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The best tour operators in the world - and their top trips for 2020

Plan the perfect Peru trip, explore a Costa Rican eco-haven or find a slice of paradise in Ladakh, with these sensational trips from your 2020 Reader Travel Award-winning tour operators...

Hemis Monastery in Ladakh, India (Shutterstock)

1. Gold winner: Selective Asia

The Art Island of Naoshima, Japan (Shutterstock)

The Art Island of Naoshima, Japan (Shutterstock)

See a different side to Japan

 

Creativity and cycling go hand in hand on Selective Asia’s bespoke trip through the Cycle & Art Trails of Japan. Tempt your taste buds on a local food tour in Osaka, before hopping across the country to see the quirky exhibits and installations of ‘Art Island’ Naoshima.

On your way, you’ll cycle from the artsy seaside towns fringing main island Honshu to Imabari on Shikoku island, pedalling across the Seto Inland Sea islands, where you’ll explore scenic gardens and traditional teahouses.

Who? Selective Asia (01273 670001)

When? Year-round

How long? 10 days

How much? From £2,433 (excluding int’l flights)

2. Silver winner: Llama Travel

Late Titicaca, Peru (Shutterstock)

Late Titicaca, Peru (Shutterstock)

Plan the perfect Peru trip

Go on a Grand Tour of Peru with Llama Travel and discover the country’s most iconic sites at an easy pace.

Dine in Lima and sail across Lake Titicaca to discover the distinct culture of Taquile Island, sleep in the peaceful surrounds of the Sacred Valley, uncover the lost city of Machu Picchu, and spy Andean condors soaring above Colca Canyon. 

You’ll also get to muse the meaning behind Paracas’ mysterious 1,500-yearold Nazca Lines – praising gods or hailing aliens?

Who? Llama Travel (020 7263 3000)

When? March to November

How long? 21 days

How much? From £2,779 (including int’l flights)

3. Bronze winner: Holiday Architects

Meet the wildlife of Costa Rica (Unsplash/Holiday Architects)

Meet the wildlife of Costa Rica (Unsplash/Holiday Architects)

Explore an eco-haven in Costa Rica

Eco-friendly adventures come thick and fast on Holiday Architects’ Undiscovered Costa Rica trip.

While the crowds head to national parks, you can trek down peaceful forest trails or zip-line through lush canopy, before exploring the jungle-cloaked volcanic region of Guayabo.

Alternatively, horse-ride to waterfalls, raft through pristine forests or look out for the resplendent quetzal bird’s distinctive plumage.

Who? Holiday Architects (01242 253073)

When? November to August

How long? 14 days

How much? From £3,550 (including int’l flights)

4. Highly commended: Imagine Travel

Elephants in Chobe National Park, Botswana (Shutterstock)

Elephants in Chobe National Park, Botswana (Shutterstock)

Go for the game in Africa

Head to Northern Namibia & Beyond on Imagine Travel’s epic expedition through the salt pan of Etosha NP, the watery green depths of the little-visited Caprivi Strip – a lush area, completely at odds with the rest of this dry and arid country – to the mighty Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

While walking safaris and local village visits are highlights, you’ll also spy incredible game: birds on sunset cruises, pods of bathing hippo, and elephant at waterholes in Botswana’s Chobe NP.

Who? Imagine Travel (020 3993 8636)

When? Year-round

How long? 15 days

How much? From £4,550 (including int’l flights)

5. Highly commended: Bamboo Travel

Hemis Tsechu Festival at Hemis Monastery, Ladakh (Shutterstock)

Hemis Tsechu Festival at Hemis Monastery, Ladakh (Shutterstock)

Find a slice of paradise in Ladakh

Find the place Between Heaven and Earth on Bamboo Travel’s excursion through the glacial landscapes, jagged mountains and traditional culture of Ladakh in north-western India.

Not only will you trek to mountaintop monasteries and learn about local Ladakhi life, you’ll also explore the village of Sumur, visit the sacred lake of Yarab Tso and take to the skies on a scenic drive to Nubra Valley – the Valley of Flowers – via the 5,602m Khardungla Pass.

Who? Bamboo Travel (020 7720 9285)

When? May to October

How long? 13 days

How much? From £3,325 (including int’l flights)

6. Highly commended: Wild Frontiers

Hawa Mahal Palace in Jaipur, Rajasthan (Shutterstock)

Hawa Mahal Palace in Jaipur, Rajasthan (Shutterstock)

Gain an insight into India

Hit the trifecta on Wild Frontiers’ Rajasthan: Taj, Temples & Tigers trip. Beginning in Delhi, you’ll travel through Agra to the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, then cross into rural Rajasthan, where you’ll trek through dusty desert and find the semi-nomadic Rabari shepherd tribe.

Look out for rarely seen black buck and civet cats, before hitting the colourful cities of Jaipur and Jodhpur. Browse bazaars and majestic forts, then join a game drive to seek out tigers in Ranthambhore NP.

Who? Wild Frontiers (020 3925 6363)

When? November to March 

How long? 16 days

How much? From £2,665 (excluding int’l flights)

7. Highly commended: KE Adventure

End your trip with a stay in Porto, Portugal (Shutterstock)

End your trip with a stay in Porto, Portugal (Shutterstock)

Join in the pilgrim parade in Portugal

Take the path less travelled on KE Adventure Travel’s Self-Guided Camino: The Portuguese Way trip. Starting in Porto, you’ll follow in the footsteps of ancient pilgrims, trekking past medieval architecture, vineyards and markets to end up at Santiago de Compostela.

Here you can feel the depth of your achievement as you gaze up at the legendary cathedral, before dusting off your boots at your hotel with a bottle of wine picked up in Porto. Pilgrim passports at the ready.

Who? KE Adventure Travel (01768 615807)

When? March to October

How long? 14 days

How much? £1,015 (excluding int’l flights)

8. Highly commended: Audley Travel

Hop aboard a wine tram in Franschhoek, South Africa (Shutterstock)

Hop aboard a wine tram in Franschhoek, South Africa (Shutterstock)

Mix up the menu in South Africa

Get a taste of South Africa on a bespoke, bite-sized trip with Audley Travel. Go on private walking tours in Cape Town, before hopping on Franschhoek’s wine tram and cruising between rolling vineyards for tastings at renowned estates in the Cape Winelands.

Picnic at sustainable farms then head to Stellenbosch for a food tour, where you can chew on the vibrant town’s colonial heritage, sampling bobotie (minced-meat casserole) under the shadow of Stellenbosch Mountain.

Who? Audley Travel (01993 683399)

When? Year-round

How long? 11 days

How much? From £2,450 (including int’l flights)

9. Highly commended: Trailfinders

Emerald Lake in British Columbia, Canada (Shutterstock)

Emerald Lake in British Columbia, Canada (Shutterstock)

Aim high in British Columbia

Coast through British Columbia’s dramatic mountain scenery and pristine towns on Trailfinders’ fly-drive Kootenay Rockies & Okanagan Valley Loop.

You can cycle or trek the trails dotting the primeval Stanley Forest or explore Vancouver, but it’s the lakes that steal the show on this scenic Canadian escape. Stay in lakeside retreats, clamber up Mount Kobau and take dips in Invermere’s Lake Windermere, the clear waters of Osoyoos Lake and Yoho NP’s Emerald Lake.

Who? Trailfinders (020 7368 1200)

When? April to May

How long? 13 days

How much? From £1,429 (including int’l flights)

10. Highly commended: Explore Worldwide

The columns of Baalbek, Lebanon (Shutterstock)

The columns of Baalbek, Lebanon (Shutterstock)

Walk with the Gods in Lebanon

See the Highlights of Lebanon on Explore Worldwide’s trip through our 2020 hot-listed country. Visit UNESCO-listed Baalbek to admire the Roman ruins, before strolling among thousand-year-old giants of the forest (or the ‘Cedars of God’) in Qadisha Valley.

Before you leave, you’ll also uncover the capital delights of Beirut, taste the region’s famous red wine in Bekaa Valley and feast on the country’s culinary classics.

Who? Explore Worldwide (01252 882635)

When? Year-round

How long? Eight days

How much? From £1,570 (including int’l flights)

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