Forget dog-sledding. For the ultimate winter endurance test, try reindeer sledding in Eastern Russia with Russia Discovery’s 9-night excursion into the “Pole of Cold” in Yakutia.
The tour is not for the faint of heart or those who want to be pampered. In fact, Urban Daddy calls it “the most physically demanding holiday celebration outside the Polar Bear Club”. Listed as a requirement for the tour is physical fitness and “physical and psychological resistance to the cold.” How cold? Pretty darn cold. The average temperature in January is -40C.
if you think you can brave the freezing temps, you’ll start your tour with a day in Yakutsk where you can visit the Institute of Permafrost before setting out on a 19 hour drive to Yuchugey, a settlement of reindeer herders. By day three, you’ll be practicing your hand at reindeer sledding; on day four you’ll spend 5-6 hours crossing the frozen terrain by sled and then sleeping outdoors in a 4X4 tent. Another day of sledding (in total, the sledding covers 35 miles over two days) is followed by a 20 hour drive back to Yakutsk. On day eight you can visit a husky farm and compare dog-sledding to reindeer sledding before returning to Moscow.
The tour isn’t cheap at €3560 per person, but included in the cost are all meals and accommodations, rental of all the furry outer wear required to keep you from dying of hypothermia, and the chance to feel like Santa as you glide over a snowy landscape pulled by a team of real live reindeer.
The guys over at Urban Daddy have been on a roll lately, unearthing some pretty cool packaged tours. First there was Urbane Nomads’ dive trip to the Great Wall of China. Now they’ve found an organized luxury tour of Morocco, by motorcycle.
Hispania Tours offers a 15-day tour through Morocco that features 13 days of riding on BMW motorcycles. The route starts and ends in Malaga, Spain, and includes stops in Marrakech, High Atlas, Fez, Erg Chebbi, and Merzouga in Morocco. At close to €4000, it’s not cheap. But for the price, you’ll get a guide who’ll lead your group of up to 8 riders along the route, a chase van that will take care of any breakdowns and transport your luggage from place to place, accommodations in 3- and 4-star hotels, breakfasts and dinners, all ferry tolls, insurance, and a camel ride at Merzouga.
The company also runs tours through Spain and Portugal, which range from €2000 to €3000 per person. Self-guided tours that include just hotel and motorcycle start at €1300 and motorcycle rentals only start at €75 per day. Pillions (riders who sit behind the motorcycle driver on the same bike) pay about 1/4 of the full rate and according to the website, routes can be tailored according to experience level.
Did you know that parts of the Great Wall of China are underwater? Yeah, me neither. But according to Urban Daddy, one particular section of the wall has been submerged under a lake since the 1980’s. And now a luxury tour company called Urbane Nomads is offering the first-ever guided diving trips to the hard-to-reach spot.
Guides will carry your gear to the submerged portion of the Wall and direct you to the coolest underwater spots, where you’ll see “Ming-era stone carvings, some intricate tunnels and a tight-squeeze guard tower”. The “Diving the Great Wall” package includes two dives at the site plus more exclusive activities like a guided tour to the unrestored parts of the Forbidden City, usually off-limits to tourists.
The group at Urbane Nomads calls themselves “travel mixologists” creating unique itineraries that customers can tweak according to their preferences while still keeping the main ingredients. There’s definitely an emphasis on luxury here, though the company claims that, unlike other high-end tour operators, their tours seek to connect visitors with the local culture (in a way that is not staged or touristy) rather than isolating them from it. In addition to China, they offer tours to over 30 destinations, including Spain, South Africa, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Oman, Thailand, Turkey, Laos, Morocco, and Argentina.