2007 Trip of the Year Winners

The best of the best

Feb 21, 2007
Outside Magazine
Aysen Glacier Trail, Chile

The Soler Valley on the Aysén Glacier Trail, Chile    Photo: Patagonia Adventure Expeditions

Overall Winner
Trek to the Source of the Tsangpo, Tibet
The last time trekking guide Gary McCue set out to explore far-western Tibet, he happened upon an acre-size hot spring that tumbled from a mountainside near Lake Manasarovar. "I'd never seen a boiling creek just come crashing out of a hole in the ground," he says. But it's just the sort of surprise the Tasmania-based author of Trekking in Tibet: A Traveler's Guide has come to expect from this part of the world. Tourism may be booming—the controversial new Qinghai-Tibet Railway helped bump up visitation to Tibet by 30 percent last year—but much of this mysterious land of Buddhist temples and mist-shrouded peaks remains blissfully unexplored by outsiders. This spring, McCue will return to the Himalayas on a quest to reach the source of the Tsangpo River, the mightiest of four rivers that flow from the sacred 22,028-foot peak of Kailas. The 42-day exploratory trek is the first commercial expedition to a pilgrimage site very few Westerners have seen since a Swedish explorer hiked nearby in the early 1900s. After driving across the plains from Lhasa to Darchen, you'll trek the perimeter of Kailas before camping in the Lha Chu Valley during the annual Saga Dawa full-moon festival. Then you'll start the weeklong journey through a glacial valley to Tamchok Khabab, the river's source. The trip ends with a visit to the temple-strewn Limi Valley, a newly opened region of western Nepal. "It's hard to find wilderness this wild and remote that doesn't require Reinhold Messner-level skills to reach," says McCue. "It's the closest you can come to what the explorers experienced 150 years ago." OUTFITTER: Wilderness Travel, 800-368-2794, wildernesstravel.com; PRICE: $10,560–$13,160; DIFFICULTY: Challenging; WHEN TO GO: May–June

North America
Cross The USA On Two Wheels
This epic, coast-to-coast challenge takes you from Santa Barbara, California, to Charleston, South Carolina—2,949 miles with 167,000 vertical feet of climbing—in 33 grueling days. You'll pedal on two-lane blacktop across the Mojave Desert, over Rocky Mountain passes, and through southern prairies en route to the Atlantic seaboard, staying in roadside hotels along the way. You'll earn a lifetime's worth of bragging rights (you're averaging a century ride per day) and get a two-wheeled take on the classic American landscapes that most travelers experience only as a blur through the car window. Just be sure to remember to dip a toe in both the Pacific and Atlantic or your efforts might be in vain. OUTFITTER: Trek Travel, 866-464-8735, trektravel.com; PRICE: $10,000; DIFFICULTY: Challenging; WHEN TO GO: September–October

Polar Regions
Canoe With The Caribou In Alaska
The 23-million-acre National Petroleum Reserve, on Alaska's north coast, holds the largest swath of unprotected wilderness in the U.S.—and you needn't look beyond its name to guess its primary purpose. But the region harbors much more than black gold: Half a million western arctic caribou march across its sprawling plains each year, along with grizzlies and wolves. On this 11-day trip, you'll follow the herd by foot and in two-person canoes on the untamed Kokolik River, hiking where woolly mammoths and saber-toothed tigers once roamed. OUTFITTER: Equinox Wilderness Expeditions, 604-222-1219, equinoxexpeditions.com;PRICE: $4,495; DIFFICULTY: Moderate; WHEN TO GO: June

South America
Three Jewels Of Aysén, Chile
This isolated piece of Patagonia, where the population density is just 1.2 people per square mile, is framed by vast icefields that feed blue-green rivers and streams so pure you can drink from them. The 27-day, 132-mile expedition combines three seldom-traveled routes: the Cerro Castillo hike, where you'll camp amid the basalt spires and crags that gave Castle Hill its name; the Aysén Glacier Trail, a year-old hut-to-hut circuit through an unspoiled wilderness dotted with glacial lakes; and on to the icefields surrounding 11,073-foot FitzRoy, where iconic Andean peaks rise dramatically from the frozen lowlands. OUTFITTER: Patagonia Adventure Expeditions, 011-56-67-219894, adventurepatagonia.com; PRICE: $4,850; DIFFICULTY: Challenging; WHEN TO GO: January

Eastern Europe & the Middle East
Journey Through Ancient Oman
Just east of Saudi Arabia, on the Arabian Sea, centuries-old shepherd trails crisscross the rocky ridges and deep wadis of the Al Hajar range, which rises 10,000 feet above Oman's placid northern coastline. It's the Middle East that doesn't make the nightly news, and it's virgin territory for most American travelers. On this ten-day trip, you'll trek and camp in lush valleys filled with date palms, in ancient sand-colored villages that blend seamlessly with the surrounding hills, and on a sugary beach where you can snorkel in a sapphire bay. OUTFITTER: KE Adventure Travel, 800-497-9675, keadventure.com; PRICE: $1,995; DIFFICULTY: Moderate; WHEN TO GO: March–April, November–January

Western Europe
Giro Del Gelato, Italy
Finally, a trip that acknowledges the number-one reason we cycle in Italy. Vacations don't get much sweeter than this eight-day ride through southern Piedmont with gelato-making genius Danilo Zecchin, of Ciao Bella Gelato. Pedaling an average of 40 miles per day on paved roads that roll through vineyards and over patchworked hills, you'll work up just enough hunger for the copious Italian dinners, private wine tastings, and all-you-can-eat frozen treats. Recharge at 500-year-old castles and 17th-century farmhouses as the chef spills the secrets behind his sinful concoctions. Then pedal, gorge, repeat. OUTFITTER: Ciclismo Classico, 800-866-7314, ciclismoclassico.com; PRICE: $3,995; DIFFICULTY: Moderate; WHEN TO GO: May

Discover Rinjani, Indonesia
If trekking near active volcanoes isn't daunting enough, how about climbing a few—including the 12,224-foot Gunung Rinjani, on the island of Lombok, east of Bali, via a scenic new route to its unexplored southern rim. On this ten-day trip, you'll start in the village of Aibuka, scramble to the gorgeous Sengara Anak crater lake, then paddle inflatable rafts to the base of Gunung Baru (7,752 feet), an active young volcano in mid-lake. After topping that "warm-up" peak, you'll soak in surrounding hot springs, then trek to Rinjani base camp. The push to the summit begins under a full moon at 2 a.m. and ends at about sunrise. OUTFITTER: No Roads Expeditions, 011-03-9502-3789, noroads.com.au; PRICE: $1,422; DIFFICULTY: Challenging; WHEN TO GO: May–June

Bahamas, Mexico & Central America
Island-Hop In Nicaragua
If the crater lakes and verdant slopes of Nicaragua's volcanoes have hosted few adventurers, it's not for lack of suitable terrain. The playground potential in the rumpled topography of this fun mecca rivals that of its neighbors. This nine-day trip takes you island-hopping by kayak in Lake Nicaragua, hiking through a rainforest, and wandering among the pre-Columbian artifacts, caves, and rock art of Zapatera National Park. You'll spend most nights in wilderness lodges, where howler monkeys provide the morning wake-up call. OUTFITTER: Mountain Travel Sobek, 888-687-6235, mtsobek.com; PRICE: $2,690–$2,990 (plus $150 internal airfare); DIFFICULTY: Easy; WHEN TO GO: January–February, October–December

Dive Into Palau's Shark Week
Reef sharks in the midst of mating season are the headliners at Shark Week, the Micronesian Shark Foundation's annual conservation-oriented celebration of these cartilaginous creatures. Expect cameos from silvertip, tiger, and hammerhead sharks, among others, as you explore the reefs and walls of underwater Palau on this ten-day, resort-based expedition. By day, a 28-foot boat will take you to dive sites, many of which are open only during this event; the nights are enhanced by lectures from experts on sharksand preservation. OUTFITTER: Oceanic Society Natural History Expeditions, 800-326-7491, oceanic-society.org; PRICE: $2,990–$3,490; DIFFICULTY: Moderate; WHEN TO GO: March

Paddle Madagascar
Long isolated from the flora and fauna of the African mainland, the world's fourth-largest island teems with evolutionary anomalies, such as the 30 lemur species and countless other miscellaneous critters that exist nowhere else on earth. You'll hear a cacophony of grunts and wails as you kayak the aquamarine water of the Indian Ocean through the newly designated Masoala National Park. Inland you'll paddle on calm rivers and lakes through forest reserves on this 18-day adventure. In the tropical home of indiris, sifakas, and octopus trees, you'll sleep in wilderness lodges and camp on palm-shaded beaches where you can snorkel in secluded lagoons few outsiders have seen. OUTFITTER: Explorers Corner, 510-559-8099, explorerscorner.com; PRICE:$4,553; DIFFICULTY: Moderate; WHEN TO GO: October–November

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