10 ADVENTURES FOR 2008
Many journeys are memorable, but frankly, some are more memorable than others. The most unforgettable of all are those I call trophy trips – vacations that rank as adventures of a lifetime. Like flying around the world, biking through Spain or going on an African safari. They can be rigorous and physically demanding as well as expensive and time-consuming, but they all involve travel to spectacularly beautiful areas of the world. The easiest part? The planning, since I’ve done all the groundwork for you (and provided contact information on alternative, sometimes less expensive, outfitters as well). Prices are per person and do not include airfare unless noted.
AROUND THE WORLD
Phileas Fogg took 80 days to go around the world, but you can do it much faster with Airtreks, the leading specialist in around-the-world journeys. Their Web site has a planner that lets you plot every point on your trip, and it provides instant airfare pricing. A relatively straightforward itinerary New York to Los Angeles, Tokyo, Singapore, Bangkok, New Delhi, Rome and New York is priced from $2,317. But I put together a whopper of a trip that began in New York and went to Paris, Athens, Cairo, Mumbai (Bombay), Kolkata (Calcutta), Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Denpasar (Bali), Sydney, Auckland, Santiago, Buenos Aires and back to New York that starts at $4,557. These fares were in economy class, but Airtreks also sells business-class tickets for around-the-world flights. For example, Los Angeles round-trip to six Asian cities and Frankfurt costs $3,995. Flights are on regularly scheduled airlines, and the length of each stop is very flexible, should you have the time.
You come to this vast region in southern Argentina and Chile to experience one of the most pristine landscapes in the world, to hike in the biosphere reserve of Torres del Paine National Park and to walk across the Perito Moreno Glacier. Backroads has a nine-day trip that encompasses the most dramatic peaks and glaciers, with time in both Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares national parks. While you should be in good shape for this trip, Backroads offers easier walking options on several days. The trip is priced at $4,498.
For many of us, a safari is the perfect combination of wildlife and adventure. So consider a trip with the industry leader, Micato Safaris. While they offer a number of itineraries, their 15-day Micato Grand Safari in Kenya and Tanzania represents a sort of greatest hits, if you will. It includes a stay in Masai country at Amboseli Park and an overnight at the legendary Mount Kenya Safari Club, then travels on to the Masai Mara, Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater. It includes an early morning hot air balloon safari. Summer rates begin at $12,800, with an airfare supplement of $2,285.
If you’re not a climber, heli-hiking is a way to walk and hike among the great peaks of North America. On this trip, helicopters airlift you high into the Canadian Rockies from comfortable base camp lodges. You should be in good shape for these walks, but you don’t need technical climbing skills. Companies such as Canadian Mountain Holidays give you a variety of choices. One is a six-night lodge-to-lodge trip, where you spend three nights each at the Adamant and Monashee lodges with a heli transfer in between. You sleep in comfort, eat well and hike every day. Choose an easy or a strenuous hike. The price is $4,920 CN.
This adventure starts in Whitby on the North Sea and goes through the changing landscape of the national parks of the North York Moors, the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District to the Irish Sea. You literally walk over hill and dale, through picture-postcard villages and past historic sites. The entire Distant Journeys trip takes 16 days, with 12 days of moderate and strenuous walking to cover the 130-mile coast-to-coast itinerary. You’ll stay at venerable old inns or bed and breakfasts along the way, and there’s plenty of time to stop for afternoon tea and an end-of-the-day pint at the local pub. The cost is $4,250.
There’s really only one way to behold the Lost City of the Incas, and that’s to approach it on foot, on a jungle trek that mimics the explorations of Hiram Bingham, who "discovered" the city in 1911. But the Peruvian government limits the number of people who can hike the Inca Trail to the ruins to 500 per day. So you need to sign up far in advance to get one of the coveted slots. And you should also be quite fit, since you’ll be hiking at altitudes of more than 13,000 feet and up to nine miles per day. REI Adventures offers a 10-day trip that includes trekking with local Quechua-speaking porters, three nights of camping along the Inca Trail and six nights of hotel lodging, including overnights in Cuzco. The cost is $2,999 for REI Members (lifetime membership is $15), plus a $300 charge for internal airfare.
The pilgrims’ trail across northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela was blazed in the year 814, the story goes, when a hermit named Pelayo followed the stars and discovered the tomb of the apostle Saint James. It has since become a route trod both by pilgrims and by those seeking a meaningful way to see the country. On this trip, redolent of the Middle Ages, you follow the scallop shell, the sign of Saint James, through small villages, past Celtic stone huts and into major cities like Burgos and Leon. Easy Rider Tours, which runs a 12-day biking trip from Burgos for $4,450, describes the terrain as "moderate to hilly, over both paved roads and hardpack dirt trails." The price includes the use of a 24- or 27-speed bike.
When it comes to the Himalayas, Bhutan is the grand prize maybe because it’s a deeply spiritual land, where monks still dwell in 17th-century citadels, or because it provides some of the most exciting trekking imaginable. Geographic Expeditions offers Sacred Summits of Bhutan: To Chomolhari and Jitchu Drake Base Camps. At 24,033 feet, Chomolhari is Bhutan’s guardian peak and sits on the China-Bhutan border. This rigorous trek goes through remote villages and valleys filled with sheep, takin and yaks. The 17-day trip starts at $4,995 with eight nights of camping and an airfare supplement of $816.Geographic Expeditions: 800/777-8183; or Butterfield & Robinson 866/551-9090
One of the finest treks in the world, the 33-mile Milford Track is a long-distance path that goes through the heart of New Zealand’s most dramatic fjord country, a place of mountains, waterfalls and rain forest, with stunning views of glacial peaks on the South Island. The 11-day New Zealand Private Journey from Wilderness Travel includes four days of hiking on the Milford Track, with accommodations in lodges each night. You then go on to Abel Tasman National Park for more hiking as well as sea kayaking. The price is $3,295, plus a $895 supplement for internal airfare. Wilderness Travel: 800/368-2794; or Active New Zealand: 800/661-9073
This is the ultimate voyage, a chance to explore the seventh continent in the company of knowledgeable guides and scientists. Lindblad Expeditions calls its voyage Antarctica the White Continent, a 15-day trip on the 110-passenger National Geographic Endeavour. Spend six days in Antarctica with opportunities to explore in Zodiacs and paddle in sea kayaks alongside National Geographic experts. Rates begin at $9,530, including round-trip flights from Santiago to Ushuaia.