Published: November 2008

Best New Adventure Travel Trips: Asia

The 25 best new trips in the world.
Text by Claire Martin
Everest for Everyone
Mount Rainier, training ground for Ed Viesturs and Jim Whittaker, is traditionally Americans’ go-to peak for big-mountain prep. But there’s no better high-altitude test site than the Himalaya. Summit Climb’s inaugural Everest View Glacier School teaches mountaineering basics in the shadow of Everest itself. After trekking into the Khumbu Valley, spending nights at traditional teahouses, and following a portion of the route to Everest Base Camp, novices learn glacier rope techniques, crevasse rescue, ice climbing, and snow camping. The team then launches an assault on 19,800-foot Lobuche East in Everest National Park—with views from the summit of Lhotse, Makalu, Ama Dablam, and Everest. "I can guarantee they’ll be thinking, What would it be like to go up there?" says 20-year mountaineering veteran Dan Mazur. An Adventurer of the Year in 2006 (he sacrificed his own Everest summit bid to help save the life of Australian climber Lincoln Hall), Mazur leads the trip’s team of 30 Sherpa instructors. Climbers return home with the skills and altitude experience to attempt one of the easier 8,000-meter peaks like Cho Oyu the following year. And then, who knows, Everest could be next.

Outfitter: Summit Climb;
Price: $2,450
Length: 22 days
Departs: April, May, October

Next: India: The Amazing Megafauna Race

The Amazing Megafauna Race
Most guides in India take the path of least resistance, visiting big (and often ecologically threatened) national parks where the logistics are straightforward. But not Wild Planet Adventures. If India’s largest rhino population migrates to a region so remote it requires an extra flight, WPA charters a plane. If finding those rhinos means riding elephants into Himalayan foothills, WPA hires mahouts. "We’re known for creative logistics to get clients to animals at the right times and the right places," says company president Josh Cohen. To that end, WPA is constantly modifying itineraries based on the most up-to-date animal sightings, forming partnerships with local wildlife experts, and spearheading animal conservation efforts. The payoff is a dizzyingly exotic safari, beginning in Siana with a camelback excursion among one of India’s largest leopard populations (bonus sightings include Indian striped hyenas, chinkara gazelles, jungle cats, and blue bull antelopes). The journey continues into Assam, on the border of Bhutan, for rhino tracking and a unique riverboat safari in Nameri National Park. On the river, animal encounters are guaranteed: Thirsty tigers, elephants, clouded leopards, Indian bison, pangolins (giant anteaters), civet cats, and capped langurs (tree-dwelling primates) congregate at water’s edge.

Outfitter: Wild Planet Adventures;
Price: $4,500
Length: 13 days
Departs: November–May

Next: Taiwan: More Chinese Than China

More Chinese Than China
With over a hundred hikable peaks above 10,000 feet, Taiwan stands shoulder to shoulder with the world’s great trekking destinations. But hikers still equate the nine-million-acre island with Happy Meal trinkets, not snowcapped summits. In 2009 Asia specialist KE Adventure Travel leads a tour of Taiwan’s spectacular trail-and-mountain-hut network (paths date back to the early 20th-century Japanese occupation). "You can go from a very tropical, bustling Chinese city to remote mountains very quickly," says trip leader Richard Price. Taiwan was spared the destruction of China’s Cultural Revolution, so in many ways it’s more Chinese than mainland China (thousands of temples are still in use). The island, 125 miles off the coast, is a mix of marsh, broad-leaved woodland, cloud forest, and five ranges. Thirteen-thousand-foot Jade Mountain is the crown jewel of KE’s hiking trips. "Walking along the spine you’ll experience the different ecological zones and have a great view of other mountain ranges," says Price. There, far from the crowds of Taipei, your chances of seeing small Asiatic bears, marmots, ferrets, and butterflies are better than seeing humans.

Outfitter: KE Adventure Travel;
Price: $2,945
Length: 15 days
Departs: April, October

Next: Indonesia: Where There Be Dragons

Where There Be Dragons
Komodo National Park, in the heart of the Indonesian archipelago, is surrounded by some of the world’s best dive sites (craters on the seafloor, 4,000 species of fish and marine mammals). But who are we kidding? The real draw here is the prehistoric, mythological-looking Komodo dragon. The largest monitor lizards on Earth, Komodos can reach a length of ten feet (roughly one Verne Troyer plus one Yao Ming), with the heft of an NFL lineman (300 pounds). The dragons, however, prefer the taste of deer to humans. Indeed, you can sidle up beside the beasts while they’re lounging on the beach or slithering through the savanna and cloud forest. Remote Lands specializes in custom itineraries, often running trips in the off-season. "On the cusp between the rainy and dry seasons—March and April—you’ll have the park all to yourself," says company co-founder Catherine Heald. Remote Lands bases clients on its own yacht and coordinates volunteer work in local schools and cooking demonstrations in a village on Flores. Working with RL’s Indonesia specialists, travelers set their itinerary, including the number of scuba dives in the Flores Sea, how often they’ll get ferried to land for dragon tracking, and what time their private masseur and chef will be ready each day.

Outfitter: Remote Lands;
Price: $1,000 per person, per day, including domestic airfare
Length: 4-day minimum
Departs: Year-round

Next: Russia: Volcano-Hop in Kamchatka

Volcano-Hop in Kamchatka
When the Russian government petitioned UNESCO to protect the volcanoes of Kamchatka Peninsula as a World Heritage site, it made its case simply: "[Kamchatka] represents the most volcanically active region in the world." The 29 active cones alone were enough to warrant World Heritage status in 1996, and they were enough to lure KE Adventure Travel here in 2009. KE’s trip hits four peaks (one contains 11 craters); clients rest between summit attempts in three-star hotels, tents, mountain huts, and hot springs. The most difficult (and rewarding) day is the 6,232-foot ascent of 10,120-foot Plosky Tolbachik. The trek begins by traversing two steaming cinder cones and a petrified forest, then continues into lava caves created during the volcano’s last major eruption in 1975. En route to the summit, keep an eye out for gigantic volcanic bombs (boulders formed when globes of lava were ejected from the volcano). After the descent, vodka flows as freely as magma back at camp, which is set at the base of Vodopadnaya falls.

Outfitter: KE Adventure Travel;
Price: $4,195
Length: 15 days
Departs: July