What is adventure travel? We can debate that answer till the cows come home, but without question, for an increasingly large segment of today’s travel marketplace, the answer is journeys beyond the ordinary. And the Adventure Travel Trade Association reminds us that adventure travelers—and baby boomers in particular—have both ample budgets and ample appetites for vacations that mix up active adventure with involving cultural experiences. That’s where the growth appears to be in the countries that inhabit the wide and wonderful world of Asia and the South Pacific, where clients will find a host of new ways to explore new horizons. Consider this trio.
china: by bike
Backroads is always out front in opening up bicycle touring in far corners of the globe and showcasing countries up-close and personal. Its China Bike Tour: Ancient Treasures & Modern Icons in Beijing, Xian & the South is no exception, “showing travelers everything from Canton to Beijing and the rural places in between in a way you can’t see by any other means,” says a company spokesperson.
On the first three days of the itinerary, clients experience traditional life in rural villages and modern cities; by river and bicycle, they travel past remote hamlets, and fields of rice and sugarcane; visit with locals in roadside cafes; and explore historic Zhaoqing and Wuzhou. On days 4-5, they’ll bike along winding rivers and lush paddies; take to the Li River on a private boat cruise; and go shopping at night markets for embroidered silk, stone carvings and hilltribe crafts. Days 6-7 are devoted to the more than 6,000 life-size funerary statues of the Terracotta Warriors, pedaling around the walls of their hometown of Xian. During days 8-9, tour members bike through Beijing in the company of seven million fellow cyclists and explore Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, and actually walk a very remote section of the wall. Flavors of China include a tai chi lesson, a Chinese massage, an acrobatics show, and Peking duck dinner. Six departures are scheduled for 2016, priced at $5,598 wpp sharing.
vietnam: up-close and cultural
Myths and Mountains may have won its place on the 2015 Wendy Perrin WOW List as the trusted travel expert for Nepal and Bhutan, but take a look at its Vietnam product, where the company offers several interesting itineraries, including Vietnam: Saigon, Central Highlands, Coast and Hanoi. It’s an adventurous and cultural journey to an enchanting land, with an itinerary covering a cross-section of gorgeous scenery, diverse ethnic groups, a variety of craft centers, and mouthwatering cuisine. Begin in Saigon, where travelers tour the city on cyclo-bicycle and visit the Ben Thanh Market, and the Notre Dame Cathedral, as well as the Cu Chi tunnels, one of the few remaining remnants of the Vietnam War. Traveling through the central highlands, clients will visit the Ethnographic Museum in Dalat, with its forests, waterfalls and lakes, a former French hill station and today a departure point to visit the Valley of Love with its convent, university and pagodas. They’ll drive through coffee country, stopping at villages of the Gia Rai people who are noted for their houses on stilts and domesticated elephants; then they’ll head for Kon Tum, visiting its beautiful wooden catholic church, the orphanage of Vinh Son and the villages of Pleitonghia and Konhngokotu accessed by an amazing suspension bridge. The tour also allows visitors to spend time in historic Hoi An, home to beautifully preserved riverside merchant houses, and for a visit to the impressive Hindu temples and royal burial tombs at My Son Sanctuary, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Throughout the tour, there are visits to many ethnic villages and orphanages, and guests have the opportunity to interact with many different people, learning their traditional lifestyles and even spending the night in a village. The trip wraps up in charming Hanoi, exploring the fascinating Old City and its new art galleries by cyclo-bicycles, visiting important temples and pagodas, joining the locals for tai chi by the lake, and enjoying a traditional water puppet show. The last two departure dates for 2015 are Nov. 28 and Dec.12; departures for 2016 resume in March, and customized departures are available for F.I.T. clients. The tour cost starts at $3,495 pp dbl.
new zealand: on foot
Wilderness Travel’s 13-day New Zealand: South Island Adventure is an active vacation that takes place on an island that feels like one enormous national park.
As the Kiwis say, clients “will have a go” at outdoor adventure. They’ll swim and snorkel among wild dolphins—which frolic in pods numbering in the hundreds—along the Kaikoura Coast, then adjourn to Marlborough Sounds, for a vineyard lunch in this area known for its crisp white wines. Days 4-7, they’ll stay in and visit Nelson, an eclectic community of artists, horticulturalists and adventurers, then head out to hike (or kayak) along the white-sand beach of Abel Tasman National Park, overnighting in a lodge accessible only by boat. In Paparoa National Park, they’ll explore water-sculpted limestone blowholes and hike through a “lost world” of subtropical rainforest. They’ll start day 8 with a walk on the mighty Fox Glacier, then search for the rare Fiordland crested penguins at Munro Beach. Days 9 to 11 take travelers to Mount Aspiring National Park with its natural amphitheater surrounded by hundreds of waterfalls pouring from the ice. They’ll sample the pinot noir wines of Central Otago and visit the historic gold mining town of Arrowtown. The journey’s final two days feature an overnight cruise on famous Milford Sound where at the edge of the Tasman Sea, the boat anchors in a sheltered cove beneath towering Mount Pembroke; here guests can explore the fjord at sunset by kayak or tender.
For 15 years, Kiwi leaders have been guiding this trip, which starts in Christchurch and ends in Queenstown and is ranked “level 2” (easy to moderate hiking) for members limited to a maximum of 12. Starting in November, departures are scheduled monthly through March 2016, and start again the following November. Priced from $5,895 pp sharing, costs are basically all-inclusive, including accommodations in historic inns and beachside lodges, as well as private cabins when cruising.
Backroads: (800) 462-2848; backroads.com or backroads.com/travel_agent/travel_agent_registrations/new
Myths and Mountains: (800) 670-6984; mythsandmountains.com
Wilderness Travel: (800) 368-2794; wildernesstravel.com or wildernesstravel.com/about/travel-agents