From trekking in Nepal to cycling India's south coast, these unforgettable trips will get your adrenalin racing, thighs sighing and heart soaring
Most visitors to Nepal are familiar with the Annapurna circuit, an iconic walk that’s almost a rite of passage now. The result is that it’s pretty busy most of the time, which is why KE Adventure Travel’s new take on the massif via its Hidden Annapurna – Khopra Ridge Trek raises an eyebrow.
Its quieter trails take advantage of newly built community lodges, beginning in Modi Khola before heading out into the ridges and rhododendron forests. Pass the Hindu pilgrimage site of Khayer Lake and grassy highs – populated only by the odd curious shepherd – on a relaxed trek that tops out at a moderate 4,000m.
Who: KE Adventure Travel (01768 773966; www.keadventure.com)
When: 13 October, 3 November and 1 December
How long: 12 days
Bag unforgettable views in Finnish Lapland’s deep north, with its dark, clear nights affording panoramas of the northern lights on The Aurora Zone’s Glass Igloo Aurora Escape.
At night, watch the universe shimmer above your see-through ceiling, while snowshoeing and snowmobile trips out into the high-Arctic whisk you to camps close to the Russian border. Finish by mushing huskies across the tundra, feeling the cold batter your cheeks under a rippling green sky. Not a bad way to spend a weekend…
Who: The Aurora Zone (01670 785012; www.theaurorazone.com)
When: 18 January; 1 and 15 February; 8 and 22 March 2018
How long: 3 nights
Breathe in the sights and scents of India’s rural southern coast and Western Ghats as you pedal beyond the usual tourist trail to explore the villages, plantations and temples of Karnataka. Village Ways’ Cycling the Spice Gardens sees you keep things local, stopping for farmhouse lunches and tours of Hulgol’s spice gardens.
A transfer to the coast reveals fishing villages and secluded beaches along the Arabian Sea as you explore its coastal paths before catching a train to the twinkling palaces and bustling markets of Mysore. But don’t be surprised if it’s the locals who you’ll remember the most.
Who: Village Ways (01223 750049; www.villageways.com)
When: Flexible dates, 1 January to 31 March 2018
How long: 10 days
Ford the remote temples and coral atolls of Belize on Families Worldwide’s easy-going Rainforest & Reef tour. From the river valleys of San Ignacio, strike out into the forests along the Guatemala border to explore ruined Maya cities, then descend into the caves of Actun Chapat, where many of their people were laid to rest. But it’s arguably out on the coast where the most breathtaking sights are found, as you boat out to Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve, one of three remote coral atolls off Belize’s eastern shores.
The area was named after the gold-raiding pirate John Glover; today, the chance to kayak and snorkel its protected reefs reveals a rich menagerie every bit as valuable, and one even delighted kids can explore with ease.
Who: Families Worldwide (01962 302062; www.familiesworldwide.co.uk)
When: 19 and 26 February; 9 April; 31 December 2018
How long: 10 days
Bed down in mountain huts as you wander Andorra’s first high-mountain walking circuit: The Coronallacs (or ‘Crown of the Lakes’). Ramblers Walking Holidays’ six-night guided Andorra Mountain Trek threads all 90km of the trail, looping the entirety of this tiny principality and fording alpine passes, open woodland and snowy peaks along the way.
The route takes you past the French and Spanish borders, and then up to the Coma Pedrosa (the highest spot in Andorra at 2,942m). The going can get tricky, but as you wind through high-altitude lakes, the views are more than inspiration enough.
Who: Ramblers Walking Holidays (01707 818268; www.ramblersholidays.co.uk)
When: 18 and 25 July; 5 September 2018
How long: 6 nights
Gasp at epic alpine views without the lung-busting climbs on Adagio’s Magnificent Mont Blanc trip. Soak up widescreen views of the Alps atop Le Prarion and glide up the Aiguille du Midi cable car for a prime spot in front of the majestic Mont Blanc.
Finish by hopping on a train to the vast valley glacier Mer de Glace, before opting for another cable car to whizz-up for more icy glimpses of glaciers and the Aiguille Rouge mountains. Your aching thighs will thank you.
Who: Adagio (01707 386700; www.adagio.co.uk)
When: 25 June; 2, 9, 16 and 23 July; 10 September 2018
How long: 7 nights
Macedonia’s hills and scenic trails offer a rare mix of gentle walking and some of the most underrated scenery in Europe. Walks Worldwide’s Trails of Macedonia takes a classic group tour through the velveted rises of Pelister, Mavrovo and Galicica national parks, as you head out of Skopje via vineyards and ancient Macedonian ruins for pine forests and the pelicans and cormorants of Golem Grad (or ‘Snake Island’, for obvious slithering reasons) in Lake Prespa.
Visit the Byzantine churches and frescoes surrounding Lake Ohrid before finishing out west, summiting Macedonia’s highest peak (Mount Korab; 2,764m) and delving into hidden corners in the caves and gorges of Mavrovo NP.
Who: Walks Worldwide (01962 302085; www.walksworldwide.com)
When: 26 May, 23, June, 15 September and 6 October 2018
How long: 8 days
While the steep hike in cost for seeing Rwanda’s native gorillas has made some travellers think twice about visiting, that’s not all there is to see here. Expert Africa’s multi-day Kayaking and Gorillas trip makes the latter part of its trip optional, beginning on the croc- and hippo-free waters of Lake Kivu, before heading into the mountains of Volcanoes NP.
The forests there are best known for their gorilla-trekking, but a cheaper alternative is to track its rare golden monkeys (£100 extra a day), which cavort in the lower mountain slopes. Of course, gorillas can be added to the schedule (£1,500 extra a day), but trekking the park’s caves and lakes makes a compelling alternative.
Who: Expert Africa (020 3405 6666; www.expertafrica.com)
When: Year round
How long: 7 nights
Celebrate 15 years of the Cairngorms National Park by exploring the trails that weave its towering plateaus, steep-sided glens and deep corries on Wilderness Scotland’s High Points of the Cairngorms. Based at a private lodge in Glen Feshie, hike each day into the upper reaches of the park, rising into the peaks of Sgorr Gaoith, Meall a Buachaille and Cairn Gorm itself.
Keep an eye out for red deer, golden eagles and Scotland’s only herd of reindeer as you ford bubbling streams, Caledonian pine forests and mirrored lochs, ploughing deep into an oft-overlooked wilderness right on our doorstep.
Who: Wilderness Scotland (01479 420020; www.wildernessscotland.com)
When: 2 and 23 June; 11, 18 and 25 August 2018
How long: 6 nights
Journeying high into northern Spain, Pura Aventura’s self-guided Ebro River: Inn-to-Inn trip rattles out of the Cantabrian mountains and tracks the upper Ebro River towards the Mediterranean, winding limestone canyons, Romanesque churches and medieval castles.
Bed down at night in family inns along the way in an area that once saw the beginnings of the Kingdom of Castile, where relics of its Catholic exuberance can be found in religious sites across the region. You can even spend a night in the Santa María La Real monastery, where guests can sleep in a converted monk’s cell.
Who: Pura Aventura (01273 676712; www.pura-aventura.com)
When: Flexible dates, April to November
How long: 7 nights