High Tatra Trekking in Poland and Slovakia Provider: KE Adventure Travel Length: Eight days Price: $995
While the Alps may be the most popular trekking destination in Europe, Eastern Europe boasts its fair share of snow-capped peaks and high alpine meadowlands, too—many of them linked by way-marked trails and mountain huts like those in France, Switzerland, and Italy. Unlike many central European routes, however, the Eastern treks are more remote and less developed, meaning you're not as likely to encounter lots of other hikers and you may even have the chance to spot wild animals like bear, wolves, and lynx. On top of that, guided tours are significantly cheaper, sometimes costing 40% less than similar trips in the central Alps.
KE Adventure Travel, which ranked as National Geographic Adventure's top trekking outfitter for 2007, leads an eight-day trek through Poland and Slovakia's Tatra Mountains. You'll traverse over rugged ridges and past glacial lakes, summit Poland's highest peak (Rysy, 8,199 feet), and ramble through farms and pastureland, traditional mountain villages, and thick pine forests inhabited by wild animals long since hunted out in Western Europe. You'll stop for meals and evening stays in mountain huts, so there's no need to carry food or camping supplies. At the end of the trip, there's time to explore Krakow, also known as "Florence of the North."
Departures are scheduled for July 18 and September 19. Rates include airport transfers, hotel and mountain hut accommodations, most meals, ground transportation, and guides. Some meals and airfare to Krakow are extra.
Gorilla trekking and culture tours in Rwanda Provider: Amahoro Tours Length: Four days Price: $1,000
Imagine coming face-to-face with wild gorillas—no fences, no glass, no zoo keepers—just a few feet of leafy vegetation separating you and the majestic primates. There's no need for alarm: You're a guest in their home, the Virunga Mountains in northern Rwanda, and as long you mind your manners, you're welcome to stay for awhile.
It feels a bit like attending a family reunion, except the relatives are bigger and hairier. Mothers cradle infants while toddlers bounce on their father's stomach and aunts and uncles and cousins mill about, nibbling on wild vegetables. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and well worth the trip to this tiny country that's made remarkable progress toward becoming one of Africa's safest and most fascinating destinations.
Gorilla trekking is the country's biggest tourist draw by far, but you should take an extra few days for further exploration. Ruhengeri-based Amahoro Tours can arrange packages that mix gorilla trekking with village tours or sight-seeing in the capital city of Kigali. On one of the company's four-day trips, you can go gorilla trekking, meet with genocide survivors who now make their living weaving colorful baskets, learn traditional banana beer brewing techniques, and visit an orphanage. Your trip ends with a Kigali city tour, including stops at the Gisozi Genocide Memorial, the city center and Muslim quarters, and a craft market.
This tour can be arranged at any time. Rates include airport transfers and all ground transportation, accommodations, gorilla trekking and the required $500 permit, village activities and sightseeing, and guides. Meals and airfare to Kigali are extra.