10 of the Best Off-the-Beaten-Path Adventures

Go off-road, off the rails and off the grid. The best travel adventures begin in places that most tourists never see.

Photo By: Original Travel/Richard Field

Photo By: Aventuras Mayas

Photo By: Qatar National Tourism Council

Photo By: Tourism NT

Photo By: Audley Travel

Photo By: Toyooka Tourism

Photo By: Peregrine Adventures

Photo By: Intrepid Travel

Photo By: Audley Travel

Photo By: Audley Travel

Take a Bushwalk in Arkaba

You might think you've stepped off the map by the eighth day of Original Travel’s 14-day Australian tour. That's when a guide on this walking safari through the southern Outback leads you into the 60,000-acre Arkaba Conservancy, where you’ll sleep under the stars. In the distance, you'll see the Flinders Ranges, the largest mountain range in South Australia. For the next few days, you’ll hike through creeks and rough country as you explore the area's Aboriginal history. After a stay at Arkaba’s heritage homestead, one of the most luxurious lodges in Australia, you’ll end your trip in Barossa.

Snorkel in a Sinkhole

Underwater adventures in three extraordinary ecosystems await in the Mayan jungles. Aventuras Mayas offers a Riviera Maya snorkeling tour through a cavern to an underground river, which the Mayans believed was an entrance to the underworld. Professional guides also lead snorkelers past stalagmites and exotic marine life in clear, freshwater sinkholes, called cenotes. The sinkholes were formed in the surrounding limestone over millions of years, so you're stepping back in time, as well as off the heavily touristed path.

Bash the Dunes in Qatar

Go off-road—way off-road—with a Regency Sealine Camp tour. Experienced drivers pick up passengers in 4 x 4 vehicles and stop to deflate their tires after they leave the road. Then the cars head into the desert for some "dune bashing," thrilling rides over the sands. The journey leads to the Inland Sea, where the coast of Saudi Arabia is visible in the distance. Book a half- or full-day tour and unwind later at the luxurious Regency Holiday Desert Camp. Don’t like four-wheeling? Go quad biking or ride a camel through the desert instead.

Discover Ancient Aboriginal Rock Art

Head to the Outback—Australia’s Northern Territory—for a Venture North tour in East Arnhem Land. One of the world’s last true wilderness areas, it belongs to the Aboriginal people and requires a permit to visit. Aboriginal guides will lead you to some of the oldest rock art in the world. The murals shown here depict kangaroos, wallabies, spiritual figures from the Aboriginal Dreamtime and more. This off-the-grid experience won a 2015 Australian Tour Award.

Be Blessed in Varanasi

India’s sacred Ganges River flows through Varanasi, its oldest city. Explore the city's backstreets and hidden temples with a guide on Audley’s Varanasi tour. You’ll stop at Lolark Kund, a tiny site where those hoping for children dip into the holy waters, and Aghor Ashram, where Hindus chant and worship Bhairava, one of Shiva’s forms. If you wish, join in a ritual and be blessed with ashes from the cremation ghats. Watch the ceremonies at the Sankata Devi temple alongside yellow-robed monks.

Snowshoe in Kannabe Highlands

For winter fun, avoid the crowds in Kyoto and ride the train to Japan’s Kannabe Highlands. Kannabe Nature School guides will take beginners and experts to the top of Mt. Kannabe to snowshoe, where you'll have incredible views of the snow-covered hills and Sea of Japan. Later, warm up in one of seven natural hot springs in Kinosaki. Each onsen, or hot springs bathhouse, is different. Brave the cold for a soothing soak at Ichino-yu, where a unique, cave-like bath is made from granite and volcanic rocks. For dinner, feast on the region’s famous snow crab, in season from November to March.

Meet Mudmen and Simbu Tribes in Papua New Guinea

Forget ordinary festivals. Book a Peregrine tour to the Goroka Show, a tribal fest in Papua New Guinea, where you'll encounter the sound of Kundu drums, songs, dances and thousands of tribespeople adorned in feathers and paint. After the show, interact with Asaro Mudmen and Simbu tribes in beautiful Asaro Valley. Talk about out-of-the-way places; Papua New Guinea is so remote, it's still largely unknown to tourists.

Cycle in Tanzania

Pedal off the beaten track with the world's first cycling tour of Arusha National Park. This Intrepid Travel tour of Tanzania takes you where cars can't go, on trails through farm villages and escarpments in the Great Rift Valley. A support vehicle accompanies you, so you can hop a ride if the going gets too rough, and you can switch to a Jeep or truck when you're scouting out wildlife. You'll cycle behind your leader/guide through the rarely visited, and largely uncharted, Lengai plains.

Trek Up a Mountain in Morocco

From Morocco's High Atlas Mountains, you'll have panoramic views of wind-swept trees and shaggy goats navigating steep slopes. The region has shaped the culture of the Berber people, who've lived here for thousands of years, as you'll learn on an Audley tour that begins in Marrakesh. The trip includes an intimate cultural experience; after you cross the Azzaden riverbed into the village of Tizi iZggar, you'll stop for lunch and mint tea in a Berber family's home.

Go Backstage in Sydney

The Sydney Opera House, with its pearly "sails," is an Australian icon. Standard tours are available, but Audley's tour takes visitors behind the scenes of this performing arts center and into its underbelly. You’ll start early in the day, with a guide who allows you to stand on the Opera House’s six different performance stages and explore the orchestra pit. You'll also learn about the venue’s exquisite acoustics, hear little-known backstage stories and secrets and peer into the stars’ dressing rooms. The tour ends with breakfast in the Green Room, a kind of inner sanctum usually reserved for performers and staff members.

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