Desert exploring and kayaking, Djibouti
Hard-pushed to pinpoint it on a map? You’re not alone. On the Horn of Africa, bordered by Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, this tiny country is hardly on the tourist radar. But its lunar-like landscape, sculpted by volcanic activity and wind erosion and punctuated by salt lakes, where nomadic tribes still roam, makes a great setting for an adventure. Visitors can kayak or snorkel from the former beachside capital, Tadjoura, explore villages and waterfalls in the Goda mountains and kick back in Djibouti City, once a sleepy French outpost, now a lively port town.
Burma has been one of the best-selling destinations of the past few years for adventure operators, which continue to be creative with itineraries. Imaginative Traveller says it expects its new Burma by Bike package (from £2,049pp for two weeks with B&B accommodation, flights extra) to be a bestseller. It includes rides to the lakeside Inthein pagodas, minority villages on Inle lake and Mandalay, the last royal capital of Burma.
2CV rallying, Spain
Anyone with an eye for vintage motors and a yearning for Spanish landscapes can join a “tin snail” trail across Spain in a just-for-fun rally involving 16 classic Citroën 2CVs. The Silver Road Rally, run by 2CV Adventures (it also does corporate and hen party-type events using the cars), is a week-long trip in March, and pitched as a holiday rather than a sports event, so you don’t have to be Jenson Button to enter.
The historic Via de la Plata trade route runs from the northern city of Gijón to Seville, through Asturias, Castilla y León, Extremadura and Andalucía. The rally joins it in Oviedo, with stopovers in Zamora, Cáceres and Seville before the finish line in Málaga. The £1,250pp entry fee includes return ferry from Portsmouth to Santander, accommodation in traditional hotels and paradors, dinners, the car (two sharing each) and mechanical support.
Mountain trekking, Iraqi Kurdistan
Iraq might seem an adventure too far, but Iraqi Kurdistan, an autonomous region in the north, is relatively safe for travellers.
Kurdistan boasts Iraq’s first national park, Halgurd Sakran, which is currently being set up in Erbil province, bordering Turkey and Iran. The 1,100sq/km park includes Halgurd (Iraq’s second-highest mountain, at 3,607 metres), dramatic waterfalls and rare species such as lynx, leopards and brown bears. There are plans to invest in mountain climbing and skiing facilities, but for the moment there is no infrastructure – so a winter trekking expedition there is a true adventure. Secret Compass has a tough but rewarding trip to the region (from £1,499 excluding flights, 4-12 April).
You’ll stay in shepherds’ huts and tents, carry your own 20kg pack for five days (there are no porters), and climb Halgurd. Flights from London to Erbil start from about £300. If you’d prefer not to travel with a group, it would be advisable to hire a local guide because of the risk of mines.
Sea kayaking, Fiji
The restoration of democracy in September, after eight years of military dictatorship, has made Fiji a more attractive proposition. A nation made up of 332 islands is a sea kayaker’s dream – and the country has plenty of inland waterways, too. Planning an independent kayak trip is still tricky, as most operators only offer guided tours, and rental companies tend towards single-day hires.
If you can, your best bet is to bring your own folding kayak. Avoid the cyclone season (November-April) and stick to the north-west side of the islands for the calmest seas.
The Kadavu group is protected by the Great Astrolabe reef, making for easy paddling; the Yasawa islands have swanky hotels; and the remote Lau group is best for beach camping. Viti Levu, the largest island, has extensive river paddling, including white water.