5 Adventure Travel Providers You’ve Probably Never Heard Of


I have just returned from the Adventure World Travel Summit (ATWS) in Lugano, in the sunny canton of Ticino in Switzerland. One of the best things about attending the ATWS, which is an annual event hosted by the Adventure Travel Trade Association, is meeting new, emerging and lesser-known adventure travel companies. Many are quite small and specialize in one corner of the world or offer a unique style of travel that larger, more traditional operators don’t. These small tour operators share their knowledge and passion for their destination and manage the logistics and details of each trip, offering competitive prices. Here are five companies worth checking out.

Upper Level Bolage

Upplevelsebolaget can be a challenge to pronounce, but put simply, the company offers outdoor adventures in western Sweden and beyond, from sea kayaking and hiking to mountain biking, rock climbing and ski touring, among other activities. “Sea kayaking among the thousands of islands in western Sweden is ideal because there are no currents or tides in the Baltic, the coast is gentle and the waters are warm in summer,” says Joakim Hermansson, who founded the company in 1994. A typical trip might be a three-day sea kayaking tour called “Weather Islands Kayak Luxury,” three days of sea kayaking with accommodation at a hostel on Storö Island. In winter, the company goes further by offering alpine ski touring stays in Norway, Morocco and Japan.

Trips to Hinoki

Hinoki Travels designs tailor-made trips to “reconnect you to your senses and the natural world” while supporting local communities. Founder Bethany Betzler divides her time between Chiang Mai, Thailand and Michigan. She creates journeys that deliberately move at a slower pace, identifies lesser-known places in a destination, and ensures that each journey has a reduced ecological footprint. Bhutan was her inspiration for creating Hinoki Travels, and she works with other destinations in Asia, such as Ladakh in northern India and the colonial resort of Darjeeling. In North America, she chose destinations such as Fogo Island in Newfoundland and Dominica in the Caribbean. Ultimately, these trips are “personalized retreat experiences designed to reduce stress and boost creativity.”

Adventures in Norway

Norway Adventures specializes in personalized trips and small group trips in Norway, offering hiking, kayaking, cross-country skiing and snowshoe tours. Husband and wife Rogier and Anne van Oorschot create group trips that can be as small as seven guests. The promise is to show you Norway off the beaten track, staying in farms and cabins in remote areas. For example, their “7 Day Fjord Hiking Holiday Norway” trips explore some of the country’s beautiful and rugged terrain. Hikes can be along the Atlantic coast, white sand beaches or high cliffs, away from tourist areas, with transport by van and ferry. Accommodation includes cabins where the guide prepares evening dinners. Prices from NOK 15,650 (about $1,482 pp).

KODO

New Zealanders Mike Harris and Shannon Walker are the founders of KODO, which creates adventure travel in Japan. They offer tailor-made trips that establish a deep connection with the culture. One route is to travel the UNESCO-recognized Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes in the Kii mountain range. Another is hiking in the Kiso Valley along an unspoilt section of the Nakasendo, the path that connected Kyoto and Tokyo during Japan’s feudal period. Other trips focus on time spent with the Yamabushi, the mountain priests of Japan.

Flashpacker Login

Founded in 2015 by LeAnn and Brandon Morris, Flashpacker Connect offers small, affordable group trips to the wildest parts of the world, trips you won’t find from the big tour operators. Consider “Bolivia: Amazon Jungle to the Salt Flats,” a nine-day trip for $1,600 per person. This is one of the many South American adventure trips they offer. In Asia, they have a variation of the Nepal Everest Base Camp bucket list trip. Called “Everest Basecamp with Three Passes,” it’s a challenging 19-day hike on the so-called Three Passes Circuit, and it’s priced at $2,100.

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