Travel Age West – Exploring Travel Favorites and Frontiers

Last year was a good year of travel for me. It entailed bicycling between San Francisco and Los Angeles twice and hiking in the post-typhoon stricken mountains of Taiwan whilst combating blood-sucking leeches. I owe my love for active exploration to my dad and the vacations we had together whitewater rafting, biking down volcanoes in Maui and horseback riding in the outskirts of Puerto Vallarta.

With Vagabond Guided Tours, clients travel along Ireland’s Sliver Strand in four-wheel-drive Land Rovers. // (C) Vagabond Guided Tours

Venturing out for an active adventure is a thrill that I strongly advocate, but I also realize that it may not be the right fit for everyone. However, if your clients want an adventure with the traditional perks of a vacation, I recommend booking an escorted adventure tour.

With customizable itineraries, stellar accommodations and new technologies, clients of all ages, interests, skill levels and physical conditions can unleash their spirit of adventure. There are active tours to suit any client’s thirst for adventure — you just have to know where to look.

Island Hop in the Galapagos
A major draw of adventure touring is an immersion into the destination’s surrounding sights, feelings, sounds and smells. Active Journeys’ ( Ecuador Floating Adventure offers just this kind of intimate experience.

Priced at $3,325 per person, this eight-day, multi-sport tour combines the luxuries of a cruise with awe-inspiring shore excursions inspired by Charles Darwin, landing at some of the most pristine outer islands of the Galapagos.

Lisa Didus, an Active Adventures manager, recently went on this trip herself.

“The trip is well suited for almost everyone,” said Didus. “The pace was slow and steady and definitely relaxing. It was a real vacation, away from phones and back to basics, with good food, a great boat and long conversations under the stars — what could be better?”

Clients can spot marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies and Galapagos Penguins, and they’ll also be able to hike over lava fields, climb to the summit of a once-active volcano and observe giant tortoises like Darwin once did.

Get Off the Road in Ireland
Another appeal of adventure tours is that most are off the beaten track and, at Vagabond Guided Tours ( in Ireland, that’s a specialty.

“Our passengers’ days are spent exploring some of Ireland’s most remote and beautiful areas, learning all about Irish history and culture, meeting the locals and enjoying the active elements of the tours,” said Vagabond owner Rob Rankin. “By the trip’s end, they know that they have seen and done things that none of the other tourists there will have experienced.”

Each tour has no more than 13 travelers. Vagabond offers three- to 11-day tours ranging from about $636 to $2,290 per person, and all participants travel via four-wheel-drive Land Rovers.

Clients should take advantage of the 11-day Giant Irish Adventure, which practically covers the entire island. According to Vagabond, participants on this tour will see more wild moorland, rugged mountain ranges, hidden valleys and remote beaches than the typical Ireland native. Options for sea kayaking, horseback riding, surfing and leisurely activities such as seaweed baths and beach barbecues are also included, as are visits to local Irish pubs for a pint or two — or three.

Go Where It’s 98 Percent Ice
Adventure traveling also gives clients an excuse to go outside of their comfort zone, and those who really want to push the envelope can do so in Antarctica. Last year, iExplore ( sent a record number of travelers to Antarctica, making it its number-one selling destination. Its 20-day Explorers Quest tour encompasses an expedition aboard an ice-strengthened ship, starting at $7,890 per person.

“Antarctica is on so many of my clients’ ‘must-see lists,’” said iExplore adventure consultant Rosemary Burki. “Many say that global warming has encouraged them to get there sooner than later.”

The trip begins and ends in Ushuaia, Argentina. During the trip, clients sail to the remote Falkland Islands, isolated South Georgia, the South Shetland Islands, the Antarctic Peninsula and the Drake Passage, engaging in adrenaline-pumping activities such as cross-country skiing, kayaking and mountaineering.

Cycle Switzerland
Not all adventure tours have to be physically demanding, however. Breakaway Adventures (, a leading U.S.-based independent cycling tour specialist believes that adventure is a spirit — not a test of physical tolerance. Its summertime cycling tour of the Swiss Lakes ensures two-wheeled fun for everyone with the option of electronic “e-bike” rentals.

“With e-bikes, our clients can enjoy this beautiful Swiss Lakes region on the French border at an even more leisurely pace,” said Carol Keskitalo, managing director. “And at the end of the day, guests simply charge the bike battery in their hotel room alongside their cell phone and other essential travel gadgets.”

The terrain surrounding the lakes is beautifully flat, and a nine-day tour, starting at $2,672 per person, takes clients through virtually traffic-free roads. Serene wheat fields, sleepy villages, medieval castles, grapevines and pinewoods juxtaposed with Alpine views are a few of the sights participants can expect to see as they pedal from one quaint inn to the other.

Ski With Snow Monkeys
Clients wanting to book their next snow-bound vacation should turn their heads to the new skiing frontiers of northern Japan, where snow is in abundance from November through March. Maloob Active’s ( 10-day ski safari starts at $2,565 per person, including the cost of ski equipment.

“Japan is becoming a haven for skiers from all around the globe, and these relatively new slopes provide challenges for everyone from beginners to even the most experienced heli-skiers,” said Chris Bampton-Clare, a Maloob adventure specialist.

On this tour, clients will spend four nights in Shigakogen, the world’s largest ski resort (and host of the 1998 Winter Olympics), followed by a relaxing stay in Yudanaka, home to native Japanese snow monkeys that are notorious for loitering around the town’s many volcanic hot springs. The final four days of the trip are spent at the Happo One resort in Hakuba, which offers 437 acres of terrain, 3,514 feet of vertical descent and some of the best conditions for powder snow skiing.