Even the most experienced explorer looking to go beyond their comfort zone needs someone on their side. For all the unknowns, whether it’s the roaring river rapids in the Pyrenees or the rugged equine trails of Patagonia by horseback, the United States Tour Operators Association provides an expansive network of approved tour operators to help bring the great green yonder just a little bit closer.
Backed by USTOA’s $1 Million Travelers Assistance Program, each expert-led excursion comes with a host of amenities, including transportation, gear, and meals, with extra free time included in the itinerary for independent exploration. With staff always on hand to assist, advise, and inform, USTOA tour operators ensure safe access to some of the world’s most breathtaking, hard-to-reach destinations while also maintaining a minimal environmental impact to keep these green spaces safe for generations to come. Among the many great tours to choose from, we’ve handpicked five particularly exhilarating USTOA tour operator member offerings to help everyone, tenderfeet and gurus alike, get outside and discover the beauty of the beyond.
Finding comfort at the end of the earth
Spanning the far reaches of southern Argentina and Chile, Patagonia is a dream destination for thrill seekers. Known for its unique culture and singular wildlife, this southern extreme is set against some of the world’s most dramatic mountain ranges, glaciers, fjords, and forests. Yet however remote this enchanted land may feel from home, the travel experts at Abercrombie & Kent have designed their 10-day Patagonia: The Last Wilderness tour to round off these rugged edges with a soft, personal touch.
Starting off with a cultural tour through the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires and finishing in its Chilean counterpart of Santiago, you’ll soon work your way to Ushuaia, the world’s southernmost city and the gateway to Argentina’s Patagonia. From there, you’ll visit an island inhabited by Magellanic penguins, at El Calafate witness sheep shearing and herding on a ranch, and sail the glacial Argentino Lake.
Between protected biospheres and world heritage sites, refined feasts and open-air barbecues, each day will strike a balance between excitement and relaxation. In Puerto Natales, you’ll also have your choice of three “Design Your Day” activities: cruising among the fjords and glaciers, riding horses to Puerto Consuelo, or hiking up among the condors for a panoramic view from Mount Benitez.
The inherent flexibility of your Abercrombie & Kent tour is, of course, by design. Founded in 1962 as a luxury outfit specializing in African safaris, Abercrombie & Kent now applies those 60 years of experience to every itinerary. Limiting every group to a maximum of 18 people chartered by English-speaking Tour Directors and expert guides, the company includes myriad optional add-on excursions, plus individual luggage and laundry service, daily meals, and 24/7 customer support. Capping all that off with the gold standard in accommodation at every stop, you’re certain to feel safe in their hands—even in the most remote destination on earth.
Go to the extreme among Andorra’s mountains and rivers
Andorra, spanning all of 181 square miles and landlocked by France and Spain, may not be the first place that comes to mind for the average traveler, but for lovers of the outdoors, there’s no place quite like it. From bombing down the steep slopes of the Pyrenees and rafting wild rivers to biking through the rugged green valleys hidden therein, Andorra is ideal for sporting types. Plus, it has the rich cultural heritage of its more famous neighbors. Setting out to stimulate both body and mind for travelers of all stripes, Intrepid Travel’s Hike, Bike & Raft tour highlights some of the best of both worlds in this mountainous, historical playground.
Over the course of this eight-day trek, you’ll ride mountain bikes down the mild and picturesque Iron Route of the Ransol Valley and across the mountain pass of the Port de Cabus along the Andorran-Spanish border. You’ll raft down mile-high rapids in the surrounding rivers of the Spanish mountain village of Sort, zip line through the Cortals Valley, and hike among the colorful wildlife of the Siscaro Reserve. Hanging your hat in the quaint mountain city of Soldeu, you’ll have a front row seat to Andorra’s fascinating intersection of culture and cuisine, while also having plenty of free time to explore the hot springs, mountain hikes, and museums which make this small nation stand out from the rest.
The award-winning specialists of Intrepid Travel are available to field any questions or requests that might arise. With three decades of travel expertise in Europe and in more than 1,000 destinations worldwide, along with a steadfast commitment to sustainability in all their trips, Intrepid Travel is the stable side of your wild ride through the best of the Pyrenees.
Set sail for Alaska’s most spectacular side
As the 49th—and by far the largest—state in the U.S., Alaska is a vast and mysterious land unto itself with ancient cultural heritage, unique flora and fauna, and unspoiled landscapes on an unimaginable scale. Though one could spend a lifetime discovering its winding rivers and snowy slopes, Trafalgar distills the best of the best into the comprehensive Majestic Alaska tour, whether it’s 10-days spent immersed in wilderness of that great American state or you add on an optional seven-day extension featuring a thrilling cruise into the wilds of British Columbia.
From Anchorage all the way down to Vancouver, British Columbia, and with a stop in Juneau in between, there will be plenty of time to admire the cultural history of the indigenous inhabitants of the region who have called it home since 14,000 BC. You’ll also see how little has changed since then, with visits to the unspoiled expanse of Denali National Park, the seals and otters of Prince William Sound, and the humpback whales and awesome icebergs of Kenai Fjords National Park.
As part of Trafalgar’s exclusive Be My Guest program, you’ll be hosted by Yukon Quest Champion David Monson, who will spin tales of this proud traditional sport while showing you his kennel of sled dogs in action. As part of their MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experiences, you’ll also partake in a guided tour of an operational ox farm, learning about the sustainable practices of this non-profit organization. From these timeless landmarks to the people who make them truly spectacular, you’ll see some of the most stunning attractions in the United States while making lifelong friends along the way.
For more than a century, Trafalgar has been making travel as safe and worry-free as possible. As part of “The Travel Corporation” family of brands, Trafalgar has earned upwards of 80 awards for excellence in travel, reaching “Platinum Feefo” status based on independent guest reviews while earning the World Travel & Tourism Council’s coveted stamp of approval for safety.
The tour operator is also committed to sustainable travel, including their TreadRight Foundation, a five-year sustainability plan called How We Tread Right, plus eco-conscious experiences woven into their itineraries to keep their guests informed and engaged with ethical travel options. Adding in hyperlocal community-based activities across its 303 trips in 72 countries, along with 24/7 support and unforgettable, culturally significant accommodation as part of their exclusive “Stay With Stories” series, no two trips with Trafalgar are ever the same, delivering on the promise that to travel with them is to tour differently.
Pushing the Limits in the Italian Dolomites
Cutting across three distinct regions of northeastern Italy, the Dolomite Mountains are as imposing as they are majestic, hiding rolling green valleys and charming villages in their mighty midst. From the River Adige to the Piave Valley, these jagged peaks offer up any number of experiences, from fierce treks to five-star dining. In the autonomous province of South Tyrol in particular, you’ll find a culture with perhaps more in common with Salzburg than it does any Italian city, making for a cultural collision unique to itself.
In fact, your eight-day Classic Dolomites Premium Adventure with Exodus Travels begins not far from the Austrian border in Villabassa, a charming and historic village which you’ll call home for the week in an historic four-star hotel. You’ll stay active throughout your time here while also having time to explore museums and relax in your hotel’s wellness center.
Additional highlights include a walk around the beautiful Lago di Braies, a hike to the summit of Strudlekopf, and a visit to the museum of Ötzi, a 5,000-year-old man preserved in the mountain ice. You’ll also enjoy a walk under the impressive UNESCO-protected mountain cluster known as Three Chimneys, building up an appetite for the bounty of incomparable Tyrolese cuisine, from apple strudel to speck.
Boasting some 45 years of experience, Exodus Travel offers a safe foundation from which to go for it all in one of the 90 countries featured in their portfolio. Focusing on ethical and sustainable experiences—which can include “Citizen Science” experiences designed to enlighten while also aiding in the conservation and biodiversity research—the English travel company believes that the right kind of travel should not only improve the lives of both the traveler and the host but should also make a positive contribution to the natural environment and biodiversity of the destination. Working with expert guides leading a group capped at a maximum of 15, travelers have the option of choosing just how hard they want to push themselves on their treks, from moderate to challenging, while always having cozy, stylish accommodations in which to unwind at the end of each day.
Going Green in Costa Rica
With more than a quarter of its landmass devoted to protected national parks and preserves, Costa Rica is a model nation of natural beauty and sustainability. It’s a peaceful land of hot springs, volcanos, and volcanic lakes, of pristine beaches, rainforests and colorful wildlife. With Collette’s 12-day A World of Nature tour, you’ll be able to get an active and intimate view of some of that unrivaled biodiversity to discover what it means to live the pura vida.
Starting in the capital of San Jose, your journey will then give way to a coastal adventure to Tortuguero National Park, home of the world’s first sea turtle research center set in a charming town in which cars are forbidden. After two days with the green macaws, monkeys, and manatees thriving in the jungle waterways, you’ll visit a cacao plantation and botanical garden, paddle down the Peñas Blancas River on safari, and embark across a network of hanging bridges.
Over three days in the area around Arenal Volcano, you’ll have plenty of time to do as you please, whether it’s exploring the lava fields, soaring over the jungle canopies on a zip line, or going whitewater rafting. Of course, you’ll also have no lack of opportunity to relax in nature, from a boat cruise on Tárcolesgo’s Rio Grande to a relaxing swim amid the thriving wildlife at the beaches of Manuel Antonio National Park.
Whatever you choose to do, Collette, a third-generation, family owned travel company, has been the leader in guided travel since 1918. With over a century of experience, expertly planned and expertly led tours focus on meaningful stays rather than checklist-style travel, experiences that support local cultures, and immersion into destinations on all 7 continents. Collette is dedicated to your well-being, offering 24/7 support and a dedicated Tour Manager on tour. Each tour features opportunities to personalize your experience through their Choice on Tour program, plus the ability to seamlessly combine multiple itineraries to make the most of your travels.
While we’re particularly enamored with these five tours, there are countless other opportunities to get active and explore the greener side of travel, particularly when working with one of USTOA’s tour operators. Learn more about how a guided tour with a USTOA member helps you reach the far ends of the Earth while maintaining peak safety, sustainability, and value.