It doesn’t always mean bungee jumping or swimming with sharks.
Adventure is in the eye of the beholder. You don’t have to skydive or swim with sharks to call your trip a life-changing experience – donning a pair of snorkeling fins or immersing yourself in a different culture fits the bill too. It’s not always about how fast or high you go, but about seizing the opportunity to see the world from a brand-new perspective.
“Adventure travel appeals to so many demographics – millennials, couples, families, boomers, and more – and it has so many varying levels,” says Cece Drummond, Virtuoso’s managing director of destinations and experiences. “There are safaris, cycling tours, hikes, trips into remote towns and villages, and, yes, there’s extreme skydiving too.”
The desire for adventure has gone mainstream, with many Virtuoso advisors focusing exclusively on this specific type of travel. From kayaking and cave tubing to “soft adventures” such as electric-bike riding and snorkeling, there’s an option to suit every vacation style. Up your game, conquer your fears, and try something new this year. Here, a few ideas to get you started.
Extreme Factor: Low to High
Try It: The Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, Zimbabwe’s Zambezi River, and Costa Rica, where the weather lends itself to year-round rafting.
Extreme Factor: High
If you like hiking, imagine taking those outdoor skills to an icefield. Glacier hiking is an amped-up version of the sport that requires more-specialized equipment, such as crampons (footwear traction devices), helmets, and ice axes. Not for the faint of heart, these expeditions allow travelers to immerse themselves in the rough outdoor beauty of hard-to-reach places. If glacier hiking tops your adventure travel bucket list, make it happen sooner rather than later, as climate change continues to shrink the world’s greatest icefields.
Try It: In Montana’s Glacier National Park; on the Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland; and on one of the many icefields along Norway’s fjords.
Extreme Factor: Low to Medium
Hopping on the saddle has always been a great way to take in the landscape, whether it’s a sunset ride on the beach or a multiday journey into remote wilderness. Horses can schlep humans and their provisions for the long haul and go places technology can’t, and excursions let travelers connect with and learn about caring for the animals.
Try It: Your Virtuoso travel advisor can arrange a ride through your destination’s surrounding plains, countryside, or coasts. For remote adventure, head to Mongolia, where a ride through the country affords wanderlusters an authentic perspective on nomad culture.
Extreme Factor: Medium
Second only to hiking, mountain biking (also known as all-terrain biking) is one of the most popular ways to engage in the great outdoors. Equipped with knobby tires and serious suspension, mountain bikes are built especially for off-road adventures. If you’re able to shift gears, control your brakes, and manage moderately uneven surfaces (rocks, roots, and mud), you’re ready to ride. Bike tours range from slow and steady to super technical, so be sure to have your travel advisor find one that best suits your fitness level.
Try It: Pedal through Patagonia’s Lanín National Park or go off-road in Iceland.
Extreme Factor: Low
For a fun day of tropical fish-peeping, strap on fins, a mask, and a snorkel and head to the sea. Snorkeling is an easy activity – basic swimming skills, good equipment, and an understanding of the ocean are the most essential requirements. Many hotels, cruise lines, and tour outfitters will provide the supplies and instruction. Whenever possible, snorkel in the morning, when marine wildlife is more active and water visibility is best. And don’t touch or take anything from the ocean; sea creatures rely on the reefs for food and shelter.
Try It: Snorkeling is a must during any water-based vacation, be it in the Caribbean or the Maldives, off the coast of Mozambique, or in the warm waters of the Hawaiian Islands, where adventurers can spot pristine coral reefs and sea turtle habitats.
Extreme Factor: Medium
Navigating an inner tube through a cave is very different from taking one for a ride down a ski slope or a leisurely float on a lazy river. Kitted with a life vest and a headlamp, visitors take subterranean cave tours through dark (sometimes pitch black) caverns studded with stalactites and stalagmites. Expert guides lead these underground river tours, but if you have a fear of dark, small spaces, you may want to sit this one out.
Try It: New Zealand’s Waitomo Caves, which are known for the thousands of glowworms that illuminate their caverns; and in Belize, where cave tubing originated as a local sport by kids using old car tires to float down rivers. A tour through the crystal-clear waters of the Caves Branch Archaeological Reserve is a must-do.
Extreme Factor: Low
If you want to get up close and personal with nature and wildlife, kayaks are an intimate way to explore. First built by the Inuit people in North America roughly 4,000 years ago, these vessels were designed to hunt on inland waters. Today, paddlers of all levels can glide through fjords, narrow straits, and oceans from a sea-level perspective.
Try It: Grab a kayak from the activity center at your resort, or sign up for a tour on a cruise. In Alaska, wild coastline meets dramatic maritime mountain scenery at Lynn Canal, the deepest fjord in North America. Paddlers can maneuver a former Klondike gold rush route in search of orcas, humpbacks, river otters, and Steller sea lions.
Extreme Factor: Medium
Few things make the heart pound with excitement like soaring through the air on a cable over rivers, canyons, and forest canopies. Fueled by adrenaline, you’ll experience a veritable playground in the sky via a series of platforms (and a set of safety harnesses), and you may even forget about how far you are from the ground. Fear of heights aside, most zip-line tours are suitable for all but the youngest of ages, with no experience necessary.
Try It: Zip-line courses can be found all over, from the Caribbean and Southeast Asia to Australia’s Daintree Rainforest, where flight enthusiasts soar over rivers, waterfalls, and virgin jungle before ending on the coast overlooking the Great Barrier Reef.
Photo by Thepalmer/Getty Images/Mscornelius/Rawpixel/Photo_Concepts/Pete Hendley
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