The Ingalls Storfjord Hotel
“People wish to be settled,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson, but “only in so far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.” We’ve long recognized that truth. Witness the historic pilgrimage routes, from Camino de Santiago in Spain to Kumano Kodo in Japan, which draw multitudes. The award-sweeping 2020 film Nomadland portrayed the itinerant life as both freeing and also, paradoxically, grounding. Which is something not lost on the purveyors of travel. They used the two years of lockdowns to devise or complete new off-the-beaten-path journeys—guided, tested, and with choice places to stay along the way. Think of these trips as modern-day pilgrimages; their creators certainly view them that way. Knut Flakk, founder of the Norwegian adventure company 62 Nord, describes a highpoint in 62 Nord’s new bicycle tour, when a helicopter (let’s be clear: this is high-end nomadism) flies you and your bikes deep into a fjord: “It is almost as if the cliffs on each side open up like gates welcoming you into a heavenly valley. And from there you begin your ascent up Trollstigen.” You can almost hear the trumpets.
Cycle fjords in Norway
Norway’s fjords are typically experienced from the deck of a cruise ship. Now the family-owned 62 Nord has dreamed up a slow-travel alternative that takes you on bikes deep into fjord country and rural Norwegian life. The trips, which debut in June, are six days long and led by former pro riders. They promise scenery, hills, and cuisine to rival rides in Spain’s Pyrenees or the French Alps. There are quad-burning climbs, such as the nearly vertical 2,750-foot one up Trollstigen, the most dramatic in Scandinavia, with 18 switchbacks. And there are long, easy descents to the sea, flanked by cliffs and forest. High-speed RIB boats and helicopters transfer cyclists to stage starts each morning, and there are pitstops at farmsteads and cafés during the 40-mile days. At night: seafood feasts and saunas at the log-hewn Storfjord Hotel (see lead image, above) and Hotel Union Oye, a recently renovated 19th-century retreat long favored by royals and writers, including Arthur Conan Doyle.
Follow a guru in Bhutan
The Trans-Bhutan Trail, a 250-mile pilgrimage route that runs the length of this Buddhist kingdom, is not new, but it just reopened in March (after more than six decades of neglect) with aspirations of earning ubertrek status—the Camino de Santiago of the Himalayas. Nearly 1,000 workers rebuilt 18 bridges and 10,000 stairs along the route, which connects well-known valleys like Paro with more remote districts like Bumthang, where the legendary saint Guru Rinpoche brought Buddhism to Bhutan. Mountain bikers are welcome too—you might even spot the king, an avid cyclist, whizzing by around Thimphu. You’ll need about a month to complete the full trail, which takes in 400 historic and cultural sites set against forests and snowcapped Himalayan peaks, or you can tackle it in sections. Itineraries range from a challenging two-week traverse of the trail’s 150-mile western portion, with homestay overnights, to a mellow 17-mile week exploring valleys such as Punakha and Phobjikha from such luxe bases as Gangtey Lodge, COMO Uma Paro, and Six Senses Punakha.
Hike tea country in Sri Lanka
The traditional trekking goal on Sri Lanka is the 7,359-foot-tall, legend-swathed Adam’s Peak. The just-opened 90-mile Tea Trail, through the island’s famed tea country, devised during pandemic walkabouts by Miguel Cuñat of Sri Lanka in Style, is largely low-elevation and low-gradient (except for an 8.7-mile stretch called the Devil’s Staircase). The trail traverses 24 tea estates, 80 villages, and wildlife-rich hotspots like Horton Plains National Park, and it funnels money to local communities. Each of its 22 sections averages four to six hours to complete; you can stitch together as many as you like or devote three weeks to the entire trail. Overnights are at top tea estates, including the butler-serviced bungalows of Ceylon Tea Trails (Relais & Châteaux). Unlike trekking meccas in New Zealand or Nepal, Sri Lanka’s rural regions are densely populated. “You’re encountering humanity and local cultures every step of the way,” Cuñat says.
Walk with wildlife in Zambia
In addition to Victoria Falls, Zambia is home of the walking safari—you and yours in the bush, in a single file behind an expert guide with a gun. The move-at-the-pace-of-nature philosophy was the brainchild of Norman Carr, a visionary conservationist who first pioneered safaris on foot in the 1950s in Zambia’s game-rich South Luangwa National Park and trained the area’s best guides. The idea was to enable more immediate, visceral, and enlightening encounters with wildlife. Now, under the Time + Tide Safaris umbrella, Carr’s four original remote bush camps in South Luangwa, including the four-chalet Nsolo and the five riverfront tents of Mchenja, have been connected as a walking circuit with surprising experiences along the way (like performances by the Seka Performance Group, a theater troupe with talent drawn from surrounding villages). The treks between the camps vary from five to nine miles, take about two hours, and pass through ancient ebony groves, open grassland, and dry riverbeds. The entire circuit can take seven days. (If you feel the call of the wild especially strongly, the team can arrange an additional sleep-out under the stars.)
To guarantee peak performance, fuel your adventures with feedback from Lumen, a gadget that uses breath analysis to prescribe an optimal ration of carbs and fat in your on-the-road diet, lumen.me. And wear a Whoop health tracker to monitor energy levels and recovery, whoop.com.
The new Finnish Suunto 5 Peak sports watch has built-in GPS and turn-by-turn navigation so you don’t veer off trails, suunto.com. And it syncs with the Strava app—so you can try for king- or queen-of-the-mountain bragging rights by setting new speed records on bike rides, strava.com.
This story appears in the April 2022 issue of Town & Country. SUBSCRIBE NOW
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