“I’m going on an adventure!” Bilbo Baggins yells exuberantly as he rushes out of his Hobbit hole through Hobbiton. It’s a feeling we all share when we’re getting ready to go on our own adventures. The anticipation builds as we imagine ourselves in an unfamiliar place, ready to challenge ourselves with new experiences and to see things we’ve only dreamed of. We can’t stop ourselves from telling everyone all about it, before, during and after the trip. That sense of adventure keeps us packing our bags again and again, and these are some of those adventures we most look forward to.
As the world gets smaller, it gets harder to find places that are truly off the beaten path. Greenland’s east is one of those places. “The Arctic Riviera,” the area bursts to life as the snow melts and tiny wildflowers become ubiquitous. Near summer’s end, berries ripen, and dwarf birches change color. East Greenland’s people had no contact with the outside world until the turn of the 20th century, and there is still a handful of subsistence hunting communities. Along the way, guests will learn about Inuit culture in Tasiilaq and visit with people from the village of Tinit who make a living hunting and fishing in extreme weather conditions with ever-shifting ice. Days are spent taking part in some of the best hiking and sea kayaking in the Arctic, while whales frolic in the fjords. Motorized rafts weave among icebergs, seals, and whales in search of closer views of the icecap.
The Galapagos Islands have so much to teach us about life on Earth. The biodiversity from island to island has astonished visitors from Charles Darwin to today. With so much attention paid in the last year to our impact on the natural world, there may be no better place to marvel at the wonders of the animal kingdom. The Galapagos are home to blue-footed boobies, the only penguins north of the equator and a whole host of wildlife you won’t see anywhere else. The diversity even extends from one island to the next, and with no natural predators, many of the animals have no qualms about flocking right in front of people. The beauty and fragility of the Galapagos are like nowhere else on Earth.
With 3 million residents in more than 600,000 square miles, Mongolia is the most sparsely populated sovereign nation on Earth. Those 3 million people are incredibly friendly, and thrilled to share their homeland with guests. Nomadic horsemen still roam the steppes. The vast gorges, snow-capped peaks, crystalline lakes and endless grasslands will make you forget that city life even exists. There’s nothing like fly-fishing all day then retiring to a yurt to make you feel rustic. Culturally, visitors can explore ancient Buddhist temples and Karakorum, the capital from which Genghis Khan took over large swaths of Asia. Throughout the vast Gobi Desert, the bones of dinosaurs await discovery.
You’ve gone on safari. You’ve climbed Kilimanjaro. You’ve even gone gorilla trekking. Well, Africa has a lot more to offer than that. The world’s fourth largest island, Madagascar lies east of Mozambique and is home to 5 percent of the world’s wildlife and vegetation. While the beaches are great, there is a diversity of terrain from rainforest to desert, and much of the flora and fauna are unique to the island. Of the more than 200 bird species, about half are found only on Madagascar, which has almost 20,000 plant species, including seven types of baobab tree. Lemurs leap from tree to tree, while chameleons cling to the branches, making for an entirely different kind of safari experience.
The Inca Trail
Machu Picchu is all the more marvelous when you see it at the end of a journey that’s taken you to altitudes of nearly 14,000 feet across more than 25 miles of rugged wilderness where the Incas built their mountain cities. You can make the trek in four days, starting along the banks of the Urubamba River and making your way through mountain passes and cloud forests. Along the way you’ll explore other archaeological sites that put the world of the Incas into context. When you finally see the splendor of Machu Picchu, you’ll have a greater understanding of the society that built it and what the site meant to them.