Paul Craven Hunza, Pakistan

Paul Craven

  • Asia, Australasia and Oceania

My Expertise

  • Cambodia Flag Cambodia
  • Myanmar Flag Myanmar
  • Thailand Flag Thailand
  • Singapore Flag Singapore
  • Vietnam Flag Vietnam
  • Laos Flag Laos
  • Iran Flag Iran
  • Iraqi Kurdistan
  • Jordan Flag Jordan
  • Saudi Arabia Flag Saudi Arabia
  • China Flag China
  • Japan Flag Japan
  • Kazakhstan Flag Kazakhstan
  • Kyrgyzstan Flag Kyrgyzstan
  • Mongolia Flag Mongolia
  • North Korea
  • Uzbekistan flag Uzbekistan
  • Tajikistan Flag Tajikistan
  • Turkmenistan Flag Turkmenistan
  • South Korean Flag South Korea

Paul is the Conde Nast Traveller chosen Specialist for Central Asia and the Silk Route.

Being from a family with Army connections I can from an early age remember travelling. From camping in Europe and then later being sent to boarding school when we lived in Germany at the age of eight, complete with shorts, long socks, a cap and my suitcase. In appearance not too dissimilar to the children evacuated to the countryside during the blitz.

Later, my father’s postings took us to Nepal where we had to transit Delhi and Kathmandu where we were sometimes stranded for days and Hong Kong from where I travelled in 1983 through China for two months. A guidebook called Lonely Planet had just been published but I knew nothing of this and had never seen one until I reached the conclusion of my trip in China. So travelling alone, or with my younger brother, by train or car or aeroplane and sometimes on foot has always seemed very normal. You get to know how to pack a suitcase and fathom out what to do for yourself. I began working in travel with a similar company to that of Steppes Travel, a tour operator operating to very similar destinations; Nicaragua, Cuba, North Korea, Russia and Vietnam to name a few. These were almost completely off most people’s radar. Joining Steppes allowed me to further travel to these interesting and ever-changing destinations.

Visiting Vietnam in 1988 where tourism was just in infancy, or could you even call it tourism back then. All Caucasian travellers in the country were assumed to be Russian “advisers” or “specialists” since this was very much the era of the Cold War and Communist Russia was looking to support its strategic overseas allies. Being old enough to remember the Soviet Union has allowed me to appreciate the journey these former Soviet territories have had to endure to get where they are today.

I always say that most of my job is about problem-solving rather than selling holidays. Ask the same question five times and if three answers come back the same it is probably true. Never take one answer and believe it. Of course, listening to the client is paramount. Some destinations are just not for some people, but having been there, done that, I can talk from first-hand experience.

Goreme at sunset Cappadocia Eastern, Turkey

Imagine

Variety is what most travellers really want; they want UNESCO sites, a smattering of museums, villages, beautiful countryside, bazaars and, above all, good hotels and food. When I started to plan my trip I was conscious of this and tried not to include too many ancient archaeological sites. My visit to the south coast of Turkiye and the ancient archaeological sites was a delight.

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Paul stood on the bonnet of a brightly coloured, decorated Bedford truck.
Paul stood on a Bedford Truck, Pakistan.
Attabad Lake on the Karakorum Highway, Gilgit, Pakistan
Attabad Lake, Karakorum Highway, Pakistan

Driving the Karakorum Highway

The Karakoram Highway is a masterpiece of engineering. Artistically painted Bedford lorries ply the road, expressing the feelings of drivers who travel away from home for long periods. Massive birds of prey soar overhead, ibex bask in the sun and villages nestle in the mountain valleys. With a history dating back millennia, Pakistan will keep the interest of almost anyone occupied for weeks. Whether strolling through bazaars or going for a trek there is amazing diversity in Pakistan which remains one of my favourite destinations.

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Madain Saleh, Saudi Arabia, Justin Wateridge
Madain Saleh, Saudi Arabia
Paul Craven, Saudi Arabia
Paul infront of Madain Saleh, Saudi Arabia

A Solitary Place for a Solitary Man

Saudi Arabia is, for many, an undiscovered and mysterious country whose access has been tightly controlled for many decades. It has five UNESCO World Heritage sites, perhaps one of the most important being the decorated monumental Nabatean tombs at Madain Saleh. On my second visit to the country, and this amazing site, I was at times the only visitor. Being able to stroll at leisure through the site, viewing cave drawings and inscriptions from the pre-Nabatean period, was a unique experience and certainly one to cherish.

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Longhorn Miao Hair Styling, Suoga Village, Guizhou, China
Longhorn Miao People, Guizhou, China
Splicing Hemp, Liuzhi, Guizhou, China
Splicing Hemp, Guizhou, China
Local men playing cards, Guizhou, China
Local men playing cards, Guizhou, China
Woman against green grass background with platted hair, flowered shirt and large coral beaded necklace.
Tibetan Woman, Qinghai Province, China
Close up of man with face painted and headress made of sheep wool.
Shamen Festival Performer, Qinghai Province, China

Hidden Minorities of China

China has many minority nationalities – the Miao of South Central China, sprinkled with the Dong (Guizhou primarily), the Uighurs (Muslims in Western China along the ancient Silk Route) and the Tibetans (in Tibet and in Qinghai in Central China). During my 30 plus years travelling in China I have been lucky enough to spend time with many of these minority groups, learning about their varying cultural backgrounds and the landscapes they live in. From the karst limestone mountains in Guizhou to the vast open spaces of the Taklamakan Desert and the fertile grasslands of Qinghai.

Read my blogs from Guizhou and Qinghai.

My Favourite Experiences

Tell us what you love doing and we’ll curate a journey that’s perfect for you.

Volcanoes, Kamchatka, Russian Arctic

An Aerial View of Kamchatka – the Land of Ice and Fire

Spending a day in a Russian helicopter flying over volcanoes, calderas and into the Valley of the Geysers – a magical experience.

Close up of giant panda eating bamboo.

Tracking Wild Pandas

Trekking through snowy winter landscapes in the company of Stanley Johnson and the privilege of seeing these endangered creatures in the wild.

Traditional Ryokan Accommodation, Japan

A Night in a Ryokan

Staying in a traditional Japanese ryokan (inn) – simple yet elegant with impeccable service and superb food. Sample Kaiseki, a multi-course Japanese dinner which is a treat for the eyes and taste buds.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Some of my recommended tours and holidays

Here are a few holiday ideas and group trips to destinations I have travelled to extensively and am passionate about. I have helped create these suggested tours based on my knowledge and experience of these countries. Phone and talk to me about your holiday plans and ideas.

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