rss

More Inspiration

Why you should avoid Mongolia's Eagle Hunting Festival

As part of our continued drive to ensure our adventures adhere to the strictest standards of animal welfare, we have removed the eagle hunting festival from our Mongolia program.

The decision was taken in consultation with World Animal Protection, the leading organisation that assists in our company’s comprehensive Animal Welfare Code of Conduct.

Although it is not our place to pass judgement on the long-held cultural tradition of eagle hunting in Mongolia, it is our place to remove tourism activities from our program that do not adhere to the principals of animal welfare,

World Expeditions Responsible Travel Manager, Donna Lawrence, says.

"The eagle hunting festival is a spectacle for tourists and the welfare of the eagles and their prey at the festival does not adhere to the universally accepted ‘Five Freedoms’ of animal welfare on which our animal welfare Code of Conduct is based."

Although the concept of the eagle hunting has cultural origins, the festival was first conceived in 1999 with the purpose of boosting tourism, according to World Animal Protection Senior Wildlife and Veterinary Advisor, Dr. Jan Schmidt-Burbach.

“The festival is a comparatively new event designed to attract tourism and the commercial aspect of the festival has unfortunately led to negative impacts on the welfare and the conservation of the eagles.”

A local eagle hunter, Mongolia |  <i>Cam Cope</i>Eagles are often used for hunting in Mongolia's steppe. Image: Cam Cope

How to experience Mongolia responsibly

Mongolia's expansive landscapes, rich history and cultural diversity makes the country a unique and magnetic place to explore. From the remote corners of the Gobi Desert to steppe grasslands, here are ways you can still enjoy your big adventure with a small footprint:

 •  Encounter diverse nomad communities and stay overnight in a family's ger, a circular felt tent used by nomadic people, for a fantastic cultural experience. In line with our Thoughtful Travel practices, we provide opportunities for travellers to interact with local people, so that knowledge is shared and the culture is understood and appreciated.

 •  Catch a performance of traditional Mongolian folk dance, music and throat singing in Ulaanbaatar

 •  Don’t miss the Naadam Festival, the country’s biggest annual party, where you can experience traditional costumes, dance, music, food and religious ceremonies, as well as watch local men and women compete in a huge two-day tournament of the country’s traditional sports.

 •  Camp under the stars in the open steppe and mountains on a fully supported trek. This is a great way to avoid overtourism hot spots, to immerse in nature and to seek a more remote adventure.

 •  Travel to remote frontiers by bike or on foot and learn about the nomadic culture in Western Mongolia. Know that the carbon footprint from your trip in Mongolia will be offset at no additional cost to you to support Positive Impact Projects that protect wildlife and help provide clean energy for communities. 

 •  Get back to nature and discover the Altai Mountain region, tracking and spotting wild mountain goats.

 •  Visit Khustain National Park, home of the takhi (Mongolian wild horse), or the Terelj National Park for horseback riding or a day hike. Instances where horses and camels are used, make sure they are hired from local people who manage the care and welfare of the animals. Our programs adhere to these as per our Animal Welfare Code of Conduct.

 •  Explore the ruins of Karakorum, the 13th century capital of Genghis Khan's Mongol empire and a significant city in the history of the Silk Road. It is set in the beautiful Orkhon Valley.

 •  Visit a wealth of petroglyphs, standing stones, and grave sites from the ancient past.

 

 

Authentic and realistic insight into Mongolia's open spaces and nomadic lifestyle lend themselves to an unforgettable outdoor experience. View our Mongolia adventures >

Published 19 June 2019.

Traveller stories: Vietnam to Laos by bike

Cycling close to 500km, it was 10 days of encountering locals, soaking in the tranquillity of the countryside and immersing in the enchanting village life of Laotians. Getting there by bike added to a fun and rewarding experience, but it did prove to be strenuous at times. (Thankfully a support vehicle was nearby which we used to our advantage!)

Here are my day-to-day accounts from my two-wheel adventure from Hanoi to Luang Prabang.

Day 1: Hanoi, Vietnam – a welcoming dinner

After a short briefing with our World Expeditions tour guide, Hang, we left for dinner in the home of a local family who lived near the central rail station in an area once heavily bombed during the war. The food was excellent and copious – spring rolls, cha ca fish (a Hanoi speciality), tofu, fried chicken, and something a bit like dolmades, as well as some home brewed rice spirit.

Our host clearly loved entertaining visitors (our guide translated), where they played their homemade instruments and sang for us. It was a real treat, and a taste of things to come.

Cyclists geared up and ready to set off from Hanoi to remote villages |  <i>Sandra Hopkins</i>

Day 2: Hanoi to Ba Vi National Park – leaving the bustling city behind

We were fitted with our mountain bikes with its 27 gears and set off at a fast pace following Hang along the dyke road through a populated area of Hanoi. Not surprisingly, we had two close calls – one where we were almost side swiped by a motorbike coming from a side street, and another where one of the cyclists knocked a bamboo tray of food out of the hands of a woman walking out of a doorway without looking.

In no time at all, we left the busy part of the city behind and continued towards the west on the main road. We passed through a village known as a carpenters’ village. It seemed quite flat, but as we were going mostly along the banks of the Red River, it was a continuous and gentle incline. It was so nice to be outside Hanoi, but the landscape was flat and not very inspiring. The villages were interesting though.

We stopped for lunch in a village café, enjoying noodles and vegetables. Kristen, my fellow traveller, demonstrated her adeptness at communicating with locals and very soon had the owner of the restaurant ready to marry her off to a local! The owner’s late husband had served during the war and had been absent for 10 years as he was exposed to agent Orange, the aftereffects of which were evident in one of her four sons.

We continued the almost flat road for approximately 55 kilometres until we reached a national park. Though it was a pretty steep climb!

It was five kilometres up to head to our accommodation located inside the park, but we managed about one and a half kilometres before putting our bikes on the truck and driving up the rest of the way. The Ba Vi Resort (a popular pick for the locals in the wet season) was set in a backdrop of beautiful trees, but the resort’s French/Soviet style was dated.

Day 3: Ba Vi to Da Bia – a scenic reservoir and 60km of hard biking

We drove down the hill and along a busy road to the river, where the truck and van let us set of on our own two wheels along the river for about 20 kilometres, before hopping on a little long boat to cross the river. We climbed from the boat landing up to a village and then continued our way – mostly uphill. It proved to be a very hard day with lots of hills and we were not well prepared for them, but the truck and van were there to support us, and we took advantage.

Biking around a reservoir that reminded us of Marlborough Sounds in New Zealand, but with no tourists or tourist facilities, I felt that we were truly isolated and remote. It was lovely to pass friendly villagers with young ones greeting, ‘Hello’. The biking was hard but scenic.

Enjoying scenic water views in isolated parts of Da Bia |  <i>Sandra Hopkins</i>

After about 60 kilometres of hard biking, everyone got in the van as we were at least 20 kilometres away from our night’s accommodation, a home stay next to a huge reservoir. Here, we were amongst the Muang people and stayed in a typical Muang house – wooden, very open, on stilts with living downstairs and sleeping upstairs. Dinner was cooked by the family and consisted of a variety of dishes – fish (deep fried and overcooked), tofu, chicken pieces, vegetables, French fries, squash and rice.

Staying at a traditional Muong house by a host family |  <i>Sandra Hopkins</i>

The home stay was in a lovely location, but the sleeping floor upstairs was a little cramped. With another tour group, approximately 13 people slept in a room, with mattresses laid on the floor under mosquito nets. Roosters seemed to crow all night, and of course there were snorers.

Day 4: Da Bia to Pu Luong – a valley carpeted in rice fields

We started the day with an hour’s transfer in a long boat to the other side of the reservoir, enjoying the stunning scenery of layered hills, which looked blue in the hazy light and passed an island where locals were harvesting tapioca.

Boat transfer across the river to cycle Laos' backroads |  <i>Sandra Hopkins</i>

After the boat ride, we climbed up and up as we left the reservoir behind. We reached the top of the hill near a busy town and intersection, from there we headed downhill for about four kilometres along a busy road before turning off into a paradise of limestone karsts, rice paddies, and tidy villages of wooden houses on stilts.

We were led by Hang along small country roads, through villages and rice paddy borders, and passed communal clothes washing and bathing areas.

We stopped at a wooden house and Hang organised for us to be invited in. Our host was a 91-year-old woman who sat ably on the floor. Her teeth were lacquered black, but her eyes were bright, and she seemed alert.

Her home where she lives with her husband, daughter and grandchildren had a big room upstairs for sleeping and a kitchen area to the side with an open fireplace for cooking, but no running water inside nor a fridge. There were two TVs in the big living/sleeping area though.

After our village and rice paddy detour, we arrived at Mai Chau. Cottages were hemmed in the hills, with many shops selling souvenirs and restaurants aplenty – and tourists.
We stopped at a bar with a lookout over the karsts and rice paddies and had drinks – a beer and a mango and papaya smoothie (with a taste of condensed milk).

Then we were off again. Initially we went on a cross country track past some cows, hotels under construction and a cement works, however we then got back onto a very muddy country road where there was some road repairs and trucks. We knew the last part of the day was a long climb, so as soon as an ascent started, we decided to stop biking and take the van. It was indeed a long climb and very high.

At the top, we travelled on our bikes again for a great descent through villages to our remote resort for the night, part way down the mountain.

Our accommodation had a dining area – all open, a swimming pool and numerous cabins for sleeping. It also had an extraordinary view of the mountain hills. Our cabin was like the home stay – upstairs in a wooden house on stilts and a common sleeping room, but much more spacious with curtain dividers and the toilets and showers were closer to our accommodation and more numerous (four toilets and four showers). The design of the bathrooms and the cleanliness was impressive. After showering and washing some clothes, we had a drink with Hang. It seemed strange and was sad that our Vietnam leg of the tour was almost finished.

Day 5: Pu Luong to Vieng Xai, Laos – the hidden route through scenic landscapes

After a reasonable night’s sleep – no roosters but a bit of snoring – we got up for our last day of cycling in Vietnam, taking off with speed. We had 20 kilometres to do for the day and Hang was under pressure to get us to the border by midday.

The first part, of about seven kilometres, was downhill through magical sceneries of villages and layers of karsts above a mist. Such a pity to go so fast. The remainder of the journey was relatively flat but fast – we must have been doing about 25 kilometres per hour.

Saying our goodbyes to our truck driver, who had been super helpful and cheerful, we hopped in the van for the border.

The drive is about 2 hours, but it took longer due to some roadworks. Once we made it to the immigration border, we had our passports stamped and bid adieu to Hang and our van driver. Hang is a terrific guide and it was sad to say thanks and goodbye.

We then crossed no man’s land – a long walk over a bridge with about 200 metres on each side. I was worried that the Laotian immigration wouldn’t be open, and we would be stuck in no man’s land, but an official came running across to the office when we appeared and started the process of organising our visas on arrival. This took about 15-20 minutes, after the payment of $36 USD each – one dollar more than anticipated as it was the weekend.

We met our guide, Lee and driver, Mr Sit and made our way to Vieng Xai on the worst road I’ve ever experienced. We were remote – almost no villages, but the road was so rough due to lots of landslides.

That night we went to dinner at the local Indian restaurant run by a Bengali man and his wife. The food was excellent and enjoyed a nice change from noodles, eggs and fried rice. We had aubergine curry, fish curry and dahl, topped with an excellent cardamom rice pudding dessert.

The owners had been in Laos for 10 years after his mining job finished, running the restaurant in an old wooden shack. The husband’s eyes lit up when I asked about the Indian cricket team currently playing in Australia. I was overwhelmed at their bravery and persistence. It was sad to leave Vietnam and the Vietnamese team, but we were ready for our Laotian adventure.

Day 6: Vieng Xai to Sam Nuea – exploring Cave City

We toured the caves used by the Pathet Lao (The red army of Laos) during the bombing by the Americans. It was a great tour, highly informative and distressing at the same time. More bombs were dropped on Laos by the Americans than were dropped during the Second World War! The Laotians called it the secret war. Today still, one Laotian dies per day from unexploded ordnances.

Cave tour in Vieng Xai |  <i>Sandra Hopkins</i>

We visited three caves: that of the Red Prince, that of the army commander and future prime minister, and the infantry cave. The last one was enormous, with three big bomb craters outside. The first two had lovely gardens with lots of begonias, frangipanis and fig trees.

After our tour, we got fitted for our bikes and took off. Our first day of biking in Laos was a ‘rest day’, so we had only 35 kilometres to do, but it was hard biking. We got to our destination early afternoon and had lunch in a cafe near the bridge. The hotel was nice – quite new, lots of shiny tiles and interesting decor.

I spent the afternoon exploring the area, walking through the market, and went across a rickety pedestrian bridge to find an ATM and the Vietnamese restaurant which had been recommended. More fried rice and two big bottles of beer came to approximately $10.

Day 7:  Sam Nuea to Muang Hiem – entering Laos’ ethnically diverse area

Post-breakfast – which was eggs (oh yes, more eggs), a bit of cheese, 3- in-1 coffee, bread rolls and bananas – we had a quick tour of the market. Dead rats and squirrels for sale.

Local village markets in Laos |  <i>Sandra Hopkins</i>

We had a huge distance to cover this day – mostly by driving. The biking was challenging, very mountainous but beautiful. The best part was passing through villages and all the children waving and saying ‘sabadee’.

We stopped for lunch on the side of the road at the top of a pass, sitting on the ground and having noodles, salad with a coconut milk sauce and barbequed eggplants. The team ate buffalo bits (tripe and bones bits). They travelled with their own rice cooker, and like all Laotians loved sticky rice.

Lunch stop en route to Muang Hiem |  <i>Sandra Hopkins</i>

We arrived in our guest house about 5pm and it was away from the main street and overlooking some fields. It was okay, but it had the usual dodgy plumbing of Southeast Asia where some of the waste from the sink went onto the floor.

Across the road we had dinner – more fried rice, eggs and beer. The owner’s children were in a corner watching nursery rhymes in English including ‘Jingle Bells’. We sang along and it was a nice reminder of Christmas back home.

Day 8: Muang Hiem to Muang Viengkham – local encounters

This was another long day of biking and long-distance driving. We passed more mountains, villagers, buffalo, cows and villages. We were getting tired. The scenery was still special though and the villages remote and poor.

The villagers were fascinated by our bikes, especially Kristen’s as she uses cleats.

After a lot of hard biking, we got in the van to finish the distance to the night’s accommodation on rough road. We arrived at a nice, clean guesthouse with a decent bathroom guesthouse at about 5pm. We had dinner cooked by the guesthouse owner, a very elegant Laotian woman. The food was good, but it was the usual noodles and eggs – and Laotian beer.

Day 9: Muang Viengkham to Nong Khiaw – the best mountain scenery and a luxurious night’s stay

We started our day with lovely breakfast on the terrace outside our rooms, enjoying fruit, green soybean cakes and rice flour omelette with a sweet sauce.
I have to say, today had the best scenery of the trip, but also had the longest climb of about 30 kilometres. We set out thinking that we would do as much as possible after all we had done well in the hill climbs the previous day.

We amazingly managed 25 kilometres. I was so pleased and wish I’d persisted and finished it.

Just before we finished, I had two little boys on their way home from school at lunchtime running up the hill beside me and at one stage pushing me by hitting my back wheel.

Taking a break while chatting with the locals |  <i>Sandra Hopkins</i>

Lower on the mountains, we were among the Kmeu tribe. Higher up, we were back among Hmong people, who do not have windows in their houses due to the high altitude. Both tribal groups live in wooden houses on stilts.

Our lunch stop at Hmong had some interesting sights, including a young girl carrying a few dead rats on a string. There were some for sale in the shops too.

After lunch, we took off downhill and stopped at a spectacular lookout over the surrounding mountains.

Enjoying stunning vistas before heading into a small town in Laos |  <i>Sandra Hopkins</i>

As we got closer to our final destination for the night, Nong Khiaw, a popular tourist destination. The environment changed – more traffic, better houses and some swimming pools for tourists.

Driving up to our accommodation at the Viewpoint Hotel, World Expeditions certainly saved the best for last – we were in luxury! It was a new hotel with a spectacular vista of the river, town and mountainscapes. We enjoyed happy hour in town and went to an Indian restaurant, the Chennai, for thali. The local Lao Lao whiskey helped us walk easily up the hill to get to our hotel (or maybe we were just really fit after all the biking).

Day 10: Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang – the final day

We headed off for a 60-kilometre ride before lunch. My bum and hips hurt after the exertion of the previous day. The ride was simple though – down a valley, close to the river and undulating.

Taking in stunning views from above |  <i>Sandra Hopkins</i>

We had coffee in a café near the turn-off to the main road that goes between Laos and Vietnam. It was clear that we were back in civilisation with enormous trucks on the road.

After our 60kms, we stopped at a roadside restaurant and had some exceptional noodles – one that the team had bought at a market and some really spicy handmade pho. We then said goodbye to our truck driver and our bikes, and with Mr Sit and Lee, we continued to drive by the river, Nam Om towards the Mekong.

The road was a mess as the Chinese are building dams along the river, including near Mr Sit’s childhood home. Many houses and villages will be lost to the flooding.

We arrived at a weaving village, Ban Nayang, and went straight to our long boat to cross the Mekong to visit the Pak Ou cave (which means mouth of the river). The caves are interesting but the boat ride on the Mekong was magnificent, especially when it was close to sunset.

Mekong River crossing |  <i>Sandra Hopkins</i>

At Luang Prabang, we were driven to our accommodation and said our sad goodbyes to Mr Sit and Lee. What a magical journey and what a privilege to access villages and locals in remote Laos!

Words and photos by Sandra Hopkins who travelled on our Hanoi to Luang Prabang by Bike trip in December 2018. Follow more of Sandra’s recent travels at her blog.

Tanzania's plastic ban: what travellers need to know

As of June 2019, plastic bags are not allowed in Tanzania, as the country steps up in the global movement against single plastic use.

Special desks will be designated at border posts and airports for travellers entering the country to surrender their plastic bags. The strict government initiative hopes to cut down on plastic waste in the country and to help preserve the natural beauty of Tanzania.

The United Republic of Tanzania released a notice for travellers wishing to visit the country that "all plastic carriers, regardless of their thickness, will be prohibited from being imported, exported, manufactured, sold, stored, supplied and used in Mainland Tanzania."

Visitors must avoid carrying or using plastic carrier bags for items in their suitcase or in their hand luggage. However, ziplock bags specifically used to carry toiletries are permitted as they are expected to remain the permanent possession of visitors and to not be disposed of in Tanzania.

When you arrive into Tanzania carrying items in a plastic bag, customs and immigration will confiscate the bag. We suggest bringing a few cloth carry bags or stuff sacks (which pack down to nothing) from home to store your personal items and laundry.

Tanzania is not the first African country to take a step towards removing plastic bags.  It follows Kenya, Mali, Cameroon, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Malawi, Morocco, South Africa, Rwanda and Botswana, all of which have already either banned plastic bags completely or now charge a tax on them.

The plastic waste issue for African countries is serious.  At one stage, it was suggested South Africa had named the plastic bag its national flower, since there were so many bags littering their landscape.

This situation is not new and many countries across the globe are slowly following suit. So far, 65 countries have imposed bans and another 31 countries impose a tax per bag.

The Earth Policy Institute estimates that a trillion plastic bags are used throughout the world each year.

Fast facts: the plastic issue

Plastic bags are made from polyethylene, which almost always comes from some form of fossil fuel.  Although shopping bags are recyclable in the short term, many pollute our landscapes and waterways, blocking drains and sewerage pipes and killing marine animals. Longer term, plastic bags never break down fully, remaining micro plastics, which release toxins into the environment, to be ingested by animals and entering the human food chain. 


How to reduce your plastic use when you travel

Countries around the world vary in their commitment to ban plastic bags, but you can make a difference to the war on plastic bags when you travel. Travel with reusable bags, so when you are offered a plastic bag you can politely refuse. Consumer sentiment cannot be underestimated in the drive to minimize plastic. Read these eight ways to avoid plastic use when you travel.

Another action that can make a difference is to collect plastic bags that blemish the natural landscape and end up in waterways, removing them from the environment and finding a responsible method of disposal, such as a recycling plant.

World Expeditions' 10 Pieces program has been encouraging trekkers in many destinations to collect paper and plastic litter from trails.  Since February 2018, on Mount Kilimanjaro, for example, more than 110 trekkers have volunteered to participate in the program with plastic bags being the number one item collected.

Litter that is collected by trekkers is carried off the mountain by porters and handed over to National Park Rangers for proper disposal. The initiative has even encouraged other people on treks to follow suit in picking up rubbish.

A small effort can collectively make a huge difference by placing the issue at hand in the spotlight by helping educate mountain communities on the negative consequences of litter for the benefit  and the health of their animals and people.

Written by Donna Lawrence, the Responsible Travel Manager at World Expeditions.

Inside the first class yacht Solaris: Galapagos cruising

Chartered for the Galapagos Islands in January 2020, experience first class cruising as you explore the most exceptional and remote landmarks of the island's archipelago, including Bartolomé (for spectacular panoramic views), the 'cathedral' rock of San Cristóbal and Española Island's iconic blow hole, in comfort.

The first class Solaris yacht boasts private facilities, air-conditioning and ocean views in every cabin, as well as full board meals and free use of snorkelling gear for your outdoor water adventures.

Inside the cabins

Swipe to view more images.

Triple, double and single cabin rooms on the main deck and upper deck

Double cabin 1 on the main deck of Solaris Double cabin 1 on the upper deck of Solaris Double cabin 7 on the main deck of Solaris Single cabin 6 on the main deck of Solaris Single cabin 5 on the main deck of Solaris Single cabin 6 on the main deck of Solaris Suite cabin views aboard Solaris Suit on the upper deck of Solaris Suite cabin views aboard Solaris Triple cabin 2 on the upper deck of Solaris

Bathrooms views in suite cabin rooms

Bathroom views aboard Solaris Bathroom facilities aboard Solaris Bathroom views in the Suite Cabin aboard Solaris

Limited to 16 passengers, the vessel provides a more intimate nature experience with ample space to relax and enjoy the scenery – from the luxurious sundeck to the outside bar, or from your spacious cabin.

On-board social areas

Indoor social lounge, bar and dinning room

Lounge area aboard Solaris Lounge views aboard Solaris Lounge area aboard Solaris Views of the bar area aboard Solaris Dinning Area view aboard Solaris Dinning Area aboard Solaris

Outdoor shaded rested area

Shaded resting area aboard Solaris Shaded resting area aboard Solaris Shaded resting area aboard Solaris
 

Sundeck space

 
Beautiful views on the sundeck aboard Solaris Sundeck views aboard Solaris

Timed to experience the best of the archipelago – including when its wildlife is most active, join this exclusive charter to the Galapagos Islands in January 2020.

Exterior views of Solaris

Everest Base Camp Trek FAQs

Planning on trekking to the base of the world's tallest mountain? Here is a great starting point.

Whether you want to know when is the best time to go, how fit you need to be on trek or want a clear overview of trip inclusions, find answers to our most frequently asked questions from our adventurous staff, guides and mountain experts right here. So, sit back, dive in and start planning the trek of your lifetime.

Jump to a section:
How difficult is the trek? How many hours a day do you walk?
Is it very steep?
Do you need good shoes?
Do you have any training programs for the trek?
Do many people have issues acclimatising?
What happens in case of an emergency?
What is the accommodation like?
What is the food like on the trek?
Where can I have a shower?
Where can I charge my phone on the way?
Where is Wi-Fi available?
When is the best time to trek to Everest Base Camp?
Do I get to stay overnight at Everest Base Camp?
What is the average size of the group?
How big is the staff crew?
15kg isn’t much, how do I pack lightly?
Can I take my own down jacket or sleeping bag?
Can I leave my excess gear in Kathmandu?
Is it culturally appropriate to wear shorts or leggings?
What else can I do in Kathmandu? Can I do any other short walks?
Why do I need to tip, can’t it be included in the trip price? What is the process for tipping?
Where can I exchange my money?
With so many trekking companies around, how do I choose the right one for me?

How difficult is the trek? How many hours a day do you walk?

The Everest Base Camp (EBC) trek is very achievable for people who are prepared to put in the work prior to departure. The trek is exactly that: a walk. There are no technical elements to the journey, just one foot in front of the other; the key is not to rush and to take your time.

Staff tip: “If you are positive and know you are going to trek for 14 odd days, then you can push your body. Often trekking difficulty is 70% mentality.”

Our Everest Base Camp & Kala Pattar trek is graded moderate, meaning that you generally won’t exceed eight hours of activity in a day. Some days can vary from 4-5 hours a day to just 2-3 hours, however, there will be sections where you are challenged. If you do the training you go into the trek positive, that’s more than half the battle.

Everest Base Camp trek informationCrossing a bridge on the way to Everest Base Camp

Is it very steep?

For our Everest Base Camp & Kala Pattar trek, travellers should be comfortable with occasional rough terrain, but expect long steep climbs. So, some days could include ascents and descents of 500 metres or more. Remember: speed isn’t important, stamina, confidence and continuity are.

Do you need good shoes?

Yes! And don’t forget quality socks. Happy feet equal a happy trekker, so seek out an outdoor and gear store that will help you get well-fitted, suitable, durable and comfortable shoes that’ll last in the long run.

The Australian gear experts at Paddy Pallin shared their recommendations on choosing the right hiking boots in this blog post.

Do you have any training programs for the trek?

We don’t specify detailed training programs as it is difficult to recommend a general program that applies to everyone. The training you should do to prepare for your EBC trek depends on your current level of fitness and any medical conditions. We suggest that you exercise a minimum of five times per week, an hour each time, doing activities such as hill walking, cycling, running and strength work.

To get a general idea of how to prepare for a trek, this trek training guide with advice from high altitude mountaineer Soren Kruse Ledet may come in handy.

 
 

Do many people have issues acclimatising?

Altitude sickness can vary for each individual; however, we’ve found that including carefully timed acclimatisation days scheduled into the trek has helped trekkers acclimatise.

Nevertheless, during the acclimatisation process, you may experience some of the following symptoms:
 • Headache
 • Tiredness
 • Disturbed sleep
 • Loss of appetite/nausea
 • Shortness of breath
 • Cough
 • Palpitation
 • Swelling of the hands and face

All our group leaders have extensive first aid training and we urge you to communicate with the group leader at all times should you believe you have any symptoms in order that we can effectively monitor you.

Some tips to consider include taking your time, trekking at a slow and steady pace, and staying hydrated are important in reducing the effects of altitude sickness. Our trek leaders continually monitor travellers and ensure everyone is drinking plenty of fluids – continually replenishing drink bottles with clean drinking water, providing morning and afternoon tea, and offering juice for some electrolyte kick.

Read more about the importance of hydration at altitude from Dr Ross Anderson, the medical advisor for World Expeditions.

Staff tip: “Hike high, sleep low. This saying is one our leaders and guides follow when trekking at high altitudes. Our treks are structured so that you ascend slowly, allowing acclimatisation to occur.”

What happens in case of an emergency?

There are limited medical facilities on the route, but our guides carry a full medical kit and are trained extensively on how to use it. We also carry portable altitude chambers, which are useful if someone is suffering from AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) but cannot be evacuated due to bad weather.

Emergencies are dealt with by the guide, who must pass a medical course each year. This course is run by our UK-based doctor who travels annually to Kathmandu to run the training course.

The safety of our travellers and crew is our number one priority. If a fellow trekker in your group needs to descend, then an assistant guide would go with them. We have lots of support staff on the trek, so the person descending would be well looked after, and won’t impact on the rest of the group’s experience. In a serious case, evacuation would be by helicopter.

What is the accommodation like?

You’ll want to make sure you have a good night’s sleep when on trek and our eco campsites provide the comfort, warmth and privacy for a tranquil camping experience with – paired with superb mountain views.


Inside our standing height tents are off-the-ground beds with clean mattresses and pillows. At the campsites, you’ll have composting or flushing western-style sit-down toilets, hand basins, and a windowed dining room with eco-friendly heating.

The nights in our private campsites will be complemented by nights in our hand-picked eco lodges that align with our responsible tourism practices. These lodges use a mix of cow/yak dung/solar and generators for power.

Everest Base Camp private Eco Camp - World ExpeditionsOur private eco camp at Dingboche

What is the food like on the trek?

You’ll have a full-time personal cook and assistant on-hand to prepare a creative menu under strict hygiene standards using almost all fresh ingredients. There’s always plenty to go around and you can help yourself to seconds or even thirds!

 

Every day is different but here is a sample of one day’s menu on the trail.

Breakfast: Tea served in your tent, coffee or hot chocolate, porridge or a grain cereal, toast with spreads, eggs (fried, omelette or boiled) and tomatoes, boiled water.
Lunch: Juice, potatoes, cucumber and carrot salad, cheese and gherkins, chapatis, pizza, canned tuna and meats, fresh oranges and bananas, boiled water.
Dinner: Soup, steamed vegetables, rice, fried chicken, daal, spaghetti, chocolate cake, fresh apples, tea or hot chocolate, boiled water.

Unlike most companies, World Expeditions includes a full meal service as part of the trip price that lowers the risks to you and safeguards your health.

 

When is the best time to trek to Everest Base Camp?

The trekking season for Everest Base Camp runs from mid-September to May. October is traditionally the most popular time for this trek, when the views are great, and temperatures are not too extreme. But we also get many travellers enjoying the colder winter season (Dec/Jan) when numbers on the trail are lower and skies are clearer for that Instagram-worthy photo.

We always get a lot of interest in our treks over Christmas and New Year’s, as it is an exciting way to spend the holiday season and minimises the days you need to use from your holiday allowance. If you trek during the winter season, you need to be prepared with the right clothing for potentially low temperatures, but we provide good quality down jackets, down sleeping bags and fleece sleeping bag liners to keep you cosy.

Everest Base Camp trek information by signboards, Nepal HimalayaEverest Base Camp trek information: turn right to the camp

As you head towards March and April, the temperatures get warmer and you’ll be in the thick of the activity at base camp as the big expeditions get ready to summit. While some days can be a little hazier (in the lead up to the monsoon period) with cloud build up often in the afternoon, usually the peaks are clear in the morning.

Every month of the trekking season has something to offer in Nepal, so it can be difficult to choose when to go. You can read our in-depth post on the pros and cons of trekking for each season.

Do I get to stay overnight at Everest Base Camp?

Our Everest Base Camp trek does not stay overnight at base camp. To sleep at base camp requires special permits which are very expensive. Instead, you stay at Gorak Shep where you walk into base camp for a day trip.

Where can I have a shower?

Some campsites and eco lodges have hot showers at some facilities in the Everest region, which are powered by hydro or solar panels. These locations are: Ghat, Namche, Deboche, Dingboche, Lobuche, Dole, Machhermo and Gokyo. A small cost of between 300‑650 Nepali rupees is payable to utilise this service, subject to availability.

Most, but not all, World Expeditions trips in the Everest region visit one of more of these locations. Refer to your itinerary to see which campsites you’ll be visiting on your trek.

Where can I charge my phone on the way?

Some accommodations have charging stations available for small electronic devices such as phones, cameras and battery packs, but will often come at an additional cost should you wish to use the power. This can range from 200-600 rupees, depending on how far you are from the power grid.

These following locations have electricity available:
 • Ghat
 • Monjo (Not at our campsite, but you can charge in nearby tea house)
 • Namche
 • Deboche
 • Dingboche (Not at our campsite, but you can charge in nearby tea house)
 • Lobuche (Solar charging facility)
 • Gorak Shep (Solar charging facility)
 • Lukla

We recommend you consider purchasing portable power banks or solar chargers for phone charging.

Yaks in Namche Bazaar on World Expeditions Everest Base Camp trekYaks in the streets of Namche Bazaar on our trek to Everest Base Camp

Where is Wi-Fi available?

You can get Wi-Fi access at Namche, Dingboche, Lobuche, Gorak Shep and Lukla. Again, some locations may charge a small cost for its use.

What is the average size of the group?

Groups can vary between 6 to 16 travellers, who are typically are a mix of individuals, couples or friends travelling together who have a shared interest in outdoor adventure and nature. Ages differ from people in their 20's up to their 70's from all nationalities. The Everest Base Camp & Kala Pattar trek is a highly popular trip with all dates guaranteed to depart.

How big is the staff crew?

You will typically have a main guide, plus four assistant guides, a sirdar (who manages the porters), porters, cooks and camp hands that join you on your Everest Base Camp trek.

15kg isn’t much, how do I pack lightly?

While we’ve increased the check-in allowance for our travellers from 10kg to 15kg on internal flights to Lukla, choosing between carrying an extra pair of trekking pants or a solar charger can get tricky.

Choose lightweight and quick drying clothing, stick with one good outer layer and warm jacket and balance that with enough base and inner layers. You’ll be surprised to find how many days you can wear a quality base layer or a pair of hiking socks.

Staff tip: “I encourage people to ditch the many toiletries and products. Take one biodegradable soap that can be shampoo, body wash, hand wash, and laundry wash all-in-one. I used a biodegradable shampoo for this (an organic brand that was affordable from the supermarket) and it worked great. I have dry sensitive skin and I use it at home as well. Also, there’s no need for makeup or hairspray, go natural, it’s so liberating!”

While you get 20kg all up (15kg check-in and 5kg hand carry), keep in mind that your provided kit bags – which include a down jacket, sleeping bag, liner, and the bag itself – comes in at around 5-6kg and should be counted in the above allowance.

Staff tip: “Lay out your items, cull it back, then cull it back again – just because it fits, doesn't mean you should take it.”

Read more gear tips from our blog.

Can I take my own down jacket or sleeping bag?

Yes. When collecting your World Expeditions kit bag, let your trek leader known that you have your own down jacket or sleeping bag and they will remove the provided gear from your kit bag.

Can I leave my excess gear in Kathmandu?

Yes. You can leave your other gear and luggage bag at our World Expeditions desk at the Radisson Hotel, which will be safely stowed away.

Is it culturally appropriate to wear shorts or leggings?

Dress modestly. For those who wish to wear shorts, make sure the shorts cover your knees. For those that are comfortable in leggings, have a long top over them.
Remember, we are guests passing through these villages. Local people may feel embarrassed, for themselves and for you, if you dress inappropriately.

Staff tip: “Just because you see other people wear a particular clothing item a certain way doesn’t make it okay. Foreigners trampling over local etiquette and making it “okay” by sheer numbers does not make it acceptable.”

A pre-departure kit is provided when you book with World Expeditions which list cultural considerations.

What else can I do in Kathmandu? Can I do any other short walks?

You can visit other places in the Kathmandu Valley like Patan, Bhaktapur, Kirtipur, Dhulikel or Chitwan (for a wildlife safari) – we can help arrange this. If you’re after a walk, you can head to Nagarkot or Langtang.

Read our 10 things to do in Kathmandu blog post for some ideas.

Everest Base Camp trek information - start in Kathmandu, NepalYour Everest Base Camp trek will start and finish in Nepal's capital Kathmandu

Why do I need to tip, can’t it be included in the trip price? What is the process for tipping?

Tipping is generally expected and culturally prevalent in Nepal; this includes in Kathmandu and on your trek. It is a gesture to personally thank the local people for their efforts and service.

If your group thinks that the local staff have done an outstanding job and you wish to demonstrate your appreciation, then a tip from the group would be greatly appreciated. At the end of the trek, your leader will collect what you wish to give and will distribute it fairly amongst the crew at a final evening celebration where each individual crew member is acknowledged and thanked.

 

On trek, your leader and staff receive a good living wage for Nepal and are paid on completion of the trip. We don’t include tipping in the cost of the trip because if we did and paid it on your behalf, the crew would not regard it as an expression of your satisfaction. A tipping guideline is provided in your pre-departure kit.

Where can I exchange my money?

There are a number of stores you can exchange money just down the street from the Raddison Hotel in Kathmandu. You can also choose to exchange your currency in Thamel.

For those leaving from Australia, you can only exchange your AUD or USD currency to Nepalese rupees (NPR) in Nepal. The Nepalese Rupee is different to the Indian Rupee, and the Government of Nepal has banned the import, export and use of 500 and 1000 Indian Rupees notes in Nepal.

It is important to note that it is difficult to convert your NPR back to foreign currency, and you will not be able to exchange NPR once back in your own country. Many places in Nepal may not allow you to change currency back, so it's best to exchange the amount you will require for your time in Nepal. A budget guide is provided in your pre-departure kit.

There are also ATMs available for use in main cities including Kathmandu, Pokhara and Namche; however, ATM fees are applicable, which may be in additional to what your card or bank provider may charge.

With so many trekking companies around, how do I choose the right one for me?

Some factors to consider when booking with an adventure company include:

 • Do the company’s values, such as its sustainable travel practices and porter welfare, align with mine?
 • What are their trek inclusions? Are meals provided? Do I have the use of a down sleeping bag?
 • What are their facilities like?
 • How well do they handle altitude sickness and other medical emergencies?
 • How experienced are they trekking in this destination?
 • How do they treat their staff, crew and porters?
 • Do they represent the best value for my money?

One of the keys to World Expeditions’ success in running Nepal treks since 1975 is our team in Kathmandu. Our Nepalese guides are real experts who have all worked with us for many years. Another unique aspect of our treks is that you stay in our exclusive and private eco campsites where food is freshly prepared using local produce, you sleep on a real mattress, and have a heated dining room to enjoy your meals with some of the best views.

 

We offer excellent value for money (with no hidden costs!) as we include virtually everything you need on your adventure. This ranges from a trek pack with a down jacket, sleeping bag and sleeping mat; meals on trek; internal flights within Nepal and much more.

Besides the Everest Base Camp & Kala Pattar trek, we have many other treks in Nepal too, such as lower altitude treks in the Annapurna region, remote treks to Gokyo Ri and the Renjo La and even a specially designed trek for people over 55s.

For even more details, we suggest you download the Everest Base Camp & Kala Pattar essential information guide or get in touch with our team of travel experts around the world.

Information last updated on 27 May 2019.

Visa changes: Where to easily travel in 2019 and 2020

A number of recent visa changes, revisions and extensions mean that travel in 2019 and 2020 will be easier for many Australian, US, Canadian, New Zealand and British passport holders. Madagascar, Oman and Egypt are among the latest countries to adopt e-Visa systems, with a number of destinations introducing a visa-waiver policy for certain citizens.

Madagascar

For all nationalities: Visitors to Madagascar can take advantage of the new Tourist e-Visa option that the country has now introduced. Available for passport holders of all nationalities, applications for the e-Visa can be made at www.evisamada.gov.mg at least three days (72 hours) before travelling to Madagascar and up until six months before departure.

At the end of the online registration, applicants receive a landing authorisation, which must be either printed or saved at a smartphone in order to be presented at the designated e-Visa counters upon arrival.

The e-Visa allows for a single entry to Madagascar with a maximum duration of 90 days. Depending on the length of your stay there are three options available: US$37 for up to 30 days; US$45 for up to 60 days; and US$55 for up to 90 days.

Brazil

For Australian, US, and Canadian passport holders: The Brazilian Government has waived the need for visas for Australian, US and Canadian citizens from June 17, 2019. Visitors can enter Brazil visa-free for stays lasting up to 90 days, which can then be extended up to 180 days every 12 months.

For New Zealand and British passport holders: For New Zealand and UK citizens they still remain able to enter Brazil visa-free with a 90-day tourist stamp on arrival.

Pakistan

For New Zealand passport holders: Pakistan announced the introduction of visa on arrival in a bid to open up the country to the world and boost tourism. The new, tourist-friendly policy applies to travellers from 50 countries, including parts of Europe and New Zealand. 

For Australian, Canadian, UK and US passport holders: Citizens of 175 countries will be able to obtain visas electronically, including Australia, Canada, the UK and the US.

You can view the list of countries for a tourist visa on arrival at the Pakistan government website.

Egypt

For Australian, British, US, Canadian and New Zealand passport holders: In an attempt to speed up the process at border control, Egypt introduced e-Visa services last summer for 46 countries, including the UK. Tourist e-Visas are valid for a maximum of three months. 

A single-entry tourist visa costs US$25; multiple-entry tourist visas are also available for US$60. Visit visa2egypt.gov.eg for more information on the e-Visa process.

Uzbekistan

For Australian and British passport holders: As of 1 February 2019, British and Australian holidaymakers no longer need a visa to enter Uzbekistan. As part of its drive to facilitate international tourism, the country introduced last month a visa-free regime for a period of 30 days for citizens of 45 countries, including the Australia, the UK and Ireland. 

For US passport holders: The United States is one of close to 60 countries whose citizens can apply for an Uzbekistan e-Visa.

Oman

For Australian, British, US, Canadian and New Zealand passport holders: For 71 nationalities travelling to Oman, they must now get an e-Visa before visiting the Arab Sultanate. Applications for an ‘unsponsored visa’ can be made through the Royal Oman Police portal at evisa.rop.gov.om.

Vietnam

For British passport holders: First announced in 2015 and originally valid for only one year, Vietnam’s visa waiver policy has been so successful that it keeps being renewed; the latest extension, announced last year, allows visa-free travel until 30 June 2021 and is valid for single-entry stays of up to 15 days. 

For British National Overseas passport holders, they are not eligible for the 15-day free visa exemption.

South Africa

For British passport holders: Last December saw a welcome U-turn in the heavily criticised entry policy for children, making the country once again much easier for UK families to visit. The previous rules required parents to carry original birth certificates for children, as well as certified letters from non-travelling parents.

India

For British passport holders: Announced last month, the duration of stay in India for holders of e-Tourist Visa has been extended to one year, with multiple entries allowed during this period. The number of airports where the e-Visa is applicable has also been expanded, to 28, with the addition of two more designated airports.

Information correct as of 21 May 2019.

With more destinations accessible to you, why not start planning your next trip? View adventures >

Travellers stories: Climbing in Bolivia

In early 2018 I was looking at different options to extend my climbing skills. I actually had Alaska’s Mount McKinley and Nepal’s Ama Dablam peaks on my radar. Then I saw a climbing itinerary in Bolivia that would involve climbing four mountains in three weeks.

Each ascent would vary in technical difficulty and include more advanced ice climbing than what I had experienced in Nepal. To top it off, the mountains were all highly accessible, all within a few hours’ drive of La Paz. This was perfect and after being edged on to ‘go for it’, I was in!

On 15 July I headed to Santiago in Chile and then on to La Paz the next day. La Paz is at an elevation of 3600m and the neighbouring city of El Alto at 4000m. Comparing it to my hike in Nepal, it took us a solid 10 days of trekking to reach these altitudes!

After a couple of days in La Paz we headed to Lake Titicaca (4000m) to further acclimatise and learn more about the fascinating history and culture of the high Andes.

Having booked on a group expedition with World Expeditions, unfortunately no one else signed up for this trip, so they offered me the option of having a private tour. I could see the pros and cons of this and, after weighing it up, decided to go ahead.

The team

Having a dedicated guide was great. Rudy was my cultural guide for La Paz, Lake Titicaca, Copacabana and the Island of the Sun and his knowledge was exceptional.

Jose (otherwise known as Chapaco) was my mountain guide for Condoriri and Huayna Potosi and, finally, Juan was my mountain guide for Illimani.

Celebrating a successful Huayna Potosi summit with a stunning sunrise |  <i>Anthony Bohm</i>

For all my time in the mountains, we were also joined by Pancho, our fantastic cook (who also assisted in climbing on Illimani).

Ramiro was our main driver as we spent many hours driving between climbing regions, mostly with Jose, Pancho and Ramiro singing along to the latest Bolivian hit songs.

Enjoying an al fresco lunch with the scenic Condoriri Valley as a backdrop |  <i>Anthony Bohm</i>

Condoriri Valley

After a few fun days sightseeing around Lake Titicaca, it was time to make our way to the mountains. Our first destination was Condoriri Valley.

Panoramic views of Bolivia's Condoriri Valley |  <i>Anthony Bohm</i>

The night before arriving in Condoriri, we had been in Copacabana and an enormous storm had lashed the town – plunging the hotel into darkness for many hours. When we arrived into Condoriri, the storm was still present. We made the hour-long hike to base camp through a hail storm.

The next day more snow was falling but nonetheless we set off for our first summit, Pico Austria or sometimes called Cerro Negro. What would have been a straightforward hike up to 5,350m became more challenging as the conditions worsened with heavy snow falls. We made good time to the summit (3.5 hrs) but found the return difficult and slippery due to the snow conditions.


Snow fell all afternoon and that night gale force winds battered my tent. However, the next day, the winds calmed to reveal beautiful clear skies.

We spent a few hours on the glacier undertaking some basic alpine skills training, including abseiling into a deep crevasse, where you could hear a stream flowing deep below.

Alpine skills training in Bolivia's Condoriri |  <i>Anthony Bohm</i>

We met several groups coming off the glacier after having attempted to summit Pequeño Alpamayo. Most had been turned back due to the deep snow on the glacier. One group had taken eight hours to reach Pico Tarija.

We set out at 3am for our summit attempt of Pico Tarija (5320m) and then Pequeño Alpamayo (5379m). The night was beautiful and clear with no wind. It was an hour to the glacier and then two and a half hours to the summit of Pico Tarija.

The first summit on the Bolivia mountaineering expedition. At the top of Pico Tarija (5320m) |  <i>Anthony Bohm</i>

It was hard going in calf-to-knee deep snow. We were also the one group on the mountain this morning, which was unusual as we had watched multiple groups over the preceding days make their way up the glacier.

Being the only people on the mountain was a really special experience.

Pequeño Alpamayo

From the summit of Pico Tarija we had to climb down a steep and rocky path to a snowy ridge that would connect across to Pequeño Alpamayo. The climbing was exposed but incredibly beautiful as first light appeared over the Andes. From here, it was a steep and exposed climb to the summit that we tackled as three to four separate pitches.


At 9:30am we reached the summit and were rewarded with spectacular views over the range – with Huayna Potosi (6088m), our next objective, clearly in sight. We struggled through waist deep snow on our return and finally reached camp at 11:30am. Despite the tough conditions, we had made good time and had a great adventure.

I had been pushed well and truly out of my comfort zone on the steeper and more exposed parts of the route.

Summit sucess! Mountaineer at the top of Pequeno Alpamayo (5425m) |  <i>Anthony Bohm</i>

Jose did a great job in keeping the climbing safe and improving my skills and confidence at the same time. The next day we headed back down the valley to meet our car. It was another stunning day as evidenced by the photos. Huayna Potosi After a night in La Paz, we headed out to Huayna Potosi base camp.

Huayna Potosi has alpine refuges at both base camp and high camp, which means no tents were required. However, you needed to be comfortable with communal living and sleeping.


While it was only two and a half hours from base camp to high camp, it involved an ascent of 800 metres which was very steep and involved switch backs up a rocky and snowy ridge. For the last one and a half hours into high camp we used our crampons.

The camp itself was wedged on a rocky ridge just before the start of the glacier. Where the refuge at base camp had been freezing cold – constantly caught in the shadow of the mountain – high camp was exposed to direct sun and was akin to a sauna.

I spent the afternoon in the refuge talking with the other climbers (the first time I had met other English-speaking climbers on the trip) and relaxed ahead of the summit push early the next morning. Jose and I decided to leave last out of the high camp refuge. Most groups left between 1am and 2am.

We headed off at 2:30am (although had originally planned to leave at 3am) in perfect conditions – clear skies, compacted snow on the glacier and no wind. There were at least 10 other groups on the mountain. We moved quickly up the glacier and overtook half of the other climbers by the time we reached the steeper headwall.

We kept moving quickly and were soon making our way up the final steep switch backs to the summit. We had to slow down on the last stretch to the summit as we were too early for sunrise!

As it was, we were the second group to summit that morning and had to wait 20 minutes on the summit for the sun to rise, but it was well worth the wait! First light and then the arrival of the sun was unforgettable.

We watched the shadow of the mountain stretch over Lake Titicaca, catching thick clouds hanging over the Amazon rainforest to the East.

The descent was equally as spectacular, with the early morning sun and clear skies highlighting the glacier features that had been hidden in the darkness of the early morning ascent. Walking down the glacier, Illimani (6438m) – our final objective – loomed large in front of us.

The descent from Huayna Potosi |  <i>Anthony Bohm</i>

Illimani

After a rest day in La Paz, we were on our way back to the mountains.

The drive to Illimani base camp was an adventure in itself. Bolivia has the dubious title of having the 'Most Dangerous Road in the World' and I could see how. The dirt road to Illimani wound its way across steep valleys and ravines, linking the small villages that farm the fertile slopes of the mountain.

Illimani is an imposing mountain, clearly visible from most parts of La Paz. After four hours of bone rattling dirt roads, we finally came to base camp – a beautiful open meadow sitting below the steep rocky ridge where high camp sat. Alpacas, lamas, sheep and horses all grazed in the meadow surrounding base camp.

Tent views from our camp in Illimani |  <i>Anthony Bohm</i>

From base camp, it was a hard day's hike to high camp – called the Condors Nest. From base camp (4600m) we made our way to 5000m for lunch after two hours of solid hiking. The next 500m of elevation gain involved a very steep ascent up a rocky ridge.

After over two weeks of climbing, there is no doubt that this was hard going. I arrived at high camp at around 3pm. The setting for high camp was spectacular and definitely worth the effort. Condors and falcons were playing in the updrafts surrounding high camp – which is wedged between a rocky cliff and the glacier.

It was evident from high camp that the route to summit was going to be very steep, straight out of camp!

Settling down at Illimani high camp |  <i>Anthony Bohm</i>

On our way to high camp, we had met three groups returning from their summit attempt, who had all turned around at 'La Bola' – the final steep headwall. The ice on the headwall was very hard, making protecting it difficult.

One group had also felt the cracking of the glacier near the crevasse at the base of La Bola. This didn't bode well for our own summit attempt.

We headed off at 3am and, as expected, it was steep and hard going right out of camp. The conditions were very icy. I became very familiar with the Spanish word 'hielo' – icy. Juan and Pancho protected several short sections which were icy and exposed.

After three and a half hours we reached c.6100m and was just below the La Bola headwall. We decided that it would not be safe to attempt La Bola in these conditions and so we reluctantly turned around, just 300 metres from the summit.

Views on the climb up Illimani |  <i>Anthony Bohm</i>

We returned to high camp at 8:30am and, after a short rest, started the steep descent to base camp. In total, we had ascended 750 vertical meters and descended 1850 vertical metres in 10 hours.

Despite not reaching the summit of Illimani, the views had been spectacular, and it had been a real adventure.

Words and photos by Anthony Bohm who completed the Summits of Bolivia expedition in July 2018. Read more about Anthony's adventure travels at his blog www.bohmadventures.com.

6 reasons to go cycling in Kerala

The trip highlights for this active Kerala holiday included words like palm-fringed beaches, pilgrimage towns, masala dosa, ancient forts and active fishing ports. And as all of that was going to be explored by means of a cycling holiday, Elisabeth in our London office was very keen to go on the Goa to Kerala Cycle trip in South India.

Off she went in October last year and the trip turned out to be a fantastic experience with lots of positive aspects such as cycling in Goa, the temple of Murudeshwar in Karnataka and Kerala’s ancient forts & serene beaches. That’s why in this article, she wanted to share with you what this South India trip is like.

So here we go with the top 6 reasons to take a Kerala cycling trip, in no particular order:

1. Backroads for Quiet Cycling

The Goa to Kerala cycling trip is mainly on the backroads of southern India along stretched sandy beaches and palm trees and through quiet (fishermen) villages. We heard birds chirp, cicadas sing, and passed the occasional sleepy dog by the roadside. We would cycle in the shadow of palm trees or through green rice paddies, passing vibrantly decorated temples, mosques and churches.

2. Interaction with Local Indians

Several times during our bike rides, we would be welcomed by the local team that had prepared some snacks, fruits and cold drinks for us. These little breaks from our cycling were fantastic opportunities to meet and chat with some of the local people. By nature, the Indian people seem very curious and it was great to chat with them, hear about their life and talk about the fact that we were on a 2-week South India cycling holiday – an idea quite alien to them!

3. Sea Breeze

The trip follows pleasant backroads along the coastline from when you start cycling in Goa and then via Karnataka all the way down to Kerala. There’s a lot of variety on these paths and plenty to see along the way. The sea breeze, sound of the Arabian Sea, seagulls and occasional beach hut are other great aspect of this cycling trip.

4. Slow Pace

As all of us in the group were on this Kerala holiday to have a pleasant time and because the cycling distances were very manageable, none of us ever felt rushed to finish the day. There would be plenty of time to take pictures, visit a school, and explore interesting sites such as ancient forts and temples.

5. Cover 3 Different States

Ahead of the trip I wasn’t really aware of the three different states (and how different they actually are) that we would cover on this cycling adventure. From Goa, where the majority of the population is either Hindu or Roman Catholic and the political influence is cultural nationalism, we cycled to Kerala, where besides the large Hindu population a big portion is Muslim and there is a strong communist presence. We could clearly observe the change while cycling south and this definitely added to the variety of our South India trip.

6. See the Real India: day to day life, away from all other tourists/travellers

Perhaps the biggest reason to go cycling in Kerala is the fact that it is basically entirely free from mass tourism. There were no particular highlights on the trip, which you could say was the actual highlight. We were taken to quiet fishermen’s towns, stopped at local eateries to be sat eating side by side with the regulars, and explored ancient cultural sites that we only had to share with the occasional local visitor. The route really allowed us a glimpse in local daily life of South India.

 

Inspiration for Kerala Holidays

 
 
Rebuild Nepal Community Project: In Photos

Located in the Solukhumbu region of eastern Nepal is a quaint village that's set against a backdrop of rolling alpine meadows and chains of Himalayan peaks. Here you'll find small subsistence farmers, a lively community of villagers that always seem to have a welcoming smile and young children gleefully playing in the local Manju Shree Primary School.

From a distance it's hard to tell that in 2015 Lura was hit with a devastating earthquake, but as you enter the rural village, speak with locals and visit the classrooms, you will soon see that its damages still echo four years on - but they are recovering.

It's been a slow process for this remote community to get back on their feet and recently, nine World Expedition trekkers set off in February 2019 to work alongside the community to help rebuild the primary school, where a total of 61 students attend from grade one to five, in the Solukhumbu Everest region.

See the volunteers in action:

Trekkers helping to build the foundations for new classrooms in Lura village

Trekkers collectively helping to build the foundations for new classrooms in Lura village  Building the foundations for new classrooms in Lura village

Trekkers collectively helping to build the foundations for new classrooms in Lura village

Locals welcoming the help of volunteers to build new classrooms

Travellers interacting with locals in Lura

Trained by local members and trades people, the group worked tirelessly over the course of 10 days to assist the development of new, earthquake tolerant classrooms for these students and each person walked away feeling that they helped in a real and meaningful way. These travellers helped build the foundation of two classrooms, many of whom were return volunteers from 2015 and 2016. To date, the World Expeditions Foundation and World Expeditions travellers helped build four classrooms at Manju Shree.

Bidding farewell to their newfound friends, these travellers then made their way to lower Solukhumbu staying in Alpine Meadow Camp and trekking to Thupten Choling monastery before welcoming a glorious sunrise through the farmlands of Phaplu village. 

Trekking through this part of the Everest region few have travelled to, it was definitely a rewarding way to finish their time in Nepal with behind the scenes insights into the life and culture of this remote part of the world.

Feeling inspired?

Join our latest 'Rebuild Nepal' community project to help complete the block of two classrooms in Lura, which encompasses a beautiful trek in Solukhumbu away from well-trodden tourist trails.

We've added extra departure dates to our 'Rebuild Nepal' project for those physically contribute to the rebuilding effort and support local Nepali who earn their living from tourism. Find out more >
 

On the couch with Jon Muir, Australian adventurer and explorer

Imagine traversing untracked wilderness without any assistance, resupplies, pre-laid supplies or vehicle support. Instead you must entirely rely on your own energy and whatever you can gather from the natural environment. Now, imagine doing that for 128 days. To add to the stakes, you would have to travel through the driest region of Australia which makes finding water and bush tucker a grim challenge.

Becoming the first person to walk unsupported across Australia is one of the many extraordinary expeditions that has earned Jon Muir his well-deserved reputation as one of Australia’s most resilient, audacious and versatile adventurers.

Documented in the 2004 film Alone Across Australia, Jon describes his gruelling yet epic journey as one in which each day was harder than his solo summit of Mt Everest.

Alone Across Australia trailer from Shark Island Productions on Vimeo.

Jon’s irrepressible thrill for adventure shaped an illustrious career, during which he trekked to both poles without huskies or mechanised support, travelled over 6000km via sea kayak, pioneered a new route to the South Pole and set a record when he summitted the south side of Mount Everest solo – just to name a few amazing achievements.

More recently, Jon and his wife Suzan Muir travelled 120km across South Australia’s Lake Eyre by kayak in 2011, accomplishing the first human powered traverse of the wet lake in 24 hours.

Jon and Suzan crossing Lake Eyre in 2011.

While he boldly welcomes a challenge that pushes the boundaries of human exploration to its limit, Jon says that some of the best times he’s had over his last four decades of exploration have been guiding small groups in remote places and sharing his passion for untracked wilderness with others.

We had a chat with Jon to ask him what inspires him and why leading a self-sufficient lifestyle is so important to him.

You’ve undertaken some of the most extreme expeditions ever undertaken; has fear ever been an issue?

I have a deep understanding of my psyche and my own fears through years of facing extreme and often dangerous challenges. I know my fear in a very real way. This doesn’t necessarily make it easy; despite my understanding, I still must deal with it.

My 52-day solo sea kayak journey in the tropical north of Australia was one of my most fearful expeditions, but it’s one of my major accomplishments. I was continually having to confront my deepest fears for hours on end, day after day.

Many of your Australian expeditions have earned you awards including: The Order of Australia, the Centenary Medal for contributions made to Australian society, and the Australian Geographic Society Lifetime of Adventure Award. Are there corners of the country you’re yet to explore?

I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface of what’s out there in Australia. I’d need 10,000 lifetimes (at least) to satisfy my curiosity regarding this remarkable continent and its wild places.

Crossing a dingo fence during his traverse across Australia.

What sparked your passion for trailblazing?

Playing in the wilderness as a child instilled a passion for the rich diversity and beauty of the natural world.

When I was 10, I had the opportunity to regularly crew on a sailing dinghy and this sparked the first of many visions for big journeys.

Travelling overseas with my family at a young age opened my eyes to the wondrous potential of a life on planet Earth. The clincher came when I was 14 and saw the television documentary, Everest the Hard Way. I was spell bound and decided then and there to become a professional mountain climber.

How do you assess and manage the risks involved in an unsupported expedition?

Risk is a complex subject and a constant focus of all my expeditions – regardless of whether I’m travelling solo and unsupported, or with a group. I’m continually analysing the risk, as it changes with my movement, how my partner is travelling, and as the terrain and conditions change.

Jon's epic polar expedition without huskies or mechanised support.

There’s a constant need to fluidly evaluate and adapt to these changes. A lot of mental energy is taken up with staying alive. This is not just a theoretical exercise – your life, and those of your team members, is often what is at stake. This is heightened to the nth degree when you are alone and unsupported.

Who is your source of inspiration?

Early explorers and their expeditions fuelled my imagination from a young age, and of the adventurers and explorers, the Polynesians are the stand-out for me.

Of the modern explorers, I’m particularly inspired by those with vision and who do something that hasn’t been done before. Those who make the first ascent of a mountain nobody has ever heard of; those who break new ground in various fields of adventure.

Lost in reflection during a walk in Australia in 1999.

Can you recall a ‘close call’ moment that you can’t forget?

It was on October 10, 1981 when I was rock climbing at Arapiles in Victoria when I had an incredible death experience!

Impact with a rock left me with broken ribs, punctured lungs, breathless and without a pulse. I was dead for three earth minutes.

As clichéd as it may sound, I remember seeing a bright, celestial light before I regained consciousness. It was then that I truly appreciated and valued my time on earth and became even more committed to pursuing my passion whilst taking nothing for granted.

You have such a long list of achievements in exploration and mountaineering; which expedition is most memorable to you?

It’s really difficult for me to single out one expedition; their diversity makes them hard to compare. One of the highlights of my mountaineering days was a climb that, to me, is far more interesting and challenging than Everest – my solo traverse of the Kedanarth Peaks.

I made this first ascent climbing solo which involved ascending three mountains, via a 9-kilometre ridge – most of which is at an altitude of 7000m. One of the challenges of a multi peak traverse is the extraordinary level of commitment it requires. If bad weather forces a retreat during such a climb, the descent is in completely unknown terrain, quite possibly with zero visibility. This is exactly what happened during my first attempt on this climb. I returned three weeks later and completed the traverse in a non-stop 41-hour epic.

Where did your commitment to self-sufficient living emerge?

Adventure and life in the wild have influenced my thinking and my life choices.

The simplicity and rawness of a lifetime surrounded by the rich diversity of wild ecosystems has impacted enormously on my sense of self and how I live my life.

Jon and Suzan feeding their chickens.

The radically different and extreme environments through which I have journeyed, and the people that I have met on the periphery of those environments, have all played a part in shaping me towards taking direct personal responsibility for the most important needs in my day-to-day existence. These needs are: water, food, energy and shelter.

What does sustainable living involve?

Sustainable living involves a lot of joy, dirt, love, worms, health, sunshine, rain and wind, physical movement, the freshest and tastiest organic produce and the pleasure of experiencing yourself as part of an ecosystem.

They sustain their own farm year-round.

It also involves thinking outside the square in fresh and creative ways when taking personal responsibility for the solution to our everyday needs. I am constantly working towards a lighter footprint in my life on this planet.

You now live “off-the-grid,” offering farm-stays in Victoria. What made you decide to do this?

We offer sustainability farm-stays, in partnership with World Expeditions at our home in the forest, surrounded by the Grampians National Park. In our own small way, we’re attempting to contribute to a healthier world. I see an increasing disconnect both at a practical and spiritual level from the nature which ultimately sustains us. I feel this is leading humanity down an evolutionary blind alley.

My decades of adventures in the wild and my time in the vegetable garden and orchard have given me an unusual and valuable skill set that I feel is worth sharing. I want to continue to inspire and to share the hands-on experience of planet-friendly food and energy systems.

Jon Muir toured Australia in November 2018 for a special 'Off the Grid' series of talks where he shared stories from his lifetime of adventure and his off-the-grid lifestyle. 

 

On the Couch with acclaimed travel photographer Richard I'Anson

There are few corners of the world where Richard I'Anson has not photographed. His work features in over 500 Lonely Planet guidebooks, including five editions of the 'Lonely Planet's Guide to Travel Photography', as well as the large format pictorials, 'Australia: 42 Great Landscape Experiences, Nepal' and 'India: essential encounters'.  He is a Master of Photography awarded by the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP) and represents Canon Australia as a Canon Master Photographer.

Richard has built an enviable career on his twin passions: travel and photography. Over the past 35 years, Richard has travelled the world, amassing a substantial and compelling collection of images of people and places – in more than 90 countries on all seven continents. And when he’s not on the road, Richard lives in Sydney, Australia and runs workshops teaching all aspects of travel photography for individuals and small groups.

Over the last two decades Richard has made a significant contribution to World Expeditions' brochures and guides a number of our specialist photography trips. If you haven't yet seen the National Geographic Channel television series Tales by Light, now screening on Netflix, add the series to your watch list. Richard was one of five adventurous photographers selected for the award-winning documentary, where he provides insights into his craft and the art of telling powerful stories from images.

 

But before you click off to Netflix, have a read of the amazing destinations Richard has captured over the years and adopt some of his helpful photography tips the next time you're out on your adventure. He shares ways to improve your photo taking skills, his must-carry gear items and how he started in the business.

Being a travel photographer is something many people aspire to be, however the industry is very hard to get into. How did you start your career as a travel photographer and what advice would you give someone wanting to start a career in travel photography?

My first foray into travel photography was in 1986 when I headed overseas for seven months. I soon realised that not only was there a wonderful connection between travel and photography but that I loved to travel just as much as I loved photography. I now consider that trip, which took me through a dozen countries including China, India, Nepal, Morocco and Turkey, as my apprenticeship.

Lhasa_Tibet-medium

Back at home I studied the results and realised I still had a lot to learn. Two years of intense picture taking around Australia, lots of reading on photography and studying the work of other photographers followed, as I prepared for my next big trip, two years in Asia. This second journey was clearly focused on building a comprehensive collection of photographs from across the region. When I returned to Australia I had enough material to confidently approach picture editors, publishers and travel companies (including World Expeditions) and announce myself as a travel photographer.

Travel photography is arguably the most competitive of photographic genres thanks to the fact that the subject matter is the preferred subject matter of nearly everyone with a camera, especially when they are on holiday. Aspiring photographers need to understand that travelling to take photographs with the aim of making a living is very different from taking photos while travelling.

Professional travel photography is about commitment to the image.

Nothing gets higher priority than being in the right place, at the right time, all of the time which will give you the best chance of building a large collection of images with broad geographic and subject coverage. You also have to be prepared and able to invest time and money in travel to build a substantial collection of high quality images to license as stock and to prove to potential clients that you can do the job.

Lhasa_Tibet-small

You’ve won some impressive awards over the years, what does it mean to you to be recognised as one of the world’s leading travel photographers?

It is of course gratifying to receive some recognition, particularly from industry peers, through the various awards. I’ve been in the business now for over 30 years and it’s good to know that people still relate, respond to and enjoy my photography whether it’s through the use of the images in publications or by buying my books and prints or joining a photography trip. Ultimately, I guess it means I can keep doing what I love for a bit longer.

You’ve said that you travel between 90-120 days a year. How do you manage to balance your work as a photographer with spending time actually experiencing the locations you visit?

For me there is no distinction. I have always travelled with photography as the main purpose. I actually think I experience and see way more than the average traveller because I am looking for more than the obvious sights, I often spend longer in places and often revisit places at different times of day.

Some of your most portfolio shots include portraits of people. When you are approaching subjects to shoot, how do you go about it? Do you chat and explain what you’re doing? Or shoot first, ask questions later?

Yes, I do shoot a lot of people pictures, both portraits and environmental portraits. Either way, for really good people pictures, you’ve got to be prepared to get close to your subjects. Except for crowd shots, standing at a distance with a long lens will rarely result in pleasing images, as you generally won’t be able to fill the frame with your subject, and these kinds of shots usually look as though you’ve tried to sneak them, which you have.

Because I’m usually working at close range I always ask permission to take someone’s photo, I see it as common courtesy. Asking permission allows you to use the ideal lens, get close enough to fill the frame, provides the opportunity to take several shots, as well as to communicate with your subject if necessary. In order to still capture natural looking shots, I work quickly and have developed techniques that make photographing people easy and minimise the intrusion into my subject’s day.

I plan the shot before I approach my subject. I think about the composition and make sure I’ve got the right lens on the camera.

Should it be portrait or environmental, horizontal or vertical? I also decide on the viewpoint I think will work best. I study the light on the person’s face and check where it’s coming from; this allows me to position myself correctly in the first instance. Once I have permission to take a photo the person will usually follow me with their eyes if I move.

The slightest change of camera angle can make all the difference.

Being organised and efficient means I minimise drawing attention to what I’m doing, which helps my subject remain relaxed and results in more natural-looking photos.

Finally, I really enjoy sharing the photos by showing the results on the camera’s LCD screen. It’s is a great way to say thank you and, assuming I’ve taken a flattering photo, leave the person with a positive memory of their encounter with me.

What percentage of photos from a trip is pre-planned versus spur of the moment photos that you were inspired to take along the way?

I do a lot of pre-trip research into the places and subjects I want to capture so as to ensure I allow enough time at each destination but I also love just wandering and discovering lesser known places, sights and capturing daily life, so it’s probably 50/50.

Rongphu_Monastery_Tibet-medium

Do you feel as though being a travel photographer has changed the way you view the world?

No, not really. I’ve always had a very positive view of the world and its people and my travels and photographic experience have only ever reinforced that.  I am truly privileged to have seen so much of the best of the world, rather than conflict, death and destruction that others deal with.

My images are a celebration of the diversity of environments, landscapes and cultures that make up our incredible world.

It continues to amaze me how welcoming and willing people are, from the most remote villages to the biggest mega cities, to share their lives briefly with a stranger and his camera.

 

What is your favourite destination from a traveller's point of view and from a photographer's point of view?

 

I’ve been lucky enough to make more than 25 trips to Nepal and can confidently say that for a traveller and a photographer, Nepal is pretty hard to beat. The landscape is so utterly grand it takes your breath away. Importantly though, it is alive with people in the villages and on the ancient trade trails, as vital today as they were centuries ago.

The towns are crammed with magnificent Hindu and Buddhist temples, justifiably famous in their own right, but made so much more interesting because they are an integral part of Nepali life, and the focus of daily religious rituals and annual celebrations.

Since my first trip 30 years ago, witnessing Nepal’s vibrant, open culture against a backdrop of spectacular urban and natural environments has been a regular highlight of my travels.

You’ve led trips to China with World Expeditions, what is it about China in Autumn that you find so appealing and what are some key moments or places you capture on your visit?

China is a brilliant destination for photography at any time, but on this trip we’re going to some of the country’s most scenic places when they will be looking at their absolute best thanks to the vibrant colours of the autumn trees. Apart from the remarkable and quintessential Chinese landscapes around the Great Wall, Yellow Mountains and Yangshuo we aimed to capture a wide range of subjects that portray the diversity of landscapes, urban environments, people and cultures that make China such a fascinating destination.

You’ve said that there are five categories you aim to cover at every location; the landscape, people, urban environment, events and wildlife. Do you have a favourite category to photograph and why?

No, I don’t have a favourite. As a travel photographer I photograph just about everything and I think my strength over the years is that I actually do get excited about shooting just about everything. Ultimately, though I most enjoy the transformative power of light, and I work very hard to be in the right place at the right time in order to capture my subjects in the most beautiful and dramatic light. I’ve come to this conclusion because no matter how magnificent the landscape or built environment if the light isn’t right I tend not to shoot, preferring to return at another time.

How would you describe your photographic vision? What kind of feel do you try and create in your photos?

Because I shoot so many different subjects, it’s difficult to define a specific style. My aim is to match the subject with the best light, and then to compose the elements to produce vibrant images that capture the reality of the moment. I aim to take strong individual images, but am always conscious of how the pictures can build on each other to create a comprehensive coverage of a subject, event or destination, so that viewers get a sense of what it might be like to experience it for themselves. Ideally, I’m aiming to add something new to how people perceive a place and the people who live there.

Can you tell us about the gear you use for your travel photography? What is typically in your camera bag while travelling?

I take the same gear on all my trips except for the 200-400mm zoom, which I use mainly for wildlife photography. It’s big and heavy and so it only comes to places where I know I’ll need it. My choice of equipment is aimed at giving me the flexibility I need to capture the wide range of subjects I cover while being easily manageable and accessible so that I can shoot quickly and efficiently. I rarely leave the hotel without both DSLRs - one with the 24-70mm zoom and the other with the 70-200mm zoom. However, the majority of my pictures are taken on the 24-70mm.

This is what I use:

  • Two Canon EOS 1Dx MkII DSLR camera bodies
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f4 L II USM zoom lens
  • Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8 L II USM zoom lens
  • Canon EF 70-200 f2.8 L II USM image stabiliser zoom lens
  • Canon EF 200-400 f4 zoom with built in 1.4x converter
  • Gitzo G1228 carbon-fibre tripod with Induro ball head.

Rinpung_Dzong_Paro_Himalaya-medium (3)

What are 3 tips for taking great travel photos? 

  • Don’t assume that your eye level or the first place from where you see your subject is the best viewpoint. A few steps left or right, going down on one knee or standing on a step can quickly improve a composition.
     
  • Make sure your photograph has a clear point of interest. This is usually the thing that caught your eye in the first place and should be the element around which your composition is based.
     
  • Know how your camera works so you can take pictures of all sorts of subjects in all kinds of light and conditions and quickly. So many of the best images are of fleeting moments.


Join Richard on a photography adventure

Learn from the best of the best as Richard takes you through some of the most captivating destinations and scratch beneath the surface to glimpse into the hidden corners of regions, such as the Indian Himalaya and more as he takes you on a photographic exploration of these incredible destinations! View his upcoming photography trips - but hurry, spaces fill up fast.

3 dishes you shouldn’t leave Jaffna without trying: Peter Kuruvita

Sri Lanka is emerging as the island country to visit, especially after being named as the number one country to visit in 2019 by Lonely Planet.

Among some of the unmissable experiences are the tea trails, the gorgeous surf spots, the game reserves, the spectacular birdlife and of course, the food culture – we’re talkin’ food, spice and everything nice.

While civil conflict made certain areas of Sri Lanka off-limits to tourism in the past, travellers are turning to the regional parts of the country, including the stunning north-west area of Jaffna.

“It's an undiscovered area that's still opening up and I think now is the perfect time for anyone to visit,” says TV chef and award-winning restaurateur Peter Kuruvita. “The flavours of Jaffna cuisine are different; they're very spicy compared to the rest of the country.”

Kuruvita, who will be returning to the far north and east coast of Sri Lanka when he escorts a culinary tour in June, is putting Jaffna in the spotlight and recommends these three must-try foods when in the area.

Jaffna kool

“For me, one of the stand-out dishes of Jaffna would be the Jaffna kool.”

“Made with all the amazing seafood that's pulled out of Jaffna Lagoon, it's thickened with something very unique, which is palmyra.”

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Curry Field (@curryfield) on

Palmyra root flour, which is a bit like arrowroot, gives the seafood soup a beautiful, silky feel which Kuruvita likens to a bouillabaisse of Sri Lanka.

Palmyra palm treacle with buffalo curd

Palmyra palm trees are synonymous with Jaffna and the treacle from this variety of palm offers the perfect amount of sweetness when served with silky, smooth curd made from buffalo milk.

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by AGGIE LAL (@travel_inhershoes) on

“Now the buffalo curd comes from down south, from Hambantota, but the palmyra palm is endemic to Jaffna area.”

“You can get treacle out of the coconut palm, or you can get treacle out of the palmyra palm. The flavours are incredibly different, so make sure you have a little scoop of palmyra honey as well.”

Ice cream from Rio’s

One point of difference between Sri Lanka’s south and the north are the milk bars which are popular in the north. Families, teens and couples on a date will treat themselves to a visit to a milk bar, so, when in Jaffna, a trip to Rio Ice Cream is a must.

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Kenichiro Okuyama (@green_lanka) on

“[It] has made it through the war years… so a scoop of ice-cream at Rio's is a bit of an institution.”

Located near the Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil Hindu temple, the well-known ice cream parlour is a pleasant treat to help you cool off from the heat, especially after taking in the local sights of the town.

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Ayodya Heenatigala (AYO) (@ayoheenatigala) on

Sri Lanka’s other half: why you should visit Jaffna

According to Kuruvita, Jaffna and the east coast are relatively empty of tourists, with a few new hotels starting to open. The main part of Jaffna town still has its original little market that’s bursting with exotic produce, as well as street stalls run by friendly locals who welcome visitors to the area.

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Thineshkumar (@thinesh2009) on

There’s even an incredible strip where old British cars are parked. “It's kind of like a small Havana, except that all the cars are not Chevrolets,” says Kuruvita. “They're more like Austins and Morrises, and most of them operate as taxis.”

“There are very noticeable differences between the country's south and the north: the produce, the landscape, the food and the people, so it's an important part of any visit to Sri Lanka,” he says.

Temples adorned with colourful statues in northern Sri Lanka. Photo: Peter Kuruvita

While many people may think they’ve seen Sri Lanka after visiting the southern areas, the northern half of Sri Lanka is definitely a place to add to your adventure list.

Want to spice up your Sri Lankan adventure? Travel with Peter Kuruvita and open your taste buds to the delectable cuisines of Northern Sri Lanka, as well as experience the amazing wildlife and cultures of remote villages rarely visited. View his 2019 trip >

Inside Iran - Our CEO recounts her travels through this intriguing country

What's it really like inside Iran? World Expeditions Travel Group CEO, Sue Badyari, shares her observations as well as her must see highlights.

For a long time the idea of travelling to Iran had been frequently returning to my conscience. Having met dozens of others who have, including well travelled colleagues in the travel industry, they’d speak avidly about the ancient lands of Persia; often placing Iran as the most interesting destination they’d visited.

So last month, with much anticipation, I stepped out of my busy work life to take this long anticipated trip to Iran. Travelling with family and friend on the Emirates flight into Tehran, I witnessed the tattooed, the blue haired, the tight clothed female travellers around me, don head scarfs and long jackets, transforming their image very quickly to the conservative attire of Iranian women.

I had been curious about how to dress but quickly learned that by covering your hair with a scarf and your bottom with loose clothing you fit right in.

January is winter in Iran and as a keen trekker, many of the mountain trekking opportunities in the north and ascents of Mt Damavand are ‘off limits’ at this time. That however, certainly doesn’t limit the possibilities to still enjoy an active holiday in Iran at this time of year. In a little over two weeks I was able to compile a quite lengthy list of travel highlights.

 

 

In Tehran, head on a short hike just above Tehran city through a ‘cultural gorge’, enjoy the atmosphere of the night markets and visit the Golestan Palace, National Museum.

The old city of Yazd’s Zoroastrian Sky Temples are truly impressive, while in Isfahan it is easy to get lost among the various book shops, tea & coffee houses or while shopping for carpets, jewellery or perhaps hand printed tablecloths and painted pottery. Shiraz however, was my favourite city, with its beautiful decorative structures, the Nasir-ol-Molk mosque, Eram Garden, the Vakil bazzar and bath, and Haezieh.

The Persian Gulf Islands provided wonderful escapes into nature, with great hikes on Qeshm Island’s Valley of the Stars in the Chahkuh Valley while Hurmoz Island was simply an incredible natural wonderland. Then there’s the stunning Rainbow Valley, Silver Coast, Statue Valley and the interesting Portuguese fortress to keep you occupied.

The caravan serais, ancient bathhouses and the delicate mosques of Kerman and the nearby desert provide plenty to do for the active traveller. Explore the ancient fortified mud city of Rayen, hike in the Kaluts in the Lut Desert while enjoying a traditional homestay in Shahdad Kaluts.

 

 

There really are so many more highlights of places to see, but the experience is complete with the warmth and genuine local people, beautiful food, exotic smells of spice markets, ease of travel and the many comfortable lodgings, some quite ornate.

It must be said that Iran is a very misunderstood country. It is a highly educated, sophisticated society, progressive in industry but also sustainability and utterly fascinating in its culture and historic aspects. Many associate Iran with desert landscapes yet mountain ranges carve the entire country hemming vast tracks to desert but also verdant valleys.

Ancient village of AbyanehAncient village of Abyaneh is like a living museum, dating back 2500 years

I loved every minute of my time there and cannot wait to return, which I’m already planning for. And it was not just me affected by this journey, the words from my 25 year old son to his community are very telling and are written below.

“My musings of Iran... I knew from the moment we met, that my nightmarish imagination of a murderous, anti-American, missile making, woman muting land was but a misconception meticulously manufactured by mainstream media to muddy the mind But I won’t remember Iran for its military might or Khomeini command, I will remember Iran for its mastery of mosaic, bringing magic to every medieval mosque, I will remember the musical mayhem of marketplaces beaming with miraculous Persian mats and manicured men with musky perfumes and mysterious moustaches - the merchants of menace I will remember the many images of immortalised martyrs, mystical mullahs and modest yet cosmetic mothers, I will remember the majestic mountains and it's meadows of mouth-watering mandarins But most of all, I will remember the amazing mates whose warm welcomings made me feel so at home.” J. Badyari

Ready to travel to Iran? View our range of tours to Iran.
Pedal off track: 6 unusual cycling destinations

Off road cycling holidays can be hard to find as maps and route notes are less available. The terrain may be undeveloped or the weather conditions may make the tracks less (if not at all) accessible at certain times of the year.

Taking you away from the highway and into the hills and vast valleys, check out these unique and memorable bike tours that take you off the beaten track.

With the latest addition of mountain biking in Ladakh, these below destinations have just become more accessible for you.

Ladakh, India

Snowcapped peaks, high mountain passes and striking moonscapes dotted with prayer flags and Buddhist monasteries await you in this remote and majestic Himalayan region. Explore Ladakh at handle bar height on some of the world's highest roads

It's an unmissable corner in the Indian Himalayas with rugged landscapes, Champa nomadic encampments, remote Buddhist settlements and spectacular lakes.

Normally travelled by trekkers, you can be one of the very few to delve into Ladakh on a mountain bike crossing three passes over 5000m on a route never commercially cycled before. The challenging two-wheel expedition will be led by avid cyclist and adventurer Kate Leeming, who designed and tested this stunning route and will see you camping beside lakes whose clarity and colour you would never think possible if not seeing them with your own eyes.

Mountain Bike through the remote Indian Himalaya >

Quebec, Canada

Off road cycling holidays: Blueberry route in Quebec, Canada

Just two hours north of Quebec City, you will find Saint-Jean Lake. There is a circuit around the lake that offers a gentle ride through peaceful farmland, green forests, quaint towns and secluded beaches. Most other travellers will come to this area by other means of transportation so you will find the track is often for yourselves. Along the way, you will encounter many small tourist attractions. Truly discover the region and indulge in the route’s namesake – blueberries, of course! They grow wild and are farmed extensively throughout the area. You will find them sold by the basket, in pies, chocolates and, for a real local delicacy, combined with local game meat.

Cycle Quebec’s Blueberry fields >

Limpopo and Mpumalanga, South Africa

 

Experience the culture, nature, cuisine and attractions of this diverse region at handlebar level as you pedal your way through scenic provinces in North-Eastern South Africa. Combined with a safari experience in the world-renowned Kruger National Park, you'll also go in search for the Big 5 on a game drive. Major highlights on our cycling route include riding through the majestic Wolkberg Mountain range of Limpopo and visiting the breathtaking Blyde River Canyon and the picturesque Panorama Route - with the Three Rondavels and Bourke's Luck Potholes. Taking an exploratory ride through the bushveld where it'll feel like a safari cycle as you enjoy personal encounters with some of the animals of the African Bush. You can also opt for an e-bike for that extra assistance, so you can enjoy every enchanting side road you pass without physical limitations.

Cycle to South Africa's picturesque north >

Mandalay Region, Myanmar

Things to do in Southeast Asia? Cycle in Bagan for a day!

Explore upper Myanmar by bike, following trails that are mostly off the beaten track. Start in Mandalay, the last royal capital of Myanmar and where the Royal Palace can still be visited, and cycle to Bagan. This city is home to one of Southeast Asia’s finest collections of ancient pagodas and temples of a bygone era with intricate carvings, murals and astonishing architecture. In between both destinations you’ll find timeless villages where you can observe the traditional way of life. For stunning panoramic views, climb the 700 steps from the golden temple at the summit of sacred Mount Popa. For bustling local markets, handicrafts and stilted villages, go off-road cycling on the shores of Inle Lake.

Cycle from Mandalay to Bagan in Myanmar >

Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan

Off road cycling holidays: Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan with World Expeditions

Are you looking for exhilarating mountain biking adventures with a twist? Ever thought about going on an off-road cycling holiday to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan? The countries were once part of the Silk Road and their grasslands are dotted with nomads and yurts. Perhaps unexpectedly, in this area it’s possible to have a helicopter drop you (including bike) off at altitudes of 3,500m from where you can take an unforgettable yet daunting descent (1,300m!) on switchback trails and forest dirt roads. If you also like some pampering, in the remote Karkara Valley we stay at a property with a traditional sauna and a bar.

Heli-bike through Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan >

Southern Alps to Pacific Ocean, New Zealand

Off road cycling holidays: New Zealand mountains to the sea

In a country where most visitors go on a self drive holiday, why not consider a cycling holiday that takes you away from the popular trails? From the mighty Southern Alps to Ocean this spectacular trail takes you past the turquoise blue lakes at Tekapo and the golden tussock lands of the Mackenzie Country with superb mountain backdrops of New Zealand’s highest peak, Aoraki Mount Cook.

Get the chance to soak in the local hot pools, enjoy a lakeside picnic and savour delicious local produce and wines prepared by an award winning chef. This region of New Zealand is great for an off-road cycling adventure that includes ancient Maori rock art and dramatic limestone landscapes.

Cycle off the beaten track in New Zealand >

Feel like exploring one of these destinations on an off road cycle adventure? At World Expeditions we’ve been operating active adventure holidays since 1975 and while some of these trips have been running for a longer time already, others have a more exploratory character. For more information and booking details, contact our team of travel experts around the world.

How to choose the right hiking boots

When we venture into the wilderness, it can be for long periods and over some pretty rough terrain. Your feet are the ones doing the hard yards, so making sure that they stay happy is a top priority. With a pair of well-fitted, suitable, durable, and comfortable shoes, you’ll be striding in your adventure and hiking on a high.

We sought the wisdom of the gear experts at Paddy Pallin to drill down what to look for in your ideal boot so your next outdoor adventure is a comfortable one.

Finding your boot type

To keep your feet happy, firstly you need to think about the type of shoe that best fits your needs. Will you be taking days walks on undulating terrain, or are you planning for a more serious trek that will see you on offbeat trails for over five hours a day? Typically hiking footwear can be divided into a few categories and each type tends to be accompanied by a varying set of features.

Shoes/low-cut

These will be low-cut around the ankle, typically with a softer, more flexible sole. Generally, these types of shoes are used for easier day hikes and travel. A shoe like this could come in a burly, full-leather model that is good for hiking and travel to cooler climates. Whilst others will be lighter, with a synthetic/mesh upper, which is more suited to warmer humid climates.

Paddy staffers recommend: The Salomon XA Elevate GTX is a great all rounder trekking shoe and it’s available in men’s and women’s styles. It is stylish yet rugged and ready for adventure as it is lightweight, fully waterproof and has a Contagrip sole, meaning that you can maintain traction on uneven and wet surfaces.

Photo credit: Lachlan Gardiner

Light hiking boots/mid-cut

As the name suggest, these are cut higher around the ankle than a shoe, but usually just high enough to cover your ankle bone on the side. By wearing a boot compared to a shoe, you will have more support for your ankles which is particularly important if you are carrying any weight. A light hiker will usually be a bit stiffer than most hiking shoes, but still quite flexible. They are lightweight and good for a mixture of activities, from travel in colder climates and day hikes to easier multi-day adventures with a lighter pack.

Paddy staffers recommend: The Merrel Moab 2 GTX as it is a lightweight mid-cut boot which still provides you with great support, both for your feet and ankles. Not only is this style waterproof, it boasts an aggressive Vibram sole and is available in both men’s and women’s styles.

Photo credit: Lachlan Gardiner

Heavy trekking boots/high-cut

As expected, this type of hiking footwear is heavier, stiffer and higher-cut around the ankles. This category is for serious trekking and bush walking. This is the kind of boot suited to travelling over rough terrain, off-track and carrying a heavy pack for multiple days. The uppers will be well padded and the sole should not flex too much. This will allow for more support for your foot when walking on uneven surfaces.

Paddy staffers recommend: The Scarpa Kailash Trek GTX boot is a fantastic option for all of your rugged off-track hiking. The boot provides you with great shock absorption and support when walking on hard uneven surfaces, it is fully waterproof and has a protective TPU toe cap. It is also available in both men’s and women’s styles.

Fit and Sizing

After you have thought about which type of shoe will best suit your adventure needs, it’s time to look at the sizing and length of the shoe.

It’s important to know your foot size. The best way to do this is by using a Brannock Device, which is the worldwide standardised tool for measuring foot size. All Paddy Pallin stores are equipped with these and the experienced staff are happy to help take a measurement of your foot.

Photo credit: Ben and Alice

Staff tip: Always have both feet measured as one is often longer than the other.

Typically, the rule of thumb is your hiking boot or shoe size will be between a half to a full size larger than what your measurement is. For example, if the device shows your (longer) foot to be size EU 42, then start by trying on some size 42.5 to 43 shoes. This allows for your feet to have room to swell in the boots and will stop your toes from hitting the front of the boot when walking downhill. After a few kilometres of walking down a trail you will thank us.

When trying the shoes on, give yourself plenty of time to try some different styles and if needed, multiple sizes. Walk around the store and up and down the incline ramp (most Paddy’s stores have one of these). Feel for any uncomfortable pressure points or tightness. Basically, you’re looking for a snug and supportive fit, but with some room in the toe box for your toes to wriggle a bit and spread out.

It’s also important to try on boots with socks that are as thick, or even slightly thicker than the socks you would typically wear whilst hiking.

Finally, if possible, it can be good to try on footwear later in the day after you’ve been walking around for a while. Most people’s feet will swell slightly throughout the day.

Staff tip: Remember to buy them with plenty of time to spare before your hike as you will need to wear them in.

Now you understand what to look for in your hiking boots and shoes, it’s time to get out there and try some on!

Feature image credit: Ben and Alice

Join Newsletter
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/ADS.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon'> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Adventure South</div>
Adventure South NZ is unrivalled in their geographic coverage, originality and overall quality of adventures holidays in New Zealand. Choose from walking, cycling, winter or multi-activity holidays, on either the North or South Island.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/AWH.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon'> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Australian Walking Holidays</div>
Australian Walking Holidays specialises in small group guided walking adventures. Since 1982 we have been guiding small groups of travellers on Australia's finest walks across our tropical, coastal or red centre landscapes.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/GCT.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon'> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Great Canadian Trails</div>
Great Canadian Trails specialises in active holidays in Canada. With both guided and supported self-guided options available, our unique itineraries draw upon some of Canada's most inspiring parks, trails and landscapes from coast to coast.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/HUM.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon'> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Huma Charity Challenge</div>
Huma enables those with adventurous spirits to challenge themselves and make a difference for a cause close to their heart. Travel, fundraise and meet life-long friends on one of Huma's meaningful and unique challenges around the world.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/SHX.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon'> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Sherpa Expeditions</div>
Sherpa Expeditions is a specialist in self guided and guided walking and cycling holidays in the United Kingdom and Europe. Detailed route notes provide a definite guide to places in Europe for active walkers and cyclists.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/TAS.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon'> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Tasmanian Expeditions</div>
Tasmanian Expeditions is the most experienced operator of treks and adventure travel holidays in Tasmania. We own and operate the most comprehensive range of adventure holidays available across Tasmania's varied landscapes.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/UTX-new.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon'> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>UTracks</div>
UTracks are the active European holiday specialists. Whether you prefer cycling or walking, 2-star or 4-star, small groups or self guided, land, river or sea – UTracks can help you to explore Europe exactly the way you want.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/WYA.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon'> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>World Youth Adventures</div>
World Youth Adventures is our specialist division dedicated to organising tailor made overseas school group adventures. Specialists in Service Learning projects, choose from more destinations than any other school group provider.
<img src='/portals/World%20Expeditions/Icons/brands/small/YOM.jpg' class='brandPopoverIcon'> <div class='brandPopoverBrandName'>Yomads</div>
Yomads offers adventures for the 20s and 30s on six continents. Designed as a way to bring young and likeminded travellers together, Yomads caters to those interested in lightly structured and active trips that allow freedom to roam and explore.