World's Top Adventure Trips

  • Riding on horseback with Austin-Lehman Adventures.

    Photo: Dennis Coello

    1 of 41

    T+L has surveyed the field to create the ultimate directory of adventure trips around the globe, each listed with a top outfitter.

    From March 2010 By

    Wave-battered headlands ripped past us, shrouded in fog, as the tiny plane banked and turned, weaving along the ramparts of the rugged coast. Abruptly, the pilot steered into a bay where the receding tide had laid bare a broad patch of sand. Down we floated and stepped out to find ourselves in a valley of riotous green. There were no houses, no roads. Only the tallest peaks even had names. At that moment I knew that I had been transported, not only to another place in the world, but to another way of living in it.

    My first trip to Alaska, a dozen years ago, cemented a long-gestating passion for adventure travel. And in the years since, that passion has spread around the globe. Never have there been so many people who want to see and experience the farthest corners of the world, and never have there been so many adventure-tour companies, of such high caliber, offering such a wide range of destinations and activities. We’re living in a golden age of adventure.

    Adventure isn’t just about escaping into the wild, of course. It’s about engaging and committing yourself no matter what you’re doing. “People today have the mind-set of wanting to master things,” says Keith Walden of Virtuoso, a network of luxury travel agencies. “They want to go and dive in and learn and be hands-on.”

    For a truly profound experience, adventure travelers should plan on spending at least a week. One needn’t endure rough living conditions; some of the wildest landscapes on earth can be enjoyed in luxury tented camps or sumptuous lodges like those operated by Explora, in remote corners of South America. One of the company’s guided excursions heads across the Bolivian altiplano, one of the world’s most rugged environments.

    Travelers pursuing personal transformation are increasingly looking for trips that include immersion in a foreign culture or a chance to volunteer on behalf of a worthy cause. Journey Mexico, for instance, focuses on Mexico’s cultural and natural heritage and brings guests on trips that involve weighing, tagging, and releasing endangered sea turtles on the coastline of Baja California.

    Then again, if it’s a profoundly life-changing experience you’re after, there’s nothing like a really long journey in a truly remote region. Wilderness Travel conducts 29-day treks on the Tibetan Plateau, which kick off in Kathmandu and ascend to a base camp within 8,000 feet of Everest’s summit. Along the way, guests explore the ancient monasteries of the Lhasa valley.

    While the ongoing financial meltdown may have temporarily taken the wind out of adventure travel’s sails, the state of uncertainty only makes the quest for adventure all the more relevant. As I write in my new book, Extreme Fear, times of crisis have a way of deepening our sense of connection and purpose. After all, as far as we may travel, the real destination lies inside.

    *All rates are per person and include lodging; airfare not included.

  • Austin-Lehman Adventures

    Photo: Dennis Coello

    2 of 41

    Yellowstone: Trekking, Walking & Biking

    Explore the Serengeti of the American West. Raft the Yellowstone River and ride horseback into the Absaroka Mountains.

    Go with: Austin-Lehman Adventures, which specializes in multi-sport tours through the American West and beyond, with luxurious amenities and top-notch guides. June–September departures; six days from $1,198.

  • Boundless Journeys

    Photo: Courtesy of Boundless Journeys

    3 of 41

    Chile: Local Culture

    Trek through the Andes along the Futaleufú River, then switch to kayaks to reach the Pacific Ocean.

    Go with: Boundless Journeys—ninety percent of their trip leaders are natives of the destinations they guide in, providing real cultural immersion. February 26–March 6; nine days from $2,895.

  • Backroads

    Photo: Backroads / Markham Johnson

    4 of 41

    Thailand: Trekking, Walking & Biking

    Pedal through the Golden Triangle, with difficulty levels ranging from moderate (no more than 25 miles per day) to arduous (up to 57 miles per day).

    Go with: Backroads offers tours that combine cultural encounters with high-intensity cycling. December 30–January 6; eight days from $3,598.

  • Classic Journeys

    Photo: Edward Piegza, Classic Journeys

    5 of 41

    Costa Rica: Local Culture

    Zipline through a forest canopy, hike an active volcano, and learn from locals about their country.

    Go with: Classic Journeys, whose philosophy is that you can get as much of an adrenaline rush from chatting with a shepherd on a remote hillside as from shooting Class Three rapids through the rain forest. Monthly departures except in May and October; seven days from $2,995.

  • Gap Adventures

    Photo: Courtesy of Gap Adventures

    6 of 41

    Finland: Affordable

    Go dog-sledding, then relax in a log cabin or an igloo.

    Go with: Gap Adventures, a large, fast-growing outfitter that aims to provide intense experiences on a budget. Small groups use local transportation and guides to maximize authenticity and reduce expense. March 13–18; six days from $2,999.

  • Journey Mexico

    Photo: Courtesy of Journey Mexico

    7 of 41

    Mexico: Regional Specialists

    View gray whales and help weigh, tag, and release endangered sea turtles in conjunction with the Ocean Foundation.

    Go with: Journey Mexico, which was founded seven years ago by a young American couple and focuses on Mexico’s cultural and natural heritage. April 3–10; eight days from $2,495.

  • Butterfield & Robinson

    Photo: Courtesy of Butterfield & Robinson

    8 of 41

    France: Trekking, Walking & Biking

    Pedal from the premier cru wineries of Bordeaux to the medieval castles of the Dordogne Valley.

    Go with: Butterfield & Robinson, which will have you bicycling and hiking by day, and indulging in serious food and wine in the evenings. June–October departures; seven days from $6,995.

  • Petra

    Photo: George Fischer

    9 of 41

    Jordan: Safari

    Visit Petra and the Dead Sea and stay at an eco-lodge supported by the king of Jordan.

    Go with: Cox & Kings, the world’s oldest travel company. Founded in 1758 to provision British army regiments, it manages a global portfolio of tours with the savvy born of a far-flung empire. September–April departures; 13 days from $6,415.

  • OARS

    Photo: Photo by James Kaiser/ Courtesy of O.A.R.S.

    10 of 41

    Grand Canyon: River & Ocean

    Take a nonmotorized trip down the Colorado River’s most spectacular 225 miles.

    Go with: OARS, a pioneer in commercial river guiding that brings rafters and kayakers onto otherwise inaccessible waters. April–October departures; 16 days from $4,953.

  • Nomadic Expeditions

    Photo: Courtesy of Nomadic Expeditions

    11 of 41

    Mongolia: Regional Specialists

    Paddle across pristine Lake Hövsgöl, then travel to the Gobi for saddle time atop two-humped Bactrian camels.

    Go with: Nomadic Expeditions, who will take you camel and horse trekking in remote, mountainous western Mongolia, with many nights spent in traditional felt tents with wood-burning stoves. June–July departures; 13 days from $3,735.

  • Banff

    Photo: Courtesy of Fairmont Banff Springs

    12 of 41

    Western Canada: Luxury Adventure

    Explore the Rocky Mountains by train, take an evening wildlife safari hike, and learn about the geological formations of the Colombia ice fields in Jasper. You'll stay at Fairmont Lake Louise and trek through its surrounding forest, ending with a helicopter tour over Banff.

    Go with: Kensington Tours, which offers private custom tours with in-country offices, guides, vehicles, and 24/7 emergency support. Book freely; nine days from $4,365.
  • Explorer's Corner

    Photo: Courtesy of Explorer's Corner

    13 of 41

    The Galápagos Islands: River & Ocean

    Cruise the archipelago in a catamaran, exploring each new island on foot or by kayak.

    Go with: Explorer’s Corner, whose founder, Olaf Malver, specializes in trailblazing kayak journeys in remote polar settings. (He also runs mellow, warm-water trips.) December–August departures; 11 days from $4,910.

  • EpicQuest

    Photo: I.Dana / EpicQuest

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    Alaska: Off the Grid

    Spend mornings heli-skiing central Alaska’s Tordrillo Mountains and afternoons casting for king salmon.

    Go with: EpicQuest, whose guides moonlight as serious athletes—including Olympic gold medalist skier Tommy Moe—and serve up untracked powder and all-but-undiscovered surf breaks. June and July departures; five to six days from $8,650.

  • Abercrombie & Kent

    Photo: Courtesy of Abercrombie & Kent

    15 of 41

    East Africa: Safari

    Fly by private plane between wildlife viewing stops in Kenya and Tanzania.

    Go with: Abercrombie & Kent, which now runs tours on every continent and in more than 100 countries. But their signature trip remains the lavish tented African safari. January–March and June–December departures; 15 days from $16,210.

  • Adventure Out

    Photo: Tom McElroy

    16 of 41

    California Coast: Affordable

    Gather seafood and edible plants along the California coast.

    Go with: Adventure Out, which offers camping trips that combine breathtaking scenery with nitty-gritty wilderness survival education. August 12–15; four days from $425.

  • Aracari

    Photo: Courtesy of Aracari

    17 of 41

    Peru: Regional Specialists

    Visit Inca ruins and artists’ workshops as you travel the length of the country.

    Go with: Aracari, a Peruvian-owned and -operated boutique firm, offers treks with access to Andean regions of Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. Year-round departures; 16 days from $7,499.

  • Frontiers

    Photo: Courtesy of Frontiers

    18 of 41

    Seychelles: River & Ocean

    Cast over the saltwater flats of the Seychelles’ remote St. Joseph’s Atolls for fierce but elusive bonefish.

    Go with: Frontiers who, with four decades’ experience, offers a huge range of trips to some of the most exotic fishing spots on six continents. March–May departures; six days from $7,600.

  • Explora

    Photo: Ian M L Jones / Alamy

    19 of 41

    Bolivia: Off the Grid

    Journey across the Bolivian altiplano, one of the world’s most rugged environments.

    Go with: Explora, who in 2005 launched Travesías, a series of guided expeditions from its three remote luxury adventure lodges into the surrounding terrain. April–November departures; 11 days from $3,380.

  • &Beyond

    Photo: andBeyond

    20 of 41

    South Africa:Safari

    Learn how to be a big-game ranger at Phinda Private Game Reserve.

    Go with: andBeyond, the plugged-in, South Africa–based luxury outfitter (formerly known as CC Africa) that owns 46 lodges and camps across Africa and India. March–September departures; three days from $2,043.

  • Geographic Expeditions

    Photo: GeoEx.com

    21 of 41

    Bhutan: Local Culture

    Tour the mountain kingdom’s temples with the noted Buddhist scholar.

    Go with: Geographic Expeditions, whose clients are willing to endure the very occasional bumpy road or night in a tent, in the pursuit of remarkable experiences. May 10–22; 13 days from $8,495.

  • Mountain Travel Sobek

    Photo: Courtesy of Mountain Travel Sobek

    22 of 41

    India: River & Ocean

    Descend from the Tibetan border through intense Class Four and Five rapids, with stops to meet indigenous subsistence hunters.

    Go with: Mountain Travel Sobek. Whether climbing mountains or rafting on white water, few outfitters can rival the adventure chops and experience of this 40-year-old firm. December 4–21; 18 days from $4,995.

  • Lindblad Expeditions

    Photo: Courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions

    23 of 41

    Antarctica, Falklands, and South Georgia: Off the Grid

    Travel from Ushuaia, Argentina, to Antarctica and back, following parts of Ernest Shackleton’s route.

    Go with: Lindblad Expeditions. In 1966, Lars-Eric Lindblad led the first passenger cruise to Antarctica, pioneering tourism on the continent. Today, his namesake company sails a fleet of eight ships to some of the world’s most remote destinations, from the Arctic Ocean to the Antarctic Peninsula. November 7–30; 24 days from $18,450.

  • Myths & Mountains

    Photo: Courtesy of Myths and Mountains

    24 of 41

    Vietnam: Affordable

    Motorcycling the Ho Chi Minh Trail from Hanoi to Saigon on a 250 cc bike.

    Go with: Myths & Mountains, which leads Asian and South American trips that connect with local cultures in creative ways, such as taking part in shamanic rituals in Ecuador and visiting Khmer temples at dawn. March 8–24; 16 days from $6,595.

  • Journeys by Design

    Photo: Courtesy of Journeys by Design

    25 of 41

    Africa: Regional Specialists

    Tour the Great Rift Valley with legendary paleontologist Richard Leakey.

    Go with: Journeys by Design. Owner Will Jones spent 25 years in six African countries before returning to the U.K. to open a shop dealing exclusively with the continent he knows best. June–September departures; seven days from $8,490.

  • Machu Pichu

    Photo: Courtesy of Country Walkers

    26 of 41

    Peru: Trekking, Walking & Biking

    Explore Andean archaeological sites along the Inca Trail.

    Go with: Country Walkers for gentle walks and a focus on interaction with locals (such as lessons with schoolchildren in India or lunch with villagers in Costa Rica). May–December departures; eight days from $3,898.

  • Elevate Destinations

    Photo: Courtesy of Elevate Destinations

    27 of 41

    Sahara Desert: Local Culture

    Twelve days trekking with bedouin guides across the sands on foot and camel, with some rest days.

    Go with: Elevate Destinations, a small, five-year-old company that promotes carbon-neutral activities and donates five percent of each trip’s revenues to local communities. March, April, September, and October departures; 15 days from $3,500.

  • Quark Expeditions

    28 of 41

    North Pole: Off the Grid

    Crunch through pack ice to some 90 degrees north.

    Go with: Quark Expeditions, whose two polar-class icebreaker ships—one nuclear powered, and both equipped with helicopters and Zodiacs—make it the go-to outfit for getting to the remotest ice-bound spots. July 9–23; 14 days from $22,690.

  • Ker & Downey

    Photo: Courtesy of Sanctuary Baines’ Camp

    29 of 41

    Botswana: Safari

    A hands-on elephant conservation project in Botswana that includes a chance for guests to attach a radio collar.

    Go with: Ker & Downey, an outfitter that aims to provide life-changing experiences through environmental conservation and social philanthropy. April–December departures; 12 days from $16,550.

  • Wilderness Travel

    Photo: Tom Shima / Wilderness Travel

    30 of 41

    Tibet: Affordable

    On the Tibetan plateau, ascend to a base camp within 8,000 feet of Everest’s summit.

    Go with: Wilderness Travel. Since its founding in 1978, this adventure company has developed a vast range of trips, including a line called WT Expeditions: rugged, one-off explorations dreamed up as the particular passions of individual guides. July–August departures; 30 days from $9,295.

  • Latin Excursions

    Photo: Courtesy of Latin Excursions

    31 of 41

    Brazil: Regional Specialists

    Take a Land Cruiser expedition along the northern Atlantic coast, then visit pristine Fernando de Noronha island.

    Go with: Latin Excursions for in-depth, culturally rooted trips to Patagonia, the Pantanal, and the Amazon basin. May–October and December–March departures; 14 days from $5,000.

  • Off the Beaten Path

    Photo: Danita Delimont / Alamy

    32 of 41

    Rockies: Local Culture

    Explore Montana and Alberta with a Crow elder and talk with local activists.

    Go with: Off the Beaten Path, which creates in-depth journeys across the American West, thanks to cofounder and conservationist Bill Bryan’s extensive community ties. June–August departures; seven days from $2,595.

  • Rod & Gun Resources

    Photo: Rod & Gun Resources

    33 of 41

    Brazil: River & Ocean

    Go by floatplane to remote stretches of the Amazon in pursuit of 25-pound tiger-striped fighters.

    Go with: Rod & Gun Resources, with surprisingly luxurious tented camps and villas in remote fishing destinations from Alaska to the Amazon. August–March departures; seven days from $4,295.

  • Micato Safaris

    Photo: Courtesy of Micato Safaris

    34 of 41

    Kenya: Safari

    Sand-surfing, camelback game viewing, and helicopter touring in a little-seen corner of Africa.

    Go with: Micato Safaris. Since 1966, the Pinto family of Kenya and New York has been welcoming guests to Africa with an extraordinary level of service and in-country expertise. June–December departures; 10 days from $14,900.

  • Sweetwater Travel Company

    Photo: Courtesy of Sweetwater Travel

    35 of 41

    Montana: River & Ocean

    Go head-to-head with wily trout in some of America’s best fly-fishing streams.

    Go with: Sweetwater Travel Company, founded by three brothers who grew up in Montana; it excels at guiding first-time fly-fishing anglers. July–September departures; three days from $1,800.

  • Dan Vermillion, Sweetwater Travel Company

    Photo: Courtesy of Dan Vermillion

    36 of 41

    Q + A: Dan Vermillion, Sweetwater Travel Company, Montana

    Expertise: Fly-fishing

    You took President Obama fly-fishing?

    Yes—the White House called me two weeks beforehand, and I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone, not even my wife.

    How did it go?

    We fished together one-on-one for three hours. You’d think it would be intimidating, but he was smart and funny, and so easy to talk to. It didn’t even feel real.

  • Carolyn McIntyre, Geographic Expeditions

    Photo: Courtesy of Carolyn McIntyre

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    Q + A: Carolyn McIntyre, Geographic Expeditions

    Expertise: the Middle East

    What drew you to the Middle East?

    I worked as a flight attendant for Saudi Arabian Airlines. I just became fascinated. The Middle East tends to do that—it gets under your skin.

    What is your favorite place to take people?

    Syria. Americans come with such a negative expectation, and the Syrian people are just the opposite of that—they’re very friendly. It’s fun to watch my clients’ reactions; it’s like they’re changing in front of your eyes.

  • Philip Rono, Micato Safaris

    Photo: Courtesy of Micato Safaris

    38 of 41

    Q + A: Philip Rono, Micato Safaris, Kenya

    Expertise: Kenya—and running

    You are from Eldoret, a place famous for its marathon runners.

    We come from a very high altitude. The other thing is, all the kids now want to emulate [two-time Olympic gold medalist] Kip Keino.

    And you take clients running?

    Kip Keino has welcomed them into his home. You go for a run with him, you share a meal with him.

  •  

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    What to Ask Before You Book

    • How long have you been in business?
    • Have you been to this destination yourself? How many times? Can I talk to some clients who have been on the trip?
    • What’s the activity level of the trip? How many miles will we walk each day? Do the guides have first-aid training?
    • Will I need to buy any equipment that isn’t supplied?
    • How many people will be in the group? What’s the age range, and will there be children?
    • Are transfers included? What about domestic airfares, hotels for nights before and after the trip itself, and other incidentals?
    • Is tipping included, and if not, what are your guidelines? Are there different standards for different types of trip?
    • If biking is involved, inquire: What types of bikes will we ride? How many miles will we ride? How many feet of elevation will we climb each day? What will be my options if I can’t make it all the way?
    • If you’re going on safari, ask: What kind of accommodations will be provided? What is your guest-to-guide ratio? What are the qualifications of the guides? How many travelers will be looking at the same animals at the same time?
  •  

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    Emerging Destinations

    Adventure outfitters are always looking for the next under-discovered spot. Here’s where they’re headed.

    The Balkans: A sense of Old Europe authenticity can be found here in spades, along with a stunning Mediterranean coastline. This year Classic Journeys introduces Dalmatian Coast Family Journey. June 27–July 3; seven days from $3,995.

    Marshall Islands: Uncrowded waves are the appeal here, halfway between Hawaii and Australia. This winter, EpicQuest takes serious surfers on its trip Marshall Islands. March departures; 13 days from $5,545.

    Iran: In the wake of the presidential election and mass protests in Iran, Americans’ perceptions of the country have changed markedly. Geographic Expeditions reports a 300 percent increase in registration for its tours there, such as Iran North to South. Year-round departures; 11 days from $3,945.

  •  

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  • Riding on horseback with Austin-Lehman Adventures.

    Wave-battered headlands ripped past us, shrouded in fog, as the tiny plane banked and turned, weaving along the ramparts of the rugged coast. Abruptly, the pilot steered into a bay where the receding tide had laid bare a broad patch of sand. Down we floated and stepped out to find ourselves in a valley of riotous green. There were no houses, no roads. Only the tallest peaks even had names. At that moment I knew that I had been transported, not only to another place in the world, but to another way of living in it.

    My first trip to Alaska, a dozen years ago, cemented a long-gestating passion for adventure travel. And in the years since, that passion has spread around the globe. Never have there been so many people who want to see and experience the farthest corners of the world, and never have there been so many adventure-tour companies, of such high caliber, offering such a wide range of destinations and activities. We’re living in a golden age of adventure.

    Adventure isn’t just about escaping into the wild, of course. It’s about engaging and committing yourself no matter what you’re doing. “People today have the mind-set of wanting to master things,” says Keith Walden of Virtuoso, a network of luxury travel agencies. “They want to go and dive in and learn and be hands-on.”

    For a truly profound experience, adventure travelers should plan on spending at least a week. One needn’t endure rough living conditions; some of the wildest landscapes on earth can be enjoyed in luxury tented camps or sumptuous lodges like those operated by Explora, in remote corners of South America. One of the company’s guided excursions heads across the Bolivian altiplano, one of the world’s most rugged environments.

    Travelers pursuing personal transformation are increasingly looking for trips that include immersion in a foreign culture or a chance to volunteer on behalf of a worthy cause. Journey Mexico, for instance, focuses on Mexico’s cultural and natural heritage and brings guests on trips that involve weighing, tagging, and releasing endangered sea turtles on the coastline of Baja California.

    Then again, if it’s a profoundly life-changing experience you’re after, there’s nothing like a really long journey in a truly remote region. Wilderness Travel conducts 29-day treks on the Tibetan Plateau, which kick off in Kathmandu and ascend to a base camp within 8,000 feet of Everest’s summit. Along the way, guests explore the ancient monasteries of the Lhasa valley.

    While the ongoing financial meltdown may have temporarily taken the wind out of adventure travel’s sails, the state of uncertainty only makes the quest for adventure all the more relevant. As I write in my new book, Extreme Fear, times of crisis have a way of deepening our sense of connection and purpose. After all, as far as we may travel, the real destination lies inside.

    *All rates are per person and include lodging; airfare not included.

  • Austin-Lehman Adventures

    Yellowstone: Trekking, Walking & Biking

    Explore the Serengeti of the American West. Raft the Yellowstone River and ride horseback into the Absaroka Mountains.

    Go with: Austin-Lehman Adventures, which specializes in multi-sport tours through the American West and beyond, with luxurious amenities and top-notch guides. June–September departures; six days from $1,198.

  • Boundless Journeys

    Chile: Local Culture

    Trek through the Andes along the Futaleufú River, then switch to kayaks to reach the Pacific Ocean.

    Go with: Boundless Journeys—ninety percent of their trip leaders are natives of the destinations they guide in, providing real cultural immersion. February 26–March 6; nine days from $2,895.

  • Backroads

    Thailand: Trekking, Walking & Biking

    Pedal through the Golden Triangle, with difficulty levels ranging from moderate (no more than 25 miles per day) to arduous (up to 57 miles per day).

    Go with: Backroads offers tours that combine cultural encounters with high-intensity cycling. December 30–January 6; eight days from $3,598.

  • Classic Journeys

    Costa Rica: Local Culture

    Zipline through a forest canopy, hike an active volcano, and learn from locals about their country.

    Go with: Classic Journeys, whose philosophy is that you can get as much of an adrenaline rush from chatting with a shepherd on a remote hillside as from shooting Class Three rapids through the rain forest. Monthly departures except in May and October; seven days from $2,995.

  • Gap Adventures

    Finland: Affordable

    Go dog-sledding, then relax in a log cabin or an igloo.

    Go with: Gap Adventures, a large, fast-growing outfitter that aims to provide intense experiences on a budget. Small groups use local transportation and guides to maximize authenticity and reduce expense. March 13–18; six days from $2,999.

  • Journey Mexico

    Mexico: Regional Specialists

    View gray whales and help weigh, tag, and release endangered sea turtles in conjunction with the Ocean Foundation.

    Go with: Journey Mexico, which was founded seven years ago by a young American couple and focuses on Mexico’s cultural and natural heritage. April 3–10; eight days from $2,495.

  • Butterfield & Robinson

    France: Trekking, Walking & Biking

    Pedal from the premier cru wineries of Bordeaux to the medieval castles of the Dordogne Valley.

    Go with: Butterfield & Robinson, which will have you bicycling and hiking by day, and indulging in serious food and wine in the evenings. June–October departures; seven days from $6,995.

  • Petra

    Jordan: Safari

    Visit Petra and the Dead Sea and stay at an eco-lodge supported by the king of Jordan.

    Go with: Cox & Kings, the world’s oldest travel company. Founded in 1758 to provision British army regiments, it manages a global portfolio of tours with the savvy born of a far-flung empire. September–April departures; 13 days from $6,415.

  • OARS

    Grand Canyon: River & Ocean

    Take a nonmotorized trip down the Colorado River’s most spectacular 225 miles.

    Go with: OARS, a pioneer in commercial river guiding that brings rafters and kayakers onto otherwise inaccessible waters. April–October departures; 16 days from $4,953.

  • Nomadic Expeditions

    Mongolia: Regional Specialists

    Paddle across pristine Lake Hövsgöl, then travel to the Gobi for saddle time atop two-humped Bactrian camels.

    Go with: Nomadic Expeditions, who will take you camel and horse trekking in remote, mountainous western Mongolia, with many nights spent in traditional felt tents with wood-burning stoves. June–July departures; 13 days from $3,735.

  • Banff

    Western Canada: Luxury Adventure

    Explore the Rocky Mountains by train, take an evening wildlife safari hike, and learn about the geological formations of the Colombia ice fields in Jasper. You'll stay at Fairmont Lake Louise and trek through its surrounding forest, ending with a helicopter tour over Banff.

    Go with: Kensington Tours, which offers private custom tours with in-country offices, guides, vehicles, and 24/7 emergency support. Book freely; nine days from $4,365.
  • Explorer's Corner

    The Galápagos Islands: River & Ocean

    Cruise the archipelago in a catamaran, exploring each new island on foot or by kayak.

    Go with: Explorer’s Corner, whose founder, Olaf Malver, specializes in trailblazing kayak journeys in remote polar settings. (He also runs mellow, warm-water trips.) December–August departures; 11 days from $4,910.

  • EpicQuest

    Alaska: Off the Grid

    Spend mornings heli-skiing central Alaska’s Tordrillo Mountains and afternoons casting for king salmon.

    Go with: EpicQuest, whose guides moonlight as serious athletes—including Olympic gold medalist skier Tommy Moe—and serve up untracked powder and all-but-undiscovered surf breaks. June and July departures; five to six days from $8,650.

  • Abercrombie & Kent

    East Africa: Safari

    Fly by private plane between wildlife viewing stops in Kenya and Tanzania.

    Go with: Abercrombie & Kent, which now runs tours on every continent and in more than 100 countries. But their signature trip remains the lavish tented African safari. January–March and June–December departures; 15 days from $16,210.

  • Adventure Out

    California Coast: Affordable

    Gather seafood and edible plants along the California coast.

    Go with: Adventure Out, which offers camping trips that combine breathtaking scenery with nitty-gritty wilderness survival education. August 12–15; four days from $425.

  • Aracari

    Peru: Regional Specialists

    Visit Inca ruins and artists’ workshops as you travel the length of the country.

    Go with: Aracari, a Peruvian-owned and -operated boutique firm, offers treks with access to Andean regions of Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. Year-round departures; 16 days from $7,499.

  • Frontiers

    Seychelles: River & Ocean

    Cast over the saltwater flats of the Seychelles’ remote St. Joseph’s Atolls for fierce but elusive bonefish.

    Go with: Frontiers who, with four decades’ experience, offers a huge range of trips to some of the most exotic fishing spots on six continents. March–May departures; six days from $7,600.

  • Explora

    Bolivia: Off the Grid

    Journey across the Bolivian altiplano, one of the world’s most rugged environments.

    Go with: Explora, who in 2005 launched Travesías, a series of guided expeditions from its three remote luxury adventure lodges into the surrounding terrain. April–November departures; 11 days from $3,380.

  • &Beyond

    South Africa:Safari

    Learn how to be a big-game ranger at Phinda Private Game Reserve.

    Go with: andBeyond, the plugged-in, South Africa–based luxury outfitter (formerly known as CC Africa) that owns 46 lodges and camps across Africa and India. March–September departures; three days from $2,043.

  • Geographic Expeditions

    Bhutan: Local Culture

    Tour the mountain kingdom’s temples with the noted Buddhist scholar.

    Go with: Geographic Expeditions, whose clients are willing to endure the very occasional bumpy road or night in a tent, in the pursuit of remarkable experiences. May 10–22; 13 days from $8,495.

  • Mountain Travel Sobek

    India: River & Ocean

    Descend from the Tibetan border through intense Class Four and Five rapids, with stops to meet indigenous subsistence hunters.

    Go with: Mountain Travel Sobek. Whether climbing mountains or rafting on white water, few outfitters can rival the adventure chops and experience of this 40-year-old firm. December 4–21; 18 days from $4,995.

  • Lindblad Expeditions

    Antarctica, Falklands, and South Georgia: Off the Grid

    Travel from Ushuaia, Argentina, to Antarctica and back, following parts of Ernest Shackleton’s route.

    Go with: Lindblad Expeditions. In 1966, Lars-Eric Lindblad led the first passenger cruise to Antarctica, pioneering tourism on the continent. Today, his namesake company sails a fleet of eight ships to some of the world’s most remote destinations, from the Arctic Ocean to the Antarctic Peninsula. November 7–30; 24 days from $18,450.

  • Myths & Mountains

    Vietnam: Affordable

    Motorcycling the Ho Chi Minh Trail from Hanoi to Saigon on a 250 cc bike.

    Go with: Myths & Mountains, which leads Asian and South American trips that connect with local cultures in creative ways, such as taking part in shamanic rituals in Ecuador and visiting Khmer temples at dawn. March 8–24; 16 days from $6,595.

  • Journeys by Design

    Africa: Regional Specialists

    Tour the Great Rift Valley with legendary paleontologist Richard Leakey.

    Go with: Journeys by Design. Owner Will Jones spent 25 years in six African countries before returning to the U.K. to open a shop dealing exclusively with the continent he knows best. June–September departures; seven days from $8,490.

  • Machu Pichu

    Peru: Trekking, Walking & Biking

    Explore Andean archaeological sites along the Inca Trail.

    Go with: Country Walkers for gentle walks and a focus on interaction with locals (such as lessons with schoolchildren in India or lunch with villagers in Costa Rica). May–December departures; eight days from $3,898.

  • Elevate Destinations

    Sahara Desert: Local Culture

    Twelve days trekking with bedouin guides across the sands on foot and camel, with some rest days.

    Go with: Elevate Destinations, a small, five-year-old company that promotes carbon-neutral activities and donates five percent of each trip’s revenues to local communities. March, April, September, and October departures; 15 days from $3,500.

  • Quark Expeditions

    North Pole: Off the Grid

    Crunch through pack ice to some 90 degrees north.

    Go with: Quark Expeditions, whose two polar-class icebreaker ships—one nuclear powered, and both equipped with helicopters and Zodiacs—make it the go-to outfit for getting to the remotest ice-bound spots. July 9–23; 14 days from $22,690.

  • Ker & Downey

    Botswana: Safari

    A hands-on elephant conservation project in Botswana that includes a chance for guests to attach a radio collar.

    Go with: Ker & Downey, an outfitter that aims to provide life-changing experiences through environmental conservation and social philanthropy. April–December departures; 12 days from $16,550.

  • Wilderness Travel

    Tibet: Affordable

    On the Tibetan plateau, ascend to a base camp within 8,000 feet of Everest’s summit.

    Go with: Wilderness Travel. Since its founding in 1978, this adventure company has developed a vast range of trips, including a line called WT Expeditions: rugged, one-off explorations dreamed up as the particular passions of individual guides. July–August departures; 30 days from $9,295.

  • Latin Excursions

    Brazil: Regional Specialists

    Take a Land Cruiser expedition along the northern Atlantic coast, then visit pristine Fernando de Noronha island.

    Go with: Latin Excursions for in-depth, culturally rooted trips to Patagonia, the Pantanal, and the Amazon basin. May–October and December–March departures; 14 days from $5,000.

  • Off the Beaten Path

    Rockies: Local Culture

    Explore Montana and Alberta with a Crow elder and talk with local activists.

    Go with: Off the Beaten Path, which creates in-depth journeys across the American West, thanks to cofounder and conservationist Bill Bryan’s extensive community ties. June–August departures; seven days from $2,595.

  • Rod & Gun Resources

    Brazil: River & Ocean

    Go by floatplane to remote stretches of the Amazon in pursuit of 25-pound tiger-striped fighters.

    Go with: Rod & Gun Resources, with surprisingly luxurious tented camps and villas in remote fishing destinations from Alaska to the Amazon. August–March departures; seven days from $4,295.

  • Micato Safaris

    Kenya: Safari

    Sand-surfing, camelback game viewing, and helicopter touring in a little-seen corner of Africa.

    Go with: Micato Safaris. Since 1966, the Pinto family of Kenya and New York has been welcoming guests to Africa with an extraordinary level of service and in-country expertise. June–December departures; 10 days from $14,900.

  • Sweetwater Travel Company

    Montana: River & Ocean

    Go head-to-head with wily trout in some of America’s best fly-fishing streams.

    Go with: Sweetwater Travel Company, founded by three brothers who grew up in Montana; it excels at guiding first-time fly-fishing anglers. July–September departures; three days from $1,800.

  • Dan Vermillion, Sweetwater Travel Company

    Q + A: Dan Vermillion, Sweetwater Travel Company, Montana

    Expertise: Fly-fishing

    You took President Obama fly-fishing?

    Yes—the White House called me two weeks beforehand, and I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone, not even my wife.

    How did it go?

    We fished together one-on-one for three hours. You’d think it would be intimidating, but he was smart and funny, and so easy to talk to. It didn’t even feel real.

  • Carolyn McIntyre, Geographic Expeditions

    Q + A: Carolyn McIntyre, Geographic Expeditions

    Expertise: the Middle East

    What drew you to the Middle East?

    I worked as a flight attendant for Saudi Arabian Airlines. I just became fascinated. The Middle East tends to do that—it gets under your skin.

    What is your favorite place to take people?

    Syria. Americans come with such a negative expectation, and the Syrian people are just the opposite of that—they’re very friendly. It’s fun to watch my clients’ reactions; it’s like they’re changing in front of your eyes.

  • Philip Rono, Micato Safaris

    Q + A: Philip Rono, Micato Safaris, Kenya

    Expertise: Kenya—and running

    You are from Eldoret, a place famous for its marathon runners.

    We come from a very high altitude. The other thing is, all the kids now want to emulate [two-time Olympic gold medalist] Kip Keino.

    And you take clients running?

    Kip Keino has welcomed them into his home. You go for a run with him, you share a meal with him.

  • What to Ask Before You Book

    • How long have you been in business?
    • Have you been to this destination yourself? How many times? Can I talk to some clients who have been on the trip?
    • What’s the activity level of the trip? How many miles will we walk each day? Do the guides have first-aid training?
    • Will I need to buy any equipment that isn’t supplied?
    • How many people will be in the group? What’s the age range, and will there be children?
    • Are transfers included? What about domestic airfares, hotels for nights before and after the trip itself, and other incidentals?
    • Is tipping included, and if not, what are your guidelines? Are there different standards for different types of trip?
    • If biking is involved, inquire: What types of bikes will we ride? How many miles will we ride? How many feet of elevation will we climb each day? What will be my options if I can’t make it all the way?
    • If you’re going on safari, ask: What kind of accommodations will be provided? What is your guest-to-guide ratio? What are the qualifications of the guides? How many travelers will be looking at the same animals at the same time?
  • Emerging Destinations

    Adventure outfitters are always looking for the next under-discovered spot. Here’s where they’re headed.

    The Balkans: A sense of Old Europe authenticity can be found here in spades, along with a stunning Mediterranean coastline. This year Classic Journeys introduces Dalmatian Coast Family Journey. June 27–July 3; seven days from $3,995.

    Marshall Islands: Uncrowded waves are the appeal here, halfway between Hawaii and Australia. This winter, EpicQuest takes serious surfers on its trip Marshall Islands. March departures; 13 days from $5,545.

    Iran: In the wake of the presidential election and mass protests in Iran, Americans’ perceptions of the country have changed markedly. Geographic Expeditions reports a 300 percent increase in registration for its tours there, such as Iran North to South. Year-round departures; 11 days from $3,945.

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