Every tourist has a bucket list of things to do around the world—from eating street food in Singapore to seeing an opera in Vienna—but with so much of our time spent outside these days, we’re adding a bevvy of outdoor excursions to your bucket list. Consider these the best trips for adventurous travellers, with a mix of big hikes, extreme activities, and unique ways to view some of the world’s most stunning scenery.
Climb to the peak of Peru’s Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu, the famous Incan citadel in the Andes, should be on the bucket list of every explorer. Alternatively, you can be dropped off by local tour company Sam Travel Peru at kilometre marker 104 and complete the trek in less than 24 hours.
In Greenland, look for glaciers.
Greenland is pricey and difficult to get, but it’s well worth the effort, especially considering it’s one of the world’s few unspoiled landscapes. The hundred-year-old icebergs and glaciers drifting off the mainland, which you can see up up and personal during a cruise tour, are Exhibit A. (Hurtigruten or Cruise Norway are two options.)
Cappadocia, Turkey, from a hot air balloon
A hot air balloon journey above the Cappadocia area of central Turkey affords 360-degree views of the famous limestone spires and “fairy chimneys,” which are not visible from the ground. Kapadokya Balloons, the first firm to introduce hot air balloon tourism to Cappadocia, is the company to book with. Transfers to and from your hotel, snacks, complete insurance, and a champagne toast after the flight are all included in the services.
Swim alongside the Great Barrier Reef.
Divers and snorkelers from all over the world should visit the Great Barrier Reef at least once in their lives. Not only does the site feature over 400 different varieties of coral and 1,500 different fish species, but it is also quickly deteriorating due to coral bleaching and global warming. That means seeing it in all its glory—and understanding what we’re losing—is more important than ever. Australia has been stringent about sealing its borders during the pandemic, but since this is a trip that requires planning ahead of time, why not plan for 2022 and beyond?
Ascend Mt. Everest
Mount Everest looms huge, recognised to hikers and non-hikers alike all across the world. However, this is one giant that should only be tackled by the most seasoned tourists. But, hey, if you’re one of the fortunate few with the experience, time, and cash to reach Everest’s summit, go for it. The climbing season for this year (March to May) is over, but you’ll need that extra year to prepare anyhow.
Go on a canoe safari in Botswana’s Okavango Delta.
When it comes to seeking adventure, going on safari in Africa is a no-brainer, but where do you begin? The Okavango Delta in Botswana is a must-see for both first-timers and seasoned safari-goers, thanks to its abundance of species and topographical diversity. Take a mokoro boat ride to get the best, most up-close view of the roaming elephants, antelope, and cheetahs, among other animals. Stay at Xigera Safari Lodge, one of the continent’s most awaited newcomers. There will be 12 additional elevated apartments, a baobab tree house for sleeping under the stars, and numerous initiatives to make the resort as environmentally friendly as possible.
Sleep amid the Aurora Borealis
The enigmatic Northern Lights. When it comes to experiencing the technicolour phenomena, there are so many variables to consider—location, time of year, weather conditions—but it’s difficult to go wrong with a trip to Finnish Lapland. The Arctic region is one of the best places on the planet to see the Northern Lights, especially if you stay in an igloo hotel like Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort or ride in a mobile Aurora Bubble Sled. Plan a journey between December and March to maximise your viewing opportunities.
Under the Iguaz Falls, on a boat
The Iguaz Falls, located on Argentina’s border with Brazil, dwarf all other waterfalls. The series of over 200 cascades (which reach heights of about 270 feet) can be observed from surrounding walkways and catwalks, but we prefer the more daring viewing point of hopping on an Iguaz Jungle inflatable raft and sailing directly beneath the thrilling, high-pressure falls.
Solitary ascent of Mount Fuji Mount Fuji, standing 12,388 feet above communities and reflecting on lake surfaces, is undoubtedly Japan’s most recognisable natural beauty. Views of the landmark may be had from a variety of locations, including Lake Kawaguchi in Fujikawaguchiko and even the Park Hyatt Tokyo, but the views from the mountain provide the most bragging rights. Visit between early July and mid-September (hopefully in 2022) to take advantage of the official climbing season, when the approved trails and asphalt roads are snow-free.
Swim in the cenotes of Mexico.
The Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico is rich in natural beauty, especially when it comes to its cavernous cenotes. Floating in one of these natural sinkholes, as well as diving through the underground cave systems, is an unforgettable experience. When in Tulum, go to Dos Ojos (“Two Eyes”) to see one of the world’s most magnificent underwater locations (plus points for water visibility), or Gran Cenote to see Gothic-style rock formations.
The Sahara’s sand surf
The Sahara’s dunes are massive, unspoiled, and ideal for extreme sports. The desert’s rows of barchans (Turkic for “crescent-shaped dunes”) are great for sand surfing (surfing down the slopes on a board) and sandboarding (snowboarding down the slopes on a snowboard)—and the views aren’t bad either. In Morocco, stay at Erg Chigaga Luxury Camp, which provides sandboarding as well as other desert sports such as camel rides and quad biking.
In Oludeniz, Turkey, paraglide over the Blue Lagoon.
Oludeniz boasts one of Turkey’s most stunning beaches, with pebble shoreline and an aquamarine “blue lagoon.” The beach is also one of the best sites in the world to paraglide, thanks to the consistent weather and stunning vistas. Most firms launch from Babada Mountain, which has jumping-off locations that reach 6,000 feet above sea level.
In the Great Bear Rainforest, look for a Kermode bear.
With rare animals like sea wolves and Kermode bears wandering its 21 million acres, Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest is the world’s biggest intact temperate rainforest—and one of the most magical. Outer Shores Expeditions will take you on a nine-day voyage onboard a schooner, beginning from Bella Bella, British Columbia’s aboriginal First Nations town, and stopping along the way for sea kayaking. While Canada is now closed to Americans, you can always plan a trip in the spring of 2022.
At Thingvellir National Park, you may snorkel between continents.
Iceland is one of the world’s top adventure vacation destinations, offering everything from glacier hiking to snorkelling and diving. For the latter, head to Thingvellir National Park, which is located along Iceland’s Golden Circle route and is where two tectonic plates are gently pulling apart at a rate of roughly two millimetres (0.8 inches) each year. The Silfra fissure, a magnificent rift valley where visitors can snorkel or dive in amazingly pure (and chilly) waters, is the result of this phenomena. DIVE.IS, a tour company, offers trips for divers and snorkelers of all levels (even those with no prior experience), as well as underwater photography.
A road journey across the National Parks of the United States of America
Perhaps there is no better way to see America than on a good old-fashioned road trip. Many of the country’s national parks, such as Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park and Alaska’s Denali National Park, are ideal for a multi-day drive. We’d choose the Mighty Five, a collection of Utah’s national parks that includes Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands, if we had to pick just one itinerary. The landscapes here resemble those of Mars, and the voyage can begin anywhere between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.
Float down the Amazon River.
The upper Amazon River is one of those inaccessible sites that is best observed from the deck of a boat. The luxury cruises offered by Aqua Expeditions along the Peruvian length of the river take in the area’s nature and culture at a leisurely pace. Gourmet meals cooked by a chef are available, as well as five-star suites with floor-to-ceiling windows. If you’re looking for something a little less opulent, look no further. Amazon Adventures organises kayaking tours along several Amazon tributaries, where you can catch piranhas and camp in the jungle.
On Cerro Negro, Nicaragua, do “volcano boarding.”
If you’re seeking for adventure and action sports, now is the time to book a flight to Nicaragua. Kayak, surf, zipline through the forest, and even sled down the edge of an active volcano are all options here. When it comes to this one, a guided group tour is a must. Bigfoot Hostels is one of many firms that offer transportation to the volcano, as well as boards, safety equipment, refreshments, and a speedometer.
When it comes to adventure travel, Antarctica is definitely the last frontier, with unspoiled landscapes, unusual animals, and more activities than you’ll know what to do with (cruising, caving, and thermal spring soaking to name a few). Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions will fly you to Antarctica for three days of skiing and trekking before setting you up for a South Pole sleepover if you can travel to Punta Arenas, Chile.
On Oahu, you can surf the Pipeline.
The Banzai Pipeline (also known as The Pipeline) in Oahu is easily one of the most popular surfing places in the world. The surf reef break, which is located off the coast of the island’s north side at Ehukai Beach Park, averages waves of nine feet high. Pro tip: While this is not a beginner-friendly activity, even non-surfers will enjoy watching the various surf competitions held at The Pipeline from the comfort of a sunny beach.
Fly above Niagara Falls on a zip line
The 2,200-foot MistRider debuted in Ontario in the summer of 2016 and has since attracted brave visitors. The trip spans nearly the whole length of the Niagara Gorge, with four ziplines reaching speeds of more than 40 miles per hour. The operation is open from June to December, so hopefully we’ll be able to take a trip when Canada reopens to visitors later this year.
New Zealand bungee leap above the Kawarau River
When the Kawarau Bridge Bungy opened in 1988, it was almost as though New Zealand had invented adventure sports. The 140-foot plunge from the South Island’s iconic steel-framed Kawarau Bridge attracts roughly 38,000 tourists each year. New Zealand, like Australia, has imposed severe border closures during the pandemic, but those dives will be waiting for you when transit returns.
Dive the Great Blue Hole in Belize.
The Great Blue Hole, a 1,000-foot-wide sinkhole in the heart of Belize’s Lighthouse Reef, is known for its circular form and startlingly deep blue colour. Scuba divers are the only ones who get to see the wonders that lie beneath: huge, 40-foot limestone stalactites and stalagmites that formed during the last glacial period.
At Victoria Falls, relax in the Devil’s Pool.
Victoria Falls, on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, attracts thousands of visitors each year. The Devil’s Pool, a naturally formed eddy at the extreme brink of the falls, is one of the most popular attractions here between August and January, when courageous swimmers can splash around (depending on water levels). Given that the only thing separating you from falling off the cliff is a slick rock barrier, this is unquestionably the world’s most extreme infinity pool.
You may swim with wild dolphins in the Azores.
The Azores, a group of nine islands located 900 miles off the coast of Lisbon, are a must-see for us. Adventure visitors will love the extraordinarily gorgeous archipelago, where they can go canyoning on sheer cliff faces, paraglide over vineyards, and swim with both migrating and native dolphins. You have a lot of wonderful accommodation alternatives to pick from after a day in the outdoors, such as Sul Villas & Spa on So Miguel and Caldeira Guesthouse & Surfcamp on So Jorge.
Float in the Galápagos Islands’ Darwin Lake.
The Galápagos Islands, located off the coast of Ecuador, are one of the most well-known outdoor destinations in the world, thanks to its diverse species and unearthly scenery. From hiking on volcanoes to lounging in the saline Darwin Lake with adjacent tortoises and iguanas, the 19-island group provides several once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Booking with Quasar Expeditions for an eco-friendly option (think solar power technology and less plastic waste) is one of the finest ways to get to the islands.
At Yosemite National Park, climb Half Dome.
The Half Dome trek in Yosemite National Park is one of the most challenging hikes you’ll ever do, extending for 16 miles and climbing over 5,500 feet. The last 400 feet are the most difficult—hikers must ascend the steep hill with only two steel ropes for support—but the stunning vistas from the top make the effort (and anxiety) worthwhile. After that, stay at The Ahwahnee, one of the country’s most gorgeous national park hotels.