10 Best Trips for Adventure Junkies

Embark on a journey to remember on these exhilarating, unique and epic tours.

By Claire Volkman, ContributorJuly 23, 2016
By Claire Volkman, ContributorJuly 23, 2016, at 10:00 a.m.
U.S. News & World Report

10 Best Trips for Adventure Junkies

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Halong Bay, Tuscany, New Zealand
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(Getty Images)

Test your limits on a heart-pounding trip in nearby and far-off locales.

Travel, in its purest sense, moves you. It takes you outside of your comfort zone to unfamiliar destinations. And no type of travel experience fosters personal growth more vigorously than adventure travel. After all, adventure trips don't just introduce you to a new place, they offer cultural immersion – with challenging bike rides through Vietnam's dirt roads, grueling marathons weaving along the Great Wall of China and deep sea dives that explore endangered coral reefs in Australia. Not for the faint of heart, these trips are designed to challenge and enrich your understanding of the world – and yourself. So, if you're yearning for a transformative trip, embark on these life-changing tours.
The Great Wall of China at sunset.
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(Getty Images)

Run the Great Wall Marathon.

If you've never run a marathon before, it's advised not to start with this one. Tour operator, Intrepid Travel, offers a nine-day expedition that introduces you to China's only sanctioned marathon, which welcomes more than 2,500 runners a year. The path is tricky and demanding, taking runners up and down sloping mountains and along brick paths built in the third century B.C. After the grueling race, the tour takes you to some of China's most famous landmarks, including the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. If you want to experience the Great Wall but aren't marathon-ready, you can still tame your adventurous spirit with the race's half-marathon and 10K course instead.
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Test your limits on a heart-pounding trip in nearby and far-off locales.

Travel, in its purest sense, moves you. It takes you outside of your comfort zone to unfamiliar destinations. And no type of travel experience fosters personal growth more vigorously than adventure travel. After all, adventure trips don't just introduce you to a new place, they offer cultural immersion – with challenging bike rides through Vietnam's dirt roads, grueling marathons weaving along the Great Wall of China and deep sea dives that explore endangered coral reefs in Australia. Not for the faint of heart, these trips are designed to challenge and enrich your understanding of the world – and yourself. So, if you're yearning for a transformative trip, embark on these life-changing tours.

Run the Great Wall Marathon.

If you've never run a marathon before, it's advised not to start with this one. Tour operator, Intrepid Travel, offers a nine-day expedition that introduces you to China's only sanctioned marathon, which welcomes more than 2,500 runners a year. The path is tricky and demanding, taking runners up and down sloping mountains and along brick paths built in the third century B.C. After the grueling race, the tour takes you to some of China's most famous landmarks, including the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. If you want to experience the Great Wall but aren't marathon-ready, you can still tame your adventurous spirit with the race's half-marathon and 10K course instead.

Bike through Tuscany.

With an ever-changing mural of picturesque rolling hills, sprawling vineyards and medieval backdrops, the Tuscany Bike Tour offered by reputable outfitter Backroads is as beautiful as it is challenging. You'll pedal over the uneven cobblestones of Tuscany's famous cities, like Arezzo; through world-famous Chianti vineyards; and up towards the 14th- and 15th-century castles that loom above the hills. The rides may be tough, but the end result is well worth it: lively dinners with local families, wine tastings in famous vineyards and all of the fresh pasta you can eat.

Hike the Pacific Crest Trail.

Stretching from Mexico to Canada and encompassing more than 2,000 miles, the Pacific Crest Trail is, arguably, one of the most cumbersome trails in North America. Though the trail has long been on the adrenaline junkie's bucket list, it's gained heightened recognition due to the success of Cheryl Strayed's acclaimed novel "Wild." The trail is tricky, traversing some of the U.S. and Canada's toughest terrain, including the Mojave Desert, the icy peaks of the Sierra Nevada, the staggeringly high Mount Rainier and the uneven valleys and gorges of Yosemite National Park. Learn more about the hike and how to do it on the Pacific Crest Trail Association website.

Trek to Ciudad Perdida.

Often dubbed one of the world's most challenging hikes, the hike to the lost city of Colombia (known as Ciudad Perdida) is the ultimate bucket list trail for true adventure-seekers. The small-group adventure travel outfitter G Adventures offers a seven-day round-trip trek from Santa Marta that reaches a staggering altitude of 3,937 feet at the ruins of Teyuna. You'll weave through lush jungles in 110 percent humidity, up and over rocky, uneven pathways, over deep river basins and up narrow, windy mountain passages. Unlike Machu Picchu, this city is still relatively undiscovered, so you can enjoy breathtaking, unspoiled ruins.

Climb to Mount Everest's base camp.

As any avid hiker can attest, crossing Mount Everest's base camp off your list is no easy feat. On this trek by Intrepid Travel, you'll hike into the jaw-dropping Himalayas, past the fantastical Gokyo Lakes and up an incredible 17,600 feet to the south base of the world's highest mountain. This intensive 15-day itinerary allows for more local immersion than a regular trek – with stays in Nepalese teahouses and in-depth conversations with the area's famed Sherpas. This hike is considered one the toughest in the world, but those who have done it describe the 360-degree views of the snowy Mount Everest as the most euphoric moment of their lives.

Plan an epic New Zealand adventure.

New Zealand is, unofficially, the adventure capital of the world, with more adrenaline-packed adventures per capita than anywhere else on the planet. The best way to get a sense of all of the country's heart-pounding activities available in the North and South islands is with the 28-day Flying Kiwi's exclusive Ultimate Explorer tour. You'll hike, bike, kayak, climb, sky-dive, bungee jump, swim and walk through the country's most beautiful landmarks and cities, including the Milford Sound, the Bay of Islands, Fiordland National Park, Aoraki National Park, Rotorua and Queenstown. And afterward, you'll quickly realize why this country is every adventure-seeker's dream.

Hike, bike and kayak in Vietnam.

One of the world's most beautiful destinations, Vietnam is a country best explored off the beaten path. G Adventures' Hike, Bike and Kayak tour through this diverse country offers an unspoiled view of the verdant jungles, picturesque bays, limestone karsts, lush islands and small, welcoming villages it's best known for. This 10-day exploration begins in Ho Chi Minh City and blends cultural immersion (think: homestays in villages and food market visits) with blood-pumping activity such as kayaking through Halong Bay, hiking up to Mai Chau and taking a bike ride to the tomb of Tu Duc.

Dive with great white sharks in Australia.

With the largest reef in the world, Australia has hooked water-loving adventurers for decades. However, for those looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, snorkeling among colorful reefs just won't cut it. That's why adventure tour company Dive Worldwide offers the chance to swim alongside the country's most aggressive marine mammal, the great white shark. This expedition takes you deep into the dark blue waters of South Australia's Neptune Islands, where you'll come face to face with the massive sharks. Plus, you can swim side by side with stingrays and other sea creatures. The tour also takes you above water with hikes to famous islands, where you'll likely spot sea lions and seals.

Hike Patagonia's epic Torres del Paine.

Located at the southern tip of South America, Chilean Patagonia offers enchanting landscapes and challenging trails that attract admirers from across the globe. For unrivaled views of Torres del Paine, along with guided hikes, all-inclusive meals and comfortable accommodations, consider staying at Explora. The picturesque lodge sits in the middle of the Torres del Paine National Park and faces the breathtaking Cordillera del Paine Mountains. With more than 50 hikes to choose from, including the trek to Cordillera's "horn" mountain peaks, there are many ways to enjoy the surrounding natural beauty. Plus, the lodge offers horseback riding for a more leisurely way to enjoy the park's splendor.

Take a safari through Jordan.

One of the oldest civilizations in the world, Jordan has long lured those seeking enlightenment. In addition to UNESCO World Heritage sites and the incredible world of Petra, Jordan also boasts never-ending desert horizons, hot springs, bustling cities and deep oceans for those craving more active pursuits. Outfitter Absolute Travel offers a Wild Jordan Adventure that hits Jordan's famous highlights, like the city of Petra, as well as some lesser-known spots, such as Wadi Mukheris and the gushing waterfalls of the Ma'In Hot Springs. Plus, this tour offers a mix of steep hikes, city walking tours and four-wheel drive desert expeditions.
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Claire Volkman, Contributor

Claire Volkman is a social media journalist with a passion for food and travel. She's spent ...  Read more

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