The 50 Best Adventures In The World To Tackle This Year

Looking for the best adventures to add to your bucket list? These 50 will take you all over the world and give you a serious adrenalin rush in the process.

Tom Ward |

Your free time is your most valuable commodity, so don’t waste it on fly’n’flops or budget city breaks. Instead, lace up your boots and strike your own path in search of the best adventures and adrenaline-pumping exploits this planet has to offer. Consider this your first step into the unknown:

1. Go White-Water Rafting in Japan

Had your fill of Zen pond gardens? Head to the Yoshino River, four hours from Osaka by car. Renowned as Japan’s best rafting spot, it offers everything from tranquil, family-friendly tributaries to some of the most magnificent rapids in the world. What’s more, the backdrop of the Koboke Gorge is difficult to match anywhere outside of the Land of the Rising Sun. With canyoning, trekking and a 40m natural water slide, it’s well worth looking beyond Tokyo. 

Related: This Fishing Adventure In The Sudan Is The Perfect Escape For Sea Lovers

2. Discover Colorado’s Rivers, Gorges and Rapids

Work your core by traversing the Colorado River on a stand-up paddle board. Steady, now…

3. Enjoy the High Life in Oman

If your local climbing wall isn’t cutting it anymore, look no further than al-Jabal al-Akhdar, the loftiest five-star resort in the Middle East – literally. Located 2km above sea level on Oman’s Green Mountain, it’s home to the country’s highest via ferrata: a series of metal holds built into the rock face for climbing, with routes for both beginners and intermediates, as well as for abseiling. Round off the day by resting your weary muscles in an infinity pool: a more relaxing way of taking in those canyon views.

4. Use An Original Miners Track

Honister Slate Mine hosts the UK’s original via ferrata, an award-winning climb of iron walkways, slim footholds and cable bridges in the heart of the Lake District.

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5. Live Like a Mongolian Nomad

With lessons in archery, horse riding, fishing and, er, cashmere goat-combing, you don’t need to know too much about Mongolian tribal culture before signing up to the Pavilions Mongolia summer camp. In small groups, you’ll also kayak smooth rivers, trek across grasslands and climb soaring peaks in Orkhon Valley, a Unesco World Heritage Site. Tick more cultural boxes with a trip to Karakorum, the Mongol empire’s ancient capital city, home to the remains of Ögedei Khan’s palace.

6.Test your survival skills somewhere the locals speak English (sort of).

Check outScotland’s Cairngorms National Park. Sign up for a three-day adventure, which includes digging your own snow cave in the mountains and enjoying a three-course meal inside.

7. Dive to a Polish Ship Graveyard

Poland is a country rich with history, much of which is located 90m beneath the Baltic Sea in the Gulf of Gdańsk. Dive in and you’ll discover vessels struck down by stormy seas and German U-boats – even ships dating back to the 17th century. The sea’s low salinity makes them among the best-preserved wrecks in the world.

Related: Get The Core You’ve Always Wanted On This Kayak Adventure In Costa Rica

8. Charter A 20-Person Yacht Called Infinity

Use it as a base from which to snorkel the Galapagos Islands, next to sea lions, turtles and iguanas. Don’t know one from the other? Happily, your yacht comes equipped with two naturalist guides.

9. Blaze a Trail in Cambodia

Go one better than a #blessed Angkor Wat Instagram post. Bring a rush of adrenalin to this holy site by racing the Temple Run, a half-marathon dreamed up by the Anantara Angkor Resort in Siem Reap. Starting at the temple, you’ll take in 21km of wild-forest running track. In case you run out of steam halfway through, you’ll have your own personal tuk-tuk, loaded with water and healthy snacks. All of which should help you on your way to runners’ nirvana.

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10. View Animals From Above

From the forest floors of Asia to the forest canopies of Africa: One&Only Nyungwe House in Rwanda offers the only experience of its kind in East Africa. Its suspended walkway hangs 60m above the ground, giving you a safari that’s a cut above the rest.

11-14. Take On The World’s Toughest Ultra-Marathons

Britain’s Marathon des Sables record-holder Tom Evans runs you through the most gruelling foot races:

“The Marathon des Sables takes place over six days in the Sahara. This legendary self-supported race merits its rep as the toughest on Earth.”

“If you really want to hit the wall, try the Self- Transcendence 4 989km race, the longest foot race in the world. Runners have 52 days to loop an 800m track 5 649 times – or 96km per day.”

“Badwater 135 is great if you want something gruelling. Hosted in California’s Death Valley in July, the weather is extreme – temperatures can reach 54°C.”

“The Barkley Marathons are iconic. Take your pick from 97 or 160 kilometres and race through the Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee within 60 hours.”

15. Get to Pole Position in Antarctica

For one of Earth’s last untouched vistas, you’ll have to head down – all the way down. On this 15-day round trip, you’ll cruise around the Antarctic Circle, stopping off to break the ice with penguins and follow in the footsteps of legendary explorers, crossing the Drake Passage and squeezing through the Lemaire Channel. As well as some of the most stunning scenery in the world, you’ll spot minke whales, leopard seals, humpbacks and orcas. Cool stuff.

16. Skydive In Antartica

Offering a different vantage point on Antarctica, this skydive allows you to drop over the Ellsworth Mountains from 4km up, in temperatures at a crisp -35°C.

Related: Fun, Easy and Affordable Weekend Adventures For This Long Weekend

17. Go Deep in Utah’s Gorges

The Grand Canyon is for tourists. Utah is the must-stop state on any US road trip, with hidden sandstone gorges littering the landscape. Vertical escarpments will take you through millennia-old rock, offering more than you’ll ever have time to explore. Book a trip through Capitol Reef National Park to avoid any 127 Hours-type scenarios.

18. Visit The Pyrenees

You don’t need to get Stateside to get your fill. With guided canyoning and river boarding across the Pyrenees, you can find a tailor-made trip that won’t leave you with a mountain of debt.

19. Get Fired in Queenstown

No, not our Queenstown – it’s the one in New Zealand. If you’ve always dreamed of being fired from a giant catapult (and who hasn’t?), look no further. The Nevis catapult is the first of its kind, and fires thrill-seekers over 150m across a valley near Queenstown, at speeds of 100km/h. Worried it might not quite work out as planned? Don’t be: the rigorous Kiwis spent 30 years ironing out the finer points before opening. What could possibly go wrong?

20. Zip To Colorado

The aptly-named Cloudscraper Zip Line in Canon City, Colorado, will propel you over the Arkansas River and Royal Gorge at 365m.

21. Cliff Dive in the Swiss Alps

Canyoning is all well and good, but for something a little different, you can’t beat heli-canyoning. Arriving by chopper, obviously, you will be guided into the remote canyons of the Swiss Alps for a one-of-a-kind adventure. There, you’ll discover pools straight out of a Tolkien novel – deep and crystal clear, though happily creature-free. You’ll have no problem keeping your cool among the snow-capped mountains as you’re taught cliff-diving techniques, alpine sliding and rappelling. Make sure to get a hot chocolate afterwards.

Related: The 9 Apps That Will Make Planning Outdoor Adventures And Trips So Much Easier

22. Go Canyoning In Scotland

Scotland offers the best canyoning in the UK. Hidden along the shores of Loch Tummel, these challenging canyons have 14 abseiling spots and a 22m waterfall. Finish off with a barbecue on the beach – you’ll be hungry for it.

23. Let Loose in a Grown-Up’s Playground

Austria’s Area 47 has a slightly different vibe to America’s top-secret area: it’s the ultimate stag-do destination. With 95 000m2 of action-adventure activities and 35 excursions including rafting, wakeboarding and canyoning, there’s something here to suit any trip, from work-enforced fun to the traditional pre-nuptial blowout. Should you be in need of respite, the family-owned Central hotel in the Ötztal Valley offers a welcome break from the high-octane day trips, with thermal cabins and treatments using natural alpine ingredients.

24. Go Chasing Waterfalls

For a more exclusive water sports excursion, head to Angel Falls, Venezuela – the world’s highest waterfall. Naturally, you’ll want to abseil down it. This two-week hiking trip offers just that, including a night spent sleeping on a ledge halfway down.

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25 – 28. Ski The Very Best Off-Piste Runs

Free-skier Paddy Graham has made a name for himself in the slope style scene. These are his favourite spots:

“La Grave is a sleepy French town offering an array of off-piste runs with a huge amount of vertical skiing. There isn’t a single machine-prepared run.”

“It’s hard to pinpoint a specific run, but Japan has the best low- stress skiing in the world. Time it right, and it isn’t unusual to find eight metres of fresh powder at any off-piste slope on any resort.”

“Alaska may be the iconic ski destination, but it can come with a hefty price tag. If you’re heli-skiing, though, it’s worth it: there are thousands of crazy wilderness runs available.”

“Georgia may not evoke images of a skiers’ paradise, but the town of Mestia is a real gem. Heli-skiing, ski touring, and resort skiing are all options against the backdrop of the colossal Caucasus Mountains, home to Europe’s highest peak.”

29 – 32. The World’s Best Hidden Surf Spots

Red Bull big-wave rider Andrew Cotton unpacks the beachside paradises that you never thought to visit:

“Skeleton Bay on the Atlantic coast of Namibia is thought to be the longest sand-bottomed wave in the world, but was unknown before 2008.”

“The west coast of Ireland has some of the best surf in Europe – but also the most fickle. Grab a board and find the perfect giant waves produced by offshore reefs.”

“You might not have heard of Pacasmayo, a city in north Peru, but it has one of South America’s longest left-hand points. You’ll clock more riding time in one day than most surfers manage in a year.”

“The southern tip of Nīas, a small Indonesian island, provides waves with predictable take-offs and flawless barrels, all at the perfect speed, for up to 10 seconds.”

33. Snorkel with Sharks in Tahiti

Not only is the Pacific island of Tahiti the sort of place where you can pluck fresh mangoes from the trees, you can also share the warm, clear waters with 19 species of shark, including the black-tip reef variety. The huge number of divers works in your favour here: the sharks are so accustomed to sub-aquatic visitors that local guides can take you up close and personal without the fear of you being turned into chum.

Related: The Benefits Of Stand-Up Paddling, Plus The Best Places To Do It

34. Climb Into The Cage Of Death

Fancy coming eye to eye with one of the planet’s oldest and most fearsome predators? Darwin’s Cage of Death offers just that: a Perspex cylinder is all that keeps you from a 4m crocodile at feeding time. Best pack a spare pair of swimming shorts.

35. Cruise the World’s Steepest Zip Line

Slovenia might not be at the top of everyone’s dream destinations list, but not everyone has heard of the Planica Zip Line. The steepest zip line on the planet hangs 1 150m above sea level and runs down the world’s biggest ski jump. It isn’t for the faint-hearted – you’ll reach speeds of 89km/h over a 570m course. While hanging on for dear life, you’ll take in scenic vistas across the valley, including the Kranjska Gora alpine resort.

36. Walk Along The Longest Suspension Bridge

The Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge is the longest suspension bridge in the world, stretching between Kobe and Awaji Island in Japan. A tour gives you the chance to walk along the transparent maintenance deck, as well as visit the 98th floor for panoramic views.

37. Skydive Ayers Rock

Every corner of Australia is an adventurer’s dream, with myriad unspoiled deserts, forests and coral reefs all waiting to be explored. But the crowning jewel in Oz’s attractions? It’s undoubtedly Uluru, or Ayers Rock, a massive red monolith in the middle of the country. For another month you’ll be able to climb to the top and take in magnificent views of the surrounding bush. From October, however, the climb will be banned, so the only way to experience Uluru from on high will be to skydive over it. A rock show for the bucket list.

38. Visit The Great Salt Lake

Utah’s Great Salt Lake is equally impressive as a one-of-a-kind aerial excursion. With stunning views of the Canyonlands National Park, Wasatch Front’s mountains and Moab’s deserts, this is a skydiving experience that’s hard to beat.

39. Soar Like Maverick

Want to train like a top gun? Lake Tahoe’s Sky Combat Ace offers just that, with aerobatics, combat and flight-training sessions available all year. Should you want to take it up a level, the Operation Red Flag package divides you and your friends (or enemies) into two teams for king-of-the-hill aerial dogfights. Fancy something less competitive but equally adrenalin-pumping? The Top Gun package offers a gruelling aerial aerobatics course. Strap in tight.

40. Embrace Some Darkness

From the stratosphere to the Earth’s dark depths: the 8.9km-long Son Doong Cave in Vietnam – the biggest in the world – will challenge your perspective. It’s so huge that it could contain a block of 40-storey skyscrapers, and it even has a jungle inside.

41. Enter the Tiger’s Nest

The mountain kingdom of Bhutan has near-mythical status among explorers. The Tiger’s Nest is one of the country’s most iconic Buddhist temples, located deep in the Paro Valley and perched perilously on the cliff side. Reaching this stronghold requires a gruelling pilgrimage through the mountains – there is talk of building a highway, but don’t hold your breath.

Related: The 5 Best Adventures In South Africa’s Wildest Places That You Have To Try This Year

42. Take On The Desert

Head into the desert for another pilgrimage of sorts – this time to race quad bikes in Namibia. You’ll glide over golden sands next to herds of zebra, ostriches… even lions. A truly spiritual experience.

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43 – 46. Next Level Bouldering

Paul Jackson, coach at Jurassic Climbing, helps you get a hold on the world’s best bouldering sites:

“Hampi in India is a bouldering playground. The weird, wonderful landscape of this Unesco site is full of precariously balanced gigantic boulders, making it unlike anywhere you have ever encountered.”

“Fontainebleau Forest is just an hour’s drive from Paris, yet it could belong to another world. In 250km2 of woodland, you will find every kind of bouldering route, many of them world class.”

“Petrohrad, just west of Prague, is a Czech landscape of woodland, wildflowers and granite boulders. Virtually untouched, it boasts more than 3 000 routes.”

“The Buttermilks in Sierra Nevada have served as a climbers’ training ground for centuries. A surreal way to train among the best.”

47. Heli-Ski Russia’s Kamchatka

M18 helicopters? Awe-inspiring scenery? Flying down volcanoes on two narrow strips of plastic? Put a big fat tick next to all of the above, because Pelorus’s Russian heli-skiing excursions have you covered. Beginning in Moscow, you’ll fly out to the remote Kamchatka region where, over six days, you’ll have the pick of 2 000 vertical metres of ski runs, all curated by local guides. And, yes, there will be vodka Anyone know the Russian for après?

48. Unleash Your Inner Tarzan

For a (marginally) tamer slope-side experience, unleash your inner Tarzan on Canada’s zip lines and treetop walkways, taking in the Whistler and the Blackcomb mountains.

49. Take A Walk On The Wild Side

For a nature-spotting trip unlike any other, go to Slovakia, where experienced park rangers will put you on the trail of black bears. Over the eight-day trek, you’ll follow their tracks to see them in their natural habitat, while also keeping an eye out for red deer and golden eagles. Best of all, tours are restricted to groups of eight to minimise disturbance, with the whole trip tailored to protect the bears. You’ll stay in hotels and ranger cottages, with hearty meals provided – just try not to spill any honey on your shirt.

50. Tracke Polar Bears

For more ursine adventures, head to the Arctic and track polar bears on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen from the safety of your cruise ship.

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