Fifteen of the greatest journeys you can take in the world

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

THE DURATION

16 days

THE EXPERIENCE

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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

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

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 WA'S SCENIC COASTLINE

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

THE SHORT

Need to keep it short? These journeys can be done in five days or fewer.

STAY WITH AN ARNHEM LAND INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY

THE DURATION

Five days

THE EXPERIENCE

If you have ever wanted to learn more about Indigenous culture, what better way than to spend time with a community on their homelands. The Yolngu people of Arnhem Land welcome visitors for multi-day stays, providing the opportunity to learn about traditional lore including storytelling and dance. Instead of a strict itinerary, guests get to take part in everyday activities with their hosts. These activities, which are often gender-specific, include everything from weaving or spear fishing to gathering bush foods and medicines. This is a rare journey that lets you explore a very different approach to life.

ESSENTIALS

Lirrwi Tourism's Crossing Country tour takes small groups to visit various Yolngu homelands. Accommodation is simple and itineraries are flexible. From $2399 twin share. See lirrwitourism.com.au

PADDLE THROUGH NORWAY'S FIORDS

THE DURATION

Five days

THE EXPERIENCE

Some people find that the best way to leave their cares behind is to immerse themselves in natural beauty. For others, it is physical activity that recalibrates their system. A kayak-and-hike expedition through Norway's gorgeous fiords delivers both in the one package. On Nordic Adventures' three-day exploration of the World Heritage-listed Neroyfjord, some days are spent paddling through the water; on others, you will hike to the high summits overlooking the fiord, past cascading waterfalls fed by snowmelt from the highest peaks. At night feast on fresh barbecue at your campsite.

ESSENTIALS

Nordic Adventures' three-day exploration of Neroyfjord starts from NK4195. See nordicventures.com

ENJOY A GOURMET CYCLE THROUGH GOLD RUSH TOWNS

THE DURATION

Two days

THE EXPERIENCE

The Murray to Mountains Rail Trail is one of Australia's loveliest cycling trails. It winds its way for 100 kilometres through the Ovens Valley, studded with charming heritage towns dating back to the Gold Rush. After a hard day's riding, cyclists can feast on the area's superb food and wine. While the trail's spine follows the old railway line past Myrtleford and Bright, interconnected offshoots allow you to visit other highlights such as pretty-as-a-picture Beechworth, the scene of Ned Kelly's famous trial.

ESSENTIALS

Tour de Vines offers a two-day guided cycle along the Murray to Mountains Trail including winery lunches and wine tastings from $499 a person twin share. See tourdevines.com.au

THE VERY, VERY SHORT

Only have a day to spare? Try one of these quick-fix journeys.

DISCOVER LISBON'S HIGHS AND LOWS

THE DURATION

Three hours

THE EXPERIENCE

Lisbon is one of those cities just made for walking, with each of its patchwork of neighbourhoods boasting its own unique character. From Baixa with its grand buildings to chic hilltop Chiado, from the raucous Bairro Alto to the warren of streets in the Moorish quarter of Alfama, the best way to explore these atmospheric areas is on foot. Context Travel's local guides include historians, architects and chefs. As they lead you on a walking tour, they share historical perspective and current controversies, insights into architecture, food and much more.

ESSENTIALS

Context Travel's tours of Lisbon start from $US80 a person. See contexttravel.com

EXPLORE A LUNAR LANDSCAPE IN NEW ZEALAND

THE DURATION

Six to eight hours

THE EXPERIENCE

None of us is likely to set foot on the moon anytime soon, but a traverse of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is a pretty good substitute, especially since you don't have to worry about the whole lack-of-oxygen situation. The striking volcanic terrain – think lava fields and giant calderas – doubled as Mount Doom for the Lord of the Rings films. Most people take the best part of a day to complete this otherworldly hike, which includes some steep sections along its 20-kilometre length. Hikers are rewarded not just with a portfolio of memorable photos, but also a real sense of achievement.

ESSENTIALS

Adrift Tongariro runs guided walks starting from $NZ205 a person. See adriftnz.co.nz

LEARN TO EAT (AND COOK) LIKE AN ITALIAN IN LECCE

THE DURATION

Four hours

THE EXPERIENCE

If there are two things that Italians take seriously, it is food and family. To get a feel for both, invest a couple of hours in a cooking class with a local. In the beautiful baroque city of Lecce, Gianna Greco – a qualified chef and sommelier as well as the custodian of her traditional family recipes – offers fascinating insights into how Italians really live. Many of her of cooking classes include a visit to the local market, where she greets vendors by name and shows you how to pick produce that is perfectly in season.

ESSENTIALS

Classes with Gianna Greco's Cooking Experience start from €150 a person. See cookingexperience.it

THE TALL

You don't need to don crampons to enjoy these journeys that come with a natural high.

RIDE THE RAILS THROUGH THE PERUVIAN HIGHLANDS

Peru

Photo: Shutterstock

THE DURATION

10 hours

THE EXPERIENCE

Whichever direction you take on PeruRail's Titicaca Train, you will end up somewhere spectacular. At one end of the line lies Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, where villagers live on man-made islands. At the other is Cusco, a Spanish colonial city built on top of the mighty capital of the Inca. However, a ride on the Titicaca Train is very much about the journey, savouring the joy of settling back into your elegant 1920s-style Pullman car and drinking up the magnificent views across the Andean highlands. At its peak, the rail line reaches an extraordinary altitude of 4300 metres.

ESSENTIALS

Tickets start at $US225 a person, including meals. See perurail.com

CONQUER YOSEMITE'S MOST FAMOUS PEAK

Half Dome at Yosemite National Park

Half Dome at Yosemite National Park Photo: Shutterstock

THE DURATION

Two days

THE EXPERIENCE

Outlooks don't come much better than this. Reaching 2700 metres into the sky, Half Dome offers some of the best views in Yosemite National Park, across the Yosemite Valley, Mount Starr King, Clouds Rest, the Cathedral Range and the Sierra Crest. Getting there, however, requires serious exertion. Although it can be done as a (very long) day hike, most people will be more comfortable stretching it over two days. Essential equipment includes a permit that must be booked in advance but you won't need any climbing gear; steel cables are bolted in place to help climbers on the last 200 metres.

ESSENTIALS

YExplore offers two-day guided Half Dome hikes from $US670. See yexplore.com

SOAR PAST NEPAL'S HIGHEST PEAKS

Nepal

Photo: Shutterstock

THE DURATION

30 minutes

THE EXPERIENCE

In Nepalese terms, 1600 metres is not particularly high, especially when you are standing with both feet on the ground. When you are flying through the sky, supported only by a large 'chute above you,1600 metres suddenly feels a whole lot higher. And when you are surrounded by peaks such as Dhaulagiri and Manaslu, towering above 8000 metres – well, nothing about this experience feels small. Nepal is one of the most spectacular places in the world to try paragliding. Strapped safely into a tandem harness with your instructor, you will ride the thermal currents like a bird, soaring and swooping as you drink in the spectacular views.

ESSENTIALS

Sunrise Paragliding offers a range of flights in the Pokhara Valley, from NRs8500. See sunrise-paragliding.com

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

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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