5x Pure Place: from volcano Erta Ale to Norwegian Arctic hideaway

In the section Pure Place we take you to special remote places in the world. To hidden gems and gems that deserve attention, such as the Tawang monastery, the hottest place Erta Ale and beach paradise Whariki beach.

Text: Angelique van Os


1. Tawang Monastery, India

Rubbing against the roof of the world, and enclosed between the border area of China and Bhutan, lies the hidden urban district of Tawang. It belongs to the Indian state of Arunchal Pradesh and is located in the valley of Tawang Chu, along an ancient caravan route. Due to the changeable weather conditions, the area can be difficult to reach. Photographer Henk Bothof experienced this firsthand when he had to stay five days longer during his second visit in 2009 due to heavy snowfall. The culture of Tawang has been strongly influenced by the Tibetans and the Buddhist way of life.

Famous monastery

The location of the city is not only beautiful, it is especially famous for the second oldest and largest monastery in Asia: the Tawang Ganden Namgyal Lhatse, which is part of Gompas, a number of monasteries in the area.

The monastery is located two kilometers outside the town, on top of a mountain and has three floors. It is enclosed by a wall more than 280 meters long. Within the complex are 65 residential buildings, including a primary school and museum. The library of the monastery has valuable ancient writings, mainly Tibetan and Buddhist Kangyur and Tengyur.

Holy place

The monastery owes its name to an ancient legend. The horse of the founder, Merag Lodroe Gyamtso, is said to have ‘chosen’ the current divine location around 1680-81. The monk Gyamtso was sent on a mission by the fifth Dalai Lama to found a monastery. After an intense search, he failed to find a suitable location and retreated to pray and take shelter in a cave. When he wanted to move on, his horse turned out to have disappeared. He found the animal grazing on the mountaintop Tana Mandekhang, where the palace of King Kala Wangpo used to be located. For Gyamtso this was a divine signal and so he established his monastery on this holy place.

Serene and peaceful atmosphere

More than 400 years later, the monastery and its inhabitants still exude a serene and peaceful atmosphere. Henk especially remembers the warmth of the monks; drinking tea together, the rooms filled with candles and the meditative chants. And how special it is to get an impression of the sober life of the Buddhists. Who knows, you might find photos of Henk in the office of the head monk, because they seem to be on his cupboard.

Extra tips: also visit the Gorsam Chorton Zemihang stupa (92 km from Tawang) and Nuranang waterfall about 40 km from Tawang. For more info look HERE .

Photography: Henk Bothof


2. Arctic Hideaway, Norway

Far from civilization, in the north of Norway, the special residence The Arctic Hideaway is located an hour’s boat ride from the port of Bødo. Here you can enjoy the raw Norwegian nature from the island of Fleinvær with an amazing view over a beautiful archipelago. It is a pure place where you don’t have to do anything and everything is allowed. Relax, reset, read a good book and immerse yourself in your own thoughts and let them guide you. And of course getting closer to nature, because there is nothing else on the island. There are only a few other residents, but shops, modern infrastructure and cars are absent.

Immersion chamber

The compact complex consists of ten houses, of which the iconic Tower House at a higher location is a real eye-catcher. Four houses serve as bedrooms for a maximum of 8 to 10 people and give access to other multifunctional spaces. In Norwegian, The Arctic Hideaway is called Fordpingsrommet , which means immersion chamber. And that is exactly the mission of the creators: they want to intoxicate their guests with an oasis of peace. Your dog is also welcome and you can go to the sauna.

Hotbed for creativity

In addition, there is room for creativity, reflection and new ideas. To bring like-minded people together. It is possible for artists (as an artist in Residence) to rent one or more spaces that can serve as a studio or music studio. Founder Håvard Lund is also a composer and was inspired by this fascinating place. He also likes to give others the opportunity to work on new creative projects.


Those who want to explore the area or are looking for something more action can request excursions. For example, it is possible to visit the nearby islands by canoe or boat, watch birds, look for shells and mussels and or walk to the highest mountain top (990 meters). Please inquire about the best travel time to undertake certain activities or to plan your visit. Weather conditions and temperature are quite variable per season and transport to and from the island differs quite a bit per summer/winter.

A stay at The Arctic Hideaway is not cheap and varies quite a bit per package, but then you also have some.

Want to read more about Norway? Look HERE for tips in Kristiansand (tip 2).

3. Whariki Beach & Totos Café, New Zealand

Anyone visiting the South Island cannot avoid one of the major highlights: Abel Tasman . This is New Zealand’s most visited national park, which is mainly due to the pearly white beaches, the idyllic bays and the wooded hills, which change into rainforest in the north. Abel Tasman borders one of the largest parks in the South Island, Kahurangi.

Cape Farewell

Yet there are a number of places where you hardly meet people, such as the remote Cape Farewell and Wharariki Beach , the northernmost tip of the coastline. We do not choose the direct route to the beach, but make a detour along and through the meadows where various herds of sheep graze. After half an hour the path ends in the meadow that borders a surprising oasis of exotic palm trees and a picturesque lake where birds breed and frolic.

A little further on, a gate appears with behind it a winding forest path that leads to a breathtaking beach. For a long time we have had this idyllic place all to ourselves. Although, we are accompanied by a seal who steals the show at a suitable distance by rolling in the sand. Unfortunately, due to the rising tide, we cannot walk to the other side of the beach, but that also has something magical, because this is a true paradise. A pure place pur sang.

Food with a fantastic view

For food with a great view, visit Totos Café & Gallery. The views over Wainui Bay are breathtaking. Totos Café & Gallery is located about three kilometers from the Wainui Falls , with which you can combine a nice walk, because these falls are definitely worth it and not crowded. This area is on the ‘quiet’ side of Abel Tasman . The reason that there is a pizzeria annex café here in no man’s land on a mountain has to do with cheap land and on the other side of the mountain, about ten kilometers away, is a DOC (Department of Conservation) campsite that is regularly full.

Small changing exhibitions are displayed in the café, and the staff is partly of French descent. A quirky combination. The quality of both the stone oven prepared pizzas and the flat white of organic coffee is excellent and the beautiful surroundings complete the picture. By the way, you can also eat gluten-free and vegetarian food here.

Totos Cafe & Gallery 400 Totaranui Road | totoscafegallery@gmail.com| +64 (0)21 187 1849

Photography: Angelique van Os

4. Los Roques, Venezuela

Given all the political unrest, Venezuela is not the most common travel destination, but it has a lot to offer in terms of untouched nature. In 2017 Henk visited the Latin American country and came across Los Roque. This is an archipelago with pearly white beaches, which only attracts 50,000 (mainly Venezuelan) visitors every year. It is located 160 kilometers north of the coast of Caracas .

The archipelago consists of approximately 350 islands, of which Gran Roque is the only one inhabited. About 150 families live there. Los Roques is known for the incredible crystal clear water in different shades of blue. In addition, with its 225,000 hectares, the area is the largest marine park in the Caribbean . Incidentally, you will find mangrove swamps where a lot of life flourishes, as well as untouched corals. A unique ecosystem.

Activities Los Roques

It’s also good in terms of activities: you can go island hopping, diving, snorkeling, kite surfing, fly fishing or bird watching. On the island of Dos Mosquises you will find a sea turtle research center, with a special breeding program and information center for visitors. For more information look here .

Photography: Henk Bothof

5. Erta Ale, Ethiopia

The Danakil Depression is located in the northeast of the Afar region. The Ethiopian area is one of the hottest places on earth with an average temperature of 34.4C. But it is also very dry, there is only 100 to 200 mm of rain per year. And furthermore it is one of the lowest locations in the world; 125 meters below sea level. Above all, the volcano Erta Ale is very active here and you can see it up close.

Boiling lava lake

Thanks to its boiling lava lake, the active volcano Erta Ale is, according to Henk, one of the most impressive phenomena he has seen in Ethiopia. Henk has been visiting Ethiopia for over twenty years and has been there eighteen times. Henk: “To reach the volcano you have to drive more than 80 kilometers on one of the worst roads in the world, but you quickly forget the conditions thanks to the beautiful, almost otherworldly landscape.”

Volcanic fireworks

After the turbulent road trip, a tough trekking of three to four hours follows. You arrive in the dark so that the experience of the boiling, luminous and exploding lava is even more intense. You can stand for hours on the edge of the Erta Ale volcano to observe this fireworks in its purest form up close, but at an appropriate distance.

Also read the Photo Story about the salt flat of the Danakil.

Photography: Henk Bothof


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