Jenny Barnes was looking for a bargain. "I wanted an exotic destination, but not too expensive," says the 51-year-old family doctor from Herefordshire, England. "I was taking my 17- and 19-year-old sons, and the adventurous spirit was important."
Emma Fisher wanted an adventure trip where her money "actually benefited the local economy." Her thoughts drifted to Morocco after hearing about friends' experiences there.
Both Fisher and Barnes eventually found their way to the affordable and socially conscious Morocco Atlas Panorama mountain walking holiday from U.K.-based adventure tour operator Exodus. The eight-day small-group adventure goes for as little as $490 for U.S. travelers, plus a small local payment, and features a flexible itinerary that allows for as little or as much walking as the group desires.
The Atlas Panorama is one of the 10 best deals I found in my search for this year's great adventure travel bargains. In sorting through trips offered by nearly 100 different tour operators, I looked for the adventures that best combine price, destination, itinerary, and positive feedback from real travelers.
Morocco: Atlas Panorama
"You get an extremely varied itinerary, from the bustling bazaars of Marrakech to the romantic Kasbah hidden deep in the High Atlas Mountains," says Katie Fewings, Project Manager for U.K.-based Responsible Travel, which sells Exodus' trips and awarded the tour operator a Responsible Tourism Award in 2004.
The "Atlas Panorama" includes a day in the "pink city" of Marrakech—a "maze of bustling bazaars, palaces, and mosques"—before journeying into the immense Atlas Mountains and centering the daily hikes from the Berber village of Tijhza. Walks take travelers through terraced fields, high pastures, and past lakes carved into the white, rocky landscape.
"The trip was a good value for the money," says Barnes. "All of the potential hassle of the trip, arranging accommodation, guides, transport, and trekking was taken care of. I don't have time to do it all myself."
U.S. travelers can also book this trip through Adventure Center.
The nine trips that follow are the rest of the best.