London, Rome, and New York are all great places to visit, but have you ever thought about going off the beaten path for your next trip? Nothing quite beats a unique experience so where should you go? Here are some alternative travel experiences to consider this year and how much they’ll cost you.
Meet mountain gorillas in Uganda
Forget zoos, nothing’s quite as thrilling as seeing gorillas in their natural habitat. You’ll have to make a trip to Uganda to get up close to them but you won’t be disappointed. A local guide and tracker at Queen Elizabeth National Park will take you up the mountain where the trek through the rainforest will take you to the home of the gorillas. Be patient, as you may need to cross into neighbouring Rwanda to see these magnificent beasts.
Topdeck Travel’s Troop to the Gorillas 6-day trip starts from $1,008 per person
See the ‘the end of the world’ in Russia
For centuries, the Nenets, a tribe of nomadic reindeer herders have remained relatively isolated, but now they’re inviting visitors to come see their daily lives. To reach their village located above the arctic circle, you’ll need to take an overnight train from St Petersburg, bus, and Trekol (six-wheeled amphibious all-terrain vehicle). Once you arrive, you’ll be greeted by temperatures that hit -50°C as well as a community of people that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. You’ll learn about life in these harsh conditions and how to ice fish.
Intrepid Travel’s Footsteps of Russia’s Reindeer Herders 15-day trip starts from $4,440 per person
Treasures of the Balkans
Where the Mediterranean meets Central Europe, The Balkans has become a popular spot over the years, but it still doesn’t get a crush of tourists like other parts of Europe. In Sarajevo, you can learn how the city has recovered from the horrors of the Bosnian War and how it has blossomed into a city with curious architecture and warm hospitality. In Bucharest, the University Square and the former Communist Headquarters will give you a detailed look at their past while the Parliament Palace is one of the largest buildings in the world. Get inspired by stories from locals who have seen it all and share those tales when you return home.
Insight Vacations’ Treasures of the Balkans 19-day trip starts from $4,946 per person
Visit a cemetery and hear murder stories in Romania
Bucharest is a great city to visit, but did you know it has a dark side? Romania’s capital has a secret history which usually isn’t mentioned in guidebooks which is why a local tour is a must when you’re in town. Learn about Bucharest’s very own Jack the Ripper and visit Bellu Cemetery where many great Romanians are buried. A trip to a former brothel will educate you about the 12,000 prostitutes and escorts working in Romania in the late 1920’s. This checkered past may seem seedy, but you’ll quickly learn that these events helped shape Romania into what it is today.
Urban Adventures’ Tour the Dark Side of Bucharest lasts 3 hours and starts from $43 per person
Ski the slopes in Japan
Sure you could head to Banff or Whistler to ski, but if you head to Japan to hit the powder, you’ll have serious bragging rights. After landing in Tokyo, you’ll make your way to Hakuba which is a village in the Japanese Alps just outside of Nagano. Besides spending a few days hitting the slopes, this area of Japan is home to snow monkeys which can be seen seasonally. After a day of skiing, you can relax in an onsen (Japanese hot spring) or slurp down some ramen to warm yourself up.
Topdeck Travel’s Japan Ski 7-day trip starts from $2,624 per person
Experience ‘The World of Hunger Games’ in Dubai
That’s right, fans of the blockbuster movie series The Hunger Games can enter the fantastical world of Panem at MOTIONGATE Dubai. Yes, this is a zone at a theme park, but this is truly a unique experience that fans shouldn’t miss out on. The World of The Hunger Games features two incredible rides, a live street show featuring District 12’s coal miners, exclusive video content of fan favourites including Effie Trinket and Caesar Flickerman, and much more. President Snow even makes an appearance and invites you to take an aerial tour of Panem.
Entry to MOTIONGATE Dubai costs $82 CA for a day pass
Hike to a hidden Kathmandu monastery
If you made your way to Nepal, the odds are you’ll want to explore everything. A good way to get your bearings is by taking a guided tour. Visit the sleeping Buddha ( Vishnu) at Buddanilkantha temple before hiking through the last remaining woodlands near Kathmandu. If you’re visiting from July to September, you can catch the rice planting season. Shivapuri National Park doesn’t get much attention from tourists, but after a 2.5 hour hike, you’ll reach Nangi Gompa, a “hidden” Buddhist monastery.
Urban Adventures’ Path to a Hidden Monastery lasts 7 hours and starts from $72 per person
Southern spice in In India
Most people who head to India have the Taj Mahal as their number one destination, but head south and you’ll discover incredible India in its purest form. In Chennai, the Kapaleeshwarar Temple and Chennai Fort are a great introduction to life in India. Over in Pondicherry, you can enjoy local vegetarian foods before you head out to Auroville, an experimental community that focuses on peace and sustainability. Periyar National Park may be famous for being a tiger reserve, but it’s also a spice plantation. For a truly unique experience, cruise down the Kerala backwaters on a traditional houseboat and watch life pass by you.
Contiki’s Southern Spice 11-day trip starts from $2,363 per person