Every year new destinations open up to adventurous travelers, whether through the efforts of enterprising tour companies, better access to backcountry, or increased political stability.
Be warned: these picks aren't for kicking back on the beach with a margarita—unless you're rewarding yourself after a 100-mile trek from the Colombian Andes. This year, you can cycle the once forbidden island of Cuba, explore unseen corners of Patagonia, and track gorillas in the deepest rainforest.
Check out our picks below before the rest of the world catches on:
• Kenya: Follow game trails to Africa's "Big Five" on a wild 100-mile trek
• Republic of the Congo: Camp in luxury among pristine rainforests
• Uganda: Track endangered apes through the "Impenetrable Forest"
• Namibia: Lose yourself in the shifting sands of the world's oldest desert
• Botswana: Safari by paddle on the brand-new Selinda Canoe Trail
• Madagascar: Kitesurf the unspoiled Indian Ocean outpost
• Tanzania: Take a walk on the wild side in the country's biggest park
• Colombia: Peak to beach in South America's new multisport capital
• Isla Navarino, Chile: Trek to the end of the world
• Galapagos Islands: Do like Darwin on the islands' interior
• Rossland, BC: Ski new Canadian slopes or find epic singletrack
• Cuba: Power to the pedal on a cycling tour of the newly opened island
• Nicaragua: Surf a volcano in Central America's next Costa Rica
• The Patagonian Corridor: Explore new routes and hidden glaciers
• Guyana: Paddle and hike in the Amazon's newest adventure hub
• Koh Phangan, Thailand: Find a new kind of wild in a party place
• Myanmar: Go sailing or cycling on a tour of the "Land of Temples"
• Ladakh, India: Go deep in the Grand Canyon of the Himalayas
• Bhutan: Break trail sustainably on the pristine kingdom's singletrack
• Mongolia: Horseback across the land of Genghis Khan
• Raja Ampat, Indonesia: Explore the Amazon of the Seas by sailboat
• Sri Lanka: Go tropical island hopping in South Asia's new hotspot
• Kamchatka Peninsula: Flyfish and kayak Russia's wildest waters
• Wales: Cliff-walk a spectacular 1,000-mile coastal path
• Sweden: Ski and dog-sled beneath the Northern Lights
• Albania: Pedal back in time in this untapped coastal country
• Georgia: East meets West on treks in the towering South Caucasus
• The Azores: Climb volcanoes on Portugal's remote archipelago
• Jordan: Get to know this desert kingdom from the ground up
Can’t decide where to go first? You might save on airfare by booking direct flights between multiple locations using Bootsnall’s incredibly simple Indie app. You might even reduce your carbon footprint by snagging a seat on a Boeing 777. Whatever your plane of choice (or whatever’s cheapest), pack light and keep your hiking boots where you can see them.
Maybe big game is your game, in which case you might consider Botswana in the offseason for reduced rates and more baby animals. If bringing your own “baby animals” on a paddle safari makes you queasy take them canoeing somewhere free of apex predators, like the Galapagos. Be sure to waterproof your smartphone.
Say you really want to disappear into the wild—Siberia or Tierra del Fuego. Stay warm at night with a heated water bottle in your sleeping bag, keep your pack dry with a Duck Back rain cover, and cover your head with a Buff.
Cyclists: not quite “dragon” enough for Bhutan’s grueling Himalayan trail? Maybe Cuba’s more your speed—but flatter ground is no reason not to outfit your ride. Own a comfortable saddle? Bring it! Also remember an extra base layer for those long-haul segments, and hand wash your cycling clothes in the shower. Don’t be afraid of the rain, be prepared. The weather won’t always go your way and you’re bound to need a fender for wet roads and muddy trails. And in case your cycling shoes need some quick repairs, bring some Shoe Goo—it’s good for patching camping gear as well.
Is Rossland’s killer powder more your scene? If you plan on bringing your own skis, check your airline’s baggage policy first, and avoid weight limits by packing your ski boots separately. (Air Canada doesn’t count ski equipment as oversize, and may let you check it for free on some flights.) When you arrive—it’s a travel day, after all—scope out your surroundings before hitting the slopes. It may save you a headache après ski.
Not everyone’s idea of cultural immersion is craft beer at the lodge (although that has its own merits), so if you’re going to India, Indonesia or Myanmar, take some time to bone up on local etiquette, learn some vocab, and don’t assume bringing candy for the area kids is a good idea.