Heading out into the wild on an action-packed adventure doesn’t have to mean skimping on creature comforts.
After an uncertain couple of years for travel, the industry is reporting growing demand for luxury adventure trips for 2022. The good news is that heading into the wilderness doesn’t mean sacrificing quality accommodation, private transport, exclusive excursions and privacy. From down on fresh snow in Antarctica to climbing volcanoes in Ecuador, options abound.
1. Desert camping in Australia
Longitude 131° is a luxury desert camp set amid the red sands of Australia’s Outback, seven miles north of Uluru. It offers guests daily guided excursions, including the chance to learn about the iconic landmark, trek through gorges and visit the Field of Light, an installation of 50,000 spheres that light up the desert. The camp, which comprises 15 luxury tents, spa facilities, a pool and a library, offers spectacular sunrise and sunset views, as well as outdoor dining. Jacada Travel offers bespoke luxury adventures in Australia. Its 19-day Ultimate Australia trip gives travellers a chance to reconnect with the elements in comfort, with two nights spent at Longitude 131°.
Essentials: Trips are tailor-made, with prices starting from £18,400 per person, including accommodation and meals and internal flights and transfers.
2. Hiking and kayaking in Chilean Patagonia
Remote, wind-whipped and diverse in terrain and climate, Chilean Patagonia encompasses countless adventure spots, from the peaks of the
Torres del Paine National Park to the glacial lakes of the Pingo Valley. Luxury wellness expert Health Travel offers an expedition that connects travellers with Patagonian nature. Accommodation for the ninenight trip is at Awasi Patagonia, a private reserve with 14 luxury, stilted cabins on the edge of Torres del Paine National Park. Activities include hiking with an expert along secluded trails, biking and horse-riding. Each day’s adventure concludes back at the reserve, getting cosy in front of a cabin fireplace or in a private hot tub under the stars. There are over 30 experiences to choose from. One is a multi-day trek to Glacier Grey, where hiking boots are swapped for paddles for a six-hour kayak that heads between canyons in the Rio Grey and Rio Serrano, passes a waterfall and pauses at the Tyndall Glacier before a final push across Tyndall Lake, disembarking at The Last Hope Sound and Serrano Glacier. The trip ends with a barbecue and a stay in a luxury hotel with saunas and pools to recuperate in.
Essentials: From £6,400, including accommodation, meals and activities.
3. Snorkelling and kayaking in Palau
This archipelago of over 500 islands in Micronesia is home to more than 1,300 species of fish and 700 types of coral. There are emerald forests that stretch out to clear turquoise waters, with more pops of colour underwater. Conservation-focused Palau runs a 193,000sq-mile marine reserve (one of the world’s largest) here that’s an ideal place to snorkel over coral gardens to spot sharks and turtles, or kayak between inlets to Rock Island Southern Lagoon, a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. National Geographic Expeditions leads a small (16 people) group trip here with expert guides. The 10-day itinerary starts and finishes at Koror in a luxury hotel overlooking the lagoon. From here, the group sets out to snorkel, paddle, cruise and swim around part of the archipelago, through stalactite-adorned caves and into hidden coves for lunches before staying in resorts along the way, with smaller inland hikes scattered throughout. Part of the itinerary goes to one of Palau’s most unusual natural wonders, Jellyfish Lake, a saltwater home to around 20 million non-stinging golden jellyfish, as well as to Milky Way Lagoon, where guests can bathe in calciumrich clay.
Essentials: From £6,095 per person, including meals, accommodation, activities and transfers.
4. Diving in Oman
Oman’s coastline stretches for almost 2,000 miles and most of it is relatively untouched, leaving an abundance of marine life to thrive in its nutrient rich waters that are warm throughout the year. Many of the same coral species and marine life native to the Red Sea can also be found here, with 22 species of dolphin and whales and schools of mobula rays populating the warm waters. With golden mountains as a backdrop,the capital, Muscat, makes the perfect base for diving excursions — there are over 40 dive sites nearby that take in wrecks, islands and deep dropoffs. Having a slightly cooler water temperature than the rest of the coastline brings in plenty of plankton, which attracts dolphins, reef sharks, turtles, stingrays and whale sharks. Responsible Travel offers an 11-day luxury trip that takes in both these dive destinations through daily shore and boat dives. Partners behind the trip promote inclusivity for LGBTQ+ travellers, plus, with every trip booked, Responsible Travel arranges a day trip for a disadvantaged child.
Essentials: From £2,116 per person, including flights, accommodation, dives, equipment hire and some meals.
5. Ice driving in Sweden
On the border of the Arctic Circle in Sweden, Laponie Ice Driving is unlike anywhere else in the world. Here, visitors can drive around a full-size replica Formula 1 course carved into a frozen lake. Porsche, Audi, Maserati and other renowned cars are all available to test out on the 13 circuits, etched into around 3,000 acres of icy lake. Given its location, it’s not uncommon for the Northern Lights to display above the track, too. Ker Downey offers a five-day Arctic Ice Driving adventure. The trip starts with a stay in the capital, Stockholm, at the Grand Hôtel. In the city, guests can explore by bike or on foot, take a boat through the archipelago or view the city by air in a hot air balloon or private helicopter. The next morning, the trip moves to Arvidsjaur for three nights of ice adventure at Laponie Ice Driving, where professional drivers are on hand to provide instruction. Guests stay at luxury Hotel Silverhatten, which features a spa for soothing the after-effects of earlier adrenaline spikes.
Essentials: The itinerary starts from $35,000 (£25,800) per person and includes accommodation, experiences and most meals.
6. Heliskiing in Antarctica
With untouched icescapes and snow-covered mountains rising from the sea, Antarctica is a playground for adrenaline-fuelled activities. Tour companies have long been running adventure trips to the continent, often incorporating lectures and onboard education programmes on their ships too. Luxury discovery yacht Scenic Eclipse offers itineraries that also include adventures such as heliskiing from virgin mountain tops, submarine dives and helicopter ice landings. The 16-day, all-inclusive voyage travels through the remote destination and includes rigid inflatable boat trips and kayaking excursions. The Scenic Eclipse then continues its journey, sailing through the Beagle Channel, with views stretching out over the Andean mountains, before traversing the iceberg-filled Lemaire Channel. Accommodation on board is limited to 200 guests. While the ship is custom-designed for exploring such extreme territories, it doesn’t compromise on luxury either — there’s an onboard spa and Pilates studio, meals are gourmet and all suites have their own private veranda.
Essentials: Prices from £10,107 per person, departing on various dates in February, November and December 2022.
7. Mountain climbing in Ecuador
Tropical and glacial climates coexist along the Avenue of the Volcanoes — a corridor of eight snow-capped peaks running south in Ecuador that’s ideal for beginner climbers and attracts relatively few visitors. The volcanic peak Cayambe has notoriously changeable weather, which provides an extra challenge when climbing its crevassed, glaciated slopes; Cotopaxi, at 19,347ft, meanwhile, is the world’s highest active volcano, while Chimborazo is the loftiest summit in Ecuador (20,564ft), with glaciers and snow-covered glaciated terrain. Climbing this trio is a great way to train and test altitude and fitness limits, while offering incredible views at every stage. Abercrombie & Kent offers a 16-day trip to attempt to climb all three peaks. It combines ascents, acclimatisation trips, glacier training and skill development for those interested in gaining high-altitude climb experience.
Essentials: From £20,000 per person, including flights, transfers, accommodation, private expedition guide and a full-board stay at a purpose-built camp.
8. Gorilla trekking in Rwanda
Landlocked in the Great Rift Valley, Rwanda currently has 10 groups of endangered mountain gorilla living in Volcanoes National Park — more than anywhere else in the world, accounting for over half of the global population of 604. Trekking to catch glimpses of the great apes in their natural habitat has become a popular wildlife experience, but it’s not one to be taken lightly. Hiking up to the animals’ preferred habitat in the bamboo forest combines steep muddy slopes, dense vegetation, high altitude and rain. Audley Travel offers an 11-day trip that includes gorilla trekking — travellers can spend up to an hour with the gorillas at a distance safe enough to protect the primates. It also includes guided walks to see golden monkeys and trekking through Nyungwe Forest National Park to see chimpanzees. The trip includes luxury accommodation in Rwanda to round off the experience, plus two days relaxing at Lake Kivu, complete with inland beaches surrounded by mountains.
Essentials: From £8,225 per person, including flights, full-board accommodation and gorilla trekking permits.
This feature was originally appeared in National Geographic Travel.