Picture of mountaineer in the Himalayan Mountains

A mountaineer absorbs the sunset view of Everest in Khumbu, Nepal, part of a tour offered by One World Trekking.

Photograph by Colin Monteath, Minden Pictures/Naitonal Geographic Stock

By Margaret Loftus

Nepal: Everest at 60

Traveling to Everest—even if only to its base—takes on special significance in 2013, the 60th anniversary of the first successful ascent of the mountain. Follow in the footsteps of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay through the village of Namche Bazaar and the glacial valley of Khunde; hike up Kala Pattar for a famous view of the Big E on the southwest ridge of Mount Pumori; and stand in awe of the Khumbu Icefall, which marks the South Col, the route blazed by the maverick climbers. Base camp awaits, buzzing with the excitement of the anniversary celebration, mountaineering expeditions preparing for summit bids, and the start of the annual Hillary and Tenzing marathon. One World Trekking: “Everest Base Camp 60th Anniversary Trek,” 18 days; $3,360; www.oneworldtrekking.com

Jordan: Carpet Ride

Jordanian guide Yamaan Safady leads this journey he pioneered on Bedouin hunting paths through rugged desert, slot canyons, and mountainous terrain to the “back door” of Petra. Relax over evening meals of kebabs, hummus, olives, and fresh pita bread in traditional Bedouin camps filled with tribal rugs and plush, overstuffed pillows. Your reward is a rare approach to the monastery and ancient city, rediscovered by Swiss explorer Johann Burckhardt in 1812. Wildland Adventures: “Bedouin Trek to Petra,” 12 days; $4,995; www.wildland.com

Oman: Under the Arab Sky

The frankincense trade made Ubar one of the richest cities on the Arabian Peninsula until the desert swallowed it without a trace, according to Arab lore. Poke around the ruins of what experts believe is the lost city in the vast sand of the Empty Quarter. The trip launches in exotic Muscat and traces the craggy coast of the sultanate before plunging into the interior. Bed down under the stars, in luxury mobile tents. Big Five Tours and Expeditions: “Caravans of the Bedu,” 12 days; $15,000; www.bigfive.com

Kyrgyzstan, China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan: The Silk Road Less Traveled

Experience the historical trading route through the eyes of seminomadic people who host you: Share a vodka toast at a shepherd’s camp on the glacial Song-Köl lake; overnight in a communal yurt where caravans rest in Tash-Rabat; and stay with an eagle hunter on the shores of Lake Issyk-Köl. Wild Frontiers: “Silk Road Odyssey,” 23 days; $4,869; wildfrontiers.co.uk

Indonesia: Theoretical Cruise

Evolutionary ideas? Darwin wasn’t the only one. Nineteenth-century British scientist Alfred Russel Wallace came up with similar theories after traveling widely in Malaysia and Indonesia, where he noted marked differences between the same animal species across a narrow strait in the archipelago (Wallace’s line). Naturalist Tony Whitten narrates select voyages aboard the traditionally built 12-cabin schooner Ombak Putih, exploring the flora and fauna that inspired Wallace’s work and commemorating the 100th anniversary of his death. SeaTrek Sailing Adventures: “Ternate–Halmahera–Morotai–Raja Ampat–Sorong,” 12 days; $4,750; www.seatrekbali.com

Russia: Rushing Waters

Veteran guide Vladimir Gavrilov leads the adventure company’s debut rafting expedition down the Chuya and Bashkaus Rivers and through rocky canyons deep in the expansive wilderness that is southern Siberia. In between running rapids (Class 3-4), explore the Altay villages of Saratan and Ust’ Ulagan and check out the unique petroglyphs of the Chuya Trakt. Northwest Rafting Company: “European Body, Asian Soul: Chuya and Bashkaus River Expedition in Russia,” 16 days; $4,495; www.nwrafting.com

Timor-Leste: Off the Radar

Officially split from Indonesia in 2002, Timor-Leste (East Timor) is one of the world’s newest, and least touristed, countries. Visit this topographical and cultural wonderland with one of the few Western companies guiding trips there. Climb the 9,721-foot Mount Ramelau to take in the sunrise, hike through old-growth tropical forests looking for prehistoric rock paintings, and share ikan sabuko (fish cooked in banana leaves) with the villagers of Loi Huno. Mountain Travel Sobek: “Journey of Discovery in Timor-Leste,” 12 days; $3,495; www.mtsobek.com

Cambodia: Wild Mekong

The monuments of the Khmer civilization are the star attraction of Cambodia, but its wildlife and bird sanctuaries shouldn’t be missed. See it all on this compelling itinerary; highlights are a balloon ride over Angkor Wat and a stint helping staff at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre prepare food for its more than 100 resident sun bears. The Asia expert’s nonprofit partner, READ Global, has established 689 libraries throughout the continent. Myths and Mountains: “Untamed Cambodia,” 14 days; $2,995; www.mythsandmountains.com

Mongolia: The Real Deal

Based on the 1920s expeditions of Roy Chapman Andrews—American Museum of Natural History director and the alleged inspiration for Indiana Jones—this journey traces the Beijing-Kalgan-Urga trail, used for centuries by camel caravans between China and Mongolia. In Gobi, your own caravan passes dunes and the Flaming Cliffs, where Andrews famously discovered the first fossilized dinosaur eggs the modern world had ever seen. Nomadic Expeditions: “Across Mongolian Plains,” 16 days; $8,960; www.nomadicexpeditions.com

India: Temples and Tea

The cultural capital of India and onetime seat of the British Raj, Kolkata kicks off a quirky itinerary through the state of Orissa, home to numerous historic temples, notably Puri’s 13th-century sandstone Sun Temple, which legend says was constructed by Lord Krishna’s son, and the tea highlands, the summer stomping grounds of the raja. Immersion Journeys: “East India: Temple Mythology and Mountain Peaks,” 15 days; $6,250; www.immersionjourneys.com

China: Oriental Banquet

Chinese food maven Fuchsia Dunlop guides chowhounds from Beijing to Shanghai to taste each region’s specialties. There’s Peking duck in the capital, Sichuan hot pot in Chengdu, and lamb skewers roasted over coals at Xi’an’s Muslim Quarter market in the evening. Work up an appetite between meals with cooking demonstrations and visits to the regions’ musts: the giant panda breeding center and the terra-cotta warriors. WildChina: “Gastronomic Tour of China,” 13 days; $6,880; www.wildchina.com

Myanmar, Bhutan: Festival Finder

Here’s the rare journey that pairs two of the world’s best-preserved cultures. Tag along with Asia pro Denise Gogarty to experience traditional ceremonies of each: rites for novitiates at a Buddhist Burmese monastery, a lamp-lighting ceremony at Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar (Burma), and the colorful masked dances of Bhutan’s Thimphu Tshechu festival. Cox and Kings: “Dream Trip—Burma and Bhutan,” 14 days; $8,520; www.coxandkingsusa.com

Japan: Ancient Way

Once trod by feudal lords and their entourages, the Nakasendo trail linking Tokyo and Kyoto grounds 21st-century travelers in timeless, rural Japan. Walk by day, stopping in the evening at one of the route’s 69 preserved “post” villages for a hot-springs soak and overnight at a ryokan. And repeat. Oxalis Adventures: “Nakasendo Trail,” 12 days; $4,150; www.oxalis-adventures.com

Contributing editor Margaret Loftus has reported and written “Tours of a Lifetime” for the past eight years.

Take a Nat Geo Trip

Select a destination or trip type to find a trip:

See All Trips »

Join Nat Geo Travel's Communities




2014 Traveler Photo Contest

  • Picture of people on the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

    Enter Today to Win!

    Submit your best shots for a chance to be featured in our weekly galleries and to win a grand prize trip for two to Alaska.