Many Nature Expeditions travelers continually look for new, “leading edge” destinations to explore, places where they can experience true adventure and expose themselves to exotic, unfamiliar cultures. These environments are often more interesting, educational and, yes, beautiful than more traditional locales. Many emerging destinations also lend themselves to wonderful “soft” adventures, such as hiking, bicycling, rafting and/or horseback riding, usually through impressive landscapes. Below are a few of our favorite “up-and-coming” countries:
Myanmar (formerly known as Burma)
Listed among Lonely Planet’s Best Destinations for 2012, it’s an exciting time to visit Myanmar. The political tides are changing in this country that has seen little cultural change in hundreds of years. Isolated for over a half century from the modern world, Myanmar has preserved its rich heritage and religious traditions, allowing travelers a glimpse into a simpler way of life. The country is also stunning scenically. NEI’s 13-day itinerary of Myanmar (and Angkor Wat, Cambodia) includes hot air ballooning over the ancient kingdom of Bagan at sunset, cruising by Inle Lake’s floating villages and markets, a bicycle tour of Bagan’s prominent temples and pagodas, pasting gold leafs on the Maha muni Buddha image in Mandalay and taking a scenic horse cart ride along the picturesque villages, farms, monasteries and pagodas of Inwa. We encourage you to explore Myanmar before the hordes descend upon this soon to be very popular destination!
What can one say about a land where progress is measured by Gross National Happiness (rather than Gross National Product); where Himalayan scenery and mountaintop monasteries are breathtakingly beautiful; where archery is the national sport but no one is permitted to use bows as weapons or for hunting; where the noble King fights alongside foot soldiers and voluntarily relinquishes most of his power; where native forest covers at least 60% of the country by official decree; where Buddhist astrology holds sway over all important life decisions; and where foreigners can easily interact with the very open, fun-loving and mostly English speaking locals? Remote and breathtaking, Bhutan welcomes active travelers (especially hikers) who are also curious about the country’s deep religious history and unique architecture. Your 9-day NEI adventure includes hiking to the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, a private lecture on Buddhism, delivered by a highly respected, reincarnated Lama, whitewater rafting through pristine Himalayan wilderness near Punakha and a lesson in Buddhist Astrology, Bhutanese cooking and/or archery.
Nearby Guatemala may well be one of the world’s most “undervalued” countries, endowed as it is with beaches, volcanoes, rainforests, white water rivers, coffee farms, a rich and vibrant Mayan culture, world class archaeology and diverse wildllife. Once considered too unsafe to visit, Guatemala is no longer plagued by civil war and the risks of visiting Central America’s most historic and cultural country can can easily be mitigated by taking a private NEI tour and avoiding the border “narco” zones with Honduras and Mexico. One incredible highlight of your 8 day NEI tour is hiking through tropical rainforest to reach the ruins at Tikal, perhaps the Mayan civilization’s most impressive city. Another is hiking along the shore of Lake Atitlan, considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Antigua, the best preserved colonial city in the Americas and the incredibly colorful market at Chichicastenango are also musts. Museum lovers will find three excellent options in Guatemala City, while those looking for an enriching volunteer experience can help paint a house or school, teach English to schoolchildren, collecting coffee from the fields or gathering up turtle eggs.
Despite being one of the most isolated islands in the world, Easter Island is well known for the dramatic and mysterious moais that are found throughout the craggy Polynesian landscape. During your 9-day Easter Island adventure with Nature Expeditions, you’ll enjoy cultural activities such Rapa Nui carving workshops, dancing lessons and a Polynesian feast. Physical adventures on Easter Island include snorkeling, caving and surfing – in fact, Easter Island is thought to be one of the world’s hottest new surfing destinations! Throughout your NEI Easter Island vacation you’ll wonder how a place of such archaeological and cultural richness could also offer so many top notch natural attractions!
In 2012, Traveler magazine named Uganda and Rwanda one of their must-see destinations, and for good reason – no where else on earth are you able to track and see the rarest of primates, mountain gorillas. Set against the lush, mountainous backdrop of Equatorial Africa, your 10-day private Silverback Safari with NEI includes a visit to Diane Fosey’s grave, tracking Golden Monkeys and two full days in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, one of the most diverse ecosystems in Africa. In Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, you will have the opportunity to spend one full hour observing the endangered mountain gorillas, an experience that will leave you truly inspired.
990 miles off the coast of East Africa, the Seychelles are a group of 115 islands formed from the peaks of a huge underwater plateau which fell off the edge of India about 65 million years ago. Named by National Geographic as a country with the best beaches in the world, the Seychelles are famous for their unbelievable natural beauty. During your 12-day Seychelles Iles d’Amour vacation with NEI, you will enjoy scenic nature hikes, snorkel, bicycle through La Digue’s traditional villages and feast on delicious Creole cuisine.