Top 10 expeditions around the world

What do our best expeditions have in common? For one thing, while they may roam some pretty inhospitable landscapes – deserts, rainforests, glaciers – there’s never any shortage of hospitality. Expect plenty of camaraderie around the campfire… once you’ve helped pitch the tents and collect the wood, that is. For another, these trips are packed with offbeat adventure, whether you’re washing under bucket showers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, taking in a spiritual performance at a private dervish lodge in Turkey, or wrapping up for horse-drawn ice sledding in Mongolia.

But most of all, these trips are about the wonder of discovery. You’ll encounter places, cultures and experiences that most people never get close to. These are vacations for those who aren’t content just to see the world; they want to reach out and touch it.

Read on for our top 10 expeditions of the world...

1. Bengal tigers & Buddhism in Bangladesh

Often overlooked in favour of India and Southeast Asia, for a small country Bangladesh offers a surprisingly large range of experiences. Explore the Sundarbans mangrove forests in the Ganges Delta by boat, with the chance to see dolphins, wander fragrant tea plantations, watch as fishermen use their trained otters to round up the catch, and immerse yourself in the effervescent atmosphere the capital, Dhaka.

When to go: October to January
Our top trip: Bangladesh vacation
See all our trips: Bangladesh vacations
Read more: Bangladesh travel guide

2. Border-hopping African safari

While they never lose their thrill, many modern safaris can feel a little paint-by-numbers, ticking off sightings and returning to accommodations that could easily fit into any other backdrop. A completely different safari experience comes with an expedition through Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, wild camping in remote places, sharing tasks with the group, and enjoying spectacular and often unexpected wildlife encounters.

When to go: July
Our top trip: Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe expedition safari
See all our trips: Safari vacations
Read more: Safari travel guide

3. The Snowman Trek in northern Bhutan

Billed as the ultimate trekking experience in the remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, this adventure sees you tackle no fewer than 11 mountain passes, all of them over 4,500m, across 27 days. Joining a small group led by a professional guide and accompanied by porters carrying your camping gear, you’ll embark on what many consider one of the greatest walking routes on the planet: the Snowman Trek.

When to go: October
Our top trip: Snowman Trek in Bhutan
See all our trips: Bhutan adventure vacations
Read more: Snowman Trek travel guide

4. Cruise & camp in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

“The Congo is the ultimate adventure,” says Jim Louth, founder of our expeditions specialist Undiscovered Destinations. “It’s a vast country and incredibly challenging to get around, with few good roads, which is why our trip goes by boat. The local people never see tourists. When I started this business, it was one of the places I most wanted to feature.” Now Jim has put together this unforgettable adventure of cruising and camping along one of the world’s great rivers.

When to go: September to November
Our top trip: Congo river expedition
See all our trips: Democratic Republic of the Congo vacations
Read more: Democratic Republic of the Congo travel guide

5. Arctic adventure in Spitsbergen

Based in an expedition lodge reachable only by boat in summer, and where the ethos is ‘back to basics’ (i.e. no running water or electricity) but still comfortable, this is an activity vacation with a truly spectacular setting: the Nordenskiöld Glacier, on the edge of a fjord. From the lodge you’ll kayak on pristine waters, trek on the glacier, and spot all manner of Arctic wildlife – including polar bears, with luck.

When to go: June to August
Our top trip: Spitsbergen activity vacation
See all our trips: Spitsbergen vacations
Read more: Spitsbergen travel guide

6. Winter wilderness & ice festivals in Mongolia

Venture into the frozen wilds of northern Mongolia’s Khovsgol Nuur National Park on an expedition designed in conjunction with a herding family from the Darkhad people for an authentic introduction to life in Khovsgol communities. Traveling in traditional horse-drawn sleighs insulated with goatskin blankets, you’ll finish at a festival where ice-themed events include skating, driving and tug of war.

When to go: February
Our top trip: Mongolia tour: winter landscapes and Khovsgol Ice Festival
See all our trips: Mongolia adventure vacations
Read more: Mongolia travel guide

7. Wilderness kayaking in Canada’s Desolation Sound

It may be called Desolation Sound, but this calm stretch of water in the Canadian wilderness is anything but bleak. More like awe-inspiring. And for sea kayakers it’s nothing short of paradise, with a gorgeous Mediterranean climate in the summer, towering mountains for your backdrop, and islands for wild camping every night. To eat? The freshest seafood purchased from fishermen along the way.

When to go: August and September
Our top trip: Desolation Sound kayaking expedition
See all our trips: Sea kayaking vacations
Read more: Sea kayaking travel guide

8. Culture, nature & adventure in Madagascar

It may be the world’s fourth-largest island, while its lemur population is justly famous, but Madagascar still has an air of mystery. Lift the lid on Madagascar’s cultural and natural wonders with a relaxed tour by foot and by riverboat that takes in national parks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites but also little-visited, welcoming communities that survive by fishing and hunter-gathering.

When to go: July to October
Our top trip: Madgascar vacation, overland adventure
See all our trips: Madagascar adventure vacations
Read more: Madagascar adventure travel guide

9. Cape Town to Cairo – overland

Epic in every sense of the word, the full duration of this overland tour the length of Africa would be 18 weeks in total, however most choose to do just one or two stages. This is very much a ‘hands-on, everyone mucks in together’ kind of trip. You’ll be camping the whole way, buying food in local communities, and sharing an incredible experience that leads to strong bonds forming between travelers.

When to go: All year-round
Our top trip: Cape Town to Cairo overland tour
See all our trips: Overland truck tours
Read more: Africa overland travel guide

10. Souks & desert sands in Sudan

Only the most intrepid of travelers have reached the sands of Sudan, where some of Africa’s most outstanding archaeological sites can be found along with Nubian villages, colourful souks, riverside churches and desert necropolises. Set against a constantly changing backdrop of otherworldly landscapes, this expedition juxtaposes ancient civilisations with a beguiling taste of modern Sudan.

When to go: October to April
Our top trip: Sudan vacation
See all our trips: Sudan vacations
Read more: Sudan travel guide
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Ben Duchac] [1. Bengal tigers & Buddhism in Bangladesh: Vincent van Zalinge] [5. Arctic adventure in Spitsbergen: Roderick Eime] [7. Wilderness kayaking in Canada’s Desolation Sound: Rebecca Bollwitt] [10. Souks & desert sands in Sudan: Vit Hassan]