Unforgettable 2023 Adventures
This has been a year of widely wandering—and deeply inspiring—travel adventures for GeoEx staffers. We’ve explored the globe from Bolivia to Vietnam and returned with a wealth of special experiences to share with you.
Come along as we revisit the top 2023 travel destinations that have left an indelible mark on us, and that may inspire your next unforgettable adventure.
Becca Glatz, Product Development
Venturing into Kenya, I embarked on a soul-stirring and exhilarating journey. It was also eye-opening; the helicopter rides provided access to some of the country’s most stunning and rarely seen landscapes. Soaring over the otherworldly terrains of the Great Rift Valley to Lake Turkana, I was awed by the vistas unfolding below. This experience enhanced my understanding of Kenya, revealing a side of the north that brims with exclusive encounters.
In the untamed reaches of northern Kenya, I discovered a treasure trove of experiences that redefine luxury travel. Staying in remote, private camps offered me a deep dive into cultural experiences without forsaking my comfort. Engaging in wildlife conservation projects, from giraffe sanctuaries to elephant orphanages to tracking rhinos, added a profound depth to my adventure, marrying the thrill of discovery with the fulfillment of sustainability.
My top recommendation: Sasaab in Samburu isn’t just a place to lay your head; it’s a luxurious retreat that stands out with its Moroccan-inspired décor, perched atop a cliff with panoramic views of the Ewaso Nyiro River. The private plunge pools and the cultural richness made my stay exceptionally memorable.
Tina Liadis, Sales
Returning to Bhutan after two decades, I stepped into a world that had beautifully preserved its authenticity while embracing subtle progress. Bhutan’s breathtaking scenery showcased untouched natural beauty and awe-inspiring traditions. An evening spent within the sacred walls of the ancient Damchen Lakhang temple, in the Phobjikha Valley, remains etched in my memory. As I was immersed in the soul-stirring chants and drumbeats of evening prayers, I felt a deep connection to this mystical land.
My top recommendation: Stay with Six Senses. Their exquisite settings and exclusive experiences elevate the journey into something extraordinary. I greatly enjoyed having a serene breakfast with local monks and an interactive momo-making session. Another treat was the hot stone bath at Six Senses Bumthang. It was a lavish and relaxing way to reflect on my time in Bhutan.
Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, & Cambodia
Glenn Ringer, Product Development
Traveling through Southeast Asia truly made everything come to life for me. After years of hearing about these destinations, setting foot in them, breathing in their air, and walking their streets gave me a new perspective. The trip deepened my appreciation for the uniqueness of each place—Vietnam’s pulsing energy, Laos’s serene landscapes, and the historical echoes in every corner. Each country unveiled its distinct character through the people I met, the meals I savored, and the history I touched, which all wove into a single, fascinating journey
Buzzing through Hanoi’s lively avenues on a scooter, guided by the insights of an enthusiastic local university student, was a highlight that exemplified Vietnam’s vibrancy. I was struck by the region’s warm hospitality and friendliness. In each village, I was greeted by excited and adorable children eager to welcome me to their home. On a street food tour with a local food blogger, we learned fascinating stories from the vendors about their life and their food.
My top recommendation: Stay on the Anouvong, Laos’s luxury boutique vessel that glides along the Upper Mekong. Each of its ten cabins offers an intimate slice of adventure paired with indulgent comfort. The excursions—from remote villages to a tranquil elephant sanctuary to the spiritual Pak Ou Caves—were as enriching as they were exclusive.
The Galápagos Islands
Brady Binstadt, CEO
I couldn’t wait to share the treasures of the Galápagos—an untouched world of incredible creatures and breathtaking landscapes—with my kids. The trip turned out to be a series of adventurous surprises, but the highlight was an unexpected encounter with a pod of orcas gracefully cutting through the ocean. Seeing these magnificent creatures up close was a moment of pure awe, a perfect example of how this destination never ceases to amaze, even for seasoned visitors like myself. Whether we were snorkeling with playful sea lions or simply marveling at the extraordinary biodiversity, the sense of wonderment experienced by my kids is something I will remember forever.
The Safari Camp provided the perfect backdrop for introducing my kids to the Galápagos. This trip was not just about adventure; it was a lesson in the importance of preserving these wonders. The camp’s commitment to sustainability made it stand out as a beacon, showing us how to experience the Galápagos responsibly.
This trip was particularly special because it marked the first time my children joined me in the Galápagos, one of my favorite places in the world. Sharing this with my kids — their wide-eyed excitement at each new discovery — was the greatest reward.
My top recommendation: The Galápagos Safari Camp is perfect for families, providing an ideal balance of comfort, adventure, and sustainability. From kayaking through crystal-clear waters to enjoying unique culinary experiences, the camp offers a plethora of activities that allow families to connect with nature and with each other.
Rachel Morris, Group Departures & Lauren Reale, Sales
Embarking on the small group trip, “Journey Through Ancient Japan,” was like unlocking a hidden chapter of time, where each moment revealed a new layer of Japan’s rich tapestry. From the quiet serenity of ancient temples to the dynamic energy of vibrant markets, the trip was a harmonious blend of tradition and modernity, offering a genuine glimpse into the heart of Japan’s cultural heritage.
The journey felt like an adventure with long-time friends, enriched by the deep connections our guides had with locals. Everywhere we went, we were greeted with open arms, making each experience feel more personal, more intimate. It was this sense of connection that truly set the trip apart, as we were not just visitors but welcomed guests, embraced into the fold of daily life and tradition.
Our top recommendation: Make the journey across the urban sprawl of eastern Honshu to Shikoku’s peaceful countryside. Our experiences in Japan, from the ancient art of paper-making to the timeless hospitality, have shown us a land where tradition and modernity exist in beautiful synergy, offering a soulful retreat.
Linda De La Torre, Sales
My exploration of Brazil took me far beyond the familiar images of vibrant festivals and golden beaches. I discovered a country that pulses with life and diversity, starting with the emerald expanse of the Amazon Rainforest. Here, in the chorus of the natural world, I found myself mesmerized by the diverse wildlife and the lush wilderness that beckoned with the thrill of the unknown. And in the Pantanal, I was greeted with a spectacle of birdlife and the heart-stopping thrill of jaguar sightings – experiences that etched themselves into my memory as the true spirit of Brazil.
This journey broadened my understanding of Brazil. Each day unveiled new cultural riches and environmental wonders, a dynamic nation alive with the promise of discovery and high adventure. It’s a destination with a symphony of exclusive experiences, where exquisite eco-lodges offer sanctuary amidst the wild, and where personalized, private expeditions lead to encounters with nature that stay with you long after you return home.
My top recommendation: The Anavilhanas Lodge in the Amazon truly captures the essence of Brazil. It’s nestled in the forest canopy, and offers comfort entwined with the thrills of the wilderness.
Gayle Lehmann, Sales
My adventure to South Africa was a voyage of self-discovery, vibrant and rich with transformative experiences. Each day presented a new chapter, from the stunning vistas of Cape Town to the verdant valleys of the Cape Winelands to the wilds of the savannah. One heart-stopping moment that stood out was watching a baby rhino play in the wild with its mother. Equally impactful was the day I spent witnessing a remarkable array of community development projects, each a beacon of innovation and the indomitable spirit of the South African people.
I found in South Africa a land that juxtaposes wild beauty with cultural depth, offering adventures that engage all the senses. It’s a place where luxury means not just exquisite accommodations but also the privilege of engaging deeply with the environment and its people. Its unique blend of raw nature and warm hospitality is sure to leave you with a heart full of gratitude and a renewed sense of purpose.
My top recommendation: Join the rhino-darting and notching program run by the conservationists at Kwandwe. This unforgettable, hands-on opportunity actively contributes to the vital preservation of one of the world’s most iconic and endangered species.
Sabrina Middleton, Air Services & Ashely Pacelli, Guest Services
Our expedition to Patagonia was a journey that delved deep into the essence of what it means to connect with nature. Patagonia had been described to us as remote, rewarding, and breathtaking, and indeed it was. We were enveloped by moments that can only be described as magical. Whether it was marveling at the ancient Alerce trees or savoring the flavors of a cooking class with locally sourced ingredients, each experience highlighted the region’s unique allure. The most unforgettable moment was sharing maté with Chino, a local conservationist whose work is focused on the Huemul deer. As we sat discussing the importance of conservation, we felt a bond not just with Chino but with the land itself, which we soon explored with a sense of intimate connection, tracking the Huemul in their natural habitat.
The spirit of Patagonia, encapsulated by the conservation efforts of Doug and Kris Tompkins and continued by Rewilding Chile, transformed our understanding of eco-travel and sustainability. We left Patagonia not just as visitors, but as advocates for its protection.
Our top recommendation: Stay at the Explora Lodge in the heart of Patagonia National Park. Waking up to the breathtaking sunrise over the mountains was a surreal experience, setting the tone for each day of exploration. Additionally, take a charter flight to Cochrane for an incredible aerial view of Patagonia’s unspoiled beauty.
Jesse Knight, Premier Access
My journey to the heart of the Congo Basin rainforest redefined wilderness adventure for me. Calling it adventurous, playful, and impactful barely scratches the surface of what I felt as I watched elephants and gorillas forage for minerals, their ancient routines unfolding before my eyes. These majestic beings, set against the vast, lush backdrop of the Congo, connected me to the wild in ways I had never imagined.
The raw excitement I discovered in the Congo is what true adventurers dream of — the luxury of the untamed, the remote, and the untouched. Walking on foot through the forest, wading through streams, and following paths trodden by elephants, made me feel like a child exploring an endless natural playground. There’s an exhilarating freedom in knowing there are no major predators, just the pure beauty of nature inviting you to witness its wonders up close.
My top recommendation: Ngaga Camp and Lango Camp are ideal choices to experience the Congo’s wilderness in comfort. Ngaga Camp is an incredible place to embark on treks to encounter western lowland gorillas, while Lango Camp provides a unique vantage point over a mineral-rich bai, a haven for diverse wildlife. Both camps offer not only good food and comfort but also an exclusive entry into the unspoiled heart of the jungle. For those seeking to merge luxury with wild adventure, these camps promise an experience that’s as rare as it is breathtaking.
Chelsea Place, Marketing
During my first GeoEx trip, “Bolivia: A Tapestry of Traditions,” I was swept into a world that is an exhilarating blend of raw beauty and unspoiled culture. One moment that stands out was being warmly invited into a local weaver’s home in Candelaria. There, amidst her looms and threads, she shared her craft and story with a tangible sense of pride. She told us of her travels to the United States for a weaving convention and gleefully pointed out that her work had been published in a book.
Before setting foot in Bolivia, I was drawn to its untouched beauty and unadulterated authenticity. Once there, I was overwhelmed by the warmth and welcoming spirit of everyone I met. The people were brimming with pride, eager to share their heritage and stories. I believe this unfiltered experience is rare and profound. Bolivia offers a truly unique opportunity for genuine connections and an escape from the manufactured tourist paths.
My top recommendation: Embrace the small-group journey, especially in a destination like Bolivia. The camaraderie developed within our group of like-minded travelers, all eager to delve into the uncharted wonders of Bolivia, amplified my experience and made every moment even more unforgettable. There’s a unique joy in sharing awe-struck moments with fellow travelers — whether it’s marveling at the sprawling Uyuni Salt Flats, walking through the darkness of an active silver mine, or exchanging smiles with locals in lively markets. This shared journey forged friendships and created memories that I will cherish forever.
Heather Cunningham, Group Departures
From the moment I set foot in Pakistan, the warmth of its people enveloped me. At the airport, kind strangers guided me, and this spirit of hospitality followed me to hotels, restaurants, and through the vibrant streets. The locals’ eagerness to engage was infectious, which only deepened my sense of connection to this wonderful place.
My trip extended deep into the many facets of Pakistan: the culture, the history, the people. My visits to historical sites, which date back to 2500 BC, combined with insights into the country’s recent history since the 1947 Partition, helped me to understand the nation’s evolution. Being able to experience everyday life in Pakistan was eye-opening: From fascinating food and clothing stalls filled with vivid colors to impromptu dances outside shrines to congratulatory exchanges with newlyweds at the Faisal Mosque, each encounter revealed a story of a civilization both ancient and evolving. I found that the true luxury of Pakistan lies in its authentic experiences, the heartfelt warmth of its people, and the broadened perspective that travel there confers.
My top recommendation: Make sure to witness the Wagah border ceremony. This was a defining moment of my trip, showcasing an extraordinary spectacle of patriotism and pageantry. The ceremony blends traditional elements with comical performances, stirring a sense of pride and excitement among the crowd. You can’t help but be swept up in the energy, and I sat happily waving my small Pakistan flag, overjoyed to be a welcomed guest in this beautiful country.
Sara Barbieri, Product Development
My scouting mission to Iraq for our small-group trip “On the Road to Baghdad: Exploring Southern Iraq” was transformative. The land, with its layers of history and culture, struck me as revelatory, humbling, and inspiring. I remember the kindness of an environmentalist who, without hesitation, gave me his hermit thrush-emblazoned shirt—an example of the generous spirit that resonates across this ancient land. Such moments of unexpected generosity profoundly shaped my time in Iraq.
Throughout my travels, I witnessed the resilience and grace of a nation and its people. Iraq isn’t just a cradle of ancient civilization but also a living, breathing testament to endurance and hope. Iraq revealed itself as a place where adventurers can connect with humanity’s shared aspirations—observed in the warm smiles of nomad camel herders and the vibrant energy of Baghdad’s cafes. It was these experiences, the cultural immersion and the meeting of hearts and minds, that brought me closer to the country’s true essence.
My top recommendation: If you’re seeking an adventure that transcends the conventional, step outside your comfort zone and into the depths of Iraq. Here, beauty lies not in picturesque landscapes but in the layers of history, culture, and spirit of the people. The luxury is in the richness of experience, from the delicious diversity of olives and bread to the comforting hospitality of the hotels. Traveling through Iraq is about peeling back these layers, building an appreciation rooted not in the visual, but in the deeply moving interactions that stay with you long after the journey ends.