Jonny Bealby, owner of Wild Frontiers Adventure Travel, selects his five favourite adventure destinations for those looking for something a little out of the ordinary for their holidays.
Jonny Bealby has always been passionate about travel and keen on adventure. His journeys, from travelling the length of Africa by motorbike to hiking through the mountains of Afghanistan, inspired him to set up his own travel company, Wild Frontiers, who offer adventure holidays worldwide. Here he selects his five favourite adventure holiday destinations.
With so many places to choose from it’s hard to narrow it down, but here are five destinations which are definitely under the radar as far as traditional holiday destinations go, but which offer the adventurous traveller a rewarding and memorable holiday experience.
The FCO advice against travel to Kashmir changed in November 2012, opening up the region and making it one of the hot destinations for 2013. It’s a great place for hiking in the clean air, amongst beautiful lakes and mountains, or chilling out and enjoying the peace of Lak Dal on a houseboat. For the ultimate houseboat experience, I recommend the luxurious new Sukoon Houseboat. There is also the rich and exotic Kashmiri cuisine, with its extensive use of turmeric, saffron and yoghurt, absolutely delicious. Wild Frontiers have been operating in Kashmir for a decade, so we know this iconic region like no-one else.
For my money, Kyrgyzstan, with its lush green mountains, sweeping steppe, huge skies and turquoise lakes, is the most beautiful of all the Central Asian ‘Stans’. For the adventure traveller it has the lot: trekking; jeep safaris; a fascinating local culture; and the best horse riding in the world. The interaction with locals is a real highlight, and on our trips you can stay with nomadic families, and experience first-hand the tremendous hospitality and fascinating stories of these proud people.
In terms of short haul destinations, there are few places that feel as different or as exotic as arriving in Georgia after a 6 –hour flight. The Grand Caucasus Mountains stretch from the Black Sea coast to the shores of the Caspian Sea, and provide a stunning backdrop, with snowy peaks and lush green valleys that turn into a blanket of wild flowers in the springtime. The country is dotted with picturesque mountain towns, ancient churches and crusader castles, and the rock-carved monasteries of Vardzia are a must-see. Add to this the fascinating history, amazing cuisine and superb wine, and it is hard to understand why Georgia remains such a undiscovered gem.
I couldn’t put a list of my favourite adventure holiday destinations without including Pakistan. It was from here that I ran our first trip in 1998, a trip that Wild Frontiers still runs today and one that is always very popular. Highlights include staying with the Kalash in Chitral, walking over the Shandur Pass and relaxing on top of the world in the Hunza Valley, where you can see seven 7,000 metre peaks from the one spot, literally breathtaking.
Finally, if you are the type of person that has been to most places and is looking for something completely different, an obscure country to tick off perhaps, a journey down the Congo River on a tour to the Democratic Republic of Congo is something you’ll be telling your friends about forever. Travel some 1,000 miles along one of Africa’s greatest rivers, visiting some of the last surviving bands of pygmies, through dense rainforest and remote villages, on one of the last great adventures left in Africa. As far as adventure holidays go, this trip is as out there as they come.