5 Top Destinations for the Adventurous Soul
There are a lot of benefits to adventure travel, from the obvious, like seeing new places and learning about the other cultures, to more abstract opportunities to reflect on how you think about things, and inspiration to take a role in saving the planet. You don’t have to go far to find adventure--surf, ski, hike, bike, camp, kayak—whatever gets you out and going can be an adventure. But when you are ready to get away and really go for a big adventure, here are five outstanding places to do it.
1.) Explore the Alaskan Wilderness in a Raft
Alaska offers some of the most amazing scenery and wildlife in the US. Mountains and rivers are accompanied by waterfalls and glaciers—and you can see it all as you paddle a whitewater raft. In some places, the rivers are as wild as the bears, but in others, you’ll see icebergs drifting along the river beside your raft. It’s easy to find guides in Alaska, but you won’t be just another of the tourist groups hustling from landmark to landmark. Even on a guided tour, you may not see another person for days.
What you can expect to see is the world’s largest protected wilderness, glaciers, icebergs, river deltas, sand dunes, cliffs cut by glaciers, undeveloped expanses. Plan for a summer trip, unless you have something extreme in mind.
There are many guides leading adventure tours in Alaska. One called Copper Oar offers a comprehensive 16-day tour called “Source to the Sea” that takes you down the Nizina and Copper Rivers near the southern coast of Alaska. It is only recommended for adventurous people in good condition and sets out in June and July. For the adventurous, but less physically aggressive, copper Oar also offers a 5-day beginner level fly, raft and hike wilderness adventure on the Nizina River Headwaters.
2.) Antarctica—A Place Like No Other
You won’t be doing any surfing and sunning on an Antarctic vacation, but there’s a lot more to it than just claiming that you’ve visited the southernmost continent. The season for visiting is only summer in the southern hemisphere – from November through March, with the best wildlife viewing being earlier in the season.
While the environment of Antarctica is harsh, it is also sensitive, and protection of it is very important. Travelers live aboard the ship they come in on and head ashore using rigid inflatables. Wildlife viewing is a highlight because since there is no human population, the animals there aren’t afraid of people. You can definitely see penguins and seabirds, but seals and whales are often seen as well.
Adventurers can arrange to go ice climbing, kayaking, scuba diving, and camping. Make sure to find out about options with whichever tour you join up with, and go with a smaller company. There is a limit of 100 people allowed ashore, so avoid “cruise-only” designated trips! That means you’d have to stay on the boat.
3.) Volcano Boarding in Nicaragua
If boarding and adrenaline-inducing thrills are your things, add volcano boarding to your bucket list. You won’t be boarding on snow or even sand, though. You’ll be sliding down the slope of an active volcano on a wooden board on the surface of gravel-like lava. Sitting on it like a sled gets the best speed, which can be up to 30 miles per hour.
The city of Leon is renowned for its architecture and street art, and the surrounding rural area provides a real look at local culture. Leon has several hostels for budget-conscious travelers.
4.) Iceland Has Amazing Diving and Much More
Iceland has become a hugely popular destination recently. If that surprises you, it’s likely that you just haven’t heard of all the things to do there. One of the most amazing and unexpected is scuba diving. The melting glaciers filter through lava rock, resulting in the clearest water on earth. Think of diving with over 300-foot visibility! The diving is also exceptional because divers actually swim between the vertical walls created by two tectonic plates. That’s not something you can do anywhere else in the world. The water is near freezing, so drysuit experience is required, along with open-water dive certification.
Non-divers can still experience the astonishing clear water by hiking along the streams created by springs. A hike through the Almannagja gorge lets you see the North American tectonic plate, and experience the geological marvels that result from the plates shifting. Geysers, waterfalls and the northern lights are among the other features that draw people from all over the world. Make sure to include time to relax in a geothermal bath if you make it to Iceland.
5.) Snow-holing Scotland
Remember when you were a kid and thought living in an igloo sounded impossible, but super cool? Well, snow-holing is a grownup adventure that gives you a similar experience. A snow hole is cut into the accumulation of snow and, like an igloo, the snow insulates you from the wind overnight temperature drop. It is a popular adventure in Scotland and Scandinavia.
Scott Mountain Holidays offers trips in Scotland that teach you how to safely construct a snowhole, and you’ll spend the night in one in the beautiful Cairngorms National Park. They also teach winter survival skills before you even head out on the 4- to 5-hour trek to the summit. You’ll need to be fit, and the work is hard, but the trip is meant to be fun, not grueling.
Have you been on any unusual adventures? Share your story and inspire others to get out there and do it too!