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Washington, D.C. — Track white “spirit” bears in British Columbia. Saddle up for the Inca Trail in Peru. Hike and make pasta in Italy. Take the kids to Vietnam. Visit Civil War battlefields in the Mid-Atlantic. These are just some of the 50 guided tours selected by National Geographic Traveler in its sixth annual “Tours of a Lifetime” list featured in the magazine’s May/June 2011 issue.
The editorial team combed the world to find the most authentic, most innovative, most immersive, best-guided, and most sustainable tours. “The outfitters we selected continue to find new ways for travelers to connect with places and people,” notes senior editor Norie Quintos, who headed up the project. “More and more, it’s about human interaction.”
Part of that human interaction is the guide. This year the magazine also highlighted 10 great guides who exemplify the new model of guiding. “Where once they were walking encyclopedias, today’s great guides are often a little like life coaches, asking questions to help you get the most out of your trip and pushing you out of your comfort zone,” says Quintos.
The 50 Tours of a Lifetime include:
*A cruise on the Volga River with Exeter International, to explore the Russian countryside and learn Tsarist history from a Russia scholar.
*A tiger safari and cultural tour in India by Wildland Adventures, including commentary from leading wildlife conservationists and lunch in a private home in the Blue City of Jodhpur.
*A two-wheeled tour through the heart of eastern Europe by ExperiencePlus! Bicycle Tours. Cyclists follow the Danube from Regensburg, the northernmost bend in the river, to Budapest, dining on local fare and sleeping at small inns.
*A tour through the Mid-Atlantic states with Civil War Tours, to learn about the history that led to the Civil War 150 years ago.
*A volunteer trip to Thailand by Planeterra Foundation combining sightseeing in Chiang Mai and a stint pitching in at a school for needy kids in Phuket.
For a complete list of tours and outfitters, visit our website after April 20 at travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/tours
National Geographic Traveler is the world’s most widely read travel magazine, with more than 7.5 million readers. Its readers love to travel, with the highest passport ownership, the most international and domestic trips, and the most outdoor-recreation spending of any other travel title.
Complete list of 2011 Tours of a Lifetime:
Tours of a Lifetime 2011:
Remote Lands: “Sri Lanka Reborn in Peace,” Sri Lanka.
Wildland Adventures: “Tigers and Travels Through India,” India.
Big Five: “China: Captivating Visions & Timeless Horizons,” China.
Butterfield & Robinson: “Myanmar Biking,” Myanmar.
Destination Himalaya: “Photographer’s Tibet: To the Roof of the World,” China, Nepal.
Horizon & Co.: “Vietnam Family Adventure,” Vietnam.
Wild Frontiers Adventure Travel: “Hindu Kush Adventure,” Pakistan.
Planeterra Foundation: “Volunteer with Children in Phuket,” Thailand.
ECHO River Trips: “Rafting Siberia’s Kaa-Khem River,” Russia.
World Expeditions: “Mongolia in the Footsteps of the Nomad,” Mongolia.
Intrepid Travel: “Sumatran Highlights,” Indonesia.
Cox & Kings: “Empires Past,” Lebanon, Syria.
Journeys International: “Adventures with Apes, Arts & Dragons,” Indonesia.
ExperiencePlus! Bicycle Tours: “Bicycling the Danube,” Austria, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia.
Wilderness Travel: “Great Hikes and Chefs of Northern Italy’s Gourmet Trail,” Italy.
Wilderness Scotland: “The Scottish Sea Kayak Trail,” United Kingdom.
Artisans of Leisure: “Southern Spain & Morocco,” Spain, Morocco.
KE Adventure: “High Jinks in Bulgaria,” Bulgaria.
Maris Freighter & Specialty Cruises: “Croatia’s Coastal Voyages,” Croatia.
Ciclismo Classico: “Mediterranean Island Hopping,” France, Italy.
Exeter International: “Moscow to Astrakhan Lower Volga Cruise,” Russia.
EpicQuest: “Rhone Valley Fall Harvest Mountain Biking Adventure,” Switzerland.
Quark Expeditions: “Three Arctic Islands: Triple the Adventure,” Greenland, Iceland, Norway
MIR Corporation: “Eastern Turkey and Georgia: Legacy of Empire,” Georgia, Turkey.
ENF Canada: “Under the Snow and Ice,” Canada.
Civil War Tours: “The First Years of the Civil War,” Mid-Atlantic States, US.
Journey Mexico: “Semana Santa Copper Canyon Hiking Trip,” Mexico.
O.A.R.S.: “The Ultimate Grand Canyon Experience,” Southwest, US.
Maple Leaf Adventures: “Great Bear Rainforest Adventure,” Canada.
Alaska Mountain Guides & Climbing School: “Glacier Bay Traverse,” Alaska, US.
Distant Journeys: “Western Maine Mountains,” Maine, US.
Elevate Destinations: “Haiti: Jacmel Community School Volunteer Build-out,” Haiti.
Mark Thornton Safaris: “Epic Serengeti Bush Trek,” Tanzania.
Zegrahm and Eco Expeditions: “Voyage through the Red Sea,” Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Eritrea Africa Adventure Company: “Eyes on Elephant,” Zimbabwe.
National Geographic Expeditions: “Human Origins,” South Africa, Tanzania
Ker & Downey: “Uncovering Alexander’s Egypt: A Desert & Diving Expedition,” Egypt.
Trufflepig Travels: “Bushman Initiation Hunt & Kubu Island Quad Bike Safari,” Botswana
Gap Adventures: “Ghana Untouched,” Ghana.
Polar Explorers: “Centennial South Pole Expedition,” Antarctica.
Cultural Crossroads: “Maori Celebration in New Zealand,” New Zealand.
Natural Habitat Adventures: “Wild Papua New Guinea,” New Guinea.
Marine Encounters: “Tiger Shark & Turtle Tagging Expedition,” Australia.
Wilderness Explorers: “Amerindian Guyana,” Guyana.
Tour d’Afrique: “Samba Tango Bicycle Expedition: Rio de Janerio to Buenos Aires,” Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay. Andante Travels: “The Maya in Guatemala and Belize,” Belize, Guatemala, Honduras.
Southern Explorations: “Galápagos Supreme,” Ecuador.
Mountain Lodges of Peru: “Lodge-to-Lodge Ride to Machu Picchu,” Peru.
Adventure Associates: “The Lost City, Journey to the 10th Century in Colombia,” Colombia.
Compass Expeditions: “Patagonia Explorer,” Argentina, Chile.
Complete list of 2011 featured guides:
Roberto Strippoli, of Backroads
Kennedy Omwenga, of Micato Safaris
Nic Polenakis, of Africa Adventure Company
Alfredo and Joaquin Meneses, of Southern Explorations and others
Peter Hillary, of National Geographic Expeditions
Lel Tone, of EpicQuest
Annie Dowling, of Tauck
Monica and Maria Elena Malpezzi Price, of Experience Plus! Bicycle Tours