Laying on the beach and getting a tan may cut it for some travelers, but how about swimming with sharks and jumping from airplanes? If you prefer active vacations, you’re not alone: according to a survey by TripAdvisor, 69% of travelers plan on trying something new in 2016 and 15% want to try adventure travel for the first time.
Adventure travel might push you close to your limits, but the unforgettable memories are worth the challenge. Get started with some of the bucket list-worthy adventures below.
1. Shark Dive with Great Whites
Shark Week makes for thrilling TV, but there’s nothing like living it firsthand. Meet these fearsome predators face-to-face at False Bay in South Africa, Isla de Guadalupe in Mexico or even on the Farallon Islands in California. You can suit up in scuba gear to dive deep or stick to a wetsuit and snorkel set for shorter submersions.
2. Spelunk a Deep, Dark Cave
The grottos of New Zealand’s Waitomo region are filled with glowworms that illuminate to attract food, find mates, and avoid predators. Using only the light from your headlamp and the bioluminescence from the worms, you can wade, climb, swim, rappel, leap, and squeeze your way through this spectacular and challenging caving system. Whether you float in on a tube or descend down a rope, you’ll experience a whole new style of spelunking.
3. Climb an Active Volcano
It may sound crazy, but there are several active volcanoes around the world that are safe to hike, giving you the chance to see glowing lava, hot steam eruptions and volcanic rock formations. Hike up Mount Etna in Sicily, Kīlauea in Hawaii, Mount Mayon in the Philippines, Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland or Ometepe in Nicaragua for the kind of experience you can’t get on your science class field trip.
4. Ice Climb a Glacier
Do you like rock climbing? Take it up a notch by strapping on crampons, grabbing some ice picks and heading to a glacier or frozen waterfall. Iceland, Colorado, Norway, and the Swiss Alps have some of the best ice climbing in the world.
5. ATV to the Salt Mines in Peru
Put on a helmet and rev your engines for a quad bike ATV tour through the archaeological complex of Moray and the salt mines of Maras. The off-road ride will take you to more sites than a bicycle and provides more freedom than a car or van tour.
6. Camp in America’s National Parks
You don’t have to travel abroad to find natural wonder. Yosemite, Joshua Tree, the Badlands and Arcadia National Parks offer a taste of adventure in our own backyard. Hike to a safe spot, sleep under the stars and feel the thrill of connecting to wildlife.
7. Raft through the Amazon
The rainforests of Ecuador and Brazil are among the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth. Get an up-close look at the flora, fauna, and village communities with a rafting tour down the Amazon. Just make sure you catch the piranhas before they catch you.
8. Set Sail for Antarctica
Cruises can give you a taste of the Arctic Circle, but there’s no substitute for a true polar expedition. Hike, kayak, and camp amongst seals, penguins, and icebergs in the most pristine and remote wilderness left on Earth.
9. Trek in Tibet
With an average elevation of 14,000 feet above sea level, Tibet is the highest nation on earth. And you don’t have to summit Everest to have an adventure. The forests, mountain trails, and monasteries of the Himalayan region are enough to leave any traveler in awe.
10. Go on a Remote Safari
Kruger and Maasai Mara are renowned for their safaris, but the real adventure starts further off the beaten path. See the same animals with fewer tourists at the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest Reserve in Uganda, Etosha National Park in Namibia, South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, or the Samara Private Game Reserve on the Eastern Cape.
11. Cycle through Southeast Asia
Backpackers have long enjoyed the affordability and excitement of traveling through the mountains, jungles, rivers, temples, and rice fields of Southeast Asia. Exploring the region by bicycle means you can discover lesser-known routes and get even more bang for your Baht.
12. Mountain Climb in Patagonia
Anyone that loves mountains needs to experience Patagonia, the sparsely populated region of Argentina and Chile. Peaks like Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy offer trails for expert mountaineers and amateur alpine hikers alike. If you’re feeling extra energized, consider rappelling down some of the area’s rock towers.
13. Canyon Jump in Tasmania
Head to Tasmania for one of the best adventures you’ll find down under. A combination of jumps, slides, and freestyle falls will help you explore Cradle Mountain’s canyon and its waters seven yards below.
14. Dog Sled through Lapland
Mush your own team of huskies through the snowy landscapes of Finland, Norway, or Sweden. If you time it right and go far enough north, you could catch a view of the Northern Lights on your ride.
15. Scuba Dive Between Tectonic Plates
Touch two continents in one dive at Thingvellir National Park in Iceland where the North American and Eurasian plates meet. The fissure, known as Silfra, has some of the clearest deep sea visibility in the world.
16. Heli-ski in Alaska
Why wait in lift lines when you can take a helicopter to the top of the mountain? This downhill skiing and snowboarding adventure offers access to wide-open backcountry runs with plenty of untouched pow. It’ll make your double black diamond look like the bunny slope.
17. Paraglide in the Azores
This island archipelago off the coast of Portugal is considered one of the best-kept secrets in Europe. Paragliding is available year round, but the summer months offer the best views of the volcanoes, lakes, beaches, and cliffs below.
18. Ride through the Desert on a Camel Caravan
Follow ancient trade routes through the Sahara or Gobi Desert on camelback for a taste of nomad life. It certainly won’t be a smooth ride, but once you watch the sun rise from the top of a wind-sculpted sand dune, you’ll know the journey was worthwhile.
The further off the grid you go, the less likely your credit card will be accepted—so be sure to carry cash on your adventures. Most of these locations don’t have the infrastructure or technology to accept cards or digital payments. You might be able to prepay with a bank transfer or credit card, but once you’re in the wild, all bets are off.