The Untamed Borders winter newsletter 2023

In this issue:

  • A note from James
  • Upcoming trips
  • Syria – local guides vs international guides

A Note from James Willcox, Founder

The start of the new year is a time to reflect on the year passed. One of the recent projects we have been most proud of in 2022 at Untamed Borders was our involvement in the Michael Palin: Into Iraq series that recently was shown on Channel 5 in the UK.

We were involved throughout the project, right from the conception stage-where we were consulted on ideas that Michael and his team had for the programme, helped create the route and organised logistics. I visited Iraq twice for this project, once with the producer / director and again with the filming crew for the three-week, 1,000-mile journey along the length of the Tigris river.

I remember watching Michael’s ‘Around the world in 80 days’ TV series as a child, and those early programmes certainly added to my wanderlust as an adult. So, in some small way, Michael Palin helped to create Untamed Borders.

Therefore, the journey really had come full circle, with me being able to help inspire Michael in Iraq. My most memorable moment was standing on top of the Ziggurat of Ur. It was somewhere that Michael had wanted to visit but nearly did not make the final shoot for logistical reasons. However, with a bit of imagination we managed to fit it in.

Michael had read about Ur as a child and had always wanted to go, so to see his joy at the top was a real buzz. I always get satisfaction from being able to show someone a place that they had always longed to visit, and it was nice to think that I could help do that for Michael in some small way.

There are spaces available on our Iraq trips in March and October that follow much of the route we arranged for Michael, found hereas well as a special trip that visits Kurdistan coinciding with the Kurdish New Year of Nauruz and the celebrations in the town of Akre.

Hoping you all get to visit some of your travel goals or are able to help others reach theirs.



Upcoming Trips

Ski Iran

Our full 2023 departure schedule is available! See our culture trips and our update trekking trips such as the Wakhan Corridor, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
We’ve picked a couple of our favourites here, including Ski Afghanistan, Yemen Mainland and Hindu Kush and Karakorum. You can find a full list of our upcoming group itineraries below or online.

Ski Afghanistan

Untamed Borders is the original ski company in Afghanistan and have run ski trips since way back in 2011. We are going back with skiers this winter for our first trip since 2020 for an action packed 10 day trip visiting Kabul and Bamian, skiing on the beautiful Koh e Baba mountain range.

For more inspiration, listen to our founder James Willcox discuss skiing in Afghanistan and Iraq  on one of the January episodes the The Ski Podcast.


Our trip to Yemen visits the Al Mahra and Hadramut provinces. Joined by an experienced local guide and and international guide, spend 7 days exploring the sites of Mainland Yemen.

Hindu Kush and Karakorum

A 14 day road trip through the awe-inspiring Karakorum and Hindu Kush mountain ranges of Northern Pakistan. These mountains contain a kaleidoscope of people as well as some of the earth’s most incredible scenery.


Syria – local guides vs international guides

Krak des Chevalliers, Syria by Martin Poirier

When Untamed Borders started in 2008 we had two very specific kinds of trips. Group trips, which included both an international guide and a guide from the country visited and private trips, which were led by a local guide only.

This was often because the regions and countries we worked in had a very new tourism infrastructure and the international guide brought skills with regards to managing security, knowledge of the regions and guests management including balancing the needs of a group of sometimes diverse group of tourists.

However, as the experience and skills of the local guides develops the benefit of the international guide lessens and we start working with the local teams only. One example of this is in Syria. This year we are parting ways with British tour guide Carly and will be collaborating with local guides going forward.

In 2017, Untamed Borders arranged its first-ever trip to Syria and started working with Carly, who lived in Aleppo before 2011. Carly added value through her knowledge of the region, with credentials from ITN Productions as a researcher for their programs on Syria. With Carly, we travelled to the crusader fort of Krac Des Chevaliers, the ancient site of Palmyra, Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Maloulla and Damascus. Some photos can be found here.

Whilst Carly’s expertise is valuable and has allowed Untamed Borders to offer a special experience to its guests, we’ve decided to place our faith in local teams. This also helps us cut down on our carbon footprint and it makes trips more affordable.

Carly’s final trip to Syrian with Untamed Borders will be in May (she will still guide for us in other regions) and this cultural itinerary is now available to book for departures in 2023. The first group trip with the local guides only is available at the same link.


If you would like to talk about anything mentioned in this newsletter then please get in touch.

We hope to see you all on an Untamed Borders adventure very soon.

The Untamed Borders Team

January 2023