David at the doors to the Sheki Caravanserai.

Our friend David booked a September 2018 tour to Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia with his wife, Brenda, then invited my husband, Ken, me and our friend Norman, whom we met last summer in his hometown of Glasgow, to join him. David chose a company in Tbilisi that provides small-group tours (no more than 16) for a reasonable price.

Advantour Caucasus (phone +995 322 323 000, www.advantour.com) took exceedingly good care of us while showing off the Caucasus for a cost of about $3,000 per...

View of the iconic Sydney Opera House.

July is midwinter Down Under — not the best time to visit many parts of Australia but the ideal time to visit the tropical Top End. So when a fare of $665 per person, round trip from Denver to Sydney, popped up for travel in July 2019, my wife, Kathy, and I just had to grab it.

Getting there

Following a Delta flight from Denver to Los Angeles, we caught our connecting Virgin Australia flight to Sydney. We had splurged on the “Economy X” upgrade for $155 per...

Chef Massimo Tomarchio showing the class how to prepare caponata, which included eggplant, zucchini, pine nuts, raisins, capers and other goodies.

At the beginning of February 2019, my wife, Sandra, and I escaped the cold of Minneapolis for the warmer Mediterranean climate of Taormina, Sicily, traveling with Road Scholar (Boston, MA; 800/454-5768, www.roadscholar.org) on a 10-day trip titled “Cooking in Sicily.” The tour was organized around four cooking school sessions and a number of excursions around eastern Sicily, including a winery tasting and lunch.

Our group of 10 travelers would be based in Taormina, on the...

The Khongor sand dunes in the northern Gobi Desert.

My interest in visiting Mongolia was first sparked by the charming documentary “The Eagle Huntress” and, more recently, by some alluring tour brochures. I had hoped to attend the fall Eagle Hunter Festival, but it didn’t fit into my schedule. However, my research told me that the annual Naadam Festival (in early July 2019) would, so I had a focus.

Making plans

On TripAdvisor.com, I found a recommendation for Discover Mongolia, in Ulaanbaatar, and on its...

Bergen, Norway’s, famous painted wooden buildings are classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Following a late-summer 2018 land tour of some of the European countries on which the Vikings had left their mark (recounted in last month’s issue), we headed to the airport in Prague for a flight to Bergen, Norway. We had a ship to catch!

We flew SAS from Prague to Copenhagen, Denmark, and on to Bergen, arriving in the early evening. We spent the night at the Comfort Hotel Bergen Airport (nordicchoicehotels.no), which was only a 2-minute walk from the terminal.

In the...

Susan paragliding in front of the Matterhorn.

My wife, Susan, and I have always been fans of the TV show “The Amazing Race,” but we never felt that we had the right “hook” to get us through the audition process. However, an article in the Wall Street Journal from March 8, 2018, titled “Why Even Control Freaks Are Opting for ‘Surprise Vacations’” led us to Competitours (competitours.com). The tag line from their website captivated us: “The Amazing Race for Regular People.”

A performance by the mudmen of Papua New Guinea.

How could anyone see the National Geographic pictures of the Goroka Festival in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and not want to go there? But, calculating the cost of a tour plus business-class airfare — around $30,000 for two — I had to say “Another time.”

However, with the discovery of gas off the coast of PNG and how that might disrupt the local culture, not to mention my approaching dotage, it seemed that “another time” had arrived.

My wife, Yuki...

Binglingsi Shiku, aka Thousand Buddha Caves, with sandstone peaks rising above the Liujiaxia Reservoir.

Shortly before my scheduled departure on ElderTreks’ September 2019 “Chinese Silk Road — The Great Silk Road Adventure” tour, a detailed itinerary arrived. A read-through took my breath away, as I mentally traveled along the Chinese portion of the ancient trade route that connected the East with the West.

Visits to mosques; pagodas; museums; lost cities unearthed from centuries of sand; ancient tombs; statuary-populated caves, and geological wonders ranging...