New year, new journeys: here's our pick of this year's freshest trips... From Chile to China and all the places in between. So where will your Wanderlust take you in 2014?
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Use handy new flights to combine two top Asian regions on Bamboo Travel’s Exploring Burma and the Yunnan tour. Start with Burma’s iconic sights – Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda, the abundant temples of Bagan, tranquil Inle Lake. Then, for a conveniently connected complement, fly to China’s south-west Yunnan Province. Explore the karst landscapes, deep gorges and atmospheric towns (such as Kunming and Lijiang) before venturing to the Himalayan Shangri-La of Zhongdian and finishing at Chengdu’s Giant Panda Research Centre for the cutest close encounters.
Who: Bamboo Travel
When: Flexible departures Mar-May & Sept-Nov 2014
How long: 19 nights
How much: From £3,895 (incl flights)
Medieval castles, time-warp towns, the legend of Dracula... an air of mystery pervades Tucan Travel’s Transylvania Tale, which hops from Budapest to Istanbul, through Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey. Using various modes of transport, you’ll explore this exotic eastern edge of Europe, visiting ornate Byzantine churches, Ottoman mosques, fortresses from the Dark Ages and grand bazaars. And of course you’ll be lured to Braşov’s Bran Castle – believed to have been home to Dracula himself.
Who: Tucan Travel
When: Monthly departures, Apr-Nov 2014
How long: 14 nights
How much: £1,379 (excl flights)
February 2014 marks a decade since The Ghan railway first chugged cross-country from Darwin to Adelaide. Celebrate this feat of engineering by climbing aboard the iconic train on its Darwin to Alice Spring’s leg as part of Audley Travel’s Northern Territory Train Experience. Explore Darwin and waterfall-filled Litchfield NP before boarding the train and watching the Red Centre (with the MacDonnell Ranges, above) roll past your window. While in Alice Springs, a trip to nearby Uluru will be top priority.
Who: Audley Travel
When: Flexible departures
How long: Five days
How much: £1,850 (excl flights)
Beneath the blistering tropical sun, hidden amid seemingly inaccessible jungle-clad mountains, hundreds of tribespeople gather once a year for the Mount Hagen Show. Join Peregrine Adventures’ Mt Hagen Festival Expedition to fully immerse yourself in this primal jamboree. After flying into the Highlands from capital Port Moresby, you’ll meet village chiefs, learn how to prepare a traditional meal and watch agog as the amassed tribal troupes – resplendent in feathered headdresses, striking body paint and colourful costumes – perform their sing-sings and rituals in spectacular style.
Who: Peregrine Adventures
When: 14 Aug 2014
How long: Six nights
How much: From £1,595 (excl flights)
Jaws painted great whites as ferocious killers, but join Dive Worldwide’s Just Conservation: Great White Shark Study in False Bay trip and you’ll discover just how fascinating and vulnerable they are. False Bay, near Cape Town, is heaving with marine life, from Cape fur seals to sharks of all sizes. It’s also the best place to see great whites breaching, and to observe these much-maligned fish from boats and by cage diving. Advanced divers can also dip under at Pyramid Rock and Partridge Point for further exhilarating encounters.
Who: Dive Worldwide
When: 24 & 31 Aug 2014
How long: 11 nights
How much: From £3,265 (incl flights)
First, don’t panic! Although pedalling in wee-bit-hilly Scotland sounds a scary prospect, Wilderness Scotland’s Road Cycling – The Outer Hebrides trip is suitable for almost everyone. This mostly flat ride crosses nine of these spectacular west-coast isles, taking in white-sand beaches, dramatic glens, views of craggy highlands and the most important cultural sites of the Gaelic-speaking archipelago. You might even spy a golden eagle. Nights are spent in cosy inns, with local food and a dram or two. In short, cycling in wild but splendid style.
Who: Wilderness Scotland
When: 7 Jun & 26 Jul 2014
How long: Six nights
How much: £1,195 (excl flights)
Chase shooting stars and discover divine constellations on Explorers Astronomy Tours’ Chilean Observatories trip. Lead by Dr John Mason (former President of the British Astronomical Association), this tour visits some of the best dark skies and telescopes in the world. Survey stars from the Gemini South, La Silla and Paranal Observatories, and visit ALMA, the world’s largest astronomical project. Also, walk on the Atacama salt flats, visit the cacti-covered Elqui Valley and witness the El Tatio Geysers in explosive action.Who: Explorers Astronomy Tours