View of the village of Nako. The drive up was quite scary!

Last year, an enigmatic email from a friendship begun six years before on an adventurous trip to Papua New Guinea piqued my interest. My friend Knox Bell shared that Original World/Spirit of India (San Rafael, CA; 888/367-6147, originalworld.com) was looking for “intrepid travelers” for a month-long adventure into the “Ancient Cultures of the Indian Himalaya” (plus Ladakh), and he thought of me! Within 30 minutes, I had called the travel agent and I was on board....

View of the Shushtar Historical Hydraulic System.

After a 15-hour flight from San Francisco, via Dubai, on Emirates airline, my husband, Bill, and I arrived in Tehran, Iran. This was the beginning of our 3-week September 2019 tour with JMG Tibet Tours (Lauderhill, FL; 866/548-4238, www.jmgtibettours.com).

Though I don’t enjoy writing, I really felt compelled to share this amazing experience because so many of my preconceptions were wrong.

About the tour

This was owner Jeff Garrett’s first venture taking a...

Guam's Plaza de España.

What could be better than combining two dream destinations into one trip? I had always wanted to visit World War II sites in the Pacific, and Papua New Guinea had been on my country “to do” list for a long time. I discovered that Holland America Line’s “Legends of the Pacific” cruise, aboard the Maasdam, offered both, with the convenience of sailing easily from one destination to another.

Making plans

As usual, I selected a solo cabin, making the...

The Kelaniya Raja Maha Vihara temple in Colombo.

Interested in history, religion, art, animals, birding, swimming, hiking, scenery, ceremonies and UNESCO Sites? Then Sri Lanka’s the place for you! And it’s all packed into one easy-to-navigate island.

Poring over ITN magazines, I happened upon a write-up of a tour of Sri Lanka in which the author highly recommended Varini de Silva of Ceylon Express International (Huntington Beach, CA; 800/423-9566, ceylonexpress.com). What a find she was!

Varini, born and raised in...

A view of Valletta’s harbor from Sliema, just a 10-minute ferry ride from the capital.

Off the beaten track, the path where you can more easily mingle with the locals, is the road my wife, Maria, and I prefer to take when we travel. We try to find the “not quite yet discovered” places, which has inspired visits to Myanmar in 2005, Dubai in 2010 (Aug. ’11, pg. 48), Laos in 2013 (June ’14, pg. 44) and Cuba in 2014 (Aug. ’14, pg. 28). In 2019, we decided to add Malta to our list, taking advantage of its proximity to our planned late-May travel...

Dunguaire Castle in Kinvara, on Galway Bay.

There are classic, iconic sites one must see on a first trip to Ireland — wonderful locations such as the Cliffs of Moher, the Ring of Kerry and Temple Bar. On our first visit, my husband, Emmett Lee, and I saw all of those plus a few others, spending two weeks exploring, but for our latest trip, in June 2019, we planned 24 days of sightseeing to visit places we had missed the first time.

We covered Northern Ireland and the northwest counties of the Republic of Ireland during...

View of Asunción’s Government Palace, which houses the office of the president of Paraguay.

After having visited all of the countries of South America except Paraguay and Venezuela, when I decided to pay another visit to the continent, it was an easy decision to choose Paraguay. With a US State Department travel rating of Level 1 (Exercise Normal Precautions), Paraguay obviously beat out Venezuela’s Level 4 “Do Not Travel” advisory.

I could not find any group tours that just visited Paraguay, so I contacted Adrian Chalker at Adventures Abroad (800/665-3998...

The dramatic façade of Saidnaya Monastery.

As part of the first group of American tourists to be admitted to the country since the civil war began in 2011, I traveled by land with 10 other guests from Beirut, Lebanon, to Syria on Oct. 20, 2019, in what was to prove to be an extraordinary adventure. The trip was arranged by Spiekermann Travel Services (Eastpointe, MI; 800/645-3233, mideasttrvl.com). 

I had no idea how (or if) we were going to reach Damascus because nationwide antigovernment protests had just broken out...