If nothing else, Covid has hopefully taught all of us about the value of travel. But have we also learned that we should be doing things differently, and better?
My experience before and during the pandemic has taught me that there are ways of traveling better. And a big part of that is choosing small adventure travel companies. They are ready, willing and able to help us with our travel plans. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many incredible tour operators from around the world. These people live and breathe travel. Let me introduce you to some of the beset adventure travel companies around the world.
Best Adventure Travel Companies Around the World
Aquaterra Adventures has been running trips and tours for the discerning traveller throughout the Indian Himalayas since 1995. Yet the experience of its travel personnel dates well before that. Aquaterra has years of leading trips throughout the wild frontiers of this region. Aquaterra believes that an adventure travel outfit is only as good as its guides. Good equipment, food and safety-conscious guides are what make an outdoor trip an experience to savour.
Aquaterra’s offerings include short 3-4 day hikes over a long weekend to long 2 week wilderness treks over high passes. Think summits over 6,200 metres. There are adventure camps as well as an activity lodge which can be used as a base for multi-sport pursuits. Including rafting, kayak clinic, short day treks, high ropes courses, mountain biking, yoga, inflatable kayaking. Aquaterra also runs white water rescue and mountaineering courses. Or try out an outdoor adventure race, the Himalayan Adventure Challenge.
If you’ve dreamt of a particular journey or an adventure in India, let us know and we’ll make it happen. No matter how bizarre or wild or difficult.Vaibhav Kala, Aquaterra Adventures
In addition to India, Aquaterra offers adventure tours in the greater Himalayan Region, including Nepal and Bhutan. They also operate overseas in Tanzania, Zambia, Morocco, Jordan, and in South America. The company can build custom itineraries for just about anyone.
Aquaterra is committed to a very true form of eco-tourism. It is one of the few companies where a majority of its guides and staff belong to the Himalaya. With 25 years in the business and a world class team of guides, Aquaterra has established itself as one of the top adventure travel companies in India and beyond.
Elevate Destinations believes that the act of travel is sacred. It has the power to transform lives and landscapes. The company’s goal is to use that power in the most positive way imaginable. By expressing shared values and supporting its global community by providing travellers with meaningful experiences and opportunities. To encourage travelers to personally connect and give back.
Elevate creates custom trips and family adventures. Whether it’s one parent travelling with one child or a multi-generational adventure for a family of 20. Elevate knows how to create special memories for every age. Elevate’s travelers are curious and want to interact with local people in communities in a genuine way. They want to get involved with wildlife conservation projects that go beyond most touristic experiences.
We care that travel works for a greater good and provides families with a way to connect and bond with one another through exploration and the beauty of our shared, global citizenry.Lana Byal, Elevate Destinations
Elevate’s main regions of operation are Africa, Latin America, and Asia. The company specializes in wildlife safaris in Africa, creating safari experiences for all types of travelers. From remote walking safaris to high end luxury in sustainable eco camps or family-focused lodges. Guests can camp in the middle of the Serengeti wilderness or walk from camp to camp. They can even send kids off to learn bush-tracking skills with a local Masai.
Elevate can also arrange intimate trips throughout Latin America. From Baja sea turtle releases and whale shark conservation trips, to treetop jungles of Costa Rica, and Central America’s Mayan communities and wildlife conservation programs. Explore the best of Patagonia or venture into a deep dive in Peru’s countryside. Here, the company partners with local nonprofits, many which are dedicated to educating, uplifting and empowering at-risk girls.
Elevate Destinations established its Buy A Trip, Give A Trip program to help youth in the destinations in which it operates to access their own natural and cultural heritage sites. Often, these sites are reserved for foreign travelers and the local elite. Every year, they sponsor excursions in collaboration with local community partners and non-profits. A portion of the proceeds from every trip booked goes toward travel excursions for underserved local kids and teens. In this way, Elevate aims to democratize travel. This allows local people access to their own natural and cultural heritage sites.
The ladies of Finisterra Travel LOVE to travel. Owners Nicola Wilson and Keri Montgomery are truly travel addicts, often planning their own adventures two adventures in advance. Not a day goes by in the office where they don’t delight in the prospect of going somewhere new. Their mutual travel obsession, insatiable curiosity, and love of spicy food has created a strong bond in this female-owned, Vancouver, Canada-based adventure travel company. Nicola and Keri are the #worldlygirlies.
Finisterra Travel was created out of a shared passion for travel and desire to create tailor-made experiences for active travelers. Finisterra trips are deliberate cocktails of varied and unique ingredients, carefully proportioned, and flavoured to individual travel tastes.
We are travel designers who love to create tailor-made experiences to the further-flung corners of the globe.Nicola Wilson, Finisterra Travel
Through its extensive network and trusted partnerships with travel professionals around the world, Finisterra is able to provide the best and most authentic travel experiences possible for its clients. These include active adventures, culinary experiences, cultural tours, and women-only surf and yoga retreats.
Itineraries are handcrafted to showcase incredible destinations in and around Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Europe. The company understands that expectations and reasons for travelling are unique to every traveller. Finisterra endeavours to accommodate and provide guests with exceptional, curated adventures worldwide.
Green Owl Travel
Based in Dalarna, Sweden, Green Owl Travel offers soft adventures in beautiful Swedish nature all year round. Most trips takes place in the Lake Siljan area in the province of Dalarna, approximately three hours from Stockholm.
As a result of a meteorite impact 377 million years ago, the area is fascinating in many ways, filled with unique flora, rich fauna, exciting geology, and a history and culture that goes all the way back to the Vikings.
Green Owl Travel offers easy-going day tours perfect for families and soft adventure enthusiasts. Owner Lotta Backlund organizes curated itineraries. These include guided hikes and leisure bike tours, magical evenings under dark skies, snowshoe walks and kicksled safari tours. She can also plan multi-day tours focused on nature, culture, hiking and local food. Two of Green Owl’s most popular multi-day tours are the ”Four elements of Dalarna” and ”Into the Wild – the North Dalarna expedition”.
Sustainability and resourcefulness are not just words. In fact, they are the very essence of Swedish lifestyle and we love it!Lotta Backlund
Lotta’s personal love of nature is the foundation of her company. Green Owl Travel is focused on providing guests with memorable and sustainable experiences in Swedish nature. Swedes in general are very aware of their environmental impact and act accordingly. Sustainability is a way of life, recycling is a habit and the care of and respect for nature is an inherited behaviour. Discover peace, serenity and ‘Sweden in miniature’ in this beautiful region of Scandinavia.
Hidden Iceland is a small family-run business, specialising in private and small group travel throughout the Land of Fire and Ice. The company believe that a passionate and experienced guide can transform a great trip into something truly unforgettable. This shines through in its TripAdvisor Reviews, with not a single bad review to date.
All Hidden Iceland tours are ideally suited for first timers to Iceland, whether they be families with kids, adventurous couples or groups of friends of any age. Its private tours have no minimum age but the small group tours have a minimum age of 8 for scenic trips and 10 for the more adventurous stuff. The company excels at taking all types of travellers around the country but its highly-rated guides really love showing guests around the popular and more hidden sites. Glacier hikes, walking on volcanic craters, hunting for the northern lights and discovering new ice caves are just some of the activities visitors can experience on a Hidden Iceland tour.
Iceland is one of the few places on the planet where you can venture into a bright blue ice cave in the morning, watch icebergs float past basking seals at midday, sneak behind a 200ft waterfall in the afternoon and gaze up at the northern lights at night. And that’s just day 1. Hidden Iceland can curate an itinerary that meets guests’ trip priorities and showcases the best of the country during every season,
Watching the sun set then rise all in the space of an hour in summer will be something that will stick with you for a long time.Ryan Connolly, Hidden Iceland
Winter in Iceland
A winter visit will feature northern lights, ice caves, wild reindeer and of course, snow. Spring allows for whale watching, puffins and glacier hiking, while summer highlights the midnight sun, hiking, horse riding, wildlife spotting and off the beaten path locales. The fall brings less crowded spaces and more time for photography, rural exploration and aurora-spotting. There’s no bad time to visit Iceland, the timing is entirely dependent upon what guests wish to experience during their time in this wild and beautiful landscape.
Independent Ireland is a tour operator based in the American state of Maine. The company’s founder Evan McElligott grew up in Ireland before moving to the United States in 2004, but his homeland continues to pull him back again and again, with small group tours of explorers in tow.
Independent Ireland offers tours that are leagues away from ‘rinse and repeat tourism’ and instead focuses on active and immersive twists founded on authentic travel experiences. Evan’s groups take in a lot more of the less obvious attractions and programs the country has to offer, incorporating more of those forgotten stories, the entertaining characters, the unspoiled landscapes, and the dynamic culinary scene. In a way, it’s small group tours for clients that don’t like group tours.
The most memorable experiences don’t simply present themselves on a schedule, you have to seek them out. You must allow breathing room for clients to craft their journey, to find those unique moments, meet new people, eat local food, support local industries and find a true sense of place. This journey must be as beneficial to the local community as it is to the traveller.Evan McElligott, Independent Ireland
Beyond the group tour, Independent Ireland also offers a tiered consultative level of service for the independent traveler. The entry-level “Collaborate” option offers travelers a wealth of valuable information that is cherry-picked and tailored to fit, while the higher tier (Consult and Concierge) provides the more established consultation/advisor model, dipping into his 20+ years of expertise in matching clients with very special moments, managing the every day logistics, and go well beyond the latest hotlist or guidebook.
Every one of Independent Ireland’s itineraries is built from scratch, each one completely customized based on client conversations to perfectly match guest preferences. “In 15+ years, no two itineraries have ever been the same, and no matter where we go from here, that will never change.”
Knowmad Adventures specializes in custom South American travel, offering personalized service to travellers with a dream to get off the beaten path and explore incredible destinations. Excelling in the unique intersection of adventure and luxury, Knowmad Adventures’ expert Trip Specialists work with each private travel group to custom-tailor a trip specific to their interests, activity level, pacing, and travel window.
From active adventure to family trips, treks and group travel, Knowmad tailors custom itineraries for guests throughout South America. In particular, Knowmad’s specialties include international expeditions to Patagonia along with the other regions throughout both Chile and Argentina, Ecuador & The Galapagos Islands, Peru & Machu Picchu, Antarctica, Brazil, and Colombia.
Understanding the importance of seeing a destination through the lens of history and local culture, Knowmad travellers enjoy a combination of being accompanied by extraordinary local guides for excursions as well as some independent time for self-discovery. Knowmad also understands the importance of respecting the environment that allows for these spectacular landscapes, national parks & destinations, and so prioritizes sustainability efforts, from the materials sent out to travellers to the incredible and innovative properties Knowmad works with.
I’m convinced that travel makes us better people, and better people make a better planet.Jordan Harvey, Knowmad Adventures
Always keeping travellers’ experiences in mind, Knowmad offers unparalleled service for each travel group from the moment they begin the trip planning process to when they return home from their adventure. Each trip is carefully crafted through Knowmad’s collaborative planning process where travelers are involved in every decision, and with thoughtful recommendations from Knowmad’s Trip Specialists, who have a great passion for and have all lived, worked, and travelled throughout South America.
It is Knowmad’s belief that by opening ourselves up to new experiences and widening our perspectives, we can make the world a bit of a better place. Owner Jordan Harvey and Knowmad team invite adventurous travellers to begin planning a custom adventure to South America today.
PUREWILD Adventures designs and stages bespoke and exclusive adventures to remote and wild places around the world. The company aims to immerse clients into nature and culture in a special way, creating every journey from scratch, resulting in unique itineraries dependent on the desired activity and comfort level of guests.
PUREWILD loves the more remote regions of our planet and has staged trips to all continents including cruises to Antarctica. Some of its destination include Canada, the Arctic regions, Eastern Africa, Oman, South Africa and New Zealand. The company works with local guides, chefs, pilots, captains, lodge owners, and artists, people who love their home and love to share their culture. PUREWILD has an exclusively 5 star rating on trustpilot.
We create unique experiences that become part of us and transform the way we connect with the world around us.Stefan Moosleitner, PUREWILD Adventures
PUREWILD also tries to take its clients a bit beyond what they think they could or would want to do, resulting in their adventure experiences being even more memorable. They encourage guests to get out into the wild in a small group or independently, and welcome a new sense of connection to the land, water and the people of a destination, promoting a transformative travel experience.
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Photo Credits: Aquaterra Adventures, Elevate Destinations, Finisterra Travel, Green Owl Travel, Hidden Iceland, Independent Ireland, Knowmad Adventures, Stefan Moosleitner.