Top 10 under-the-radar adventure destinations for 2020

Enjoying the Karakoram views
Enjoying the Karakoram views

As we gear up to celebrate our 45th year of pioneering off the beaten track itineraries, discover what made our current list for the ultimate active holiday in 2020 in alternate destinations.

These little-known treks and historic trails are some of the biggest adventure secrets. You may be surprised what destinations make it into our top 10 most under-the-radar destinations for 2020.

Ethiopia's Simien Mountains

The Simien Mountains offer superb trekking with stunning scenery, imposing escarpments and the chance to spot unusual wildlife such as Gelada baboon; and it’s this combination of culture, history and natural beauty that places Ethiopia in our top 10.

Why it's under-the-radar? Few people realise the depth of history and beauty that define Ethiopia. The Simien Mountains, in particular, deliver a sense of isolation amidst a grand landscape punctuated with the calls of rare wildlife. Expect to see few trekkers on this wilderness trek.

 

How to best experience it: Our Ethiopia Simien Mountains and Beyond adventure, combines a 10-day camping-based trek among the region's spectacular escarpments with a journey across a land dotted with rock-hewn churches, medieval castles and ancient obelisks reflecting a culture dating back more than 3000 years.

Kyrgyzstan's Turkestan Range

This Central Asian region is emerging as an adventure traveller’s paradise and the picturesque Turkestan Range in Kyrgyzstan is going to be a magnet for active adventurers to the region. Often referred to as the 'Asian Patagonia' because of its stunning sheer rock formations and sense of true wilderness, the landscape is strewn with crystal clear glacier fed streams and lakes, lush fir tree forests and alpine meadows providing feed for herds of grazing yaks. Turkestan's mountains and valleys definitely deserve a spot on the podium.

Ridge between Dzhalgychy and Orto-Chashma gorges The Ak-Tash camp at 2,700m. The towering sheer rock peaks of Asan (4,230m), Usen (4,378m) and Piramidalnyi (5,509m)
 

Why it's under-the-radar? Entering the heart of the Pamir-Alay mountain system, the newly opened trail opens up this largely unexplored region. It traverses some of the region's most remote and unspoilt landscapes, where travellers can experience true solitude in its wild beauty.

How to best experience it: The 14-day Ak-Suu Turkestan Range Trek follows mountain trails through this beautiful area, with a backdrop of sheer rock, snow-capped walls and no one in sight.

Georgia & Armenia's Transcaucasian Trail

We've been saying for a while that the new Transcaucasian Trail is trekking’s next big thing. On the borderlands between Europe and Asia, the new Trail will extend more than 3000 kilometres (1875 miles), connecting more than 20 national parks, endless UNESCO listed sites and protected areas in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia, collectively known as the Southern Caucasus.

The Trancaucasian Trail will introduce you to the real Georgia

Why it's under-the-radar? Few have stepped foot on this recently opened trail that is scenically stunning and historically fascinating.

How to best experience it: Already gaining applause from TIME Magazine and Forbes Magazine, the Transcaucasian Trail Hikes in Georgia and Armenia can be experienced separately or jointly.

China's Rainbow Mountains of Zhangye Danxia

Once again, it’s the combination of stunning natural landscapes and cultural and historical highlights of an overlooked region that put this destination on the list.

Why it's under-the-radar? You’ve heard of the Rainbow Mountains of Peru, or Ausangate Mountains, but probably not China’s Rainbow Mountains. With an equally astonishing range of colours, China’s Rainbow Mountains are relatively unknown and it’s this that places them in the top 10 list for 2020.

The Rainbow Mountains of China's Zhangye Danxia The towering rock formations of Binggou Danxia Geopark Zhangye Danxia, China's Rainbow Mountains Jiayu Guan and the Qilian Mountains The Qilian Mountains form the border between Qinghai and Gansu provinces.
 

How to best experience it: The 6-day Rainbow Mountains and the Mati Temple includes historical highlights such as the fortresses of the Southern Qilian Mountains, on the remote, western part of the Great Wall of China and the Mati temple carved in the Linsong Mountain.

Japan's Kumano Kodo

The dual pilgrim certificate, available in conjunction with the widely known Spanish Camino de Santiago pilgrim trail, is helping spread the word about Japan’s World Heritage Kumano Kodo pilgrim trails but, as yet, they remain largely off most international visitors’ itineraries.

Hikers on the cobble lined Nakahechi route Kumano Nachi Taisha and falls in the spring 'Haraido-oji', a purifying door on the approach to Kumano Hongu Grand Shrine Bathers enjoying the hot spring waters at Kawayu Onsen Hosshinmon-oji, a gate of spiritual awaking on the Kumano Kodo hike Panoramic views on the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Hike
 

Why it's under-the-radar? Approximately only about 200,000 people walk the Kumano Kodo trail each year, most of whom are Japanese. It remains relatively unknown internationally.

How to best experience it: The self-guided 10-day Kumano Kodo Coast to Coast Hike takes the pilgrim route and offers support of all logistics like accommodation and luggage transfers.

Jordan Trail

Another new trail, which loosely follows an ancient trade route stretching from Egypt to Aqaba and on to Damascus, is the recently completed Jordan Trail.

Why it's under-the-radar? As yet widely unknown, the 650 kilometre and 40 day trail crosses the entire country through diverse landscapes and terrain, from striking cliffs and rugged ‘wadis’ to archaeological monuments, placing this destination at the top of our list.

Wadi Rum's desert landscape at sunrise |  <i>Richard I'Anson</i>

How to best experience it: The 10-day Jordan Trail Highlights takes in some of the best section of the trail, as well as the country’s highest point, the ancient city of Petra, the world’s lowest point in the Dead Sea and the unforgettable Wadi Rum.

Newfoundland Canada’s East Coast Trail

Traversing towering cliffs and headlands, sea stacks, coves, and deep fjords, these natural sights give this destination its long-established reputation as one of the world’s most spectacular coastlines. The 300 kilometre (187 miles) trail is a series of 26 wilderness paths and is the ultimate eastern hiking experience in Canada.

Why it's under-the-radar? Not many realise the opportunities to explore more remote sections farther south such as beautiful Flamber Head Path and to the impressive sea arch at Berry Head. Walking the trail combines stunning scenery with opportunity to visit charming colourful coastal fishing villages and enjoy the hospitality of bay-side communities.

 

How to best experience it: The 10-day East Coast Trail takes in many of the trail’s highlights, providing transfers, guesthouse and B&B accommodation and luggage transfers. There is a real possibility of whale, puffins, moose, or iceberg sightings while on the trail; but encounters with genuine, story-telling local hosts are guaranteed!

Nepal's Gokyo region

Perhaps it was the widely distributed images of crowds of mountaineers on the high trails above Everest Base Camp earlier in the year that has stimulated fresh interest in alternative treks in the Everest region but, whatever the reason, we see it as a good thing.

Why it's under-the-radar? In spite of fresh interest, trails around the Gokyo Lakes remain the region’s biggest secret. The trek to Gokyo and up the Renjo La Pass, in particular, breaks away from the main Everest Base Camp trails and enters a picturesque and more tranquil valley, offering classic postcard views of snow-capped mountains and the vibrant turquoise waters of Gokyo Lake.

Amazing views as we trek above Gokyo Lake |  <i>Monika Molenda</i> Blue skies overhead as we approach the summit of Gokyo Ri |  <i>Angela Parajo</i> Happy group of trekkers atop of the Renjo La, Nepal |  <i>Scott Cardwell</i> Trekkers walking towards Renjo La trekking past first Gokyo lakes |  <i>Angela Parajo</i> Breathtaking mountain views from the top of the Renjo La |  <i>Angela Parajo</i>
 

How to best experience it: The 17-day Gokyo and the Renjo La trek is ranked by our staff as the best trek in the Everest region as it takes trekkers off the beaten path and to inspiring views of Mt Everest well away from the crowds.

Nepal's Great Himalaya Trail

When mentioning Nepal, it's hard not to note the epic 150-day Great Himalaya Trail which commences in the country's far east in the Kanchenjunga region and traverses the country to the high plateaus on the Tibetan borderlands in the far west. Along this 1700 kilometre trail (1063 miles), trekkers encounter some of the wildest and most remote mountain environments imaginable.

Having operated the Great Himalaya Trail for 10 consecutive years, we remain the only company globally to do so. Trekkers can see all of Nepal's 8000-metre peaks while baring witness to a village life where its culture has remained intact for centuries, earning it a deserving spot in the top 10.

Capturing the mountainscape along the GHT |  <i>Ken Harris</i> Trekking the early stages of Nepal's Great Himalaya Trail |  <i>Ken Harris</i> Beautiful landscape while crossing the Thorong La on the Great Himalaya Trail |  <i>Ray Mustey</i> The elusive Red Panda spotted on trek along the Great Himalaya Trail |  <i>Ken Harris</i> Spectacular mountain views along the Great Himalaya Trail |  <i>Ken Harris</i> Early stages of Nepal's Great Himalaya Trail |  <i>Ken Harris</i> Kanchenjunga South Base Camp |  <i>Michelle Landry</i>
 

Why it's under-the-radar? Because of the physical challenge involved in tackling a trek of this duration; nonetheless, it's a life-changing adventure. In such remote conditions, trekkers have unparalleled opportunities to meet locals who can go for months and sometime years without seeing overseas visitors.

How to best experience it: We’ve crafted seven stand-alone stages that can be completed individually or trekked together to make up the full traverse.

Pakistan's Karakoram Ranges

From K2 base camp, through the awe-inspiring Concordia ranges and to Gondogoro La, the Karakoram ranges reveal an unrivalled collection of what many describe as the most spectacular mountain scenery on earth.

Why it's under-the-radar? A just-launched trek to the inner Karakoram in Pakistan takes a route along the legendary Baltoro glacier to the '"throne room of the Gods". It's tough, rewarding and truly off-the-map.


How to best experience it:
Take on an expedition of a lifetime in the presence of mountaineering legends and highly experienced mountain guides and trekking crew. Our Ultimate K2 Trek and Karakoram Exploratory Trek offer fully-serviced wilderness camping, including specialist high altitude porters.

Comment (1)

Geno

In 2016 I went on the Manaslu-Annapurna circuit with World Expeditions, part of the GHT. It exceeded my expectations, the staff was the best, food and kitchen A+, when a problem arose, it was always solved rapidly and professionally. I highly recommend the company and the trips they offer. Oh yes, the scenery was stunning.

4 months ago
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