Best of Adventure 2008
Top Destinations: Where to Go Now
National Geographic Adventure finds the top destinations for 2008 and beyond.Text by Bonnie Tsui
National Geographic Adventure announces the top destinations in six environments for 2008 and beyond. Discover why these countries garnered our highest praise and then find out how to experience them for yourself.
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The Top Destinations for 2008While Venezuela's Hugo Chávez has been busy stealing headlines, his once crazy Andean neighbor is quietly settling down—and tourism is heating up. With its vibrant colonial cities, whitewashed mountain villages, mist-laden coffee country, and rapidly developing tourism infrastructure, Colombia could one day give Costa Rica a run for its money.
Mountain: Colombia >>
Water: Albania >>
Forest: Senegal >>
Snow: Spitsbergern, Norway >>
Desert: Mongolia >>
Road Trip: India >>
Where to Go Now
YOUR PLAN: Visit the resurgent cities of Medellín and Cartagena, then hit a local finca along the mountainous coffee highway on a 16-day trip with Wild Frontiers ($4,050; www.wildfrontiers.co.uk). EcoTurs Colombia offers two-week birding forays within the spectacular Fundación ProAves nature reserves, home to a bevy of endemic species like the endangered blue-billed curassow ($200 per day; www.ecotours.com.co).
Water: Albania Thanks to nearly five decades of Communist totalitarian rule, the quirky, coastal country of Albania missed out on most of Europe's postWorld War II development. With democratic reforms in place, early bird visitors are flocking to the unspoiled white-sand beaches along the Adriatic coast and the slew of unique archaeological sites nestled in the nation's mountainous interior. Think Croatia before the boom.
YOUR PLAN: On a new 12-day trip from Geographic Expeditions, you'll hit inland highlights like medieval castles and palaces, then head north along the Adriatic coast, stopping at historic towns and empty beaches all the way into Montenegro ($5,995; www.geoex.com).
Forest: Senegal A quantum leap from the drive-by-safari-lands of East Africa, Senegal is rife with mangrove and baobab forests, beach-flecked coastlines, and isolated hamlets. A new generation of travelers is rediscovering its charms, along with some new hotels and wilderness lodges: Openings in recent years include the treehouse suites of Lodge des Collines de Niassam ($125; www.niassam.com).
YOUR PLAN: Wilderness Travel has a new, two-week small-yacht expedition to the lush river deltas of Senegal and the Gambia, where baobabs and mangroves mark the meeting of river and sea, and villages emerge from the jungle unexpectedly ($6,395; www.wildernesstravel.com).
Snow: Spitsbergen, Norway Long an environmental research outpost, the Arctic island of Spitsbergen has lately earned fame as ground zero in the climate debate. Perhaps that's because visitors get a firsthand view of what's at stake—a panoply of calving glaciers, rich wildlife, and yawning fjords.
YOUR PLAN: GAP Adventures runs an eco-friendly nine-day cruise focused on spotting whales, polar bears, and glaciers ($2,895; www.gapadventures.com). World Expeditions offers an 11-day circumnavigation of Spitsbergen and its outlying islands and icebergs ($3,590; www.worldexpeditions.com).
As you would expect of one of the world's most sparsely populated countries, Mongolia's trekking is phenomenal, through vacant stretches of desert, steppe, and high mountains. But the reason to be bayaraa (Mongolian for "hyped") now is that 2008 marks the planned opening of the Terelj Hotel, a luxe abode within Gorkhi-Terelj National Park ($546; www.tereljhotel.com), and the premiere of Mongol, a tale of the young Genghis Khan, which features vista after vista of sweeping landscapes.
YOUR PLAN: Time your trip with the total solar eclipse on August 1. Outfitters like Tusker Trail and Sirius Travel are arranging their trekking and cultural tours to sync with the celestial event ($4,380, www.tusker.com; $4,150, www.siriustravel.com).
Road Trip: India Even with nearly 30 reserves across the country, India's Bengal tigers are suffering declines. Nice, then, that in 2007 Taj Hotels and CC Africa opened Mahua Kothi and Baghvan—the first upscale resorts dedicated to big cat conservation—and plan to open two more luxury camps this year, each a day's drive from the next ($725 per person; www.tajsafaris.com). The four will form one of the most unique wildlife safari circuits anywhere.
YOUR PLAN: All lodges lie within the state of Madhya Pradesh and offer daily tiger-spotting safaris, but their surrounding landscapes vary dramatically, from open grasslands to teak forests to lush river valleys. Pick a pair and shuttle in between.
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