Like all good things, choosing the top places to visit in 2017 took us some time, but we’re thrilled to present our picks for the best travel experiences for the year ahead, with off-the-beaten path journeys, emerging destinations (get there before the crowds do!), and hidden wonders revealed by our expert Trip Leaders. The readers of AFAR Magazine have just voted Wilderness Travel as the World’s #1 Tour Operator…and in their words, “the best company for getting you off the grid.” Check out our full list below and we hope to see you on one (or more) of our epic adventures in 2017!
Nestled high in the jagged mountains of northern India is a magical realm marked by gompas (Tibetan Buddhist monasteries), colorful prayer flags strung above stupas, and a rich heritage steeped in ancient tradition. We’ve been exploring “Little Tibet” for decades and it never ceases to amaze us how rarely visited it still is. Our special Tso Moriri Trek is a true high-altitude adventure, with camps at around 15,000 feet and pass crossings of up to 19,200 feet. On our Journey to Ladakh, you’ll experience a Tibetan Buddhist festival, with its sacred dances and rituals performed by costumed monks representing guardian deities. See our Ladakh trips here.
When people think of Japan, images of bustling Tokyo and a high-tech world come to mind, yet there is an equally tranquil realm all throughout this enchanting country. On our Japan: Castles, Samurai, and Legends adventure, we’ll explore feudal Japan, walking parts of the Kumano Kodo (one of only two pilgrimage routes designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site), and visiting spectacular cities that look as if they’re frozen in time. On the small island of Shikoku, an ancient pilgrimage route connects 88 temples, and we hike to the best of them on our Hiker’s Journey to Shikoku. If you want ancient traditions paired with delicious food, a vibrant culture, and spectacular country trails, Japan is blossoming with options. See our Japan trips here.
Greenland is as remarkable as it is remote, and our summer adventures here take full advantage of the 20 hours of daylight. Our journey to Iceland and Eastern Greenland explores the ancient hunting trails used by Inuit hunters and Sermilik Fjord, whose vast ice wall is part of the Greenland ice sheet. On our Expedition to Greenland, we head out on a muskox safari, fish in the great western fjords—and later have a chef cook up our “catch of the day”, savor a traditional Inuit barbecue dinner, and enjoy a “midnight cruise” near Sermeq Icefjord, the most active glacier in the world (said to have spawned the iceberg that sank the Titanic). See our Greenland trips here.
With the rising strength of the U.S. Dollar against the British Pound, now is the time to venture into the ancient land that makes poets out of explorers. We designed Great Peaks of Scotland, England, and Wales for those wanting to hit the trails, hiking the three legendary peaks that crown the British Isles: Snowdon in the wild north of Wales, Scafell Pike in England’s dreamy Lake District, and Ben Nevis in the craggy highlands of Scotland. You can also follow in the footsteps of writers, from Wordsworth to the Brontes, on our England: Coast to Coast adventure; hike in Wales, Cornwall, or enjoy the highlands and islands of Scotland. See our British Isles trips here.
The sun-dappled island of Sicily, just off the “toe” of Italy, is an entirely separate world with a unique culture and cuisine all its own. On our Hiking in Sicily adventure, we’ll explore ancient Greek ruins, explore fascinating nature reserves brimming with history and delightful views of the turquoise sea, sip and savor the wonderful wine and local cuisine inspired by the many cultures that have settled here, and hike fantastic trails through vineyards on the slopes of exquisite Mt. Etna. See our Sicily trip here.
Alaska, despite being part of the U.S., is still far off the beaten path and one of those special adventures that are fun for the entire family. Our favorite way to experience the wonders of southeast Alaska is aboard a classic historic vessel. By day, we sea kayak in remote bays and past islets, take Zodiac cruises to the shores for fascinating walks with our guides, then relax on deck while watching the sun set. Our two journeys explore southeast Alaska’s famed Inside Passage between Juneau and Petersburg, and the former Russian outpost of Sitka on Baranof Island. See our Alaska trips here.
You may come to Madagascar for the lemurs—after all, there are more than 50 species (and it’s the only place to see them in the wild)—but you’ll stay for its abundance of unique flora and fauna found nowhere else in the world. Walk forested trails shaded by huge tree ferns looking for colorful chameleons, enjoy early morning birding walks, join our expert leaders as we meet wildlife researchers, and savor a sundowner in the astonishing Avenue of the Baobabs. See our Madagascar trips here.
As far as safari destinations go, Zimbabwe has flown under the radar, resulting in an uncrowded African bush experience. Our adventure here is safe, and our safari dollars directly support wildlife protection and local communities. We set out on game drives, game walks, and even by canoe on the Zambezi, all in search of incredible wildlife—elephant, lion, giraffe, and hippo to name a few—and stay in award-winning lodges that benefit not only the wildlife but the surrounding communities. Some highlights on this journey include the jaw-dropping views above the Zambezi from our cliffside lodge and getting trunk-level with elephants as they come to drink near our underground “look-up blind”. See our Zimbabwe trip here.
Choquequirao is today what Machu Picchu was in the 1900s, with much of the ancient site still unexcavated—it’s a true Indiana Jones experience of discovery! If you’ve ever wanted to explore ancient Inca wonders without the masses, head to this extraordinary complex of ceremonial buildings and grand staircases. Our epic adventure Choquequirao: Trek to the Cradle of Gold is guided by expert Kevin Floerke, an archaeologist, educator, and photographer specializing in the cultures of the Andes. He has done extensive research and excavations in the region, and our spectacular and challenging hiking journey brings us from the depths of the canyon carved by the roaring Rio Apurimac to breathtaking Choquequirao, with its stunning plazas and mysterious shrines. And no Peru adventure is complete without a stop at the famed Machu Picchu. See our Choquequirao trip here.
We’re thrilled to have the chance to share Bolivia with our travelers. From the world’s highest capital, La Paz, to the world’s largest salt plains, Salar de Uyuni, to the largest lake in South America, Lake Titicaca, Bolivia is a phenomenal destination for adventure. And the culture and history are equally as fascinating as the natural landscapes. On our journey Bolivia! we take an “urban trek” in La Paz, spend two nights on the mystical Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun), make our way to the austere Salar de Uyuni, and explore the “White City” of Sucre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. See our Bolivia trip here.