Travelers with exotic tastes and the thirst for adventure are seeking unexplored once-in-a lifetime experiences. This winter there are so many options for the thrill seeker and high-end explorer. From being dropped off by helicopter on the highest mountaintops for skiing or glacier diving into the arctic depths, my top ten list has something for everyone and every budget.
Several of these options also benefit charity through If Only, so you can help the world while experiencing the ultimate winter adventure complete with bragging rights.
In the wake of the recent earthquake in Nepal, Himalayan Heliski Guides is actively helping with local search and rescue efforts. HHSG will therefore donate portions of every sale to relief efforts, and encourage adventure travelers to continue visiting the incredible people and landscapes of Nepal.
On day one, you will arrive at the Gokarna Resort. The highly-rated forest sanctuary is the perfect location to get rid of jet lag. Day two, you will receive a guided tour of Kathmandu, the bustling capital of Nepal filled with temples dating back to the 12th century. Day three, you will take flight and head west where you will see Manaslu, Annapurna and Dhaulagiri up close. On this trip, you will also see Annapurna II, II and IV, Kangshar Kang, Machhapuchchhre, Gangapurna, and Tilicho Peak.
On the flight out you will visit the famous Muktinath Monastery and have lunch in Jomsom, the popular trekker town that is believed to have once existed on the bottom of the ocean. It is covered in indigenous, fossilized saligrams considered sacred by Hindus and worshipped as a symbol of Vishnu. Day four, you will head the opposite direction and fly east where you will witness Everest — the highest peak in the world at 8,848 meters — and many other peaks including Lhotse, Cho Oyu, Makalu and Kanchenjunga. You’ll also take in many other spectacular summits along the way such as Ama Dablam, Nuptse, Pumori, Kantega, Thamserku, Cholatse, and Island Peak.
Each day the pilots will do their best to fly as close to each mountain for photo opportunities and when possible land at or near the base camps so you can get out. Whether you’re a photographer or an adventurer looking to be awed by nature’s sublime beauty, this is a trip you will remember forever. ($55,700 for four people / donated to charity)
In this truly unprecedented opportunity, you will join an expedition to soar over the top of Mount Everest in a hot air balloon, becoming one of only a handful of people to ever see the summit of the highest mountain in the world. With veteran pilot Chris Dewhirst at the helm, you and a small team of adventurers will ascend well beyond 30,000 feet in this once in a lifetime experience where you will find another-worldly view of Everest and the Himalayas, from the most spectacular 360-degree vantage point on the planet.
This is not only a remarkable endeavor, it is also an invitation to join one of the most elite fraternities on Earth; Chris and his team were the first and only people to accomplish this feat – you could be the next. This is your opportunity write your own chapter in the annals of daring human feats and exploration. Join the ranks of pioneers from history like Shackleton, Livingstone, and Hillary as you venture to rarely-explored heights for an expedition that will capture imaginations and headlines around the world. Mount Everest represents the most daunting challenge Earth has to offer. Will you be one of the few to take it on?
Although Chris can train most people with decent physical and mental faculties to complete this journey, this experience is only for the most intrepid of thrill-seekers. You will need to be in moderate physical shape and able to make a considerable commitment to the project, as a trip of this nature requires substantial fitness and skills training. The expedition may spend several weeks in Nepal, depending on how long it takes to find an appropriate weather window. (Total $4.8 million per person / donated to charity)
Spend two weeks in a rapture of discovery when you venture to Antarctica for a 14-day adventure with Lindblad-National Geographic. Kayak among icebergs, cruise past resting leopard seals, and hike with the best ice team on Earth during an unforgettable journey to The White Continent. Your expedition begins on a decidedly urban note when you arrive in Santiago and check in to the Ritz Carlton. Then, brace for adventure when you fly to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, and board a catamaran cruise for lunch on the scenic Beagle Channel before setting out for the bottom of the world.
Antarctica itself rises from the water in spectacular glaciers and mountains shooting some 9,000 feet straight up from the sea. Huge icebergs floating in pools of turquoise blue water await as you cross legendary Drake’s Passage, a milestone accomplishment for any true adventurer. Watch as 40-ton whales surface off the bow, or step ashore with a National Geographic photographer and discover incredible communities of thousands of gentoo penguins. One moment you might take a Zodiac foray amid towering bergs and hike to a summit for a breathtaking view, and the next you may find yourself standing on deck, blissful and awe-inspired as your ship crunches through the pack ice.
Nowhere else on Earth can match the spectacular beauty of Antarctica’s natural wonders. Feel their sublime power when you embark on this once-in-a-lifetime voyage to this great and undiscovered continent. (Total $33,700 per couple / donated to charity)
Dive into some of the purest powder in the world when you and your friends go heli-skiing during a luxurious winter getaway at the exclusive CMH Lodge in Valemount, British Columbia. For one spectacular week you and three guests will indulge in the ultimate back-country oasis. Your adventure begins in Calgary, where you’ll hop aboard a small chartered plane and fly over the breathtaking Cariboo Mountain Range to your remote accommodations. Once you arrive at the shared 10-person lodge, a dedicated team of chefs and internationally certified IFMGA guides will cater to your every need, showing you why Valemount was ranked by SKI magazine as “One of the World’s Five Most Luxury Ski Lodges.”
For the entire week your two private internationally certified IFMGA guides will lead you through some of the most beautiful mountain terrain in the world. With a Bell 407 helicopter always on call, you will also have the opportunity to explore every incredible slope the range has to offer. From the unparalleled comfort of Valemount to the pristine powder in the surrounding peaks, this incredible getaway provides all the plush amenities and thrilling adventures you could ever want from a winter ski trip. (Total $172,500 for four people / Donated to charity)
Answer the call of the wild when you join dog sledding champion DeeDee Jonrowe for an overnight dog sled adventure in Alaska. You and up to three guests will mush with DeeDee, an Iditarod legend, as her team of incredible huskies leads you on an expedition through the beautiful Alaskan wilderness. Then, you will camp under the stars and hear firsthand how DeeDee became the fastest woman to ever compete in the famed Iditarod dog sled race. Though it traverses some of the most rugged terrain in the world, this one-of-a-kind trip can be tailored to suit the age and fitness of almost any guest from 10 and up. This is a truly unique chance to take a ride from DeeDee’s remarkable canines – some of the most highly trained animals in the world – and see a side of Alaska few will ever get to experience. ($10,000 per person / Donated to charity)
Above the Arctic Circle, Sweden’s Lapland region unfolds with snow capped mountains, deep forests, and vast stretches of untamed wilderness. After exploring vibrant Stockholm, fly north to Kiruna and embark on an authentic dog sledding expedition that takes you across frozen rivers and valleys blanketed in untouched snow. Feel the thrill of driving your own team of huskies from one wilderness lodge to the next, and unwind at the end of each day with wood-heated saunas and hearty meals. Along the way, discover the traditions of Lapland’s indigenous people, the Sami, and learn about their ancient reindeer-herding culture. Then cap off your adventure by experiencing one of the world’s architectural marvels: the Icehotel of Jukkasjärvi, exquisitely constructed from ice and snow every year. ($8,500 per person)
Set out on a 3 day snowmobile tour across glaciers and frozen fjords, between mountains and icebergs, going miles away from civilization. Enjoy an amazing sense of freedom as you drive across one gigantic, white glacier after another. Marvel at the enormous icebergs on the east coast, perfect for spotting Polar Bears.
After breakfast head west towards Barentsburg. Check in at the hotel before heading out for an afternoon trip. The guides will look at the weather and snow conditions when planning this excursion, but commonly head towards the glaciers in the inner part of Grønfjorden.
After breakfast pack your sled and set off south, towards the spectacular Fridtjov Glacier and Van Mijenfjorden. The drive moves along the fjord to the wide valley Reindalen and then onwards to the cozy Spitsbergen Expedition Lodge in Brentskaret. ($1,700 per person)
Journey to unexplored regions of Japan, where the picturesque mountains are home to monkeys, sake and art among teetering rice paddies and towering peaks.
Take a seat in the luxurious Grand Class car of a bullet train speeding north from Tokyo up into the Japanese Alps, home to some of the most spectacular rural landscapes in the country. Seventy percent of Japan is mountainous, and this range forms the backbone of Honshu, Japan’s main island.
Your first stop is Nagano, home of the 1998 Winter Olympics and Zenko-ji Temple – the most important Zen temple in Japan. You’ll be based in the quaint village of Obuse, where you’ll explore sake breweries and flower gardens and enjoy small-town alpine life.
From here you’ll also have the chance to visit some of the world’s northernmost-living primates, the gorgeous “snow monkeys” who play for hours in natural hot springs baths in the mountains near Yudanaka Onsen. ($10,000+ per person)
Wolves and grizzly bears are yours to find in Yellowstone National Park with Yellowstone Wolf Guides. They lead guided and other kinds of trips throughout the year, traveling into the best wolf and grizzly habitat in the Lower 48.
Yellowstone Wolf Guides is the husband and wife team of Nathan Varley and Linda Thurston who have been guiding since prior to wolf reintroduction in 1995. They have been the heart and soul of Yellowstone Wolf Tracker since its inception in 1997. A combined 40+ years of experience in Yellowstone includes scientific research and conservation efforts on behalf of wolves, bison, elk, otters, mountain goats and more.
The search for wolves and other wildlife is fruitful among the patchy forests and meadow openings throughout the Northern Range. You will visit such wolf-rich areas as Slough Creek and the Lamar Valley for viewing. The viewing will be mostly road-based using binoculars and spotting scopes to find wolves and observe other wildlife like bison, elk, coyotes, and moose. The goal is to look for multiple wolf packs and make observations of a variety of behaviors and activities (hunting, playing, traveling, feeding and sleeping). Winter is at the tail-end of the breeding season for wolves, so courtship behavior may bring exceptional opportunities to view and learn. ($1,700 per person)
Imagine yourself under the vast and silent skies of the high Arctic with the warm glow of the evening 24 hour sun bathing passing icebergs in a warm glow as narwhal whales pass by your safari style ice camp almost within arms reach…now don the dive gear and enter a world even more unlike anything you can have ever imagined….and prepare to have the dive experience of a lifetime.
Icebergs, drifting pack ice, seal holes, ice floe cracks, Arctic sea floor… the variety and sheer scale of dive opportunities will never cease to amaze. From amazing ice formations, to the wildlife that you can encounter above and below water will leave you with the feeling that that days dives were the best of your life, but only doing an even better dive the next day.
Arctic Kingdom has been leading scuba diving trips throughout the Arctic since 1999 – and remains the ONLY dive operator in the Arctic. The Baffin Island Dive Safari is one of our favourite dive locations due to its variety of dives, along with the variety of wildlife we can encounter – from diving black billed murres, to resting narwhal.
Nestled between the majestic mountains of north Baffin Island and Bylot Island – Sirmilik National Park, experience abundant wildlife that congregates along the ice floe edge that only a few have seen. The spring floe edge is a fascinating eco-system where wildlife thrives. During this time in spring, wildlife gathers at the floe-edge and there exists the chance to see pods of narwhal resting only meters from the edge – their misty breathe sparkling in the 24 hour sun. In addition you’ll have a good chance of seeing polar bears, a variety of species of seals, an incredible variety of sea birds including thick billed Murre, Kittiwake, Guillemot, Ivory Gull, along with many other species of gull. Bowhead and Beluga also frequent this area. ($11,000 per person)