The new year snuck up on us faster than you could say “I didn’t finish last year’s resolutions.” But never fear: if you’ve got “I want to go on an adventure” constantly on the tip of your tongue then we’ve got a whole new resolution for you. Welcome to our guide to the sickest adventure travel programs abroad for trailblazers, adventure enthusiasts, and people looking to discover the wild, wacky and downright extreme travel destinations.
We’ll bet many of these haven’t before registered on your radar, so here’s hoping that your bucket list is currently empty; we’re to fill it to the brim with delicious adventure treats that’ll have you dreaming of plans for where—and how—to travel this year with these heart-racin' adventure travel ideas:
5 awesome adventure travel ideas
1. Survive in the African wilderness and become the next Bear Grylls.
As extreme travel destinations go, the African bush is likely to have you replacing hakuna matata with “Oh my god I don’t want to get eaten by a lion.” But a wilderness survival course and elephant conservation project – where you learn essentials skills for saving your skin in the unfortunate situation of a beastie getting a little too close for comfort – should have you covered. Prepare to return home desperate to challenge Bear Grylls to a survival duel or almost hoping your plane crash-lands over the jungle so you’ll have some opportunity to showcase your new skillset.
But if this doesn’t satisfy the call of the wild, instead answer it by living in tents in Makalali Game Reserve in South Africa. How's THAT for most adventurous travel ideas? Nights are spent beneath a pristine canopy of stars with just the occasional roar of a distant lion or any one of the “Big Five” who live in this park, and days are practical and filled with survival skills and walking safaris. Work alongside experts to learn the all-important conservation efforts that are keeping the African wilderness – and its over one thousand wild animals – untamed and incredible.
2. Trek the world’s greatest trails.
You don’t have to be the most experienced hiker to explore some of the globe’s most incredible treks— just knowing how to lace up your hiking boots and set out into the countryside is enough. But, if you want to discover the best adventure trips in the world, look no further than Peru and the globally-acclaimed backpackers’ favorite, the Inca trail.
Possibly the most famous trek in the world—and one that’ll have you seriously regretting stuffing your face with Christmas treats—this magical, stone-lined pathway and once pilgrimage route is an absolute South American gem (and one of our all-time favorite adventure travel ideas). Winding through cloud forest and desolate 13,800 foot mountain passes, intrepid hikers finally arrive at the crowning experience of most visits to the continent: the ruined city of Machu Picchu. Perched atop a steep mountain with mesmerizing views of the surrounding Andes (and with plenty of obliging llamas for the obligatory selfie), you’ll be hard pushed to top this as your best adventure travel experience to date.
If you’re a stickler for the outdoors and like a blend of spirituality and extreme travel destinations, adventure travel programs abroad in the Nepalese Himalayas are probably more up your dirt track. We’re talking remote, rugged valleys inhabited by myriad ethnic groups and where only the most intrepid ever reach.
For starters, sink into the calming embrace of ancient spiritual traditions in a ten day retreat at a Buddhist monastery before continuing your close connection with Mother Nature with a hike into the foothills of the Himalayas. Here, find life stripped back to basics as you live in tiny rural Nepali villages tucked into a landscape of snowy, vertigo-inducing peaks—where electricity and modern comforts feel even more remote than the top of nearby Everest.
3. Conduct equine research and gallop across windswept plains to stay with nomadic families.
If your answer to trekking at high altitude is more “neigh” than “yay,” a few weeks horseback-riding in the steppe of Töv Province in Mongolia is the carrot on a stick that should get you uttering the magical words: I want to go on a adventure. And go on one you will with this adventure travel program abroad, contributing to much-needed research the Wild Takhi horse – the world’s rarest and most endangered breed.
Beating off all the competition for where to go in 2017, Mongolia is an adventure lover’s paradise and one where travelers are guaranteed a raw, authentic insight into a barely-visited – yet captivating – country. Days are spent monitoring these elegant creatures in their natural habitat and galloping like a wild thing through the rugged and desolate Mongolian plains. You might even find yourself pitching up for the night in a traditional ger, where you’ll receive the warmest hospitality on earth from the resilient yet welcoming nomadic Mongolian herders and their families who inhabit these wild lands.
4. Surf the world’s largest waves.
Nothing says epic travel adventure like riding crashing waves in the ultimate surfing paradises, Bali, Lombok, and Java. These Indonesian islands of forested volcanic mountains, coral reefs and huge breaks are already firmly on the beaten path, but it’s the extreme nature of surfing here that have them vying for the coveted top spot on our list of best adventure travel destinations for the new year. Gnarly waves are not even in these islands’ vocabularies; expect world-class surfing and a friendly, adventurous crowd of fellow adrenaline seekers.
While 2017 is all trying something new, don’t be afraid to stick with a tried and testing destination for the surfing community with a surf adventure travel program in Australia. Mighty Byron Bay is at the undisputed heart of adventure sports in this country, but legendary Bondi Beach is splashing along a short distance behind and both guarantee huge clean barrel waves – aka the absolute gold dust of surfing.
After a day of getting wiped out by more crashing foam than you’d care to admit, and having that scary moment when you’re convinced you’ve seen a shark’s fin, you can relax and bask in your own glorious adventurousness and learn exactly how it’s done as you watch the pros effortlessly nailing each and every wave.
5. Get off-the-beaten-path with a backpacking adventure.
This list of top travel destinations 2017 wouldn’t be complete without a good old-fashioned backpacking adventure – and the choices are huge. Thailand might still rank highly for many a wanderlusting backpacker, but a just off-the-map adventure travel program through Cambodia will set you apart from the crowd. Just ask how many of your friends have experienced a homestay in a floating village.
However, few countries are as brimming with ancient history or as adventure-packed as China. Certainly one of the best places to go in 2017, China has awe-inspiring monuments and culture coming out of its eyeballs. For even just a brief, yet still impressive, introduction, hike along a remote stretch of the 5,500 mile Great Wall with an adventure travel abroad program in China. Follow this up with a demonstration of your tourist stamina with a visit to the Forbidden City in Beijing – a captivating display of Ming Dynasty architecture and numbering a whopping 8,704 rooms.
Wherever you visit as part of an adventure travel program in China, expect to bend your mind around making sense of the marvels of ancient Chinese society and learning how to eat noodles with chopsticks: two equally brain-straining endeavors.
Where do I go from here!?
Wherever the adventurous wind blows you this year, keep repeating the mantra “I want to go on an adventure” until it comes true. After all, you’ve got the whole world at your feet and a mountain of adventurous travel abroad programs to consider.
As if you need it, we’ve got more inspiration for the best adventure travel destinations with our list of travel bucket list ideas for true adventure travelers and some solid advice on how to pack for an adventure travel vacation. So are you ready to commit to making this the year of epic global adventures? We hope our adventure travel ideas inspire you to sling on that backpack and get ready for a year of pushing yourself to your limits (and finding the adventurer that’s been living inside you all along!).