Archive for Destination

Trekking the old Inca Trail to Machu Picchu with Charity Challenge

Photographer and blogger extraordinaire, Philipp Ammon, recently completed the Trek to Machu Picchu challenge. He joined the first Charity Challenge expedition to trek the Ancascocha Trail. Read on to find out about this off-the-beaten-track hike through the incredible Andes mountains, on parts of the original Inca trail.   

Imagination is a funny thing – It can take us to the highest heights and wildest places; but if we really put our minds to it, we are also exceptionally creative at forming reasons why we can’t or shouldn’t live our dreams. The excuses become boundless.

Trekking Ancascocha trail to Machu Picchu Peru for Charity Challenge

You certainly don’t have to twist my arm to get me on an adventure trek. Add a far-away destination into the mix and I’ll practically be rearing to go. I love the feel of the trail under my feet; the humbling size of mountains all around; the wonder of zipping open my tent door to crisp morning air and another day of adventure. We all have our demons, however, and for me one of those is planning trips… Let’s just say that logistics aren’t my strong hand, and often, the daunting prospect of organisation can put my dreams on hold indefinitely. Coordinating an adventure trek on another continent, away from it all takes a lot of time and energy. Along with trying to run a photography business, those are ingredients that seem to be all too scarce these days.

When Charity Challenge approached me with an offer to partner up on one of their adventure treks to Peru as a photographer, I was immediately on board. Catching the last evening rays illuminating the old ruins of Machu Picchu has long been on my bucket list, and I was being offered the opportunity to make that dream a reality. The best part: every last bit of the trek was already organised. All I had to do was show up (and carry lots of heavy camera equipment across some pretty demanding terrain – no big deal…).

The Ancascocha Trail

Trekking Ancascocha trail to Machu Picchu Peru for Charity Challenge

I’m not one for mass-tourism. Show me where the crowds are, and I will walk well out of my way to avoid them. I get enough of that living in London… I’d heard that the Inca trail to Machu Picchu could be quite crowded in April and May with many eager tourists making the trip to experience the beauty of the Andes. I can’t blame them really, but that doesn’t exactly go along with the peaceful mountain experience in a small group I had in mind. Thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong!

In response to the sharp increase in tourism on the Inca trail, Charity Challenge recently changed their Machu Picchu trek itinerary to take you down a road-less-traveled. So much so, in fact, that the only other people we saw throughout our trip were local farmers, and even they were far and few between. Sheep on the other hand? Well, they were countless.

Trekking on the Ancascocha Trail

Trek leader George on Ancascocha trail to Machu Picchu Peru for Charity Challenge

There is something special about knowing the road you are hiking on was once used by Incan messengers some six-hundred years ago. Not much indicates their rich history, sunken in the river of time, but ever so often, you will spot the old cut stones that marked their way. Our guides, George and Wilson were incredibly knowledgable about the geography and history of the region. I might also add that I admire their patience: I must have asked a hundred questions a day about what we were seeing and experiencing.

Not a single day offers the same views. Lush and colourful flora sweep the lower-laying terrain, with fresh streams and rushing rivers running alongside your route throughout. For those of you into learning more about local herbs, the guides are very knowledgeable and will even help you use some of the plants to remedy the less pleasant effects of high altitude. From higher up, we spotted the jagged and snow capped mountains, believed by the Incas to be Earth’s connection with the Gods.

Trekking Ancascocha trail to Machu Picchu Peru for Charity Challenge

The hiking itself will be extremely challenging at times. The highest point along the trail reaches the Pampaqasa mountain pass at an oxygen-depriving 4550m. Fret not – we had people from all different ability levels in our group, and we paced ourselves accordingly. Nobody was ever left behind, and to my own relief, I was able to keep up, even with a backpack full of lenses and a tripod… We were constantly rewarded for our efforts by what we saw. As we ascended, it was as if the top of the mountain pass dropped like a curtain, revealing an incredibly beautiful view into the lush green valley below.

Medical Staff

I’d arrived in Peru a few days after the rest of the Charity Challenge group, which meant I didn’t have enough time to acclimatise in Cusco. After reaching the pass, I began to feel a sharp headache and nausea that would linger for the rest of the day. Thankfully, we had Dr. Carlos with us, who was appointed to join us for the duration of the trek. He kept a close eye on me, and made sure I was looked after throughout our well-earned descent back into the valley. I was really grateful for his professionalism. It helps to know somebody’s got your back when things aren’t going well. After a few minutes on oxygen and a good night’s sleep, I was back up and running by the next morning. All part of the adventure…right?

Camping in the Andes

Camping in Andes on Trek to Machu Picchu with Charity Challenge

Once the sun sets in the Andes, you really begin to realise how far away from it all you are. The dark night sky is perforated with the undiluted light of a million stars, opening up to views of southern constellations. Every evening, after everybody else had gone to bed, I would wrap up in my warmest clothes, and watch the Milkyway slowly drift over our tents, the jagged black silhouettes of mountain ridges lining the foreground.

I’ve never found it particularly comfortable sleeping in a tent, but after a long and strenuous day of hiking, any bed feels like a godsend. It’s a really nice touch that by the time you arrive at your campsite every evening, the porters have already pitched your tent. All you have to do is roll out your sleeping bag and crawl in. When your legs are tired and your belly rumbling, it’s a delightful sight to spot them neatly lined up beyond the next ridge, like a welcoming finish line for the day’s challenge.

Camping Andes on Trek to Machu Picchu with Charity Challenge

Not only is your “bed” ready to go, but the team will have set up a dining tent equipped with hot drinks and a snack to tide you over until supper time. The enticing smells of a hot meal fill the campsite and there usually will be a little time to enjoy whats left of daylight, reflect on a hard day, catch up with everybody or to take a quick nap. Three hot meals a day keep you going on even the most difficult of days, and I couldn’t believe the quality of delicious meals we were receiving. One might even say it upgraded this trek from a mere camping trip to a superior glamping trip.

Machu Picchu

Trek to Machu Picchu with Charity Challenge

After several days of hiking, hopping on an old, glass roofed train from Ollantaytambo towards Aguas Calientes feels like a downright luxury. The tracks run through yet another stunning valley and offer a couple hours of jaw-dropping views alongside a hot meal. But it’s definitely not time to get too comfortable yet. The train makes what seems to be a random stop at kilometre 106, dropping you off in the middle of the Peruvian jungle.

Inca Trail on Trek to Machu Picchu with Charity Challenge

The climb towards the sun gate is long and hot, but the reward is well worth the effort. Every time we looked back on our progress through a clearing in the underbrush, we seemed to have climbed impossibly higher. The river we started at was but a thin silver vein in the jungle below. Our guide, George knew exactly how to time our arrival, because we reached the sun gate just as the last of the low, warm rays divinely shone down upon the ruins of Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu

Beautiful stone walls shape the side of the mountain, and all around, the iconic Peruvian llamas snack on vibrantly green grass. The sheer beauty of this place feels like a solid reward for the several days of intense work you will have behind you. You will return the following morning for a fascinating history lesson on the lost city, but not before a well deserved dinner, a cold beer and (hopefully) a good nights sleep in a real bed.

A Journey Well Worth It

Camp fire on Trek to Machu Picchu with Charity Challenge

I particularly enjoyed celebrating our effort with my new found friends from the Charity Challenge group. You find a sense of camaraderie with the people you overcome a big hurdle with, and celebrating your achievement is an experience best shared with others who lived through it with you. I can look back with pride on an extremely memorable adventure trekking to Machu Picchu. To know I was able to raise funds for a charity I truly believe in as I struck another major item from my bucket list made it all the more worthwhile. Who’s to say you can’t do good for others while doing good for yourself?

Book your place on Trek to Machu Picchu today. 


Philipp is a London-based travel, documentary and commercial photographer. His career started as an international school teacher working in Canada, England and Japan before he moved back to the UK to make his passion for photography official with a masters in photojournalism. He loves writing about his adventures and  is always looking for new experiences he can use to help other people learn to live theirs. You can follow Philipp’s adventures via his blog or Instagram

5 reasons why trekking the Sahara Desert is an incredible experience

Why trek the Sahara Desert?

Is it to conquer the world’s largest hot desert? To try delicious Moroccan cuisine? Or to spend your nights under Africa’s star strewn skies?

Sahara Desert Group trek

Charity Challenge’s Adventure Travel Consultant, Alex, recently completed the Sahara Desert Trek. Here are the top reasons why she found it an unforgettable experience:

You really experience getting ‘off the grid’ – The Sahara Desert Trek is a real chance to escape everyday life and fully immerse yourself in the challenge. There is no Wi-Fi from the moment you leave the hotel and signal can be patchy as well. At some points you really feel like you are the only ones in the desert. This may sound horrifying to many of us, but Alex and her fellow trekkers said it was definitely one of the highlights of the trip!

Charity Challenge group trekking across the Sahara Desert There are lots of opportunities to interact with local Berbers and nomads – one of the best thing about the Sahara Desert Trek is the chance to speak to locals. The entire trek support team, including the leader, are Berbers and have in depth knowledge of the area. Whilst not all of them speak English, you can still communicate through smiles and the team will always be on hand to help you with anything you need. Local nomadic families also visit the camp to sell soft drinks and small gifts which you can take home to friends and family.

The night sky – this challenge will give you the chance to see some of the best stars/night time scenery you’ll ever see. The lack of light pollution in the desert means that there is nothing blocking your panoramic views of the stars. Prepare to be wowed! Your local guide will be able to point out constellations and watch out for those shooting stars – remember to make a wish!!

The outstanding scenery – the ever changing terrain and vistas of the Sahara desert will provide an incredible backdrop to your challenge. From the vivid sunrises and sunsets, to the seemingly never-ending plateaus, or climbing over mighty sand dunes and Jubels (Arabic for mountain) there really is something for everyone. The Sahara makes the perfect backdrop for those Instagram worthy photos, although we recommend putting down the camera and taking 5 minutes to soak up the views. Plus, some friendly Moroccan camels will accompany you on your trip. The perfect chance for a selfie!

Charity Challenge group trekking across the Sahara Desert A chance to make new friends – participants on recent Sahara Desert Treks all agree meeting a new group of like-minded people and spending the week with them was an absolute highlight of the trip. Experiencing a challenge together is a definite bonding experience and you will hopefully come away from the challenge having met some wonderful people who can be your trek buddies for life!

What are you waiting for? Book now to secure your spot on the Sahara Desert Trek for 2019.

Top UK Challenges for 2019

Doing anything next summer? How about trying some of the best UK Challenges like an adventure challenge through the Lake District? What about cycling from coast to coast? Tacking England’s most demanding peaks? Hiking Mt. Snowdon at night?

More than ever, many of us are embracing tough challenges. Perhaps we’re sick of gyms, or the lure of switching off in nature is too much in these hyper connected days? Either way, there’s a number of exciting UK challenges designed to push physical and mental limits in some of the UK’s most incredible national parks. Whatever your cause, here’s the UK’s best challenges for you to embrace next summer.

1. Snowdon triple challenge
This exciting yet grueling multi-activity challenge will pit you against the spectacular landscapes of Snowdonia National Park, Wales.
Physically and mentally demanding, the Snowdon Triple Challenge will see you cycle 10.5 miles along the shores of Llanberis Lake, passing some incredible landscapes as you head towards Llyn Cwellyn.
Swapping bikes for boots, begin the ascent of Wales’ highest summit, Mt. Snowdon. Starting with a gentle climb, the hiking soon turns challenging. The views from the top of Snowdon are absolutely worth it, and weather permitting you’ll be able to take in views across the British Isles. You might be tempted to bail out at this point, but push through the final 2.5 mile kayak across Llyn Padam (Llanderis Lake) before a well-earned celebration.
This is definitely a challenge for those wanting to push their physical limits. Book your place today.

2. Lake District Triple Challenge
Another incredible full day challenge incorporating trekking, biking and kayaking, the Lake District Triple Challenge is definitely not for those afraid of a real physical test.
The challenge kicks off with a hike to the summit of Old Man of Coniston, standing 803m high. Take in the Lake District views before setting off for a 12km mountain bike ride through Grizedale forest. The ascent is a lung buster, but riding the famous forest trails is a heap of fun.
Descending back into Coniston, the final leg starts – the kayak. 1.5kms later you’re finished, exhausted but elated.

3. Lake District 5 peaks challenge
Five peaks in a day? Sounds easy, right?! Maybe not.
Be prepared for an exhausting but energising journey through the rugged Lake District landscapes.
Hike over 14 miles, and tackle five of England’s tallest and most demanding peaks, including England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike. Overall, you’ll climb over 3000 feet on the day, crossing crags and moorland before finishing the day in the Langdale Valley. Don’t miss out for 2019, book your place today.

4. National three peaks challenge
Considered one of Britain’s toughest outdoor challenges, the National Three Peaks takes in the dizzying heights of Scotland’s Ben Nevis, England’s Scafell Pike, and Wales’ Mt. Snowdon in a weekend.
The challenge kicks off with the ascent of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles at 1,344m. It’s a steep climb, and despite only being a 10 mile hike, the challenge is real and the journey takes around six hours. Fortunately, the views from the top are astonishing and make the aches and pains worth it.
Next up is Scafell Pike, England’s largest peak and another steep, tough ascent. You’ll summit and descend in darkness, making this leg of the challenge the toughest.
The final peak, Snowdon, will test your mental and physical limits after and long day and night of hiking. Draw on the final reserves of energy and make a push to the final summit, before taking in the incredible views from the peak – some of the best in the British Isles. It’s a slow walk down, as the legs will ache, but the elation of completing this challenge will make it all worth it.

Push the limits and challenge yourself next summer on one of our exciting UK Challenges.

5 Reasons to Visit Kyrgyzstan

We’re excited to introduce Kyrgyzstan as our latest challenge destination! A lesser-traveled part of the world, we asked Operations Manager Phili Newell for her top five reasons to visit this fascinating and beautiful country.

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1) Its rich history

Life in Kyrgyzstan is still very much nomadic despite various countries dominating it throughout its history, making it a melting pot of culture in Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan gained independence recently in 1991 with the breakup of the former USSR having previously ruled by Mongols; Chinese Manchus; and then Russia since 1876. Evidence of Soviet era is prominent in the giant statue of Lenin and the Soviet styled housing blocks of Bishkek, but as Central Asia’s largest mosque is completed and opens in 2017 you can feel the grip of communism slip away.

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2) It has 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites

A landlocked country, Kyrgyzstan is home to 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites; the Tien Shan mountain range; the network of trading routes making up the famous Silk Road; and Sulayman Mountain the most “sacred” mountain in Central Asia.

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3) The scenery

Kyrgyzstan is a country less visited; the scenery is outstanding and as you trek through the rugged mountains you will wonder why you never thought of coming here before. Snow-capped mountains surround sweeping plains where herds of horses run wild and glacial rivers cut through the landscape, creating steep sided gorges where sheep and goats roam.

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4) The food

Try Kyrgyzstan’s interesting cuisine, starting with the much loved fermented mare’s milk, Besk Barmak, lamb with noodles and broth; Samsy a tandoor cooked meat and onion filled pocket and found at the road side stalls for a quick snack; and dumplings known as Monty.

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5) The challenge

The challenge itself will see you carrying all your own kit, including your tent, for the duration of your trek. You’ll be camping in gorges and trekking over mountain passes at an altitude of 3759m. Your average trek day will be about 6 hours before getting into camp where you’ll set up for the night, before gazing at the clear, star-studded skies.

Make sure you take a look at our Kyrgyzstan Trek challenge and maybe you could be ticking this exciting destination off your wishlist!

Meet Ash Dykes

We’re thrilled to be working with adventurer Ash Dykes on an exclusive challenge in Madagascar this September. Ash was the first person to traverse the length of Madagascar, covering 1,600 miles in 155 days. Now he’s heading back, but this time with Charity Challenge, giving you the opportunity to join him on this incredible adventure challenge.

Ash Dykes

What inspired you to first visit Madagascar?
At first, it was the fact that I hardly knew a thing about the island, I was curious. I then started to do my research and I was hooked by not only the beauty and diversity, but equally by the fact that over 80% of all wildlife and plant life is found nowhere else in the world. I knew that this would provide such a unique and exciting experience.

What was the toughest part of your journey through Madagascar?
Hmm there were many tough sections, but maybe in the Northern section where I faced at times impenetrable jungle, as I used my machete to try hack my way through. I’d cover only 1.5 miles in a 12 hour day at times!

You’ll be returning this September with Charity Challenge, what are you most looking forward to?
I’m excited to be leading an expedition in one of the most beautiful valleys in Madagascar, to showing people the big landscape and different species of Andringitra National Park, some species that are found nowhere else in Madagascar. Pic Boby is beautiful and I truly look forward to returning.

What kind of training would you recommend for people preparing to join this challenge?
I’d recommend they work on their cardio, do a few treks with a backpack to help your muscles adapt to the endurance. I do a lot of calisthenics, where I use my own body weight to train, from push-ups, sit-ups and pull-ups, it’s not for everyone, but you become more in control of your own body and feel not only physically stronger, but mentally stronger too, which is equally important.

Madagascar has a unique and diverse ecosystem, what can participants expect to encounter on the challenge?
They could expect to see wild lemurs, chameleons, different species of birds, bats, snakes and spiders (not venomous). Andringitra is known for its biodiversity, including 78 species of amphibians, 50 species of reptiles, 54 species of mammals, 108 species of birds, and more than 1,000 species of plants.

What kind of weather can people expect in Madagascar?
Overall, September is a great time to travel to Madagascar. The wildlife is rich and active, it’s warm and sunny – perfect temperature for walking, most probably with a cool breeze the higher up we climb. Night time can be cool and towards the peak, it will be quite possibly fleece and woolly hat weather.

Any key items you’d recommend people bring with them?
I’d recommend a (Water-to-go) filter bottle, which can be used on the go but also even used to collect tap water during travel days. Comfortable footwear, I personally just wear trainers, as they’re lightweight, breathable and quick drying. Sunscreen, mosquito repellent, blister plasters, a hat and shades.

Lastly, what’s your message to anyone thinking about joining this challenge?
This trek will be unforgettable and I mean that from the heart, you’ll love the country, the people, the wildlife and it’s beauty. It’s a country that features in many peoples mind, but very few actually go there. Be the few people that are fortunate enough to say “I’ve been to Madagascar”!

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Secure your place on the Madagascar Trek with Ash Dykes this September.

Bag A Peak: Mountain Summits Infographic

Mountain infographic

Head on over to our website to pick your next mountain challenge.

choose your challenge

8 Places To Get On Your Bike In 2017/18

Cycling is well known to be the most efficient form of transport on the planet. We think it’s also one of the best ways to see a country, while burning a few calories too! But where, you ask, should you take to the saddle and pedal your way from A to B? To get you started, here’s a little inspiration, including two brand new cycling itineraries!

PARIS
London to Paris Bike Ride

France is arguably the spiritual home of cycling, with Le Tour de France bringing a celebration of all things vélo to millions of fans worldwide each year. We think we’ve come up with the ultimate Tour de France experience. Come with us as we make our way to Paris from London on two wheels, arriving at the Eiffel Tower before catching the final stage in person!

SPAIN/FRANCE – new!
San Sebastian to Barcelona

Want to up the pace and follow in the tracks of the Tour de France riders? This brand new challenge sees you depart the beautiful coastal city of San Sebastian in Spain, before crossing the border into France and tackling the famous Pyrenees mountains. Will you face the most gruelling climbs, or take the easier route? The choice is up to you.

San Sebastian to Barcelona

ICELAND
Iceland Fire and Ice Cycle Challenge

To cycle a landscape like no other, Iceland offers a volcanic ride through steams, hot springs and lava fields. The land of ice and fire is truly unique, but with a challenge grading of ‘tough’, you’ll have to work for those scenic views. It’ll be worth it though, and as a reward for reaching the finish line in Reykjavik, you can take a tip in the famous Blue Lagoon. There’s even a chance you might get to see the Northern Lights!

Iceland Cycle

BURMA
Cycle Burma

Cycle Burma

One of South East Asia’s best kept secrets, Burma is still a relatively new destination. Uncover this beautiful part of the world by cycling from Mandalay to Inle Lake through rural countryside, stopping at temples, farms, villages and towns along the way.

MOROCCO
Atlas Mountain Bike Challenge

Morocco might not be an obvious cycling destination, but the High Atlas Mountains provide a magnificent backdrop for our 8 day cycling challenge. From the busy streets of Marrakech you will ride into the Mgoun Massif, passing remote Berber villages between dramatic, changing scenery.

High Atlas

VIETNAM & CAMBODIA
Saigon to Angkor Wat Bike Ride

Want to explore South East Asia and tick off a few of the region’s most famous landmarks? Cycle 450kms over 11 days, through Vietnam and Cambodia, following the Mekong Delta. You might lose count of temples and pagodas along the way, but you won’t forget the amazing Angor Wat complex, bustling Saigon or Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital city.

Cycle Saigon Angkor

TANZANIA
Kilimanjaro to Ngorongoro Crater Bike Challenge

Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, is well known amongst trekkers, and provides a backdrop to this incredible cycling challenge. Make your way 450kms from Kilimanjaro to Ngorongoro Crater, passing Maasai villages in the Great Rift Valley, be prepared for hot weather and amazing scenery.

ITALY – new!
Italian Great Lakes Cycle

Like the Tour de France, Italy hosts its own annual grand cycling tour, the Giro d’Italia. This prestigious cycling event pedals through some of the country’s most spectacular scenery, and now we have a brand new challenge dedicated to visiting some of these well ridden routes. With a leg-aching 400km between Lake Como and Lake Garda, this is no easy feat, but it will be so rewarding.

Italian Lakes

Feeling inspired to jump on your saddle? Take a look at our website for a full list of our cycling challenges, and sign up today!

5 Great British Challenges To Tackle In 2017

Snowdon Triple Challenge
This multi-activity challenge sees you take to the dramatic scenery of Snowdonia National Park by bike, kayak and on foot. This mix of physical challenges is made more diverse by the changing landscape of this Welsh region, including a summit of Wales’ highest mountain, Mount Snowdon.

Coast to Coast Cycle Challenge
This famous cycling route see you pedal from one side of England to the other, tipping your tyres in both the Irish and North Seas. Over the course of 2 days and 140 miles you will see the rolling green hills of the Lake District, quintessential British villages, and ancient remains of Hadrian’s Wall before crossing the finish line at Whitley Bay.

Lake District 5 Peaks Challenge
Five peaks in one day is no easy feat, luckily this challenge is set in the heart of the stunning Lake District, with each peak offering you a stunning view of the surrounding landscape. Climbing over 3,000ft, which includes England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike, this challenge is one to really be proud of.

Lake District 5 Peaks

Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge
Three peaks in 12 hours might sound easier than five, but this is no walk in the park. Ascending a total of 1,532m, which is higher than the UK’s tallest mountain, the Yorkshire Dales will push you to your limits. Get ready for plenty of ups and downs across some rugged, varied terrain.

National Three Peaks Challenge
The toughest challenge on our list, the legendary National Three Peaks pits you against Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon in just 24 hours. Starting in the early hours, you will be among the first trekkers of the day to tackle Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles, before hitting the road and heading to your next summit, Scafell Pike in the Lake District. After a good night’s sleep it’s time to finish this hat-trick of heady heights with Mount Snowdon. With spectacular views, it’s surely an emotional and thoroughly fulfilling finish.

National 3 Peaks

Think you’re up for the challenge? Visit our website and choose your challenge today.

10 Reasons to Trek to Machu Picchu for the BHF!

British Heart Foundation is inviting you to join them on their adventurous challenge to Trek to Machu Picchu.

We’ve put together 10 nuggets of inspiration that might just persuade you to sign up, get your boots on and grab those trekking poles, and raise money in the fight against heart disease:

 

1. It will be one of the most memorable things you do this year… in fact perhaps in your lifetime!

2. Meeting new people who also have a close connection to the British Heart Foundation, some of which will stay friends for life.

3. Seeing Machu Picchu for the first time is a magical experience.

4. You’ll visit remote Peruvian villages you can only access by foot.

5. Waking up among the breathtaking beauty of the Andes is exceptional!

6. To have a goal to get fit and active, this challenge is no walk in the park.

7. You’ll learn the fascinating history of the Inca Empire.

8. You’ll push your boundaries and test your comfort zone – making the entire expedition an empowering experience.

9. Seeing the amusing llamas and colourful ponchos along the remote Lares trail.

10. And of course, to save lives by raising money for The British Heart Foundation’s life saving research.

British Heart Foundation Machu Picchu

To find out more about our amazing Trek to Machu Picchu, visit our website and you could be admiring these incredible Incan ruins too!

 

8 things I learned on the Iceland Lava Trek

Last month, our Charity & Corporate Account Manager, Erika Dallimore, took part in our Iceland Lava Trek. We caught up with her to find out what her main highlights were, and to discover what she learned from the trip. Erika says…

I recently took part in the Iceland Lava Trek with 43 other keen trekkers, and during my time on the challenge I learned a lot about the country and its landscape. Whilst trekking over 58km, I found out some interesting facts about the regions’ volcanoes (and discovered I had some surprisingly determined traits when necessary)!

1)    Take an eye-mask with you.
There’s no chance of seeing the Northern Lights on this trek. It’s only dark for approximately 1-2 hours at night during the summer months. You might also appreciate some earplugs if you have any noisy/snoring tent buddies!

2)    Iceland has over 200 volcanoes.
On the trek, you get to see several volcanoes, including Hekla that last erupted in 2000, and Eyjafjallajökull that erupted in 2010 (and caused lots of flight disruptions due to the ash clouds it created). Some say that pronouncing the names of Iceland’s volcanoes is possibly as challenging as the trek itself.

Volanco: Eyjafjallajökull - last erupted in 2010

Volcano: Eyjafjallajökull – last erupted in 2010


3)    You won’t see much wildlife on the Lava trek.

Contrary to popular belief, there are no polar bears in Iceland! There are some reindeer in the east of Iceland, but they were imported in the 19th century. The only animal that is indigenous to Iceland is the Arctic Fox.

4)    Iceland’s flag represents its three main elements
The red represents its active volcanic landscape, the white represents the glaciers and snow and the blue represents its vast ocean and coastline. You’ll spot Icelandic flags at most campsites (or why not take your own for some photo opportunities).

Team photo!

Team photo!

5)    Fermented shark is a local delicacy.
Yep. Left out to dry for over four to five months, it has a very ammonia-rich smell and distinctly fishy taste. What is possibly most surprising of all is not that fermented shark is a local delicacy, but more that Icelanders CHOOSE to eat it when they could eat lots of other, tastier cuisine…

6)    Iceland is a country of Fire and Ice.
It’s truly fascinating to see the contrasting forces of fire and ice coexisting side by side. One minute you’re trekking alongside a geothermal hot spring, and the next minute you’re walking over snow (and lots of it)! Over 10% of the country is covered with glaciers and almost a third of the island is volcanic lava fields. And for the Game of Thrones fans amongst you, you will understand why they choose to film much of the show in Iceland’s beautiful wilderness. The snow-capped horizons feel eternal at times, and the lava ash makes you feel like you’re walking in a different world.

Day 1: the geothermal steam is only metres away

Day 1: the geothermal steam is only metres away

7)    You’ll start to realise that you’ve got more determination and strength of mind than you thought possible.
Sometimes the trek will challenge you and test your limits. The weather could be ferocious (or as the Icelanders call it, ‘changeable’!), the steep inclines up rocky climbs could take their toll on your legs, the river crossings may challenge you and you might be completely outside of your comfort zone as you move from one campsite to the next. But you dig deep, you find the strength, and you do it! And the sense of triumph and achievement that you’ll feel at the end is truly indescribable.

8)    The Blue Lagoon is the perfect way to end the trip!
Soak your aching muscles, enjoy a natural clay face mask and celebrate with a drink from the swim-up bar… the Blue Lagoon is the perfect place to mark your huge accomplishment!

Celebrations at the Blue Lagoon

Celebrations at the Blue Lagoon

 

My time on the Iceland Lava Trek was truly unforgettable, and I’m so proud to have accomplished such a spectacular trek with such amazing people. I’ve made friends for life, and learned so much about Iceland, its stunning landscapes and fantastic people.

Take me back to the mountains!

Take me back to the mountains!

 

If you’d like to follow in Erika’s footsteps, you can sign up to the Iceland Lava Trek from £295. For more information about departure dates, itineraries and FAQs, visit our website.