Last updated May 3, 2021
When it comes to adventure travel, the options are endless. With countries worldwide offering so many unique and exciting experiences, it’s difficult to choose or even add to your bucket list for future trips.
Whether you prefer thrilling adventures on land, in the sky or sea, there are so many adventure vacation options available that will have the hairs on the back of your neck standing in no time.
We’ve compiled this list of simply must-do experiences for the adventure traveler, which are accessible, unique, active and also allow you to take in and experience what the destination has to offer.
Let’s dive straight in then!
Hike to Machu Picchu
You’ve probably already heard about Machu Picchu, the otherworldly, ancient Incan citadel located among the mountaintops near Cusco, Peru.
The easiest way to get to this New Wonder of the World is undoubtedly by train, but let’s face it, it’s not the most thrilling option.
Instead, opt for the four-day, three-night Inca trail trek, which takes you from just outside the town of Ollantaytambo, 40 km (25 miles) up narrow Andean paths through the exclusive Sun Gate and into Machu Picchu.
This South American adventure, featuring on so many bucket lists, will have you trekking at high altitude among lush, cloud forest alive with wildlife and among centuries-old ruins that span this popular route.
You’ll arrive at Machu Picchu’s Sun Gate at sunrise with the ruins glistening in the golden light in the background—a sight only a limited number get to see—reason enough for you to book yourself onto the next flight to Peru.
Take a Hot-Air Balloon Ride over Cappadocia
As one of the most unique landscapes in the world, with its fairy chimneys, unique rock formations and cave-like dwellings, Cappadocia attracts its fair share of visitors from around the world.
Boasting both cultural and adventure opportunities like hiking, horseback riding and visiting local museums, the most popular thing to do in Cappadocia is taking a sunrise hot-air balloon ride.
Rise with the sun and get ready to be flown across a landscape of white stone, Turkish orchards and vineyards while admiring the distinctive rock formations and underground cities. It’s most certainly an experience you’re not going to forget quickly.
Sleep in an Igloo Hotel Under the Northern Lights
The Northern Lights, the Arctic’s most elusive phenomenon, occupies many people’s bucket list top spot.
There are a few places to experience the northern lights such as Canada, Iceland, Greenland, Norway, Sweden and Finland, each offering its selection of adventurous activities.
When it comes to the overall experience and an incredible place to stay, the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Finland is hard to beat.
Renowned as one of the best places in the world to watch the Northern Lights, here you’ll stay in a glass igloo where you can watch the Arctic night sky with a cup of steaming hot chocolate from the comfort of your own bed.
Travel with friends or family, and you can rent a beautiful large log cabin, spend the holidays in Lapland and enjoy the beauty of the Aurora Borealis.
Surrounded by an infinite amount of snow and pure nature, you’ll be able to spend the day steering huskies on a husky safari through the wilderness, interact with reindeer, go skiing or ice fishing or to get the adrenaline pumping, a snowmobile safari.
Dive the Great Blue Hole in Belize
The Great Blue Hole is a giant marine sinkhole located off the coast of Belize. 318m wide and almost 130m deep, it’s surrounded by shallow but lush coral reefs and rich marine life.
Go scuba diving or even snorkeling here, and you’ll have the opportunity to encounter reef sharks, many different tropical fish species and even a hammerhead or bull shark.
However, it’s not the marine life that attracts adventure travelers and divers from around the world to travel here every year. It’s all about the stark beauty of this incredible underwater cenote.
Dives start on the shallow reef, and you’ll approach the rim of the sinkhole similarly to any other wall dive. The 10 meter rim then slopes down to 15 meters before dropping straight down into the abyss.
Another way to experience the beauty of the Great Blue Hole is from above. After your dive (make sure to leave enough time to decompress), take a scenic flight over the site and marvel at all the shades of blue imaginable around what is an almost perfect circle.
Paraglide Over the Himalayas in Nepal
For one of the best places in the world for paragliding and trekking, head straight to Nepal, specifically the city of Pokhara, the gateway to the Himalayas.
Pokhara is Nepal’s second largest city, located at the foot of the vast Himalaya Mountains and on the banks of Phewa Lake. This extraordinary setting makes for one of the most beautiful flights of your life, soaring high over the Himalaya foothills.
On a clear day, you’ll be able to see some of the highest snow-capped Himalayan peaks, the pristine, green countryside around the city, the glistening lake and the city itself.
Climb Mt. Fuji
Climbing Japan’s iconic peak is a must for all adventurer travel enthusiasts when in Japan. Standing tall at 3776 meters, this is no easy climb, but the paths are clearly marked and very well ordered.
Climbing season runs from July to mid-September, and the trails are extremely popular and crowded with Japanese adventure travelers and foreigners alike.
There are many different stations or starting points from which to tackle the mountain—depending on where you’re coming from—and it takes about 7 hours to trek to the top and about 5 hours to descend. It’s not a technically challenging climb.
Mountain huts are also offered on some of the trails where you can stay the night and continue the trek to the summit early in the morning to catch the sunrise from the top.
On a clear day, the views are absolutely jaw-dropping, and you can see for miles. Very few things beat taking in an extraordinary sunrise on top of one of the most iconic mountains in the world.
Run the Great Wall Marathon in China
Ever thought about putting yourself up to the challenge of running a marathon? Don’t just run any marathon; combine your running with some travel and take a trip to China to run the Great Wall Marathon.
Marathons probably won’t be back for some time yet post-pandemic, giving you all the time you need to train for this once-in-a-lifetime event.
If a full marathon isn’t your cup of tea, you can also opt for a half marathon or an 8.5 km fun run, still giving you an experience of running one of the world’s most challenging races.
Face steep unhills and abrupt downhills in this 5,164 step race and see one of the Seven World Wonders at the same time. On completion, you can also spend a few days recovering in one of the world’s most ancient cities, Beijing.
Sail a Dhow in Zanzibar
For the ultimate option in off-the-beaten-track adventure travel, head to the paradisiacal island of Zanzibar on Tanzania’s coast for a chance to sail a dhow, a traditional Arab boat.
The dhow has been the primary mode of transportation throughout the history of this region, transporting vital trade between Zanzibar, mainland Africa and the Middle East, and they are still used today.
There are many ways that you can sail a dhow—you can go on a tour in one to distant beaches and points of interest around the island, go on a sunset cruise or even charter a luxury dhow for you and your friends for a few days to explore the pristine waters around Zanzibar.
It is the perfect off the beaten path experience for the adventure traveler with a bit of relaxation thrown in too.