Best Adventure Travel Destinations 2014
28-09-2014 | Nguồn: travelandleisure

As dawn breaks over the savanna, your guide signals a stop. Through the trees ahead, you see the outline of something very bigambling through the underbrush. When the elephant—a 10-foot-tall, 12,000-pound bull—finally steps into the clearing and looks your way, your heart races, and for a moment, you remember how small you are. Then the giant continues on its way, and you on yours.

Welcome to a walking safari in Zambia, where your boots stand in for a Land Rover and all that separates you from rhinos, giraffes, lions, and hippos are the thin walls of a canvas tent. Sound rough? Then consider that, at day’s end, hot showers, ice-cold drinks, and feather beds await you in a luxurious mobile camp.

This is just one of the trips we’ve chosen for 2014, and it’s indicative of the qualities we believe make for good adventure travel: extraordinary experiences that challenge you without, well, depriving you.

That means a hike through Slovenia’s rugged Julian Alps that’s punctuated with stops to sip local Cabernets and nibble Bohinj cheese. Or a gear-grinding mountain bike journey through Italy’s mountains that pauses for a soak in 2,000-year-old Roman baths.

To find these hiking, walking, and biking trips, we tapped the expertise of more than 100 of the world’s top operators. In addition to sharing up-and-coming destinations, they filled us in on the state of adventure travel today. The world is a smaller place, with easier access to remote destinations; the business of adventure tourism is helping conserve endangered flora, fauna, and in some cases, local culture; and new standards of luxury mean that you can enjoy posh amenities from Morocco’s desert oases to the ice fields of southern Patagonia.

“For me,” says Wild Frontiers owner Jonny Bealby, “adventure travel is a trip that takes you out of your own comfortable world and puts you in a place that will surprise you, amaze you, educate you, perhaps even scare you, and ultimately provide an experience through which you will have grown as a person.”

You might eat your way through Shanghai’s bustling food markets and its most renowned chefs’ private kitchens, or head to the world’s last intact Buddhist kingdom—Bhutan—in search of the elusive snow leopard.

Rising Star: Sri Lanka

On the rebound from a quarter-century of civil war and the 2004 tsunami, Sri Lanka is coming into its own as an adventure destination. People have long been drawn here for the rich culture: Sri Lanka has eight unesco World Heritage sites, including the fifth-century city of Sigiriya. Now they’re discovering the incredible wildlife, including some of the world’s best whale-watching. Operators ranging from Abercrombie & Kent to Natural World Safaris showcase tea plantations, religious festivals, leopard tracking, and the annual elephant migration in Minneriya National Park. Nights are spent in stylish hotels.

Ancient Ruins: Turkey, Fourth Century B.C.

G Adventures catamaran excursion off Turkey’s Aegean coast sails alongside the rock tombs at Dalyan, carved into the cliffs by the Lycians.

For the Beer Geek: Belgium

Ciclismo Classico taps two of Belgium’s proud traditions—cycling and brewing—on a 326-mile tour that winds past fairy-tale castles, charming canals, and historic breweries, with ample tasting opportunities

For the Tree Hugger: The Carolinas

The Backroads approach to Appalachia balances days pedaling through Southern landscapes—the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway and Transylvania County hill country—with overnights in Asheville and at former pro cyclist George Hincapie’s Hotel Domestique near Greenville, South Carolina. 

For the Wildlife Lover: Namibia

Spot wildlife, hike the world’s tallest sand dune, and meet Himba tribesmen on a beginner-friendly mountain biking safari fromH&I Adventures. You’ll ride to the starkly beautiful Skeleton Coast and inland watering holes frequented by elephants, lions, and endangered black rhinos

Cultural Immersion: Papua New Guinea

Where: Visit coastal fjords, the Western Highlands, and active volcanoes in this island nation where more than 700 languages are spoken.

The People: Much of the journey is dedicated to witnessing the everyday life of villagers, including Baining fire-dancers.

The Experience: Participate in a moo-moofeast (pig roast); learn about local customs such as mat-making and tribal tattooing.

For the Nomad: Morocco

The latest from DuVine Cycling & Adventures is a varied trip, with stops at Marrakesh’s souk, Berber villages in the High Atlas Mountains, and Richard Branson’s Kasbah Tamadot. On the last night, you’ll wheel across the desert to a remote, starlit oasis

Walking and Hiking: Italy

A new itinerary from CW Adventuresspotlights Tuscany’s little-visited Maremma region, home to ancient hilltop towns and sleepy fishing villages. You’ll stay at family-run villas and a seaside resort, sip Bianco di Pitigliano wines, and soak in millennia-old thermal baths.

Rising Star: Patagonia

Though its attractions for serious trekkers and climbers remain undiminished, this region east of the Andes is now enticing a new set of travelers: those who prefer 500-thread-count sheets to drafty tents. A handful of luxury lodges have opened—most recently Awasi Patagonia—and tour operators are adding itineraries for comfort seekers. GeoEx explores Chile’s Chacabuco Valley, the towering O’Higgins Glacier, and Argentina’s Lago del Desierto. Santiago Adventures also takes in both sides of the border, with backcountry 4 x 4 rides and stays at Chile’s Singular Patagonia and Eolo Patagonia’s Spirit, in Argentina.

Ancient Ruins: Ethiopia, Fourth Century A.D.

Cox & Kings brings the country’s Orthodox Christian heritage to life, with visits to religious sites such as Axum, the reputed home of the Ark of the Covenant

For the Oenophile: France

Butterfield & Robinson introduces riders to several of France’s legendary appellations on this casual sip-and-spin, which meanders through Alsace’s Riesling vineyards and into the estates of Champagne

Cultural Immersion: China

Where: Eat your way through the culinary landscape of the Middle Kingdom—Beijing, Chengdu, Hangzhou, and Shanghai.

The People: Well-known Chinese chefs open up their restaurant kitchens to lead private cooking classes.

The Experience: Pick up ingredients in bustling markets before cooking Peking duck, dumplings, dim sum, and other classic regional dishes.

 

Walking and Hiking: New Zealand

The latest tour by VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations is a highlight reel of South Island landscapes, from the soaring mountains of Nelson Lakes National Park to the pristine beaches along the Abel Tasman Coast Track.

Camping in Style: India

In India, the Ultimate Travelling Camp (six days from $3,505) has a series of stylish mobile tents throughout the country that allow travelers to experience everything from the monasteries of Ladakh to the lush hills of Nagaland, on the border with Burma.

Rising Star: Georgia

Set in the South Caucasus at the juncture of Europe and Asia, Georgia is both rich in history and contemporary culture. “The capital, Tbilisi, has transparent glass bridges, but if you head to Svaneti, high in the mountains, the houses still have medieval watch-towers,” says Wild Frontiers marketing manager Michael Pullman. Ker & Downey recently introduced a trip that includes visits to ancient mountaintop monasteries and one of the world’s oldest wine-growing regions. Depending on the season, you can also go downhill skiing or take day hikes through alpine meadows filled with wildflowers.

Ancient Ruins: Argentina, 11th Century A.D.

Southern Explorations’ tour of northwestern Argentina stops at the 75-acre, pre-Columbian hillside ruins of Quilmes, reachable by a remote gravel road

For the High-Altitude Junkie: Switzerland and Italy

A new itinerary from the mountain biking pros at Sacred Rides takes on the Alpine topography along the Swiss-Italian border, with incredible village-to-village rides over high-elevation passes. Ease sore muscles at a 2,000-year-old spa where ancient Romans—and, later, Leonardo da Vinci—soaked.

Cultural Immersion: Arizona and New Mexico

Where: This Southwest desert tour explores the civilizations of Chaco Canyon and Canyon de Chelly.

The People: Navajo and Puebloan guides lead tours of historic ruins and contemporary Native American communities.

The Experience: Hikes over tribal lands are paired with drives to the Hubbell Trading Post and the “Sky City” pueblo, built on a 367-foot-high mesa.

Walking and Hiking: Slovenia

Glacial lakes, medieval castles, Alpine vistas—Boundless Journeys shows you the best of the rugged, crowd-free Julian Alps. Fuel up on traditional farmhouse meals of venison,žlikrofi (potato ravioli), or štruklji (ricotta-stuffed dough). 

Camping in Style: Colorado

Use one of the eight luxury tents at Colorado’s Dunton River Camp at Cresto Ranch (more than $1,000 per night) as a well-appointed base for hiking, horseback riding, and fly-fishing in the Rockies.

Rising Star: Iceland

This otherworldly island has long been known for its geysers, glaciers, and dramatic coastline. But until recently, countryside hotels were few and far between. Travelers can now stay in stylish properties beyond Reykjavík, including the chic, geothermally powered Ion Hotel, set on a lava field. And the Stracta Hótel opened in Hella, the first in a chain of 10 well-appointed lodges that will dot the island’s Ring Road. Meanwhile, tour operators such as REI Adventures and Kensington Tours are adding winter itineraries that include caving in ancient lava tubes, walking on glaciers, and viewing the northern lights.

Ancient Ruins: Peru, 15th Century A.D.

Raft, bike, and then trek the Lares Trail—a quieter, higher-elevation alternative to the Inca Trail—on aJourneys International trip to Machu Picchu. 12 days from $3,175.

 

Cultural Immersion: Australia

Where: Cicada Lodge offers all-inclusive stays in the Northern Territory, home to Nitmiluk National Park and its towering sandstone canyons.

The People: Showcasing Aboriginal traditions, the lodge is entirely owned and operated by the indigenous Jawoyn people.

The Experience: You can take art classes, four-wheel-drive bush tours, and helicopter rides to 20,000-year-old rock-art sites.

Cicada Lodge; from $653 per night.

Walking and Hiking: Zambia

Experience African wildlife at close range with Zambia-based Robin Pope Safaris, whose intimate walking excursions follow the Mupamadzi River through South Luangwa National Park. Each day ends with cold drinks and hot showers at a luxurious mobile camp. Eight days from $4,650.

 

Rising Star: Bhutan

Though it opened to outsiders in 1974, Bhutan didn’t start receiving luxury travelers until about a decade ago, when high-end hotels began opening in the bigger cities of Paro and Thimphu. Strict tourism regulations are still in place (in 2012, there were only about 100,000 arrivals), but properties such as Uma by Como, Punakha are luring people off the beaten track to central Bhutan. Six Senses is building five intimate spa lodges set to open in 2016, much like the circuit from Amanresorts. Big Five Tours & Expeditions just launched a trip to central Bhutan, where travelers may spot the endangered black-necked crane.

Camping in Style: Kenya

The best way to slip into the wild? With only a canvas wall between you and the great outdoors—the king-size beds and en suite bathrooms are a bonus. Once available only for group bookings, the seven elegantly redesigned tents of Richard’s River Camp(more than $1,000 per night), in Kenya, are now open to individuals, offering access to the great migrations of the Masai Mara National Reserve, but set on a serene conservancy just outside the park.

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