14. Visit the Thousand Camel Festival,
THE DEAL: Fly deep into Mongolia's Gobi Desert for eight days to catch the Thousand Camel Festival, an annual celebration that involves camel racing, camel polo, traditional music, dances, and homemade vodka. After a day wandering the markets of Ulaanbaatar, hop a 90-minute flight to Dalanzadgad, in southern Mongolia, where the festival unfolds for the next two days. You'll stay in hotels and gers (yurts) at the Three Camel Lodge, on the Gobi's steppes. Side trips take you to places like the Flaming Cliffs, a fossil-rich area of glowing orange rock, and Gorkhi Terelj National Park. Price above includes sample round-trip airfare from New York ($1,685), meals, transfers, in-country flights, and seven nights' accommodation (three in hotels, four in comfortable camps).
THE FINE PRINT: Dates are setJanuary 26-February 2, 2004and winters aren't exactly toasty in Mongolia (in January, high temperatures average 15 degrees Fahrenheit).
CONTACT: Nomadic Expeditions, 800-998-6634, www.nomadicexpeditions.com PRICE: $3,049
THE DEAL: For two weeks you'll hike, bike, paddle, and swim your way around New Zealand's South Island, getting your fill of serene parks, seal colonies, and the snowy Southern Alps. You'll also spend three days backpacking through Nelson Lakes National Park and holing up in scenic shelters like the Angelus Hut, perched above tree line between two mountain lakes. Options include mountain-biking the 44-mile Queen Charlotte Track, kayaking in Queen Charlotte Sound, or heli-hiking on the tourmaline Franz Josef Glacier. Spend nights in B&Bs like the spacious Homestead, in Makarora. Price above includes sample round-trip airfare between Los Angeles and Christchurch ($1,050), 14 days of activities, 13 nights' accommodation, transportation, and meals. Six-day multisport trips to Alaska can cost just as much.
THE FINE PRINT: Some activities will run extra (heli-hiking: $100).
CONTACT: Active New Zealand, 800-500-3398, www.activenewzealand.com
HIGH SIERRA A.T. GEAR ACCESS You want the convenience of a wheeled duffel, but the versatility of a backpack. Well, thank High Sierra for its clever hybrid. The front-loading compartment (2,310 cubic inches) is spare and simple, with compression straps to hold several days' worth of clothes and sundries. The detachable 923-cubic-inch daypack is big enough for a sandwich, parka, and camera. ($100; 800-323-9590, www.hssc.com)