Boats in Porto, Portugal (Dreamstime)
List 09 January

10 of the best new journeys to embark on in 2018

Sail the coast of Portugal, drive on ancient Silk Road trade routes, or take an overland adventure through Africa. These new trips will take you to uncharted territory - and beyond

Colombia

Ancient mountain carving in San Agustín Archaeological Park (Dreamstime)

Ancient mountain carving in San Agustín Archaeological Park (Dreamstime)

Go off-grid in Colombia

The chance to go off-grid is the lure of Journey Latin America’s San Agustín and the Amazon trip. Cross one of the country’s oldest communal waterways, slicing south from Bogotá along the Rio Magdalena before making overland for San Agustín, where some 500 statues scatter its lush hills – thrilling relics of a civilisation long since lost to time. From there, hikes up to the 3,000m-high páramo and cloud forest of Purace NP whet the appetite for the raw nature of the Amazon, where jungle treks to remote communities and boat trips upstream from Letitia, passing dolphins and riverbanks festooned with parakeets and egrets, thrill with a hit of pure wild adrenaline.

Who: Journey Latin America (020 8747 8315; www.journeylatinamerica.co.uk)

When: Year round

How long: 12 days

The Azores, Portugal

Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal (Dreamstime)

Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal (Dreamstime)

Skim across the Azores

Traverse a triangle of natural escapes on Artisan Travel’s new The Azores: A Three Island Tour. Explore Faial by jeep, spying the lush crater of Caldeira and the black sands of Capelinhos before hopping over to Sao Jorge for its villages and a cooling dip in Caldeira do Santo Cristo’s lagoon. Finish in Pico and soak up its vineyards (literally) before toasting its wild wonders with a whale-watching trip.

Who: Artisan Travel (01670 785085; www.artisantravel.co.uk)

When: Selected dates May–Oct 2018

How long: 9 nights

USA

French Quarter, New Orleans (Dreamstime)

French Quarter, New Orleans (Dreamstime)

Fly-drive the Deep South

Motor between a trio of cities on Bon Voyage’s Deep South Discovery – Heritage to Honky Tonk tour. Soak up the bluegrass and country tunes of Nashville, popping into the Johnny Cash museum, before driving onto another music mecca: Memphis. Here lies Graceland, the home of Elvis, and the chance to experience a cocktail of different beats along Beale Street. End your musical road trip in the jazz halls and famed French Quarter of New Orleans – a chance to rest your blue suede shoes and soak up some of Louisiana’s sweetest sounds.

Who: Bon Voyage (0800 316 0194; www.bon-voyage.co.uk)

When: Year round

How long: 11 days

Africa

Danakil Depression, Ethiopia (Dreamstime)

Danakil Depression, Ethiopia (Dreamstime)

Harare to Alexandria in 16.5 weeks

If you’ve got the time, crossing Africa on land is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and Oasis Overland’s Harare to Alexandria trip is a marathon well worth the numb bottom. The whole thing takes 116 days as you roll through Zimbabwe’s eastern highlands, the chimp-filled forests of Tanzania’s Lake Tanganyika and Ethiopia’s alien-like Danakil Depression among others, rising up through Djibouti and Sudan to the pyramids of Egypt. It can be broken into bite-sized chunks to make it more digestible for the time-conscious (such as Harare to Kampala; 43 days), but why would you really want to do that? This is a one-off greatest hits of adventure travel, and worth every day you can throw at it.

Who: Oasis Overland (01963 363400; www.oasisoverland.co.uk)

When: 25 August 2018

How long: 16.5 weeks

The Philippines

Chocolate hills, The Philippines (Dreamstime)

Chocolate hills, The Philippines (Dreamstime)

History and island-hopping

With over 7,000 islands to explore (and less than a third of those occupied), the Philippines holds more than the odd surprise. Jules Verne’s Islands of the Philippines tour hops just a mere handful, but in doing so unravels a curious land of countless borders and natural wonders. The experience takes you from the rolling brown Chocolate Hills of Bohol to the ancient Spanish-built walls of Manilla’s original city, Intramuros. Float Palawan’s echoing karst caves of Puerto Princesa, part of a remarkable subterranean waterway that extends a full 8km, and wander 16th-century fortresses on an archipelago that wears its history very much on its sleeve.

Who: Jules Verne (020 3553 3722; www.vjv.com)

When: 20 Jan, 10 Feb, 3 Mar, 21 Apr, 12 May, 3 Nov and 1 Dec 2018

How long: 13 nights

Portugal and Spain

Porto, Portugal (Dreamstime)

Porto, Portugal (Dreamstime)

Drive the Portuguese Camino

The Camino Portugués follows the route once used by Queen Isabel of Portugal (1271-1336) to make her pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, charting the ancient Roman roads of Lusitania. These days, it’s still a rural affair, winding rolling scenery along the west coast. Caminos’ The Portuguese Way, Lisboa to Santiago follows the full route, pausing at the monasteries of Estremadura, the Roman ruins of Conimbriga and the port lodges of Porto and the Douro region en route to Galicia and its famous cathedral. An altogether more laid-back way to explore a historic route.

Who: Caminos by Casas Cantabricas (01223 328721; www.caminos.co.uk)

When: Year round

How long: 14 days

South Korea and Japan

Daigoji Temple in Autumn, Kyoto, Japan (Dreamstime)

Daigoji Temple in Autumn, Kyoto, Japan (Dreamstime)

Two nations, one trip

While the history of South Korea and Japan means the countries rarely see eye to eye, for travellers crossing the sea that divides the two, there are plenty of similarities. Selective Asia’s concise (just ten days) Crossing borders: Korea to Kyushu trip brings these to the fore as you begin in Seoul by wandering the Confucian shrines and tombs that belie its ultra-modern reputation. Afterwards, discover rock carvings and palace ruins in Gyeongju before heading for Busan, gateway to Japan.

A 3.5-hour ferry deposits travellers in Fukuoka on Kyushu island, where its temples and yatai food stalls whet the appetite for a visit to the city’s old 17th century castle and trips inland, revealing two countries with more in common than they’d ever care to admit.

Who: Selective Asia (01273 670001; www.selectiveasia.com)

When: Year round

How long: 10 days

Russia

Train drive along the Black Sea Coast (Dreamstime)

Train drive along the Black Sea Coast (Dreamstime)

Steam across historic south-west Russia

This year sees the Soviet-era steam engine Caucasian VI chugging the 5,600km between Moscow and the Black Sea Coast, bringing Golden Eagle Luxury Trains back to the area it explored on its first itineraries some 26 years ago. It’s a journey rarely taken, and offers a moving window on south-west Russia. Blast out of the capital in a fug of steam and aristocratic grandeur to explore the gems of the Volga, from handsome Astrakhan down to the foothills of the Caucasus, where the old fortress of Vladikavkaz now flourishes as a cultured escape on the Terek River.

Return via the rebuilt Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad), its history etched in the dying days of the Second World War when it stemmed the Nazi tide.

Who: Golden Eagle Luxury Trains (0161 928 9410; www.goldeneagleluxurytrains.com)

When: 29 September 2018

How long: 15 days

Norway

Ice walk cave experience (Supplied by Hurtigruten)

Ice walk cave experience (Supplied by Hurtigruten)

Have a storied weekend in Svalbard

Witness the novel-inspiring snowy landscapes of Norway on Best Served Scandinavia’s Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights trip. Pitch up in the frontier town of Longyearbyen and skid along 12km of tundra trails as you’re pulled by huskies to an icy cave that appears as if ripped straight from Pullman’s His Dark Materials. Camp out in the remote Advent Valley before hoping for an aurora show on your final night. A magical finale worthy of any author.

Who: Best Served Scandinavia (020 7664 2234; best-served.co.uk)

When: January–March

How long: 3 nights

The 'stans

Kalon Minart, Uzbekistan (Dreamstime)

Kalon Minart, Uzbekistan (Dreamstime)

Follow the highway of the ancient world

The Oxus was one of the great rivers of antiquity, bookending civilisations and dividing empires across Central Asia. Today, it is better known as the Amu Darya, but its course is no less dramatic, weaving the Pamir mountains and parts of the old Silk Road as it threads Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan en route to the Aral Sea. Follow its lead on Edge Expeditions’ Sea to Source tour, as you trip across lakes on the edge of Bukhara, marvel at the marble glory of Samarkand’s Registan square, explore ancient Zoroastrian ruins and wind the high passes of the Wakhan Corridor. Breathe deep lungfuls of mountain air as you lay eyes on a part of the world that’s about as far off the tourist trail as it gets.

Who: Edge Expeditions (07944 817644; www.edge-expeditions.com)

When: 24 Sep 2018

How long: 26 days