8 Spectacular Journeys off the Beaten Path
When you travel to a new place, it’s natural to flock to the top sites, because popular attractions are popular for a reason: they’re fun, exciting, historical or indulgent, and that can make for a really great vacation highlight. But there’s a case to be made for heading out in the other direction, away from the well-trodden routes, the paved paths, and the famous festivities. In many places, what you see in the guidebooks is really just the tip of the iceberg; for the most memorable experiences, look beyond the city walls to where eye-opening adventures await, like these eight fantastic excursions from across the globe.
Dog Sledding in Greenland
Snowmobiles can certainly get you through the snow drifts, but this vast, mostly unpopulated northern land suits a more humble form of transport. A sled dog team is the perfect escort, with a rhythm and pace to suit the sprawling landscape, as you take in the frozen fjord under a clear blue sky and a traditional reindeer skin blanket. If you’re not up for camping in igloos, opt for a day trip with an Inuit guide, who can teach you about their Inuit culture and relationship to the land as you move with the dogs. You’ll see some fox and polar bears if you’re lucky, and on rare occasions, the Northern Lights.
Tea Tour in Kenya
There are a good deal of coffee plantations in Kenya – and tours to match – but tea drinkers will delight in Easygosafari’s day trip to a tea farm outside of Nairobi, where a truly local and personalized experience awaits. The Kiambethi Farm, home to four generations of tea farmers, dates back to 1910 and continues to operate with exceptional reverence for the landscape and incredible hospitality: you’ll be treated to tea and biscuits against the backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro, strolls through gardens of local flora (and the resident colobus monkeys), and a three course lunch of local treats including tea from the farm.
Camel Trekking in Morocco
Balance out the lively markets and historic charm of Morocco’s urban centers with a nighttime voyage into the Sahara desert on camelback, where you can ride the sand dunes and dine by an open fire under an endless blanket of stars. Morocco Excursions offers a few different variations on the desert trek depending on what you want to see and how much time you have to spend, but even the one night voyage is an amazing experience. Since you travel by camel, it’s not too taxing, and you’ll escape the desert heat by leaving in the evening and returning in the morning. This is storybook desert: towering dunes as far as the eye can see and the beat of Berber drums set the stage for an intense, authentic interaction with the North African landscape.
Mountain Bike Safari in Namibia
Cycling around a country affords an entirely different view of the place, and one tour company in Namibia is helping visitors take full advantage of the breathtaking landscape on two wheels. Namibia is a sparsely populated land with some of the most vivid, colourful, and rare natural surroundings on the continent; biking along the rugged Skeleton Coast, down desert roads flanked by red sand dunes, or through the rich flora and fauna of Etosha National Park can be an ethereal, other-worldly experience that you won’t soon forget. H&I Adventures offer a few different bike trips to choose from, and promises plenty of local culture and insightful guidance to round out your excursion.
Kayaking on the Adriatic
Croatia boasts a beautiful coastline, with jutting rocks and soft sand beaches, which makes a kayak trip well worth your time. Local adventure company, Boundless Journeys, offers an excursion through the Dalmatian Islands, where you will explore pristine lagoons and historic ports between visits with local artists and farmers. Since the coast of Dalmatia is peppered with small, distinct islands, you can opt for a multi-day trip to kayak the stretch at a leisurely pace, or have the company customize a shorter trip for you. In any case, be sure to leave enough time to sample the local delights, from fresh oysters plucked from the sea at Ston to the tangerine brandy of the Neretva plain.
Diving with the Manta Rays
If you’re planning a Hawaiian vacation, don’t miss the opportunity to swim with the silent, gentle giants off the coast of Hawaii. The scuba company Big Island Divers hosts evening dives (or snorkeling) off the coast of Kona on the southern shore, but if you’re after a truly dreamlike experience, go for the night charter: after the sun sets, you can hang out on the ocean floor and marvel at the 15 foot mantas swimming all around you, silhouetted by underwater flood lights to attract the plankton. The activity is completely non-invasive – the manta rays are never harmed, nor is their habitat – but exciting and calming all at once.
Exploring Caves in New Zealand
A tour of the Waitomo Caves outside of Auckland is a magical experience, an underground playground of different sights and sounds that feels like a whole new world. Compared to other cave expeditions, this excursion is very relaxed: you’ll enjoy a boat ride through the rocky tunnels with an expert guide, who will point out the prehistoric stalactites and lead you through the “glow worm grotto”, where thousands of glow worms hang from the ceiling and light up the cavern like the night sky. Most tours will include a visit to the Te Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve for a peek at the silica terraces, bubbling mud pools, and the world-famous Pohutu Geyser that shoots up to 100 feet in the air.
Hiking Angel Falls in Venezuela
Isolated in the jungle canopy, it will take a bit of a trek to reach Angel Falls in the first place, and that’s a good deal of the fun. First you’ll fly into the national park, then a canoe will float you down rivers, meandering through lush forest before you get to the foot of the falls. After hiking up to the summit to take in the jaw-dropping views, you’ll descend to the cool pools at the rocky base where you can swim in the fresh water. Camping along the way and traversing varied terrain makes this a challenging, but uniquely rewarding excursion.
The natural landscape and your method of travel are big factors in any excursion; your guide is the other important part of the equation. Since these types of journeys can be lengthy and rather involved, it’s important to follow a guide who you can trust, someone who has experience in the region and in leading a group of wide-eyed travelers. Do your homework before you sign up: make sure the organization has a detailed itinerary, contact info, and good reviews from other travelers, so you can count on a safe and enjoyable experience.