Want a trip that's guaranteed to be brilliant? Try one of these operators – they came out trumps in our annual reader survey
Choosing the right tour operator can be as difficult as picking the right destination. But you, our ever-discerning readers, have spoken, and have deemed these nine companies to be the best at taking you around the globe. Yes, these are the top tour operators, as voted for by you in our 2015 Reader Travel Awards
1. See the highlights at a relaxed pace, Tibet Train to Tibet, Bamboo Travel – Gold award winner When?
Apr-Oct How long?
16 nights Potala Palace in Tibet (Shutterstock)
Bamboo Travel’s quintessential Train to Tibet
tour is like the most satisfying stew. Throw in a handful of the most beautiful monasteries; mix in abundant avifauna (think the tangerine-feathered ruddy shelduck at Lake Namtso); sprinkle in the heady spices of the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple and Barkhor market; and finally add a pinch of adventure – including a stay at Everest Base Camp and a trek through Kathmandu Valley. Like this? Don't miss...
Tibet travel guide | All you need to know before you go
The ethics to visiting Tibet | Be informed before you travel
2. Traverse the country in style, Laos Laos in Style, Selective Asia When?
Year-round How long?
15 days Luang Prabang (Shutterstock)
This trip blends two award-winners – not only was Selective Asia your second-favourite tour operator, but you voted the laid-back Laotian hub of Luang Prabang your favourite city too! Selective Asia’s Laos in Style
itinerary covers the country from south to north. You’ll zip among the treetops in Pakse, cook up a storm in Vientiane, take a tuk-tuk night safari, meet minority hilltribes and – of course – temple-hop in Luang Prabang. Like this? Don't miss...
Luang Prabang and beyond | Discovering lovely Laos
Luang Prabang, Laos: The Top 5 Guide | What's all the fuss about?
The Wanderlust guide to the best of Laos | The inside scoop on this South-East Asia gem
3. Explore the hill country, Sri Lanka Sri Lanka’s Hidden Gems, Holiday Architects When?
Year-round (Apr-Sept best) How long?
15 days Tea estates in Sri Lanka (Shutterstock)
From must-see highlights such as Kandy, to little-known destinations like Gal Oya National Park – home to the Sri Lankan leopard, wild elephants and mugger crocodiles – Holiday Architects’ Sri Lanka’s Hidden Gems
tour is an in-depth exploration of the island’s nature and culture. There’s time for tea-tasting too. Like this? Don't miss...
Sri Lanka's best national parks | Where to spot elephants, leopards & more...
8 highlights of Sri Lanka's hill country | Be inspired!
The Wanderlust guide to the best of Sri Lanka | All you need to know
4. Go off the grid, Borneo Mystical Borneo, TransIndus When?
Year-round (Mar-Oct best) How long?
14 nights Proboscis monkey (Shutterstock)
TransIndus’s signature Mystical Borneo
trip takes you deep into the untouristy interior. Discover proboscis monkeys in Bako NP, orang utan at Semenggoh Sanctuary, prehistoric caves at Niah NP, impressive peaks at Kinabalu and Iban rituals on a traditional longhouse stay. Like this? Don't miss... The hidden corners of Borneo | An insider's guide
5 reasons why you must visit Borneo now! | As if you needed an excuse
Borneo travel guide | Essential tips for your trip
5. Romp in the rainforest, Costa Rica Best of Costa Rica, Llama Travel When?
Various dates, to Mar 2016 How long?
9 nights Arenal volcano in Costa Rica (Shutterstock) Best of Costa Rica
from Llama Travel combines the lively capital of San José with the cloud forest of Monteverde, a road trip around active Arenal volcano, and the jungle-fringed waterways of Tortuguero, famed for its nesting turtles. Like this? Don't miss... 9 super-cheap holiday rentals in Costa Rica | You'll be amazed how far your budget will stretch
Off-beat Costa Rican eco lodges | From the jungle, to the deserted beaches
The Costa Rica conundrum | How to travel responsibly
6. Gawp at sea giants, Alaska Bubble-net Bonanza, Wildlife Worldwide When?
14 Aug 2015 How long?
11 days Pod of humpback whales, Alaska (Shutterstock)
Wildlife Worldwide’s Bubble-net Bonanza
heads to chilliest North America to observe humpback whales as they breach, leap, tail-lob, pectoral-slap and show-off their intriguing ‘bubble-net’ feeding technique. It’s not all about the humpbacks though: look out for orcas, sea lions, porpoises, grizzly bears, glaciers and icebergs too. Like this? Don't miss...
4 ways to explore Alaska's great outdoors | Which adventure do you fancy?
Practically cuddling brown bears | One of Alaska's many wildlife treats
First 24 hours in Alaska, Anchorage | Hit the ground running
7. Plunge into the wild, Patagonia Signature Patagonia, Journey Latin America When?
Oct-Mar How long?
16 days Perito Moreno Glacier, Patagonia (Shutterstock)
Tick off the lot on Journey Latin America’s Signature Patagonia: The Lake District and the South
. Take in the atmospheric isle of Chiloé; explore Perito Moreno Glacier and Torres del Paine NP; and visit peak-hugged Bariloche and shimmering Lake Nahuel Huapi. Like this? Don't miss...
Road trip Patagonia | One of the world's greatest roadtrip destinations
The awe-inspiring Torres del Paine | Photo gallery
8. Learn from the tribe, Namibia Tribes and Wilderness of Northern Namibia, Audley Travel When?
Year-round (Jun-Oct best) How long?
14 days Etosha National Park, Namibia (Shutterstock)
Audley’s Tribes and Wilderness of Northern Namibia
trip will teach you the ways of indigenous peoples. Walk and forage with the San Bushmen, learn about the cultures and traditions of the clay-cloaked Himba, and keep an eye out for wildlife too – especially in Etosha National Park and dramatic Damaraland.
Like this? Don't miss...
5 things I wish I'd known before driving in Namibia | 4 wheels are better than 2!
A journey into north-east Namibia | The terrain of the bushmen
9. Hike the high Alps, Austria Tirolean Eagle’s Path, Ramblers Worldwide Holidays When?
29 Jun, 13 & 27 Jul, 24 Aug 2015 How long?
14 nights Karwendel mountains in Austria (Shutterstock)
Ramblers Worldwide Holidays’ Tirolean Eagle’s Path
crams the best of the Austrian Alps into two weeks, exploring the Karwendel and Rofan mountains. Navigate snowfields, rocky terrain and exposed ridges to be rewarded with some of the region’s best walking and hutting, starting at Kufstein on the German border and ending in Innsbruck.
Like this? Don't miss...
A lavish hiking trip in Austria | Is that an oxymoron?
A short break in Innsbruck, Austria | A great city break all year round
Austria travel guide | Essential reading for outdoorsy types
Main image: Sri Lanka, local fisherman is fishing in unique style (Shutterstock)