There’s culinary tours, wildlife tours, and tours to places that will make your skin crawl. In fact, no matter what you’re into, odds are there’s a tour operator out there somewhere who can hook you up with just what you’re looking for.
But what if the experience you crave is a bit out of the ordinary? Maybe you want an extreme challenge or to go somewhere few people have roamed before? That was certainly what I was looking for a few years ago when I traveled to Peru. And with enough digging, I found what I wanted.
If you’re an adventurer looking for a different sort of trip, I’d like to make your research a tad easier. So here are 5 enticingly unique tours available across the globe that offer an adventure that’s unlike anything else.
If you wanna get to the top of Everest, normally you’re looking at a mission lasting 70 days or more. But not so with Alpenglow Expeditions. This tour company says it’s the only operator offering a 30-day ascent. How do they do it? To quote their website, they use “pre-acclimatization in hypoxic tents, helicopters to and from Base Camp, and more Sherpa/guide support and oxygen than any other operator.”
Although there’s never any guarantees when conquering Everest, a spokesperson for Alpenglow says their success rate is in the upper 90%. The price tag for this package is $89,000 (including land costs, including round-trip helicopters and pre-acclimatization).
The Parahawking Project (Nepal)
The operator’s website calls it ‘the ultimate flying experience.’ And you know what? I believe them.
This award-winning adventure tour lets people actually go paragliding alongside trained birds of prey. The passenger or pilot feeds the birds chunks of mean in order to provide enough incentive for the raptors to hang around. The folks behind the ParaHawking Project also donate part of their proceeds to bird-friendly conservation groups.
Hike/Kayak To Old Mill (St. Thomas)
OK, this isn’t some epic multi-day adventure like some of the trips here. So why include it? Because cool little day tours like this one often turn out to be the best part of a trip. If you can find a local operator who’s dying to show off a secret spot, you’ve hit the vacation jackpot.
During this hiking/kayaking trip by St. Thomas Adventure Excursions, explorers get to wander through the crumbling bones of a 1811 “slave-era sugar mill.” Tour operator Michael Motylinski told me that these ruins have been almost completely forgotten — only a few university researchers even know about these jungle-coated remnants.
“If you don’t know where to look, you could pass within 50 feet and not even see them,” said Motylinski in an e-mail.
Sure, it’s no 30-day Everest trek. But I still think little gems like these are pretty cool.
Rhino Conservation Safari (South Africa)
I love that voluntourism is hot right now. But the tour company Epic Road puts a action-packed twist on do-gooder travel by allowing their clients to help fight poaching. No, you don’t actually bust ivory hunters at gun-point. Epic Road has teamed up with organizations like South Africa’s Kwandwe Private Game Reserve to allow travelers to help track and microchip rhinos in the wild.
What’s so cool about this is that it’s a 100% hands-on experience. So you’re actually flying in a helicopter with a conservation professional, who’s tracking the animals and then tranquilizing them. On the ground, you get to help to install a tiny chip in the creature’s horns. So if the rhino is ever poached, officials will be able to track where the horns are sold.
Yading ‘Big Kora’ Trek (Tibet)
The sacred mountains of Yading were first discovered by explorer Joseph Rock in 1928. Back then, they were controlled by a gang of bandits who weren’t afraid to kill outsiders. Today, these sky-scraping peaks in Eastern Tibet are home to much friendlier folk. However, that hasn’t resulted in a rush of tourists taking in these epic sights.
Despite the heart-racing beauty of the scenery and the rare opportunity to follow an ancient Buddhist pilgrimage route, few travelers ever attempt the challenging 8-day trek through this area. Likely because of the remote and mercilessly steep terrain. Whistling Arrow was in fact only the commercial tour company to take adventurers on the route this year (as of September, anyway).
If you’re interested in tackling this one, you better move quick. The crowds may not stay away forever. Whistling Arrow will be offering the trek again in June of 2014.
This list is just getting started
I know there are many more unique adventure tours out there. This list is just for starters. I’m always coming across unexpected travel itineraries in my line of work, so when I find a tour that might fit this list I’ll be sure to add it in. But I also wouldn’t mind some help. If you know of a truly original adventure tour, tell me about it in the comments below or shoot me an e-mail at email@example.com.
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