10 Incredible New Adventures for 2012


Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Machu Picchu and the first successful expedition to the South Pole. Why not resolve to make your own adventurous discoveries in 2012? There has rarely been a better time to do it. Around the globe, the word's top adventure travel outfitters are busy unveiling more new trips than you can shake a hiking stick at. And whether your particular brand of adventure involves walking, biking, kayaking, rafting, sailing, or just kicking back and discovering an emerging destination, these new trips will leave you feeling like a real explorer.

Machu Picchu Family Adventure (REI Adventures)

When Hiram Bingham III discovered the Lost City of the Incas a century ago, he could never have imagined that Machu Picchu would someday become the world's most popular adventure destination. He might have had an even harder time imagining it as a family vacation spot—but thanks to a new trip offered for the first time in 2012 by REI Adventures, that's exactly what it's become.

This eight-day adventure leaves the grueling Inca Trail trek to hardier folk, but it doesn't skimp where it counts: on the cultural immersion. You'll raft alongside pre-Inca cities on the Urubamba River, haggle for treasures at one of the largest traditional markets in Peru, and prepare local cuisine in a Peruvian cooking class—all as a prelude for your two-day exploration of Machu Picchu and the mysterious Temple of the Moon.

Cost: $3,699 per person ($200 discount for kids eight to 17 years old; $4,075 for nonmembers)

Dates: March 31; June 30; July 14, 21; August 4, 11, 18; December 22

Cycle Southern Iceland (Adventure Center)

Home to fiery eruptions and chilly glaciers, Iceland is often called the Land of Fire and Ice. It could just as easily be called the Land of Thundering Waterfalls or Home of the Northern Lights. If ever a country was blessed with natural scenery, it's Iceland. This year, you can discover that barren beauty in a new and unexpected way: on a bike.

"Most competitors offer a mountain-bike trip," says Andy Trache of Adventure Center, the U.S. retailer of this cycling trip from U.K. outfitter Exodus. "Ours is a road one. We cover a much greater distance and see more of the highlights. Our trip is also suitable for a far wider audience." The route follows mainly country roads in this lightly populated landscape. Expect a few climbs and very little traffic. Trip costs for this eight-day package include seven nights' accommodations (with one night in a farmhouse and another in a mountain hut) and most meals.

Cost: $2,800 per person

Dates: June 23; July 7; August 11

Active Alaska Escape (G Adventures)

Geared toward the really adventurous, G Adventures' Active Alaska Escape is for those who want to "work hard by day and enjoy a soft landing at night," says Jeff Duford, the company's Innovation Manager. Hard work never felt so good. The six-day trip is jammed with everything from kayaking and rafting to hiking excursions to glaciers and ice fields. And at the end of the day, a comfortable hotel awaits.

"This adventure is part of our larger North American program consisting of 54 trips, all new for 2012," notes Duford. "We've heard the call from our travelers to offer more trips in our own backyard—our home continent—and we've listened." Included in the cost of the trip are national- and state-park fees; many meals; and the hiking, kayaking, and rafting excursions.

Cost: $1,999 per person

Dates: June 24; July 8, 22; August 12, 19

Best Of Burma (Intrepid Travel)

Ancient temples, alpine villages, and a mythical landscape—this is Burma (also known as Myanmar), one of Southeast Asia's hidden gems. What better way to experience this complex and quickly changing nation than with a 15-day adventure from Intrepid Travel, an outfitter known for its grassroots style, budget-friendly prices, and commitment to cultural exploration?

"We keep costs down by using local guides, locally owned accommodations, locally owned restaurants, and public transportation," says Intrepid's Kimberly Greiner. "The experience is really about the places." On this Best of Burma trip, those places include the temples of Bagan, a riverboat cruise to Mandalay, rarely visited mountain towns, and off-the-beaten-path day hikes.

Savings tip: Book by February 7 and enter promo code 6576 at time of checkout to save 15 percent off the price of this or any new Intrepid trip.

Cost: $2,430 per person (plus $300 for additional meals)

Dates: May 5, 19; June 16; July 21; August 18; September 22; October 20; November 3; December 1, 15, 29

Bosnia-Herzegovina: Three Rivers Whitewater Rafting (O.A.R.S.)

More than "just" a rafting trip, O.A.R.S.' new nine-day Bosnia adventure focuses almost as much on the culture and landscape of this under-explored European nation as it does on its Class II and III rapids. You'll hike to waterfalls and through canyons, explore Sarajevo and Mostar and other vibrant cities, and enjoy fine Mediterranean cuisine. And, of course, you'll raft three scenic rivers—the Tara, the Vrbas, and the Neretva—highlighted by a trip through the "Grand Canyon of the Balkans."

"There aren't many people operating trips like this yet," says trip leader James Rodger. "We partner with locals who know the country and its history and can add a really personal touch. And of course I've been out here for a while as well. We're able to deliver a higher level of service than you usually find in an emerging tourism market."

Cost: $2,990 per person

Dates: August 12, 21

Sea Of Cortez Family Base Camp Kayak Trip (Sea Kayak Adventures)

This new six-day, family-oriented Baja base-camp trip from Sea Kayak Adventures has four built-in selling points: It's affordable, it's unique, it utilizes a central base camp, and it's fun for both parents and teens or preteens. What kid wouldn't enjoy kayaking alongside dolphins, sea lions, and endangered blue whales while exploring Mexico's Loreto Bay National Marine Park? Best yet, no kayaking experience is necessary.

"The demand this year was for shorter tours and a focus on activities at the camp location," says Nancy Mertz, co-owner of Sea Kayak Adventures. Keeping costs under control was another focus in 2012, which is why everything is built into the price of the trip: "We pick you up at the Loreto airport, take you to the hotel, [and] include the hotel on your first day in Loreto and the night just before you fly out, as well as the whole kayak tour—guides, gear, meals, instruction, nature walks and snorkel excursions, everything. Even dietary requests are catered to."

Cost: $995 per person for adults, $895 for kids as young as eight years old

Dates: March 20; April 8

The 'Real' Cuba (Austin-Lehman Adventures)

Austin-Lehman Adventures is one of a handful of American companies to receive permission to legally go to Cuba under the people-to-people license, and this nine-day trip takes full advantage of that opportunity. More cultural immersion than traditional "adventure," it's a great introduction for travelers who want to discover this exotic island in a five-star-hotel setting with both Cuban and Cuban-American guides. Highlights include visits to Matanzas (the" Venice of Cuba"); the provinces of Pinar del Rio and Finca Pinar San Luis; and Revolution Square.

"Cuba is an untapped market that fits well with our core goals of exotic and desirable destinations, easy access from the U.S., lots of activities, a distinct and colorful culture, and opportunities to immerse travelers in authentic Cuban life—including world-renowned music, cuisine, art, and dance," says Dan Austin, Director of Austin-Lehman Adventures.

Cost: $4,998 per person

Dates: February 11, 25; March 17; April 28; May 26; June 9

Zambia & Zimbabwe Walking and Canoe Safari (Mountain Travel Sobek)

Some safaris include nocturnal game drives. Others, canoeing or walking tours. Some take you to South Luangwa National Park or Zimbabwe's Mana Pools. A few even cap the trip with a visit to Victoria Falls. But only Mountain Travel Sobek's new nine-day Zambia & Zimbabwe Walking and Canoe Safari packs it all into one spectacular adventure of a lifetime.

The priciest adventure in our list, you get your money's worth and more with up-close opportunities to observe giraffes, lions, buffalo, exotic birds, hippos, and elephants—without the noisy game vehicles—during nine days of walking and canoeing.

Cost: $5,995 per person

Dates: May 10; June 14; July 12; August 12

Egypt: A Moment In History (Abercrombie & Kent)

If you've ever dreamed of visiting Egypt, now may be the time. The recent unrest has suppressed tourism and forced prices down, making this usually crowded and expensive destination a veritable bargain hot spot in 2012. Take advantage of the savings and experience the newly democratic Egypt with Abercrombie & Kent's new take on a classic itinerary. Local guides will introduce you to the pyramids, the Great Sphinx, and the treasures of Tutankhamun in Giza and nearby Cairo, then escort you on a four-night Nile River cruise accompanied by an Egyptologist.

Why this 11-day tour? "Our deep roots and long-established relationships make it possible to offer a degree of access and insight in Egypt no other operator can match," notes Jean Fawcett of Abercrombie & Kent. "Other companies sometimes claim that the independent offices they subcontract are their own, but we're the only one with on-site offices in Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, Sharm el Sheikh, Abu Simbel, and Alexandria."

Cost: $1,725 per person

Dates: June 14; July 12; August 30; October 25

Sail Greece: Santorini to Mykonos (Intrepid Travel)

So your budget for 2012 doesn't include buying a yacht? No problem. You can rent one—with its own captain and crew—for pennies on the dollar with Intrepid Travel's new eight-day Greek sailing adventure. Perfect for families, groups of friends, and even solo travelers, this small-ship sailing adventure mixes boat time with exploring and beach days.

You'll get up close and personal with the turquoise waters off Amorgos, the olive groves of Naxos, the winding stairs of Syros, and of course Santorini itself—believed by some to be the location of the legendary island of Atlantis. You won't be stuck with a fixed itinerary, either. "We offer small crewed boats and let you be in charge of the itinerary. If you want to stay a bit longer moored off one island, for example, you can do that," notes Intrepid's Kimberly Greiner.

Savings tip: Book by February 7 and enter promo code 6576 at time of checkout to save 15 percent off the price of this or any new Intrepid trip.

Cost: $1,395 per person (plus trip kitty of €50)

Dates: April 28; May 5, 12, 19, 26; June 2, 9, 16, 23, 30; July 7, 14, 21, 28; August 4, 11, 18, 25; September 1, 8, 15, 22, 29; October 6, 13

Honorable Mentions

For those who love cycling—or would if there weren't so many hills—Breakaway Adventures is introducing a six-night, inn-to-inn clockwise loop of the Netherlands originating in Amsterdam. Fairy-tale-esque, flowery, and most of all flat, this trip ($2,669 per person) is a perfect introduction (or re-introduction) to the joys of overseas cycling adventures.

AdventureWomen, which specializes in female-only trips for active women over 30, is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2012 with a host of new trips. One of the highlights is a nine-day Italian Dolomites hiking adventure ($3,895 per person). Day hikes range from moderate to high energy.

Inexpensive, scenic, and just right for a quick getaway, REI Adventures' three-day Adirondacks Snowshoeing trip ($420 per person for members, $465 for nonmembers) is the perfect way to embrace the Great Outdoors this winter. The proverbial cherry on top? You'll stay at a remote two-story log cabin overlooking the Ausable Valley.

See more Incredible New Adventures for 2012.