For two years, many of us have dreamed up lists of far-away places, and as travel restrictions and border closures continued, these plans seemed increasingly far-off. Now, as travel makes its return, we couldn’t be more excited for those dream trips to become reality. Notable travel media outlets have released their bucket-list destinations for 2022, many in places Nat Hab operates tours. We hope these destinations inspire new adventures as we welcome in the new year, and get back to exploring nature’s marvels.
1. Banff, Canada
Glimmering cerulean lakes. Alpine meadows filled with Alberta wild roses, twinberry honeysuckle and fairy slipper orchids. Hikes through Banff, Canada’s first national park, are a treasure trove of nature’s finest gems. Discover the Remote Peaks & Meadows of the Canadian Rockies with Nat Hab’s expert naturalist guides, and see why this destination is one not to miss in 2022.
2. Queensland, Australia
The gateway to both the world’s largest reef and oldest rain forest, the northeastern state of Queensland is heartbreakingly beautiful. As you hike past lush waterfalls and snorkel from pristine beaches, you’ll spot some of the rare flora and fauna that call this tropical Eden home—sea creatures in a kaleidoscope of colors, prehistoric giant ferns and bromeliads, strutting southern cassowaries and tree kangaroos sheltering in the emerald canopy. Join us for an in-depth exploration of this wild and vast continent on Australia North: Kakadu, Daintree & the Great Barrier Reef.
Just across the U.S. border and celebrated as Travel + Leisure’s Destination of the Year, Mexico is a prime destination for wildlife, from encountering The Great Gray Whales of Baja to entering the Kingdom of the Monarchs in the volcanic mountains of central Mexico. Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula was highlighted by AFAR, Forbes and Travel + Leisure as a top destination for 2022, and our whale shark adventure is a perfect way to explore the Yucatan’s most enticing natural wonders, from swimming in the crystal-clear waters of cenotes to snorkeling over the world’s second-largest coral reef.
4. Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s wildlife is fascinating to behold: leopards, gray slender lorises, purple-faced leaf monkeys, Asian elephants, sloth bears, mugger crocodiles, vibrantly-plumed endemic birds and blue whales all inhabit this biodiversity hotspot. You’ll encounter these animals on a Nat Hab safari through Sri Lanka’s national parks and delve into the cultural heritage of this intriguing island nation as well, visiting ancient temples, royal palaces and tea estates.
On Aurora Quest, you’ll travel by luxury train through Russia, Norway and Finnish Lapland, over the Arctic Circle in search of the northern lights. Disembark from the Golden Eagle in Kirkenes, Norway for an exhilarating dog sled ride on the frozen fjord, then stay a night at the acclaimed Snowhotel, carved entirely from ice and snow. Your Nordic adventures continue as you snowshoe through primeval pine forest, home to reindeer and hibernating brown bears.
Hailed by Lonely Planet as “an earthly paradise of snow-capped peaks, turquoise-green rivers and Venetian-style coastline, Slovenia enriches its natural treasures with harmonious architecture, charming rustic culture and sophisticated cuisine.” From alpine meadows bursting with wildflowers to castles and traditional farms, you’ll discover the culture, gastronomy and natural wonders of this Balkan country on Wild Nature of Croatia & Slovenia.
The jungle wildlife, golden temples and rugged peaks of Nepal beckon the true adventurer at heart. Stay at a luxury ecolodge near Chitwan National Park and spend days searching for tigers, one-horned rhinoceros and gharial, then tour UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kathmandu Valley, admiring great artworks at temples and palaces. Alongside Nepal, the neighboring country of Bhutan made the list of Forbes 22 Best Places to Travel in 2022. The town of Paro, Bhutan is situated in a lush valley surrounded by mountains and monasteries, including the famous “Tiger’s Nest,” which travelers have the option to trek up to. On Wild & Ancient Himalaya: Nepal & Bhutan, you’ll have every opportunity to explore these two historic mountain kingdoms.
8. Westfjords, Iceland
Lonely Planet proclaims, “The Westfjords is where Iceland’s dramatic landscapes come to a riveting climax and where mass tourism disappears—only about 10% of Iceland’s visitors ever see the region. Jagged bird cliffs and broad multi-hued dream beaches flank the south…In the far north, the Hornstrandir hiking reserve crowns the quiet region, and is home to cairn-marked walking paths revealing birdlife, Arctic foxes and ocean vistas.” Mystical geothermal springs, jaw-dropping coastal fjords, towering mountains and raging waterfalls await us on our adventure through Iceland: Circling the Land of Fire & Ice. On our journey through this remote Nordic realm, we’ll seek out seabird colonies and whales on a private boat excursion and visit oceanside hamlets embracing traditional ways of life.
9. Acadia National Park, Maine
AFAR reveals, “New England’s sylvan wonderland is filled with winding trails and history lessons. It’s easy to get away from people amid the 47,000 acres of Acadia National Park, where the jagged Maine coast cuts into the Atlantic. But no matter where you go, you’re surrounded by historical figures. The intricate carriage trails around Mount Desert Island, where much of the park is situated, were commissioned by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in the early 1900s.” Hike in Acadia, Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast, take in the pink glow of dawn from the top of Cadillac Mountain and sail past lighthouses and forested islands on Maine Coastal Explorer. You’ll stay in Bar Harbor, which has a rich maritime history and buildings dating back to 1796 when the quaint seaside town was founded.
10. Galapagos Islands
“The world’s largest marine biosphere reserve will expand more than 20,000 square miles next year thanks to a recent presidential decree. The conservation measure seeks to combat illegal fishing by offering increased protection to the thousands of species that populate the archipelago’s waters as well as a migration corridor stretching up to Costa Rica used by sharks, whales and other sea life,” writes Travel + Leisure. Natural Habitat Adventures joins others in celebration of this news—as the exclusive travel partner of World Wildlife Fund and the world’s first carbon-neutral travel company, sustainability is front of mind in our operations, and we support several community initiatives throughout the UNESCO-protected Galapagos archipelago. Many of our Galapagos Islands tours include a visit to the sustainable farm Montemar to learn more about a giant tortoise tagging project on Santa Cruz Island. “The Galapagos Islands are like no other place with unique wildlife up close and primeval immersion in nature,” claims Forbes, and this is could not be more true of the “Enchanted Isles”—travelers will encounter a host of endemic species with astonishing adaptions, including marine iguanas, Darwin’s finches, flightless cormorants, Galapagos sea lions and blue-footed boobies.
11. Porto, Portugal
Porto is one of the oldest European centers, known for its port wine production and architecture dating back to ancient Rome. On a walking tour of the medieval riverside district, you’ll pass over stately bridges and walk down narrow cobbled streets leading to wine cellars, Michelin star restaurants and historic churches with ornate gilded carvings. “In a region considered the birthplace of Portugal, Porto offers great culinary and wine experiences and fabulous boutique hotels,” hails Forbes. For the true foodie and wine connoisseur, a paddling odyssey through the Douro Valley is a dream come true. As you Paddle Portugal’s River of Wine, stop at fine manor houses overlooking terraced vineyards to feast on traditional Portuguese cuisine and sample vintage wines.
Forbes writes, “For those craving the uncrowded outdoors, Namibia offers access to nature, wilderness and wildlife in abundance. Who should go? Anyone who enjoys wild, open spaces, deserts, and the road less-traveled, including those seeking luxurious accommodations with few other people around.” Photograph immense dunes under a blaze of stars and encounter desert-adapted wildlife including elephants, lions, rhino and oryx on our Wild Namibia Photo Safari.
13. St. Moritz, Switzerland
Nestled amidst the Alps, this enchanting village hosted the Winter Olympics in both 1928 and 1948. Admire snow-capped peaks bathed in alpenglow and crystal-clear lakes. Sip Swiss hot chocolate at your hotel’s on-site restaurant, St. Moritz’s oldest eatery opened in 1869. You’ll also head for a day to nearby Swiss National Park in search of ibex, chamois and golden eagles. You’ll discover more storied villages on your journey through Wild Switzerland: Peaks, Lakes & Glaciers.
Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries per square mile in the world, with more species of birds, butterflies and orchids than any country on Earth. The verdant rolling hills protect critically endangered cotton-top tamarins, armadillos and Andean condors. From the Caribbean Sea to the Andes Mountains, Colombia’s offerings tempt the adventurous spirit: rare wildlife, horseback riding, artisan coffee and an array of UNESCO World Heritage Sites to explore.
Travel + Leisure remarks, “With many international borders closed over the last two years, many eager U.S. travelers’ eyes turned to Alaska. The vast state, famous for its towering, snow-capped peaks, pristine wilderness, massive national parks, and colorful locals, made for a dynamic destination with no passport required.” Tourism to “The Last Frontier” shows no signs of slowing down, and it’s easy to see why. On Alaska Explorer: Kenai Peninsula & Prince William Sound you’ll take in Alaska’s vast grandeur by land and sea with just 8 travelers. You’ll also spend a day in the small seaside town of Whittier, nestled between glaciers and picturesque mountains, a highlight on Fodor’s Go List.
The vast white continent of Antarctica is a bucket-list destination, unparalleled in its rugged beauty to many nature adventurers. On Sailing Antarctica: The Ultimate Polar Nature Expedition, you’ll pass whales and seals aboard a private expedition yacht, kayak past towering icebergs and even have the special opportunity to camp ashore with penguins via our exclusive permits.
17. Stewart Island, New Zealand
Stewart Island is a haven for birdlife. You’ll spot many seabirds at close range on a private boat cruise, including albatrosses, shearwaters, petrels, skuas, yellow-eyed penguins and little blue penguins (also known as fairy penguins). The rain forests of this idyllic island harbor the elusive brown kiwi, which you’ll search for on a guided night walk—be sure to look up for a chance of seeing the aurora australis in the southern sky! Bellbirds, parakeets, tui and large native parrots known as kaka are also found in the “Land of Glowing Skies.” Bird enthusiasts will rejoice at this stop along the itinerary of New Zealand Nature Explorer.
18. Quebec, Canada
Just north of Maine, French Canada is known for its historic charm, but its best-kept secret is that it is home to some of the world’s best whale watching! In Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, you’ll look for humpbacks, fin, minke and beluga whales, and even the world’s largest animal, the blue whale. You’ll also hike along nature trails, trees in full autumnal glory, in four national parks. Get to know the wild side of this easily-accessible Canadian province on Whales & Nature Trails of Quebec.
19. Victoria, Australia
National Geographic lists the Great Ocean Road as a must-visit destination and highlights the Conservation Ecology Center— Nat Hab groups stop here to converse with scientists responding to bushfires and other threats to at-risk species in the Cape Otway region. We’ll continue our drive along the Great Ocean Road through fern-filled ancient rain forests, along secluded beaches and past waterfalls and volcanic plains. As we stroll by eucalyptus and gum trees, be on the lookout for koalas curled up in the canopy. You’ll encounter many marsupials on your safari “Down Under” such as kangaroo, wallaby, bandicoot, quoll, Tasmanian devil, wombat and pademelon, along with other intriguing creatures such as platypus, echidna, emu and fairy penguins.
20. Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s misty volcanic peaks, turtle-strewn beaches and jungles teeming with wildlife draw travelers from around the world. Explore three of this Central American country’s gems in the form of Tortuguero National Park, Corcovado National Park and Monteverde Cloud Forest on Natural Jewels of Costa Rica. Or, discover Costa Rica’s less-visited south Pacific coast on Costa Rica Wilderness Explorer. You’ll seek resplendent quetzals in the Talamanca Mountains and float down the Sierpe River in search of howler monkeys, green iguanas and scarlet macaws.
21. Ten Thousand Islands, Florida
Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge is one of the world’s largest mangrove systems—be on the lookout for manatees, sea turtles and wading birds as you navigate your kayak through a maze of mangrove tunnels. The beautiful beaches of these sandy barrier islands await you on a Florida Nature Safari.
22. Yasuni National Park, Ecuador
Sloths, capybaras, jaguars, giant otters, pink river dolphins, toucans, cobalt-winged parakeets and 11 species of monkeys—all can be found in eastern Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park. This 4,000-square-mile UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. National Geographic states that the park “provides refuge for the Tagaeri and Taromenane people, Waorani Indigenous groups who live in voluntary isolation and use handcrafted canoes to travel between waterways. Tour operators such as Napo Wildlife Center offer excursions and lodging based on a sustainable ecotourism model that benefits the resident tribes.” Our Amazon Lodge Extension offers the option of staying at this ecolodge centered in some of the Amazon’s most pristine rain forest, the perfect base for your wildlife explorations.