Monday newsletters always feature top 10 travel lists to inspire.
Today: Top 10 most thrilling travel adventures in the world
Every discerning traveler has a bucket list with their ultimate things to see & do around the world – from staying at iconic resorts and dining at the world’s best restaurants to taking in the planet’s most famous sights and exploring tropical islands. But not everyone dreams about relaxing on idyllic beaches and doing nothing when going on holiday. Some of us need adrenaline and excitement when traveling around the world. Adventure holidays offer a unique way of exploring the planet while also getting out of our comfort zone and testing our own physical limits. My selection of the 10 best travel adventures in the world – a mix of hikes, extreme sports and wildlife sightings – are guaranteed to thrill and give you plenty of stories (and photos) with your friends and family back home.
Think I missed one? Share your favorite travel adventure in the comments.
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10. BUNGEE JUMP IN NEW ZEALAND
In the 1980’s, a couple of young kiwis, AJ Hackett and Henry van Asch, set up New Zealand’s first commercial bungy jumping operation, with a jump from the historic Kawarau Bridge near Queenstown. Since then, New Zealand has become the home of bungy and for many visitors, bungy jumping in the country has almost become a rite of passage and a must-do travel adventure. All over the country you can leap from bridges, climbs, rail viaducts, specially made platforms perched on the edge of cliffs, and stadium roofs. The best spot is the South Island though, which not only has the country’s oldest bungy jump experience at AJ Hackett’s Kawarau Bridge, but also has the highest jump at an incredible 134 m (440 ft) plunge at Nevis Bungy – which are both in the Queenstown area.
9. SURF THE WORLD’S LARGEST WAVES IN PORTUGAL
Europe’s largest and deepest undersea canyon is found just off the coast of Nazaré (Portugal). It has a maximum depth of 5,000 m (16,000 ft) and explains why the waves in this part of the world are so big and so high breaking, often as tall as 6-story apartment buildings. Since 2011, the Big Wave Challenge in the iconic Praia do Norte has caught the eye of the world and Nazaré became a world-famous surf destination. It was here on 29 October 2020 that German Sebastian Steudtner set a world record for the biggest wave ever surfed (a 26 me or 86 ft monster). This activity is only for the brave of course, but even non-surfers will get a thrill out of watching the surfers on the giant and powerful waves. Besides Praia do Norte, Nazaré also has spots and waves accessible to all athletes.
8. CLIMB MOUNT KILIMANJARO IN TANZANIA
One of the most visited sites in Tanzania, the Mount Kilimanjaro National Park is home to Africa’s highest mountain peak, about 4,900 metres (16,100 ft) from its base to 5,895 metres (19,341 ft) above sea level. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987, the Kilimanjaro is also the world’s tallest freestanding mountain; it’s standing there all by itself in a plain without being part of a mountain range. Unlike other national parks and game reserves in Tanzania, the Kilimanjaro is not visited for the wildlife but for a chance to stand in awe of this majestic snow-capped mountain and, for many, to climb to the summit. While you do not have to be an expert climber to conquer the mountain (just regularly fit), do not take the exhausting climb – which takes at least 5 days – lightly.
- Other accolades: climbing Mount Kilimanjaro also features in my top 10 list of the best things to see & do in Tanzania.
7. WALK WITH GRIZZLY BEARS IN ALASKA’S KATMAI NATIONAL PARK
This may sound like an insane idea, but it is not, at least not in Katmai National Park, a remote and pristine wilderness area in the heart of wild Alaska, where giant coastal brown bears do not consider humans as a prey nor as a treat due to the abundance of food nearby and a 100+ years long wildlife protection program. A scenic flight in a small aircraft, followed by an exhilarating beach landing, will take you to the legendary meadows of Katmai National Park, where you will observe the bears in their natural habitat, and even walk amongst them with an unarmed guide. If this sounds like more stress than you can cope with, there are other locations (in Alaska and British Columbia) where you can spot these incredible animals in the wild from protected and secured observation platforms.
- Other accolades: walking with grizzly bears also features in my top 10 list of the best things to see & do in Alaska.
6. RAFT THE ZAMBEZI RIVER IN ZIMBABWE
Representing the world’s greatest curtain of falling water, Victoria Falls is located on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Columns of spray can be seen from miles away as, at the height of the rainy season, more than five hundred million cubic meters of water per minute plummet over the edge, over a width of nearly two km (1,2 miles) into a gorge over one hundred m (328 ft) below. The wide, basalt cliff over which the falls thunder, transforms the Zambezi from a placid river into a ferocious torrent cutting through a series of dramatic gorges, a site commonly known as the most magnificent white water rafting corridor on earth! Names of rapids like Stairway to Heaven, The Terminator, The Washing Machine, Judgement Day, Devils Toilet Bowl and Oblivion, give you a small insight of what to expect on this thrilling travel adventure.
5. GO HOT AIR BALLOONING OVER NAMIBIA
If you want to ponder how insignificant we really are, then hop into a hot air balloon and quietly absorb the unparalleled bird’s eye views of Namibia’s phenomenal desert landscape. Awake just before dawn and venture out to the launch site near Sossusvlei in the heart of Namib’s desert landscape, then float up peacefully into the sky as the sun rises. Enjoy spectacular views of jagged mountain tops that emerge from shifting dunes and soar over a landscape that has remained untouched for millions of years. After a gentle landing, as is customary with any balloon flight, an “Out Of Africa” style Champagne breakfast is set up in the middle of nowhere. Your pilot will also present you with a flight certificate before you take a leisurely nature drive back to the meeting point.
- Other accolades: hot air ballooning over Namibia’s desert landscape features in my top 10 list of the best things to see & do in Namibia.
4. HIKE THE INCA TRAIL TO MACHU PICCHU IN PERU
Without any doubt, Peru’s greatest attraction is the mist-shrouded Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, which was only discovered in 1911 and is believed to have been used by the Incas as a secret ceremonial city. No matter how many times you have seen a photograph of the iconic Inca ruins, nothing prepares you for the sense of awe that this magical place elicits in its Andes mountain setting, clinging as it does to rock and jungle. And there’s nothing like the satisfaction of approaching Machu Picchu on one’s own two feet, which is why the incredibly scenic, 5-day Inca Trail should be on every one’s bucket list. The iconic trail ends at the Intipunku sun gate, where hikers can watch the sunrise over the surrounding mountain peaks as the day’s first rays of soft light hit and illuminate the world-famous ruins.
3. TRACK MOUNTAIN GORILLAS IN RWANDA
Tracking the endangered mountain gorilla through the mysterious intimacy of the rainforest, alive with the calls of colorful birds and chattering of the rare golden monkey, is one of the most unique, memorable and life-changing travel adventures one can undertake in a lifetime. The best place for gorilla trekking is Rwanda‘s Volcanoes National Park’s headquarters, which is home to twelve habituated gorilla groups. Only eight visitors are allowed per gorilla group each day, and to minimize possible transmission of human diseases, visitors are asked to maintain a distance of 7m (about 22 feet) from the gorillas. Typically, tracking can take from one to ten hours and requires some level of fitness since the hikes goes through dense jungle vegetation up steep and often muddy slopes.
- Other accolades: tracking mountain gorillas also features in my top 10 list of the best things to see & do in Rwanda.
2. VISIT ANTARCTICA
Antarctica is the ultimate travel adventure on the bucket list of many travelers. Whether you’re drawn to Antarctica’s unique fauna & flora, its legendary reputation or its sheer isolation, you will find nothing like the planet’s most remote place, never mind seeing it with your own eyes. The coldest, driest, and windiest place in the world, Antarctica’s desolate, frozen landmass also is the closest most people will ever get to be on another planet without leaving Earth (unless you’ve already booked your ticket on the Virgin Galactic shuttle). Two centuries after its discovery in 1820, Antarctica remains almost as elusive and mythical as during the days of its earliest exploration, and those travelers lucky enough to visit the White Continent talk about an unforgettable, life-changing experience with otherworldly landscapes and beguiling wildlife.
1. SWIM WITH WHALES IN FRENCH POLYNESIA
Humpback whales are seasonal visitors to French Polynesia. From early August to the end of October, the giant animals are abundant in the clear and warm waters around the archipelago as they search for a mate or nurse their young. French Polynesia declared itself a Marine Mammal Sanctuary in 2002 offering protection to all of the 20 species of whales and dolphins found here. It is also one of the few countries in the world where it is allowed to swim with whales. Several tour operators offer whale watch boat tours, hosted by a team of marine biologists and naturalist guides. Tourists are only allowed to enter the water with humpback whales after a biologist on board has observed their surface activity and deems it safe and non-invasive for both the guests and the whales.
- Other accolades: swimming with whales features in my top 10 list of the best things to see & do in French Polynesia.
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