Travel has certainly changed since the late 1800s, when it was solely the purview of the rich and the intrepid scientist and trophy hunter. Over the years, it has become more accessible to the average Joe. As more and more money got pumped into travel, more and more specialty travel agencies started sprouting up. Now you can pretty much do anything you want on your travels. International and even local travel has become the mecca for adrenal junkies and adventurers alike.
Ten Tips for Adventure Travel
By Luis Vargas
1. BE OPEN. Adventure travel is about possibility, discovery, and delight. The highlights of an adventure are often unplanned and can only be discovered by being open, smiling wide, and saying yes to opportunities, people, and places.
2. BE BRAVE. Believe in the kindness of strangers. Proceed with optimism and confidence and you shall be rewarded handsomely.
3. PACK LIGHT. BRING LESS STUFF. Traveling light allows you to make better on-the-ground choices. Be brutal. Do you really need it? Pack clothes or gear that you can gift.
4. GO NATIVE. Be respectful at all times, but be curious. Engage. Wear local garb. Be colorful. Go to the local market and make friends. Eat where the locals eat. Take part in local festivals.
5. INTERACT. Pursue your passion to open doors and build bridges. Do you love soccer? Find a pickup game. Do you love to cook? Spend time interacting at the market. Love to play music? Find somewhere to jam with locals.
6. CREATE + SHARE. Capture the essence of your experience and share it with others. Tell a story that inspires other people to travel and care about people and place.
7. DO SOMETHING ACTIVE. There is no better, or more sustainable way to experience a destination than through human-powered adventure. Build sweat equity with a destination and it forever becomes a part of you. Walk or bike and take in small details. Stop often.
8. READ AND LISTEN TO LOCAL. Travel with a local novel, or book of poems. To be reading a book in situ can provide perspective and depth in both directions. Make a local music store the first stop, engage with the staff and walk out with a soundtrack and some beta on where to hear the best live music.
9. GO SOMEWHERE NEW. Ethiopia, Colombia, Greenland, Myanmar… There has never been a better time to be an adventurist. Today, so many infrequently traveled countries are safe, stable, and open to adventure travelers that the only real worry is choosing where to go first.
10. GO. JUST GO. There’s always a reason to postpone. But don’t do that. Book a trip. Commit. You won’t regret it. Adventure travel can be very affordable, with extraordinary experiences available at every price point. Whether you have a week or 6 months, there’s a trip that’s right for you. Not going is the only thing you’ll regret.
How to Choose Between Adventure Travel Tour Companies
For travelers who want to go the extra mile during their next trip abroad, gaining access to local insights and experiences that aren’t typically available to independent tourists, adventure travel tours have your name written all over ‘em.
Adventure travel tours are a unique way to immerse yourself in a new country while learning all about your surroundings from an experienced guide and interacting with the culture in an array of exclusive scenarios. From sitting in on community gatherings in remote villages to doing volunteer work in big cities to exploring the great wilderness in between, an adventure travel tour can give you a holistic experience abroad that is not possible by any other means.
There is certainly something to be said for the freedom of traveling independently, but what you sacrifice in the flexibility of your itinerary as an independent traveler, you gain in the steadily perfect itinerary of experienced adventure travel tour companies. Adventure tours are great for younger travelers who will benefit from the guidance, older travelers who will benefit from the ease, and everyone in between who is interested in learning a little bit more about the country to which they have come as guests.
So, how do you know that you’re choosing the best adventure travel tour companies? How can you guarantee that you’ll get the very best out of your experience, and the most bang for your buck? Here are some key pointers that will start you off in the right direction:
What to look for in adventure travel tours
Organized adventure travel tours are perfect for people who don’t have the time to plan every detail of their trip— or maybe don’t spend their free time daydreaming about navigating bus schedules and museum fees… Those pesky details like lodging, transportation, meals, and general sightseeing, are all included. Spend less time stressing about logistics and more time present on your adventure. These tours are also a great way to connect with like-minded travelers from all over the country and world who have similar interests and adventurous spirits.
These are the hallmarks of a great adventure travel tour, and things you should take into consideration as you start searching for your next adventure…
Specific Activity & Experience Level
Hiking. Biking. Kayaking. Climbing. Surfing. Snorkeling. Spelunking. The list of possible adventure activities to indulge in abroad seems never ending. No matter your desire for adrenaline, there’s a trip out there for you.
Whatever specific activity or endless combination of activities, you want to make sure that it’s suited to your skill and fitness level. If you’re a beginner rock climber, or you’re not as in shape as you used to be, an advanced-level climbing trip with long days of trekking between spots might not be for you. But, if you’re out here riding around Tour de France style, you might want to look for a more challenging biking tour. You know your limits best, don’t push yourself too hard, and look for an adventure tour that matches your fitness and skill level.
You’ll look at this once, and never have to worry again! That’s the beauty of organized adventure travel tours. As a traveler, you want to maximize your outdoor adventure time, so it’s good to know exactly how much time you’ll spend on buses, trains, and planes, in order to reach any and all of your destinations.
Are there long days of driving involved? Will you be trekking from place to place? How many travel/transport days are there compared to actual activities/adventure time? Will you be staying in guest houses? Hostels? Hotels? All of these things vary between different adventure travel tour companies and itineraries, so you’ll want to go with the one that suits your needs and comfort level.
One drawback to organized trips like these is a lack of independence. If you’re looking for a lot of free time/down time to explore on your own, you’ll need to look for tours that have optional activities, or free time built into the itinerary. A good look at logistics will help determine how much free time you’ll get on your trip.
Group to Guide Ratio
This can really make or break an experience. You’re looking forward to traveling with a group of like-minded adventurers, sure, but a huge charter bus with 50 people to one haggard, overwhelmed guide is no one’s idea of a good time. Especially if you’re going to be doing a lot of outdoor activities. Climbing with too many people gets boring and stressful, and you’re more likely to have a wider range of experience level. Less is more, when it comes to the size of your adventure travel tour groups. That way you get to know everyone you’re traveling with AND your guide.
Trust us, you really want to get to know your expert guide. They know your host country and adventure activity better than anyone! They have all the insider info on local culture, customs, and the best spots for everything— climbing, kayaking, hiking, etc. etc.
Cost (Because You HAVE to)
Obviously, this is a huge factor. And, with the cost of the program, you also want to look at whats included. Most adventure travel tours will include lodging, meals, transportation, and equipment rentals in the program fee, but always double check! There might be days where lunch is on your own, or you might be required to bring some of your own gear depending on the activity. You’d hate to forget trekking poles and be SOL on your hike through the Swiss Alps.
What to look for in adventure travel tour companies
Choosing the right adventure travel tour is the fun part — now come the tough decisions. How do you know that you’re going with the right adventure travel tour company? That they’ll take good care of you, provide the best experience possible, and not cut corners? That their travel philosophy matches your own?
First, you want to make sure that the adventure travel tour company you choose is an established, credible provider. Look at how long the company has been around, how long they’ve been operating in the region you want to travel to, read up on their background. Also check out reviews from past participants.
You also want to make sure that the adventure travel tour company you choose has a positive local presence wherever their programs embark. Do they hire local employees and guides to lead the tours? And how much of the money feeds back into local communities, versus a larger parent corporation? These are questions you should ask yourself to ensure you’ll be travelling with a fair, locally valued program.
Also look into the kinds of guides that lead the adventure travel tours themselves. Are they teachers? Experienced travelers? Locals who know how to get about town? Your adventure travel tour guide can be a defining element of the experience, so you want to make sure you match with them stylistically.
Dig through as many reviews as you can. Reach out to alumni. Reach out to the company itself and talk to a representative. Simply put, do your research. This is a big decision, and you’ll want to make sure that you’re as informed as possible in making it. Narrow your list down to a final few options, and cover all your bases in picking the right one.
Make a thorough checklist of all of these points to consider, so you’ll know what to look for as you’re doing your research and so you won’t get blindsided by any nasty surprises abroad. In truth, most adventure travel tour companies know what they’re doing, and most guides that work for adventure travel tour companies know what they’re doing. But, it’s important that you enter into the experience with at least a basic idea of what you’re getting yourself into.
Recommended adventure travel tours to get your blood pumpin’
So where to begin the search for the perfect program? Our Adventure Travel Directory can direct you to all sorts of great adventure travel tour companies with programs located all over the world, and is a great place to launch into your research. Here are a few top adventure travel tour companies to check out for a basic idea of what to expect:
Gapforce provides a wide range of adventure travel opportunities for students interested in taking a gap year, ranging from volunteer placements and cultural immersion programs to vocational training. With expert expedition staff, you’re sure to have a safe, and AMAZING adventure abroad.
Fronteering specializes in adventure travel programs to off-the-beaten-trail destinations such as the Canadian Arctic Mountains and the Amazon Rainforest. Students and travelers with a true taste for adventure should look into these programs.
My best memories are not the ones riding camels or driving the 4×4 but with the amazing Jordanians with the biggest smiles.” – Alexandra, Jordan
Oyster Worldwide boasts a large network of volunteer openings around the world for gap-year students, ranging from teaching in Nepal to farming in Australia. There’s an Oyster Worldwide program for you, don’t even worry.
This program was really tough but so rewarding. The training is really fun and you get to meet loads of people – most of my group was from the UK, Germany and Denmark. When I got to my job I learnt so much about cattle and improved my horse riding skills no end.” – Georgia, Australia
4. Go Cambio
Go Cambio is a unique cultural exchange program that will set you up with a host family in your country of choice, to whom you can teach English in return for accommodation. This is a great program option for more independent adventurers looking to explore individually.
I got to see a part of Spain that was completely different and I had an off the beaten track travel experience, I felt like I was fully back in the Spanish culture, something I craved since I left there.” – Lorraine, Spain
5 steps to choose the right adventure travel tour company for you
- CHOOSE YOUR LOCATION. The broadest place to begin is by narrowing down your options based on location. Many adventure travel tours will take you throughout multiple countries in a region, while many others will stay focused within one specific country. Once you know what part of the world you want to embark on an adventure travel tour too, whether you want to embrace a more regional or local approach is the next thing to decide one.
- FIGURE OUT YOUR AVAILABILITY. Then — how long do you intend to stay abroad? Adventure travel tours can be as short as just one week or as long as six months to a year, depending on your preference. Many adventure travel tour companies will also offer trips of varying lengths to choose from, some with the opportunity to extend or shorten your stay from the same itinerary.
- BEGIN YOUR PROGRAM RESEARCH. Now comes the fun part. You’ve decided where you want to go and how long you want to be there. Now you get to start checking out different programs. The major draw of an adventure travel tour is the level to, and ways in which, they immerse you within your host country. Are you interested in history and culture or in extreme sports? Volunteering, teaching, working? Learning a new language or learning about ecosystem conservation? What about all of the above?
- KEEP ON RESEARCHIN’. These are all choices you’ll have to make when deciding on an adventure travel tour company. Some programs are more focused on one theme (i.e. the environment) while others offer a little bit of something for everybody. Research a wide array of different itineraries, keep an open mind, and eventually you’ll come across the one that feels meant to be.
- USE TRAVEL TOOLS. PICK ONE AND GO! But, to get technical, you’ll want to start by saving and comparing your favorite adventure travel tours side-by-side with MyGoAbroad. Once you’ve narrowed down your options— from where you want to go (New Zealand? Patagonia?), to what you want to do (yoga retreat? Trekking the alps?), reviews are going to be your best insight into the nitty gritty details of each adventure. You’ll get all the deets on every adventure tour company’s credibility, local buy-in, the quality of their guides and overall experience, yadda, yadda, yadda.
The 26 Most Adventurous Experiences Around the World
Every traveler has their ultimate list of things to experience around the world—from eating street food in Singapore to seeing an opera in Vienna—but with much of our lives being spent outside these days, we’re beefing up your list with a slew of outdoor adventures. Consider these the ultimate trips for intrepid travelers, including a mix of epic hikes, extreme sports, and creative ways to see some of the planet’s most beautiful landscapes. Whether it’s hot air ballooning over Turkey or swimming with dolphins in the Atlantic, these 26 activities are guaranteed to thrill—and change your entire outlook on life.
- Climb to Machu Picchu, Peru. No adventurer’s must-visit list is complete without Machu Picchu, the famous Incan citadel located in the Andes. While the site can be accessed via bus ride, more adventurous travelers can take the five-day trek along the entire 26-mile-long Inca Trail. Or, thanks to local tour operator Sam Travel Peru, you can get dropped at kilometer marker 104 and do the whole experience in 24 hours.
- Hunt for glaciers in Greenland. Greenland is relatively expensive and tricky to get to, but well worth the effort—especially since it’s one of the most untouched landscapes on the planet. Exhibit A: the hundred-year-old icebergs and glaciers floating off the mainland, which you can get up close and personal with during a cruise excursion.
- Hot air balloon over Cappadocia, Turkey. A hot air balloon ride over central Turkey’s Cappadocia region provides 360-degree views of the famous limestone spires and “fairy chimneys”—something you can’t get at the ground level. We recommend booking with Kapadokya Balloons, the first company that introduced hot air balloon tourism in Cappadocia. Services include transfers to and from your hotel, snacks, full insurance, and a champagne party after the flight.
- Swim the Great Barrier Reef Divers and snorkelers everywhere need to experience the Great Barrier Reef at least once in their lifetime. Not only does the site have more than 400 different types of coral and 1,500 species of fish, but the natural wonder has been rapidly eroding, thanks to coral bleaching and global warming. That means it’s more urgent than ever to see it in all its glory—and understand what we are losing. Australia has been strict about closing its borders during the pandemic, but since this is a trip you need to plan way in advance for, why not set your sights on 2022 and beyond.
- Climb Mount Everest, known around the world by hikers and non-hikers alike. But this is one behemoth that is best left to truly experienced travelers. According to alpinist Adrian Ballinger, who attempted the climb in 2016, “You need to climb at least three 20,000 peaks, one 23,000 peak, and one 26,000 peak before considering Everest.” But hey, if you’re one of the lucky few who has the experience, time, and funds needed to reach Everest’s summit, then by all means, do it. This year’s climbing season (March to May) has already ended, but you’ll need that extra year to prepare anyway.
- Go on a canoe safari in the Okavango Delta, Botswana Going on safari in Africa is a no-brainer when it comes to seeking adventure, but where exactly do you start? Botswana’s Okavango Delta is a must for first-timers and experienced safari-goers alike, thanks to its wealth of wildlife and topographical diversity. Hop on a mokoro canoe for the best, most intimate look at the roaming elephants, antelope, and cheetahs, among others. Stay at Xigera Safari Lodge, one of the most anticipated recent openings on the continent. You can expect 12 new elevated suites, a baobab tree house for sleeping under the stars, and tons of measures to make the property as eco-friendly as possible.
- Sleep under the Northern Lights. So many factors are at play when it comes to seeing the technicolor phenomenon—location, time of year, weather conditions—but it’s hard to lose with an excursion to Finnish Lapland. The Arctic area is one of the planet’s best for lights viewing, especially if you get to sleep in an igloo hotel at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort or mobile Aurora Bubble Sled. Up your viewing chances by planning a trip between December and March.
- Boat under the Iguazú Falls. South America’s Iguazú Falls, located on the border of Brazil and Argentina, make all other waterfalls look like mere trickles in comparison. The system of more than 200 cascades (reaching heights of around 270 feet) can be viewed from surrounding walkways and catwalks, but we’re fans of the more adventurous vantage-point—hopping on an Iguazú Jungle inflatable raft and sailing directly under the exhilarating, high-pressure falls.
- Climb Mount Fuji. Solitary Mount Fuji is probably Japan’s most iconic natural wonder, rising 12,388 feet above villages and reflecting on lakes’ surfaces. You can get views of the landmark from many places, like Lake Kawaguchi in Fujikawaguchiko and even the Park Hyatt Tokyo, but it’s the views from the mountain that give you the most bragging rights. Visit from early July to mid-September (fingers crossed for 2022) to take advantage of the official climbing season, when the designated trails and paved roads are free from snow.
- Swim through Mexico’s cenotes. Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula features a wealth of unique natural beauty, particularly when it comes to its cavernous cenotes. Floating in one of these natural sinkholes is an incredible experience, as is diving through the underground cave systems. When in Tulum, visit Dos Ojos (“Two Eyes”) to view one of the planet’s most beautiful underwater sites (bonus points for water visibility), or Gran Cenote for rock formations that resemble Gothic architecture.
- Sand surf in the Sahara.The dunes of the Sahara are colossal, untouched, and tailor-made for extreme sports. The desert’s rows of barchans (meaning “crescent-shaped dunes” in Turkic) have ideal shapes for sand surfing (descending the slopes on a surfboard) and sandboarding (descending the slopes on a snowboard)—and those views don’t hurt, either. Stay at Erg Chigaga Luxury Camp in Morocco, which offers sandboarding in addition to other desert activities like camel rides and quad biking.
- Paraglide over the Blue Lagoon in Oludeniz, Turkey. Oludeniz has one of the most beautiful beaches in Turkey, with pebble shores and a “blue lagoon” of aquamarine hues. The beach also happens to be one of the world’s best places to paraglide, thanks to stable weather and gorgeous panoramic views. The launch site for most companies is from Babadağ mountain, with jumping-off points reaching 6,000 feet above sea level.
- Spot a Kermode bear in the Great Bear Rainfores. tCanada’s Great Bear Rainforest is the largest intact temperate rainforest in the world—and one of the most magical, with elusive species like sea wolves and Kermode bears roaming its 21 million acres. Outer Shores Expeditions will take you on a nine-day excursion aboard a schooner, departing from British Columbia’s aboriginal First Nations community of Bella Bella and stopping for sea kayaking along the way. While Canada is currently closed to U.S. travelers, you can always plan ahead for a spring 2022 trip.
- Snorkel between continents at Thingvellir National Park. Iceland is one of the best countries in the world for adventure travel, with opportunities for everything from glacier hiking to snorkeling and diving. For the latter, head straight to Thingvellir National Park along the country’s Golden Circle route, where two tectonic plates slowly pull apart at the rate of about two centimeters (0.8 inches) per year. The phenomenon results in the Silfra fissure, a stunning rift valley where travelers can snorkel or dive in impossibly clear (and cold) waters. Tour company DIVE.IS offers tours for divers and every level of snorkeler (including those with zero experience), and will snap an underwater photo of you touching two continents at the same time.
- Road trip through America’s National Parks. There’s perhaps no better way to explore America than with a good old-fashioned road trip. Many of the country’s national parks are perfect for a multi-day drive, like Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park and Alaska’s Denali National Park. But if we had to pick just one itinerary, we’d go with the Mighty Five, the cluster of Utah’s national parks that include Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands. The Mars-like landscapes here must be seen to be believed, and the journey can start anywhere from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas.
- Courtesy Aqua Expeditions. Float along the Amazon. Some remote destinations are best seen from the deck of a boat, and that includes the upper Amazon River. Aqua Expeditions‘ luxury cruises through the Peruvian stretch of the river tour the area’s wildlife and culture at a delightful, leisurely pace. You’ll even have chef-prepared gourmet meals and five-star suites with floor-to-ceiling windows. Looking for something a little less luxe? Amazon Adventures offers kayaking trips along some Amazon tributaries, where you can fish for piranhas and camp out in the rainforest.
- Go “volcano boarding” on Cerro Negro, Nicaragua. If you’re looking for action sports and adventure, we recommend booking a flight to Nicaragua right now. Here you can kayak, surf, zipline through the jungle, and even sled down the side of an active volcano. Intrepid travelers love to climb up the 2,388-foot Cerro Negro and then “volcano board” back down (an activity where you sit or stand on a piece of plywood and slide your way down the slopes). Definitely go with a guided group tour with this one. Bigfoot Hostels is one of many companies available—for $25, you get transportation to the volcano, boards, safety equipment, snacks, and your speed clocked by a radar gun.
- Camp in Antarctica. Antarctica is truly the final frontier when it comes to adventure travel, providing untouched landscapes, unique wildlife, and more activities than you’ll know what to do with (cruising, caving, and thermal spring soaking to name a few). If you can get yourself to Punta Arenas, Chile, Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions will fly you to Antarctica for three days of skiing and hiking before setting you up for a South Pole sleepover.
- Surf The Pipeline in Oahu. Oahu’s Banzai Pipeline (commonly referred to as The Pipeline) is easily one of the most sought-after surfing spots in the world. Located off the coast of the island’s north shore in Ehukai Beach Park, the surf reef break averages waves measuring nine feet high. Pro tip: This activity is definitely not for beginners, but even non-surfers will get a thrill out of watching the many surf competitions that take place at The Pipeline—all from the safety of a sunny beach.
- Zip line over Niagara FallsThe 2,200-foot MistRider opened in Ontario in the summer of 2016, and has been attracting daring travelers ever since. The ride goes from the top of the Niagara Gorge to nearly the bottom, with four ziplines reaching speeds of more than 40 miles per hour. The operation is open from June through December, so here’s hoping we can get a ride in later this year when Canada reopens to visitors.
- Bungee jump above the Kawarau River, New Zealand. New Zealand practically invented adventure sports when the Kawarau Bridge Bungy opened in 1988. Here you join around 38,000 annual visitors to take the 140-foot jump from the South Island’s historic, steel-framed Kawarau Bridge. Like Australia, New Zealand has been strict about border closings throughout the pandemic, but those dives will be waiting for you whenever travel resumes.
- Dive Belize’s Great Blue Hole. Known for its circular shape and strikingly deep blue color, the Great Blue Hole is a 1,000-foot-wide sinkhole in the middle of Belize’s Lighthouse Reef. While an aerial shot is enough to convince anyone of its beauty, scuba divers are the ones who get to experience the wonders that lie beneath: massive, 40-foot limestone stalactites and stalagmites that formed during the last glacial period.
- Soak in Devil’s Pool at Victoria Falls. Located on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, Victoria Falls attracts thousands of tourists each year. One of the biggest draws here is the Devil’s Pool, a naturally formed eddy sitting at the very edge of the falls, where daring swimmers can splash around between August and January (depending on water levels). Given that a slippery rock barrier is the only thing separating you from going over the edge, this site is easily the planet’s most extreme infinity pool.
- Swim with wild dolphins in the Azores. We can’t get enough of the Azores, a group of nine islands located some 900 miles off the coast of Lisbon. The incredibly scenic archipelago is the perfect getaway for adventure travelers, who can go canyoning on steep cliff walls, paraglide over vineyards, and swim with both migrating and native dolphins. To relax after a day in the wild, you have a ton of great hotel options to choose from, like Sul Villas & Spa on São Miguel and Caldeira Guesthouse & Surf camp on São Jorge.
- Float in Darwin Lake, Galápagos Islands. The Galápagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador, are one of the world’s most famous destinations for outdoor enthusiasts, thanks to their melange of unique wildlife and otherworldly landscapes. The chain of 19 islands offers many once-in-a-lifetime activities, from hiking on volcanos to relaxing in the saline Darwin Lake with nearby tortoises and iguanas. Cruising is one of the best ways to reach the islands; for an eco-friendly option (think solar power technology and reduced plastic waste), book with Quasar Expeditions.
- Scale Half Dome at Yosemite National Park. The Half Dome trail through Yosemite may be one of the most intense hikes you’ll ever take, stretching for 16 miles and ascending more than 5,500 feet. The final 400 feet are the trickiest—hikers must climb up the steep slope with two steel cables as their only support—but the breathtaking views from the top make the effort (and terror) worth it. Afterwards, stay at The Ahwahnee, one of the most beautiful national park hotels in the country.
Adventure is out there…
There are tons more adventure travel tour programs out there to choose from; the important thing is that you land on one that feels right for you. Everyone travels differently. Dig deep, and don’t settle for anything less than your perfect adventure— whatever that looks like.