There are trips, retreats and vacations—and then there are adventures.
Adventures are the experiences that can’t quite be put into words, despite your best efforts. They bring on a series of transcendent moments—you are open and observant, while simultaneously humble and grateful—you are your best self when on an adventure.
Take a look at the top 15 adventure destinations of 2015 and then go find your adventure.
Often referred to as “the next Costa Rica,” this gem hidden in plain sight is a haven for thrill seekers. Once plagued by political unrest and internal violence, the country now enjoys stability and invites travelers to see for themselves, but their old reputation seems to be turning away potential visitors. Those travelers are missing out on incredible natural beauty, cheap accommodation and amazing adventures. Surf stunning barrels at Popoyo Beach or hike Telica, one of the country’s most active volcanoes—the adventures here are practically endless and each is more amazing than the last.
Bend is for lovers—bike lovers, that is. The once obscure little town has leveraged its access to the Cascades and the Deschutes River to become an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. Almost 300 miles of single-track for mountain bikers, fat-bike terrain and a Cycle Pub just scratch the surface on the ever-evolving bike culture in Bend. Nearby Mt. Bachelor offers skiers and boarders a shot at pristine powder and by spring the river attracts rafters from all over. Whatever outdoor activity you’re into, it’s a safe bet Bend is the ideal setting.
Another destination once fraught with conflict and infrastructure problems, Sri Lanka has improved in both departments and is now a place every adventurer should put on their list. The island country is home to incredible SCUBA dives, exciting surf spots and challenging game fishing. There’s plenty to do inland, too—climb the rock face of the Bambarakanda waterfall—the tallest in the country or catch a glimpse of mighty elephants and other wildlife in one of Sri Lanka’s many National Parks.
The land with no permanent population may very well be the best-preserved natural landscape on the planet. What’s more adventurous than that? Antarctica offers true adventure junkies a challenge they can’t refuse. Camp, hike and kayak the frozen frontier amid penguins and whales—the experience just might change your life.
Peru may be best known for the ruins of Machu Picchu but those seeking adventure should take a detour from the beaten path and head to Colca Canyon. The second deepest canyon in the world—almost twice as deep as the Grand Canyon—Colca boasts mind-blowing views, a profound history and seemingly endless trails that allow you to take it all in. For an extra dose of adventure, zip-line across the canyon alongside the native Andean condor and when it’s time to wind down, make your way up to the warm waters and scenic views of the Calera hot springs.
To say the natural wonders of Iceland would excite any adventurer would be a gross understatement. This country, one of the least densely populated in the world, is blessed with hot spring lagoons, the Great Geysir, volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls and lava fields. And that’s not even counting the natural phenomena like the world famous Northern Lights or the stellar midnight sun. Simply put, there’s a whole lot to see on a visit to Iceland and even more to do. A dip in the warm mineral water of the Blue Lagoon is a must (though it may be one of the more touristy attractions) and you won’t want to miss the opportunity to get almost uncomfortably close to the inside of one of Iceland’s epic volcanoes. Glacier walks, hikes behind massive waterfalls and whale watching in the summer are just a few more suggestions—oh, and don’t miss the chance to explore the amazing ice caves, who knows when they could be gone for good.
Closed off to the world for many years by a communist government and tucked away between Russia and China, Mongolia was once synonymous with remote isolation. The mysterious and deeply historical land has opened up since the 90’s and in the past few years has made great strides in promoting sustainable tourism. Now is the time to visit this rugged landscape and experience fascinating culture. Follow in the footsteps of the centuries-old nomadic traditions: hike, horseback ride and camp in the stunning remote mountains and valleys of central Asia. Be sure to visit the Terelj National Park and trek to the Mongolian Gobi Desert, you’ll enjoy wildlife and landscapes you won’t find anywhere else on the planet.
Bariloche offers the best of both worlds to outdoor enthusiasts who can’t seem to choose between a mountain getaway and a water sports retreat—or those who simply don’t want to sacrifice the comforts of a beautiful little city. Set in the foothills of the Andes, Bariloche is a quick ride away from one of the best ski resorts in the country, Cerro Catedral (also referred to as Bariloche Ski Resort). The city is also perched on the southern shores of Nahuel Huapi Lake, which combined with the nearby mountains and forest, allows for a nearly infinite list of outdoor adventures. Kayak the lake, rock climb the nearby mountains and paraglide over the whole incredible landscape.
The 32 islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines are known for spectacular SCUBA diving and this year that experience will get even better. The Island resort of Petit St. Vincent is home to a new dive center, which is overseen by a renowned marine conservationist. The once tough-to-reach islands now have a brand new airport—The Argyle International Airport will open this year and will offer non-stop flights from the U.S. and Europe, making it easier than ever to reach the Grenadines and experience world class diving.
Perched proudly in the Southern Rockies, Taos may not be “manufactured for the masses,” but those who have skied this epic mountain can’t seem to get enough. Taos was a top tier resort before this season, but with the addition of a new chairlift to the 12,481-foot-tall Kachina Peak—and the resulting 50 percent increase in advanced and expert lift-serviced terrain—Taos is the must-ski spot of 2015. Other advancements include 35 acres of new gladed terrain, improved snowmaking and updates at the base lodge.
Best known for chocolate, beer and almost nothing else—unless you count the European Parliament—Belgium is just about the most underrated country around, but adventurous travelers should take a second look. Beyond the country’s unbelievable art museums, wild festivals and plethora of UNESCO World Heritage Sites lies adventure beyond most of our imaginations. Raft or kayak the mighty Ourthe River or partake in the county’s national sport: cycling. There are several great biking tours and you can of course set out on your own—either way seeing the country on two wheels is more than rewarding—it’s unforgettable.
Breathtaking scenery worthy of the silver screen is just the first of the many reasons you need to visit to New Zealand. Adventure seekers will find the country particularly remarkable for its variety of thrilling activities. Bungee jump from the infamous Kawarau Bridge, sky dive from 14,000 feet above the stunning landscape and white water raft the Tongariro River—those are just some of the things that will get your heart pumping. After you’ve exhausted your sense of adventure, enjoy some wine at one of the region’s many wineries and be sure to check out the country’s largest underground wine cave, just minutes away from Queenstown.
With a lively capital city, access to the Amazon Rain Forest and the world famous Galapagos Islands all located in the rather small country of Ecuador, what makes Cotopaxi National Park so special, you might ask. It could be the opportunity to climb one of the tallest active volcanoes in the world and summit in the soft light of dawn. Maybe it’s the opportunity to see wildlife like the endangered Andean condor, the Andean speckled bear (also endangered), llamas, or any of the other species that call the park home. Perhaps it’s just the variety of outdoor activities like mountain biking or camping—either way, this low-key Ecuadorian destination is a great spot for adventurers.
Natural beauty you actually need to see to believe is just the first thing adventurers gush about upon their return from Banff, the next is the long list of outdoor activities the town has to offer. Set in the midst of the Rockies, Banff predictably enjoys some of the best powder skiing around, occasionally collecting up to 35 feet of snow. Come summertime, hikes around Banff simply can’t be beat, especially treks in the remarkable Banff National Park. As if adventurers could want anything more, the Bow River flows through Banff, offering great waters for rafting.
A deeply spiritual country with a highly valued connection to nature, Bhutan is an ideal escape from the typical daily grind visitors might experience at home. The country protects an astonishing amount of land (upwards of 60 percent) for future generations to enjoy and the Buddhist influences promote respect for nature that is so rarely found elsewhere. Hike to the stunning Taktsang Monastery, mountain bike ancient mule tracks or kayak one of the many rivers that runs through the country alongside mountains and small towns. A visit to Bhutan is an experience like no other and it's one you won't soon forget.