Paragliding, volcano boarding and ziplining — oh, my! Adventure vacations are great for increasing your heart rate, spiking your adrenaline and seeing the world’s most unique landscapes. Plus, traveling of all types — from mindfulness retreats to bucket list trips — can help globetrotters improve both their health and happiness.
While not every trip needs to be a brand-new travel experience, a AAA membership is the perfect tool for booking vacations to unfamiliar and exciting destinations. Ready to experience the thrills of your next trip? It’s time to pack your bags and find out which adventure vacation is calling your name!
1. Climb Mount Everest
Location: Himalayas between Nepal and Tibet
Time: Approximately 8 weeks
Mount Everest’s peak is arguably one of the most famous spots on the planet. With an incredibly short climbing season spanning from March to May, only truly experienced hikers and climbers have what it takes to summit this monstrous mountain. Simply trekking to Mount Everest Base Camp can take up to two weeks, which is then followed by a six-week climb to the top of the world’s tallest mountain. If this adventure vacation is on your bucket list, don’t forget to apply for your Everest climbing permit!
2. Trek to Machu Picchu
Time: 3 to 5 days
While many travelers will arrive at the ancient city of Machu Picchu by train, adventure vacationers have another option: trekking one of the many trails throughout the Sacred Valley. While the Incan Trail is the most famous of these trails, the Salkantay Trek is a popular alternative without regulations or permit requirements. Each Machu Picchu trek boasts incredible views, historical ruins and a one-of-a-kind Peruvian experience.
3. Cruise Around Greenland
Time: 8 days to 3 weeks
Greenland is a beautiful landscape full of untouched wonders only a few travelers ever experience. For those who are able to visit this autonomous country, they can see arctic fjords reaching inland, glaciers bobbing along the shoreline and native wildlife — including polar bears and muskoxen — during excursions. Greenland cruisers can also witness glacier calving at the Ilulissat Icefjord and visit Scoresbysund, the world’s largest fjord.
4. Balloon Over Cappadocia
Time: 60 to 90 minutes
Experience the limestone spires and fairy chimneys of Cappadocia from high in the sky. This World Heritage Site in Turkey was once home to persecuted inhabitants who transformed the landscape into a refuge of underground cities. As a popular tourist destination now, many of these dwellings have been transformed into unique hotels, and one-of-a-kind aerial views are only possible from a hot air balloon in the sky.
5. Swim the Great Barrier Reef
Location: Coast of Queensland, Australia
Time: Tour times vary
Calling all swimmers, snorkelers and divers — this adventure vacation is for you! The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven wonders of the natural world made up of more than 3,000 reef systems. This wonder is home to more than 400 different types of coral, 1,500 species of tropical fish and various types of birds and reptiles. Even though the Great Barrier Reef is visible from space, it’s an ecosystem you want to be up close and personal with to appreciate.
6. Experience the Northern Lights
Location: Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska
Time: Depends on season and visibility
Aurora borealis — better known as the northern lights — is a natural phenomenon that can be difficult to track and catch. As the Arctic Circle is one of the best places to see these dancing lights in motion, an Alaskan northern lights tour led by weather experts can help increase your sightseeing opportunities. Plus, you can even book a northern lights photo tour to best preserve the magic of your trip!
7. Raft Under Iguazú Falls
Location: Misiones Province, Argentina
Time: 1 to 3 hours
Located on the border of Brazil and Argentina, Iguazú Falls is a giant system of water cascades. Flowing from as high as 270 feet, this waterfall has plenty of vantage points for all types of travelers. For adventurous visitors, the iconic views are best experienced under the falls themselves. This excursion can only be done by boat and rafts, and lucky adventurers may even be able to take a dip in the falls.
8. Glide Through Cenotes
Location: Tulum, Mexico
Not all natural beauty is crust-deep. Sometimes you need to take a dive below the surface. In Tulum, Mexico, adventurous vacationers can marvel at cavernous cenotes and explore an underwater cave system. These natural sinkholes are home to incredible rock formations and underwater passages — the most famous of which can be experienced at Cenote Dos Ojos.
9. Board Across the Sahara
Location: Erg Chebbi in Morocco
Time: Approximately 3 hours
If extreme sports is your thing, then the Sahara might be the place for your next vacation! Some of the most famous activities visitors can experience across the sand dunes of Erg Chebbi are sand surfing and sandboarding. The desert’s crescent-shaped dunes — referred to as barchans in Turkish — can tower more than 400 feet in the air and expand close to 20 miles across. Once you’ve flown your way down the dunes, you can enjoy the sunset or sunrise atop a camel, drive across the landscape on a dune bike or stargaze among clear, unobstructed skies.
10. Pad Through the Great Bear Rainforest
Location: British Columbia, Canada
The Great Bear Rainforest is the perfect vacation destination for nature lovers. From sea lions and whales to wolves and bears — including the spirit bear or Kermode bear — and other wildlife, this rainforest is a protected sanctuary for various species of flora and fauna. Whether you choose to travel by air, land or sea, slow down and experience the wonders of the largest temperate rainforest in the world on this adventure vacation.
11. Snorkel at Thingvellir National Park
Location: Selfoss, Iceland
Time: 2 to 5 hours
Jump into the heart of Iceland and snorkel between two tectonic plates when you visit Thingvellir National Park. Silfra Fissure’s clear water offers adventure seekers a one-of-a-kind experience — even if it is quite cold! If you have diving experience, it’s even possible to dive below the surface to experience the fissure’s completely submerged surroundings. Once you’ve reemerged, you can continue exploring the park or travel to nearby camping and glamping destinations for an extended stay.
12. Discover America’s National Parks
Location: United States of America
Time: Varies by park and tour
Some of the best adventure vacations in the United States can be found within the country’s iconic national parks. True thrill seekers can summit Half Dome in Yosemite, while snow lovers may choose to go cross-country skiing in Yellowstone. On the other side of the country, travelers to Acadia can get up close and personal with various wildlife while sea kayaking, or explore the world’s longest cave system in Mammoth Cave National Park. Plus, some national park tours take visitors to various parks in one adventurous go.
13. Kayak the Amazon
Time: 1 to 10 days
Not all adventure vacations need to be fast-paced. Kayaking along the Amazon can be a calm, grounding experience that still boasts plenty of adventure. Fish for piranhas, set up camp in the rainforests of Brazil and even see dolphins while gliding across the river’s waters and absorbing the country’s history.
14. Go Volcano Boarding in Nicaragua
Location: Cerro Negro in Leon
Time: Half a day
Standing at a little more than 1,600 feet, Cerro Negro doesn’t seem thrilling — until you watch the volcano’s visitors race down its face. For experienced snowboarders and skiers, boarding down the volcano’s steepest side is a popular way many hikers choose to descend from the top. But have no fear! Vacationers who lack boarding experience can walk or run down Cerro Negro’s volcanic face instead.
15. Camp in Antarctica
Time: Varies by trip but can last up to 9 days
Antarctica is one of the most untouched places on Earth, so adventure vacationers have a unique opportunity to experience the continent’s climate and inhabitants. Whether you decide to camp as part of an Antarctic cruise excursion or stay at Union Glacier Camp before summiting Mount Vinson, this is a remarkable opportunity you won’t want to miss.
16. Surf in Hawaii
Location: Oahu, Hawaii
Time: 1 to 3 hours
Throw on your bathing suit and hit the waves by surfing in Hawaii! For newbies, there are plenty of opportunities for private surf lessons, and surfers of all experience levels can hop in the water alongside marine life, including sea turtles. Travelers can surf at various beaches across the island of Oahu, including Waikiki Beach, Haleiwa and Mākaha.
17. Soar over Niagara Falls
Location: Niagara Falls, NY, and Ontario, Canada
Time: Up to 2 hours
Let your adrenaline flow free while you soar high above Niagara Falls. Daring adventurers can experience the falls from the sky in two ways. On the Canadian side of the falls, vacationers can feel the mist on their faces when they zipline toward Horseshoe Falls, while daring visitors to both sides have the opportunity to experience Niagara Falls by helicopter.
18. Paraglide in Switzerland
Location: Interlaken, Switzerland
Time: Approximately 90 minutes
The city of Interlaken, Switzerland, is considered one of the best natural playgrounds in the world — especially for thrilling activities like skydiving and paragliding! Whether you choose to visit the area in the summer or winter, paragliding is an unforgettable way to see the region, including Jungfrau mountain. These tandem flights are especially great for first-time paragliders and kids.
19. Dive With Sharks in Australia
Location: Neptune Islands Conservation Park
Time: 10 hours to 1 full day
Looking for a heart-pounding vacation excursion? In South Australia, you can come face-to-face with a great white shark at Neptune Islands Conservation Park! This is the only place along the continent where visitors can view these stunning fish. Plus, it’s possible you’ll be able to view long-nosed fur seals in the area, too!
20. Swing in New Zealand
Location: Queenstown, New Zealand
Time: 4 hours
The U.S. may be home to the world’s largest rocking chair and ball of twine, but New Zealand is home to the world’s largest swing. The Nevis Swing completes an almost 1,000-foot arc, and you can choose how you want to swing — forward, backward, upside down or any which way you please! For those looking for couples adventure vacations, the Nevis Swing also offers tandem options.
21. Safari in Tanzania
Location: Serengeti National Park
Time: Varies by safari but 4 days is recommended
If you’re planning your vacation with a safari in mind, you don’t want to miss Tanzania! From luxury tours to ordinary game drives, a safari in Serengeti National Park is sure to thrill any adventure traveler. Visitors can attempt to spot the Big Five throughout their trip — including elephants, lions, leopards, black rhinoceroses and African buffalo — while traveling across the Tanzanian landscape.
22. Zipline in Peru
Location: Iquitos, Peru
Time: 1 to 2 hours
Have you ever dreamed of ziplining through Amazonia? If so, your next adventure is in the jungles of Peru! Get a bird’s-eye view of the landscape with a canopy walk and ziplining tour, where you’ll fly beside the Amazon River and rappel to the forest floor. Plus, the ziplining system at Tahuayo Lodge is the oldest, longest system in the lower Amazon.
23. Plunge Into the Great Blue Hole
Location: Lighthouse Reef, Belize
Time: 5 to 7 hours
It’s not every day you get to explore limestone stalactites and stalagmites from the last glacial period — especially when you need to dive underwater to do so! At the Great Blue Hole in Belize, scuba divers can experience the wonders of the deep by plunging into an immense aqua-colored sinkhole. Once an above-ground cave system, the Great Blue Hole is a one-of-a-kind representation of the Earth’s complexities.
24. Rock Climb in Thailand
Location: Krabi, Thailand
Time: 2 to 4 hours
Thailand is an adventurer’s paradise, and the city of Krabi is known specifically for its rock climbing opportunities. Railay Beach in particular boasts limestone cliffs perfect for scaling, and other cliff faces around the city are popular destinations for climbers to abseil. Plus, Thailand’s sunsets are a can’t-miss sight best viewed from the shoreline.
25. Hang Out in Guatemala
Location: Tikal National Park
Time: 2 hours to 1 day
Guatemala’s Tikal National Park is an impressive UNESCO World Heritage Site where one of the largest sites of Mayan civilization is preserved. One of the best ways to view and appreciate the history within these jungles is through the park’s well-known canopy tour. Visitors receive a bird’s-eye view of the lush vegetation and unique wildlife that inhabit the area while still experiencing the excitement of canopy ziplines.
26. Skydive Over Dubai
Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Time: 3 to 4 hours
What better way to see Palm Jumeirah island and other iconic landmarks around Dubai than a 120-mile-per-hour freefall? With tandem skydiving opportunities above both the city and the desert’s sand dunes, adventure enthusiasts can experience adrenaline rushes from multiple one-of-a-kind dives. If you jump above the city, keep your eyes peeled for Burj Khalifa — the world’s tallest building!
27. Raft in Zambia
Location: Zambezi River
Time: Varies by tour but can last from 2 hours to 6 days
Zambezi River is widely considered to have some of the best white water rafting in the world. The channel’s Class 3 to 5 rapids are interrupted by tranquil pools of calm water, offering rafters places to rest before paddling back into the fray. Plus, travelers to these rapids can marvel at Victoria Falls — forming the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe — and Batoka Gorge during their trip.
International and domestic adventure vacations are at your fingertips — you just have to know where to look! Booking travel with AAA can help you step out of your comfort zone by setting you up with travel guides and providing you with before-you-go information for a safe and enjoyable trip.
Article provided by Trip Canvas.