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6 Trips to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

Challenge yourself with a life-altering adventure.

U.S. News & World Report

6 Trips to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone

Fur seals at Punta Carola beach, Galapagos Islands.

Whether admiring fascinating wildlife and dramatic landscapes in the Galápagos Islands or getting off-the-beaten track in Morocco calls to you, there's an exhilarating and transformative trip for you. (Getty Images)

Ever dreamed of trekking through the mountains with nomads in Morocco or taking an expedition cruise to Antarctica? Maybe, you're itching to track gorillas and golden monkeys in Rwanda and Uganda. If you want to push your limits this year, there's no better time to challenge yourself on an exhilarating adventure. Virtuoso, a network of luxury travel advisers, recently cited comfort zone-busting trips as a top trend in its 2016 Virtuoso Luxe Report. Adventure travel remains popular, but boundary-pushing vacations are the new trend. Even better, many adventure trips require no special skills or fitness levels. Without further ado, here are six exciting adventure vacations to take in 2016.

Embark on a Small-Group Tour to the Galápagos

Want to explore the Galápagos Islands? The isolated archipelago is on many travel bucket lists, but instead of seeing the islands as part of a large group tour, join just over a dozen other travelers aboard a tall sailing ship with adventure travel outfitter Wilderness Travel. With Wilderness Travel, you can immerse yourself in the culture, history and, of course, the wildlife of the islands, on a memorable journey. Wilderness Travel offers a 10-day small ship adventure with opportunities for kayaking, short island hikes and snorkeling. During your visit, look out for red-footed boobies that make their nests on Genovesa Island as well as sea lions that splash and play just off the island coasts. And don't forget to keep you eyes peels for giant tortoises in the wild, on the beaches or at the Charles Darwin Research Station.

Get Off-the-Grid with a Nomadic Family in Morocco

For a life-altering experience, trek Morocco's Atlas Mountains with a nomadic family. During your trip, you can sleep in a campsite and wake early to take part in daily chores, such as herding farm animals and baking bread and engage with locals in off-the-beaten-path spots. Immersive expedition trips offered by reputable outfitter Intrepid Travel trade tour buses and four-star hotels for rustic tents and include traveling four to five hours on foot each day with real-life nomads. For many, fleeing the creature comforts of home, such as air-conditioned bus transfers and beds outfitted with high-thread count linens, offers an easy way to break out of personal comfort zones. The Expedition Morocco adventure starts and ends in bustling Marrakech, Morocco, but before or after their trip, travelers can trek across 4,000-year-old routes in southeast Morocco, free from cell phones and television screens.

Enjoy a Private Homestay in Cuba

Cuba may now be open to U.S. travelers, but its lack of infrastructure for tourism (e.g., few hotels, limited ground transportation) challenges travelers to escape their everyday routine and embrace enriching cultural experiences. And now the perfect time to book a trip to Cuba before it is overrun with souvenir shops and fast food restaurants. Retailer Beekman 1802 is offering a weeklong trip to Cuba where travelers can stay in bed-and-breakfasts. On the trip, travelers can enjoy traditional Cuban dinners, explore Havana and even take part in cooking and mojito-making classes. The trip also includes a "Give Back Day," where travelers engage in a day of community service.

Set Foot on Antarctica

Antarctica is more accessible than ever, even if it takes a few days to get there by boat from the southernmost tip of Argentina. But really, the journey is the adventure, so those eager to visit a largely untouched continent will want to book their spot on the expedition cruise ship, Zodiac, with operator Peregrine Adventures. The company's 11-day adventure facilitates once-in-a-lifetime experiences and wildlife sightings on a continent that many thrill-seekers will never get the chance to explore. Visit penguin rookeries, search for humpback whales and leopard seals and even cold-weather seabirds. And before you leave, do a cannonball into Antarctic waters (the polar plunge is a must) and try your hand at ice camping.

Track Endangered Gorillas in Their Natural Habitats in Africa

Considering an eco-friendly and conservation-focused trip? Volcanoes Safaris, an outfitter that offers gorilla and chimpanzee trekking in Rwanda and Uganda, is leading the charge in eco-tourism. Offering four- to 12-day expeditions, the company offers safari lodging on the edge of gorilla forests, enabling guests to get their hearts racing as they track endangered mountain gorillas. You can watch gorillas in their natural habitats, many times on the property of the safari lodges while keeping eyes peeled for gorilla families. Aside from looking out for gorillas, you can track chimpanzees or golden monkeys, and learn about the areas local communities with visits to hospitals and orphanages.

Explore the Ancient Ruins of the Middle East

For many, travel to the Middle East is an exhilarating and eye-opening experience. There are a variety of ways to safely explore ancient ruins, visit UNESCO World Heritage sites and camp in the desert. Tour operator Spice Road Travel offers guided day and weeklong tours in Jordan, as well as a limited number of day trips in Oman. And if the lost city of Petra has been on your list ever since watching the 1989 classic film "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," explore Petra, as well as Little Petra and the Spice and Silk roads that lead away from the area. Take a camel ride, set off in a hot air balloon ride or enjoy a leisurely meal along the desert sand in this under-the-radar area.

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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