CYPRUS (2006 Winner)
Mountain-Biking the Trails of the Troodos
For a trip to fat-tire nirvana, try this six-day, 170-mile mountain-bike excursion on the island of Cyprus, south of Turkey. Pedal over rocky singletrack, fire roads, and chalky foothills, all of which have a mountain backdrop or a Mediterranean view. Your base camp is the Pendeli Hotel, in the high-country resort of Platres. From here, take daily cross-country explorations into the 6,000-foot Troodos Mountains, offering cool riding conditions even under the summer sun. Terrain is a mixed bag: technically demanding loose rocks and tight turns, scrappy climbs, fast traverses, and even faster descents. Ride up skittish slopes to the 6,401-foot summit of Chionistra and down to the sea, but be sure to pack that extra tube: The support vehicle can't follow you here. Postride, swim laps, soak in the hot tub, or have a sauna back at the family-run Pendeli Hotel.
Outfitter: KE Adventure, 800-497-9675, www.keadventure.com
When to Go: June, July, September
Sea-Kayaking the Mediterranean Coast
Price: from $3,495
Scout Turkey's dramatic Mediterranean shoreline from the cockpit of a sea kayak on this eight-day multisport adventure. Then explore it on foot with a local guide, visiting ancient Lycian rock tombs, Apollo's birthplace, and tiny Kas, a chic and lively 2,400-year-old village. A luxurious wooden gulet with a gourmet chef is your floating hotel, but the starry nights will make you ditch your stateroom for a mattress on deck. Paddle your kayak along empty beaches before dipping into Greece to snorkel over sunken ruins.
Outfitter: The Northwest Passage, 800-732-7328, www.nwpassage.com
When to Go: September-October
Price: from $4,995
Once home to the Queen of Sheba, Yemen had an advanced civilization more than 3,000 years ago. While security concerns have deterred visits in recent years, conditions seem to be improving. Over 18 days, you'll explore the diverse Arabian countryside. Begin in Sana'a, the 7,425-foot-high capital, then travel to the hilltop villages of the north before winding down in seaside al-Makallah. En route, sleep in castles right out of the Arabian Nights, wander through colorful, spice-infused souks, and four-wheel through steep-walled dry riverbeds.
Outfitter: Geographic Expeditions, 800-777-8183, www.geoex.com
When to Go: March and November
BELARUS, UKRAINE & MOLDOVA
Touring New Republics
Newly designed for 2006—Ukraine recently dropped visa requirements for U.S. citizens, and expanded flights have made the area more accessible—this 16-day cultural traverse starts in Minsk and heads south, for visits to cathedrals in Kiev, Yalta's seaside homes (where Pushkin and Chekhov summered), and the marble Livadia Palace. You'll sleep in charming four-star hotels, hike the Black Sea coast, and taste wine in Moldova, the unsung charmer of Eastern Europe.
Outfitter: Mir Corporation, 800-424-7289, www.mircorp.com
When to Go: May, August