Six Unique Travel Ideas Through Steve McCurry’s Camera Lens

If the thrill of off-the-beaten-path travel destinations induces your urge to explore, why stick to the conventional? In increasing quantities, travelers are seeking more immersive experiences in lesser-traveled destinations — from remote islands in the Pacific Ocean to vast landlocked countries that were previously overlooked. Hand-selected to inspire your next trip, the following unique travel destinations have been captured by a legend of alternative travel: Steve McCurry.

For the past couple of years, the era-defining photographer has been shining a light on villages, towns and even cities that still evade the mainstream; with each trip, McCurry seeks to capture authentic beauty, in its purest form. His passion for our beautiful planet has taken him to the farthest corners of the Earth. He has chronicled in images a rich diversity of landscapes, people, cultures, wildlife and experiences.

“It was the bell chiming in the distance, prayer flags fluttering in the wind, and chanting monks that touched my soul in a way few places can.”

Steve McCurry

Trekking to the jungles of East Africa, the tribal villages of Papua New Guinea, the emerald-green fields of Ireland and points beyond, McCurry has leveraged his photographic expertise to immortalize on camera some of the world’s truest treasures. These are places of jaw-dropping beauty, vanishing cultures or unexpected surprises. These are the places you might want to venture to before the rest of the world does.

Spotlighted below are six such undiscovered destinations chosen for their beauty from an array of contrasting landscapes — from towering mountains and a wind-swept desert to isolated highlands and a Pacific island jewel — all masterfully revealed through the lens of Steve McCurry.

1. Easter Island

Surrounded by the gorgeous Pacific and brimming with mystery, Easter Island calls to those eager to travel deeper to discover hidden travel gems. The closest mainland is Chile, roughly 2,300 miles (3,700 kilometers) away, and a cruise to Easter Island underscores its remoteness. Known locally as Rapa Nui, the island is home not only to mystifying moai statues, but its rocky fields are virtually overrun with wild horses. “These amazing animals are one of the island’s best-kept secrets. I was honored to photograph their majestic beauty,” says McCurry. Easter Island’s equine culture is celebrated in the annual Tapati Festival, when islanders compete in breathtaking horse races along the coast.

Alternative travel to Easter Island by Steve McCurry
Easter Island, Chile, 2018./ Photo by Steve McCurry

2. Bhutan

The snow-capped peaks, lush forests and sparkling lakes and rivers of Bhutan provide the perfect backdrop for a Buddhist kingdom focused on generating Gross National Happiness.

But beyond the natural attributes, such spiritual sites as the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, perched on a cliff overlooking the picturesque Paro Valley, can offer extraordinary life-enriching moments. “It was the bell chiming in the distance, prayer flags fluttering in the wind, and chanting monks that touched my soul in a way few places can,” recalls McCurry of his experience in Bhutan.

Alternative travel - Bhutan by Steve McCurry
Thimpu, Bhutan, 2018./ Photo by Steve McCurry

3. Svalbard, Norway

Svalbard sits atop the world in Arctic Norway. Among the most unique travel destinations, this pristine archipelago is best explored on a Zodiac excursion launched during an expedition cruise. Such was the case with McCurry’s experience here. He joined a Silversea expedition in the summer of 2017 to witness ancient glaciers, blue-hued ice floes and a panoply of wildlife, from soaring seabirds and breaching whales to napping walruses. “Having the chance to photograph the untouched natural beauty of Svalbard is a gratifying and humbling experience,” says McCurry. Millions of birds share my love of Svalbard. They flock to its steep dolerite cliffs each summer to create nesting colonies, not to mention incredible photo-worthy moments.

Unusual travel destinations by Steve McCurry
Svalbard, Arctic, 2017./ Photo by Steve McCurry

4. Mongolia

Steppe-laden Mongolia is a dream come true for those seeking an alternative travel experience. Within its vast landscape of wild grasslands, rugged mountains and vibrant blue lakes, a dwindling nomadic culture endures. Known for their hospitality, meeting Mongolian nomads can be transformative. “I was deeply moved by the reindeer herders of the taiga, and the Kazakh people of the Altai Mountains, who survive harsh winters by hunting with eagles,” says McCurry. “It’s remarkable how they live in harmony with an undisturbed wilderness.”

Alternative travel in Mongolia by Steve McCurry
Ulgii, Altai Region, Mongolia, 2018./Photo by Steve McCurry

5. Quito, Ecuador

Nestled high in the Andes, Ecuador’s capital, Quito, is highly valued as a gateway for the Galápagos Islands, yet the city itself is worthy of UNESCO World Heritage status, thanks to its charming Old Town. Built on the ruins of an Inca city, the historic center is awash in well-preserved Spanish colonial monuments, charming red-tiled roofs, colorful market stands and magnificent churches. It’s the kind of place a visual storyteller like McCurry can revel in.

Quito, Ecuador by Steve McCurry
Quito, Ecuador, 2017./Photo by Steve McCurry

6. Petra, Jordan

Few places evoke wonder like Jordan’s Petra, accessible from Aqaba, and the neighboring desert landscape of Wadi Rum. Between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba sits the city of Petra. Ancient Nabataeans built the city and a vibrant caravan trade enabled their accomplishment. McCurry sees Petra’s magnificent architecture, carved directly into rose-colored sandstone, as “a testament to the Nabataeans’ ability to gracefully conform with nature.” McCurry also traveled a short distance south of Petra to Wadi Rum. Here, he captured the enchanting beauty of its towering cliffs, massive wind-carved rocks, and desert sands.

alternative travel - steve mccurry
Wadi Rum, Jordan, 2019./Photo by Steve McCurry

Intrigued by unique travel? Check out Silversea’s global cruise itineraries to explore these and other locales.

Steve McCurry

Steve McCurry and Silversea Cruises

Steve McCurry has been one of the most iconic voices in contemporary photography for more than 30 years. His work spans conflicts, vanishing cultures, ancient traditions and contemporary culture alike — yet always retains the human element that made his celebrated image of the Afghan Girl such a powerful image.

McCurry has been recognized with some of the most prestigious awards in the industry, including the Robert Capa Gold Medal, the National Press Photographers Award, and four first prize awards from the World Press Photo contest.