Wow. Where do you start? Clearly, we’re a bit biased when it comes to the question of where the best destination is for adventure travel, so let’s step back for a minute and define this term ‘adventure travel’, because it can mean different things to different people. At the extreme end of the spectrum, it might mean a wing suit trip in the Swiss Alps or eating live scorpions in a shaman ceremony in Mexico. At the opposite end, it’s as tame as lying on a Caribbean beach with a Pina Colada and a copy of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. But somewhere in the middle, and where most of us slot into, it’s a hiking trip in Peru or Patagonia, sea kayaking in New Zealand or arriving at Everest Base Camp slightly short of breath. Did I say we were biased?
Well. We are. No apologies for that either. I mean, there’s a reason why we run our trips in the parts of the world we love – because they embody our definition of adventure travel. And because we simply love hiking, biking and sea kayaking in the most beautiful parts of the world.
So it really depends on what your definition is, and what floats your boat, and the challenges & discoveries you want to set for yourself. But continuing with the general bias theme, here’s my list of best destinations for adventure travel, in no particular order.
1. New Zealand
I’m not sure if there’s another country in the world better suited to satisfy anyone’s appetite for adventure, all wrapped up in a package so visually stunning. We sure are lucky to live here! Smug? Just a little bit. Hike along a high ridge and through the pristine native beech forests of Nelson Lakes National Park in the early afternoon, and then find yourself having fish and chips on sub-tropical beaches of the West Coast just a couple of hours later. Fly into the ‘Siberia’ valley in Mt Aspiring National Park, hike to Lake Crucible before staying in a back country hut, then jet boat out the following morning and ride a bike alongside Lake Hawea. In the dictionary under ‘adventure travel’ you might not find a photo of these things, but that just means the dictionary is wrong.
Think big. Very big. Actually no – think superlatives. Sea kayak across the highest navigable lake in the world. Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, arguably the grandest archaeological discovery of the 20th century, situated in the longest mountain range in the world, or spot a jaguar in the largest rain forest in the world, the Amazon basin. But it’s not all about the landscapes & natural heritage, the adventure can be found wandering not far from Cuzco’s main square, with its narrow cobbled streets built over 500 years ago by both the Inca civilization and the colonial Spanish. The roast guinea pig isn’t bad either, although that’s understandably a little TOO much adventure for the average palate.
The summer days are looooong, the rivers are crystal clear, the mountains are surreal and the lakes are bluer than blue. There’s an inescapable feeling of crispness and freshness when you’re standing anywhere in Patagonia. And you feel compelled to get closer to those Granite Towers in Torres del Paine, jump on to the ice of the Perito Moreno Glacier and kayak as far as you can across Grey Lake. Ahh, Patagonia – it’s cool, it’s clean, it’s crisp. It sounds like a dental hygiene commercial, but it is the mouthwash equivalent of adventure travel. Who doesn’t like mouthwash?
4. The Galapagos Islands
If you were given 4.2 million years to evolve in isolation from the rest of the world, you can rest assured you’d be a little different, and operate under your own set of natural rules. This is what makes the Galapagos an adventure travel dream come true. A couple of my greatest travel memories are from the Galapagos Islands. One was snorkelling with seals at the Devils Crown. A seal followed me and mimicked my every move for 20 minutes. The other was opening the door to my hotel room on San Cristobal Island to find a seal asleep on my doorstep. It may well have been the same seal – I must have made a big impression on him in the water the previous day. All in all, there is something for EVERYONE in the Galapagos, no matter what level of adventure travel you’re looking for. It really is absolutely fascinating.
5. The Annapurna Sanctuary, Nepal
Before embarking on a hike up into the massive alpine amphitheater that is the Annapurna Sanctuary, you’ll experience the hustle, bustle and craziness that is Kathmandu, sit quietly in a Buddhist temple with local monks and view the Himalayas from up high flying to Pokhara. And then there’s the hike up through local Gurung villages, experiencing the change in climate and landscape as you hike higher and stepping aside for the livestock on the trail as local farmers go about their day. The natural hot pools on the banks of the Modi Khola River are AWESOME too. Did someone say adventure travel? I think we just summed it up here.
So there it is. Our completely one-sided list of great adventure travel destinations. There are, of course, many more, and watch this space for a couple of new trips we’re cooking up in one of our other favourite parts of the world. For now, we don’t beat around the bush – we simply think you should see these places in your life time, because adventure travel is important for the mind, body and soul. It’s landscapes, it’s food, it’s human interaction, it’s history, it’s a hike, a paddle or quiet contemplation in a place you’re not likely to go to again in your life. So if this list doesn’t cut it for you, write one now, and tell us about it – because adventure is what you make it but it’s NEVER boring.
– Phil, Active Adventures Director