Special destinations. Zero crowds. Here are the enlightening experiences in Oman, Palestine, Kenya, Guyana and beyond that haven’t made it on to travellers’ radars - for now...
See the mighty Laikipia Plateau from a new angle on a bespoke adventure in Kenya’s Lolldaiga Conservancy with Audley Travel.
Though the reserve itself is relatively unknown, its views of Laikipia, Mount Kenya and the Aberdare mountain range are unrivalled – while lions, cheetahs and Grévy’s zebra roam nearby.
You’ll explore on game drives and walking safaris, and spend a night or two camping in the Lolldaiga Hills – before making tracks for Mara North Conservancy and Ol Pejeta Conservancy, home to the world’s last northern white rhinos.
Who? Audley Travel (01993 838510)
When? June to March 2019; 2020
How long? Seven nights
How much? From £5,600 (including int’l flights)
Discover the little-known ‘art island’ of Naoshima on An Insider’s Japan, a tailor-made trip with Selective Asia.
On this sleepy isle in the Seto Inland Sea, you’ll see creations by renowned local artists and architects – alongside the likes of Warhol, Monet and Hockney – in numerous tiny museums and galleries.
A clutch of outdoor sculptures, such as Yayoi Kusama’s towering Yellow Pumpkin, make a striking addition to the otherwise wild coast and woodlands.
Cycle around the island (it takes less than half an hour) before ducking into the traditional houses-turned-studios in this former fishing settlement. Gallery hopping never felt so intrepid.
Who? Selective Asia (01273 670 001)
When? Year-round. We recommend March to April and October to November
How long? 12 days
How much? From £3,760 (excluding int’l flights)
In the silvery glow of a full moon, the Taj Mahal takes on an ethereal, otherworldly beauty – its marble curves shimmering in the celestial spotlight.
Corinthian Travel’s India and Taj Mahal by Moonlight private tour is timed to make the most of this lunar spectacle, with additional opportunities to explore the mausoleum at sunrise and sunset too.
After a tour of Agra Fort, you’ll venture to the haunting city of Fatehpur Sikri – abandoned over 400 years ago – and then to Ranthambore National Park, in search of its leopards and tigers. Accompanied by an experienced wildlife guide, you’ll learn the secrets of tracking and spotting these elusive creatures.
Who? Corinthian Travel (020 3583 6089)
When? Year-round. We recommended October to November and February to May
How long? 10 days
How much? From £1,395 (excluding int’l flights)
Hop on board the postal boat that serves some of Norway’s little-visited islands, where basking seals and swooping eagles are the only crowds you’ll encounter.
On Discover The World’s Island Hopping Along Norway’s Fjord Coast trip, you’ll explore the land and sea between Bergen and Ålesund by local ferry, kayak, bus, bike, and mailboat – with the option to hire a car too.
Slow travel at its best, the itinerary also allows for following wild hiking trails, discovering small fishing communities, photographing vast sea bridges, and visiting the Norwegian Red Deer Centre to observe these elegant native animals.
Who? Discover The World (01737 888442)
When? Selected dates June to August 2020
How long? Seven nights
How much? From £1,036 (including int’l flights)
Sail around the isolated, intriguing islands of the South Pacific and discover the many Secrets of Melanesia with Heritage Expeditions – your ticket to this rarely-visited part of the world.
Head to Malaita, where ‘shell money’ is still used, to explore forests a-flutter with rare golden fantails – before delving into the tribal heritage of Ngongosila Island and witnessing time-honoured traditional dances.
In Vanuatu, the Listerine-hued shallows of Champagne Beach are yours to wallow in, but don’t get too comfortable: there are wild waterfalls to climb, lively reefs to snorkel on, and rare birds to spot. Keep an eye out for Falla's petrels, Solomon sea eagles, and Vanikoro white-eyes – all highly notable sightings.
Who? Heritage Expeditions
When? Selected dates in October 2019 & 2020
How long? 12 days
How much? From around £4,394 (excluding int’l flights)
Unearth Colombia’s lost civilisations on a Lost City Trekking adventure with G Adventures.
To begin, you’ll hike through thick jungle and wild river valleys on a three-day pilgrimage to sacred Ciudad Perdida – a pre-Hispanic treasure in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Older than Machu Picchu, this ‘lost city’ lay hidden until 1972, and remains almost untouched by tourism.
The journey isn’t too gruelling, but it does require stamina – particularly for the 1,200-step final ascent. From here, you’ll follow gentle pathways to remote Wiwa and Kogi villages, where you’ll camp in spectacular hilltop clearings and enjoy a lunch cooked by local women in the indigenous Gotsezhi Wiwa community.
Who? G Adventures (0207 313 6953)
How long? Seven days
How much? From £499 (excluding int’l flights)
Encounter an ancient world that has been left untouched for millennia with Naturetrek’s Poland in Spring trip.
Wildlife secrets are whispered in the quieter corners of the immense Białowieża Forest where European bison, wolf, lynx and elk roam the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
Then head to the Biebrza Marshes, led by an expert ornithologist and naturalist; birdwatchers will be in paradise – spotted eagles and bluethroats swoop through the skies above.
Who? Naturetrek (01962 733051)
When? 10 May 2020
How long? Eight days
How much? From £1,495 (including int’l flights)
While Machu Picchu grabs the limelight, it also hogs the crowds – meaning that Peru’s other ancient riches (which are plentiful) slip quietly under the radar... so you can have them almost all to yourself.
Unearth one such treasure on the Cloud Warrior Tracks Tour to Kuelap with Peru Safari. Assisted by a 4x4 self-drive expedition vehicle, you’ll take the ‘scenic route’ through coastal settlements and South America’s highest peaks – and up, up, to the highlight of the trip: the Cloud Warrior Fortress of Kuelap.
This remote jungle citadel was built by the Chachapoyas in the sixth century, and perches 3,000m above sea level in the cloud forest – a land you’ll explore on foot or horseback, with only hummingbirds, toucans and monkeys for company.
Who? Peru Safari (01744 889819)
When? 15 June 2020 and 3 Dec 2020
How long? 17 days
How much? From £4,290 (excluding int’l flights)
Uncover the Holy Land with Silk Road Adventures, on its new hiking expedition though Palestine: Walk the Masar Ibrahim al Khalil with Leon McCarron.
Unheard of by most, the ancient Masar Ibrahim al Khalil trail – also known as ‘Abraham’s Path’ – leads travellers through Rummaneh, Bethlehem and Jerusalem, and offers real insight into the region’s complex history.
Along the way, you’ll sleep in homestays and Bedouin camps, and walk an average of five hours per day through olive groves, desert gorges and remote villages – stopping to explore ancient Canaanite, Greek, Roman and Byzantine ruins.
“Of all the expeditions I’ve done, the Masar has been the most instantly inspiring,” says adventurer and filmmaker Leon McCarron, who will guide the trip. High praise indeed: McCarron has already walked 1,000 miles through this complex, storied region.
Who? Silk Road Adventures (0117 427 0129)
When? 13 April 2020
How long? 14 days
How much? From £2,980 (excluding int’l flights)
Before you go: Consult the UK Foreign Office's travel advice before travelling to Palestine, or visit your local government's website for up-to-date guidance.
See a side of Ethiopia that goes missed on the Ethiopia Bale Mountains trip with YellowWood Adventures.
Cross the highest plateau in Africa and see exotic wildlife from mountain nyala to the rare Ethiopian red wolf. Impala and warthogs also walk across the plains, with nomadic herders grazing their flocks on the plateau, too.
Hike through the ancient Harenna cloud forest, where cascading waterfalls drop down to reveal hidden bamboo groves and rock pools.
Colobus monkeys are at home here, so look out for their distinctive monochrome fur, before making your way over to thatched-roof villages to uncover a unique way of life.
Who? YellowWood Adventures (020 7846 0197)
When? 5 October 2019
How long? Eight nights
How much? From £1,299 (excluding int’l flights)
Go on Adventures in Sulawesi with Bamboo Travel. Start in busy Makassar before trekking to a remote Torajan village, tucked away from plain sight.
See boat-shaped Tongkonan houses and learn about their traditional customs on an overnight stay, before cruising across Lake Poso and admiring prehistoric megaliths at Bada Valley.
Listen out for the birdsong at Malei rainforest in Lore Lindu National Park, where hornbill, kingfishers and eagles are all counted among the species at home here.
Round off your trip at the idyllic Togean Islands, where you can rest and relax or snorkel over coral reef in crystal-clear waters.
Who? Bamboo Travel (020 7720 9285)
When? September to October 2019
How long? 20 days
How much? From £3,795 (including int’l flights)
Join Andante Travels to see a secret side to Pompeii, Herculaneum and Classical Campania. With an expert archaeologist, you will be able to exclusively access the ancient underground Theatre of Herculaneum and see its many relics.
You will also have private entry into the Cave of Sejanus and the adjoining villa of Pausilypon, as well as the store rooms at Paestum, where you’ll find Lucanian tombs decorated with painted scenes.
Along the way, you will spend time exploring the ruins of Pompeii, hiking Mount Vesuvius and touring the Villas of San Marco and Arianna and examining the intricate frescoes of a bygone era.
Who? Andante Travels (01722 786545)
When? Selected dates January to May; July to December 2020
How long? Eight days
How much? From £1,895 (including int’l flights)
Jump onto one of the finest Arab horses on Venture Co Worldwide’s Wahiba Desert Crossing trip. Known only to nomadic tribes, the route has never been conquered by Westerners – or attempted on horseback.
Starting in Muscat, you will ride south past the rugged Al-Hajar Mountains towards Wahiba Sands, where the dust of the golden sand will fly behind you as you continue to canter to the Arabian Sea. Here, you can hop off the saddle and relax in the waters at Wadi Shab.
Float upstream to swim beneath waterfalls and climb ropes to a lagoon above the falls – the perfect place to rest your tired muscles.
Who? Venture Co Worldwide (01837 55907)
When? 9 Oct 2020 & 20 Feb 2021
How long? Nine days
How much? From £3,125
Leave everything behind and relax on Halkidiki’s ‘secret’ island with Sunvil.
With only a single village to its name, Ammouliani is the perfect getaway – stroll through the old fishing harbour and along golden beaches without bumping into crowds of people.
You can pop in and out of local tavernas and cafés on your way or take a cruise along the western Athos coastline. Look out for UNESCO-listed monasteries from the sea or ferry over to Ouranoupolis for the day, where you’ll find priests mixing amongst pilgrims and Byzantine architecture.
Who? Sunvil (020 8568 4499)
When? September to October
How long? Seven days
How much? From £750 (including int’l flights)
Head deep into the heart of Africa with Tracks Safari for a unique chance to interact with gorillas in a setting that has largely gone under the radar.
Meet with gorilla research teams and go on morning treks for an encounter with the furry primates – then meet all sorts of nocturnal wildlife as they come out of hiding on evening forest walks. Thrill-seekers can kayak along the Lekoli River, take a dip in the Lango bai and see African grey parrots.
At Odzala-Kokoua National Park, you’ll find even more wildlife opportunities – lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, spotted hyena and forest elephant can all be spotted here.
Who? Tracks Safaris (01386 830264)
When? November to December 2019
How long? Seven nights
How much? From 6,550 (excluding int’l flights)
Travel down Guyana’s wild north-west coast and discover an unseen side to the nation and its indigenous communities on Geodyssey’s Warapoka trip.
Sail down blackwater rivers and wind your way through dense forest to find the tucked-away village of Warapoka, where you will encounter a traditional way of life that has lasted for thousands of years.
Not only will you get to observe the cultural secrets of the Warrau people, you will get a chance to bustle about in Georgetown and witness the grandeur of Kaieteur Falls, the world's largest single drop waterfall.
Who? Geodyssey (020 7281 7788)
How long? Seven nights
How much? From £2,750 (excluding int'l flights)
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