Dreaming of a fantastic adventure holiday? We’ve hand-picked ten destinations that deliver exactly that. Here is our list of places that offer unforgettable opportunities to enjoy pulse-quickening experiences of a lifetime. Take your pick from ice-caving glacial lagoons, ziplining tropical rainforests, trekking sweeping desert landscapes, and soaring over cliffs and canyons in a copter.
The information in this article is inspired by the The Rough Guides guidebooks — your essential guides for visiting the world.
That said, adventure isn’t only about satisfying cravings for high-octane kicks. Adventure also means getting off the beaten track for extraordinary wildlife-watching experiences, spending nights star-gazing in remote wildernesses or finding your new favourite food in local markets.
WhiIe spectacular UNESCO-designated Dubrovnik understandably attracts a whopping number of visitors each year, as does the country’s beaches and islands, Croatia’s adventure offerings are every bit as epic, not least in Plitvice Lakes National Park, another UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This emerald wilderness of mighty mountains, lakes and waterfalls offers twelve hiking trails through pristine landscapes that’ll take your breath away. Explore the area by hiking solo or booking a walking tour with boat trip.
More untouched wilderness awaits in Northern Velebit National Park. The Velebit massif, Croatia’s longest mountain, rewards hikers with a mind-blowing mix of craggy cliffs and limestone peaks, wildflower meadows, and pine forests that seem to extend to infinity.
If you fancy picking up the pace, head to the glorious Gacka River valley or the Konavle region for bone-juddering, off-road quad safaris, while white-knuckle experiences can be had rafting the white-water rapids of the Cetina River, taking in canyons and karst fields along the way.
Meanwhile, newbies will want to read our first-timers guide to Croatia, find out about the best things to do in Croatia and gaze upon the best beaches in Croatia. Been there, done that? Discover unusual things to do in Croatia.
With frozen glaciers, dramatic fjords, mighty volcanoes, and the northern lights, Iceland is a ruggedly majestic stunner of a country. But don’t just take our word for it — see for yourself in our gallery.
Given the drama of its landscapes, it’s little wonder that Iceland is one of the world’s top hiking destinations, whether you head to the glacial valleys and lava fields of the enchanting east, or fancy exploring the remote waterfalls of the wild west.
Serious hiker? Discover Iceland’s most extreme trail.
Iceland also offers unique opportunities to find adventure in bona fide fairy tale landscapes. You could, for example, take a Crystal Ice Cave Tour from Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon. The enchanting cave is part of Europe’s biggest glacier, Vatnajökull Glacier, and presents itself as a sparkle of heavenly blue hues.
Iceland is also a hotspot for unforgettable water experiences. Head to the Silfra Fissure to snorkel between North America and Europe and try lava caving. Then there are all those bubbling geothermal springs to relax in after you’ve flexed your muscles. Before you take the plunge, discover Iceland’s best hot pools, and read up on the dos and don’ts of Icelandic spas.
With so much to see and do, you'll want to be informed about the best travel experiences in Iceland. Or, if you like to do things your own way, read our rundown of the best things to do in Iceland. For more inspiration, take a look at the best places to stay in Iceland and Rough Guides' Iceland itineraries.
If you think of Cuba, chances are your mind’s eye will conjure images of idyllic Caribbean beaches, classic cars, colonial architecture, revolution, and the romance of Cuba. But alongside its coastal and cultural attractions, Cuba offers a tonne of exhilarating adventure experiences.
To truly get off the beaten track, you could consider taking a Cuban bike trip. After exploring intoxicating, off-beat Havana and fuelling yourself at the best restaurants in Cuba, head to the Las Terrazas Biosphere Reserve for an undulating 200m climb through spectacular scenery before a speedy downhill run to Soroa.
For more biking or hiking adventures, Viñales National Park is a must-visit, with its striking landscape of boulder-like hills exuding decidedly prehistoric vibes. Satisfying trekking can also be enjoyed in the pine-forested Sierra del Escambray and the cloud forests of the Sierra Maestra.
Want to watch wildlife? The Península de Zapata National Park is an unspoilt paradise for birdlife, including the endemic Zapata rail and the Cuban pygmy owl, along with plenty of boars, iguanas and crocodiles.
The Peninsula de Zapata is also a hotspot for excellent scuba diving and snorkelling, as is the Jardines del Rey. Fringed by 400km of coral reef, this archipelago has over forty dive sites to explore — think enchanting forests of colourful sponges teeming with tropical fish.
Ready to dive into Cuba’s diverse delights? From family-focused adventure itineraries to extended off-the-beaten-track tours, Rough Guides’ tailor-made trips have a host of activity-based ideas for Cuba. You might also want to discover the best places to go in Cuba on a first-time visit and the best beaches near Havana and get your hands on our in-depth guidebook.
Going on safari in South Africa is one of those unforgettable adventure experiences of a lifetime, with Kruger National Park offering one of the world’s widest diversity of wildlife. Around 140 species of mammals — including all the Big Five — and 500 species of birds call Kruger home.
Covering an area the size of Wales, you could spend days here and still not see everything, so read our first-timers guide to give yourself a decent shot at it, and consider opting for a private guided tour of the park. It's also worth taking the time to discover how to safari safely and ethically.
Alternatively, if you fancy having more freedom to truly immerse yourself in the region, consider a self-drive tour – check out the best road trip routes in South Africa. That way you can spend as long as you like in Kruger National Park before exploring the likes of Blyde River Canyon, and Dullstroom’s highlands, where pretty fishing villages serve as gateways to hiking trails and rock-climbing sites.
Need convincing about self-drive breaks? Here is a host of reasons to choose a road trip for your next adventure.
Another exhilarating way to experience South Africa is to cycle the Garden Route — ideal for adventurers who want the challenge of cycling a variety of terrain while taking in outstanding scenery, with fine food and wine on hand to provide post-ride replenishment.
One of the world’s most biodiverse countries, it’s not for nothing that Costa Rica features in our best places on earth. It also happens to be among the world’s best destinations for adventurous nature lovers.
Whether you’re into wildlife watching or more high-octane experiences, Costa Rica sure isn’t short of beautiful national parks for walks on the wild side. Experienced hikers might want to tackle a 20km trek through Parque Nacional Corcovado. Alive with toucans, sloths, howler monkeys, and the thrum and shimmer of hummingbirds, you might get lucky and glimpse an ocelot or jaguar.
For a less hardcore (but every bit as rewarding) hike, head to Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja in Guanacaste, where a 6km circuit unfolds in the shadow of a smoking volcano.
Meanwhile, alongside being a great place for birdwatching, Monteverde cloud forest delivers pulse-quickening kicks. Take a mega-mix adventure trip to experience the whole kit and caboodle of ziplines, swings and climbing thrills.
Want to get wild on the water? Costa Rica’s Pacific coast is a prime surfing spot, but since the country spans both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, it offers a huge variety of coastal experiences, so it’ll be worth reading up on the best beaches in Costa Rica.
If that wasn’t enough, Costa Rica is also the perfect place to put your plans to travel more sustainably into practice. For decades, Costa Rica’s eco-lodges and activity offerings have been blazing a trail for responsible tourism.
To help choose your base, discover the best hikes in Costa Rica. Keen photographers might also want to know where to see the country’s best waterfalls. Our Costa Rica travel tips and customisable eco-adventure itinerary might also come in handy for pre-trip inspiration.
Interested in adventuring around the wider region? Read our overview of Central America’s top adventure experiences. And, if you’re planning to go it alone for longer, arm yourself with tips for back-packing Central America and top tips for visiting Costa Rica.
The mountain scenery makes a stunning backdrop for all those hiking and horse-riding excursions. Take a trip to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone to experience that glorious diversity — from the Mammoth Hot Springs and Old Faithful Geyser to Azure Yellowstone Lake and sub-alpine Hayden Valley.
Alternatively, you could go all out and take an immersive safari driving tour, staying in lodges that are primely located for kayaking and wildlife-watching. Expect to see grizzly bears, huge herds of heavy-bearded bison, elegant horned elk, prairie dogs, eagles, coyotes and wolves.
All that considered, it’s no surprise that Yellowstone attracts over four million visitors a year, so you might want to find out how to avoid the crowds in Yellowstone and curb the pitfalls of over-tourism. And don't miss Rough Guides look at the truth about tourism in Yellowstone National Park.
Sticking with the sustainable travel theme, consider taking a railroad trip to explore the wider Rockies region or more of the USA, for that matter. To start planning, read our tips for travelling by train in the USA.
If you’re looking for fresh adventures in a genuinely lesser-visited location, Oman might just be your cup of saffron-spiced coffee, best served from a traditional dallah pot.
Before heading off on your desert-to-coast adventures, you’ll want to make time to explore Muscat, which offers unforgettable opportunities to discover ancient Arabic culture alongside cutting-edge, contemporary architecture, courtesy of its Grand Mosque.
To experience Muscat’s diversity, take a Muscat tour that includes a visit to the ancient city of Nizwa (don’t miss the market), and Bahla, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a formidable 13th-century fort at the heart of its oasis settlement. But that's not all this city has to offer — discover more reasons to love Muscat.
Muscat is also the ideal base from which to visit the otherworldly Wadi Shab pool, cave and Bimah sinkhole, and to enjoy whale and dolphin-watching excursions and snorkelling. The idyllic, UNESCO-protected Dimaniyat Islands are guaranteed to stir your soul as they present an astounding array of marine life.
For the ultimate Omani experience, head to Wahiba Sands to see undulating dunes shift from gold to burnished orange before heavenly star-gazing opportunities unfold.
Meanwhile, nature lovers won’t want to miss exploring Ras Al Jinz bay. Happily, this important nesting site for green turtles is within reach of Wadi Bani Khalid, where curving canyons and cooling pools show Oman in sublime light.
If the country is new to you, read our guide for first-timers to Oman, and find out what you won’t want to miss in Oman. To cover more ground without the stress of planning, you could consider booking a tailor-made Omani adventure trip.
Though modest in size, jewel-shaped Sri Lanka is a diamond of a destination for adventurous travellers, especially those who want to get to know the culture and wildlife of the destinations they visit and enjoy Sri Lanka's great food.
One of the most rewarding aspects of visiting this dramatic Indian Ocean island is the fact that its hiking trails also afford incredible wildlife-watching opportunities. This certainly holds true while trekking to Single Tree Hill. Starting in Shanthipura, Sri Lanka’s highest village, the trail traverses the forest habitats of wild boars, sambar deer and leopards. And don't miss 10 reasons to discover Sri Lanka's east coast.
You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to full-on safaris. For first-time visitors to Sri Lanka, we especially recommend Yala National Park and Gal Oya National Park, both of which teem with birds, elephants, sloth bears, leopards, jackals, marsh mugger crocs, and much more besides. For added atmosphere (and lively birds), you can’t beat taking a golden hours safari through Yala.
Talking of golden hours, southern Sri Lanka features in our round-up of the best places to visit in winter for the sun.
Experienced climbers will want to tackle K1 (also known as Kirigalpotta), the highest point of the Horton Plains Sanctuary. Traversing grassland, marshland, cloud forest and rocks, the trail is nothing but diverse, and you might just see leopards along the way.
But Sri Lanka’s adventure activities aren’t limited to its interior. The island’s coastline offers incredible surf, with beautiful Sri Lankan beaches to rest upon between riding those waves. There are plenty of places to go whale-watching in Sri Lanka, too, with trips from Mirissa of longstanding repute.
Planning family adventure holidays? Find out why Sri Lanka should be the next place you take your kids. If you’re going it alone, read our tips for solo travel. Or, to skip the pain of planning, Rough Guides’ Sri Lanka for adventure-lovers trip can be customised to your exact spec.
If your idea of adventure holidays involves intrepid treks through dense rainforests to explore ancient cities — with a whole lot of wildlife wonders to be wowed by en route — Mexico should be top of your wish list.
To experience exactly that in a single trip, you might want to take the Mayan Trail. Tulum’s archaeological treasures aren’t exactly off the beaten track, but their spectacular (and unusual) coastal setting makes them a must-visit.
What’s more, Tulum is within reach of the beautiful Bacalar Lagoon, and the lesser-visited Kohunlich ruins. Located deep in the jungle, and best known for its Palace of Masks, this ancient Mayan city exudes a truly magical atmosphere.
With over 360 bird species recorded here, and being home to over 100 species of mammal, Calakmul Biosphere Reserve is the perfect place for wildlife watchers. Find out where else to see animals in Mexico.
In addition, given that this sprawling site also includes over 6000 Mayan structures, most of which are still being excavated, Calakmul Biosphere Reserve is also a sure-fire winner for wannabe explorers.
Hailed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, it’s worth devoting a day to exploring Chichén Itzá. Alternatively, if you’re staying in the Cancun region and find yourself hankering for activities beyond the beach, book a Chichén Itzá tour with added adventure — take your pick from ziplining, driving amphibious vehicles, and rafting underground caves.
Talking of caves, if you’re feeling brave, the Yucatán Peninsula is known for its cenotes — underwater limestone caves that deliver refreshing dive experiences. Discover the cool places to visit in Mexico.
Meanwhile, Sumidero Canyon National Park, located in the state of Chiapas and accessed via boat, offers a smorgasbord of outdoor activities, from kayaking and abseiling to zip-lining and mountain biking. Or you could always book a nature-oriented trip that includes visiting Chiapa de Corzo, where craft markets and ancient ruins await.
Given the country’s diverse offerings – we haven’t even mentioned all those beautiful Mexican beaches and Mexico's incredible food — you might want to read up on things not to miss in Mexico before booking your trip.
Rough Guides’ customisable Mexico itineraries also offer plenty of inspiration, whether you want to immerse yourself in Mayan culture during a self-drive trip around Yucatan, or fancy an authentic experience in Central Mexico. If you're travelling with little ones in tow, don't miss our guide to visiting Mexico with kids.
With over half its 550-square miles reserved for conservation and preservation and tonnes of tropical forests, hiking trails, zip lines, and excellent surf, Kauai epitomises adventure, with its iconic Na Pali Coast delivering peak pulse-quickening activities and scenery.
Often featured in Hollywood adventure movies, the Na Pali Coast is inaccessible to vehicles, which means you’ll have to get into Jurassic Park mode to see its staggering rock spires. Take your pick from paddle-boarding, kayaking, or booking a private plane or helicopter trip that offers exhilarating views of both the coast and Waimea Canyon.
Hardcore hikers will want to consider hiking Na Pali’s Kalalau Trail. Definitely not for the inexperienced or faint-hearted, this showcases why Kauai is regarded as one of the world’s best hiking destinations.
Starting alongside Kee Beach, the 11-mile trek to Kalalau Valley involves increasingly challenging scrambles and climbs. The first two miles of the trail to Hanakapiai Beach aren’t too tricky, though you’ll still have to clamber through dense vegetation to reach it. From the beach, a sub-trail leads to the thundering, jungle-bounded Hanakapiai Falls.
Keen to up your hiking game? Discover hiking tips that’ll serve you well wherever you are in the world.
After spending your day surfing, hiking, or zip-lining Kauai’s tropical forests, you might want to enjoy fine food while learning about local legends and history at an Island Dinner and Luau Kalamaku Show. Though known as an adventure holidays destination, Kauai’s certainly not short of cultural experiences.
If Kauai’s unspoiled remoteness and sense of adventure have sparked your interest, you might also fall for the surfer’s holy grail of the remote Marshall Islands, an archipelago located between Hawaii and the Philippines. Alternatively, get the lowdown on all six of Hawaii’s freely visited Islands.
It’s quite humbling that thirteen scarred volcanic islands and more than a hundred islets, scattered across the ocean should have been so instrumental in changing humanity’s perception of itself. Yet it was the forbidding Galápagos Islands that spurred Charles Darwin to formulate his theory of evolution by natural selection, catapulting science into the modern era.
Galapagos Island still gives an unparalleled insight into the mechanics of nature at one of the world’s most treasured wildlife destinations. Today the archipelago’s matchless wildlife, stunning scenery and unique history make it arguably the world’s premier wildlife destination.
The animals that have carved out an existence on the dramatic volcanic landscape have a legendary fearlessness. This results in close-up encounters that are simply not possible anywhere else on Earth. Witnessing first-hand the mating dance of the blue-footed booby and snorkelling with sea lions, turtles, penguins and sharks are just a couple of the unforgettable experiences that await you.
The Galapagos is undoubtedly one of the most tempting destinations for adventure holidays in South America. You'll find even more ideas for your holiday in our guide to incredible South American journeys.
Follow in Charles Darwin's footsteps with this compact tailor-made trip to the Galapagos Islands. Spot the giant tortoise, marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies and sea lions. All in their natural habitat, lounging and feeding as you walk or swim by.
Inspired? Discover where else to find serious adventure in some of the world’s wildest places. And remember, wherever you’re thinking of heading, there’ll be a Rough Guides guidebook or ebook to support you along every step of your journey, while our tailor-made trips take all the hassle out of planning.
Finally, to support you through your post-adventure comedown, you might want to bookmark our advice for adjusting to life after travelling — you can thank us later.
After discovering a full gamut of places to go for fantastic adventure holidays, you might want to arm yourself with ways to find more adventureduring all your travels. Our gallery of seriously weird places around the world also offers inspiration for adventurous travellers seeking alternate experiences.
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