12 Amazing Experiential Trips for 2020

Whether your idea of an amazing experience is a soak in a thermal spring, learning about local cuisine or something more athletic, find out ways to discover the world anew through travel.

January 16, 2020
By: Lynn Coulter and

Photo By: Brennan Wesley/ExploreCharleston.org

Photo By: Sven Olof Lindblad

Photo By: Mike Bernard

Photo By: Cassiano Zaparoli/Natural Habitat Adventures

Photo By: Patricia Potter/Natural Habitat Adventures

Photo By: Nepal Hiking Team

Photo By: TourRadar

Photo By: Saddle Skedaddle

Photo By: JJ Huckin/Natural Habitat Adventures

Photo By: National Geographic Journeys

Photo By: Getty Images/surangaw

Taste the Flavors of India

Savor traditional Indian flavors and take hands-on cooking classes with Modern Adventure’s culinary trip through India. Nina Compton, a James Beard Award-winner in 2018, leads this 12-day adventure from New Delhi with stops in Jodhpur, Chanod, Udaipur, Mumbai and Jamtara. Between fabulous meals — many prepared in family homes— travelers explore ancient temples and bazaars and journey from bustling Mumbai to a quiet camp in Jamtara, where local naturalists point out monkeys, deer, eagles and other wildlife. Lucky tourists might even see one of the 55 Bengal tigers that live in nearby Pench Tiger Reserve.

Go Gullah in Charleston

You don't have to travel around the world for a great travel experience. Explore the Gullah-Geechee culture, which arrived with West African slaves in the 1700s, in South Carolina's Lowcountry. Start with the Culinary Experience Package at Charleston's French Quarter Inn. It's led by a renowned Gullah chef who'll guide you through a local farmers' market or farm to shop for fresh ingredients. After he gives you a private cooking lesson in an elegant Charleston home, you'll feast on a traditional Gullah meal. Later, visit the historic Andrew Pinckney Inn and book a 90-minute workshop with Gullah artist Lynnette Youson, whose work is on exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. She'll teach you to weave a basket to take home as a keepsake.

Spend Some Family Time in Iceland

A National Geographic Iceland Family Journey centered on Geysers, Glaciers and Fjords is a great choice for adventurous adults and kids. You'll soak in hot springs, learn about Viking life, go on a whale-watching excursion and sample traditional Icelandic bread from a geothermal bakery among other fun activities.

SwellWomen Retreats and Destinations

It’s been said the saltwater is the cure for anything. Let the healing properties of the Pacific Ocean (and the stoke of riding a wave!) soothe your soul during one of the many destination trips or retreats with SwellWomen which offers surf, yoga and wellness travel for women, men and couples.

Prowl Around Patagonia

Forget run-of-the-mill trips. Trendy travelers want experiences that immerse them in other destinations, cultures and cuisines. Use our list to find an incredible tour that lets you camp with wild tortoises, learn how to cook with curry and other spices in an Indian family's kitchen or do anything else you're passionate about.

Look for elusive pumas in Patagonia, a mountainous region on the southernmost tip of South America. Professional expedition leaders with Natural Habitat Adventures's Peaks, Lakes and Glaciers of Patagonia tour help you spot them in Torres del Paine National Park. On this 11-day tour, you'll explore Southern Chile and Argentina to experience roaring waterfalls, calving icebergs, incredible wildlife like eagles and South American condors and more. Instagrammers and photography buffs, a Patagonia Photo Itinerary is available; it's led by a naturalist who is also an expert photographer.

Book now: Starting at $9,995 per person

Camp in the Galapagos

Natural Habitat Adventures, in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, says its expert guides are the most highly trained in the Galapagos Islands. Their naturalists and photo pros lead small groups on Classic Galapagos tours, which can be booked as 8- or 10-day excursions that let you swim with sea lions, sunbathe beside iguanas and camp with wild tortoises. Participants sail on private yachts; Trips have two expedition leaders and photo trips have three. A Galapagos Hiking and Kayaking Adventure, also available as an 8- or 10-day tour, puts you eye-to-eye with marine life as you paddle in a kayak or travel between anchorages in a catamaran. Other Galapagos tours are also available.

Book now: Classic Galapagos, starting at $4,995 or Galapagos Hiking and Kayaking, starting at $5,495

Climb Mount Everest

While conquering Mount Everest is a dream for most explorers, Nepal Hiking Team, winner of a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence Awards from 2012 to 2018, specializes in taking hikers of moderate abilities to Everest Base Camp. As guides lead you through Sherpa villages, you'll experience how locals live in Khumbu, a remote, mountainous region of Nepal. Experience isn't required, although tour operators recommend being at your physical and mental best. This is a real immersion in the region's natural beauty and culture; 14- and 16-day trips are available.

Starting at $1,429 per person for small group tours; Inquire about individual tour prices.

Trek Through Peru

TourRadar, an online travel agency, named the Inca Jungle Adventure offered by Inkayni Peru Tours, a 2019 Tour of the Year. This 7-day experience has it all: mountain biking, zip-lining, trekking and rafting through Cusco, the Sacred Valley, Santa Teresa and Machu Picchu. Experienced, bi-lingual guides explain the history, culture and geography of the cities and remote areas you visit including locals who teach you the basics of weaving Andean textiles in the rustic city of Chincero.

Book now: $1,499 per person

Bike in Ethiopia

Former professional racing cyclist Getachew "Chewy" Alemu is set to lead the upcoming Saddle Skedaddle Enchanting Ethiopia Tour, a 15-day biking adventure through the horn of Africa. You'll pedal north from Addis Ababa to the Blue Nile Waterfall. From there, you gain over 14,785 feet in altitude as you head into the Simien Mountains. Watch for gelada baboons (baboon-sized monkeys that live at high altitudes), bearded vultures and endangered ibex as you camp beside the cliffs. Next, hike to one of the tallest waterfalls in Africa, Jinbar Falls. You'll move on to Aksum, one of Ethiopia's nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and then to Lalibela, known for its iconoclastic rock churches.

Book now: Starting at $3,765 per person

Explore Belize

From jungles to mountains, you'll explore a variety of ecosystems on Natural Habitat Adventures' Ultimate Belize Nature Safari. The 9-day trips run from January into March 2020. Professional expedition leaders guide you as you paddle through subterranean caves to ancient Mayan ruins and snorkel over the world's second-longest barrier reef. The leaders, native Belizeans of Mayan descent, also guide you on ocean kayaking excursions, butterfly walks, canoe trips and hikes. You'll stay at a remote eco-lodge where elusive jaguars are spotted about once a week — an unmatched record, tour organizers say, in Central America.

Book now: Starting at $7,995 per person

Hike in Namibia

Would you rather experience a country's wildlife or its culture? Wonders of Namibia, a National Geographic Journeys tour with G Adventures, lets you do both. This 10-day trip, also named a Tour of the Year by TourRadar, starts in the towering sand dunes of Windhoek and proceeds into the Namib Desert. From there, you'll visit the town of Solitaire and then the countryside, where a local guide will help you spot wildlife and explain bush survival strategies. Other local guides will take you through lively markets, explain the prehistoric rock engravings at a UNESCO World Heritage Site and lead photo safaris through Etosha National Park and a cheetah conservation facility.

Book now: Starting at $2,959

Discover Iceland

You don’t have to use all your vacation days to take an amazing trip. Exodus Edits offers “micro-adventures.” Led by expert guides, they're designed for young professionals from 30 up to age 50. The 5-day Aurora and Adventure in Iceland trip gives you enough time to hike a glacier with an ice ax, soak in relaxing geothermal baths, drive an ATV to explore the wreckage of a US Navy plane, see geysers and sip craft beers and glacier-fed gin and tonics with the locals in Reykjavik. If your timing is right — and so are the atmospheric conditions — you may see the Northern Lights.

Book now: Trips depart March 25, April 15, October 14 and November 11, 2020, starting at $2,449 per person

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