The Afar Guide to
The Natural World

When the hustle and bustle of city life becomes too much, it's time to take a break and swap your glass-and-steel skylines for vistas of natural rock, rushing water, and endless sky. Yes, there is still a wide-open natural world out there where you can unwind, explore, and even get lost. There are plenty of ways to dive in, whether you crave a full digital detox that requires leaving the cell phone and modern civilization behind, a short trip into the African bush to seek out the big five before returning to your glamorous lodge, or a trip to the mountain that ends with climbing up the mountain.

The World's Most Alluring Natural Escapes
There's nothing like escaping into nature and going off the grid to recharge your body and mind. And just because you're exploring the natural world, doesn't mean you can't do it in style. From five-star safari lodges in Africa to five-star "glamping" in the United States, here are our favorite natural escapes around the planet.
The Planet's Greatest Natural Wonders
From waterfalls to wild landscapes and UNESCO World Heritage sites to the almost alien world beneath the sea, we invite you to explore the greatest natural wonders on the planet.
Get Active, Get Outdoors
There is really no better way to explore the natural world than on foot, by boat, or on a bike—and in many cases, it's the only way! From cycling in America's national parks to summiting the highest mountain on all seven continents, here are some amazing ways to immerse yourself in the natural world.
10 Tips for Leaving Only Footprints: Sustainable Travel in the Natural World
When it comes to exploring the natural world, it's imperative to do so in a sustainable fashion. The environment is under enough stress already without you doing more damage while hiking around a national park or snorkeling a still-thriving coral reef. The key is to take only photos and leave only footprints. Here are 10 ways to help.
1
Don't take it with you. That driftwood on the beach or hunk of washed-up coral may seem harmless to take home as a souvenir, but imagine if everyone did the same thing. That starts to change the entire ecosystem. Don't do it.
2
Carbon offset. If you're flying to your destination, consider flying with one of the 30-plus member airlines of the IATA around the world that offer carbon offset programs. These help neutralize the airplane's carbon emissions by investing in carbon reduction projects like tree planting or wind energy investments.
3
Eco-friendly rides. If you are taking a road trip and your car is a gas guzzler, rent an eco-friendly hybrid for the journey. These use less fuel than a regular car and also produce less carbon emissions, thus reducing your footprint.
4
Use a water filtration device rather than plastic. If you're traveling to a region where the quality of the drinking water isn’t reliable, instead of using dozens of plastic bottles, bring your own wide-lipped water bottle and a water filtration device like the SteriPen Adventurer. It’s lightweight and uses UV light to purify a liter of water in about a minute, which you do simply by stirring the device inside the filled bottle.
5
Bring eco-friendly soaps. If camping or staying in hostels where you'll be doing your own dishes, bring eco-friendly dish soap. This ensures you don't pollute the water with non-biodegradable washing products.
6
Be green in the hotel. If you're staying in the United States you can check if a hotel has LEED certification before booking—try to stay only in the properties that do as they have been recognized for their eco-friendliness. Regardless, there are steps you can take to be sustainable in a hotel. This includes turning everything off when you leave—lights, air-con/heat, and TV—as well as not having your towels laundered each day.
7
Privacy, please. Take the above to the next level. Opt out of the housekeeping service at hotels by leaving the "Do Not Disturb" or "Privacy" signs on the door for your entire stay. This will keep your sheets from being washed unnecessarily or your floors being vacuumed, both of which cause energy to be wasted.
8
Respect wildlife. This is especially important when hiking areas rich with wild animals. View that grizzly bear from a safe distance rather than edging in looking for the perfect Instagram. Not only do you risk getting mauled (or worse), but if you do, the bear will most certainly lose its life for your stupidity. Wild animals are wild. Keep them that way.
9
Pick up trash. Not only should you pack out your own trash when hiking or backpacking (obviously), but also bring along an extra trash bag and clean up any garbage you see on the trail along the way. You'll be paying it forward for future hikers and helping sustain the environment. Now that's something you can proudly brag about on Instagram.
10
Live local. Connecting with new friends is another way to feed your mind on the road. Eat your way into the heart of a new culture with EatWith, which allows home cooks around the world to invite you in for dinner. Want a truly local guide? Vayable and even the new Airbnb Experiences pair travelers with locals who have similar interests.
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Becca Blond, The Natural World Curator

Becca Blond is an award winning freelance travel writer based in Denver, Colorado. She is the author of more than 30 Lonely Planet guides across five continents and contributes content to publications like USA Today, The Guardian, Los Angeles Times, AFKTravel, Cadillac Magazine and Jetsetter. She is also a Personal Travel Planner for Jetsetter. When not on the road she lives with her three dogs, Duke, Bobbi and Poppy, who assist with pet friendly hotel reviews. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @PlanetBlond or check out her blog at Totally True Adventures in Travel Writing.