EXTRAORDINARY EXPERIENCES: Where Next?


Can’t stop searching for the next mind-blowing destination or exciting new adventure? Me neither. From once-in-a-lifetime dream trips to absolutely doable, here are 10 extraordinary adventures currently topping my Wanderlist and why I want to go. 

What about you? What places and experiences do you dream of? Where next? 

 

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THE ULTIMATE ARCTIC ADVENTURE

The Trip: North Pole Cruise with Quark Expeditions

To reach the North Pole is the pinnacle of Arctic expedition endeavors. Few people can say they stood at the one earthly spot where every direction is south. The added excitement of helicopter excursions and an optional hot air balloon flight above the North Pole make this Quark Expeditions adventure a true once-in-a-lifetime experience. Crushing through the ice, admiring soaring seabirds and visiting Franz Josef Land, your voyage will be one that you won’t soon forget. Learn more

Why I want to go:

Who wouldn’t? It’s the North Pole. Top of the world! And no one does the Arctic better than Quark Expeditions. This type of expedition will forever compell me. 

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TRAVEL TO CUBA—LEGALLY

The trip: Cuba Guided Walking Adventure with Country Walkers

The country so rich in natural and human history—is finally open for a limited number of American cultural visitors Thanks to a special license issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. This trip, specially crafted for Country Walkers, presents a unique and rewarding itinerary that combines walking with cultural exchange and education—bringing you to its most scenic and cultural locales and introducing you to Cubans—naturalists, volunteers, scientists, farmers, and artists. The Caribbean’s largest island is as diverse as it is beautiful; you walk some of the miles of beaches and vast ecologically protected areas, totaling 30 percent of the country, including the Zapata Wetlands and the Bay of Pigs. Learn more

Why I want to go:

I study and save information on travel providers and destinations like sports fans who study teams and stats. Always have. Can’t explain it. This trip ticks off two dream trips long filed away under ‘C’: a vacation with award-winning walking tour company, Country Walkers, and the elusive off-limits island of Cuba. Maybe 2103 will be the year to finally move the dream from file to reality. 

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BE PART OF HISTORY IN THE MAKING

The trip: Myanmar Biking with Butterfield & Robinson

As the country of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) gradually opens its doors to western travelers now is the time to seize the moment and experience a country that for decades has been relatively cloaked from the world. Those who are eager to discover Myanmar before the crowds should consider this Butterfield & Robinson Myanmar biking vacation. Bicycling in Bagan, the site of more than 2,000 ancient temples, is worth the trip alone, but this luxury vacation provides a fully immersive experience, one that balances artistic, cultural and religious experiences all along the way. Take in Myanmar at a pace that reflects the gentle character of the country and reveals a land unlike any other. Learn more

Why I want to go:

My husband Hank and I first fell in love with Myanmar on back-to-back trips there in 2001/2002. The country and its people were as exotic and enchanting as any place we’d been. We planned a return but somehow the years passed and we never did. But a B&R Peru walking tour last year convinced us that if we were going to go back, it would be with a provider, like Butterfield and Robinson, that we could trust not to exploit the people or place. Exploring by bicycle, the most common form of transportation, would be an ideal way to go. 

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TREAT YOUR TASTE BUDS

The trip: Puglia Culinary Immersion with Southern Visions

Spend a week at La Cucina Gelso Bianco under the leadership of celebrated international chefs and learn directly from the masters in Italy’s sun-drenched heel, where the food is incredibly fresh and accessible and the recipes are simple and flavorful. This program includes 6 nights at lovely Gelso Bianco, a masterfully restored Puglia villa, and three intensive cooking classes with Chef Rocco Cartia in typical Pugliese cuisine. You will shop daily at the local markets and create your dinner menu together. The week includes three delicious meals a day and plenty of time to explore the region, lounge poolside and spend time in the garden. Learn more

Why I want to go: I have a passion for discovering the world through its food —one delicious bite at a time. And, from the first minute I met Antonello Losito, Puglia native and owner of Gelso Bianco, at a sidewalk cafe in Chiapas, Mexico, I knew we were kindred spirits—foodies with an addiction to travel. One look at the photos of his gorgeous villa and culinary school in Puglia and I’ve been dreaming of a vist ever since. 

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DISCOVER AFRICA’S BEST KEPT SECRET

The trip: Namibia Ultimate Adventure & Safari with REI Adventures

Rising from Southern Africa’s wild Atlantic Coast, Namibia’s distinctive geography includes ancient coastal deserts that glow orange with the setting sun, vast white salt pans that serve as mineral sources for a host of native animal species, and rugged river valleys cutting through jagged mountains of metamorphic rock. REI’s sweeping new Namibia adventure provides access to many of this remarkable country’s most captivating destinations; avoiding long days on the road by using light aircraft to transport guests between comfortable camps and lodges. Learn more

Why I want to go:Namibia is on my radar because of its selection as the host of the 2013 Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS), an annual meet-up of adventure travel professionals which I’ve been blessed to be a part of since 2009 and will be attending again in 2013. Since gaining independence in 1990, Namibia is fast becoming recognized as one of the world’s most progressive destinations working to successfully balance conservation, tourism and community development. So, if I can swing it, I’d love to get out and explore Namibia with REI, my go-source for active travel apparel and equipment, before or after the summit to experience the best of this intriguing country up-close-and-personal. 

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MEET THE GRANTHAMS

The trip: Walk to Downton Abbey with The Wayfarers

Experience England at its finest and most charming with a packed week, including a private tour of Highclere Castle, the ancestral home of the Grantham family in the blockbuster TV series Downton Abbey. Such is the success of Downton Abbey, that group tickets to visit Highclere are sold out for 2013, making this Wayfarers private tour a very rare opportunity. This walking vacation includes Castle Combe – one of England’s most beautiful villages and on to the extraordinary Neolithic stone circles at Avebury and the village of Lacock, where Pride & Prejudice and Harry Potter were filmed. The Walk will also explore the cathedral city of Winchester and Marlborough College where the Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton) was at school. Learn more

Why I want to go: I’d walk anywhere with The Wayfarers—and have, with previous walks in Provence, Dordogne, New Mexico and Devon, England. Their trips are my ideal blend of active adventure, cultural interaction, fabulous food and distinctive, comfortable lodging. But beyond that, as a British company with the insider connections necessary to pull-off the exclusive access this trip provides, I know this opportunity to walk into the glittering world of the Granthams will be a walk that no one else can match.

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CAST A LINE 

The Trip:

Guided Fishing in Sweden with FishYourDream

Go fishing for sea trout In Gotland, Sweden. With 800 km of coastline, it’s easy to escape the crowds. You fish by wading in shallow water using spinning or fly. Stay in good-value accommodation in Visby just five minutes from the evening’s restaurants and the next day’s fine fishing site in the middle of this traditional medieval town. If you dont have gear, no problem, they’ll rig it for you. Learn more

Why I want to go:

For me, fishing isn’t normally a reason to travel. I’ve tried it once or twice in places like Idaho or Alaska where it’s a way of life and enjoyed being out on the water immersed in nature. But last year in Switzerland I met, Per Jobs, a Swedish fishing guide with a passion for fishing so contagious I found myself seriously considering the trip. My paternal grandmother was Swedish, so there’s more pulling me to Sweden than the fish. 

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BEYOND MISCONCEPTIONS

The trip:

Colombia Signature with Kensington Tours

Colombia has changed and now is the time to discover one of the best kept secrets of Latin America. Take advantage of this premium tour in a private vehicle accompanied with your own guide and be prepared to be surprised as you discover the reality of Colombia. This 9-day private tour includes the must see’s of Colombia, encompassing colonial architecture and charm in Bogota and Cartagena, followed by a quaint stay in the coffee growing region of the country. Learn more

Why I want to go: Everyone I know who’s traveled to Colombia raves about it: its amazing food, rich culture, and natural beauty. You should go. You’ll love it, they say. But in places like Colombia, with complicated pasts and changing-by-the-minute presents, I find it best to go with someone who knows the place. Enter, Kensington Tours, a rather generic name for one of the world’s most respected custom travel providers. I’ve been looking for an excuse to travel with them, and as experts in Latin America, a trip to Colombia would provide just the excuse I’ve been seeking. They provide customized itineraries crafted to suit style and budget at a pace you determine. Plus, when things get hairy (and they always do!), they provide 24/7 in-country support. Nice. 

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PEACE OF MIND

The trip: The Soul of Tibet with Wild China

Buzzing phones? Gone. Financial reports? History. Let it all go on a pilgrimage to—where else?—Shangri-La, for a close look at this fascinating and deeply spiritual pocket of Tibetan culture. This trip is for anyone who has ever dreamt of visiting Tibet. Explore Tibet’s sacred monasteries and pilgrimage routes, following in the footsteps of generations of devoted Tibetans. Learn about local life while meeting with artisans and villagers along the way. Witness how Tibetan tradition plays a role in daily life while meeting a local medical expert and explore Tibet’s natural scenery, including the turquoise waters of holy Yamdrok Tso Lake. An optional, post-trip extension to the Mt. Everest Base Camp allows for additional, stunning views.  Learn more

Why I want to go: Tibet is one of those epic destinations so enticing, so enchanting and so compelling that it tends to gets put on the back-burner, saved for another day (or decade) when the time and money for such an expedition will be possible. But guess what. There’s never enough time or money. And, while those easier, more accessible, places are fulfilling, Tibet still beckons. For exploring the real Tibet, I choose Wild China, a premium, sustainable travel company based in Beijing that has been winning accolades for creating rich personal interactions and providing insider access to experts and off-the-beaten-path venues. 

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SUN SPLASHED MOUNTAIN HIGH

The Trip:  Custom Montenegro with 3eTravel

Boasting stunning natural beauty, soaring mountains, lush forests, and the sapphire seas of the Adriatic coast, tiny Montenegro has it all. This hidden corner of Europe with a rich cultural heritage is also an undiscovered playground for adventure travelers seeking crowd-free hiking, mountain biking, rafting, kayaking, canoeing, equestrian and rock climbing trips. Whether it’s cultural or active adventures you’re seeking, 3eTravel is a full-service travel provider offering custom-crafted trips, including transfers, hotel reservations, sports equipment and guiding services and catering. English-speaking guides are available 24 hours a day throughout the tour. Learn more

Why I want to go: An invitation to join a Mediterranean luxury voyage from Athens to Venice with Silversea Cruises last year introduced me to the unexpected wonders of Montenegro. With a one-day stopover in Kotor, Montenegro, I contacted Kirsi Hyvaerinen, the only person I knew who lived there. Together with her friend Boris Jablan, executive director of 3eTravel, Kirsi was kind enough to collect me at the harbor and show me around her adopted country—or as much of it she could in such a short time. We had a blast. Kirsi and Boris were dream hosts and I fell head over heels in love with Montenegro, so much so that I came home telling Hank we should live there.  (to view photos, click here)

 

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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".