The Most Adventurous Tour Packages to Book in 2020
Travel Channel experts pick some of the newest, best adventure trips with seasoned guides — many available for a limited time only in 2020.
Photo By: Wild Frontiers
Photo By: Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery
Photo By: Yuna Castano
Photo By: Intrepid Travel
Photo By: Flash Pack
Photo By: The Wild Source
Photo By: Kristin Rayfield with Rudee Tours
Photo By: Chicago Botanic Garden at ChicagoBotanic.org
Photo By: Nangha Parbat
Photo By: Soomness/Flickr
Photo By: Cycle of Life Adventures
Why Book a Packaged Tour?
It’s easy to dismiss packaged tours, falsely believing that they’re best reserved for novice travelers. But consider the number of trips that are either too complicated or utterly impossible to undertake without the aid of experienced guides. Joining a citizen scientist cruise in Antartica, discovering the remote Hindu Kush region of Pakistan and embarking on a combined India and Africa safari are among the options where the trip planning is best left to the experts.
India With Nina Compton, Modern Adventure
Nina Compton regularly makes national headlines as a James Beard Award-winning chef-owner of Compère Lapin and Bywater American Bistro in New Orleans. And for 12 days in October 2020, up to 20 lucky foodies will get the chance to explore India with Nina Compton and Modern Adventure guides. Though she grew up in St. Lucia, Compton will be examining India’s influence on Caribbean cuisine. Among the highlights will be taking a cooking class in a 300-year-old palace, enjoying a Rajasthani dinner with a local family in Jodhpur and eating one’s way through Delhi’s Chandani Chowk market. This one-time excursion journeys around the country and also stops in Udaipur and Mumbai. This doesn’t come cheap, but the cost covers four- and five-star hotels, domestic flights, private tours, most meals and of course, quality time with Nina Compton.
Dates: Oct. 16-27
Price: $9,500 if booked by Oct. 31, 2019, $10,000 after
Max spots: 20
Argentina and Chile: Solar Eclipse Adventure, Boundless Journeys
Astronomy fans should take note of Boundless Journeys' Argentina and Chile: Solar Eclipse Adventure, only happening in December 2020. This total eclipse is best seen from Patagonia, making it the peak experience of this 10-day trip. Leading up to the solar show will be stops in Buenos Aires for touring and tango dancing, plus hiking in the Andes near Bariloche. The day of, expect a private viewing festival complete with folk music and a dedicated astronomer. The rest of the trip will continue to Chile (via the Chilean Lake District) and the Atacama Desert, providing another opportunity for stargazing at the Ahlarkapin Observatory, considered one of the best places in the world for examining the dark skies. Visiting the Valley of the Moon, known for its lunar-like landscape, is another highlight, before concluding in Santiago. The trip includes upscale lodging, most meals (plus local wine and beer with dinners), guides and activities.
Dates: Dec. 10-20
Max spots: 16
Greenland Expedition, Intrepid Travel
Move over Iceland, Intrepid Travel has unveiled a new eight-day Greenland Expedition for 2020. This is Intrepid’s first tour solely devoted to the Nordic island, home to less than 60,000 people. Most of the trip is land-based, visiting the likes of Nuuk (pictured), a small but developing capital with fine dining options and local boutiques. Participants will also trek to remote Ilulissat, Greenland’s third-largest “city” near the Arctic Circle with a whopping 5,000 residents and lots of sled dogs. Along the way is the chance to join a local family for kaffemilk, sort of like an informal afternoon tea but with coffee. Short cruises are part of the itinerary as well, from visiting Oqaatsut (population 40, give or take) to optional iceberg and whale sightseeing tours — narwhals, belugas and bowheads ply these frigid waters. Note that most lunches and dinners are not included, and accommodations are a mix of hostels and hotels. Bring an adventurous spirit since it’s a new itinerary, but how many people can say they’ve visited Greenland?
Dates: Aug. 1-8
Max spots: 12
See More Photos: 10 Best Things to See and Do in Greenland
Sensory Japan: Tokyo, Kyoto and the Hakone Mountains, Flash Pack
Don’t be deterred if you can’t score tickets to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo — tours like the two-week Sensory Japan: Tokyo, Kyoto and the Hakone Mountains still make it possible to experience the Olympic zeitgeist. Highlights on the jam-packed, beyond basic itinerary entail checking out Tokyo’s lesser-known Kiyosumi-Shirakawa District; imbibing at the trendy Tokyo Whisky Library; grabbing lunch with a Sumo wrestler; hiking in the Hakone Mountains; practicing how to be a ninja and meditating with Buddhist monks in Kyoto; taking an insider food tour in Osaka and much more. Along the way, expect to stay in modest local hotels instead of flashy generic chains. Heads up that Flash Pack specializes in solo travel for the 30- and 40-year-old set; it also favors traveling on public transportation over private vehicles — but this creates a more immersive experience.
Dates: Monthly between March-October
Price: Between $5659-$6619
Max spots: 14
Big Cat Aficionados, The Wild Source
If your safari wish list involves seeing all the big cats, The Wild Source's first (and possibly only) ultimate cat safari will visit both India and Africa during this 10-night Big Cat Aficionados trip. The journey starts in India at Kanha National Park, also called Kanha Tiger Reserve, where it’s possible to spot Bengal tigers and leopards. (The park is said to have inspired Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book.) This portion of the journey is led by Bill Given, not only The Wild Source’s founder, but also a wildlife biologist who specializes in big cats. From here the group flies to Kenya to the famed Masai Mara National Reserve, where lions, leopards and cheetahs (oh my!) are among the main cat draws. Expert Maasai guide Johnson Pingua Nkukuu, considered one of the best safari guides in the country, leads the sightings. Not only will there be plentiful opportunities for cat spotting, but Nkukuu and the other Mara guides know many of the cats by name, including their personalities and histories. There are some spots left on the one-time March trip, which covers domestic flights, meals and safari excursions, plus luxe lodging at the Leela Mumbai and Enaidura Mobile Camp.
Dates: March 11-21
Max spots: 8
Whale Science Voyage, Polar Latitudes
Polar cruises remain a bucket list item, but Polar Latitudes goes beyond typical activities like sea kayaking and photo opps. On the only 2020 Whale Science Voyage sailing, passengers will get to channel their inner citizen scientists by assisting a team of actual scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). WHOI’s mission involves studying the impact of climate change on the feeding habits of humpback whales; as such, there will be opportunities during the two-week adventure to Antarctica for passengers to collect water samples and count whales. (The scientists do the heavy lifting of whale tagging and data analyzing.) In between whale research, guests visit penguin colonies and take zodiac excursions. The starting price option has already sold out, but spots still remain at higher price points. In addition to two hotel nights in Ushuaia, the cost covers meals and excursions, plus an expedition jacket and borrowed boots. Perhaps most valuable is a 100-minute Wi-Fi card to share all of your exciting moments.
Dates: Feb. 27-March 11
Price: From $12,140
Max spots: 100
Science in the Field: Tracking Wild Bumblebees in the Redwoods, Atlas Obscura
Continuing the citizen scientist trend, Atlas Obscura offers the unusual chance to track bumblebees in California’s Redwood National Park (an adventure for those more inclined to run from bees). Bumblebees have made headlines in recent years as their numbers have been dwindling — some to the point of facing extinction. During the four-day trip, participants will spend two days accompanying biologists in the field to identify and track wild bees, while learning more about the threat facing these crucial pollinators. Expect to participate in occasional bushwhacking and nighttime tracking with headlamps. In between will be picnicking among Redwood’s wildflowers, watching wildlife like new elk moms and eating farm-to-table dinners. Come night, bed down in shared rooms at the comfortable Elk Meadow Cabins without leaving the park.
Dates: May 28-31
Max spots: 12
Hindu Kush Adventure, Wild Frontiers
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (you know, Prince William and Kate Middleton) are visiting Pakistan in October 2019 for the first time; the royal family haven’t visited since Prince Charles and Camilla went in 2006. It’s harder, but not impossible, for laypeople to go as well. Since the US State Department currently has a Level 3 warning for Pakistan — meaning to reconsider travel due to potential terrorism — adventurous types who wish to experience the country are best off going with a group. Wild Frontiers has spent more than a decade arranging Pakistan itineraries and currently offers a 16-day small-group Hindu Kush Adventure through the mountainous north, a way off-the-beaten-path circuit with stops in the ancient town of Chitral, a gateway for exploring the remote Kalash Valley. Foreigners aren’t allowed to overnight in the valley due to local restrictions, but it should be possible to walk to small villages during the day. The cost covers a range of lodging, local transportation, meals and experienced guides.
Dates: May, September and October
Max spots: 12
Jordan Stars-to-Mars Tour, Space Tourism Guide
It’s easy finding a tour to Jordan, but less so if you’re interested in a stargazing tour. This new Jordan Stars-to-Mars Tour option from Space Tourism Guide spends a week combining sky viewing with visiting attractions. The former involves meeting a member of the Jordanian Astronomical Society and delving into Arabic astronomy, observing dark skies from a Bedouin camp in Wadi Rum (pictured) and participating in a night of star searching with Feynan Eco-Lodge’s on-site astronomer. The week is rounded out with camel tours, experiencing Petra at night, floating in the Dead Sea and canyoning in the super scenic Wadi Mujib. Not least, the trip coincides with the new moon on March 24. The four-star Petra Guest House and the Martian Domes at Sun City Camp in the Wadi Rum are among the hotels, included in the trip cost. All meals, most activities and local transportation are also covered.
Dates: March 20-27
Max spots: 8
New Orleans Big Easy Bike Tour, Cycle of Life Adventures
If you can’t get enough bike riding in your life, then Cycle of Life Adventures offers a new Big Easy Bike Tour of New Orleans that explores up to 240 miles of bike trails that have been built in the years following Hurricane Katrina. Though this trip is considered recreational, be prepared to ride anywhere from 15 to 73 miles a day during the six-day adventure. Biking starts and ends in the French Quarter, riding along Mardi Gras parade routes and around the historic Garden District. Time is also spent exploring attractions by foot. The days following leave the city behind to bike to plantations, such as the iconic Oak Alley Plantation and on to Lake Pontchartrain. Biking is broken up with a swamp boat tour of Jean Lafitte National Park, plus plantation tours and historic site visits. Know that shuttle service is available to help shorten some of the routes. The price tag includes meals, two guides and hotels.
Dates: April 11-17 and Nov. 1-6
Max spots: 12