These guided tours are part of National Geographic Traveler's 50 Tours of a Lifetime for 2010 for the outfitters' commitment to authenticity, immersion, sustainability, and connection.
Canada: To the Yukon
Prospectors who wanted to try their luck during the Klondike Gold Rush had to build their own rafts for the daunting journey down the Yukon River to the goldfields in Dawson. Now, a geotourism venture is retracing their route through this pristine wilderness via riverboat, floatplanes, and private outposts on traditional lands of the outfitter’s First Nations partners. Great River Journey: “Yukon River Geotour,” 7 days, $6,495.
U.S. Southwest: Southwest Treasures
Ken Burns’s 2009 television documentary on the history of America’s national parks was a reminder that some of the world’s most spectacular landscapes are in our own backyard. From the monolith stone sculptures of Zion to the eerie hoodoos of Bryce Canyon to the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde to the magnificent Grand Canyon, this ambitious trip explores six southwestern national parks, guiding travelers to the sweet spots in each. Discovery Adventures: “Historic Parks of the American Southwest,” 12 days, $2,599.
ACTIVE • VALUE
Canada: High Arctic Adventure
Winding its way through the tundra-covered hills of Canada’s Baffin Island, the Soper River supports a lush array of Arctic wildflowers and willow forests and a dense concentration of wildlife, including caribou, foxes, wolves, and rough-legged hawks. Hike, canoe, and raft on this tributary, designated a Canadian Heritage River, in 24-hour daylight, winding up in the former Hudson Bay Company trading post of Kimmirut for an overnight with villagers, many of whom are still fluent in Inuktitut. Canadian River Expeditions: “Soper River, Baffin Island,” 10 days, $6,210 (including round-trip airfare from Iqaluit).
Alaska, U.S.: Off the Grid
Smack in the middle of the four-million-acre Lake Clark National Park—one of the least visited parks in the U.S. with 5,000 visitors a year—Twin Lakes is accessible only by floatplane. Kayak, hike, and camp in this backcountry best known for its famous inhabitant, Dick Proenneke, the subject of the PBS series Alone in the Wilderness that depicted his Thoreau-like existence here from 1968 to 1999. Alaska Alpine Adventures: “Twin Lakes Paddle,” 7 days, $3,150.
Arizona, U.S.: From Rim to Shining Rim
Most people take in the Grand Canyon from a vantage point somewhere along its rim, but nothing can come close to the challenging and exhilarating experience of hiking the gorge rim to rim, staying in lodges. Strike out on the North Kaibab Trail toward the historic (and barebones) Phantom Ranch on the canyon floor, where you’ll rest up for the last hurrah—a nearly ten-mile trek some 4,400 feet up Bright Angel Trail. This tour debuts in May 2011. Arizona Outback Adventures: “Rim to Rim Hiker,” 5 days, $1,995.
Cuba: Time Warp
It may become a whole lot easier to travel to Cuba in the future, but here’s a chance to experience the island in all of its time-warped glory. The travel arm of this nonprofit human rights organization has been leading educational tours here for more than 20 years. Find out how the country became a model for sustainability and celebrate New Year’s Eve in Havana. Global Exchange Reality Tours: “Sustainable Cuba,” 10 days, $2,550, including roundtrip airfare from Cancún, Mexico.
CULTURE • VALUE