Adventure travel doesn't have to mean roughing it, says Joanna Booth
The call of the wild may ring loud in the ears of some adventurous travellers, but for others a warm bed and a plumbed-in bathroom is far more appealing.
Adventurous holidays really don’t have to mean sleeping in a tent half way up a mountain – unless clients absolutely want to. Whether they’re looking for just an added touch of comfort or a truly luxurious stay, adventure tour operators and tailor-made travel specialists can put together something that has all the thrilling action you could want, but with a soft landing at the end of the day.
THE RIGHT STYLE
An easy shortcut is to look at the trips from adventure tour operators that are designed to offer a more deluxe experience. These stay in higher-end accommodation. Some jump from camping to hotels, but many, which already use basic hotels on classic trips, upgrade to swisher properties or those filled with local character. Itineraries on these deluxe tours tend to move at a more leisurely pace than the operators’ traditional trips, and will avoid public transport except where it’s part of an experience. There’s usually a higher level of inclusion when it comes to meals and activities too.
Most adventure tour specialists have an easy shorthand to delineate luxury trips. Imaginative Traveller is launching a new Traveller Comfort range in its 2013-14 brochure, to sit alongside the existing Traveller Basic and Traveller Plus options. Intrepid Travel has a separate brochure of 60 Worldwide Comfort Journeys, with accommodation including a lodge in Africa, a colourful haveli (traditional house) in India and an apartment in Tuscany. Expect amenities such as Jacuzzis, log fires and Michelin-standard food on some of Exodus’s Premium Adventures.
The Adventure Company's philosophy is that 'adventure' doesn't have to mean action-packed or adrenaline-fuelled, but can also mean really getting to know a destination and its culture, and trying new activities or experiences, so it has ‘The Collection’ for this market.
G Adventures’ ‘standard’ trips stay in hotels and guesthouses, and ‘comfort’ level holidays upgrade again, with options including a converted fort in India, a riad in Morocco, a lodge in the Amazon and a boutique design hotel in Argentina.
Explore rarely uses multi-share accommodation on any of its trips; when it does, it’s only because there isn’t anything more comfortable available. Most tours use en suite, air-conditioned rooms in comfortable, family-run hotels. Trips are comfort rated at five levels so it’s easy to see in advance what clients are signing up for. Accommodation is chosen for its variety and tradition, so some of the more luxurious options in the Premium range include authentic ryokans in Japan, a felucca on the Nile, the Icehotel in Sweden (pictured below), and a converted monastery cave hotel in Cappadocia, Turkey.
Trek America and Grand American Adventures offer ‘BLT’ (Budget Lodging Tours), using lodges rather than camping, and new for 2013 are Bolt (Bus and Local Transport) tours, which stay in hotels but use public transport, for those who are happy to rough it during the day, but want to sleep in comfort at night.
OPTION TO UPGRADE
Dragoman tours tend to stray well off the beaten track, but over 50% of accommodation is hotel based, usually three and sometimes four-star, and hotel upgrades are available on request.
Tucan Travel’s overland tours tend to be at the harder edge of the comfort spectrum, but some of its South American itineraries use air-conditioned vehicles and stay in three-star accommodation – and clients can pay a supplement to have their own room. On Mara, a 12-day itinerary through Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia that starts from £1,169 excluding flights, the single supplementis £370.
Keycamp offers active trips suited to families, with most accommodation in mobile homes. However, certain parks have luxury lodges so clients can stay in a greater level of comfort. The Camping Pyrenees (also known as Airotel Pyrenees) offers rock-climbing, white-water rafting and abseiling, all within easy reach of the park, which is surrounded by a network of walking trails. After a day of exploration it’s time to unwind at the park’s spa with a Jacuzzi and sauna, and kick back in their luxury lodge, which has an open-plan living area, underfloor heating and amenities including a dishwasher. Seven nights in a three-bedroom Mountain Lodge, which sleeps up to four adults and two kids, starts from £303, accommodation-only.
ADD THE ADVENTURE
The other option is to book luxury accommodation and add the adventure. High-end operators such as Rainbow Tours or Cox & Kings feature far-flung destinations and can add adventure to private itineraries. Certain destinations tend to suit this option, with luxury lodges in Africa, the Amazon and Patagonia combining thrilling action and stunning stays.
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