Update June 28, 2019: Shortly after this story was published, a U.S. surveillance drone was shot down by Iran (the precise location has been disputed by the United States and Iran). The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has banned flights over Iranian airspace until further notice.
In response, Intrepid released this response to AFAR: “Like all our trips to Iran, Intrepid’s Uncharted Expedition 2020 is scheduled to run as normal. The safety of our travelers is our priority. We’re continuing to monitor official travel advisories as well as advice from our local operations team and if it becomes unsafe to travel to a place, we may re-route the itinerary. Uncharted may be a mystery trip but we want our travelers to have complete confidence to book the trip—so we will be offering a full refund up to three months prior to departure.”
Because no U.S. airlines fly in and out of Iran directly, Americans who would like to sign up for this mystery trip wouldn’t be affected by this ban since they’d need to connect to Tehran via an airline that does, such as Turkish Airlines from Istanbul, Emirates from Dubai, or Qatar Airways from Doha.
Original Post June 20, 2019: After its first-ever “mystery trip” sold out within 36 hours last year, Intrepid Travel—a B-Corp certified adventure travel company—is looking for more people to sign up for its second such expedition, for which participants will only know the starting and finishing points of their journey before they arrive.
There are only 12 spots available on the 2020 Uncharted Expedition, which will start in Tehran, Iran, and end in Istanbul, Turkey, next April. The entire itinerary in between has been planned in secret by Intrepid’s destination managers and will be revealed to guests along the way. So far, we only know that the 2,200-mile trip will take place over 18 days and will take participants across three borders and through four countries along the way.
Looking at a map of the Middle East and Central Asia, we think it’s safe to assume that after departing Tehran, the group will travel northwest to Armenia before passing through Georgia and into Turkey. While details are scarce, Intrepid says that travelers who apply for this trip may have the opportunity to discover 3,000-year-old villages, sleep in rock caves, or eat boiled cow-hoof soup. Intrepid’s first mystery trip—which sold out its 10 spots quickly last year—launches on June 30, 2019, from Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, and will end 22 days later in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
Intrepid Travel cofounder Darrell Wade says that these mystery trips are a throwback to the company’s early days, when travelers would respond to classified ads offering no details beyond a call to explore a certain destination.
“This is our way of returning to the roots of travel, and how our company began 30 years ago, by being on the frontier of destinations and experiences,” Wade said in a statement. “Some of the best travel experiences are unplanned. In this case, all the planning has been done by our expert team.”
The 2020 Uncharted Expedition from Tehran to Istanbul—which take place between April 18 and May 6, 2020—costs $3,740 per person. That includes land transport, overnight stays, and some meals during the trip, but excludes international flights to and from the start and finish points. Since the first mystery trip sold out so quickly, there is a longer application window for this expedition, which is open now through July 9, 2019. After filling out basic ID and contact information, travelers will be randomly selected and notified by email in the second week of July. To apply, visit Intrepid Travel’s website.
Relevant visa information will be provided to travelers after they are selected. U.S. citizens can apply for e-visas for Turkey online. Obtaining an Iranian visa is a slightly more complicated process that is explained in depth on Intrepid’s website.