We’ve always been into offering travellers truly off-the-map adventures. Don’t get us wrong; we’ll never grow tired of seeing that look on people’s faces when they set eyes on the hordes of people and bright lights of Tokyo’s Shinjuku, or crunch into the first flaky croissant of a trip through France, or awkwardly stand, with arms outstretched, beneath Rio’s enormous Christ the Redeemer statue for the cheesiest photos ever. But there’s something about creating a trip that really gets to the heart of what being intrepid really means, and that’s what we’ve done with our latest Expeditions.
We put our heads together, chatted passionately about some of the world’s most far-flung locations, we argued, we made up, we laughed, we cried, and after months of planning, we came up with our most offbeat – and exciting – expeditions yet. Ready for adventure? Take your pick:
Baikonur & Kazakhstan
Hands up who’s heard of Baikonur. That’s what I thought. Unless you’re a hardcore space nut, most travellers won’t know much about this tiny settlement in the middle of Kazakhstan’s desert steppe. But fans of all things rocket-related will probably be well versed in the site of the world’s first and largest operational spaceport. And fans of all things rocket-related should hold onto their NASA caps – if all goes according to plan, passengers will get to see a live rocket launch on our new Expedition – Baikonur and Kazakhstan. Three, two, one, blast off.
CHECK IT OUT: Expedition – Baikonur & Kazakhstan
When you think ‘hiking’, ‘snorkelling’ and ‘swimming with whale sharks’, images of south east Asia’s tropical islands or Australia’s wild west coast probably spring to mind. The small African country of Djibouti, nestled between Ethiopia and Somalia on the Gulf of Aden, probably doesn’t. On our new trip you can hike with a camel caravan to the top of Ardoukoba Volcano (after lying dormant for around 3,000 years, it erupted in 1978, but don’t let that put you off!), float in one of the saltiest bodies of water on earth, Lake Assal, a crater lake sitting atop the Great Rift Valley, and come face-to-face with a wide-mouthed whale shark on a snorkelling expedition at Arta Beach. The beauty of Djibouti (see what we did there?) is well worth the journey.
Moldova, Ukraine & Romania
There’s getting off the beaten path and then there’s really getting off the beaten path. There’s ticking off bucket list sites and then there’s really immersing yourself in the guts of a country. The tiny pocket of Moldova is one of the least explored parts of Europe, which is precisely the reason it’s made our hit list of 2016/17 expeditions. Along with exploring the lesser-known villages and towns of Romania and Moldova, this trip also take visitors to the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster, Chernobyl. Definitely one that doesn’t make your typical Bucket List (but then who wants to be typical?).
CHECK IT OUT: Expedition – Moldova, Ukraine & Romania
Each year, thousands of people migrate into Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains to escape the searing heat of the lower valleys. In 2017, you’ve got the chance to join the Berber nomads on this epic migration (yep, for real). You’ll spend the week with a Berber family and experience life on the road; setting up camp in the evening, baking bread in the morning, pulling your weight with daily chores, learning some basic Arabic to have you chatting like a local and trekking for hours each day across the rugged mountain terrain. This isn’t your typical shopping spree in Marrakech. This is one for the hard-core adventurers.
CHECK IT OUT: Expedition Morocco – Walking with Berber Nomads
It makes sense that Yamal translates to ‘the end of the world’; the remote tundra, featuring low-lying shrubs, mossy pastures, and not much else, is pummelled by freezing winds for most of the year, with temperatures dropping to almost -50°C. You’ll want to pack your long johns on this Expedition. Siberia’s Yamal Peninsula, in the northernmost reaches of Russia, has been home to the Nenets, a tribe of nomadic reindeer herders, for centuries. And for the first time, we’ve been invited into their tribe to experience daily life; fishing, reindeer sledding and constructing traditional reindeer-hide tents.
CHECK IT OUT: Expedition Russia – Footsteps of the Reindeer Herders
Forget the fireworks and party-poppers. Say ‘no’ to underwhelming New Year’s house parties. You haven’t done New Years’ right until you’ve partied with a bunch of nomads in the remote hills of Myanmar at the Naga Festival. Veering off the typical traveller trail (Mandalay, Bagan, Inle Lake), this expedition takes you into the northern reaches of Kachin state. This is the land of the Naga hilltribes, a collection of 62 semi-nomadic clans who really know how to kick up their heels. Join them and welcome in the traditional New Year in this two-day celebration of singing, dancing, thanksgiving and prayer.
CHECK IT OUT: Expedition – Myanmar’s Naga Festival
Even with the eyes of a hawk, it can be tricky to spot the elusive snow leopard in the wild. Unless you’ve also got the body of a hawk, in which case it’s quite a bit easier, given you can soar above the remote Ladakhi mountains, calling out a ‘Cuckaww’ to your mates when you see one of the big cats prowling among the snow-covered boulders. Alas, we are not hawks, and will have to make do with exploring the wintry Uley Valley with a trained wildlife guide, who will do his darnedest to point out at least one of the 200 endangered leopards still living in the region. Spend six days in the isolated (and freezing) Uley Valley and learn about the conservation efforts being made to keep these big cats alive.
CHECK IT OUT: Expedition – In Search of the Snow Leopard
Forget the New York City or London Marathon – they’ve got nothing on China’s Great Wall Marathon. Considered to be one of the most challenging marathons in the world, the course takes runners up steep rocky stairs, down narrow paths and around tall fortress walls, before skipping off the wall and into the countryside. We’re talking gravel tracks through the scrub, riverside trails and loops through small villages. Despite the gorgeous surrounds, this run is no walk in the park; runners will be challenged by steep climbs, slippery slopes and rough terrain, so need to put their best foot forward, and stay alert. With the option to run a full or half marathon, or ten-kilometre course, fitness aficionados can take their pick. On your marks, get set, GO!
CHECK IT OUT: Expedition – Great Wall Marathon
Ready to take a walk on the wild side? Of course you are. Long-regarded as the granddaddy of national parks (it was the first national park to be established in the world), a trip to Yellowstone pretty much guarantees a mind-blowing wildlife experience. Think deep canyons, shooting geysers, soaring waterfalls, and the largest free-roaming herd of bison in the world – that’s some epic nature right there. This rugged expedition sees travellers hiking through the woods, kayaking around lakes, camping in grassy meadows, and keeping a look out for eagles, wolves and grizzlies. Roar-some, right?