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5. Great National Parks

Peru: Become a Park Pioneer

National Geographic Adventure's picks for the 25 best new outfitted trips.
Text by Bonnie Tsui   Photograph courtesy of Earthwatch Institute

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Baby turtle in Peru

WHAT'S NEW: In 2001, north-central Peru's Cordillera Azul became a protected national park after biologists in partnership with the Chicago-based Field Museum discovered 28 unknown-to-science species of plants and animals in the 5,225-square-mile (13,533-square-kilometer) preserve. Thus far, only four expeditions have been allowed to enter this diverse Andean mountainscape filled with cloud forests, marshlands, and lowland valleys; next year, Sierra Club Outings makes history by leading the first public group into the park. 

 On the Sierra Club's pioneering team, you'll backpack, raft, camp, canoe, and fly by Peruvian police helicopter to unexplored regions of mountain and thick forest. You'll see big cats, Andean bears, and recently discovered bird species such as the scarlet-banded barbet. How did guide John O'Donnell gain access to scout the trip? By making the rounds with his daughter, Hilary, a former Field Museum anthropologist. "It's a true wilderness that has experienced very little alteration by mankind," he says. He's not kidding: A group of what scientists call "uncontacted" indigenous people resides in the park, living essentially the same lifestyle they have for thousands of years—complete with bows and arrows and poison blow darts. "We probably won't run into them," says O'Donnell, "but just knowing that these people are there speaks to the wildness of the place."


Outfitter: Sierra Club Outings (

18 days




Cover: Adventure magazine

Our November 2006 issue features the best new adventure travel trips; an exclusive look inside Iran; a Greenland global warming report; backcountry spas; digital cameras; travel Web sites; weekend getaways; and more.

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