Farflung travel makes up some of the most memorable travels I’ve ever experienced. Now I’m into all kinds of free travel, and all kinds of travel. Relaxing on a beach is kind of my ideal day. But in terms of ideal travel, most of the time my most desired destinations are farflung.
By “farflung” I mean a place very far from where we’re from in terms of experience. That’s my kick. Even going to northern Bali you can see strange festivals that are about as culturally different as you can get. Experiences you won’t have at home. Remote places, weird places, culturally different places. When I can find a place like this to use my points, I do.
1) Tibet, China: Four Points Lhasa – 7,000 SPG points
Tibet is home to the highest mountain (Mt. Everest), although “Tibet” covers an enormous area (like China) and Lhasa is on a big plain at 12,000 feet elevation! An experience visiting there would be all kinds of interesting. The nature and the culture would be so interesting too.
I’ve wanted to go to Tibet for so long and have still not done a trip yet. Probably because I’m easily deterred by the hint of difficulty getting a visa, but now we have our 10 year Chinese Visa maybe we’ll go the extra mile for Tibet entrance.
If you’re into “farflung”, China is so different. Everywhere you go will surely be interesting. And from a miles and points perspective, you can stay in super nice hotels, all over the place, for super cheap. Many hotels scattered across China are category 1 and 2 hotels. And there are certainly places further in China (like Lijiang and Kunming) that have points hotels, but not as restrictive as Tibet.
China is farflung, but Tibet is more farflung. The best of the best by these standards.
2) Borneo, Malaysia: Batang Ai Longhouse Resort – 5,000 Hilton HHonors points
I have yet to even get to Borneo, but it seems to be about as remote and removed as you can get. It’s quite a trek to even get to the hotel in the jungle of Borneo. Reviews on the hotel are mixed, as some feel it’s too basic, or that it’s too boring/remote.
But if you’re looking for remote, you found it! And 5,000 points is nothing. As said earlier, I plan to get 180,000 HHonors points this month from 2 cards. See: 15 Credit Cards to Earn Hilton HHonors points.
Also, the Four Points by Sheraton Sandakan is an SPG category 1 (2,000 to 3,000 points) on the east coast of Borneo. Seems like a launching point but not itself as surrounded by nature. Another great place for an SPG and a Hyatt on Borneo is Kota Kinabalu. KK seems like a great place to visit, way more realistic, and an even better launching point.
3) Maasai Mara, Kenya: Fairmont Mara Safari Club – 2 night certs
I actually wrote a post on African Safari hotels on points, and one of the best options is the Fairmont in Maasai Mara. It’s actually just outside the park (so you’ll have to pay $80 per person to get in everyday), but it’s a nice area and it’s one of the “luxury camping” styled hotels.
Maasai Mara is also farflung in culture. It was so interesting hanging out with the people there. Talking about daily life as a tribe member, how many wives they have, and how the young men of the tribe used to have to kill a lion with a spear to be a man and marry.
The safari time was amazing.
Fairmont doesn’t actually do the points thing, but their credit card (a Chase card) gives you two free nights at any Fairmont for signing up. Still free.
4) Varanasi or Amritsar, India – 15,000 Club Carlson points
The most farflung place I’ve been (in terms of cultural experiences) was probably Varanasi. I’m not sure I recommend going though, as it is an overwhelming experience, to say the least… So I’m providing one of the easiest farflung experiences in India as an alternative.
Radisson Varanasi. The hotel is away from the Ganges River itself, but taxis in India are cheaper than even the food. I think we paid $1.50 for the long taxi to the Ganges.
The Ganges is… intense. Super intense. It’s totally wild seeing all the people bathing in such filth. But the most overwhelming parts were the crowds and the trash around the city. Just so much intensity. As my friend said, “faith and filth”. Google image search Varanasi and imagine that with incredible crowds, trash, and smells.
Radisson or Country Inn & Suites, Amritsar. Amritsar’s “Golden Temple” is one of my favorite places in India. An absolutely wonderful experience I recommend it to everyone. So peaceful, so unique, and it’s inspiring. They also have a free kitchen next to it where we ate and they feed thousands and thousands of people a day. It is sooo unique.
India is an adventure for anyone from the US as everything from the religion, to the history, to the cultural norms are incredibly different than our own. And luckily, there are super cheap points hotels all over India, similar to China.
5) Longyearbyen, Norway: Radisson Longyearbyen – 50,000 Club Carlson points
I learned of this from OneMileAtATime, and found out that this hotel claims to be the northern most “full service” hotel. I suppose that means that you can rent out an igloo somewhere, but it’s not really a hotel like a Radisson is a hotel.
Pretty unique, and it appears to be similar to an Iceland experience. But my google image searches produce really bleh results. Very gray and brown. Not my heart’s desire, but I’ve also never been to Iceland either. I’m sure if I went it would be awesome.
6) Iguazu Falls, Argentina: Sheraton Iguazu Resort & Spa – 12,500 to 16,000 SPG points
Ya gotta love the fact that TripAdvisor says “#1 of 1 Hotels in Iguazu National Park”. This is the best hotel in the national park… because it’s the only one.
Being in the middle of the Rainforest at one of the biggest waterfalls in the world (way bigger than Niagara Falls). Many friends have been and rave about the remote experience. And that’s what this is- this is a nature experience. You don’t get this experience in a visit to DC.
7) Cusco Peru: JW Marriott Cusco – 35,000 Marriott points
Yes, Cusco is the most touristy place in Peru, but the mountains are super farflung. The JW Marriott and the Starwood hotels are probably not “farflung” but if you’re willing to explore a little, wow. The indigenous people in Peru live far different lives.
I don’t expect people to do what we did: hitchhiked a bus (long story), taxi’d around the most dangerous road in the world (a dirt road about car-width 200 meters above a river), and hiked along train tracks… all to get to Machu Picchu. But I can tell you we had the adventure of a lifetime, and came across some of the most interesting characters I’ve ever seen. Including an indigenous woman who also hitchhiked the bus in the highest part of our trip in the Andes. She obviously lived in some kind of hut, took care of animals, wore handmade clothes, and was hooked on those Coca leaves.
The most farflung cultural trips we’ve done in the Americas… by a long shot.
Just saying “China and India” would have been list enough. Just to some place in northern India… or some place not Goa, and you’ll have an interesting cultural experience. Or go to inland China, like some place not Beijing or Shanghai, and you’ll have an interesting cultural experience. I guarantee it… or… you just didn’t leave the Park Hyatt.
In fact, the entire continent of Asia, as diverse as it is, is totally different. The Middle East, India, China, or even Thailand. Even in many touristy places in Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, etc… the culture is still fascinating. I could spend my entire life exploring Southeast Asia and be fine with it (if we didn’t value seeing our home community).
People saying “Africa” as if it’s a single tiny country is my pet peeve. Like “I hear there is a lot of crime in Syria, Serbia and Africa”, as if Africa is all the same. It’s not. A few places are war torn, and most places are very peaceful. That being said… traveling to Africa is always a different experience. I’ve never been to the touristy island of Zanzibar, but I’m sure even that is a unique experience, and a great one at that.
Going some place really different is my favorite part of travel.
If you have any suggestions for hotel redemptions in farflung places, then please let me know. I’m always looking to combine my passion of burning hotel points with my passion of farflung travel.