The Best Countries in the World for Adventurous Travelers

Mt. Kilimanjaro looms in the distance behind three large elephants
The opportunities for adventure abound in these amazing countries.

© Tim Davis/Corbis/VCG/ Getty Images


Adventurous travelers are unique individuals to say the least. While they can appreciate some rest and relaxation on a tropical beach, they're more likely to be drawn to destinations that offer more engaging and challenging outdoor activities. This is the type of traveler who would rather spend their time trekking a remote trail and sleeping in a tent as opposed to visiting an all-inclusive resort. For them, it is the quality of the hiking, mountain biking, and climbing that defines a great destination, particularly if it can provide exhilarating and enriching activities that are also physically and mentally challenging.

For these types of travelers we have created a round-up of the most adventurous countries on the planet. The places that over the years have practically defined the term "adventure travel." If you're looking to put a little excitement into your next vacation, these destinations will certainly provide that and a whole lot more. The only question is, which one do you visit first?

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New Zealand

A hiker walks down a trail with a large lake and mountains in the distance

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No list of adventurous countries would be complete without mentioning New Zealand. After all, this is the country that invented bungee jumping and perfected the use of jet boats for high-speed river tours. But you don't have to be an adrenaline junkie to enjoy the land of the kiwi. The country is home to some of the best long-distance hiking trails in the world, offers excellent kayaking and mountain biking, and has some of the most breathtaking landscapes found anywhere on Earth.

Recommended Adventure: Hike the 1,864-mile Te Araroa Track, easily one of the best hiking routes in the world.

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Scenic View Of Sea By Land
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Not to be outdone by their kiwi counterparts, Australia has plenty to offer the adventurous traveler too. From scuba diving and snorkeling off the Gold Coast to cycling the Great Ocean Road, to overlanding in the outback, the options are numerous and varied. It doesn't hurt that Australia has a vast array of landscapes to explore, not to mention plenty of open spaces. This is a destination you can visit multiple times and still find plenty to draw you back.

Recommended Adventure: Dive the Great Barrier Reef, a truly iconic place that every traveler should visit at least once.

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A climber makes his way up an ice cave

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We could spend hours extolling the virtues of Iceland as an adventure destination and probably only scratch the surface of what it has to offer. Here, you can explore ice caves, go sea kayaking along a stunning coastline, trek across a glacier, and soak in a hot springs after a day of whitewater rafting. The country's epic vistas are some of the most dramatic on Earth, with amazing geothermal features such as geysers and fumaroles adding texture and color. And did we mention the opportunities to spot the Northern Lights? Iceland is one of the top destinations for spotting the aurora borealis too.

Recommended Adventure: Wander through the massive ice cave of the Vatnajökull Glacier, a place that is unlike any other.

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Himalaya Landscape, Gokyo Ri, Sagarmatha National
Feng Wei Photography / Getty Images

Another classic adventure destination, Nepal has a lot to offer the adventurous travelers. While wandering the temples and backstreets of Kathmandu and going on safari at the Chitwan National Park are fantastic, the real draw here is the climbing and trekking. Nepal is home to some of the most famous hiking trails in the world, including the Annapurna Circuit and the Everest Base Camp route. It also has eight of the world's tallest peaks within its borders, making it a bucket list destinations for mountaineers from across the globe. The sheer scope and scale of the Himalaya is something to behold and definitely worth a visit for anyone who can't resist the call of alpine environments.

Recommending Adventure: Trekking in the Himalaya. Trust us, just choose a route and go.

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A lone hiker approaches an ancient Incan structure in the mountains

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One of the things that makes Peru such a great destination for adventure travel is the variety of landscapes that are available to explore. Visitors can go hiking in the Andes of course, and visiting Machu Picchu is a must. But they can also explore the depths of the Amazon Rainforest, go surfing along the Pacific Coast, or ponder the meaning of the mysterious Nazca Lines. No matter where you go however, you'll find yourself enthralled with the country's rich and long history, with Inca ruins to explore and cultural monuments to marvel at.

Recommended Adventure: While the Inca Trail is a classic hike, leave the crowded trail behind and enjoy a river cruise on the Amazon instead.

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Elephant near Mt. Kilimanjaro

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Tanzania has two very big adventures to offer anyone planning on visiting the East African nation. First and foremost, it is a classic safari destination with a trip to the Serengeti a must-do for any traveler. But those looking to push themselves a bit harder will want to add a Kilimanjaro trek to their bucket list as well, as the ancient volcano is the world's tallest freestanding mountain at 19,341 feet. After your climb and safari, travel to Zanzibar island, located just off the coast, where you can blend relaxation on the Indian Ocean with a deep dive into the fascinating history of that storied place.

Recommended Adventure: Climb to the "Roof of Africa" "on a Kilimanjaro trek, one of the truly iconic adventure travel experiences.

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Costa Rica

A traveler zip lines through the misty rain forest

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The adventure capital of Central America, Costa Rica is yet another destination with plenty to offer adrenaline junkies. From zip lining through the rainforest to volcano boarding down and whitewater rafting, this is a place that will definitely get your heart pumping. Throw in some excellent hiking in Arenal Volcano National Park and mountain biking in the jungle—not to mention plenty of good snorkeling and diving off the coast—and you begin to understand why this is such a popular playground for outdoor enthusiasts.

Recommended Adventure: Raft the Rio Pacuare, one of the truly great whitewater rivers in the world.

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Three snowmobiliers follow a trail into the Norwegian wilderness

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When it comes to breathtaking landscapes and plenty of adventurous activities, Norway ranks at the top of the list for must-visit places. In the summer, the hiking, mountain biking, and paddling are fantastic, while the winter brings nordic skiing, dogsledding, and skiing. It doesn't hurt that the country is also one of the best for experiencing the Northern Lights, nor that its people are some of the most accommodating and friendly you could ever hope to meet. The truly adventurous will want to head north the island of Svalbard, where the polar bears outnumber the people, the wilderness is vast and unexplored, and the whale watching is spectacular.

Recommended Adventure: Brave the winter and go dogsledding above the Arctic Circle. Tours range form just a few hours to more than week, depending on just how adventurous you really are.

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A kayaker pulls her boat out onto a mountain lake.

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Thanks to its massive size and amazing outdoor environments, Canada is easily one of the top adventure destination in the world. Whether you're looking for summer excursions or winter activities, you'll find plenty to see and do there. In the west, the Canadian Rockies offer superb hiking, climbing, mountain biking, and camping, while in the east you'll find fantastic sailing, paddling, fishing, and whale watching in Nova Scotia. The main problem that visitors to Canada face is deciding exactly where to do and what to do, as it can be a daunting task to whittle down the list of opportunities.

Recommended Adventures: Go polar bear spotting in Churchill. There are few better places to spot these amazing creatures in the wild.

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One man crossing a pond in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
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Spanning more than 2,650 miles along the South American coast, Chile is a destination that features a diversity of landscapes to explore. From Patagonia in the south to the Atacama Desert in the north—with the spine of the Andes Mountains in between—there is just too much to see and do in a single visit. The country is home to some of the best hiking and backpacking trails imaginable and features world-class ski destinations during the winter. It also features top-notch paddling, excellent surfing, and outstanding mountain biking, making it a well-rounded spot for multi-sport athletes.

Recommended Adventure: Backpack through Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, where the scenery is so gorgeous that it will stick with you long after you've come home.

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Panoramic view of Altai Mountains and glaciers
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One of the best kept secrets in adventure travel, Mongolia is off the beaten path but worth the effort to get there. The massive country covers more than 600,000 square miles, yet only has a population of a little more than 3 million people. That means there is a lot of open space to explore, ranging from the remote and rugged Altai Mountains to the vast and wide-open Gobi Desert. Here, you'll have the chance to explore on foot, mountain bike, or horseback, while encountering nomads that have lived in much the same way for hundreds of years.

Recommended Adventure: Get away from it all on a fat bike tour through Tavn Bogd National Park with Round Square Adventures, a trip that combines physical challenge with remote and wild settings.

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South Africa

Three giraffes huddle under a tree in the shade

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While East Africa may offer the best all-around safari experience, South Africa is the true paradise for adventurous travelers. Here, you can visit one of the truly great safari destinations in Kruger National Park, but will also find stellar backpacking in the Drakensberg Mountains, a plethora of outstanding mountain biking trails, and excellent diving and surfing along the coast. You'll also discover great motorcycling routes in Baviaanskloof, along with a host of adrenaline sports such as skydiving, bungee jumping, and zip lining.

Recommended Adventure: Go cage diving with great white sharks off the Western Cape, where you'll get an up close and personal look at these fearsome predators.

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hot air balloon wadi rum

Kraig Becker

With its rich culture, long history, and diverse landscapes, Jordan is a surprisingly great adventure destination. Visitors can go off-roading in the deserts of Wadi Rum, snorkel and dive in the Red Sea, float in the Dead Sea, and hike in and out of the ancient city of Petra. In the north, they'll discover green forests and in the south rocky cliffs and an arid environment unlike any other, with plenty to see and do in between. Wander through Roman ruins, visit historical fortresses, ride a camel across the dunes, and soak up the star-filled night sky from a bedouin campsite for a complete Jordanian experience.

Recommended Adventure: Hike the Jordan Trail, a route that covers more than 400 miles starting at Um Qais in the north and running to Aqaba in the south

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A star-filled sky hovers above a desert campsite

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Go camping in the Sahara Desert, hike and mountain bike in the High Atlas Mountains, or go off-roading through vast and open spaces. Those are just a few of the things you can do in Morocco, a country that is steeped in history and tradition. Part of the fun of visiting this destination is that you can spend part of your time being very active and busy, while also wandering through ancient souks or relaxing in a bustling and historic city like Marrakech or Casablanca. With so much to see and do, you'll have a hard time deciding which experiences call to you the most.

Recommended Adventure: Trek to the summit of Mount Toubkal, the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains and all of North Africa.

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United States

Valley Beyond
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It can be easy to forget just how many adventure travel opportunities can be found inside the United States itself. Nearly every corner of the country has something to offer those who enjoy being active and in the outdoors. There are literally thousands of campsites, tens of thousands of miles of trail, and stunningly beautiful mountain ranges in both the east and the west. Whether you're looking for lush forests, alpine meadows, rugged coastlines, wide-open plains, or hot and arid deserts, you'll find it all in the U.S. Best of all, there is usually plenty of information to help you plan your trip and a great infrastructure in place to support your journey too. Sometimes, the best adventures can be found right in your own backyard.

Recommended Adventure: Pick a national park. Any national park. Chances are you won't be disappointed.