Epic holidays from nine to 16 days: Six journeys that will change your life

As a nation, we are tripping out. We are travelling more than ever, hopping into cars and onto planes, taking trips of all kinds. We take city breaks and beach breaks. We book in a two-week jaunt across a foreign country this month, a quick trip down the coast next month.

But there are trips and then there are journeys. A trip and a journey can both take you from point A to point B, but it's a journey that will take you somewhere deeper. To put it another way: a trip changes the backdrop of your ongoing life story; a journey changes your life story.

However, journeys don't have to be arduous. They don't even have to take a long time. Ever had a holiday where you have connected with the culture in a meaningful way? That is a journey. Or had an experience that has tested your mental or physical limits, pushing you out of your comfort zone? That's a journey.

What about a trip into the great outdoors, in a setting so beautiful it lifts you clear of the everyday and changes your perspective? Yep, it's also a journey. Whether it lasts a day or three weeks, a journey will stretch you and refresh you in a way that an ordinary holiday just can't manage.

To celebrate this special journeys edition of Traveller we're presenting some of our favourites from around the world – the long, the short and the tall of journeys, and everything in between. Whether you have plenty of time to utilise or you're stuck with only a day or two, these experiences will take your trip to the next level (pith helmet optional).

THE LONG

Not in a rush? These rewarding, extended journeys are perfect for those who have time to spare.

TRAVEL AROUND THE CASPIAN SEA BY RAIL

SatFeb9cover - journeys - Ute Junker
Golden Eagle Caspian Odyssey - Trans Siberian Express
Bar Lounge Car.
Image supplied via journalist

The Golden Eagle train's lounge car.

THE DURATION

16 days

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THE EXPERIENCE

The very words Caspian Sea sound ridiculously exotic; as it turns out, the countries surrounding the sea – including Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan – are all fascinating destinations in their own right. Their diverse attractions include ancient sun god temples, ornate Christian monasteries and Silk Road cities, not to mention one of the world's oldest wine regions and the amazing 2500-year-old cave city of Uplistsikhe.

ESSENTIALS

Golden Eagle Luxury Train will run two Caspian Odyssey itineraries in September. Passengers enjoy opulent cabins with en suites and sophisticated cuisine. From $US22,295 a person twin share. See goldeneagleluxurytrains.com

EXPLORE MOROCCO FROM TOP TO BOTTOM

Morocco

THE DURATION

13 days

THE EXPERIENCE

Look beyond the desert dunes and bustling bazaars and you will find Morocco is a country of contrasts. From mountain villages to modern cities and everything in between, you will discover traces of the many cultures that have shaped this place, from French and Spanish to Jewish and Berber. To grapple with the complexities of this country, you need to invest a solid amount of time and do some serious travelling. From the medieval medina of Fes to secluded settlements in the Atlas Mountains, from ancient casbahs to desert camps, the beauty of this country takes time to explore thoroughly.

ESSENTIALS

Intrepid Travel's Morocco Uncovered itinerary has regular departures throughout the year. From $1759 a person twin share. See intrepidtravel.com

CRUISE THROUGH THE INDONESIAN ARCHIPELAGO

Terrific Sunset View with Star Fish on Foreground and Archipelago on the background at Sebanjar Beach, Alor Island, Indonesia - Image
 SatFeb9cover - journeys - Ute Junker
Credit: Shutterstock

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

THE DURATION

12 days

THE EXPERIENCE

It is a country of more than 17,000 islands, where more than 700 languages are spoken. Isn't it about time we looked beyond Bali and began to discover some of Indonesia's other beguiling destinations? It is a no-brainer that travelling by sea is the best way to explore this island nation. While wildlife lovers will thrill to the wild orang-utans of Borneo and Komodo's famous dragons, the country's distinctive tribal traditions are no less fascinating. Places such as the Alor archipelago give visitors the opportunity to encounter traditional lifestyles.

ESSENTIALS

Ponant's Exploring the Indonesian Archipelago cruise departs Singapore on November 25 and finishes in Darwin. From $9890 a person twin share. See au.ponant.com

THE NOT SO LONG

These one-of-a-kind journeys can be done in 10 days or fewer.

GET SPIRITUAL ON JAPAN'S KUMANO KODO

Nachi Taisha was one of the main destinations of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes. - Image
 SatFeb9cover - journeys - Ute Junker
Credit: Shutterstock

Nachi Taisha was one of the main destinations of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes. Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

THE DURATION

Nine days

THE EXPERIENCE

Spain's Camino de Santiago is not the only pilgrim route on UNESCO's World Heritage List; also included is Japan's Kumano Kodo route, which follows ancient forest trails through Honshu's Kii Peninsula. For centuries Buddhist believers would test themselves physically and mentally along the area's pilgrim routes. Even emperors would undertake the Kumano Kodo. These tranquil paths remain popular with Buddhists and non-believers alike. Onsen and temples offer comfortable accommodation along the way.

ESSENTIALS

Walk Japan's guided Kumano Kodo experience is limited to 12 guests. From ¥378,000 twin share. See walkjapan.com

IMMERSE YOURSELF IN ALASKA'S WILDERNESS

Alaska

Photo: Michael S. Nolan

THE DURATION

Eight days

THE EXPERIENCE

Some cruises are about ticking off the big items: the Parthenon on Tuesday, the Colosseum on Friday. A cruise in Alaska is a very different experience. Here, each day deepens your appreciation of one of the world's great wildernesses. It takes time to appreciate the scale of these huge swathes of forest and mountain, glacier and sea, which are home to an array of wildlife from bears and humpback whales to sea lions and bald eagles. Walk beneath ancient trees following paths laid down by bears, or drift through tranquil fiords as fish dart beneath your kayak.

ESSENTIALS

Lindblad's Exploring Alaska's Coastal Wilderness starts from $7490 twin share. See au.expeditions.com

TRAVERSE WESTERN AUSTRALIA'S SCENIC COASTLINE

Aerial view of Bunker Bay, looking west to Cape Naturaliste Scenic shots of the Cape Naturaliste Peninsula. Credit: Tourism WA.

Cape Naturaliste. 

THE DURATION

Eight days

THE EXPERIENCE

Breathe deep and smell the eucalypt. A good bushwalk is a great way to clear your head; dial up the dose by tackling Western Australia's Cape to Cape Track. This 135-kilometre-long coastal trail stretches from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin in the state's southwest. The trail offers spectacular views and covers a range of terrain, from well-graded tracks to stony paths, even winding its way along some beaches (bring your swimsuit). Walkers can carry their own gear, stopping at campsites along the way, or choose a guided adventure staying in one of the local townships.

ESSENTIALS

Cape to Cape Explorer Tours offers an eight-day walk based at a private beach house. Walkers do daily hikes of up to 23 kilometres and enjoy gourmet dinners. From $2300 a person twin share. See capetocapetours.com.au

MY DREAM JOURNEY BY THE TRAVEL EXPERTS

Travel professionals share the journeys that shaped their lives.

DENNIS BUNNIK, BUNNIK TOURS

BACKPACKING THROUGH EUROPE

Just 10 days after turning 18, I set off on a five-month backpacking adventure through Europe, armed with only a two-month Eurail pass and a budget so tight I lived off bread and Nutella, roaming from Amsterdam to Budapest, Norway to Greece. These were the days before social media, emails or Wi-Fi. Total freedom, foreign lands, limited funds and being 100 per cent responsible for my own welfare for the first time in my life was exhilarating and terrifying. I learnt very quickly to slow down and just appreciate being in a place, to stop and watch the people. The beauty was always in the detail rather than the iconic sights. See bunniktours.com.au

JAMES HEWLETT, COLLETTE VACATIONS

A SOUTHERN MUSICAL ODYSSEY

I'm not a huge music fan, but a trip through the music cities of the deep south – New Orleans, Memphis and Nashville – really stayed with me. So many flavours of music were born in this area and it is everywhere you go, from the jazz revues and bars of New Orleans' French Quarter to the blues bars of Memphis. There is a special thrill to humming Walking in Memphis as you actually walk along Beale Street! Elvis is a big presence: you can learn about his late-night recording habits at Nashville's RCA Studio B or check out the famous jungle room in Graceland. See gocollette.com

KATE BAKER, UTRACKS

A FAMILY CYCLING HOLIDAY

When our children were just two and four, we took them cycling in Provence and the Loire Valley, with a trailer and a tag-along bike attached to our bikes. This trip opened our eyes to what's possible when travelling with children. We also had all sorts of encounters we wouldn't have had without the kids, including meeting a farmer who went and got his horses and sat the kids on them. That was just the start of the travels we did with our children. Among other trips, we walked around Mont Blanc when they were seven and nine. Those active travel experiences were always a really bonding experience for our family. See utracks.com

JAMES THORNTON, INTREPID GROUP:

AN ANTARCTIC CRUISE

I'm lucky enough to have visited some of the world's most amazing places, but one journey that stands out has to be Antarctica and the Falkland Islands. It's almost impossible to describe how awe-inspiring it is to see these huge icebergs and amazing wildlife, but the real journey for me was that I had two weeks to switch off from everyday life. There's no Wi-Fi, so I had no choice but to disconnect from work and reconnect with my wife and fellow travellers. See intrepidtravel.com.au

LOU TANDY, CAPTAIN'S CHOICE:

HIKING THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO

Walking a section of the Camino de Santiago was an amazing experience, ending every day with a great sense of achievement. It's a journey in every sense of the world. Landscape, terrain, the camaraderie amongst fellow pilgrims, accommodation and dining experiences all change as you progress along this historic pilgrimage. But hardest to explain, and probably the most significant to us, is the mood and feeling of the journey, both external and within yourself as you move from start to the end. See captainschoice.com.au

BRUSHING UP ON THE CLASSICS: TIMELESS JOURNEYS

Long, short or tall, these classic journeys from around the world never go out of fashion.

RIDE THE TRANS-SIBERIAN RAILWAY

The world's longest rail journey, from Vladivostok to Moscow, covers almost 10,000 kilometres and seven time zones. You can do it non-stop in a week, but it is well worth taking your time and exploring some of the stops along the way, including Lake Baikal.

TREK TO MACHU PICCHU

Machu Picchu, Peru - Ruins of Inca Empire city, in Cusco region, amazing place of South America. - Image
 SatFeb2Peru - Cusco, Peru - Mark Daffey
Credit: Shutterstock

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

The Inca Trail is notoriously crowded these days, but there are plenty of other scenic routes you can follow to reach the famed Incan citadel of Machu Picchu. Expect to be spend about four days walking.

CRUISE DOWN THE NILE

You don't cover a lot of distance on a Nile cruise – most last just three nights – but this is the best way to see some of the most extraordinary monuments left behind by any civilisation.

DRIVE CALIFORNIA'S HIGHWAY 1

There are some great road-tripping options in the US, but this coastal drive, stretching from sun-drenched San Diego and finishing in San Francisco, is one of the best. Allow a week to explore destinations such as Big Sur along the way.

See also: The 38 secrets of the Pacific Coast Highway: The ultimate guide to the world's best coastal drive

HIKE THE OVERLAND TRACK, TASMANIA

There are plenty of challenging moments on this six-day, 65-kilometre hike through the Tasmanian wilderness, but the sheer beauty of this pristine bush makes it worth the effort.

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