For those of you who love adventure travel and experiences that push you right out of your comfort zone, we’ve scoured the globe for adventurous vacations designed to give you the thrill of a lifetime. Ready to skydive in South Africa, sail the icy seas of Antarctica, or witness the natural rock formations of Turkey by hot air balloon? Game on.
Skydiving in South Africa
When it comes to adventurous vacations, jumping out of a plane in South Africa is up there on the extreme list. And what better view from mid-air than the beautiful capital of Cape Town nestled between Table Mountain and the glittering turquoise waters of Table Bay. Add to the fact the vibrant city is known for the penguins of Boulder Beach and the scenic Lions Head Peak trail and you can see why it’s one of the most popular drop zones for first-time skydivers. During your adrenaline rush expect to look down in awe at Capetown Vineyards, the panoramic Cape Town Peninsula view and the brightly colored streets of Bo-Kaap.
Ready set jump: Book your tandem skydiving experience through Cape Town: Tandem Skydiving. With a tandem jump, you get a heart-pounding 30-second freefall before the master skydiver you’re strapped to unleashes the parachute giving you 5 minutes to take it all in.
Best Hotel in Capetown: Painted pastel pink in 1918 to celebrate the end of World War 1 and symbolize love and peace, the Belmond Mount Nelson has become a Cape Town landmark. The ornate lobby and stylish guest rooms are filled with a sense of history and antiques. The properties expansive gardens and manicured lawns are a highlight – ask for a garden room which has an expansive balcony that offers glimpses of Table Mountain and views overlooking the city.
Cruise to Antarctica
A cruise to Antarctica, the most remote continent in the world ranks as a top priority on almost every adventurer travelers’ bucket list. This adventure on the icy seas is a trip of a lifetime that allows you to snowshoe across icebergs and get up close and personal with penguin colonies and whale species, buzz about in small zodiac boats, kayak and even overnight camp if you’re feeling brave. Most cruise lengths are 13 to 29 days depending on the number of stops you make along the way and many offer expert-led shore excursions.
Luxury Antarctica Cruise: Book an all-inclusive cruise of Antarctica on Scenic Eclipse, a 200 person Discovery Yacht that has an onboard spa, cabins with spacious private balconies and chef-prepared meals. You can also curate your cruise path to stop at the Falkland Islands for a chance to see Gentoo, Magellanic, South Georgia Islands and rockhopper penguins. The 13-day Antarctica in-depth trip begins and ends in Buenos Aires, taking you through the Drake Passage towards the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula.
Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Rides, Turkey
For the brave and romantic at heart, a hot air balloon ride is a magical experience. Especially when you’re floating over Cappadocia in Turkey’s heartland, an ancient city famous for its dramatic arid landscape and fairy chimneys – large cone-like formations created over centuries from eroding volcanic ash. These natural wonders are like castles in the sky and are even more spellbinding at sunset and sunrise when they change colors – this is when the area becomes a hot zone filled with hundreds of colorful hot air balloons.
Balloon adventure: For the best hot air balloon rides in Cappadocia book through Get Your Guide. Rides typically last between 45 mins – 2 hours and you’ll float directly above the fairy chimney rock formations. Plan a romantic trip for two with a champagne toast or book a small group of up to six. One of the most unique parts of the hot air balloon experience in Cappadocia is that the morning launch is as visually stunning for travelers on the ground as it is for the people in the balloon. Enjoy the sight of balloons filling the sky from a hotel rooftop with a hot cup of Turkish tea.
Best Hotel in Cappadocia: The Museum Hotel is as its name suggests a living museum concept, the property and guest rooms are decorated with artifacts from the Hittite, Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, Seljuk, and Ottoman Empire. If that doesn’t make it special enough, the luxury property is a cave-like hotel – it was meticulously built from ancient caves, ruins and the porous stone of the fairy chimneys and houses in the area to celebrate its geological wonders. There’s also an infinity pool with panoramic valley views and an onsite restaurant serving upscale Anatolian cuisine with ingredients grown in the hotel garden.
Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, Peru
Hiking the sacred trail of Machu Picchu to the Incan citadel is the closest thing to touching heaven for hikers, history buffs and adventure lovers. It is possible to get there by bus, but the 26-mile hike through the Andes is what wanderlust dreams are made of. As for Machu Picchu, the ancient city truly has to be seen with your own eyes. The Incan ruins were built brick by brick in the 15th Century between mountain peaks in a cloud forest housing temples, noble homes and expansive tiered agricultural areas.
Expert Guided Hike: It’s best to enlist the help of expert guides so book your Machu Picchu hike through Get Your Guide. The trek is spread over 4 days and 3 nights and involves a steep climb to 7,972 feet (so be prepared to be challenged). The hike begins in the town of Chilca where you will hike to the base of the mountain and enjoy your first night of camping. Over the next 3 days, the hike will vary from 2 – 5 hours per day and you’ll stop at places like Phuyupatamarca, the archaeological complex of Runkurakay, and Wayllabamba. Once you arrive at Machu Picchu your guide will give you a tour of the ancient city.
Best Hotel in Machu Picchu: Belmond Sanctuary Lodge is located at the entrance gates of Machu Picchu, so guests will be treated to breathtaking views of the ruins and exclusive early entrance. Each of the 32 guest rooms has marble bathrooms, rich wood furniture and traditional Andean textiles to add to the ambiance. After the hike, you’ll be thankful for the cozy beds and onsite spa for recovery.
Snorkeling in Iceland
Iceland is an adventure traveler’s paradise. The tiny Nordic island, with a population of around 350K in the Atlantic ocean, has long been top of travel wish lists for the joy of seeing the Northern Lights, glacier hiking, discovering the country’s 10,000 waterfalls and the chance to snorkel between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.
Snorkeling Adventure: To experience snorkeling between continents in Iceland book an adventure to Thingvellir National Park. The national park is home to Thingvallavatn, Iceland’s biggest lake like the Silfra Fissure, where the water is crystal clear and clean enough to drink. Note, it’s also 35 degrees year-round so you’ll wear a dry suit covering everything except your face. You’ll spend approximately 30-45 minutes swimming through unique sections like Silfra Hall that leads to a cave system, Silfra Lagoon where the water clarity is pristine, Silfra Cathedral which showcases the deepest depths and Big Crack where the tectonic plates are so close together you feel can literally touch two continents at once.
The Best Hotel to Stay in Iceland: Hotel Borg is an art deco style hotel located in the heart of Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital and within walking distance to must-see sites like Austurvöllur Square and the Hallgrímskirkja Cathedral.