The world gets smaller every year, making its most scenic, previously off-limits spots more accessible than ever.
From joining an Antarctica expedition with Conrad Anker to seeing polar bears in Norway, here are seven trips we’re excited about for the new year.
Get a mountain lake in Canada all to yourself
There aren’t many places left in North America where you can take in stunning mountain scenery without another traveler in sight — all less than two hours from a major city.
But, just north of Vancouver, British Columbia’s rugged Cariboo Chilcotin Coast region, which has one of the world’s highest concentrations of grizzlies, is as remote as it is scenic.
Yoho Adventures’ Coast Mountain Getaway Adventure starts with a float plane that drops a maximum of seven guests into an otherwise inaccessible mountain lake.
“We bring people to places they can’t get to on their own,” explains Yoho co-founder Christina Simpkins.
“We try to reconnect people with these remote places and the power of what nature really is.”
If you want to reconnect without anyone else around, this is the place.
For seven days, travelers hike alpine trails, canoe lakes, take scenic flights over glaciers and boat the fjords near the First Nations town of Bella Coola.
And, all the while, keep an eye out for resident grizzlies.
Nights are spent in back country cabins and hot springs — all amidst some of the highest and most pristine mountain wilderness in the world.
Coast Mountain Getaway by Yoho Adventures; +1 250 302 9719; week-long trips take place in August and September; $2,995 per person
Antarctica with Conrad Anker
He may not have been the first to the South Pole, but Sir Ernest Shackleton’s legend lives on thanks to his refusal to give up in the face of every conceivable adversity.
In 2016, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Shackleton’s death-defying trip to save his stranded men, Wilderness Travel is offering a much cushier cruise.
Travelers aboard the “Hebrides” visit Antarctica, Elephant Island (where Shackleton’s stranded men huddled for four cold months) and South Georgia Island, which he somehow managed to sail 800 miles to in an open lifeboat — through a hurricane.
This expedition is meant to enrich the mind as well as your Instagram feed.
Guests such as famed climber Conrad Anker and photographer Frans Lanting are aboard to lead educational workshops.
Assuming you get better weather than the men of the appropriately named “Endurance” faced in 1916, you’ll have the opportunity to take zodiacs ashore and explore Antarctic waters by sea kayak.
Legendary Explorers by Wilderness Travel; +1 800 368 2794; cruise takes place November 29-December 18, 2016; from $14,995 per person
Galapagos in a totally new way
This famously diverse archipelago is a once-in-a-lifetime trip for good reason.
But the vast majority of visitors get to see the protected Galapagos Islands only in short forays from their cruise ships or day boats.
That’s what makes the land-based vantage point of Classic Journeys’ trip so special — it offers the opportunity to experience much more of the nature that inspired Charles Darwin.
Expert naturalists take you to see 500-pound tortoises, blue-footed boobies, penguins and marine iguanas by foot.
Additional activities include kayaking and snorkeling.
Visitors also get intimate experiences with local culture.
The trip includes a visit to a small family-owned coffee plantation and a trek to the rim of the second largest volcano caldera in the world.
Galapagos Island Tour by Classic Journeys; +1 800 200 3887; monthly trips from $4,695 per person
Old Cuba … before it’s gone
Now that Americans are finally allowed to visit the island of Cuba, you can already feel the time warp allure and authentically local culture of this budget travel hot spot evolving into something more touristy.
The good news is that old Cuba isn’t gone — you just need help to find it.
To stay a step ahead of the tourists, Black Tomato is creating new 2016 trips to Santiago de Cuba, further down the island’s southeast coast from Havana.
Travelers will check out the 16th-century streets and cuisine of this old Spanish colonial capital, a blend of influences from Spain, Jamaica, Haiti and West Africa that feels a world away from Havana.
Day hikes and cycling trips run through the majestic Sierra Maestra Mountains, while boat tours offer access some of the best snorkeling in the Caribbean at the protected Garden of the Queen, plus visits to picturesque and remote cays without another tourist in sight.
Santiago de Cuba by Black Tomato; +1 646 558 3644; flexible dates throughout the year; price TBA
Africa’s best “new” safari country
One of the world’s most forbidding stretches of coastline, Namibia’s Skeleton Coast has been the final resting place of hundreds if not thousands of ships, many of whose crumbling hulls still rust on the beach.
But that reputation has hidden the country’s real story from view — Namibia is now a showpiece for environmental stewardship and sustainable tourism in Africa.
A full 40% of the country’s land is under government protection and local bushmen tribes have been hired to serve as guides and help protect the wildlife.
Although the northeastern Namibia scenery and bushmen experiences are unique, the true highlight of Wilderness Travel’s 2016 trip to Khaudum, Bushmanland and the Caprivi is the animals.
Namibia is the only African nation with a wildlife population that’s increasing, including desert rhinos, elephants, gazelles, lions and the largest free-roaming cheetah population in the world.
Namibia: Khaudum, Bushmanland, and the Caprivi by Wilderness Travel; +1 800 368 2794; June 18-27; from $6,195 per person
The small mountain kingdom of Bhutan presents a side of the Himalayas rarely seen, one rich in art, tradition and some the most stunning peaks and gorges on Earth.
Through decades of experience in Bhutan, outfitter Abercrombie & Kent offer a rare, intimate look at everyday life in this stunningly beautiful country, while not skimping on scenic highlights, including the impossibly perched Tiger’s Nest Monastery.
The trip also takes you through Nepal for more trekking, local culinary lessons and interaction with a similarly isolated but distinct local culture.
Bhutan & Nepal: Heart of the Himalaya by Abercrombie & Kent; +1 800 544 7016; tours run February-April and September-November; from $7,495 per person
Polar bears and kayaking in Svalbard
In a country that bills itself as a land of outdoor adventure — a sacrosanct national law called “allemannsretten” decrees that, regardless of property ownership, anyone can hike, ski and camp almost anywhere they want — it can be tough to pick out a single Norway wilderness experience that stands above all others.
So let a ticking clock be your guide.
If you want to see polar bears in the wild before our warming climate melts their ecosystem, time is running out.
Glacier-filled Svalbard is an archipelago with the world’s northernmost settlement, roughly halfway between the north coast of Norway and the North Pole.
Here, some 3,500 bears outnumber the year-round residents (3,000), so your best bet is to go with a guide who knows how to keep you safe as you check out the incredible wildlife and spectacular fjord-to-high-peak scenery.
Along with bears, there are reindeer, caribou, fox and a dense population of migratory birds.
In addition to ice climbing and dog sledding trips under the northern lights in winter and year-round skiing, Svalbard Wildlife Expeditions offers longer summer trips by foot or on water.
Its highlight is the seven-day Spitsbergen Kayak expedition, which takes visitors on a long, peaceful paddle through some of the archipelago’s most scenic fjords, past calving glaciers and, sometimes, breaching whales.
Spitsbergen Kayak Expedition by Svalbard Wildlife Expeditions; +47 79 02 2222; June 12-18, July 2-8; from $1,930 per person