List Words : Gwenllian Jones | 06 January

9 of the best trips for under £700

Travel budget looking tight? Sign up to one of these great-value trips – and go further than you ever thought possible for £700

1. Discovering Cuba

Vintage Cuba, Gecko Adventures
How long? 8 days
How much? From £620

What do you see when you hear 'Cuba'? Lingering evenings simmering towards a burst of salsa, rumba and bolero beats? Flowing rum? Crumbling but magnificent architecture? Of course. And you can experience them all on Gecko Adventure's 8-day Vintage Cuba tour.


Sunset over Parque de la Fraternidad in Havana, Cuba (Shutterstock)

Cuba is a mass of contradictions that will drive you absolutely wild – either with rage or pure delight. Balancing in between the USA to the north, Latin America to the south, and the numerous other influences that took root there over the years, there has always been a question of identity surrounding the island – but that question has proved only to enrich the vibrant culture. And the proof is all around.

Start your trip in Havana; swing by the revolutionary plaza in Santa Clara; pass by the blue, yellow and terracotta buildings of quintessential Trinidad; drink Vinales' signature mojitos (with honey!) before returning to Havana. Top off your trip by joining the locals in a round or two of salsa dancing.

2. Exploring Northern India

Highlights of Northern India, Exodus
How long? 9 days
How much? From £599

There is no end to Northern India's awe-inspiring landmarks. From the fairytale-like forts of Jaipur to the majesty of the Taj Mahal, this part of the world packs a powerful spiritual punch.


Taj Mahal (Shutterstock)

There are endless wonders to be sought here, and Exodus's Highlights of Northern India trip is no bad place to start. Starting the journey in Jaipur, you'll visit City Palace – the former residence of the Maharaja – and the observatory of Jai Singh II, where you'll see a stunning array of astronomical instruments of brass and marble. You'll also make a stop at Amber Fort and the incredible Palace of the Winds before continuing on to Agra and the Taj Mahal.

But it's not all buildings! Spot the elusive tiger on game drives in Ranthambore National Park –  surrounded by other animals such as deer, crocodiles and birds – and explore the banks of the sacred River Ganges in ancient Varanasi.

3. Meandering on the Garden Route, South Africa

The Garden Route, Absolute Africa
How long? 10 days
How much? From £585 (+ $280 local payment)

Ostriches, whales, sharks, elephants and...bungee jumping? Why not?! This trip with Absolute Africa has all the above, woven together by a trail along one of the world's most picturesque coastlines.


Aerial shot of Knysna on the Garden Route (Shutterstock)

Your 10-day trip starts in Cape Town, where you'll be able to explore the city and its activities at your leisure. Dive straight in and go swimming with the sharks, or take your time and visit the city's myriad attractions. You'll then travel along the Garden Route, making small inroads towards the ostrich farms and the Cango Caves at Oudtshoorn, before travelling back out towards the ocean.

Your trip will take you over a vast range of terrain – from the luscious green of Knysna's headlands to the still, dry air of the Karoo desert. Take game drives in Addo Elephant Park, and wander the Tsitisikamma forest – and while you're there, indulge your inner thrill-seeker with a bungee jump off the Bloukrans Bridge!

4. Desert trekking, Morocco

Dunes of Chegaga Trek, KE Adventure Travel
How long? 8 days
How much? From £495

Desert landscapes are arid, vast and utterly alien to most of us, so there's plenty to learn and discover on KE Adventure's Dunes of Chegaga Trek. Walk among the dunes across the Moroccan Sahara, sleep under the stars and marvel at the blazing orange expanse in front of your eyes.


Sand dunes in Morocco, Erg Chigaga, Sahara (Shutterstock)

Starting in Marrakech, you will be taken across the Atlas mountains to the edges of M'Hamid village, where you'll stay in a Berber tented camp – the start of your walking journey to Erg Chegaga. Accompanied by the camels and their handlers, your luggage will be carried from point to point – easing the load, somewhat.

This is a tough trek, with five or six hours' walking on each of the four trekking days. There, ground will vary from soft sand to unforgiving rock, and with around an hour's climb to reach the top of the high dunes you'll need to prepare your legs for a work-out before you sign up!

5. Overlanding through China & Laos

South East Asia Between Luang Prabang & Kunming
How long? 9 days
How much? From £544 (+ $140 local payment)

There are few towns as enchanting as Luang Prabang – so it's a fitting start to this short but sweet overlanding trip. Dragoman's South East Asia Between Luang Prabang & Kunming trip will take you from this Buddhist gem in northern Laos through the countryside to Nam Tha National Park. Once you've blown off some steam on forest treks and boat trips, it's time to hop back on the overlanding truck and venture north to China.


Kuang Si waterfall, Luang Prabang (Shutterstock)

Over the border in China, you'll explore the jaw-dropping landscapes of Yunnan – including the crazy peaks of the Shilin Stone Forest (it's like a Bond villain's lair). The tour wraps up in Kunming, a city that blends old and new cultures, which is brimming with bazaars, great restaurants and beautiful 17th-century temples.

6. Tackling the Alps of Transylvania, Romania

The Alps of Transylvania, Walks Worldwide
How long? 8 days
How much? From £695
 
Trek across the menacing-looking landscape of the Fagaras mountains, and fall in love with the Romanian countryside on the Alps of Transylvania trip with Walks Worldwide.


Sunrise light in the Transylvanian Alps (Shutterstock)

Cower beneath the ragged ridge of Piatra Craiului as you walk above the Transylvanian forest towards the rock formations of La Zaplaz, before being taken to the Faragas mountain range via the windy – and very spectacular – Transfagarsan highway.

Conquer Transylvania's highest peak, Moldoveanu, at 2,544m, and lay down your head in the remote mountain huts peppered along the trails. Finish the trip with an amble through the countryside on the way to 'Dracula's Castle' at Bran – a medieval fortress which now houses a museum of Queen Marie's art and furniture collections.

7. Turtle conservation in Sri Lanka

The Great Turtle Project, The Great Projects
How long? 14 days
How much? From £699

It's little wonder that sea turtles flock to Sri Lanka's beaches: they're just as powder-white, palm-fringed and idyllic as you'd hope – although for these flippered critters the beaches can also be fraught with danger. That's where The Great Turtle Project comes in: based on the Kosgoda coastline, volunteers help to keep predators at bay, and look after the turtle eggs to give the hatchlings the best start in life.


Sea turtles in Sri Lanka (Shutterstock)

This is a wonderful way to get up-close with sea turtles and assist with Sri Lanka's conservation effort. Every nest-ground, every egg, every hatchling and every turtle is crucial to the survival of the species – and maximising survival is what the staff and volunteers at the project strive to achieve. 

8. Adventuring in Costa Rica

Tortuguero Costa, Tucan Travel
How long? 9 days
How much? £639

This speedy loop of Costa Rica will whisk you to the country's best bits – to wallow in tropical waters, spy colourful wildlife, and kick back on unspoiled beaches. Tucan Travel's Tortuguero Costa trip will see you hike through the hills around Arenal Volcano, see green turtles hatch on the beach, and take a boat deep into Tortuguero National Park.


Beach in Cahuita National Park (Shutterstock)

There's time to relax, too – on the final few days you'll be based in Cahuita, where you can snorkel on a coral reef, take a horse ride through the forest, rent bikes, take a surfing lesson, go white water rafting – or simply flop on a jungle-fringed black sand beach.

9. Cycling in Bali

How long? 9 days
How much? From £590

Find nirvana in a Hindu-Buddhist lake temple one day, and conquer the smouldering slopes of a volcano the next: Intrepid's Beautiful Bali trip has variety in spades, and strives to do this island justice in a short space of time. So if you're short on time as well as budget, here's your answer!

Bali's landscape is as exotic as its customs and traditions, and this packed itinerary will allow you to experience both on your round-journey from Ubud. Cycle your way between the ancient temples of Ubud and Sidemen, and be sure to stop to appreciate their intricate carvings.


Pura Saraswati temple in Ubud, Bali (Shutterstock)

Venture into the mountains to learn the art of songket weaving, and take in the volcanic vista. Start your day with a sunrise from the peak of Mount Batur, before making your way back down for one of the world's most impressive snorkelling experiences at Bali Barat National Park. 

Make the acquaintance of the most welcoming of cultures, and fall in love with the island and its people. Can we come along too?


Main image: Knysna Heads, Garden Route, South Africa (Shutterstock)

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