One of the best things about attending the Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS) every year is that I get to meet people who run small adventure travel companies from all over the globe.
Now wait, this is not as absurd as it sounds. If you live in the United States, as I do, and you’re interested in adventure travel, you probably know about Backroads, Butterfield & Robinson, Duvine, Ciclismo Classico and The Wayfarers. And maybe O.A.R.S., Mountain Travel Sobek and R.O.W.
These are all estimable companies. But I’m talking about small companies that may operate in one region or even a single country. Run by locals who have top notch operations and can offer you a terrific trip at a terrific price. They not only speak the local dialect, they may well have grown up there. And they can provide you with an insider’s view of the countryside no matter what sport you’re attempting.
At last October’s ATWS in Lucerne, Switzerland, I met and spoke with dozens of such operators. Here are three that I thought were standouts:
I love Japan and I have always wanted to see more of the countryside on foot. Enter Oxalis Adventures., an English company with one foot in Japan (so to speak) that offers such walking tours. Their signature trip is the “Nakasendo Trail,” which is four days of walking on a 12 day trip that covers Tokyo, Kyoto and Nara. But for fitter types, they can take you off the beaten path on the “Kumano Ancient Trail,” a nine day trip with five days of moderate to strenuous walking on the sacred KiiPeninsula. The trip is priced from 2,145 UK pounds, (about $3,354) http://www.oxalis-adventures.com/
Vagabond offers small group adventure tours of Ireland. This is a world away from the “tour” of Ireland that your parents or grandparents did, the classic mad dash in a bus from Donegal to Waterford with time for tea in Dublin in between. Using specially designed Land Rivers, Vagabond does tours like the six day “The Edge of the World,” which visits the Dingle, Beara and Iveragh (Ring of Kerry) peninsulas, with hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking and sea kayaking (additional charges for some of these activities). The price is E1039 (about $1,411). They also offer a variety of other tours, including an eight day “Wild Irish Rover” tour that covers the southwest and west of Ireland and a seven day “North by Northwest” tour of the country. For those with limited vacation days – i.e. most Americans – the shorter tours are a godsend. http://vagabondtoursofireland.ie/vagabond/
SpiceRoads Cycle Tours
This company’s motto is “See Asia by Bicycle” and this strikes me as a great idea. “Riding Regal Rajasthan’ is a 12-day trip through one of India’s most colorful areas while “Cycling Sikkim’s Tea Trails” is a rugged trip for those who really want to explore one of Asia’s most remote countries. But no destination in Asia is hotter right now than Burma, so I’m intrigued by their “Burma Adventure,” a 14-day trip that goes to Bagan, Mandalay, and the shores of InleLake. Priced at $3,550, it would be an amazing way to see this extraordinary Asian kingdom up close.