Adventures that truly get you off the beaten trail
For nearly 40 years, Dragoman have been taking curious travellers off the beaten track in countries all over the world. Avoiding the tourist trail is part of our DNA.
Our overland itineraries are carefully designed to offer our passengers a balance between the must-see highlights of a country and unique local experiences and encounters. The journeys below are a hand-picked selection of some of Dragoman’s most off-the-beaten-trail adventures. Among them are a three-week expedition into the wilds of Mongolia, where roads are limited and the people are still mostly nomadic; a three-week journey through the Guyanas of South America, three fascinating countries that many travellers have never even heard of; and the Wild Andes Trek, Dragoman’s alternative to the overcrowded thoroughfares of the Classic Inca Trail, which takes a different route to Machu Picchu through pristine, unspoilt Andean scenery and which directly benefits the communities that host us along the way. It’s all about doing and seeing things a little differently.
Saharan Gems of Sudan & the Kush (ZKH)
This journey through often-overlooked Sudan takes in some of the greatest sites of antiquity, clustered along the banks of the Nile. Although no rival to their counterparts in Egypt in terms of scale, the temples of Naqa and Musawwarat more than make up for this in sheer artistic beauty and, more importantly, isolation – the crowds are far thinner here. Throw in a boat trip across the Nile to the Temple of Sulb, a street dancing display by the whirling Dervish in Khartoum, and a night wild camping under the stars in the desert near the Meroe Pyramids, and you’ve got a truly memorable Saharan journey.
Nomads & Wilds of Mongolia (ZUU)
Mongolia is one of the last unspoiled travel destinations in the world, where the vast steppes and clear lakes remain relatively untouched, the people still live largely nomadic lives, and it’s possible to travel for days without encountering another person. This is one of our more unpredictable journeys, with limited infrastructure and sometimes-rising rivers causing the itinerary to change. With accommodation being a mix of wild camping and Ger homestays, if you’re looking to get off the tourist trail it doesn’t get much better than this.
The Incas & Andes (LLZ)
This trip includes Dragoman’s Wild Andes Trek to Machu Picchu, our unique alternative to the crowded Classic Inca Trail. Our route is about the same in terms of length and difficulty, and passes through spectacular mountain scenery and verdant hillsides. It also features a homestay in a remote Quechuan village. Although it’s packed full of some of Peru’s best sights, most of our travellers tell us this was the best part of the trip.
Guyanas Explorer (ZCV)
Each laying along the Caribbean coast, the three countries of the Guyanas – Guyana, French Guiana, and Suriname - make up a fascinating part of South America that many travellers haven’t even heard of. If you want to see unspoiled tropical rainforest, visit Amerindian river settlements, and explore the eclectic colonial cities of Cayenne, Paramaribo and Georgetown, then this is the trip for you. It’s not your typical South American adventure, and as an added bonus, you probably won’t see another tourist for the whole three weeks.
West African Atlantic Explorer (ZDF)
This is one of the best overland routes in West Africa, travelling through countries with very little tourist infrastructure such as Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone and The Gambia. That’s what makes this trip so special: we’ll have the opportunity to trek through stunning rolling scenery to remote waterfalls, stunning Atlantic beaches, and small villages that few outsiders get the chance to see.
Georgia, Armenia & Azerbaijan (ZTB)
Although we’ve been travelling through Georgia and Azerbaijan for more than twenty years, the Caucasus – that stretch of land sandwiched between the Black and the Caspian Seas - is an area of the world only just coming to the widespread attention of Western travellers. Here you’ll find a dramatic and relatively-unexplored wilderness of mountains, forests and lakes, as well as imposing clifftop monasteries, remote villages and cosmopolitan cities. We’ve made this journey a triple-header for 2020, with Armenia now added to the itinerary.
Ethiopia – the Historic Route & Danakil Depression (ZGA)
This journey through the seldom-visited Ethiopia is among our most popular trips in Africa. The country is home to some of the world’s most dramatic and varied landscapes, including the awe-inspiring Simien Mountains National Park and the other-worldly Danakil Depression, possibly the hottest and most inhospitable place on the planet, and which you’ll explore by 4x4. You’ll also visit the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, the source of the Blue Nile at Lake Tana, and the picturesque city of Bahir Dar. Some of the roads here leave a lot to be desired, but this is a real off-the-beaten-track journey allowing you to see some amazing things.
Altiplano & Gaucho Explorer (ZZS)
This is overlanding at its best: a journey across the roof of the Andes, from Bolivia’s high Altiplano, through the depths of San Pedro de Atacama, the driest desert on Earth, and into the heart of grasslands of Argentina. For many people the highlight of this route is a three-day stay with the Argentinean Gauchos, during which you’ll gain an insight into their culture and lifestyle, as well as learn to ride a horse and throw a lasso. This is balanced with opportunities for urban exploration in cities like La Paz, Salta, Santiago and Mendoza.
Zanzibar, Zambezi & The Falls (YDF)
No trip in east & southern Africa would be complete without Zanzibar and Victoria Falls, but this journey also takes you far from the well-worn tourist routes, with a rural village visit in South Luangwa, time to kick back on Lake Malawi’s magnificent Kande Beach, and the unique experience of canoeing on the backwaters of the Lower Zambezi.
Central Silk Route (AKY)
Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are two of the must-see destinations on the Silk Route through Central Asia. Two drastically different countries, Uzbekistan is the more visited of the two, famous for its historic cities and Islamic architecture and culture, while Kyrgyzstan is more sparse, a spectacularly scenic country characterised by towering mountains and shimmering lakes and perfect for outdoor exploration and wild camping. Our Kyrgyz hosts are nomadic horsemen with a wealth of traditions and whose lives are dominated by animal-herding and felt-making. On top of that, you’ll spend a few days in the deserts of Turkmenistan where you’ll visit the so-called ‘Door to Hell’, a gas crater set alight in 1971 to prevent the spread of methane gas, and which has been burning ever since.
What is overtourism?
Tourism benefits countries and communities in many ways, whether that’s by boosting an economy through increased local spending by visitors, creating new opportunities for employment, restoring crumbling historic sites, or providing local people with a sense of pride in their cultural heritage and identity.
But tourism can become a problem when a destination begins to receive too many visitors. What constitutes “too many” varies from place to place, of course, but generally speaking over-tourism occurs when there are more visitors to a destination than the people and facilities there are equipped to handle. The effects also vary, but might include overcrowded landmarks, alienated local residents, inflated rents and real estate prices, as well as natural environments and manmade infrastructure alike being degraded through littering and excessive footfall.
In short, when a destination becomes too popular, the problems caused by tourism can start to outweigh the benefits.
What Dragoman is doing to counter over-tourism
Today, with the spotlight on sustainable & responsible travel and discouraging over-tourism, overland travel has truly come of age. It’s all about getting into the real country, mixing with the locals, and spreading the love to those communities and areas that really need to benefit from tourism.
On our trips, we aim to maximise the positive impacts of tourism while avoiding contributing to the negative impacts as much as possible. This means that we try to allow plenty of time to really experience the places we travel through, heading out into those hard-to-reach places and spending as much of our cash locally as we can. We stay in locally-owned guesthouses, we eat at local restaurants, and we use local guides. We have developed a number of long-lasting relationships with our local suppliers, and in this way we can ensure the money we spend is going directly back into the local community.
During their comprehensive training programme at Dragoman HQ, our tour leaders are trained in our philosophy of responsible tourism, so that they embody these ethics on the road. We encourage our leaders and our passengers to respect local customs and culture and to abide by local laws and etiquette. Part of what makes overlanding such a fantastic style of travel is the local interaction and community involvement, whether that’s riding horses with Kyrgyz nomads or helping out at a school in Ghana. We strive to foster positive cultural exchanges built on mutual respect between local people and our passengers.
We also endeavour to preserve and enhance the environments we travel through. As much as possible we choose suppliers with green practices in place, and though the Dragoman Supports programme we support a number of community projects in many of the countries we visit which are working for the conservation and/or restoration of natural landscapes and ecosystems – for example, the Meserani Snake Park in Tanzania, the Huasquila Lodge in Ecuador, and the Torres del Paine Legacy Fund.
We also strive to promote Animal Welfare, opposing practices that have a negative impact. For example, we no longer offer elephant riding on any of our trips. When viewing wildlife, we respect the animals and their habitats, abiding by the old maxim “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints”.
To reduce the need for single-use plastic water bottles, we provide drinking water on all of our trucks, and encourage our customers to bring a reusable bottle, such as those offered by Water-to-Go (Dragoman customers are entitled to a 25% discount with Water-to-Go). We also provide reusable shopping bags, and strongly encourage that any waste be disposed of in a responsible way.