Are you looking for more than just a beach holiday? Well, this year I found myself wanting something a little more adventurous than a week in the Med. As lovely as those kinds of places are, I thought to myself, no matter where I go there’s not much else to see beyond a resort which sits on the periphery of a little touristy town filled with a couple of (if you’re lucky) decent bars and restaurants. As twee as it may sound, I wanted to explore somewhere new, be more active, see another culture, its history, its cuisine – all in an attempt to make it worth spending a month and a half’s wage on 1-2 weeks of the entire year.
So, let’s take a look below at our Top 5 Picks for Adventure Destination Inspiration that should expand your holiday horizons!
5. North America
North America is richly endowed with almost all major types of biomes, stretching from the polar Arctic to the tropical Carribean, from desert to grassland, to tundra, and coral reefs. In this way, there’s almost no need to go anywhere else because it’s jam packed with stunning sights and fun places to go! You can travel quite cheaply by plane these days if you book in advance, but if you’ve got the time and a license I’d always suggest a road trip!
The Big Apple, the dining and shopping capital. There is a myriad of things to do to suit different tastes. Shopaholic? NYC’s got it covered. There’s 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue for some of the world’s most upscale boutiques, jewelers, and hair salons. At the other end of the scale, there are the likes of Woodbury Commons Outlet Mall for designer bargains and even thrift shops to grab some vintage American apparel. For attractions, you’ll need a good pair of trainers if you want to take on them all. From Lady Liberty to up past Central Park, there’s enough to keep you busy for a long while. Now, the food. Once mocked for asking a hotel receptionist for the phone number for a Dominos at ridiculous-o’clock – I know that you’ve not experienced a real pizza until you’ve ordered a pie in NYC. Mind. Blown. Other than pizza, of course, the city is a hotbed of seasonally and locally sourced cuisine and you can grab a meal from gourmet food trucks or have a more traditional sit-down meal at one of NYC’s 20,000-plus diverse restaurants.
Known for its iconic Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, and colourful Victorian houses, San Francisco is a popular tourist destination. Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, Fisherman’s Wharf, and its Chinatown District are a few of its main attractions. Union Square is the centre of San Franciso’s shopping scene with art galleries, restaurants, small boutiques, designer shops, and it is also home to the headquarters for some of the big name labels like Levi Strauss and Gap. Hills define San Francisco’s topography alongside its formidable fog…affectionatley named Karl, and ‘he’ operates supposedly the best inanimate social media presence on the internet. Moving on to food – Monterey Jack cheese originates from the Mexican Franciscan friars of… you guessed it, Monterey, which isn’t far from San Fran – so make sure you add a slice of this goodness to your orders whilst you’re there. It’d also be worth it to check out sf.eater.com for some cool places to dine. Two more things to add: cruffins and cronuts. Yep, that’s right, croissant-muffins and a croissant-doughnuts. Check out Mr. Holmes Bakehouse, Fillmore Bakeshop, and Choux Bakery for these heavenly hybrid sweet treats.
Grand Canyon National Park
No doubt everyone will have seen a great post card or two of this place, but nothing will ever compare to witnessing the canyon’s stunning immensity and depths with your own two eyes. Vistas from both the north and the south rims are breathtaking, but the views from the south are particularly dramatic. What’s great about the national park is that you don’t need to be an expert hiker to experience the canyon’s geological magnificence. Get to the bottom of it with the help of one of the many available tours if you wish, or explore the canyon for fossilised marine creatures, animal tracks, and ferns for yourselves. Pay a visit to the Yavapai Geology Museum and the Trail of Time installation to absorb the history of the region. If you feel up to it you can take a walk over the skywalk, a horseshoe-shaped bridge with a glass walkway located to the west of the park on the Hualapai Tribal lands. You can also fly over the canyon in a helicopter or go on a boat cruise. What’s also great if you visit the Canyon is that it’s not too far away from Vegas, so if you’d like a swift change of scenery, it’s only a drive away.
4. South America
South America sets the stage for incredible adventures with its Andean peaks, Amazonian rainforest, Patagonian glaciers, Incan ruins, white-sand beaches, and colonial towns. Full of cultural treasures and captivating landscapes, South America can be a lifetime addiction.
With not even 2% of its land mass urbanised, the dramatic, volcano-studded horizons, lush forests and cobblestone streets are just a few examples of its stunning natural scenery. Trekking routes through the jungles and up volcanoes, white-water rafting, and miles of caves to explore will consume any active traveler’s trip. If you’ve got the guts, you can even paraglide into a volcanic crater at Lago de Atitlán.
In the capital of Latin cooking, you’re spoilt for choice for food. From Ceviche with fiery chilli and corn, slow-simmered stews, to smooth Amazonian chocolate. Festivals in Peru can consume your days. A place of mythical beliefs and ancient culture, you’ll be immersed street side in the colourful madness of festivals. Make your way to the Inca citadel of Machu Pichu or explore the remnants of Chan Chan.
Parrillas (steak restaurants) are everywhere and will offer any cut of meat you can imagine. In Buenos Aires, if you’re a fan of Italian dishes – restaurants here are ubiquitous too. There’s a huge variety of ethnic cuisine in Argentina – it’s not to be missed. Next up, the natural wonders, Iguazú Falls in the north, Glaciar Perito Moreno in the south, and not forgetting some of the highest peaks of the Andes.
There’s nowhere like this place for its wildlife, natural beauty, and its enduring rich cultures and traditions. Its topography is vast and extends across nearly 12 million square miles. This continent is the origin place of man and much of it remains to be untouched glorious tropical rainforests, coastlines, deep canyons, and rippling desert dunes.
Namibia, South Africa
In the north of South Africa, Namibia is one of the best places to watch wildlife. Etosha National Park is home to big cats, elephants, and black rhinos to name a few. Namibia has many private reserves and game farms that serve as safe havens for rescued wildlife. Nearby Damaraland is a prime spot to see elephants and lions that have adapted to desert conditions and it also happens to be host to Africa’s largest population of free-ranging rhinos. Namibia’s sheer natural beauty is yet another reason to pay a visit – see the glorious scenery of the Naukluft Mountains, the Brandberg, Spitzkoppe, Damaraland, and the jaw-dropping Fish River Canyon.
Captivating wildlife, landscapes, and cultures, idyllic beaches – Tanzania has it all. It is the land of the safaris where wildebeest stampede across the plains. Here, you have unparalleled opportunity to witness for yourselves the beauty of nature. Mount Kilimanjaro casts its shadow across Tanzania’s northern plains and attracts visitors from all over the world. Experience the hospitality of the country’s people, the red-cloaked Maasai warriors, the semi-nomadic Barabaig near Mt Hanang.
Cape Town, South Africa
Full of natural wonders, a mixture of cultures, cuisines, and landscapes, Cape Town is crowned by the Table Mountain National Park. There are many other places of beauty, such as the historic Company’s Gardens, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, and Green Point Park. Art and design is a prominent feature of Cape Town too, and it is for this reason that the city was awarded World Design Capital in 2014. Evident in the Afro-chic decor of its bars and restaurants and the striking street art, human creativity can be found in abundance. Beyond the city, Hermanus is a prime whale-watching location, and also a base from which to organise shark-cave diving. Further afield, more inspiring scenery can be found on drives along the coast and over the mountains.
2. The South Pacific
There’s a lot to love about the South Pacific. Whether you’re after a chilled-out and de-stressing time to lie on white-powdered sand next to gin-clear waters or you want to amp up the action and surf, climb, and dive your days away – the option is there. Australasia consists of a diverse range of islands for you to choose from which span across Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Polynesia, and other neighbouring islands.
Bora Bora, Tahiti
With turquoise lagoons, coral reefs, and over-water bungalows and floating villas, Bora Bora is unrivaled for its beauty and romantic allure. Here, you can be as active or inactive as you wish, having the options to explore Mount Otemanu, go on safari tours, snorkel, cruise, jet ski, dive, paddleboard, or go to the extreme and parasail, skydive or even feed sharks!
Viti Levu, Fiji
The largest island in Fiji is reputed to have one of the best beaches in the world, the palm-fringed Natadola Beach. Viti Levu is the centrepiece of any Fijian trip with rainforests, peaks, sand dunes, and waterfalls to explore all of outstanding natural beauty.
Aitutaki, Cook Islands
Halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand lies the oasis that is Aitutaki, with its warm weather all year round and stunning lagoon you can snorkel and scuba dive to your heart’s content.
Asia is jam-packed with gorgeous hidden temples, crazy skyscrapers, secret beaches and forgotten villages – whether it’s just a 2 week holiday or you’re fortunate enough to be able to go for a month or even more, you won’t be disappointed! Probably the most popular country visited by backpackers, Thailand has it all, from luxury island retreats and plunging into crystal clear waters to hill tribe homestays with locals, and ancient culture, to the hustle and bustle of neon lights and markets – you’re guaranteed to find something exciting that’s right up your street.
Kao Sok National Park
Considered by many to be one of Thailand’s most beautiful wildlife reserves, Khao Sok National Park is located halfway between the Andaman and Gulf coasts and is bursting with dense virgin jungle, tower-like limestone karst formations, and the man-made Cheow Lan Lake. Its vast terrain makes Khao Sok one of the last viable habitats for large animals. The reserve is home to Asian elephants, barking deer, wild boars, bears, Malayan tapirs, tigers, as well as various kinds of monkeys. Several trails cover the park which can be explored by elephant-back safari, hiking, rafts, canoes or kayak via the Sok River.
Set in the heart of Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is a big city which has managed to retain much of its pristine wilderness and glorious scenery and it is for this reason that Chiang Mai is often referred to as ‘The Rose of the North’. If you travel from its center in any direction, you’ll soon find yourself captivated by Northern Thailand’s lush countryside filled with rainforests, waterfalls, bubbling hot springs as well as peaceful country villages, and animal sanctuaries. There’s also no shortage of temples, Wat Umong, Wat Phan Tao, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Royal Park Rajapruek, Wat Phra Singh, and Wat Chedi Luang are all sites that spring to mind that you should definitely check out. Next to the Ping River is the Talat Warorot, one of the biggest and oldest markets in all of Chiang Mai which is also worth a visit.
Thailand’s capital is the largest in the country and is definitely worth a visit. Its skyline is diverse and comprises of high-rise buildings, magnificent palaces, ancient temples, and bustling markets and streets which are lined with countless food stalls offering mouth-watering authentic Thai cuisine. Bangkok is also great for shopping, its variety is almost overwhelming. Clothes, textiles, jewelry, and hi-tech electronics can be found all over. Try the gigantic MBK for countless independent outlets, or the upmarket Siam Paragon (BTS Siam) with its luxury-car showrooms and huge basement aquarium. Bangkok’s best sights and attractions for exquisitely decorated temples and statues include Wat Pra Kaew and Grand Palace Complex, Wat Po, National Museum, Dusit Palace Park, Wat Arun, Wat Traimit, Sri Maha Mariamman Temple. Other places of interest include Lumphini Park, Jim Thompson’s House, Tha Pra Chan.
Famous for their beautiful beaches with powdered sand and crystal clear waters, the Thailand Islands are hot spots for holiday-makers who want to bask in the sun. Gorgeous scenery can be found in abundance and surround areas where diving, snorkeling, fishing, and water sports to name but a few activities, take place. Some of the islands are famed for their nightlife too, in Ko Pha Ngan you’ll find the best all-night full and half-moon parties. Here are a few islands worthy of checking out: Ko Samet, Ko Chang (East of Bangkok), Ko Pha Ngan, Ko Tao (Gulf Ko Samui), Phuket, Ko Phi Phi (Andaman).
All of these places just make you want to pack up and go, don’t they?! 😍