The Perfect Directions, January 1999
We all know the virtues of the road less traveled. Here are plenty of paths to choose from.
Egypt: Sailing the Nile
An unhurried 15-day, 150-mile journey downriver from Luxor to Aswan, traveling by traditional 35-foot felucca, train, and private bus. You'll also get a chance to snorkel the Red Sea.
Ethiopia: Touring the Tribal Homelands of the Omo Valley
A 15-day jeep tour of the scrubby, termite-mound-dotted savanna homelands of isolated tribes that still practice such centuries-old traditions as body painting and scarification.
Malawi: Horseback Riding in Nyika National Park
Ride and camp for 10 days on a grassland plateau you'll share with antelope, eland, reedbucks, warthogs, and a mind-boggling assortment of birds, including Denham's bustard and the chrring cisticola.
Namibia: Tending to Cheetahs in the Kalahari Desert
During this four-week volunteer program, you'll work with wildlife biologists examining and tending to convalescing cheetahs and take part in a project that provides sheepdogs to ranchers in hopes of minimizing future livestock kills.
Tanzania: Climbing the Back Way Up Kilimanjaro
A 16- to 21-day journey culminating in a rigorous, weeklong ascent of the 19,340-foot summit of Africa's highest mountain — via routes far less mobbed than the Marangu tourist trail. Includes a post- or pre-climb mini safari.
Trans-Africa: Trucking Overland from Nairobi to Capetown
An epic nine-week, 7,000-mile-plus 4WD-truck journey through southeastern Africa, with stops at the Ngorongoro Crater, Okavango Delta, Masai Mara, and Serengeti, for starters. You'll help cook, wash, and push the truck out of quagmires.
Tunisia: Mountain-Biking the South
A self-supported 15-day, 540-mile bike trip from the fishing island of Djerba to the ancient capital of Tunis. You'll explore bedouin encampments and second-century Phoenician ruins — and rest up in troglodyte caverns and oasis hotels.
Uganda: Rafting the Victoria Nile
A two-week, 65-mile expedition down the Class IV and V rapids of one of the world's most romanticized rivers. You'll raft from Lake Victoria to the thundering basalt fissure of Murchison Falls.
Zimbabwe: Walking Safari in Matuzviadonha National Park
An old-fashioned safari week — minus the Land Rover. Includes three days of tracking rhinos on Lake Kariba's southern shore as well as three days of backpacking in the Matuzviadonha Range. Fear not: You'll never be far from your armed guide.
Australia: Sea-Kayaking the Daintree Coast
An 80-mile paddle from Cape Tribulation to Cooktown along the only coastline where two World Heritage Sites — the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park — meet. You'll snorkel live coral reefs and camp on the beach.
China: Trekking to Mind Mountain
A 21- to 25-day trek to the sanctuary valley of 22,107-foot Kawakarpo, aka Mind Mountain, a sacred Buddhist peak in the remote Yunnan Province, whose mountains shelter Tibetan culture. On the approach, you'll explore the more traditional towns of Lijiang and Dechen.
Fiji: Paddling the Rainforest
Who knew there was an inland Fiji? A weeklong journey into this diving Valhalla's tropical heart — rafting the Class III-IV Navau River and floating via inflatable kayak down the waterfall-spangled Class II Luva.
India: Riding Rajasthan on Horseback
A 22-day canter through India's Aravalli Hills and Thar Desert, with accommodations ranging from tents to farmhouses to a maharaja's lakeside palace, including stops at sandstone-walled Jaisalmer and the 25,000-dromedary-strong (and tourist-scarce) camel fair at Nagaur.
Indonesia: Cycling Bali
Leave the honeymoon resorts behind on this 10- to 15-day, 200- to 250-mile pedal through Bali's interior, a shockingly verdant landscape of steep terraces and active volcanoes, thatch-roofed villages and ancient Hindu temples.
Japan: Mountain-Biking Hokkaido
A 13-day, 450-mile tour on the paved and dirt roads of Japan's wildest and least populated island. You'll log 50 miles a day along the rocky beaches south of Sapporo and then head north to alpine Asahikawa, bunking at roadside campgrounds equipped with soothing traditional baths.
Niue: Swimming with Spinner Dolphins
Eight days of quality time with spinner dolphins, which congregate in record numbers near this 100-square-mile south Pacific atoll. You'll snorkel with the spinners daily, spot migrating humpback whales, hike the rainforest, and explore ocean caves.
Pakistan: Traversing the Karakoram
A five-week, 180-mile trek from the Hushe Valley to the Hunza via 18,318-foot Gondogoro La, through Concordia, and on to K2 base camp. From there you'll cross two rubble-strewn glaciers to reach Snow Lake and then descent to the Hunza's rice paddies and popular groves.
Tibet: Trekking to Everest's Kangshung Face
A 23- to 30-day excursion to Everest's rarely visited east side. From Lhasa, you'll make the four-day drive to Kharta and then walk through three dwarf-rhododendron-carpeted valleys before crossing 17,000-foot Langma La and driving to Kathmandu.
The Alps: Rafting the Noce, Inn, Soca, and Otztalerache Rivers
Twelve days in Italy, Austria, and Slovenia, rafting Class III-IV rapids, h king the Dolomites, mountain-biking five roads, and negotiating slot canyons. The Soca, a thickly forested, granite-peak-lined Slovenian gem, is just being discovered by Europe's whitewater crowd.
France: Hiking in the Diois and Vercors
A nine- to 10-day hike through a rural pocket of valleys and chalk mountains tucked between Provence and the Alps. From the Roman town of Die, you'll pass by fields of lavender, the sacred peak of La Glandasse, and the vineyards that produce the sparkling Clairette de Die wine.
Italy: Cycling the Grand Tour
Tuscany, Umbria, Veneto, Lombardy, Romany, Abruzzo: Why bike one when you can bike them all? Itineraries vary from 12 to 15 days and 300 to 700 miles; all promise your fill of purple artichoke and red poppy fields, as well as natural hot springs.
Norway: Kayaking the Southern Heidal Valley and Vestlandet
Paddling a nine-day smorgasbord of Class III-V on more than a dozen rivers in Scandinavia's finest whitewater region. From rustic wooden cabins on the banks of the Sjoa, near Norway's national kayak training center, you'll make daily runs down steep, narrow canyons.
Oman: Exploring the Empty Quarter
An eight- to 13-day 4WD desert tour exploring the Dhofer Mountains, the vast Wahiba Sands, and the magnificent Arabian Sea coastline, with possible stops in Muscat, where dhows are still made by hand, and slow-paced Salalah, where men drink bitter coffee amid tamarisk trees.
Romania: Hiking the Transylvanian Alps
Trekking 15 days and 120 miles through the Fagaras, Bucegi, and Lezer massifs and the alpine meadows of the Dimbovita region. You'll stop at Count Dracula's castle, perched ominously on its rocky knoll, and scramble up 8,350-foot Moldoveanu, Romania's highest peak.
Scotland: Walking the Isle of Harris
A weeklong ramble across a windswept island off Scotland's west coast. From the sprawling old Harris Hotel, you'll follow switchbacks that rise sharply from the white shell-sand beaches up to the tops of rubbly cliffs.
Spain: Cycling the Camino de Santiago
Follow the ancient pilgrimage route on two wheels: a seven to 12-day, 330-mile pedal from Burgos to Santiago do Compostela and the burial place of Spain's patron, St. James. Like pilgrims of old, you may also walk or ride horseback on parts of the route.
Turkey: Paddling the Turquoise Coast
An active twist on the classic sailing trip via Turkish gulet: From the wooden "mother ship," eight sea kayaks make daily forays. You'll paddle 15 days and 60 miles from the fishing village of Kalkan to Phaselis, where Alexander the Great wintered while capturing ancient Termessos.
Alaska: Biking the Alaska Highway
Riding 12 to 23 days along what may be the only paved highway on the continent where wolves, grizzlies, and bald eagles take the place of billboards, and hot springs, azure lakes, and snowcapped peaks stand in for rest areas.
Florida: Adventure-Sailing the Keys
An eight- or 14-day Outward Bound voyage in a 30-foot, ketch-rigged pulling boat — your basic open whaling craft. You'll sail (and row) the aquarium-clear waters around the southern Everglades, Cape Sable, and the Marqesas Islands, sleeping aboard or camping on uninhabited islands.
Mexico: Hiking Copper Canyon
An eight- to 10-day burro-supported trek through the parched mesas of North America's largest canyon system — the mile-deep home turf of the Tarahumara Indians — with hair-raising jeep journeys in and out of the canyon.
Newfoundland: Dogsledding in Gros Morne National Park
Mushing for five days on the glacier-carved high plateau of the Long Range Mountains, a World Heritage Site visited mostly by moose, lynx, caribou, and arctic hares. You'll follow centuries-old dogsled trails through fishing communities accessible only by sled, snowmobile, or in summer, boat.
New York/Vermont: Inn-to-Inn Sea Kayaking on Lake Champlain
Two to four days of shoreline paddling with overnights and home-style cooking at lakefront B&Bs. Some of the longer itineraries include an ascent of 5.344-foot Mount Marcy, New York's highest peak.
Trinidad: Walking the North Coast
A week of rugged hiking along an old donkey trail from Mount Plaisir to the small coastal fishing village of Blanchisseuse. You'll traverse beaches and rainforest, climb 3,072-foot El Tucuche, and finish up with a stay at a guesthouse- and tea-garden-endowed Benedictine monastery.
Utah: Trekking in Grant Staircase-Escalante National Monument
Five or six days of camping and hiking the classic bedrock of America's newest great park, with llamas or horses shouldering the load. From high-desert base camps, you'll day-trek into a red-rock panorama dotted with groves of manzanitas, ponderosas, and in September, autumn-yellow aspens.
Wyoming: Climbing the Grand Teton
A four-day workshop that includes two days of basic and intermediate instruction in rope handling, belaying, repelling, and rock climbing, followed by a two-day ascent of the 13,776-foot Grand via the Owen-Spaulding, Exum, or Pownall-Gilkey routes.
Yukon: Paddling the Primrose
A rugged eight-day river trip via paddle-raft and inflatable tandem sea kayak through the Class IV Upper and Lower Primrose Canyons and across Primrose, Rose, and Kusawa Lakes. Includes a helicopter porage around a spectacular 170-foot waterfall.
Antarctica: Ski Mountaineering in Queen Maud Land
A pioneering — and pricey — 21-day expedition to the recently opened Holtedahl Mountains. You'll fly from Capetown via C-130 to an ice runway at Blue One Camp and then ski among, or scale, mostly unclimbed, daggerlike peaks that rise up to 10,000 feet above this snow-blanketed Mars.
Argentina: Climbing Aconcagua via the Guanacos Valley Route
Tackling the 22,834-foot summit of the highest peak outside the Himalayas via a new route that's harder to approach and hence virtually untraveled. You'll see plenty of llama-like guanacos but very few turistas on this nontechnical but physically demanding 20-day ascent.
Belize: Beach-to-Beach Cat Sailing in the Southern Cays
A spray-filled week of island hopping among the thousands of white-sand specks south of Ambergris Cay. You'll skipper two-person, 18-foot catamarans between overnights in rustic thatch beach lodges.
Bolivia: Sea-Kayaking from the Andes to the Amazon
An altitudinally schizophrenic nine- to 15-day paddling trip that starts on 12,500-foot Titicaca, the world's highest navigable lake, and puddle-jumps to the Mamore, a lowland river in the Amazon Basin. You'll float amid freshwater dolphins and camp on islands that were sacred to the Inca.
Chile: Trekking the Futaleufu
Eight days and 50 miles of hiking through Patagonia's green-and-granite answer to Yosemite. You'll trek beside, rather than hurtle down, the mythic Futaleufu River's Class V whitewater, ply outrigger canoes across two alpine lakes, and bed down in gazebos with hot tubs.
Panama: Exploring the San Blas Islands
A 15-day, 80-mile sea-kayaking excursion from Isla Tigre to Kuanidup in the barrier islands that are home to Panama's Kuna nation. You'll swim the coral reef, snorkel with rays and porpoises, and sleep in Kuna-built cabins.
Peru: Hiking the Desert Coast
Hiking nine days and 110 miles among the seals, flamingos, and whale fossils that populate the Paracas nature Reserve's arid Pacific shore, with a pre-hike boat tour of the bird-filled San Gallan Islands and a post-hike flyover of the mysterious 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines.
Suriname: Studying Endangered Sea Turtles
A weeklong stay at a tiny solar-powered beach resort in Galibi Nature Reserve, one of the world's largest turtle nesting grounds. You'll have front-row seats for the parade of leatherback, green, and giant olive ridley turtles laying their eggs in the sand.
Venezuela: Horseback Riding on the Beaches of Isla Margarita
Cantering for a week along the sandy shores of this boardsailing mecca's undeveloped Macanao Peninsula. You'll ride 50 miles in all. Unmounted pursuits include swimming, snorkeling, and gorging on freshly grilled dorado.