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Year of discovery: 2020’s top trips to explore new frontiers

From countries that may not exist, to old favourites back on the map, be among the first to experience these freshly opened countries, trails and itineraries...

Inle Lake Intha fishermen at sunset (Shutterstock)

1. Be on cloud nine in the rainforest in Nicaragua

Cloud forest of the Chocoyero-El Brujo Nature Reserve (Shutterstock)

Cloud forest of the Chocoyero-El Brujo Nature Reserve (Shutterstock)

Following last year’s political unrest, tour operators are finally returning to the land of lakes and volcanoes – and you’ll find out why on Wild Frontiers’ new Nicaragua Explorer trip, which shows exactly what the Central American country has hidden up its sleeve.

Think everything from cloud forests to rainforests – and all the wildlife in between. Spy hundreds of green parakeets flitting around waterfalls as you walk the forest trails of bird haven El Chocoyero Nature Reserve.

For for a cultural hit, head to the vibrant city of Granada and watch a potter tinkering about at home, before stopping by Ometepe to admire the island’s two volcanoes, framed by Lake Nicaragua.

And if you want more, night tours to the Masaya volcano’s crater are also on the agenda, where you get the chance to see lava frothing and flowing before your eyes. 

Trip: Nicaragua Explorer

Who: Wild Frontiers

Type: Small group

When: June

How long: 13 nights

How much: From £2,995 (exc. flights) 

2. Discover the Galápagos of the North in Canada

Haida Gwaii (Shutterstock)

Haida Gwaii (Shutterstock)

Embark on the new-for-2020 Haida Gwaii Islands Expedition with Intrepid around one of Canada’s remotest and wild archipelagos.

You’ll be treated to a melting pot of human history, bucket-list wildlife and a magic hat of superb landscapes, beginning with spotting ursines at the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary. 

Hop around a selection of the isles and watch whales off the coast of Louise Island, paddle on a guided kayaking trip and channel your inner grizzly with some salmon fishing. Just as enchanting, though, are the ethnic Haida people, their legacy writ large in the watchmen who have stood guard here for millennia. 

Trip: Haida Gwaii Islands Expedition

Who: Intrepid

Type: Small group

When: Jun & Aug

How long: Seven nights

How much: From £1,845 (exc. flights) 

3. Fall right off the travel map in Azerbaijan & Nakhchivan

Mushroom-shaped salt formations in the Masazir Lake (Shutterstock)

Mushroom-shaped salt formations in the Masazir Lake (Shutterstock)

Combine a rising tourism star with a place that doesn’t – technically – exist on Regent Holidays’ Azerbaijan & Nakhchivan Uncovered Group Tour.

Easy-on- the-eye Baku is the perfect introduction to Azerbaijan, its modern skyscrapers blending with its quaint Old Town, before moving onto the emerald-wrapped mountains of Sheki and the ancient settlement of Lahij.

Head to the seldom-treaded landlocked exclave of Nakhchivan (separated from the rest of Azerbaijan by Armenia) and stroll its namesake capital’s plethora of museums and monuments.

Cast your net further in this tiny state for more sightseeing, including the woodland, mountains and lakes of the Shahbuz Plateau and Azerbaijan’s answer to Machu Picchu in Alinja Fortress.

Trip: Azerbaijan & Nakhchivan Uncovered

Who: Regent Holidays 

Type: Small group

When: May 

How long: 10 nights 

How much: From £2,740 (inc. flights) 

4. Act as the eyes of a Great Wall trekker in China

Sunset over the Great Wall of China (Shutterstock)

Sunset over the Great Wall of China (Shutterstock)

Strap on your boots and embark on a charity challenge with a difference as you hike the Great Wall of China as part of a group of blind and sighted trekkers.

On Traveleyes’ Great Wall Of China Trek you’ll assist a blind trekker, enabling them to enjoy the challenge, while fundraising towards a charity of your choice. This is an amazing opportunity to spend five days hiking sections of the Great Wall, while experiencing the sights and heights of China with a focus on all the senses. 

Trip: Great Wall Of China Trek

Who: Traveleyes

Type: Volunteer

When: May 

How long: Eight nights 

How much: From £1,900 (inc. flights) 

5. Stay somewhere new in Myanmar

Pagodas on the Plain of Bagan (Shutterstock)

Pagodas on the Plain of Bagan (Shutterstock)

Over the past few years, a number of new projects, hotels and experiences have popped up around Myanmar Selective Asia’s Impact Myanmar trip is all about staying at smaller locally owned hotels, community tourism and wildlife conservation.

Get away from the crowds of Bagan and central Inle, and instead sleep at Salay River View Inn and experience British colonial charm. The inn is a restored warehouse formerly owned by the Ayeyarwaddy Royal Trading Company.

At Inle Sanctuary Phayartaung you’ll stay in stilt houses built on the pier. The eco-lodge is the first hotel on Sakar Lake on the southern end of Inle Lake and offers breathtaking views.

Trip: Impact Myanmar

Who: Selective Asia

Type: Tailor-made

When: Year-round

How long: 14 nights

How much: From £2,726 pp (exc. flights)

6. Explore island treasures in Sulawesi

Tongkonans, large ancestral houses, in Sangalla, Toraja (Shutterstock)

Tongkonans, large ancestral houses, in Sangalla, Toraja (Shutterstock)

Where else would you begin your Adventures In Sulawesi than the bustling port of Makassar? 

Bamboo Travel’s overland expedition takes you from the Indonesian island’s capital and its melting pot of cultures, to the karst landscapes of the highlands, where you’ll get the chance to immerse yourself in the daily life of the spiritual Torajan people, before rafting down rivers for your next thrill.

Rugged mountains and rainforests drape the landscape, but no trip would be complete without a turn around the UNESCO-stamped Lore Lindu NP. Spy endemic birds, like the maleo fowl and purple- bearded bee-eater, and prehistoric megaliths sculpted into human forms in one of the largest remaining mountain rainforests of Sulawesi.

Trip: Adventures In Sulawesi

Who: Bamboo Travel

Type: Small group

When: May to Oct

How long: 17 nights

How much: From £3,795 (inc. flights) 

7. Discover varied Pakistan

Wazir Khan Mosque (Shutterstock)

Wazir Khan Mosque (Shutterstock)

From ancient bazaars and forts to towering peaks, explore Pakistan’s many different faces on Dragoman Overland’s Pakistan Discovery tour.

Start your journey in the Old Walled City of Lahore. Browse the bazaars for traditional handicrafts, learn about the city’s Mogul past and take in the bizarre flag lowering ceremony at the Wagah border.

Then head to Islamabad stopping at the striking Rohtas Fort on the way. Admire the mountain scenery as you drive along through the Karakoram Highway and enjoy a two-day hike up to Nanga Parbat. Venture through the heart of the Karakoram region and, later, visit Deosai NP, thought to be the second highest plateau in the world.

Trip: Pakistan Discovery 

Who: Dragoman Overland 

Type: Overland

When: Jun & Jul 

How long: 14 nights

How much: From £1,950 + USD$660 (£504) kitty (exc. flights) 

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