The British explorer suggests 10 daring trips to do on your own in 2018.
Most first-time visitors to Central America flock to the eco-lodges of Costa Rica. For the truly intrepid traveller, though, Nicaragua is a far better bet. It’s cheaper, and in my opinion has a more authentic feel. The place to hang out is Granada, with its beautiful Spanish Colonial architecture and creative scene. Want to explore further? There are virgin jungles, lava lake volcanoes, waterfalls and tropical islands filled with sloths. If beaches are what you’re after, then San Juan Del Sur is a short drive away.
A 13-day Nicaragua tour with Exodus (020 3811 6120; exodus.co.uk) costs from £2,229 including B&B accommodation, activities, local transport and flights. Departures between March 2018 and Nov 2019.
The jewel of the Caucasus is a hidden gem that’s sufficiently off the beaten track. With some of the most jaw-dropping scenery in Europe, Georgia can rightly claim its place as the hippest travel destination for the new year. It’s got great wine, delicious food and a fusion of both European and Asian cultures. Its people are among the most welcoming in the world and you won’t go far without being offered “chacha”, the indigenous moonshine.
An 11-day Georgia Adventure from Intrepid (0808 274 5111; intrepidtravel.com) starts at £1,075 including accommodation, some meals, activities and local transport. Flights not included. Departures May 2018 to Sept 2019.
This East African nation is a real gem. The town of Jinja on Lake Victoria is home to one of the sources of the mighty Nile and there are amazing opportunities for adventure, whether you’re into watersports or want to see some of Africa’s best game. The Great Lakes mean that you’re never far away from beautiful wetlands and tropical islands. Don’t miss a group trip to see gorillas in the Bwindi forest.
An 11-day tailor-made Uganda Gorilla and Wildlife Safari offered by Wild Frontiers (020 3797 8272; wildfrontierstravel.com) starts at £7,345 including accommodation, most meals, safari activities and local flights. International flights not included. Departs any time.
One of my favourite places in the world is the Yucatan peninsula. Even though the main transport hub is the raucous city of Cancun, there’s more to this place than bottomless cocktails and spring-break parties. Head an hour south and you’re in Tulum, home to Mayan ruins, pristine white beaches and mouthwatering food. When you’ve had your fill of ceviche you can always go to one of the many cleansing spas to sweat out the guilt.
A 15-day Mexico trip from Journey Latin America (020 3131 7447; journeylatinamerica.co.uk) costs from £3,578 B&B, including local transport and flights. Departures Jan to Dec 2018.
If you’re after a taste of traditional Arabic culture and ancient ruins, consider a trip to Jordan. Transport is cheap and there are plenty of places to meet like-minded solo travellers. From the wide-open deserts and jaw-dropping mountains of Wadi Rum to the film-set backdrop of Petra, there are lots of experiences to share with fellow Indiana Jones adventurers.
An eight-day Jordan tour from Flashpack (020 3051 1057; flashpack.com) starts at £1,699 including accommodation (sharing a twin room with someone of the same gender), most meals, local transport and activities. Flights cost extra. Departures available March to Nov 2018.
This magical mountain kingdom has been a magnet for solo travellers since the heyday of the hippy trail in the Sixties and Seventies. Its capital Kathmandu is still a haven for trekkers, but there’s more to the country than snowy peaks and ramblers wearing down-filled jackets. These days Nepal offers a range of activities from white-water rafting to courses in Tibetan cooking, massage and Buddhist meditation.
A 13-day Luxury Annapurna Foothills itinerary from Mountain Kingdoms (01453 844400; mountainkingdoms.com) costs from £2,595 including accommodation, all meals and flights. Departures between Feb 2018 and April 2019.
Iran is a treat for those willing to look beyond the headlines. Persians are famous for their hospitality and food. Other draws include skiing in the Alborz, camel rides in the desert, the mind-blowing ruins of Persepolis and the Islamic architecture of Esfahan. If you get bored of all that, Tehran has a vibrant hipster scene where you can grab a coffee, smoke shisha and chat with locals.
An 11-day Persia tour available from Cox & Kings (020 3883 6599; coxandkings.co.uk) costs from £2,745 including accommodation, some meals, local transport and international flights. Departures between March and Nov 2018. This can also be taken as a private tour.
8. Sri Lanka
Known for its laid-back atmosphere, friendly residents and picture-perfect beaches, this Indian Ocean island is the ideal place to unwind. I visited in winter and combined a whistle-stop tour of Colombo with a hike across the tea plantations of Nuwara Eliya and a leisurely few days relaxing on the south coast at Cape Weligama. There are some stunning cliff-top retreats focused on everything from Ayurvedic massage to silent meditation. The surf here is some of the best in the world.
A 13-day Sri Lanka tour from TransIndus (020 8566 3739; transindus.co.uk) costs from £2,135 including accommodation, some meals and transport. Flights extra. Can be taken as a tailor-made trip.
9. South Africa
Cape Town for me is the perfect city with its coastal vibe and sublime backdrop of Table Mountain. Accommodation ranges from the lavish to the rudimentary, and there are activities to suit both thrill seekers and beach bums. You can hike up a mountain in the morning, surf the waves before lunch, then nip down to Boulders Beach for some penguin gawping before taking on the vineyards in the evening.
A 15-day Discover South Africa tour from Audley Travel (01993 838550; audleytravel.com) costs from £3,060 B&B including flights. Departs any time.