The Adventurer's Short Break Bucket List
Forget climbing to Everest Base Camp or mountain biking down Bolivia’s Death Road. Go adventuring off the beaten track with our list of This year’s adventure travel destinations, and you’ll easily be the backpackers with the best story at the bar. From sandboarding the world’s biggest dunes to climbing inside a volcano, here are the top ten adventurer’s travel destinations.
Namibia take top billing on our list of favourite adventure travel destinations for its awesome adventure capital, Swakopmund. This coastal city in the northwest has always attracted outdoorsy types for its wild surf, but is fast becoming a mecca for more than just riding the waves.
Sandboarding in particular is huge in Namibia desert, which are among the biggest sand suns in the world. Swakopmund is home to load of sandboarding outfits, so you won’t have any difficulty finding an opportunity to start sliding. The boards you’ll use ae specially adapted snowboards adept at speeding down the sandy surfaces, and you can get up to 50mph. Even better, you can enjoy it as a skilled boarder or a novice – there’s no shame in just lying on your front and pushing off for a fun ride.
Parachute jumps, quad biking and self-drive safaris are also commonplace in Swakopmund, which means you can easily spend a few days here hammering your heart rate – without battering your bank account.
To keep the adrenaline pumping, head for Etosha National Park, where you can get up close with lions. Then head south for Fish River Canyon, one of the world’s largest canyons and the biggest in Africa. This jaw-dropping natural wonder features a 100-mile-long ravine and can be hiked in the winter season from May to September. There are no facilities for you to sleep in along the three-to-five day hike – after a punishing day under the sun, you sleep under the stars.
Yet another plus-point for Namibia is that it is considered on of Africa’s most stable nations with its multi-party parliamentary democracy. It’s also one of the least densely populated countries in the world, which means there’s plenty of room to make your own adventure.
Iceland is emerging as Europe’s adventure capital. Top of the list for anyone seeking something different is a tour of a volcano. Thrihnukagigur has been dormant for more than 400 years, and tours inside the belly of this beast will be an offer during the warmer months of the Icelandic summer, with four departures every day in June and July.
Keen tourists will be able to descend 120 metres using a cable lift, entering the volcano through the four-metre-by-four-metre opening in its summit.
If you’re into volcanoes but don’t necessarily want to enter one, take an off-road jeep tour to the eruption area around Mount Eyjafjallajokull – the very vocano that put Iceland on the map, thanks to all the trouble its ash could caused for air travellers. You’ll also be able to walk behind gorgeous waterfall Seljalandsfoss.
It that’s not enough, there’s also hiking up glaciers and even the chance to dive between the continents in the Silfra ravine. Just an hour’s drive from Reykjavik, you can swim between the tectonic plates with crystal-clear views through the 2-4C water.
BOSNIA AND HERZOGOVINA
Bosnia has been dubbed ‘the new Croatia’ for its breathtaking scenery, but there’s much more to the destination than views. First, there’s its turbulent history and Sarajevo’s eye-popping clash of European and Middle Eastern cultures. In recent years, off-road driving has become the sport of choice for travellers. Get the wheels of a 4x4 suitably muddy on a dirt road, for a high adrenaline way to navigate the rugged countryside. Balkan Road Trips visit Bjelasnica and Igman where events for the 1984 Winter Olympics were hosted and war damage has been largely repaired. After a night in a picturesque mountain lodge, you can hit the roads for a high-altitude and high-actane experience behind the wheel.
To Mayans, who make up much of Belize’s population, 2020 represents the end of the last, 60,000-year-long, casmic cycle and the start of a new one. So, there’s never been a better time to head to the north-eastern coast of Central America and immerse yourself in Mayan culture. Trek through Belize’s majestic Maya Mountains and explore restored and unexpected Mayan ruins and temples across the country. Then delve into Belize’s limestone caves via canoe – or make your caving expectation a little more exciting and go tubing. Opt for an overnight camp in the caves or hike through jungle and explore waterfalls.
The Former Soviet Republic turned democratic state is a melting pot of cultures and history – truly where East meets West – with World Heritage sites and ancient Christian monuments. Most of the country is mountainous, though, so adventure activities generally include going up things, and then coming down them at great speed. Ace! Tours take in the country’s ‘mystic’ past, with trekking in the Svaneti, and visiting Ushguli, Europe’s highest permanently populated town, Mountains over 4000ft above sea level after vertiginous challenges, with ski touring also an option. Biking, jeep tours and horse riding are also on offer to help you discover this vast and varied country.
The Finnish capital Helsinki has a cornucopia to offer for the adventurous. The biggest thrills come out in the colder months – after all, swimming in ice-cold water is a sport here! You can try your hand at igloo building, while snowshoeing takes you off the beaten track, and cross-country skiing is an option for the endurance-hardened. Take a midnight sun walking tour too, for a truly one-off experience.
For most people Ibiza is the place to party. It has the biggest clubs, the world’s best DJs, and is an unbridled long sun, sea and hedonism. But there is much more to this Balearic outpost than just dancing all night to some banging tunes. Biking, hiking and horse riding around the island’s picturesque, unspoilt rural stretches is becoming ever-more popular for those in the know. Temperature of 18-26C over summer also make Ibiza an ideal destination for water sports, with water-skiing, jet skiing, sailing, windsurfing, parasailing and kayaking all on offer. Enjoy the action in peace and quiet while the rest of the island sleeps off is hangover.
The Baja California Peninsula in northwestern Mexico is said to draw in the biggest waves of the winter Pacific. Our top tip is former beach-bum-turned-surf-haven Todos Santos. With its surf pros, welcoming locals, and a plethora of surf schools, you can catch a tube on one of the ocean’s finest breaks. Off the board, go kayaking at dawn to get up close to endemic wonders such as Baja Californica sea lions, as well as some truly stunning natural terrain. For a country that stretches 5km above sea level and has over 10,000km of coastline, the diversity of climate, activities and surrounds is a real marvel.
Tunisia is shedding its reputation as a lazy sun ‘n’ sea holiday spot and tempting holiday makers with more thrills and spills than they could ever get from merely absorbing UVBs on its golden, Mediterranean-lined sands. Cycling tours are springing up as a special way to get acquainted with its contrasting lands of desert oases, troglodyte villages (such as Matmata, where Star Wars as filmed), lunar landscapes and lush palmeries. And for hanging ten, it’s little known that Tunisia is a viable alternative to the pricey and popular Mediterranean breaks, with a wide swell exposure that so far, only a smattering of dudes and dudettes have discovered. Can’t surf? Don’t worry. Hit virtually any beach and you’ll find loads of operators offering a variety of water sports. Suspend yourself over the soft sandy beaches of Djerba on a parasail, and you’ll see adventure in this slim wedge of North Africa’s vast expanse is truly underrated.
Panama is as yet unfettered by tourist crowds – they’re all going to neighbouring Costa Rica. But it won’t be long until the world cottans on to its natural gifts. The best way to experience then is by getting adventurous. Try mountain biking in Soberania National Park. Here. You’ll find yourself deep in Central American rainforest on a roller coaster-type trail over mountain tops, and down to valley floors. Like a bit of wet and wild? Canyoning in the Chargres National Park is a thrill, and while you’re there, do a spot of white-water rafting on grade two rapids – just keep an eye out for the monkeys. Finally, wind down the pace for a sea kayaking through the San Blas archipelago, as there’s so much tumbling tropical scenery to absorb, teeming with unique flora fauna. The area is also known as Guna Yala. This is one place you get a true feeling that you’re in on a secret that the rest of the travelling world doesn’t know about – but we’d guess not for long.