A dance along the Sepik River (Dreamstime)
List 01 January

2019's best trips to explore new frontiers

This year, be among the first to experience these freshly opened countries, trails and itineraries, from Iceland and Svalbard to lesser-visited Laos…

1: Iceland and Svalbard

Beerenberg stratovolcano (Dreamstime)

Beerenberg stratovolcano (Dreamstime)

Tour remote Arctic islands

Opportunities to set foot on the still-active volcanic island of Jan Mayen don’t come along that often, so chances are that places on Aurora Expeditions’ 2020 Iceland, Jan Mayen and Svalbard trip will be snapped up quickly. From Reykjavík, the ship cups the north-west Icelandic coastline, carving through the beauty of the Westfjords and ticking off Europe’s largest seabird breeding cliffs, Látrabjarg, where you can spot puffins, razorbills and guillemots. It then makes for the Denmark Strait and rarely visited Jan Mayen Island, with its towering Beerenberg volcano. The voyage finishes in the tundra of Svalbard, where you can glimpse glaciers, polar bears, Arctic foxes and walruses.

Who: Aurora Expeditions (0808 189 2005)

When: 12 Jun 2020

How long: 10 nights

How much: From £4,800 (excl international flights)

2: Nakhchivan

‘Noah’s tomb’ (Shutterstock)

‘Noah’s tomb’ (Shutterstock)

Rediscover a forgotten exclave

Wanderlust subscribers can use their £50 voucher for this trip! 

There are some corners of the world that travellers just don’t see, where territorial horse-trading and the ambitions of larger nations have left them cut adrift. The Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan is one such destination, passed down from Ottoman to British to Soviet hands until it broke free of its Communist yoke in the 1990s. Regent HolidaysPioneering Nakhchivan trip turns its gaze on this mountainous region with a powerful history, visiting the reputed site of ‘Noah’s tomb’, sanitariums built into old salt mines and medieval monuments. Head out to Batabat to reveal alpine meadows, floating islands and the pilgrim caves of Kahf where the ‘seven sleepers’ of the Qur’an were said to have hidden. But the real lure here is simply setting foot where few other travellers tread.

Who: Regent Holidays (020 7666 1258)

When: 8 Apr 2019

How long: 6 days

How much: From £1,520 (incl int’l flights)

3: Norway

A walrus in Longyearbyen (Shutterstock)

A walrus in Longyearbyen (Shutterstock)

Explore the land of the midnight sun

Wanderlust subscribers can use their £50 voucher for this trip!

Few landscapes match the frozen grandeur of Norway’s sprawling archipelago, and Discover the World’s Svalbard Summer Adventure captures them just at the right time, as the midnight sun lights up the tundra deep into the small hours. The seas fill with walruses, seals and whales as you paddle the Adventfjord or are pulled around the coast on a wheeled sled by huskies. From capital Longyearbyen, on Spitsbergen, explore the surrounding area on electric fatbikes or by foot, while longer detours head out to the mining settlements of Barentsburg and the ghost town of Pyramiden.

Who: Discover The World (01737 218802)

When: Flexible dates, May–Sept

How long: 5 nights

How much: From £1,053 (incl int’l flight)

4: Papua New Guinea

A dance along the Sepik River (Dreamstime)

A dance along the Sepik River (Dreamstime)

Journey deep into the heart of the Sepik

Wanderlust subscribers can use their £50 voucher for this trip!

The Sepik River Basin is Papua New Guinea’s answer to the Amazon – a country within a country that’s home to over 250 languages. Regent Holidays Cruise the Sepik River tour dives into its heart, drifting past villages little visited by the outside, where life still revolves around the water. It’s a rare opportunity to visit the upper, middle and lower Sepik, glimpsing the artistry of the peoples around Chambri Lakes, visiting spirit houses and seeing the colourful performances (sing sings) that carry the history of its people. The trip also takes in the Crocodile Festival, a creature that has special significance in these parts where scarring young men’s flesh to make it look like crocodile skin is still a rite of passage in some villages.

Who: Regent Holidays (020 7666 1258)

When: 2 Aug 2019

How long: 14 days

How much: From £11,475 (excl int’l flights)

5: St Helena

Beautiful landscape of St Helena (Shutterstock)

Beautiful landscape of St Helena (Shutterstock)

Visit one of the UK’s remotest outposts

With an increased number of flights now landing at St Helena’s airport, the days of only being able to access this remote UK outpost via a lengthy voyage aboard a Royal Mail ship are long gone. Jules Verne’s Airlink to St Helena trip opens the way to a land deep in the Atlantic, far off the coast of South Africa, and lets you discover a community with an unusual history. Wander relics from the days of Napoleon’s exile, the colourful Georgian houses that scatter capital Jamestown and the old fortifications of the East India Company. Offshore, dolphins and turtles offer a taste of the wildlife as volcanic cliffs loom over the shores of a land where, in spite of new connections, few have ever made the effort to see.

Who: Jules Verne (020 3553 3722)

When: 21 Feb, 7 Mar, 12 Sept, 10 Oct and 7 Nov 2019

How long: 11 nights

How much: From £3,845 (incl int’l flights)

6: Laos

Plain of Jars, Laos (Shutterstock)

Plain of Jars, Laos (Shutterstock)

See lesser-visited Laos

Wanderlust subscribers can use their £50 voucher for this trip!

As serene as Luang Prabang is, it’s good to escape Laos’s well-trodden trail, and Selective Asia’s Laos: Beyond the Ordinary trip does just that by ploughing new roads that lead deeper, further and faster into the backchannels of the country. Sink into local rhythms as you travel north from Champasak, through the mysterious Plain of Jars, Buddhist grottoes and the remarkable Vieng Xai caves, where some 20,000 hid out when the shelling of the Vietnam War spilled across the border. A night safari and a hike to a local salt lick in the Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area bring the chance of sighting clouded leopards, golden cats and even tigers, while a visit to a local youth project puts a more human face on a country where most visitors just flit between the colourful temples and markets.

Who: Selective Asia (01273 670001)

When: Year round

How long: 16 days

How much: From £2,440 (excl int’l flights)

Unique accommodation

 Forgo familiar comforts and rest your head for the night in one of these unusual spots…

Mongolia

A Mongolian ger (Shutterstock)

A Mongolian ger (Shutterstock)

The ride of your life

You don’t have to be an equestrian expert to go Nomad Horse Riding with YellowWood Adventures; in fact, the trip is even suitable for beginners. Where could be better to learn the riding ropes than in Mongolia, on a sure-footed steed hoofing your way up mountains, through forests and over spectacular steppe with an expert guide at your side? But while the landscapes and riding are thrilling, the best bit of this trip is the chance to stay with nomadic Mongolian families – sharing meals with them, learning about their lives, and sleeping in their traditional ger tent homes. This is Mongolia at its most authentic.

Who: YellowWood Adventures (020 7846 0197)

When: 7 Sept 2019

How long: 8 nights

How much: From £1,399 (excl int’l flights)

Canada

The Northwest Passage, Canada (Shutterstock)

The Northwest Passage, Canada (Shutterstock)

Get the High Arctic to yourself 

As you rise up into the High Arctic, travelling among the frozen tufts of land that scatter the northern tip of Nunavut becomes ever trickier. More typically, you’ll spot the area’s islands from aboard large cruise ships, but Quark Expeditions’ Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge experience is that rare opportunity to sample life on the ground at a latitude few reach. From Yellowknife, a charter flight whisks you some 800km north of the Arctic Circle to Somerset Island and a family-run base camp that brings you up close to these northermost wilds. You’ll explore estuaries rippling with beluga whales, learn to drive an all-terrain vehicle and visit Thule (ancient Inuit) bone and stone houses on Cape Anne. There’s also the chance to paddle the ice floes and soak up views of the Northwest Passage – a legendary stretch of water that thwarted explorers for centuries – spotting polar bears, musk-oxen and ringed seals.

Who: Quark Expeditions (020 3514 2712)

When: Selected dates Jun–Aug 2019

How long: 8 or 10 days

How much: From USD$7,495 (£5,700; excl int’l flights)

 

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