eateries in Tonga, Friends Cafe – where the Big Kahuna Breakfast is served; think a full English breakfast, but with added sweet potato. Seafood is Tonga’s speciality so you’re spoilt for choice for your afternoon meals – whether it’s lobster you’re after or a platter of fish and chips. Billfish Bar is popular with the locals, serving Hawaiian burgers and bread-and-butter puddings to clog your arteries and top up your cholesterol.
\nApproximate cost: AED8,000 (of which about a quarter needs to be reserved for food)
The Least-Populated Place On Earth
\nWhere: Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland
\nFor... the globetrotting misanthrope\nThere are nearly as many letters in the word Ittoqqortoormiit as there are people living there. The last count was 452 – despite it being part of a district that’s the size of the Oman. So if you want to feel alone – truly alone – Ittoqqortoormiit is for you. You’ll be surrounded by the largest fjord system on the globe – spectacular backdrops unspoilt by the sight of your fellow man taking the obligatory iceberg selfie. Nestled on Greenland’s eastern shoreline, the sea freezes over for nine months of the year, so time your trip right – or you’ll be stranded on a giant ice cube until the summer, alone with your thoughts.
\nHow to get there: Nerlerit Inaat is the nearest airport, with two weekly flights from Reykjavik. It’s unreachable by road – so you’ll need to take a 15-minute helicopter ride. Either that or take a cruise ship once the ice has melted.
\nWhere you’re staying: You’re limited to Ittoqqortoormiit Guesthouse, with a single bed costing AED270 a night.
\nItinerary: There aren’t many people to meet in Ittoqqortoormiit, but there’s a ton of things to do. In the summer months – when the midnight sun shines uninterrupted for two months straight – there’s kayaking and hiking. In winter, stop off at local tourist office Nanu Travel for trophy hunting, three-week dog sled trips into the national park and excursions to see the Northern Lights.
\nApproximate cost: AED9,000 (including flight to Reykjavik, onward flight and helicopter ride to Ittoqqortoormiit, accommodation and about AED2,000 spending money)
The most remote place on Earth
\nWhere: Kerguelen Islands, Indian Ocean
\nFor... the modern-day Robinson Crusoe-type, with a lot of cash to burn\nA small archipelago in the Indian Ocean that’s equidistant between Madagascar, Australia and Antarctica, these islands are more than 2,000 miles away from civilisation. You’ll have a smattering of military personnel and researchers to keep you company. And penguins. Lots of penguins.
\nHow to get there: Unsurprisingly, it’s tricky. The islands are only accessible via the Marion Dufresne, a French supply vessel that departs Réunion – a small island off Madagascar’s coast – four times a year. It costs AED32,500 for a spot on the 28-day voyage.
\nWhere you’re staying: Aboard the Marion Dufresne.
\nItinerary: You’re tied to the Dufresne’s schedule – which is all weather-dependent, by the way. Snowstorms permitting, it’s a six-day voyage before you even reach land. After three more days of seafaring, you’ll have four nights across the 300 islands that make up the Kerguelen archipelago. Expect volcanic coastlines, fjords and elephant seals, before the Dufresne’s crew treats you to a tour of an old Norwegian whaling station – and a barbecue at a research outpost.
\nApproximate cost: AED36,000 (flight to Réunion via Paris and passage on the boat)
\n(SOPHIE LAUTIER/AFP/Getty Images)