Are you an adrenaline junkie looking for your next adventure vacation? These are the absolute top adventure destinations in the world, according to other adventure travelers!
All-inclusive beach vacations are great. Don’t get me wrong. Spending hours under the sun with a good book and a cold drink? Sure. Everyone needs that sort of downtime from daily stresses once in a while. The true adrenaline junkies out there, however, are the ones tapping their foot against the sand, anxiously waiting for their next big thrill. An afternoon of relaxation is all they need before looking out for nearby adventure.
They know that getting as far away from your comfort zone as possible is the best way to feel alive. They aren’t afraid of not knowing a language, of trying something new or getting wet and cold, of seeing toothy animals, or being uncomfortable. Adrenaline junkies know that those sacrifices are actually opportunities to learn, grow, and find your passion.
So let’s cut to the chase and find the absolute best adventure vacations in the world.
These adventure destinations have been carefully chosen by the most extreme travelers: those who adventure for a living. We asked some hard-core travel bloggers about the most extreme, exciting, and fun adventure vacations they’ve ever done, now we have a list so drool-worthy I’m literally (yes, I mean literally) reaching for my passport to plan my next big thrill!
Don’t worry, you can always relax with a massage to ease those aching muscles next door to your hostel!
1. Take a Jeep tour through Southern Bolivia
Taking off from Southern Bolivia in a 4×4 Jeep, tour goers experience a 4-day rough and tumble view of Bolivia’s most surprising landscapes. From red mountains inexplicably covered with snow among the sandy desert. To lagoons filled with flocks of pink flamingos. To the incredibly massive whitewashed salt flats spanning thousands of miles.
Stops along the way include many opportunities to walk, hike, or go bouldering amongst the scenery. A task made even more difficult at 16,000 feet of elevation! Then resting your weary muscles in the most amazing natural hot spring you’ll ever experience.
But the adventure doesn’t only lie in the locations you’ll visit.
You sleep local in small pueblos where they only turn the generator on for a few hours of electricity each night. There’s no hot water for a proper shower, or heat, or air conditioning (both of which are much needed at some point in the year). And you’re up before the sun is each day to get after it once again.
But the reward is seeing the stars so clearly it almost looks fake. Hiking up a cactus covered “island” in the dark to get the best view of the sun rising over the salt flats. And experiencing a true hidden gem in a vastly touristed world.
Kara, Destination Live Life
2. Spend the night on Antarctica
Antarctica is the ultimate travel destination for adventurers. While difficult, and expensive, to get to, the white continent makes it worth it. Even the trip to the continent is an adrenaline rush. The Drake Passage, the body of water between South America’s Cape Horn and Antarctica, is the most dangerous water in the world. The swells can range between 10 and 90 feet (1 and 30 meters) and usually takes two days to cross.
Many people ask what do you actually DO when you get to Antarctica, since it is the coldest place on earth? Simple, go outside! The hiking in Antarctica is second to none – where else can you walk past seals on a beach to a mountain where you can hike around an extinct volcano? There’s also kayaking past glaciers, next to penguins, and hopefully not too close to a leopard seal.
If you’re truly among the brave visitors to Antarctica, swimming and camping are the ultimate tests of adventure. Yes, you can spend a night in a tent on the ice continent but be aware that the sun “sets” for about three hours, so it won’t be a restful night. You can also embrace the cold waters and be one of the few people to swim in the Southern Ocean.
3. Conquer Your Fear of Heights in Queenstown, New Zealand
Bailey, Destinationless Travel
4. Hike the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal
A multi-day trek through the Annapurna or Everest mountain ranges in Nepal is not for the faint of heart. This adventure vacation requires not only several months of conditioning, an adjustment to high altitude, and sleeping and eating under the roughest of circumstances, it begins with a trip to one of the poorest developing countries in the world.
Your Annapurna trek actually starts once you enter Kathmandu, the country’s capital and largest city. There you’ll fight your way around the homeless and trash piles until your in-country flight or strenuous bus ride to Pokhara. Pokhara is considered Nepal’s adventure capital, and a city where much more than the main hiking circuits begin. Pokhara is home to white water rafting, mountain biking, and one of the top five best (and most dangerous) paragliding locations in the world. Once you survive those extreme activities, it’s time to don your hiking gear and backpack for the real adventure.
Hikes along the Annapurna circuit range from Poon Hill, the 5-day beginner trek, to to 14-day trek across the Annapurna circuit, to the Annapurna Massif Summit. The Annapurna Massif Summit trek is considered the most dangerous in the world, as it currently has a death rate of 33%. While the mountain is only ranked #10 on the world’s top summits list, the reason for it’s difficulty is based on the terrain, altitude, and lack of organized trials, as compared to it’s more famous neighbor, Everest, which is trekked so regularly the path has been easily forged and fortified.
Susannah, The O’Briens Abroad
5. Trek with Local Villagers in the High Andes
With over a million people visiting Machu Picchu each year you would be excused for writing off the region as over-touristed. Well, think again. The Cusco, Peru and Machu Picchu area is a treasure trove of true, exciting adventure!
Once you venture off the very beaten path the opportunities are endless. As an avid trekker I’ve taken on some of my most adventurous hikes in this region. And – if you fancy yourself as an Indiana Jones type – there are still plenty of Inca ruins to stumble upon and clear away with your machete.
If you aren’t into trekking, then adventure is still very possible. The mountains are dotted with little communities of people living as they did prior to the conquest – and in many cases, still practicing ancient rituals. One of the most interesting I have participated in was in the ritual of the first shearing of a baby alpaca. Alternatively there are many festivals high in the mountains that few foreigners ever attend and even being an observer can rock you to your roots. If rafting, mountain climbing, downhill biking or para gliding are more your style, then there are plenty of opportunities around Cusco and a community of thrill seekers that will help you live on the wild side.
Ariana, World of Travel With Kids
6. Scuba Dive with Sharks Off Sipidan Island, Malaysia
Sipidan island tops almost every list of the best scuba dive sites in the world year after year. A tiny island off the coast of Malaysian Borneo, Sipidan is as exotic, mysterious, and beautiful as the obscure location would suggest. It takes a flight from Kota Kinabalu to Semporna followed by a speedboat ride to neighboring islands to gain access to the infamous dive spot, and even then visitors are far from guaranteed a scuba dive.
That’s right- part of the mystique of this adventure vacation is how notoriously difficult it is to access. The Malay government is actively trying to preserve the unique habitat, so they limit the daily number of divers to Sipidan and do not allow overnight stays. So why make such an effort?
Sipidan is the only volcanic island in Malaysia. The island plunges 2,000 meters to the bottom of the Indo-Pacific Basin, one of the richest marine habitats in the world, and provides a home to living coral which has grown over the underwater mass for thousands of years. Due to a convergence of currents and water temperatures, more than 3,000 marine species are classified as part of the Sipidan marine ecosystem.
Extreme scuba divers will be in awe of the sheer amount of tropical fish schools, diverse coral life, sea turtles, eels, rays, and sharks which call the steep walls of the ancient volcano home. The sight is absolutely unreal, and completely worth making what many consider to be the trip of a lifetime.
If you can get a ticket, that is.
7. Mountain Bike around Moab’s Slick Rocks
Moab, Utah is the ultimate red rock desert adventure destination. Between its two National Parks, the Colorado River, and plethora of annual events, Moab has plenty to keep you busy. I visited for the first time years ago, and haven’t been able to stay away for very long ever since!
Let’s start with the National Parks: geologically iconic Arches National Park and quietly rugged Canyonlands National Park. Arches’ entrance station is literally in Moab, so impossible to miss. You honestly haven’t seen red rocks until you’ve seen Arches red rocks. The must-hike trails in Arches are the Delicate Arch hike (best experienced at sunrise) and the Devils Garden Loop. Conveniently, Devils Garden Campground is quite close to the latter. This campground is almost always full, though, so I actually recommend one of Canyonlands’ awesome campgrounds or Moab’s many public sites in the canyon along the Colorado River east of town.
Besides the two National Parks, Moab has a ridiculous number of bike and jeep trails, including the famous Slickrock Bike Trail. I was originally drawn to Moab for camping and hiking, but the biking and jeep communities here are positively thriving. The water sports on the Colorado River aren’t to be overlooked either; Moab has several white water rafting tour operators, and I know folks who drive cross-country for Moab kayak trips.
While it’s hardly under-the-radar anymore, Moab certainly remains a chill and relatively affordable, exciting mecca for outdoorsy types. Whether you’re here to hike or kayak, attend a music festival or jeep rally, make sure to end the day with a cold local beer at the Moab Brewery!”
Kaisa, Glam Granola Travel
8. Free Dive with Whale Sharks in the Philippines
Whale sharks, the largest fish in the ocean, are endangered. While their numbers gradually dwindle around the world, there is one spot where the population is actually growing: the Philippines. The spotted sharks are drawn to the area for the convergence of Philippine Sea and Pacific Ocean currents, making it one of the permanent spots on their annual migration.
In response to their current endangered status, the feeding of these gentle giants by local tourism groups was approved by the Philippines government in 2012. The efforts to restore their numbers is overseen by the Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute in conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund. Their ongoing study of whale sharks in Oslob, Philippines, concludes that diving and swimming with these majestic creatures is not only an opportunity to learn more about the incredible animals up close, it also stimulates the economy of many small fishing towns (having procured jobs for thousands of local people). The whale sharks are in no immediate danger as long as tourists respect the posted rules of interaction.
Free diving with whale sharks in Oslob is a breathtaking experience and one of the most educational and rewarding adventure vacations in the world. A slow, wooden rowboat carefully brings you to in the midst of the animals. Another boat drifts along throwing chum overboard for the wandering animals. Once they appear, guests are allowed to enter the water- as long as you are completely sunscreen free and stay near your boat. You are then free to hold your breath with provided snorkel gear for extended swimming underwater. You’ll undoubtedly find yourself near the 40-foot long fish, their large bodies dwarfing over you as they swim gracefully through the water.
Be sure to follow the cardinal rule of swimming with whale sharks, though: do not touch them!
Susannah, The O’Briens Abroad
9. Bungee Jump Off Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Earlier this year, my partner and I explored Africa with a fantastic safari tour through Botswana. After two weeks, the tour ended in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. It was an amazing trip and the most incredible location to finish our safari. While Botswana was ideal for wildlife and natural landscapes, Victoria Falls was a perfect adventure destination.
Our time spent in Victoria Falls included a number of adventure activities. We went on a whitewater rafting excursion and did a zip-line over the gorge from the Zambia side to the Zimbabwe side. While those thrilling adventures were unforgettable, the highlight of our time in Zimbabwe was bungee-jumping.
The incredible bungee-jumping experience took place from a platform atop Victoria Falls Bridge. The bridge crosses the Zambezi River just below the waterfall. It’s 128 meters high and was completed in 1905. I didn’t care too much about those facts as I was standing on the platform looking down at the mighty Zambezi below me. Instead, I just kept telling the staff of Shearwater Bungee “I’m really nervous, I’m really nervous…” Despite my assertions of fear, they walked me to the edge and forced a countdown “3-2-1-BUNGEE!”
Derek, Robe Trotting
10. Climb Villarrica, an Active Volcano in Chile
Pucon is without a doubt the adventure capital of Chile. There are so many things to do in Pucon for adventure lovers, with the most impressive one being climbing Villarrica volcano.
Villarrica is one of Chile’s most active volcanos, which last erupted in March 2015, closing the access to tourists for months. Climbing Villarrica Volcano can only be done through a professional mountain guides company, and it is regulated by the national park surrounding it.
The 2,847 meters high volcano is a challenge to climb because of its incline, of the ash that covers it, but also the snow present near the top. It takes several hours to make the ascent to the crater, where you will be required to put a gas mask on. Any brave souls can take a peek inside the volcano and see the lava splutter underneath. The volcano is always eliminating gas which can be seen from miles around.
The views from the top of Villarrica volcano are fantastic, whilst the atmosphere very serene. Even if there are many climbers who attempt this hike on a daily basis, there is a quietness that allows you to enjoy the nature and respect the mountain.
For adrenaline seekers, there is a company in Pucon that also provides sky dives over the volcano.
If you’re an adrenaline junkie looking for the best destinations for an adventure vacation pin this article for later!