Since opening up to travellers, China and its northwestern neighbours don’t seem quite as out-there a destination to some people – but they’re clearly not looking in the right places. This comprehensive 26-day journey from Beijing to Tashkent is one of those experiences that will stay with you for a lifetime. Picking up in the Chinese capital, you’ll visit the Uyghur province of Xinjiang, learning about the food, culture and history of this minority group. Then, we’ll leave China behind and venture into Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to retrace part of the route that helped build empires: The Silk Road. From stunning snow-capped mountains to arid deserts, experience a side of Asia in a way that you’ll barely believe is real.
Highlights: Wander along the Great Wall, stare down the Terracotta Warriors, bargain at Kashgar's Sunday bazaar, stay in a yurt with a Kyrgyz family, marvel at the sights in Bukhara and Samarkand.
Best of Java (AEJV)
With a population of 135 million crammed into just under 140,000 sq. kilometres, you’d think there’d be no room on Java left for adventuring. Densely populated as it is, this amazing swath of Indonesia has loads of unexplored corners just waiting for travellers looking for something a little different. From Jakarta, you’ll venture to the curiously European-like city of Bandung (the “Paris of Java”) en route to Yogyakarta, home to the island’s monstrous volcanoes. Later, you’ll spend two days in Dutch colonial Batu before winding up on the gorgeous Balinese beaches of Sanur. (Hey, if you can’t beat the crowd, join it!)
Highlights: Explore vibrant Jakarta, take the train through terraced rice fields, visit a Buddhist sanctuary, meet the locals and learn the Javanese way of life
Trek through the hills surrounding Chiang Mai and meet the local people, known collectively as hilltribes, who have made their homes on these slopes. They have lived in peace and without modern conveniences for many years; a visit to these traditional communities is like travelling back to a simpler time. Learn about jungle food and the local way of life, and ride an elephant through the forest. After all that exertion, recline on a bamboo raft and float downriver, giving the friendly locals a wave as you drift past them going about their daily lives.
Highlights: Explore the vibrant colours of Chiang Mai, trek through Northern Thailand, meet the friendly locals, learn about the Karen tribe and witness their traditional weaving