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Where to spend the holidays: 7 new trip ideas

Spend the holidays on a remote atoll, celebrate Christmas Day on the Inca Trail or welcome the New Year at one of the most remote places on Earth. Find seven exciting active adventures to do in December and January that'll make the festive season one to remember.

Break away on a remote atoll in Belize

In need of a tropical adventure? Then put our new Belize Jungle and Reef trip on your radar. Lighthouse Reef Atoll is the first marine protected area in Central America home to over 20 renowned dive and snorkel sites, including the world famous Blue Hole, Half Moon Wall and the Aquarium. Don a mask, snorkel and fins and swim in this rich reef system, second in size only to Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Submerged underwater is the best way to view Lighthouse Reef Sunset over the beautiful Lighthouse Reef Basecamp Mayan ruins of Lamanai in Belize Up close to a local Iguana in Belize Preparing to Kayak in the crystal clear waters of Belize Stand up paddle boarding in the warm waters of Lighthouse Reef Half Moon Base Camp backs onto the blue waters of Belize
 

Relax in a safari-style beach cabana with endless views of the Caribbean and enjoy day temperatures in December in the mid-20oCs – the sea could not be more inviting!

Plus, explore a different side of Belize: the jungle, where you will encounter a spectacular Maya world of ancient ruins, old Creole settlements as well as an impressive diversity of indigenous wildlife.

Treat yourself to spectacular safari lodges in Namibia

Harshly beautiful with stunning desert colours, endemic wildlife that has adapted to an arid environment and rock art spanning thousands of years, Namibia is a fascinating destination. But heading into the wilderness does not mean you have to rough it.

The spectacular safari lodges allow you to enjoy extra creature comforts, such as private en suite facilities, a swimming pool and sunset decks. The best part? Each safari lodge and camp are scenically located so you can best appreciate the impressive Namibian landscape and its wild.

Climbing the sand dunes of Sossusvlei |  <i>Peter Walton</i>

Enjoy game viewing in Etosha National Park, take in the ruggedly beautiful scenery of Damaraland, visit the colonial coastal town of Swakopmund and admire some of the world’s biggest sand dunes at Sossusvlei the views from the top of the dunes are well worth the climb.

Welcome the New Year in Ethiopia's otherworldly landscape

Camp beside the longest-existing lava lake in the world, hike up the ‘Smoking Mountain’, explore alien landscapes hidden deep beneath thick deposits of salt and witness colourful eruptions and active flows.

The unfiltered volcanic landscape of Dallol in the Danakil desert |  <i>Tanguy de Saint-Cyr</i> Active Lava Lake at Erta Ale |  <i>Lukas Bischoff Photograph</i> Edge of the world views in Ethiopia's Simien mountain range |  <i>Jon Millen</i>
 

The Danakil Depression desert, one of the world's most remote places, certainly makes for a memorable way to welcome the New Year. In the Afar region of north-east Ethiopia, it's on one of the hottest, driest and lowest places on Earth. The hundreds of impressive fumaroles and hot springs will feel as though you've stepped foot on another planet.

The trip also treks through the spectacular Simien Mountain escarpments, camping on the volcanic plateau with chances to spot unique wildlife such as the Walia Ibex and Gelada Baboon.

Spend Christmas on the Inca Trail

The classic hike along the historic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is considered by many to be one of the greatest short treks of the world. Our new Inca Trail Explorer trip offers the opportunity to overnight at quieter and scenic wilderness campsites away from the crowds.

Breathtaking views across Machu Picchu

Spend two days in the Sacred Valley to acclimatise to the altitude with walks through impressive Inca sites before you head out on the iconic Inca Trail on 25 December. On your way to Machu Picchu – and as you ascend dramatic passes, jungle trails and cloud forests – you will feel inspired by the panorama of Andean peaks.

Let Tasmania’s East Coast take your breath away

Celebrate the festive season on Tasmania’s East Coast, which offers access to some of the most breathtaking experiences on offer on Australia’s island state.

Head to the seaside village of Coles Bay and make your way to Freycinet National Park. Admire the dramatic pink granite peaks, secluded coves and white sandy beaches and, if you are up for the challenge, climb up Mount Amos for panoramic views of the captivating Wineglass Bay.

Just another glorious day on the Freycinet Experience Walk

Then explore on foot or by bike the beautiful Maria Island, a natural wildlife sanctuary known for its sweeping bays and historic ruins.

Reach new heights in Africa to kick off the New Year

If you are after an adventure to remote heights, head to Uganda’s rugged Rwenzori Mountains (also known as ‘Mountains of the Moon’).

Giant Groundsels and Lobelia Giants in Uganda's Rwenzori Mountains |  <i>Juniors Bildarchiv GmbH</i>

Begin the New Year on a high as you marvel at panoramic vistas from the so-called Observation Peak (4,328m) before making your way to the top of Margherita Peak, Africa’s third highest peak.

Discover remote alpine valleys and glacial landscapes, experience pristine tropical rainforests and cross through Giant Lobelia forests along the remote Kilembe Trail.

Hike along secret trails in USA's deserts & canyonlands

What better way to mark the end of year than with an exhilarating adventure in some of the world's most dramatic geological formations? Walk past endless natural stone arches and lava tubes, over petrified sand dunes and into a wonderland of stone towers and twisted sandstone rocks.

Vibrant colours as we hike though Arches National Park |  <i>Jake Hutchins</i>

Although it can be a lot colder during this time of year, it's usually sunny and clearer during the daytime and with much fewer crowds.

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah |  <i>Susanne Lorenz</i>

Highlights include: the journey to Capitol Reef along a little known track which overlooks the immense monocline stretching over 100 kilometres; the giant amphitheater filled with purple, pink, and dark red stone towers at Bryce Canyon National Park; and witnessing the red landscapes of Monument Valley of the Navajo on trails off limits to tourists. The finale? Celebrating New Year at the Grand Canyon – amazing!

India's West Bengal: a cultural heritage that sets it apart

Forlorn palaces cling defiantly to their once-glorious pasts, and the half-ruined mosques and mildew-covered tombstones of East India Company employees are reminders of an era when Murshidabad was as large and rich as London. Now paddy fields and mango orchards have consumed most of what was once the flourishing capital of Bengal.

About 10 years ago, I composed a bucket list of places I wanted to visit in India after three decades of traversing all corners of the subcontinent. Murshidabad was always near the top of my list and I wasn’t disappointed.

Cossimbazar Rajbari in India's West Bengal |  <i>John Zubrzycki</i>The Cossimbazar Rajbari is a fine example of European and Indian architecture

Getting to Murshidabad is an entertaining journey in itself. The Hazarduari Express leaves Kolkata at the civilized hour of 6.50am. Baul singers, whose devotional songs reflect their blend of Hindu, Buddhist and Sufi beliefs, move between the carriages along with hawkers selling toys, snacks and colourful pieces of cloth. Chai sellers strain their brew through tannin-stained muslin sieves. My breakfast is two cups of their syrupy concoction and some freshly roasted peanuts.

Murshidabad’s story is one of conquest and commerce. It’s capture in 1757 by Robert Clive laid the foundations for British rule in India. Its silk merchants were among the richest traders in the world. When Clive plundered the Nawab of Murshidabad’s treasury, there was so much gold and silver in its vaults he expressed surprise at his own ‘moderation’ for not taking more than he did.

This is West Bengal at its best. Green and serene. A bend on a narrow road that winds its way through mango groves and paddy fields suddenly reveals an overgrown graveyard, a 17th-century mosque or the palatial mansion of one of a Jain trader.

With the exception of Kolkata and the tea-scented hill station of Darjeeling, West Bengal has been left off the itineraries of foreign travelers and tour companies. I’ve never understood why. There are no monuments rivalling the Taj Mahal and its mostly flat riverine topography means there are no forts to dominate the horizon. What it does have is a rich cultural heritage that sets it apart from the rest of India.

The Bauls, those itinerant mystic minstrels who entertained me on the train to Murshidabad, are based around Santiniketan. The name of the town means 'abode of peace' and it was here that Nobel laureate, poet and artist Rabindranath Tagore founded the Visva Bharati university, where today many of the classes are conducted in the open air under vast spreading banyan trees.

Bengal’s temple architecture is also unique. A scarcity of stone means that the temples are covered in beautifully sculptured terracotta plaques, while the structures themselves are intriguing mix of styles reflecting influences from Bengal, Orissa and the Mughal period.

There are a few of these temples scattered around Murshidabad as well as a Dutch cemetery and a beautifully restored Armenian church giving the town a strong multicultural mix.

Interior of the Katra Mosque, Murshidabad |  <i>John Zubrzycki</i> Armenian church in Murshidabad |  <i>John Zubrzycki</i> Wasif Manzil, Murshidabad |  <i>John Zubrzycki</i>

For me, Murshidabad’s most magnificent building is also its most neglected, the 18th-century Sripur Palace. It was once the home of Krishna Kanta Nandy, who was rewarded with vast landholdings for saving the life Warren Hastings, the future governor of Bengal.

From the outside, the palace looked so forlorn I expected an empty shell. Instead, I discovered a majestic courtyard framed by a hundred pillars topped with lotus motifs and joined by exquisite carved archways brought all the way from Benares.

A wide balcony from the second storey looks down on an overgrown courtyard. Anywhere else this would be a major tourist attraction; instead, its wealthy Kolkata-based owners are happy for it to rot in the tropical heat and humidity because they have never forgiven the government for taking away their ancestral lands.

Interior of the Sripur Palace |  <i>John Zubrzycki</i>The interior of the Sripur Palace

Sripur Palace’s days are clearly numbered, making it another reason why Murshidabad should be near the top of every traveller’s list to explore.

Words by historian, writer and former diplomat in India, John Zubrzycki. Join him in November 2020 where he will be escorting a special West Bengal tour.

About the writer

John Zubrzycki worked in India as a diplomat, consultant and foreign correspondent and has spent years searching out its hidden gems. He is a best-selling author and has written three books on India, the latest being a history of its magical traditions. He also writes feature articles for Australian and Indian news outlets. He has more than 40 years of travel experience in India and considers the northeastern states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh to be his favourite part of the subcontinent.

Silk Road journey in photos | Richard I'Anson

Voted by Lonely Planet as the best region to visit in 2020, Central Asia's Silk Road is more accessible than ever before.⁣⁣ It also makes for an impressive photographic journey through the epicentre of Silk Road history.

Award-winning travel photographer and best-selling author of Lonely Planet's Guide to Travel Photography, Richard I'Anson, shares his destination highlights, the stunning images captured on his recent photography tour and the places he would return to in a heartbeat.

It has such a rich and varied history centred on places with the most exotic sounding names like Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva. It also feels like it’s still relatively undiscovered to mass tourism.

Woman playing traditional instrument, Bukhara, Uzbekistan |  <i>Richard I'Anson</i> Pilgrims with traveller at Shah-i-Zinda, avenue of mausoleums, Samarkand |  <i>Richard I'Anson</i> Observe intricate needlework in Bukhara |  <i>Richard I'Anson</i>

From the architecture of Uzbekistan to the striking landscapes of Turkmenistan, each stop along the Central Asia Silk Road journey turned heads.

"Every city in Uzbekistan was centred around impressive buildings – mosques, medressas and minarets – great to photograph and to revisit at different times of the day," says Richard. "The Darvaza Gas Crater and Yangykala Canyon are two of the most dramatic and unusual landscapes I’ve seen. Combined with the fantastic camping experience we had at both places and being the only visitors there makes them a clear highlight."

Ulugbek Medressa, Registan, Samarkand |  <i>Richard I'Anson</i> Interior of the mosque in the Tilla-Kari (Gold-Covered) Medressa, Samarkand, Uzbekistan |  <i>Richard I'Anson</i> Mir-i-Medressa, Bukhara, Uzbekistan |  <i>Richard I'Anson</i>

We had plenty of local encounters and they were always friendly. The locals were very welcoming and importantly, for my group, happy to be photographed.

Uzbekistan's architectural sanctuary

The contrasting desert and mountain landscapes against far-reaching and extravagantly ornate buildings is spellbinding, and the sheer grandness of the structures will make you feel impossibly small.

Registan Square in Samarkand, in particular, is a remarkable maze of mosques, tombs, palaces, fortresses and medressas with distinctive azure roofed domes, majolica tiles, towering minarets, intricate mosaics and exotic bazaars. The people as well are friendly, engaging and don't mind taking a selfie or two.

A cultural highlight for Richard was visiting Shah-i-Zinda or the 'Tomb of the Living King' and its avenue of mausoleums.

"Architecturally the tombs are beautiful with intricate, colourful tilework, but the highlight for me and my group was that it is a place of pilgrimage, so it’s very active with local visitors paying their respects," says Richard. "The local visitors were very keen to interact with the group, take photos, selfies and talk."

Pilgrims at Shah-i-Zinda (Tomb of the Living King) Samarkand, Uzbekistan |  <i>Richard I'Anson</i>Pilgrims at Shah-i-Zinda

A place he would return to capture again though? Samarkand. "I could always spend more time at the Registan," says Richard.

Facade of the Tilla-Kari (Gold-Covered) Medressa at dusk, Samarkand, Uzbekistan |  <i>Richard I'Anson</i>Facade of the Tilla-Kari (Gold-Covered) Medressa at dusk in Samarkand

First impressions of Turkmenistan

A country nestled between Uzbekistan and Iran, Turkmenistan, according to Richard, is one of the strangest places he's visited.

"Particularly Ashgabat, with its white marble building, outlandish public buildings and major roads with hardly any traffic. We even had to stop and have the cars washed before we entered the city or the driver’s risked being fined," he says.

Ashgabat, Turkmenistan |  <i>Richard I'Anson</i>Night views of the city of Ashgabat

Richard, however, did experience some issues when photographing in Turkmenistan, but nothing that spoilt the experience.

"In Ashgabat certain government buildings were out of bounds, that’s not uncommon, but also, we were restricted in regional markets, which was more annoying and is very unusual," he explains. "We were even told we couldn’t photograph the impressive lobby of our hotel. They are still learning how to deal with tourists."

Camping by the Darvaza Gas Crater

A memorable experience, to say the least, is a visit to the Darvaza Gas Crater, also known as the 'Door to Hell'. Located north of Turkmenistan in the middle of the Karakym Desert, the crater is a vast, fiery pit that has been burning for around 47 years as a result of a collapsed natural gas pocket after a Soviet-era gas exploration. It's a truly spectacular sight and camping beside it makes for an unforgettable overnight stay.

Turkmenistan's Darvaza Gas Crater, also known as the 'Door to Hell', at sunset |  <i>Richard I'Anson</i>Darvaza Gas Crater at sunset

"It was great," says Richard. "We ended up staying in fixed gers/yurts, which were large, clean and comfortable and located within a 5-minute walk of the crater making access to the crater for our evening and morning shoots easy."

Travellers taking in the striking scenery at the Darvaza Gas Crater |  <i>Richard I'Anson</i>Travellers enjoy the striking crater scenery

Capturing the colourful shades of Yangykala Canyon

Heading east via the Balkan Mountains, Richard and his group journeyed to the magnificent Yangykala Canyons, defined by sheer cliffs of white, yellow, ochre, purple and red – the most beautiful colours unveiling themselves at sunset. The canyon's name is derived from the Turkem expression "yangi kala", meaning "fire fortresses" and is a dream location for photographers.

"As with all landscape photography you want to be shooting in the first and last hours of the day when the amazing colours of the canyon are brought out," says Richard. "I’d also recommend shooting before the sun comes up when the light is even, and you don’t have to deal with harsh shadows and shooting into the sun so many more of the rock formations can be included in compositions."

Turkmenistan's Yangykala Canyon at sunset |  <i>Richard I'Anson</i>

"I’d love to revisit Yangykala Canyon, it is quite a remarkable place."

Camp at Yangykala Canyon, Turkmenistan |  <i>Richard I'Anson</i>Camp at Yangykala Canyon, Turkmenistan

Images courtesy of Richard I'Anson who led a special Silk Road photography tour.

As Seen in The Sunday Times: A Cycling Trip Through Jordan
When journalist James Stewart was on his cycling trip in Jordan, one of the first things he wrote back to us was commenting on the great guide and lovely team. Initially having expected a hard-core trip with seasoned cyclists on a mission to outdo each other, the group was actually very well matched. 
 
In his article he describes the Jordan away from air-conditioned coaches, instead, being a place for off-road adventures. Check out some of his tweets from while he was travelling below or read the entire article in The Sunday Times (published on 31 March 2019*). 
 
That's the other reason I was intrigued by this trip - it schedules time for sights.
 
*You may be asked to register before being able to read the online article. 
 
Jordan By Bike scenery Jordan By Bike day walk Ancient ruins and cliffs of Petra |  <i>Rachel Imber</i>  Local man in Petra, Jordan |  <i>Rachel Imber</i> Cyclist on the Jordan By Bike trip Sunset in the Wadi Rum, Jordan |  <i>Gordon Steer</i> The fabled Treasury at Petra |  <i>Jordan Tourism Board</i> Enjoy magnificent sunsets when visiting Jordan's Wadi Rum |  <i>Richard I'Anson</i> A donkey at Petra |  <i>Rachel Imber</i>
 
 
Overtourism: how to avoid contributing to it

While the word 'overtourism' has only recently been coined, even shortlisted in Oxford Dictionary’s 2018 Word of the Year, it’s a term that has put how we travel and where we choose to travel in the spotlight.

Travel writers in recent years have made the most of the social media driven concepts of the ‘Top 10 Best Places’, or the ‘Absolute Bucket List of Must-See Destinations’, ultimately driving tourists in their droves to just a handful of iconic landscapes, cities, cultural attractions or monuments. To top it off, the ‘selfie’ epidemic and travellers’ insidious desire to capture and share the most “Instagrammable” destinations, attractions and experiences has further narrowed demand.

Such influences have over-stimulated tourism to particular destinations, causing ‘overtourism’ which, according to the Oxford Dictionary definition, has negatively affected local environments and historical sites, as well as reducing quality of life for residents.

Japanese locals at Kinkakuji |  <i>Felipe Romero Beltran</i>

Tourist numbers have been growing exponentially for decades, fuelled by cheap flights and the world’s burgeoning middle class. This has seen 1.3 billion of us travelling in 2017 – a staggering jump from 25 million in 1950, and the number of tourists worldwide per year is tipped to reach 1.7 billion by 2030.

Impact of overtourism

The European summer saw overtourism in Barcelona reach a tipping point, with residents joining mass protests for its government to better manage the influx of travellers as a result of unsustainable tourist numbers. Services were no longer available for locals, but instead catered for tourists and short-term holiday apartments, making it difficult for residents to find a place to call home.

Ultimately, the concern is that such tourist hotspots were losing their identity – and what attracted the tourists there in the first place. The problem is being felt in other European countries, such as Venice and parts of Croatia, as well as Thailand, Indonesia and Australia’s iconic Uluru.

While people may gravitate towards “bucket list” destinations, a better and pleasurable way to travel is to seek out lesser-known places and unique and alternative ways to explore those destination.

The ideal approach is to travel more responsibly, being more socially conscious of one's impact when entering fragile environments, and being more aware of the footprint left behind when engaging with different cultures and visiting their homeland.

Whose responsibility is overtourism anyhow?

Governments need to take control to regulate and better manage tourist numbers to ensure that their tourism industry is sustainable – bringing benefit to people today without compromising the future.

Peru’s government has stepped in to protect Machu Picchu by limiting the number of permits issued each day. In 2017, the small island nation of Palau became the first country modify its immigration policy and made it compulsory for all tourists to sign an eco-pledge called the ‘Palau Pledge’.

School group exploring Machu Picchu in Peru |  <i>Drew Collins</i>To protect Machu Picchu, Peruvian authorities issue 500 permits each day to walk the classic Inca Trail

There are numerous other regulatory mechanisms that governments and the industry can adopt to ensure tourist numbers are sustainable and at an individual level, we can each control our own footprint and avoid contributing to the problem.

5 ways to alleviate the pressure of overtourism

Travelling sustainably and being a part of the solution is to be mindful of the impact you have on the environments and cultures you come into contact with when you travel. Here are five ways to counter overtourism and embrace a more Thoughtful Travel experience.

•    Head off the beaten track. Steering "off the map" and away from well-trodden trails is a style of tourism World Expeditions has advocated since its inaugural Nepal trek in 1975. Choosing an adventure that goes beyond the crowds and into a more remote area will help counter overtourism and give travellers a better opportunity to forge greater connections with local people and their ways of life.

Thinking of heading to Vietnam's famous Sapa valley? Head to the country's remote north of Ha Giang instead with equally spectacular rice terrace views that escape the crowds and encourage more intimate local encounters. Check out 10 more "out there" treks that will take you on a truly remote wilderness adventure.

Enjoying the view after a day on the trail in western Nepal |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i>

•    Travel to popular destinations in the off-season. Popular attractions and destinations crowded with visitors negatively affects the experience for travellers and locals alike. If you plan to head to a place you know is popular, head there during its off-peak period which will see significantly less tourist numbers with a better chance of more meaningful encounters and enjoying the beauty of nature with fewer crowds.

It will also save you the big bucks on airfares and accommodation, and you'll benefit from more availability when it comes to getting permits for activities such as mountain gorilla and chimp jungle trekking in Uganda or visiting iconic sites such as Machu Picchu.

•    Explore popular destinations differently. A destination's popularity can come at a price, so it's worthwhile seeking out unique ways to enjoy it. Spend less time in city centres and extend your travels into rural communities, head to popular attractions either earlier in the day or later in the day to skip the crowds, or venture on more remote adventures that avoid busier trails, or which go beyond the classic routes.

Stunning turquoise waters of Tilicho LakeVenture off in the Annapurnas and marvel at the turquoise waters of Tilicho Lake

Some suggestions include: camping by remote sections of China's Great Wall hosted by local families, exploring the other impressive Inca ruins with rare views of Machu Picchu, or trekking north of the classic Annapurna Circuit to more wilder zones with unforgettable camping views of the striking Tilicho Lake.⁣⁣ Want more ideas? Here are ways to see UNESCO's newest World Heritage sites differently.

•    Smaller is better. Avoid big tour groups and larger cruise ships which have a larger environmental impact. When travelling in small groups, there’s more likelihood of animal encounters, more intimate experiences with locals and it makes it easier to control waste management, especially in remote regions.

With the chance to meet like-minded people, a small group of no more than 16 people provides opportunities for personal and immersive interactions, while your guide and support staff are attentive to your safety and comfort. It also means your group can access services and sightseeing attractions more easily than mass groups and enjoy small, local restaurants, cafes and accommodations. Read the 5 benefits of small group tours.

Pilgrims with traveller at Shah-i-Zinda, avenue of mausoleums, Samarkand |  <i>Richard I'Anson</i>

•    Opt for alternative destinations. Choose to travel to beautiful, lesser-known destinations whose economies need assistance. Turkmenistan, Bhutan, Papua New Guinea, Madagascar, Belize, Mongolia, Guyana and Tajikistan are among some of the most least visited countries around the world, according to IndexMundi. By avoiding popular sites and attractions this will help take the pressure off delicate environments already overwhelmed by travellers. View this list of 10 lesser-known hiking trails that avoid the crowds.

Engaging with villagers that rarely encounter trekkers |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i>

•    Book with an ethical tour operator that focus on responsible and sustainable adventures. When selecting travel arrangements, ensure that the company you choose employs local staff and provides safe and fair working conditions. Consider whether it selects small, locally-owned accommodation which are eco-friendly. How does it support local communities? World Expeditions' sustainable travel practices and commitment to supporting local communities at every level of the operation continues to underpin the way in which innovative and sustainable adventure itineraries are created. Plus, travel knowing that your trip is 100% carbon offset.

When visiting environments rich in wildlife and home to fragile and pristine ecosystems the importance of travelling responsibility is vital.

Remember you are holidaying in someone else’s home, be respectful and mindful of this at all times; think about ways to contribute to the local economy, which encourage communities to preserve their traditions, and experience local cafes, restaurants, grocers and markets, avoiding multinational or even national chains.

It’s all about visiting destinations more thoughtfully and leaving a positive influence in the special places visited, protecting what is delicate and minimising the impact of our presence.

Climbing Bolivia’s Mountains with Mountaineer Simon Yates

A new action-packed expedition in Bolivia’s mountains – the perfect mix of challenge and exploration

Long-standing World Expeditions trip leader Simon Yates will return to South America in 2020, on a new thrilling expedition that will aim to conquer five peaks in the breath-taking High Andes of Bolivia, amongst which are three above 6,000m. 

The new itinerary in Bolivia provides the perfect mix of challenge and exploration with five great climbing objectives – including the highest volcano in the country, the perennially snow-covered peak of Sajama (6542m), which is situated in the northern Cordillera Occidental. Following a sound acclimatisation schedule and two full days of alpine skills instruction, the group will commence climbing.
 

Summit five peaks in the breath-taking High Andes on this Bolivia expedition

Enjoying an al fresco lunch with the scenic Condoriri Valley as a backdrop |  <i>Anthony Bohm</i>
 
Despite being technically graded as ‘Intermediate Mountaineering Expedition’, the trip can also be joined by beginners with an excellent level of fitness and experience trekking at altitude (as a minimum).

Simon Yates first visited the country in 2012, when he led the inaugural departure of the Summits of Bolivia trip and has been keen to go back ever since.

About his upcoming Bolivia expedition, he said: 

I found Bolivia very special on my previous trip and I am really looking forward to the ascent of Sajama, which as well as being Bolivia's highest volcano, is also its highest peak.

In addition to the Cordillera Real, Bolivia has many high volcanoes, which is what makes this itinerary a trip like no other. In just three weeks you get the chance to climb three 6,000m volcanoes. This truly is an action-packed expedition!

Best known for his harrowing expedition in the Andes as documented in the award-winning ‘Touching the Void’ book, Simon Yates is one of the most accomplished mountaineers of his time. He has been at the forefront of exploratory mountaineering for over three decades and has successfully guided groups to the summits of peaks across the world, from Nepal (Ama Dablam, 6,856m) and Kyrgyzstan (Peak Lenin, 7,134m) to Alaska (Denali, 6,145m) and Argentina (Aconcagua, 6,960m).
 

Triple Peaks of Bolivia with Simon Yates 

Exclusive with World Expeditions. 20 days. 14 June – 3 July 2020. The trip includes accommodation, most meals, internal transfers, safety and climbing equipment and permits. Trip joins and concludes in La Paz.
                              
In addition to the new itinerary with Simon Yates, choose from more than 30 mountaineering expeditions, from Mont Blanc in the Alps to Aoraki/Mount Cook in New Zealand.
 
Buy tickets for Simon Yates in London
Transcaucasian Trail: the next BIG thing in trekking

If a trek in Georgia or Armenia isn't currently on your radar, then get ready to update it because the Transcaucasian Trail is about to become trekking's next big thing.

On the borderlands between Europe and Asia, the new Transcaucasian Trail will extend more than 3000km. It will connect more than 20 national parks, endless UNESCO listed sites and protected areas in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia, collectively known as the Southern Caucasus.

TIME Magazine listed the trail through the Caucasus Mountains as one of the world's 100 greatest places in 2019, with Forbes placing the Armenian hike in the limelight as a must-do experience.

While the full route is still being developed, you can now trek sections of this biodiversity hotspot with World Expeditions in both Armenia and Georgia – the only two countries adequately mapped so far.

You can combine both hikes, completing the Armenia segment first and then continuing the trail in Georgia, as an 18-day adventure full of history, incredible scenery and with few trekkers in sight.

Georgian Transcaucasian Trail

Views of Upper Svaneti region in Ushguli, Georgia Caucasus Mountains Walking into Georgia's dramatic Caucasus Mountains Hiking to Ushguli in the Svaneti Valley |  <i>Julie Haber</i>

Hike along varied and fascinating landscapes – from floral meadows and mountainous backdrops, to cascading waterfalls and glacial scenery.

The highlights:

  Visit the charming city of Tbilisi – a beautiful blend of nature and crumbling art nouveau architecture.
  Take in enthralling views from Svaneti, which is nestled on the southern slopes of the central Caucasus Mountains and surrounded by 3000 to 5000-metre snow-capped peaks. Four of the 10 highest mountains of the Caucasus are in the region.
  Explore 3000-year-old Mtskheta – the ancient capital and religious centre of Georgia, as well as the historic cave town of Uplistsikhe.
  Walk to the foot of Mount Ushba's system of stunning waterfalls and to its breathtaking glacier before enjoying a scenic picnic.
  Marvel at the huge collection of permanent glaciers at Mount Tetnuli and ascend Chkhutnieri Pass (2730m) for spectacular views of Tetnuli (4800m).
  Visit the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Jvari church (6th century) and Svetitskhoveli Cathedral (11th century).

Armenian Transcaucasian Trail

9th century Apostolic Tatev monastery stands on the edge of a deep gorge of the Vorotan River. Wilderness hiking along paths less trodden, Transcaucasian Trail, Armenia |  <i>Breanna Wilson</i> A local lady makes lavash, a flatbread eaten throughout the South Caucasus |  <i>Breanna Wilson</i>

Home to ancient churches and monasteries, beautiful lakes and countless UNESCO World Heritage sites, trace parts of the Caucasian Silk route in Armenia that's overflowing with history and scenic brilliance.

The highlights:

  Hike to the picturesque 1st century A.D. Garni Temple which overlooks a deep canyon before heading to the Garni gorge to admire volcanic basalt formations called “the symphony of stones”.
  Stand in awe of Lake Sevan, one of the largest high-altitude lakes in the world located at 1900m, surrounded by snow-covered mountains. Known as the “blue eye of Armenia” or the “Pearl of Armenia”, the freshwater lake of volcanic origin changes colour several times during the day – turquoise in direct sunlight, then turns a greenish shade, and grey by the evening.
  Soak up with medieval Armenian architecture of the Geghard Cave Monastery. The cave enclosures of this cultural and architectural wonder are notable for amazing acoustics where some of its chambers, carved from solid rock, possess exceptional acoustics.
  Experience scenic Dilijan “Little Switzerland”.
  Pass through Armenian colourful villages, enjoying the peace and magnificent scenes of a remote mountainous villages such as Hahgpat and Akner.

The Transcaucasian Trail have the hardiest trekkers in our team brimming with excitement. Why not be one of the first to experience it?

Cocktails at 10am in the High Andes

When I first embarked on this journey, never did I think I would be sitting in a bar at 10 o’clock in the morning with a cocktail in hand and nothing to do but watch the world go by.

The last 20 days have been go, go, go, taking in and exploring all that Peru has to offer, all the must do experiences that many have on their adventure lists. The iconic sights of the Peruvian tick list as many would see it, squeezed into less than three weeks.

Sitting here with a Chilcano in hand, is like taking a huge sigh of relief. Originally not on my Peruvian tick list, but added on recommendation, here I am now reflecting on the journey so far and enjoying a fabulous cocktail to boot.

A stop at La Raya 4335 metres, the highest point on the Cusco to Puno Train |  <i>Natalie Tambolash</i>

This particular day started when we were transferred to Wanchaq Station in Cusco and boarded the Titicaca train bound for Puno at 6.40am. When I first learnt of this train journey, all I knew was that it travelled through the High Andes. It was an alternative to travelling on the local bus and was deemed “fabulous” and “a highlight” by those that had gone before me. It lived to these expectations and so much more.

As I sit here, I feel like I am in a Michelin star restaurant on wheels with ever changing spectacular scenery going past the window. The service is impeccable from the moment we first arrive at the station in Cusco to the time we depart the train at the other end in Puno some 10 hours later.

Main meal is served. Fresh, local Peruvian cuisine |  <i>Natalie Tambolash</i>

Everyone on-board provides you with the most attentive service from remembering your food allergies, to what coffee you like, to taking orders for several tables at a time without writing anything down. Just like a fine-dining restaurant.

The bar car at the back of the train |  <i>Natalie Tambolash</i>

On-board, the carriages are bright, spacious and plush, exuding that little bit of romantic luxury and transporting you to another era. What I would imagine of the Andean Explorer.

There is a bar carriage where drinks and snacks are served (the best banana chips and crisp corn kernels you will possibly taste) and where at 10am and again in the afternoon, there is dancing, singing and fabulous entertainment by local dancers and a great local Peruvian fusion band (think Peruvian flute music combined with classic rock).

Morning entertainment on the train |  <i>Natalie Tambolash</i> Orient Express Andean Explorer train travels from Cusco to Puno |  <i>Tambo Treks</i> The bar car at the back of the train |  <i>Natalie Tambolash</i>
 

There is also a viewing carriage at the back of the train where you can park up as you please to take in the spectacular scenery of the High Andes.

The journey also comes with a complete meal service which yes, will rival most top restaurants of the world, serving up a delicious entrée, main and dessert. Even the fussiest eaters of our group were well impressed.

All this was topped off with an afternoon tea service complete with petit fours and delicious tea.

Along the way the scenery out the window was nothing short of spectacular. Up here in the High Andes, the mountains are so close, you feel you can reach out and touch them.

The train rolled through local farms and villages where everyday life was on display, and made a stop at the highest point on our journey at 4335 metres at La Raya where everyone took the opportunity to stretch their legs, take in the crisp clean air and see what was on display at the local market.

The colours of the landscape changed at every bend, from fresh greens in the valley, to white peaks of the Andes ranges, to pink and yellow hues of the Peruvian farms.

What I didn’t expect to see on this journey of luxury and relaxation was chaos. But rolling into the city of Juliaca provided just that - along with a multitude of laughs and photo opportunities.

Andean boy and his little friend in La Raya |  <i>Natalie Tambolash</i>

It seems that the train line rolls right through the busy Juliaca market and right through the middle of stalls that sell everything you could possibly think of - from books, to car parts, to buckets and everything in between.

Then you head through the busy main streets and over what probably is the Juliaca bakery, with its fresh bread in baskets lying on the train tracks as our train hurtles across the top of it. It is the thing of TV documentaries, yet here we are having a laugh in the midst of it, not quite believing our eyes but also thinking, only in Peru.

Sunrise on Lake Titicaca |  <i>Nigel Leadbitter</i>

As dusk settles in, we round the banks of the famous Lake Titicaca, seeing outlines of boats permanently moored with the low waters of the lake, and the setting sun casting shadows across the reed islands.

With our journey drawing to a close in Puno, on the edge of Lake Titicaca, you realise that what started off as a long ten-hour day, has ended in the best way: living in the moment high up in the Andes.

Words by Natalie Tambolash who travelled from west to east across Peru. You can add this train journey to your Peru itinerary or opt for a train upgrade from Cusco to Puno.

Morocco to France: On the couch with Mary Moody, gardening guru and author

Author, gardener, botanist, grandmother, journalist, speaker, traveller and tour guide. From her line-up of titles, you can guess that Mary Moody loves to keep herself busy. And despite having her life turned upside with the loss of her beloved husband and half-sister, she’s managed to break new ground pursuing a life of adventure.

We chat with the Mary on her love of travel and the best ways to experience Morocco and France. Mary has exciting tours lined up for 2020, including an impressive Ladakh trek, a botanical journey through Central Mongolia, an introduction to Morocco's culture and Atlas mountain scenery, and a culinary and walking Camino experience in France.

You have a natural passion and affinity with the locals wherever you travel. What is your secret to getting to know the locals?

I find connecting with children opens the way to establishing an affinity. I always carry picture books with photographs of Australian animals and stop whenever I see groups of children - sit down in the dirt and share with them. The wonder in their eyes – their joyful response – is magic. Their parents are always just as fascinated.

Often leading trips with a botanical perspective, what has been your most unusual botanical discovery?

In Yunnan, in southwest China, we were hunting for the famed but rather shy blue poppy (Meconopsis sp.). We heard that a documentary film crew from the UK were also looking for it and this intensified our efforts. I am thrilled to say we spotted it first!

What's a tip travellers can do to make the most of their trip?

I tell my group to relax and go with the flow and let go of 'pampered' expectations. It's healthy for us to occasionally step a little outside our comfort zone and to challenge ourselves. I believe trekking not just physical – our mental strength is what will get us into the camp site every afternoon. I also tell them to stop and look around as often as possible – it's not a race and if you try and be the first to arrive in camp you probably have seen very little along the way.

You’ve travelled and led intergenerational trips – bringing your grandson on a Nepal trek. What's different about this style of travel?

Often children in the first world countries have sedentary and over-protected lives. Taking them into another culture, walking with them in the mountains and seeing their horizons open, is just amazing. It's a life-changing experience and it also helps grandparents and their grandchildren to forge a special bond that would be difficult to achieve in any other setting.

You’ve lived in France for extended periods of time doing some writing – when did you first discover your passion for travel and experiencing other cultures?

My love of adventure travel was actually inspired by World Expeditions who invited me to escort botanical treks in the Himalayas during the period when I was a presenter on Gardening Australia. I was so drawn to the spectacular beauty and the alpine flora of these mountains that I have returned dozens of times, and never tire of sharing this joy with others.

What do you love most about showing people around the southern corner of France?

Rural France is glorious, and the region where I take my tour is like stepping back in time – with medieval villages and historic chateaux. This region of France is largely unspoiled because it has never been overdeveloped. So, you get a real sense of history and the continuity of people’s lives.

I like to explore history and culture with some gentle walks between villages and some outstanding private gardens. It goes without saying that the food and wine are superb, and [on my tour] we sample the very best of regional cuisine.

What historic site is a must-visit in France?

The pilgrimage township, Rocamadour. Wandering through this small yet beautiful cliff top village is amazing – carved into a rock face above the river Lot. Eleanor of Aquitaine made pilgrimages there in the 11th century and it’s considered to be one of France’s top sites to visit. It’s an unforgettable experience.

Have you always loved walking? What are your top tips for getting the most out of walking trips?

Good shoes are always important; and I tell people to just take their time walking and soak up all the sights and sounds around them.

On my Morocco trip, I believe we will see much more of the country on foot than in a vehicle. The day walks are not difficult (like a trek can sometimes be). We will stay in villages and walk through glorious countryside, seeing how the locals live.

What is it about Morocco that excites you the most?

Everything excites me about Morocco, which is so close to France where I spend quite a bit of my time. When I took a trip there, I was blown away by the history, architecture, gardens and mountains.

The trip I designed with World Expeditions is based on my favourite destinations from that visit, and I know others will love it as much as I did.

The markets are endlessly fascinating; a labyrinth of stalls with everything from ceramics and brassware to rugs, fabrics and clothing. The food, of course, is absolutely delicious and I even discovered some local wines (from Meknes) that were outstanding. A feast for the senses.

Morocco is home to some incredibly beautiful and elaborate Islamic gardens, some of which you will be visiting on your trip. What is so special about these gardens and what kind of plants will you be looking out for?

Interestingly enough, Islamic gardens are as much about their design as about the plants. Often based around a courtyard with a central fountain, the gardens have fantastic mosaics and plants that can withstand the hot, dry climate. I particularly love the Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech which was inspiration of Yves Saint Laurent. It’s extraordinary!

You’ve led trips to Nepal, Morocco, China, Mongolia, India and France – do you have a favourite destination?

Like so many people, I fell in love with Himalayas at first sight. That was in northern India trekking in the Harki Dun Valley which is superb. To me, all the countries that run along these ranges are incredible (I haven't been to Tibet or Pakistan but would love to).

Your latest book, The Accidental Tour Guide, is part memoir/part travel adventure on love, loss and discovery. Why do you think it is important for people to write their personal or family memoir?

So many people have led fascinating lives and have a great story to tell. I really enjoy giving them the skills and the confidence to get their own story or their family memoir onto the page because it’s such a satisfying process. And people just love reading other people’s life stories, so I can also help them find a way to get their stories out into the world.

But writing can be daunting when there is so much to deal with – should I tell the whole truth? What will other people think? Are there legal implications?

It took me five years to gather the courage to write The Accidental Tour Guide.

Working through all these issues and developing positive strategies to keep the momentum going is important, and I teach such techniques at my writing workshops.

Traveller stories: the world's southernmost hike

The trail was rough, yet pristine. It was rigorous, yet rewarding and I was able to connect with nature in an entirely new way.

The Dientes Circuit on Navarino Island or Dientes de Navarino was a hike that was on the top of my must-do adventures, a route that leads travelers to some of the most remote and magical spots of Chilean Patagonia.

I was staying in the town of Puerto Williams (the southernmost town on earth), which is not far from Dientes de Navarino. The town offered many adventure activities, such as kayaking, biking, horseback riding and, of course, trekking.

The Dientes de Navarino circuit was four days long and is recommended for hikers who are physically fit and mentally strong. Fair warning: it's possible to experience vertigo on this hike and therefore it’s important that trekkers come fully prepared and up for a challenge.

Beautiful lake views on the Dientes Circuit on Navarino Island |  <i>EcoCamp Patagonia</i>

But it was such a wonderful and fulfulling challenge for me. The adventure began in a forest full of Nothofagus, native trees of the region. They stood tall and proud around me as I marvelled at their beauty.

We walked through the forest at a brisk pace, travelling uphill towards Cerro La Bandera. At the top, we were welcomed by a jaw-dropping panoramic view of the Beagle Channel, Puerto Williams and Argentina's Ushuaia.

We spent some time taking in this fabulous scenery before pushing on to Laguna el Salto, where we made camp next to a beautiful waterfall.

The next morning, we began our climb to the top of another hill and a viewpoint of the Cape Horn archipelago. We passed by Paso Australia and Paso Los Dientes, finally arriving at Laguna Escondida where we camped for our second night. This overnight stay was a beautiful back to nature experience, surrounded by ñire trees and a stunning view of Cerro Gabriel.

Vibrant colours trekking Los Dientes de Navarino circuit in Patagonia |  <i>EcoCamp Patagonia</i>

The following two days were the most challenging, but also the most rewarding. We travelled to Paso Ventarron, a spot with strong winds and navy blue lagoons. We also hiked to the front of the Lindenmayer Mounts, ending at Lake Martillo where we camped for the last night for a well-deserved rest.

On our final day, we reached a steep slope which we descended from with the help of our guides. To my relief, I managed to get down without any problems.

After a long and challenging journey, we finally made it back to our driver, who greeted us with enthusiasm and a refreshing beer.

This adventure was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and something I will never forget. I was surrounded by all types of special creatures and plant life, such as condors, magellanic woodpeckers, beavers, lichens, miniature forests of mosses and liverworts.

Trekking the pristine Los Dientes de Navarino circuit in Patagonia |  <i>EcoCamp Patagonia</i>

It’s crazy how small you feel when surrounded by such an enormous piece of paradise. I highly recommend this trek for any fellow nature lovers and trekkers out there, it was a fantastic and refreshing experience, both physically and mentally!

From its jagged summits to its mysterious lagoons and mossy pathways, Dientes de Navarino is one trek that just can’t be missed.

Words by Keila who travelled on the Dientes Circuit on Navarino Island.

What to look for in a quality Nepal trek

There's more to choosing your Nepal trek than just the destination and date and navigating all the options can be daunting. To make sure your trip best lives up to your expectations, here are eight things to consider when trekking in Nepal so your adventure holiday is a seamless one.

Minimal impact accommodation

Eco-friendly? Tick. Comfort? Tick. Privacy? Tick. Warmth? Tick. Superb views? Tick! Eco camping offers this and much more.

Campsite setup at Landruk |  <i>Joe Kennedy</i> Sunshine over campsite setup at Landruk |  <i>Joe Kennedy</i> Stay at our exclusive private eco campsite at Landruk in the Annapurna region |  <i>Mark Tipple</i> Stay at our comfortable semi-permanent campsites in Nepal's Everest region |  <i>Mark Tipple</i> Client rearranging his bedding to catch the sunshine |  <i>Heike Krumm</i> Yaks grazing at Dole private eco campsite |  <i>Ayla Rowe</i> Relaxing in the mess tent while on a remote trek in Nepal |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i>

There's nothing like unwinding in the comfort of one of our scenically located eco campsites in the Everest and Annapurna regions, and I'm sure after a good day’s trek all you want to do is sit back, relax and put your feet up.

Opting for an eco camping experience minimises your environmental footprint with campsites using yak or cow dung to fuel heaters, kerosene is used to cook meals and boil water, as well as utilizing rainwater tanks, composting and septic toilets and incinerators to burn paper and non-toxic plastic waste.

World Expeditions trekkers enjoy exclusive use of private eco campsites located in secluded plots that offer a tranquil camping experience with exceptional views of the Himalaya. It wins out on sustainability for a back to nature experience that doesn't spare on your comfort and supports local people and its Nepali mountain communities.

With standing height tents, off-the-ground beds, clean mattresses and pillows, heated dining areas for meals and 'down time', and western-style toilets, there's plenty to love about choosing an eco camp experience over a tea house trek.

 

Porter Protection

Mountain porters are an integral part of each trekking or mountaineering adventure in Nepal, so choosing a reputable company that takes care of their staff is a must. On a trek or climb, the entire group – travellers, guides and porters alike – are a team who share the same needs for safety in the unpredictable mountain environment.

We couldn’t get off the beaten path without them, and the self-sufficiency of camping is a style of trekking that is enabled by mountain porters. World Expeditions take porter protection seriously, implementing a Porter Welfare Code of Conduct to ensure safe working conditions for the Nepal porters employed.

 

Our porters are provided with a good working wage (regulated by the Trekking Agents Association of Nepal and the Labor Union of Nepal), life insurance, income protection insurance, trekking gear and accessories, three meals a day, accommodation, access to the same first aid care that our travellers receive – including emergency helicopter evacuation if required, and have a 30kg weight restriction when carrying goods.

Safety at altitude

Trekkers' safety and well-being should be top priority, which is why World Expeditions follow stringent safety procedures and standards. A comprehensive medical kit travels with every group and on all trips, should the need arise. Naturally, our guides have received first aid training.

We carry a comprehensive medical kit on all treks |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i>

On all trips that take you to 4000 metres and above, World Expeditions carry a Portable Altitude Chamber (PAC). This assures you that when needed, we can quickly treat you for high altitude illness. The PAC is an Australian product and is a lightweight hyperbaric chamber that can be easily carried by our porters.

All high altitude treks carry a Portable Altitude Chamber |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i>

Trained guides

The leaders in the field are the key to a successful expedition and being led by highly trained local guides means you will be well looked after. At the same time, travellers can hugely benefit from the authentic experience they deliver.

A defining attribute to World Expeditions’ success in pioneering Nepal treks since 1975 is the team in Nepal. Our Nepalese guides are real experts with plenty of years experience and who aim to enhance your experience with their enthusiasm and local knowledge.

By training and empowering our guides, we are able to create positive employment opportunities and secure income for them.

Our experienced leaders will provide regular briefings to keep you informed about your itinerary |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i>

From Tim Macartney-Snape, who with Greg Mortimer completed the first Australian summit of Mount Everest, to Bir Singh, one of Nepal's most experienced local guides, our leaders are the key to our success as they strive to make your experience exceptional. We’re very proud of our staff and guides and, judging by all the positive feedback we receive on Nepal, so are our past travellers.

Avoid the single supplement cost

Planning to travel alone by choice and want to enjoy the adventure ahead without being through a curveball of extra charges for wanting to go solo? Joining a small group of like-minded travellers is a great way to waive the single supplement costs.

If you join a World Expeditions adventure as a solo traveller, you'll be matched you with someone of the same gender and won’t pay more. If you, however, want a guaranteed single occupancy, we can also arrange that for a small additional charge.

Thoughtful Travel Practices

When choosing an adventure company to trek with, seeing how their values align with yours is important, such as its responsible tourism practice and their commitment to supporting local communities at every level of the operation. Ask questions like: In what ways do they protect the destination's natural environments and wildlife? How do they minimise the impact of their presence? Are their itineraries sustainable?

Since World Expeditions' inception in 1975, offering BIG adventures with a small environmental footprint is at the heart of every program. Often these sustainable itineraries translate to real costs, but by integrating these practices into in-country operations we are adopting a style of travel that makes the world a better place.

A particular project we run is the 10 Pieces litter collection initiative, which aims to keep the trails in Nepal litter-free. On our treks in Nepal, we ask you to sign up to collect 10 pieces (or more!) of paper or plastic that you find on the trail each day.

Help us keep the places that inspire us clean by taking part in our 10 Pieces litter initiative |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i>

Your crew will collect the litter at the end of the day and dispose of it responsibly. Leading by example, your actions educate mountain communities that litter is not aesthetically desirable and is also detrimental to health of wildlife and humans alike. Learn more about our responsible travel initiatives.

Healthy and hearty meals

Unlike most companies, having a full meal service as part of the trip prices has its benefits. There are important reasons for this as it lowers the risk of you getting sick on trek with an assigned cook, ensuring that food is prepared to strict hygiene standards so you stay healthy and eat well.

 

The price of meals in tea houses or lodges across the Himalaya invariably costs around US$45 per day, often with limited choices and a lot of fried foods – and the higher you go, the pricier it will get. Those meals are often cooked on wood stoves, which contribute to the depletion of forests that are under threat.

On all World Expeditions treks in Nepal, a cook and kitchen crew accompany the group so you can sit back, relax and enjoy a freshly cooked meal. Health, value for money, convenience and positively contributing to Nepali mountain communities, are just some of the reasons why you'll want to enjoy three wholesome and freshly prepared meals a day – with clean drinking water supplied – when on trek with us.

Enjoy three fresh meals a day, prepared by our cooks, when on trek |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i> We include freshly prepared, nutritious meals three times a day while on trek in Nepal. |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i> Breakfast at altitude in Nepal |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i> Our cooks will prepare fresh meals for you while on trek |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i> Enjoy freshly prepared meals, three times a day, when on trek in Nepal |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i> We include freshly prepared, nutritious meals three times a day while on trek in Nepal. |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i> Our highly trained team will add another level of comfort to your adventure in Nepal |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i> Our team will keep you well hydrated on the trail |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i> Enjoying tea and tang in Gokyo Valley |  <i>Angela Parajo</i>

Quality equipment

We all want excellent value for our money and when it comes to trekking in remote and high altitude regions, so it pays to have virtually everything included in your adventure.

For World Expeditions, with exceptional camping service comes quality equipment. You’ll be issued with a trek pack which is free for use during the duration of your Nepal trip. Meaning, you don’t have to carry these items from home and that you don’t have to make the investment yourself.

A typical trek pack includes a:
 •  Duffle kit bag: your personal belongings carried by our porters during the trek
 •  Down or fibre-fill jacket: repels the cool Himalayan evenings and mornings
 •  Sleeping bag: warm sleeping bag to keep you cosy at night
 •  Sleeping liner or insulated mat: enjoy the added insulation for a more restful night.

Receive a souvenir World Expeditions kit bag on all Nepal trek |  <i>Lachlan Gardiner</i>


Know that your BIG adventure is leaving a positive impact to conserve local environments and support local communities at every level of the operation, including the porters. Start browsing our Nepal trekking adventures and see why we've been the leaders in Himalayan trekking for over four decades >

#SaveTheAmazon: Amazon Forest Appeal

We all need the Amazon. Now it needs you. Donate to this appeal to protect the forest, its wildlife and local communities affected.

Fires are raging through the Amazon rainforest, primarily in the Brazilian Amazon, gripped by its most vigorous fire season since 2010. The media images we are seeing are devastating, showing the extent of the fires and the subsequent smoke which is impacting Brazil and its neighbours.

NASA reports that, “while drought has played a large role in exacerbating fires in the past, the timing and location of fire detections early in the 2019 dry season are more consistent with land clearing than with regional drought.” Studies show that the rainforest is at tipping point, with large fragmented sections at risk of transforming into a drier ecosystem which could result in the severe loss of species, the acceleration of climate change and spell disaster for the indigenous populations who call the forest home.

Home to a million people and three times as many wildlife, the Amazon is also the largest piece of rainforest in the world.

Often referred to as ‘the lungs of the earth’, scientists warn that the extent of this year’s Amazon forest fires will make the Paris climate target more difficult to achieve as tree cover loss from forests is estimated to account for nearly 10% of global carbon emissions, while trees are also said to provide more than 20% of climate solutions. Trees not only absorb carbon dioxide, they also then lock carbon away.

How you can help

Want to support those working to arrest the damage? Donate to the World Expeditions Foundation’s Amazon Forest Appeal and 100% of your donation will be directed to Earth Alliance to be distributed to local partners and indigenous communities working to protect the forest and its wildlife and to mitigate fire and its effects on local communities.

Earth Alliance is an environmental foundation created by climate change crusader Leonardo DiCaprio and his philanthropic friends.

Travel advisory information

The scale of the region is so large that the areas where we operate our jungle trips are not affected by the fires and there is no risk to our travellers or our traveller’s experience on any of our trips in Peru or Ecuador. We will continue to monitor the situation and contingency plans will be enacted if required.

As always, the safety of our travellers is our foremost priority and one we will not compromise on. We will continue to support the preservation of this vital wilderness and those who live and work in it.

Published 30 August 2019.

Why you should go to Uganda now

Uganda is home to the largest population of mountain gorillas in the world and the only way to see them is to trek through their natural habitat of densely packed, mystical cloud forests.

More and more international travellers and wildlife aficionados are shifting their focus to Uganda, where the more affordable permits reportedly can sell out often months in advance. But if you plan to track gorillas and chimpanzees in the wild, you'll want to book sooner rather than later with permit prices set to increase up to US$150 in 2020.

In addition, a series of new developments are set to put the ‘Pearl of Africa’ on the tourist map, so you'll want to visit Uganda before the crowds arrive.

Permit price increases: what you need to know

Gorilla and Chimp permit fees in Uganda will increase from July 1, 2020, so if you plan your gorilla and chimpanzee jungle trek before this date you will save US$150. The Uganda Wildlife Authority recently released cost changes to Gorilla permits from US$600 to US$700 per person, in both Bwindi National Park and Mgahinga National Park, and Chimpanzee permits to be increased from US$150 to US$200 in Kibale National Park.

However, Gorilla and Chimp permits often sell out four to six months in advance, so the earlier you book the greater chance you will be able to travel on your chosen day.

Why Uganda? What about Rwanda?

With the gorilla permits in Rwanda now costing US$1,500 per person, Uganda remains competitively priced with permits more than 50% cheaper than its neighbour. So, it's no surprise that travellers are heading to Uganda, blessed with volcanic mountains, lush valleys, vast lakes and a wealth of flora and fauna – including half of the world's mountain gorilla population.

Kitendara Lake Uganda

Beat the crowds

Best known for its gorilla tracking safaris, Uganda is a well-established wildlife haven and a series of new developments is set to put the ‘Pearl of Africa’ on the tourist map. Plans were unveiled for a new war museum that will explore its long history of conflicts and Uganda Airlines, the former national carrier, is set to commence operations at the end of August 2019.

While construction of a brand new international airport in the western region is currently underway, a new highway opened in June 2018 linking Entebbe airport with Lake Victoria; all of which should further add to its credentials as a tourist-friendly destination.

Before the crowds start building up in Uganda, here are some of the best ways to experience this landlocked country.

Top Uganda experiences

The whirlwind experience

If you're stretched for time, a short fly-in safari is a memorable way to access the elusive Mountain Gorillas in their natural environment via return scenic flights over western Uganda.

Regulations allow only one hour with mountain gorillas and a close encounter with these shy primates is one of life’s bucket list experiences!

A family of gorilla's in Bwindi National Park |  <i>Ian Williams</i>

After the scenic flight, you'll trek through the wilds of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest but be prepared for rain, mud and giant stinging nettles. Long trousers, gloves and a waterproof jacket are a must. View trip >

For animal lovers

In addition to heading to the forest to track mountain gorillas and chimpanzees in their natural habitat, Uganda's diverse ecosystem offers plenty of options when it comes to encountering wildlife.

Search for the famous tree-climbing lions in the scenic savannah plains of Queen Elizabeth National Park, the country’s most visited national park. Why not cruise along the tropical Kazinga Channel teeming with one of the world’s largest concentration of hippos, or enjoy some of the best bird watching in Africa with over 1,000 different species? View safari >


For adventurers

The Rwenzori Mountains, or the ‘Mountains of the Moon’, are located on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Isolated, rarely visited, often enveloped in clouds and permanently snow-capped, they are in an extremely humid area that contains no less than five different vegetation zones.

From tropical rainforest through alpine valleys to glaciers, reaching Margherita Peak (5,109m) is known for its demanding ascent and a very early start – but you will be rewarded as you watch the sun peeping over the horizon from Africa’s third highest mountain!  View trek >

If you're up for a triple summit challenge, join renowned mountaineer Tim Macartney-Snape on a exploratory trek in the Rwenzori Mountains through giant lobelia forests along the remote Kilembe Trail, before roping up and using crampons on glacial landscapes. Post-trip, you can also include an optional Gorilla wildlife safari extension. View expedition >

Giant Groundsels and Lobelia Giants in Uganda's Rwenzori Mountains |  <i>Juniors Bildarchiv GmbH</i> High in the Afro alpine zone of the Rwenzori National Park |  <i>Morgan Trimble</i> Rwenzori peaks Uganda
 

Experience all the highlights

After a tour that has it all? Our Best of Uganda adventure encompasses some of the country's most memorable wildlife encounters. From a jungle trek to see mountain gorillas and chimpanzees in the evergreen Kibale National Park to cruising along the Nile, it's easy to agree with Winston Churchill's description of Uganda as the "Pearl of Africa". The journey to the foot of the Murchison Falls will be a story to tell as Africa’s longest river squeezes through a seven-metre gap at the top with enormous Nile Crocodiles basking at the bottom!

A pair of hippopotamus enjoy the afternoon sun on the banks of the Kazinga Channel in Uganda. Photo: Udo Orgas

For those with a bit more time to explore, go on our adventure that encompasses the highlights of east Africa. From Tanzania’s world famous Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Park to the renowned Masai Mara National Reserve and Amboseli National Park in Kenya, you'll witness an endless series of spectacular wild animal sightings. View all Uganda adventures >

What other African destinations are on your travel radar?

Information last updated 28 August 2019.

What we're doing about the plastic problem

Have you heard the great news? Nepal has stepped up in banning single-use plastics in the Everest region, which will take effect in January 2020 in the Khumbu Pasang Lhamu province. All plastic drinking bottles and plastics of less than 30 microns in width will be banned in the area. 

With plastic packaging accounting for about half of the plastic waste in the world, here's how we are leading the way in eliminating its use on our treks.

Fast facts: How big is our plastic problem?

  Humans buy around 1 million plastic bottles per minute.
  Half a million straws are used in the world every day.
  It is estimated that almost 10 million plastic bags are consumed worldwide per minute.
  79% of all the plastics ever produced have now been discarded. Only 21% of plastics are still in active use.
  Each year, about 13 million tonnes of plastic leak into the ocean, with reports warning that there will be more plastic than marine life in the oceans by 2050.
  By 2050, an estimated 99% of seabirds will have ingested plastic.
  Because plastic is long lasting and durable, most do not biodegrade; only certain types of plastic waste can be recycled. Plastic waste is therefore either destroyed, converted to fuel or energy via incineration or pyrolysis, disposed of in waste management systems or discarded where it ends up in the natural environment.
  Single-use-plastics frequently do not make it to a landfill.

Worst plastic offenders

1. Plastic bags

2. Coffee cups and lids

3. Straws

4. Single-use bottles

Other offenders: balloons and their sticks and ribbons, chip and snack packets, food containers, plastic cutlery and sanitary products.

What can we do about it?

Making the switch from plastic to sustainable alternatives, as well as making responsible travel choices – such as bringing along a refillable water bottle, can make a positive investment in the future of our environment. Read these eight ways to avoid plastic when you travel.

Travel sustainably: how World Expeditions is eliminating plastic

Leading the way in responsible travel, our latest green initiatives in Nepal allow travellers to avoid the use of disposable and single-use plastic throughout their Nepal trip. The Kathmandu hotel we use has a water dispenser with potable water available to World Expeditions travellers to refill their reusable bottles, so that travellers aren't contributing to the plastic problem in the poor, landlocked country.

“While water on the treks has been boiled and provided to trekkers for many years, we are delighted to totally eliminate the need for plastic bottles from the moment the client arrives at the hotel.”

“Providing our clients with access to potable water throughout their Nepal experience is the final step in giving our clients the confidence to know that they are travelling green in Nepal,” says World Expeditions Responsible Travel Manager, Donna Lawrence.

In addition to phasing out single-use plastic bottles, our Nepali kitchen crew are trained to minimise plastic waste in trek kitchens, which is especially important in remote regions, when responsible disposal becomes more difficult.  We minimize the use of plastic by buying fresh produce from local farmers whenever possible, which has the dual benefit of creating income for subsistence communities and reducing the need of packaging and excess plastic.

Our credentials in eco tourism in Nepal are unrivalled:  We're proud to follow the seven principles of  Leave No Trace on all our treks and we're the founding partner of the 10 Pieces environmental initiative, which encourages trekkers to pick up 10 pieces of plastic or paper (or more!) to help reduce the litter problem through their collective effort.

Looking for more inspiration?

Download our free Thoughtful Traveller ebook and learn how you can be a responsible traveller.  Read our latest initiatives in Nepal where we've gone plastic-free!

Do you choose a travel company based on their sustainable practices? Let us know in the comments below.


Sources: Cleaseas.org, Earthday.org, Report from Science Advances, 2018 Outlook report from UN Environment.

Walking the Inca Trail FAQs

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu has been coined in many guidebooks as the ‘best short trek in the world’ and with a bit of training, almost anyone can walk the Inca Trail, but only with a permit.

Specialising in high quality treks along the Inca Trail and to Machu Picchu for over three decades, here’s everything you need to know about hiking the Inca Trail, with bonus tips from our adventure experts.

Jump to a section:
How difficult is it to walk the Inca Trail? What is the terrain like?
How can I prepare for the trek?
How many hours a day do you walk?
How can I avoid altitude sickness?
Can I walk the Inca Trail myself? How can I get a permit?
Why do I need a permit?
What if I can't get a permit?
Can I visit the Sun Gate without having to hike the Inca Trail?
How can I avoid the crowds?
I want to visit Machu Picchu but want to try a different trek to the classic Inca Trail. What are some alternatives?
When is the best time to walk the Inca Trail?
What climates can I expect?
What gear should I bring with me?
How much time can I spend at the Machu Picchu sanctuary?
What can I do at the Machu Picchu sanctuary?
What can’t be brought into the Machu Picchu sanctuary?
What will I eat along the trail?
What is the accommodation like?
How does World Expeditions do the Inca Trail differently?
Which trail should I choose?

How difficult is it to walk the Inca Trail? What is the terrain like?

It’s not our most challenging trek, but you will be walking over hilly and rugged terrain with lots of stairs. Expect some long, steep ascents too. Most of the walking is on fairly well-defined tracks, including some remarkable sections of ancient Inca stone "highways". There are some river crossings but no sections where scrambling is involved. It is recommended that you stay on the stone path at all times and keep well away from the edge.

With the help of porters carrying your personal gear, you’ll only need to worry about carrying a day pack of around 5-8kg including your water, camera and clothing layers.

How can I prepare for the Inca Trail trek?

The more training you do beforehand, the more you will enjoy your trek. We recommend 30 minutes of cardio activities 3-4 times a week in the 2-3 months leading up to your departure. Take every opportunity to walk up and down stairs or hills for leg strengthening and aerobic fitness.

Inca Trail Peru Sharing the view with a new friend. Image: Bette Andrews

How many hours a day do you walk on the Inca Trail?

The trekking day very much depends on the condition of the trails, the weather and the fitness of the group but expect to walk for 6-7 hours a day.

The morning's walk usually lasts from about 8 am to 12.30 pm and allows for numerous rest and photo stops. After a post lunch siesta, we set off for the afternoon's hike – usually 2-3 hours to the camp.

How can I avoid altitude sickness on the Inca Trail?

Altitude is also an important factor to consider, with the highest point of the trail at 4200 metres. The effects of altitude sickness can vary for different individuals, but some key things to keep in mind is to take it easy and ascend slowly.

Staff tip: Have plenty of fluids – hydration is so important when acclimatising.

Our itinerary is very well paced to ensure you acclimatise safely – so ideal for first timers, where you’ll walk through impressive Inca sites of the Sacred Valley before undertaking the Inca Trail trek.

Can I walk the Inca Trail myself? How can I get a permit?

No, you need a permit to walk the Inca Trail. Only approved tour operators, like World Expeditions, can obtain a permit.

Joining a small group to travel with a licensed operator means you can experience the comfort, seamless organisation and security of an active holiday. World Expeditions have all necessities taken care of, including hearty meals prepared by trained cooks, quality two-person tents erected in scenic wilderness, a lighter pack thanks to our team of porters, as well as use of a sleeping bag, thermarest and fibre-filled jacket.

Not to mention, having an expert bilingual guide adds to the experience as they share the history about the Incan empire and sites you visit, with their own tales of fascinating cultural and travel experiences.

Why do I need an Inca Trail permit?

Machu Picchu stands much the same as it did hundreds of years ago due to its superior architecture and carefully managed conservation programs. To protect Machu Picchu from the impact of its popularity, Peruvian authorities have implemented entry restrictions where only 500 permits are issued each day to walk the Inca Trail into Machu Picchu.

By the time permits are issued to porters, guides and other support staff, this leaves a limited amount of permits available for trekkers. Permits always sell out in high season, so it is highly recommended to book months in advance to secure a permit.

What if I can't get an Inca Trail permit?

If you miss out on a permit, World Expeditions has developed several brilliant Inca Trail alternatives to ensure you can experience the magic of trekking through the Andes and the Sacred Valley of the Incas to behold the wondrous Machu Picchu as the finale.

Travellers can still book on our Inca Trail itineraries but if Inca Permits are sold out already, we offer the Salcantay trek instead at no additional cost on many of our Inca Trail trips.


 

Can I visit the Sun Gate without having to hike the Inca Trail?

Yes, everyone who has an entrance ticket for Machu Picchu can walk up to the Inti Punku 'Sun Gate', which is approximately a 45-minute walk.

Staff tip: It’s important to note that to make it to the Sun Gate for the sunrise you must first have to catch a bus, queue to get into Machu Picchu and then walk about 45 minutes.

How can I avoid the crowds on the Inca Trail?

The increasing popularity of the Inca Trail does mean it is frequently visited by trekkers but on our Inca Trail Explorer trek, you stay at quieter and scenic wilderness grounds. So, you can relax and enjoy fully supported camping away from the Inca crowds.

I want to visit Machu Picchu but want to try a different trek to the classic Inca Trail. What are some alternatives?

The classic Inca Trail is a quintessential Peruvian trek, however, hiking this iconic route is not the only way to get to Machu Picchu.

There are other treks you can hike that are no less spectacular, including the alternate Salcantay trek, with a scenic train journey to Machu Picchu town after the trek; or choose the Salcantay Base Camp trek which joins the classic Inca Trail on the final day.

A particular staff favourite is the Inca Rivers Trek from Choquequirao to Machu Picchu that take you to rare and incredible views of Machu Picchu. This is a more remote trek, which is moderate to challenging, but offers a more varied trail away from the crowds to other spectacular Inca Ruin sites, such as Choquequirao, through the sublime Vilcabamba mountain range and between two sacred Inca Rivers.

Panoramic view of the 'lost' Inca ruins of Choquequirao |  <i>Yuri Zvezdny</i>

When is the best time to walk the Inca Trail?

The main trekking season in Peru lasts from late April to mid-October. This is the dry but 'cold' period, with the best mountain views and all passes open.

What climates can I expect on the Inca Trail?

Variance in latitude, elevation and local winds all factor into the wide range of climates experienced in the central Sierra/Andean mountain region. Average temperatures in the Sierra vary little between seasons, but there is dramatic daily variance. While the average daily temperature may only vary a few degrees Celsius between January and July, the diurnal (daily) temperature range is often huge. You can expect daytime temperatures in the highlands to be in the range of 10-25°C (50-77 °F), falling as low as -10 °C (14°F) at night.

What gear should I bring with me on the Inca Trail?

Essential trekking gear include merino socks (add in some extras), an anti-blister kit, warm clothes, waterproofs, worn-in boots, sunglasses, sunscreen, camera and trekking poles.

We provide a comprehensive gear list as part our traveller’s pre-departure kit and gear such as sleeping mats, sleeping bags and a fibre-filled jacket are available for use for trekkers.

How much time can I spend at the Machu Picchu sanctuary?

There are three time slots in which patrons can enter Machu Picchu for a maximum of four hours and must follow one of three predetermined routes. Admission is not allowed after 4pm. Additionally, all visitors must always be accompanied by a guide.

To ensure you get the most of your Machu Picchu experience regardless of these restrictions, most of our Inca Trail trips include an extra visit to Machu Picchu, with an overnight stay in Aguas Calientes, to fully appreciate this new world wonder.

Staff tip: The early morning is one of the best times to savour the views and atmosphere of Machu Picchu. The mystical morning light over the enigmatic sites are spectacular. Try and catch the sunrise at the sanctuary, you won’t regret the early wakeup call!

What can I do at the Machu Picchu sanctuary?

On many of our Inca Trail trips, travellers are treated to a unique second visit to Machu Picchu, which includes a tour by a local guide in this colossal sanctuary. Your guide will take you through the different sectors, bringing alive the history and stories of these ancient and iconic ruins. You’ll feel like you’re taking a step back in time as you soak up the astonishing views, expert knowledge, and impressive ruins.

For the more adventurous, you can climb one of the two mountains in the Machu Picchu sanctuary by purchasing a Huayna Picchu or Machu Picchu Mountain permit and forego the guided tour of Machu Picchu. Both climbs are a minimum of three hours return and are very steep, with many small and narrow steps, and can be slippery and are very exposed with vertiginous drops.

What can’t be brought into the Machu Picchu sanctuary?

The following items are prohibited in Machu Picchu: drones, selfie sticks, tripod for cameras, walking stick without rubber tip, backpacks that exceeds 40cm x 35cm x 20cm, aerosol spray, sharp objects, banners or posters.

As of December 2018, single-use plastic bottles and any other single-use plastics (bags, cups, straws, etc) are prohibited in the sanctuary, on the Inca Trail and all other protected natural areas in Peru. This regulation was established by the Ministry of Environment, following the Sustainable Tourism Regulation which aims to conserve these protected natural areas. Please ensure to bring your reusable water bottle on all our Peru trips.

Water refill stations have been installed in areas near Machu Picchu and other national parks. Your guide will brief you where you can refill your water bottles with drinking water.

What will I eat along the Inca Trail?

We provide a full service while on trek, including three hearty meals a day. Typically, you can expect breakfast to consist of muesli or cereal, eggs, local breads and pancakes and hot drinks.

Chef in Lima

Lunch will generally be vegetables, salads, bread, cheese pasta style dishes, tinned fish and meats and are normally eaten picnic style. Dinner is always three courses and includes soup, seasonal vegetables, meat, rice or pasta and bread with some local specialities also in the mix. All evening meals are followed by desserts and hot beverages, of course!

Our cooks are trained to provide excellent food for vegetarians and anyone who has a limited diet including those who are lactose or gluten intolerant.

What is the accommodation like on the Inca Trail trek?

In cities or large towns, you will be accommodated in three to four-star properties that are centrally located, atmospheric and commodious. In smaller towns and villages hotel options are often limited with more basic accommodation used, however you can be assured of clean, comfortable and well-located lodgings.

Blue skies over camp along the Inca Trail in Peru

During the trekking section, enjoy our fully supported camping experience in quality two person tents with plenty of personal space and storage for your luggage. Our team are on hand to ensure your comfort and safety with a dining tent, separate cooking tent and where appropriate, toilet tent erected.

How does World Expeditions do the Inca Trail differently?

 • The Classic Inca Trail trek ensures you are well acclimatised to the altitude with day walks through impressive Inca sites of the Sacred Valley before the Inca Trail trek. With at least 2 or more days of acclimatisation built into all our itineraries before the start of the Inca Trail, the high passes and altitude experience on the trek will be easier to conquer.

 • Enjoy fully supported camping with gear included! Each trekker is equipped with a kit bag which include a sleeping bag, inflatable sleeping mat and fibre filled jacket.

 • To appreciate the majestic ruins of Machu Picchu, an extra visit to the famous sanctuary is also included.

 
 • We tread lightly and thoughfully in the places we visit for minimal environmental impact. We have a zero-litter policy, utilise eco toilet system at our campsites, and have innovative schemes to reduce waste on trek, including our 10 Pieces waste collection program.

 • You can travel to less frequented campsites on our Inca Trail Explorer trek.

Which Inca Trail trip should I choose?

Jungle trails, cloud forests and panoramic views of Andean peaks will inspire you as you follow in the footsteps of the Incas on your way to Machu Picchu. The only question now is, which trip should you take? View our complete list of Inca Trail and Machu Picchu adventures >

Information last updated on 21 August 2019.

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