As trekking goes, the beginning of the Besseggen Ridge is a breeze. Sitting on the bow of a little tug as it chugs along picturesque Lake Gjende in central Norway’s Jotunheimen Nasjonalpark, you’d be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss is about – this is, after all, Norway’s best-known day hike, in the country’s most illustrious national park. But then the boat drops you off at a tiny jetty and you start the hike up the hill, knowing that each step takes you closer to the crest: a threadline precipice that’ll turn even the toughest mountaineer’s legs to jelly.

You’ll need a good head for heights, but it’s not a technically difficult walk: the path is generally wide and well marked by intermittent cairns, splashed with fading red “T”s. After the initial climb away from the jetty, the route levels out before ascending again across boulder-strewn terrain until, some 2.5 hours into the trek, you arrive at the base of the ridge itself.

The actual clamber up the ridge takes about half an hour, though the Norwegian youngsters who stride past, frighteningly upright, seem to do it much more quickly. It’s incredibly steep and requires a lot of heaving yourself up and over chest-high ledges; in places, the rock just drops away into thin air. But the views are some of the finest in Norway: a wide sweep of jagged peaks and rolling glaciers, and, far, far below, Lake Gjende, glinting green on sunny days but more often – thanks to the upredictably moody weather up here – resembling a menacing pool of cold, hard steel.

From there on, the going is comparatively easy, and you’ll probably scamper the remaining few kilometres back to Gjendesheim, your energy bolstered by the biggest adrenaline boost you’ll have had in a very long time.

Jotunheimen Nasjonalpark is accessed via Gjendesheim, 90km southwest of Otta. The Lake Gjende boat runs from late June to mid-Sept ( +44 (0) 6123 8509).

 

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The brakes grind then release and you’re off, squeaking and squealing down a roller-coaster-like track for what might just be the train ride of your life. This is the Flåmsbana, a shiny, pine-green pleasure train that plunges nearly a kilometre in a mere fifty minutes. The unforgettable ride takes you from the heady frozen heights of the Norwegian mountains in Myrdal right down to the edge of the icy-blue waters of the Aurlandsfjord in the picturesque village of Flåm.

On the train, the old-fashioned carriage interior is wood-panelled and fitted with wide, high-backed benches which transport you back to the 1920s when the train was first built; it took over four years to lay the 20km track which spirals and zigzags down around hairpin bends and through twenty hand-dug tunnels during the course of its short journey. As you might imagine the views are spectacular; to accommodate this, enormous, over-sized windows were fitted to ensure you don’t miss a thing, regardless of where you happen to be seated.

As it runs all year, the train is a lifeline in the winter months for fjord inhabitants who were previously cut off by the long frozen winters. But for the best views, stick to late spring and summer when the ice and snow-melt create majestic,
crashing waterfalls (don’t miss the close-range view of Kjosfossen) that seem to leap and spring from every crevice in the sheer, verdant cliffs.

The Flåmsbana offers an experience that’s at the same time glamorous, hair-raising and magical. The dizzy inclines and thunderous soundtrack of crashing waterfalls will give even the most seasoned rider a shiver of excitement, and if you can’t help but conjure up images of runaway trains, just remember there are five independent sets of brakes – a necessary precaution and a very reassuring feature.

To get to the Flåmsbana take the train from Bergen to Myrdal (via Voss). You can buy your ticket all the way through to Flåm at the Bergen train station, which means you’ll be able to jump right on the train when you arrive in Myrdal. Visit www.flaamsbana.no for more.

 

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New Zealand’s reputation as a walker’s paradise is thanks partly to its diversity of scenery, from the tropical beaches, hot springs and volcanic mountains in the north to the temperate forests, dramatic fjords and glacier-fed lakes in the south. But it’s also due to the country’s well-maintained network of backcountry trails managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Access to the country’s nine “Great Walks” is strictly controlled via a quote system to ensure their protection, but the downside is that often you have to book months in advance to secure your place. There are, however, plenty of other DOC-maintained trails among stretches of equally magnificent scenery; the accommodation along these trails might be as sophisticated as those along the Great Walks, but they are usually well-equipped, cheaper and far less crowded.  Here’s our five favourite alternative treks.

Rees Dart Track, Otago

A 4–5 day circuit that winds across two lush valleys following the course of two rivers – the Rees and the Dart – in the Glenorchy region in the south of Mount Aspiring National Park. Much of the 57km trek is well-marked, there are three DOC huts en route, and you can expect forested as well as steep alpine sections with dramatic views of mountain ranges similar to those encountered on the Routeburn, one of the nine Great Walks. However, the Rees Dart trek is more challenging, and the one to go for if you’re looking for several days of mountain solitude.

Pelorus Track, Marlborough

This three-day trek is for those who like to combine walking with the occasional refreshing dip in a river. The 36km trail, which begins 13km along the river valley from the Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve in Mount Richmond Forest Park, leads to several green natural pools where you can soak your sore feet after tramping through forested valleys of matai and beech trees. The most famous bathing spot is the Emerald Pools Picnic Area – it is about an hour from the start of the trail so it’s popular with day-trippers – and though it may be hard to leave this idyll, press on and you’ll discover more wonderful bathing spots along the track. The further you go, the more likely it is that you’ll have them all to yourself.

Whirinaki Forest Park, Central North Island

A feature of New Zealand’s walks is its ancient forests, and there are few finer examples of this than the Whirinaki Forest Park and the adjacent Te Urewera National Park, the largest single block of native forest in New Zealand’s North Island. Maori-owned Te Urewera Treks specializes in walks (1–3 days) to both areas under the guiding eye of Joe Doherty, of local Ngai Tuhoe descent, who shows guests how the Maori use native plants for medicine and food, and gives lessons on the local history and Maori legends.

Mount Taranaki, New Plymouth

Egmont National Park on the west coast of the North Island is about as off-the-beaten-track as it gets in New Zealand, and there are some wonderful treks in this often overlooked park. Pride of place is Mount Taranaki, a dormant volcano and the site of several walks through alpine and bush in altitudes ranging from 500m to 1500m. The five–day lower-level circuit is the easier option, though from December to February the snow melts enough for hikers to loop off the main track and do the more challenging high-level route that heads up the slopes. Those who want a quick mountain fix can walk directly up to the summit and down again in a day – it’s a strenuous trek but well worth it for the wonderful views of the Tasman Sea and Tongariro mountains.

Cape Reinga Walk, Far North

“Ninety Mile Beach” might not sound like an easy walk to do in three days, but fear not, it is at the northern end of a wide, flat expanse of windswept sand that is the starting point of a relatively comfortable – and uncrowded – hike around the headland of the northern tip of New Zealand. The walk begins at the impressive dunes of Te Paki Stream and heads northwards along 41km of coastline, stopping off at some beautifully sited campgrounds overlooking the sea. The walk ends at Cape Reinga where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean collide in a froth of foam. According to Maori legend, it is here that spirits depart to the next life. However, you might prefer to pitch your tent at the DOC campsite in the manuka woods and go for a swim in the usually deserted 7km sweep of Spirits Bay and feel very much alive.

 

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Alpine tundra, barren volcanic craters, steaming springs and iridescent lakes – the sheer diversity on the Tongariro Crossing makes it probably the best one-day tramp in the country. The wonderfully long views are unimpeded by the dense bush that crowds most New Zealand tracks, and from the highest point you can look out over almost half the North Island with the lonely peak of Mount Taranaki dominating the western horizon.

The 16km hike crosses one corner of the Tongariro National Park – wild and bleak country, encompassing the icy tops of nearby Mount Ruapehu, which is, at 2797m, the North Island’s highest mountain. Catch the Crossing on a fine day and it is a hike of pure exhilaration. The steep slog up to the South Crater sorts out the genuinely fit from the aspirational, then just as the trail levels out, Mount Ngauruhoe (2291m) invites the keen for a two-hour side-trip up its scoria slopes. Ngauruhoe famously starred as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings films, and you can live out all your hobbit fantasies as you look down its gently steaming crater. Getting back on track is a heart-pounding, hell-for-leather scree run back down the mountain – in just fifteen minutes you cover what took an hour and a half to ascend.

The gaping gashes and sizzling fissures around Red Crater make it a lively spot to tuck into your sandwiches and ponder the explosive genesis of this whole region. From here it is mostly downhill past Emerald Lake, its opaque waters a dramatic contrast to the shimmering surface of Blue Lake just ahead. With the knowledge that you’ve broken the back of the hike you can relax on the veranda of Ketetahi Hut gazing out over the tussock to glistening Lake Taupo in the distance. Rejuvenated, you pass the sulphurous Ketetahi Hot Springs on the final descent, down to the green forest and the welcome sight of your bus. Tired but elated you settle back in the seat dreaming of a good feed and the chance to relive the events of the day over a couple of beers.

The Tongariro Crossing typically takes 6–8hrs and requires a good level of fitness. See www.doc.govt.nz for updates on track conditions.

 

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Home to over 8,000 brown bears, the Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania, Romania are one of Europe’s last frontiers. Greg Dickinson joined Romania’s leading wildlife guide in search of a bear.

He was now just inches away from me. Sharp, feral fangs. Thick wires of hair covering every inch of his heavy frame. And not to forget the firm, assertive handshake. These were my first observations of Dan Marin, the man who was going to lead me deep into Romania’s wilderness in search of a bear.

I met Dan in his hometown of Zărnești, a former farming village bordering the historic region of Transylvania. Here cubes of Soviet architecture overwhelm, while the couple of saloon bars create a racket on the otherwise deserted main road. Everything about Zărnești would have compelled me to board the next tin can train back to Brașov were it not for the muscular Southern Carpathian mountains that guard the horizon just ten miles beyond.

I was both intrigued and wary of these bear-infested mountains, and my fear was only exacerbated by the measly pepper spray can, apparently our only form of protection, stuffed in the side pocket of Dan’s rucksack.

“Here, eat this.” We had been walking for a few minutes when Dan stopped to tug a fistful of wilted leaves from the ground. I hesitated before shoving them into my mouth; a Wonka-esque burst of acidic berries smacked my senses. “This is sorrel. You will pay £5 for a bunch of this in England, but here it grows everywhere.” He popped a few into his own mouth, unflinching, and continued up the path. Since leaving his job at the local munitions factory in 1992, Dan has acquired an encyclopaedic understanding of these mountains, though perhaps even more impressive is that he has both taught himself fluent English and acquired a distinguished Home Counties accent.

The early stages of our route followed the trails of Europe’s last nomadic shepherds. Every summer a swarm of cattle stamps these paths flat, but today the traffic was made up of yellow-bellied toads who panicked from puddle to puddle. Dan delighted in scooping one up, showing me its elaborate colouring that would be far better suited in a Madagascan swamp. We soon discovered why they were in such a hurry.

“How long ago was it here?” I whispered as we bent over a series of bear paw prints. Recently, he told me, a few hours perhaps, and almost instantaneously my perception of the forest changed. Gaps between tree trunks became bears on their hind legs. Birds were no longer flying, they were escaping. Twig cracks and ground thumps closed in on us. The bear tracking had begun.

Our next clue was something that only Dan would have spotted.

“Do you see this yellow stuff here?” he was on his tiptoes pointing to waxy build-up on the side of a tree trunk. “This is sap. And do you see what is stuck to it?”

My eyes snapped into focus and a thin layer of hairs sprang from the tree. Sap is like catnip for bears, and once I started looking out for it almost every trunk had a membrane of hairs, as if the trees were passing through the final stages of evolution before becoming creatures of the forest themselves.

In the afternoon we went off-piste, for the first time escaping the confines of the forest and emerging in a bumpy hay meadow – an ideal vantage point to scan the surrounds. Here we sat, huddled completely still while Dan revealed his closest encounters with bears, grinning boyishly as he recalled the time he hid here for hours as a greedy male devoured a number of trees, only to creep up and taste the sap for himself after it had left.

When the sun cowered behind the snow-capped peaks and flies began to nip we left the meadow to begin our descent. This is when Dan came to an abrupt halt. Movement in the trees. But this time it was much closer. More disruptive. Heavier than before. Just metres away a blur of brown crashed through a clearing and disappeared quickly. A bear cub. I was desperate to catch another glimpse but Dan insisted we move on, as mothers get defensive when straying cubs get too close to humans. Enlivened crickets taunted us as we paced away to safety.

I was intoxicated with adrenalin after our encounter, and as we retreated back to Zărnești I realised I was no longer afraid of the bears that roam these mountains. For the man who plodded in front of me, quietly whistling to the birds, is not a visitor but rather a resident of the Carpathians. I now understood that his bottle of pepper spray was purely a gesture – he has never needed to use it and most likely never will. Dan respects the natural order of these forests as a matter of instinct, and perhaps it is his carnivorous teeth and hairy physique fooling them into thinking he’s a long lost cousin, but the bears certainly seem to have accepted him as a fellow beast of the wild.

If you want to explore more of Romania, buy the Rough Guide to Romania. Book hostels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance.

You probably won’t get much sleep on your first night in Taman Negara National Park – not because there’s an elephant on your chalet doorstep or the rain’s dripping through your tent, but because the rainforest is unexpectedly noisy after dark. High-volume insects whirr and beep at an ear-splitting pitch, branches creak and swish menacingly, and every so often something nearby shrieks or thumps. Taman Negara is a deceptively busy place, home to scores of creatures including macaques, gibbons, leaf monkeys and tapirs, as well as more elusive tigers, elephants and sun bears. Not to mention some three hundred species of birds and a huge insect population.

Many rainforest residents are best observed after dark, either on a ranger-led night walk or from one of the twelve-bed tree-house hides strategically positioned above popular salt licks. But a longer guided trek also offers a good chance of spotting something interesting and will get you immersed in the phenomenally diverse flora of Taman Negara, which supports a staggering 14,000 plant species, including 75m-high tualang trees, carnivorous pitcher plants and fungi that glow like lightbulbs. The rewarding six-hour Keniam–Trenggan trail takes you through dense jungle and into several impressive caves, while the arduous week-long expedition to the cloudforests atop 2187m-high Gunung Tahan involves frequent river crossings and steep climbs. With minimal effort, on the other hand, you can ascend to the treetops near park headquarters, via a canopy walkway. Slung some 30m above the forest floor between a line of towering tualang trees, this swaying bridge offers a gibbon’s perspective on the cacophonous jungle below.

Taman Negara (www.wildlife.gov.my) is 250km from Kuala Lumpur and can be reached by bus or, more enjoyably, by train and boat.

 

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As Quebec’s Arctic north begins to open its doors to tourists, Phoebe Smith voyages to Nunavik to discover Inuit life and woodland caribou in Canada’s greatest wilderness…

“There, a caribou – do you see it?” asked Suzie as I trained my eyes on the green thicket on the opposite riverbank. As hard as I tried I couldn’t see the deer for the trees. This was not a good start to my wildlife-watching trip to Nunavik.

I was in the depths of the Torngat Mountains somewhere on the border between the national park of the same name, and the adjacent Parc national Kuururjuaq in Québec. Made up of gargantuan fjords and glaciated valleys, and a smattering of peaks so tall and serrated you’d think they’d been borrowed from the Himalaya, between them the two parks span the length of the Labrador Peninsula.

But these are not your normal national parks. There are no roads, no designated campsites, no signposted trails or “you are here” maps – these parks offers true immersion in the outdoors. Even the nearest visitor centre is 100km away back in the community of Kangiqsualujjuaq.

And I hadn’t even begun my journey there; I had started in the gateway to this whole region – Kuujjuaq – accessed by a two-hour flight from Montréal. Up until now, other than a handful of intrepid Canadian tourists, the only visitors here have been temporary construction or oil workers, but all that is about to change: the government have begun investing money in tourism.

Photo: Neil S Price

On arrival I met Allan, an Inuit man who had lived here since birth. “Most kids leave when they finish high school,” he explained as he drove me around his hometown, pointing out the power plant (the whole community is run on generators), one of two general stores (where you can buy anything from a loaf of bread to a Skidoo snowmobile or a three piece suite) and the collection of traditional tents where teens like to stay with their friends in the summer to experience how their ancestors used to live. “They like to go to college in Montréal or Québec to experience life away from Nunavik,” he said. “But most of them come back. The town is growing all the time – things are changing.”

Kuujjuaq is changing. There are now two hotels in town. Originally built to house the temporary workers from “down south”, the demand is such that they are now adding a second storey to one and updating the furnishings and décor, hoping to entice tourists.

Later that evening excitement was brewing in the one restaurant in town as word got around that overseas visitors were here. The owner of the general store came over to say hello and the waitress took it as an opportunity to try out her English (in schools here they are taught Inuktitut first, then can choose between French and English). While fish was the main thing on the menu, the elusive caribou also featured. Having seen the animal so readily available to eat in the town, the live variety was something I was desperate to see.

The visitor centre, a 45min flight away at Kangiqsualujjuaq, offered a promising start. There was an impressive exhibition of animals I might see in Parc national Kuururjuaq, from wolves to polar bears, and golden eagles to (hopefully) caribou.

Here I met Suzie Morgan, an Inuit elder who used to live out in the heart of the Torngats. She grew up there with her family and explained how every year they would follow the Koroc River from east to west with the seasons. On the Labrador Sea they would feast on seals – eating their meat, using blubber for cooking oil and the fur to craft waterproof boots to keep their feet dry. When the seals migrated they would head inland, stalking the caribou herds as they moved through the forests, sometimes meeting other Inuit families as they went, moving constantly.

Photo: Neil S Price

Now Suzie lives in town and has a house with electric, heating and satellite TV, but she agreed to accompany me on the flight into Torngat to see her old stomping ground. As we bounced on the thermals above the peaks she gestured down to a bend in the river. It looked like any of the others we passed, but for her it marked the spot where all the Inuit families used to meet up once a year for a celebration.

We descended towards a dense forest. Within seconds we were landing amongst the undergrowth and came to a stop in the middle of nowhere. Here Suzie lead us down to the river where she remembered her father heading into the mountains to hunt caribou – before she spotted one herself and pointed it out to me – which I still couldn’t see.

She proceeded to open a basket containing a frozen Arctic char and sliced it, offering it out to us. I asked her if it was hard living out here.

“But there is everything you need,” she replied, gesturing to the plants that surrounded her. “From food to eat, to water to drink, materials for clothes and medicine if you get sick, nature provides it all for us. You just need to know what you’re looking at.”

And, as I listened to more of her tales, I stared over at the river once more. In between the thick woodland I began to make out the shape of a caribou. It’s white fur giving it away. The longer I looked the more began to emerge. One by one they cautiously stomped through the bushes. A place that at first seemed to offer nothing but a lonely wilderness was now, slowly, revealing itself to be full of life.  I couldn’t help but smile – this was only the beginning.

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When you think of eco-friendly travel, the Middle East might not immediately spring to mind. In environmental terms, the region is a disaster, characterized by a general lack of awareness of the issues and poor – if any – legislative safeguards. But Jordan is quietly working wonders, and the impact in recent years of the country’s Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) has been striking: areas of outstanding natural beauty are now under legal protection and sustainable development is squarely on the political agenda.

The RSCN’s flagship project is the Dana Nature Reserve, the Middle East’s first truly successful example of sustainable tourism. Until 1993, Dana was dying: the stone-built mountain village was crumbling, its land suffering from hunting and overgrazing and locals were abandoning their homes in search of better opportunities in the towns.

Then the RSCN stepped in and set up the Dana Nature Reserve, drawing up zoning plans to establish wilderness regions and semi-intensive use areas where tourism could be introduced, building a guesthouse and founding a scientific research station. Virtually all the jobs – tour guides, rangers, cooks, receptionists, scientists and more – were taken by villagers.

Today, over eight hundred local people benefit from the success of Dana, and the reserve’s running costs are covered almost entirely from tourism revenues. The guesthouse, with spectacular views over the V-shaped Dana Valley, continues to thrive while a three-hour walk away in the hills lies the idyllic Rummana campsite, from where you can embark on dawn excursions to watch ibex and eagles.

But the reserve also stretches down the valley towards the Dead Sea Rift – and here, a memorable five-hour walk from the guesthouse, stands the Feinan Wilderness Lodge, set amidst an arid sandy landscape quite different from Dana village. The lodge is powered by solar energy and lit by candles; with no road access at all, it’s a bewitchingly calm and contemplative desert retreat.

Check out www.rscn.org.jo.

 

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As I walk my shoes stick to the icy ground. It’s refreshing at first – almost comforting to be so cosy inside my huge thermal jacket, and feel the contrast of the crisp air biting at my cheeks. I am standing in the ­minus-25-degree conditions of the South Pole, and I feel like I’m ready for a long and gruelling trek. Except I’m not in the South Pole, and I’m certainly not getting ready for any kind of polar expedition.

I’m in the centre of London, kitted out in some of the top thermal gear you can buy, standing in a cargo container that has been designed to simulate the harsh temperatures of the Antarctic. A few more minutes and that refreshment wears off, the cold runs through my blood and reaches my bones. My limbs begin to ache – I knew I should’ve come dressed in a little more than these ridiculously thin dolly shoes.

“This is effectively warm weather,” our guide Yolanda tells us, “it can get as low as minus 60 degrees in Antarctica, and then there’s the wind too.” Luckily, our time is up and we head back out into what now feels like a wet, humid summer’s afternoon – even though it’s 9am on a chilly English September morning.

This isn’t some bizarre social experiment to see what happens when you try to freeze a small group of journalists, but instead, it’s the Willis Resilience training facility that 19-year-old adventurer Parker Liautaud has been using to prepare for his next incredibly ambitious expedition: an attempt to become the youngest and fastest person to ski the 640km from the Ross Ice Shelf to the South Pole.

Photograph courtesy of Lottie Gross © September 2013

Later this year, Parker and his teammate Doug Stoup will be spending both Christmas and New Year on the coldest, windiest and driest continent on Earth.

I stand, my shoes soaking in the real – albeit melting – snow under London’s Tower Bridge, asking Parker why he is prepared to undertake such an arduous and relentless journey. The answer adds a serious message to these lighthearted affairs, as this week an IPCC climate report says scientists are 95% certain that humans have been the dominant cause of global warming since the 1950s.

Parker is a known global climate campaigner and, as quoted on the Willis Resilience website, says this: “I don’t believe the solution is to encourage people to live with less or turn off their lights. The reality is that the world has never accepted a step back and never will.”

This is why Parker’s trek is more than a world record attempt, as he will contribute data to three important scientific research programs along the way. Collecting snow samples from coast-to-pole, Parker hopes to provide a valuable contribution to current studies on climate change, in order to help further our understanding of the implications it has on the future of our planet. He will also be testing a lightweight weather station for the first time in Antarctica.

The pair plan to arrive at the Pole by December 25th, which Parker says “would be the best Christmas present in the history of the world for me.”

They take no luxuries in their backpacks as they’re attempting a speed record, and wouldn’t want to be slowed down by that pesky bar of Cadbury’s fruit and nut. There is certainly nothing luxurious about the Antarctic freeze-dried breakfast I’m served later that morning, which tastes like something resembling sawdust with a slight hint of sugar.

The cold, the wind and the 45 days of solitude sound like a recipe for misery to me, so when I ask what plans they have for Christmas, I’m pleasantly surprised: “If we make it [to the Pole] on Christmas day, we’ll celebrate with a powdered chocolate mousse.” These boys know how to party.

“And even though it’s very cold it’s an absolutely spectacular environment – we’re going to be passing through the Transantarctic mountains, it’s going to be amazing.”

He’s not all confident and self-assured though, as he tells me how this new experience comes with some worry. “I’ve never done a very long expedition like this before and it’s important to respect that it’s a completely new place, and to make sure I’m hyper-vigilant, and I’m always very aware of the risks and the potential to face challenged that aren’t expected.

“As for the cold, it’s about having the right equipment really, and avoiding frostbite and hypothermia: making sure that no skin is exposed at any time while we’re outside, ensuring we’re not sweating, and having the right number of layers on etc.”

He has been well trained, with three expeditions to the North Pole already under his belt, and has the valuable support of some major sponsors – including (perhaps a little disconcertingly) that of the company who insured the Titanic before its first and final voyage.

The expedition begins on December 3rd 2013 and will be documented and broadcast live on the Willis Resilience website, so the public can watch Parker’s progress as he attempts to set two new world  records and takes his own literal steps toward saving the planet.

Need to know: how you can ski to the South Pole

Polar exploration and guiding company Polar Explorers run treks to both the North and South Poles. Ranging from the hardcore full 60-day expeditions – for which you will need excellent health and a CV of expeditions behind you – to the all-ages “last hurdle” treks, there are a variety of options for all levels of explorer.

Most full expeditions to the South Pole begin at the Union Glacier Base Camp for preparation, then a flight to the Hercules Inlet, from which the South Pole sits over 1000km away. Throughout the trek you pass over wind blasted snow, blue ice, and softer snow terrain and will navigate around numerous nunataks (exposed mountaintops poking from beneath the snow). From the Hercules Inlet, you ascend over 4000m to the South Pole over 50-odd days – skiing, camping and walking across the Antarctic.

Earlier this year we gave one of you a chance to customise your own round the world trip and win an iPad. Now, our lucky winner Moira Ashely is back from the USA, and she kept us updated throughout her trip. Watch this interactive presentation in full screen to follow her footsteps and read all about her exploration of the USA’s southwest:

If you fancy exploring the USA head to our destination page for inspiration and buy the Rough Guide to the USA to help plan your trip. Book hostels for your trip here and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

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